Custom 1911s For a New Century: Stan Chen

A full-house gun takes time, planning, and patience. A Stan Chen custom is worth every minute and every penny. Pistol courtesy Stan Chen Custom, photograph courtesy Christopher Marona
A full-house gun takes time, planning, and patience. A Stan Chen custom is worth every minute and every penny. Pistol courtesy Stan Chen Custom, photograph courtesy Christopher Marona

Stan, like many of the new breed of top custom smiths, only does full-house customs. That is, you don’t send a gun to Stan, asking for a mag funnel and sights.

If you are on the list, when you make it to the top Stan builds you a full-house custom gun, all the bells and whistles, and your input (like so many custom gunsmiths) is limited to the details like the kind of slide-top matting pattern you’d like, and do you want it blue, stainless or hard-chrome?

Besides the now-standard exquisite workmanship found among the top ‘smiths, Stan is known for a few touches that you won’t find elsewhere. One is his frontstrap and mainspring housing treatment.

Here is a Chen gun, in all its glory: fitted case, nameplate, numbered magazines and a spare extractor, as well as tools. You either leave this to someone in your will, or donate it to a museum once you’re done shooting with it. Pistol courtesy Stan Chen Custom, photograph courtesy Christopher Marona
Here is a Chen gun, in all its glory: fitted case, nameplate, numbered magazines and a spare extractor, as well as tools. You either leave this to someone in your will, or donate it to a museum once you’re done shooting with it. Pistol courtesy Stan Chen Custom, photograph courtesy Christopher Marona

He does a diagonal skip-line checkering pattern that at first seems quite coarse compared to 20 or 30 lpi checkering. Called “Progressive Traction,” it provides a non-slip grip that works wonderfully. The mainspring housing pattern goes onto the frame, and it is perfectly symmetric at all edges. He also has his own mag well funnel, a low-profile addition that is welded onto the frame, fit and blended to the point where you couldn’t tell it wasn’t made that way originally. Since Stan has his own in-house welder to do the work, you know it gets done right and on schedule.

He does slide-top flattening and matting, in various patterns, that simply pop your eyes out. Cosmetic details like fluted barrel and chamber, a dead-perfect fit of slide to frame, and a surface finish that is flawless, are standard with Stan.

One detail you’ll notice in the photos are the frame rails. The rails have been relieved in the center, and bear on the slide just on the front and rear loading portions. Those are the areas actually at work when the gun locks up, and the rest of the time when the slide is running it is just sliding back and forth. So, to give grunge, gunk and powder residue a place to go, Stan dresses down the rails a smidge. And yes, people do shoot and carry his guns.

Now, if you ask, and insist, you can have some options your way. You could insist on a Novak rear instead of a Heinie. You might talk him into something besides a .45, but don’t go getting all weird and asking for something like 9X25 Dillon or 9mm Largo. You’ll get a strange look, and a suggestion of a .45.

When you get your gun back, you won’t regret the lack of detailed input.

All this in a fitted case, with tools, spare extractor, numbered magazines (tested in the gun) and an inset plaque with your name and the build date on it are Stan Chen touches.

1911: The First 100 YearsClick here to get your copy of 1911: The First 100 Years.

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