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  #1  
Old 03-18-2020, 07:56 AM
Greg Derr Greg Derr is offline
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Armand Swenson Tribute

Armand Swenson was the 1970's gunsmith who either innovated or popularized many of the custom features for 1911 is that decade, some have lasted to the present. This gun was part of "The Decades Project" One gun build for each decade of 1911 production, built in the popular style of that decade. Swenson was THE iconic builder of the 70's. A lot goes into his style. The SW revolver sight, forged square trigger guard. Slide texturing and more. I started with a 1970's carbon Colt( All the guns in the project are Colt. 45) Tooling had to be custom made for the rear sight cuts. The trigger guard had to be heated and stretched to square then hand checkered. The top of the slide treatment was the hardest detail to duplicate. Wayne Novak did most of them when he worked with Swenson but was a little reluctant to give all the detail of the process so over a year I found the right tools and process experimenting on a number of test slides. I studied about 20 Swenson guns in hand and with photos to choose the features for this project. One thing I found was that no two were really alike. They also were not perfect, it was more about function than style for him. I do see the elegance in his work though, everything works together. The finish is a soft matte hard chrome, fitted with period Colt "fruitwood" grips. I had a bit of help in the research from some great smiths- Wayne Novak, Ted Yost, Jason Burton, Pete Single , Mike Curtis and John Harrison who all provided insight into Swenson's work. One more left in this series the 1930's. You can find others in the series on my FB page (Derr Precision) of here in past postings. Enjoy!











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Last edited by Greg Derr; 03-19-2020 at 07:41 AM.
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  #2  
Old 03-18-2020, 08:35 AM
Steve in Allentown Steve in Allentown is offline
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Classic beauty.
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Old 03-18-2020, 09:07 AM
Moad Moad is offline
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Show pony!

Awesome....just awesome Greg.
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Old 03-18-2020, 11:47 PM
BBBBill BBBBill is offline
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Classic indeed!
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Old 03-19-2020, 01:23 AM
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I'd guess the late Mr. Swenson would approve!
Well done.
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Old 03-19-2020, 02:53 AM
Icepick15 Icepick15 is offline
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That is one good looking piece.
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  #7  
Old 03-19-2020, 08:08 AM
bradsvette bradsvette is offline
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I love it. That's the perfect squared trigger guard. Great photography too.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:13 AM
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You had me at "Armand ..... ". Beautiful.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:20 AM
markwell markwell is offline
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What a great gun! Novak's hand matting of slide tops is elegant. The late Red Deem (formerly of Novak's) was pretty good at that treatment also. With the French border, it's one of the most iconic slide treatments ever. Thanks for sharing a great build.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:30 AM
BHP9 BHP9 is offline
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Absolutely beautiful Greg.

Love the leather look graining on top of the slide.

The S&W rear sight on the 1911, I always thought, is stunning.

Thanks for the tribute.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:40 AM
swampgator swampgator is offline
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Greg, I know I say this all the time, but once again, absolutely amazing!!!
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Old 03-19-2020, 09:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markwell View Post
What a great gun! Novak's hand matting of slide tops is elegant. The late Red Deem (formerly of Novak's) was pretty good at that treatment also. With the French border, it's one of the most iconic slide treatments ever. Thanks for sharing a great build.
I read Greg's post and took it as he did the hand matting of the slide, inspired by Novak.

I didn't know Red Deem is no longer with us. He built a Springfield for our mutual friend out west. It's pretty darn nice.
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Old 03-19-2020, 09:43 AM
markwell markwell is offline
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RickyT We have the second gun Red built after leaving Novak's; it has copious hand matting; slide top with French border, rear of slide, bump on grip safety; under-side of the trigger guard. It's one of my favorite guns.
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Old 03-19-2020, 10:46 AM
bdavis385 bdavis385 is offline
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Gregg, when you tackle a job like this do you limit yourself to an "old way" of squaring the trigger guard. It is always one of my favorite feature, but like the flow of this model better then the very sharp corner on some of the modern versions. It is a beautiful pistol.
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Old 03-19-2020, 11:57 AM
bradsvette bradsvette is offline
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Originally Posted by bdavis385 View Post
Gregg, when you tackle a job like this do you limit yourself to an "old way" of squaring the trigger guard. It is always one of my favorite feature, but like the flow of this model better then the very sharp corner on some of the modern versions. It is a beautiful pistol.
I totally agree. I don't care for the very squared, too thin, very sharp, right angle trigger guards that some pistol smiths perform. I imagine that squared trigger guard has got to be a tough operation to perform. I compare it to the poor smiths on "Forged in Fire" whose knife is getting thinner and smaller as it's drawn out during the forging process and knowing that their chances of surviving the strength tests and winning are diminishing along with the size of their knives.
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Old 03-20-2020, 07:20 PM
burrhead burrhead is offline
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This is absolutely my favorite of the series. I was just getting into 1911s in the early 70s and, though way to poor to buy one, lusted mightily for a Swenson. I'd still like to get a set of S&W sights on my one customized Colt. Maybe some day.
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Old 03-20-2020, 10:06 PM
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I love your work! Wish had 10 of the pistols you post,I would say all but I don’t want to be a hoarder..... BTW, want to trade for some toilet paper?
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Old 03-21-2020, 05:55 AM
Totally Tactical Totally Tactical is offline
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Very nice, A few things that you did that was too modern for this gun.

I'm not sure if that thick barrel bushing was available back then.
Barrel bushing and the barrel were welded up and fitted.

Front screw on rear sight would have been slotted and no pin next to it.
I think they went with a slightly bigger screw as the factory size would fail.

I'm pretty sure on the trigger guard checkering they didn't do the border line.

They would probably have a locator tab inside the ejection port for the barrel.

Last the ejection port would probably be lowered, but not flaired.


It's amazing the guns that Swenson and Hoag turned out back then all done with hand work, very little aftermarket parts were available then.

Your gun is very nice! As Swenson would say " Nice work Laddie"

Last edited by Totally Tactical; 03-21-2020 at 05:59 AM.
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  #19  
Old 03-21-2020, 09:34 AM
Greg Derr Greg Derr is offline
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The interesting thing about Swenson's body of work was the diversity. He was all over the map on many small details. His main attributes were the SW rear sight, the top of slide matte finish and the ambi safety. Like I said in the OP we looked at maybe 20 pistols in hand and in photos.
The set up for the rear was was always the same. A larger 6-40 button screw to hold the tang and the steel stud with the owners initial to prevent sheer. The one in our shop had a button head screw. so we went with that. Ditto for his trigger guard checkering which was not a standard on his builds. We copied his treatment. The advantage we had was to do some things better. We have TIG welding which allowed for better slide to frame fit and barrel fit. If he was still around he would probably do this. We also have oversized parts like the ejector which on his guns was a Colt and very "gappy" in most cases. I fit it close. In all the pistols we just used the style as a guide, not a hard fast dictum. Below is the original Swenson and then my treatment.



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Old 03-21-2020, 10:43 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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Very handsome.

How is the Decade Project going?
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  #21  
Old 03-21-2020, 10:53 AM
Greg Derr Greg Derr is offline
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Very handsome.

How is the Decade Project going?
Great the 9mm Steyr is done and posted here. Just prepping the 9x23 for finish.
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Old 03-21-2020, 11:29 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is offline
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Oh, OK, I saw the Steyr, didn't realize the Caliber Project was part of the Decade Project.
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  #23  
Old 03-21-2020, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Front screw on rear sight would have been slotted and no pin next to it
That's exactly how Swenson did it; a pin to take the load off the screw, and the first letter of the customer's last name stamped on the pin.
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  #24  
Old 03-21-2020, 01:31 PM
mdellis49 mdellis49 is offline
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Beautiful, brings back memories
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  #25  
Old 03-21-2020, 04:28 PM
Greg Derr Greg Derr is offline
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Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
Oh, OK, I saw the Steyr, didn't realize the Caliber Project was part of the Decade Project.
No two different projects. Decades is 11 guns all 45, Caliber is all the same look in different calibers 12 in total.
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