There are not many quality items that come at a discount price, which especially rings true when looking at 1911s. Sure, you can pick up a shooter for around $500, but to get into a consistently high level of quality and fitting you have to spend some bucks. With a market full of mid and upper-tier models, the choices can be dizzying. While I will not pretend to know what is best for anyone else, I can share some insight from my last outing to the range where my S&W PC1911 and Les Baer Premier II both made the trip.
I’ve owned the PC1911 for a few years now, and it was my first foray into a higher dollar 1911. While true conissouers will scoff at my $1,300 handgun as “high dollar” compared to the true customs on the market, with that amount of money I expect to get quality in return. The S&W Performance Center is essentially a small custom shop within S&W and has a history of producing quality products out of standard designs. In recent years some have criticized the Performance Center for being little more than a marketing badge on otherwise production line firearms. While I will admit that some recent models seem to mainly add features without the fitting that is expected from custom shop models, I do believe the 1911s still receive a higher level of fit and finish. I actually found videos online that showed how the current PC1911s are hand fitted, and it was impressive to see.
The Les Baer is a newer acquisition for me, having arrived in my stable earlier this year and only on its second or thrid outing to the range at this point. This specific handgun was manufactured in 1997, but had spent its life as a “safe queen” and was in like-new condition when I took it off someone else’s hands a couple months back. It’s very tight, as is Les Baer’s trademark, and the entire pistol oozes quality.
In taking both of these out, my intent is not to prove one better than the other. They have their own merits and are both examples of great handguns. Rather, my intent is to provide a glimpse as to how each performs downrange in my hands at the current point in time. For example, in the past I’ve shot my PC1911 against offerings from other companies and found the PC1911, in my hands, easier to shoot and consistent enough to produce impressive results downrange. With that said, I’ll post two pictures, below: one shows a group of targets from 10 yards, and the next shows a group from 15 yards. Both were free-standing , five shots on each target. The top and bottom targets on the left were both with the PC1911 (in both pics). The targets on the right were produced by the Les Baer in each picture.
As you can see, during yesterday’s range trip, the PC1911 produced consistently smaller groups at both distances. However, when you look at shot distribution there are more similarities between the two pistols than differences. I attribute the better numerical results from the S&W to a lighter, smoother trigger. The Baer isn’t bad, but the Baer’s trigger breaks closer to 4 lbs. whereas the S&W’s breaks around 2 lbs.
What’s the morale of the story, at least for this one non-scientific trip to the range? Both are outstanding pistols, and the S&W can seem to hold its own with the Baer in my amateur hands. Put them in a Ransom Rest and the results could be different, but life is not lived in the rest. At least initially, I’m pleased to see the Performance Center offering holding its own and believe the Baer will only continue to improve with time.