Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special 1911
“We needed the best custom 1911 on the market — 100% reliable and reasonably priced. We settled on Les Baer Custom to supply us with that gun because nobody makes a better custom 1911.”
- Clint Smith, Director of Thunder Ranch
Thunder Ranch is a training facility in Oregon that provides firearms training for a variety of individuals. They are primarily known for their outstanding training and unique simulations to provide their clients with practical knowledge that emphasizes on survival in a hostile environment. Clint Smith, the director of Thunder Ranch, conceived the Thunder Ranch Special through Les Baer – another well known firearms specialist. Provided that Smith wanted an affordable, combat-proven 1911 and wanted it built by Les Baer, his TRS was built to impress – I can testify to that.
This was yet another gun I purchased from Bill at www.mastercampers.com. Once I discovered he had one available, I seized the opportunity and mailed a money order for him to put it on layaway – disappointment is not an option. The Les Baer TRS is one of those pistols that will spoil other guns for you. Beware; wielding a Les Baer pistol will raise your standards. The moment I held the pistol, the fit and feel was much better than most handguns I’ve handled – it’s a pistol in it’s own class. The price tag on the other hand is a debatable pleasure.
The pistol came wrapped in the nonchalant brown box along with three 7-round magazines, pistol lock, plastic barrel washer wrench, and other Les Baer related documents. Among the documents was a signed paper from those who worked on the pistol. It’s not really signed, but it was neat. Additionally, the patch that came with it was really cool. I know – I’m silly.
When I was at Master Campers, I had the chance to hold the beauty before I left to serve the 10 day wait in California. A lot of the oil had been wiped down already when I removed the pistol from the plastic bag. Again, I must emphasize on the quality work this pistol exhibits. The edges, the action, and beaver tail function are smooth. Machine work on the checked front strap and mainspring housing isn’t harsh as it was on my TRP – yet the grip proved to be just as good. Fast forward 10 days, I disassembled the pistol and noticed that most parts were etched with numbers – indicating that each part of the gun were individually hand fitted and matched throughout the entire process (at least thats what I assume). The barrel bushing is tight, making the wrench necessary to take disassemble it (have two additional Wilson blue wrenches coming in). The initial slide break is also very tight. I might be a weak individual, so it can be quite a task. However, the slide movement is incredibly smooth. I anticipate that this will loosen up after several hundred rounds. Until then, I must apply a lot more force to open the action than I’m used to.
The slim grips with the Thunder Ranch logo on it were interesting. I’ve always considered my hands to be on the small side and anticipated that it would increase my gripping capability. I was surprised to experience that it actually made my grip harder to achieve. It’s possible that I’m not used to slim grips – but getting a positive wrap around the pistol was not consistent. Mr. Smith had a similar opinion. At the risk of doing something I may regret, I switched the grips for cocobolo wood in ranger pattern from www.woodgrips.com with full sized bushings. Manipulating the pistol with the full sized grips is a lot more familiar after performing the switch. Keep in mind that the grip bushings are screwed in with red loctite – make sure you use a heat gun to unscrew them out. Otherwise you’ll risk damage to the entire bushing. I would have kept them on if I were considering this gun as a carry weapon – they are nice grips.
The front strap and mainspring housing are checkered. The front strap is checkered at 30 lines per inch (LPI).
Thumb safety is tight and positive – not flimsy. It’ll be another part on the gun that will wear down over time.
The serrations on the slide are fantastic. They dig into my palm for a positive grip with little fear of it slipping out. The undercut front strap is also very nice for high holds.
The Trijicon brand combat sights are extremely bright. Compared the Les Baer TRS, the night sights on the Springfield TRP look dead. The serrations on the rear sight are a very nice touch.
The trigger has very low play. No lateral movement – just straight movement to the back. The actual pull is also very smooth that rivals my Custom Colt 1991. I dare say that it’s better.
The feed ramp is polished with no machine marks. It’s different – I can’t exactly describe it with my limited experience and knowledge. Perhaps it would suffice it to say that less material was taken out and the incline towards the barrel throat is greater compared to the SA TRP or my Colt 1991.
The seven round magazines it came with work very well. However, I prefer the Colt eight round magazines. I would use the Wilson 47D magazines, but that tiny bit of the steel housings just bugs me…
Shooting performance exceed my expectations. I’m not a fantastic shot, so it shot as well as I did. It is unrepresentative of its capabilities – but obviously holds up very well. First eight rounds out of the pistol with WinUSA 230gr. .45 ACP at 10 yards. Two hand hold, weaver stance, slow fire. I flinched out of excitement on those two outliers =). I fired about 300 additional shots of the same ammunition without any feeding problems whatsoever. I have yet to notice any brass markings on the slide Mr. Bosh noted.
Action is very smooth with managable recoil. Sights are easy to see and point.
The following list of modifications and parts were taken from Les Baer’s website:
Baer steel NM frame • Baer forged steel NM slide with front and rear serrations • Slide fitted to frame • Baer forged NM barrel with stainless match bushing • LBC deluxe fixed combat rear sight with Tritium inserts • Baer dovetail front sight with tritium insert • Lowered and flared ejection port • Baer checkered slide stop • Baer extended ejector • Standard style thumb safety (extended ambi for left handed shooters) • Baer aluminum match trigger • Baer deluxe Commander hammer and sear • Crisp 4 lb. pull • Baer tuned bar stock extractor • Baer beavertail grip safety with pad • Deluxe high checkered front strap at 30 lpi • Flat checkered mainspring housing • Beveled magazine well • Polished feed ramp and throated barrel • Complete pistol rounded for tactical use • Blue finish on complete pistol • Deluxe special slim line grips with thunder Ranch logo (not available with extended ambi safety) • (3) Stainless steel 7-round premium magazines • Special Thunder Ranch logo engraved on slide • Special serial numbers with “TR” prefix
Over all, this pistol is WELL worth the cash for a custom gun. I’m considering on selling my Springfield TRP to buy the Baer 1911 Swift Response Pistol (*Hint Hint, Bill*). If I lived outside of California, I would try my efforts for a Baer Stinger.
The only thing I didn’t like is the blued finish. It’s beautiful, so I recommend making your first scratch ASAP (I’m not paying for your refinish *haha – no, seriously*). This pistol is meant to perform and should be pushed to the highest capability. Yes, it’ll hurt – but you can always refinish it.
I also prefer the arched mainspring housing – but that’ll be another day.
Hello, my name is Derek and I’m Baer addict. I love this pistol.