SPRINGFIELD ARMORY OPERATORS
My group of friends and I decided we liked our special 4566s so much we wanted to do another custom order to our specs, this time from Springfield Armory. The 4566 and the Springfield Custom shop guns illustrated another “disadvantage” of custom carry guns. They are expensive. But I had just received a royalty check for a book I had done. Not only did I order one of the Custom Shop Operators, but I also ordered two.
We set exacting accuracy standards, specified a standard-length recoil spring guide instead of an extended one, and ordered reliability and smoothing options. I ordered one of mine in black and one in OD Green. I also added one other feature I had liked on a friend’s Les Baer pistol: slim grips.
Along with the Performance Center 4566 and my SIG210, these two pistols ranked among my most accurate pistols; either one would put the entire magazine in the 10-ring at 25 yards if the shooter did his job. I had ordered the two colors because I thought it would make an attractive combo, but there was another benefit.
Some of our group had ordered adjustable sights, but I ordered fixed night sights. I found each pistol shot closest to point of aim with a different load—one with Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok and one with Cor-Bon
230 grain JHP. The color-coded pistols allowed me to keep track. The difference was only slight so that if I used a
mag loaded with either load in either gun it would perform well.
I liked the two guns well enough that I sometimes carried one on my belt and the second in a shoulder holster. I even had a Don Hume shoulder holster made that allowed me to carry one with the SureFire light mounted. However, I did encounter another problem with expensive custom-built pistols. If entering a venue that was posted NO FIREARMS ALLOWED, my expensive Custom Operator, of which I was very fond, was left in my truck as bait for a thief.
I came up with a solution of sorts for that dilemma. I’m not one of the believers in the “Crystal Ball” system of concealed carry in which I only carry my gun when I think I’ll need it. I always carry my gun, but it’s not always the same gun. Lately, it may be my Glock 43 in a pocket. But if I’m going somewhere that I think might require a bit more gun, and that place will not require me to leave my gun in the vehicle, I will carry one of my custom 1911s. Given that I live in St. Louis, there are quite a few places I carry a 1911.
Logically, I should have more than enough custom carry guns, especially given their expense, but I have to admit that I got hooked on guns tailored to my special tastes. Even though I no longer work overseas where a Browning High-Power was my usual choice, I couldn’t resist the temptation to order a custom P35 from Jim Garthwaite.
Garthwaite’s custom High-Powers are designed as working guns that enhance the already substantial fighting potential of this classic pistol. It gets a Bar-Sto barrel, an action job, removal of the magazine safety, an extended safety, high visibility sights and various other reliability upgrades.
Craig Spegel Grips are my favorites for the High-Power. Combined with 15-round Mec-Gar magazines, plus a couple of 20-rounders and a Rusty Sherrick holster designed for the LAPD’s SIS, and my Garthwaite High-Power is now one of my favorite carry guns and one I often use when doing hostage rescue training.
My only criticism of my custom Operators is that they are a bit heavy. A few years ago, I was at Wilson Combat for a writer’s visit and had a chance to order a pistol of my choice. I went for the CQB Light-Rail Lightweight, a highly tuned custom .45 auto on an alloy frame. Accurate and reliable, it has become my favorite carry 1911.
Because I already had my green and black custom Springfield Operators, I chose to have my CQB finished in gray. This has proven a good concealment choice, as the color blends well against the lining of my suit coats. As with most of my other combat 1911s,
“...I GOT HOOKED ON GUNS TAILORED TO MY SPECIAL TASTES.”
I ordered the thin grips. I carry it in the same type of Rusty Sherrick holster I use for my Garthwaite.
Because the Garthwaite
High-Power or the Wilson CQB is the full-sized auto I most often carry on a belt, I shoot them regularly and am always impressed with just how accurate they are.
I had decided that the Wilson CQB would be my last custom carry gun—remember, one disadvantage of custom guns is the price. But then I decided to treat myself to one last custom pistol. I always wanted one of the Springfield Armory Custom Shop guns of the type made for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. Often termed the HRT Special, these are .45s designed to the specs of the FBI HRT and are considered by many the supreme product of the SA Custom Shop.
I’ll be the first to admit that I would have difficulty justifying another expensive custom combat pistol. I guess I could argue that I would take it along when I did hostage rescue/ entry training to demonstrate what the FBI’s elite unit uses. But, really, I had just always wanted an HRT Special and decided to order one, then wait the one to two years for it to be ready.
It’s an outstanding pistol deserving of its reputation. Its accuracy is superb, though to be honest, it’s no better than my two other Springfield Armory Custom Shop guns, but it is as good. I’ve shot it a lot but haven’t really carried it. I wouldn’t hesitate to count on it if I did.
MADE TO SHOOT
I shoot my custom combat pistols quite a bit. That’s really what they’re designed for. I’ve known shooters who buy expensive custom pistols more as collectibles than shootables. They are excellent examples of American craftsmanship, and I can appreciate that. These days, of my custom guns, I normally only carry my Wilson Combat LW CQB or my Garthwaite High-Power. I think they shoot and carry just a little better because they were made to my specs. After all, that’s why we order custom combat handguns in the first place!
Above: Thompson considers this Jim Garthwaite custom High-Power one of his favorite carry guns, one that he also uses when training CT or close protection units; note the Spegel grips and extended safety.
Above: Thompson firing the Garthwaite High-Power with 20-round extended magazine during a demonstration of vehicle counter ambush techniques.
Above: Springfield HRT Special in the DeSantis holster originally designed for these pistols.