Concealed Carry Hand Guns - - THE ARMORY -

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 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.


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.

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