Custom Handguns Vs. Factory Models – Which is Right for You?



Like dating, finding a pistol that fits seems easier than it is. Factory guns these days are good.

Gunsmiths have been tuning their weapons for years, introducing features that improve performance and capability beyond what the original designer intended. That includes better triggers, finer-tuned actions and more.


A factory gun can be bought for about $1,200-$1,400. This includes some nice features such as a lightweight trigger, better sights, ambidextrous thumb safeties, a forged frame and a brushed finish.

On the other hand, you can spend up to $4,500 on custom handguns. This maker’s classic custom takes every aspect of the pistol’s design and makes it the best it can be from a purely mechanical standpoint.

No MIM (metal injection molding) parts are used in this pistol, but the smiths make sure the frame rails and slide fit correctly by hand-fitting them. This process involves finding areas with too much or too little metal and filing them away until they match up. This also helps ensure that the barrel and bushing are snug, which is important for reliability. The result is a pistol that is a pleasure to hold and shoot.


While modern factory guns are tighter and better made than ever before, there is always room for improvement. Much of it comes down to the barrel, which must be perfectly matched to the cartridge and designed for the intended purpose. Most factory guns use basic barrels that are fine for a standard handgun, but a custom gunmaker often goes the extra mile to ensure everything fits together well.

This can include cutting the slide rails for a specific slide and barrel that will work best with each other or hand-fitting the frame and fall so they glide easily together. It also includes machining the components to tighter tolerances and finishing them for a smoother action.

The result is a much more accurate gun for its intended purpose. This is measured in linear (a one-inch group at 100 yards) and angular measures (a one-minute angle, or MOA, group). A more accurate gun will be easier to shoot under the time pressures often encountered on the range.


When you spend money on a custom gun, you want it to last. Custom guns are made to tight tolerances, which is a huge benefit when it comes to durability. Whether carrying the gun or shooting it, the tighter tolerances are more reliable and offer greater accuracy in trained hands.

A factory gun is built from a combination of parts, meaning all the pieces must fit together for the gun to work. With a custom gun, every part is custom-fit to that particular pistol. This means the clearances will be impossibly tight, usually measured in ten-thousandths of an inch.

Custom guns also often feature durable finishes like Cerakote. This hard, thin coating is resistant to corrosion and scratching. Cerakote is available in many colors and can be applied to metal, composite and plastic surfaces. In addition, bluing is a common finish on custom pistols. This will protect the firearm from rust and corrosion as long as it is maintained with frequent oiling.


Gun owners usually feel a personal connection with their firearms. They know that they may be the only thing standing between them and safety, and that feeling can be enhanced through customizing their weapons. Personalization allows the gun owner to impart their personality into their weapon, whether with gun wraps, skins or other molds. This helps them to identify their gun in a crowd when at the range, hunting or in a tactical scenario.

Besides adding customization, some shooters take their guns to a new level by participating in IDPA or USPSA competitions. These events involve a lot of drawing, movement and decision-making, which makes them more exciting than just sitting at the range shooting holes in paper targets.

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