Les Baer Custom: High-Peformance M1911s

posted on September 18, 2022
Les Baer Custom M1911 10mm Kenai Alaska tribute stainless steel pistol

Les Baer began tuning, fixing and modifying guns in 1973. His first shop, so to speak, was the basement of his home in Allentown, Penn. Enthusiasts quickly discovered the quality of his work and word spread. By 1976 demand was outgrowing his workspace, forcing him to expand. In 1980 he launched his full-time gunsmithing career by establishing Bear Custom Guns.

Nine years later Springfield Armory harnessed that talent by hiring him to manage its custom shop. Baer made the move to Geneseo, Ill., but the desire to create his own fine line of precision M1911s never faded. He officially established Les Baer Custom in 1991. Headquarters was originally in Rock Island, but in 1994 he moved operations to Hillsdale, also in Illinois.

There the Les Baer legend grew, with collectors, match shooters and 1911 fans more eager by the year to own one of his M1911s. When Illinois enacted even more restrictive gun laws, he responded by moving operations across the Mississippi—LeClaire, Iowa, to be precise—in 2007. It was a strategic business victory, putting a political barrier between anti-Second Amendment legislators and his thriving business. The approach was ingenious, too. The two cities are only 20 miles apart, minimizing attrition among a highly skilled staff and providing legal isolation from left-leaning "Land of Lincoln" legislation. 

Today the company maintains the same attention to detail and dedication to precision. It offers a fine line of M1911s. Most are in the traditional .45 ACP chambering, but there are also models that run 9 mm Luger, .38 Super and 10 mm cartridges. All have the trademark looks of a Baer and come with the performance now relied upon by serious competitors, law enforcement and special operations groups. When Sheriff Jim Wilson tested a pair of the company’s pistols for American Rifleman he wrote, “Les Baer is one of a handful of M1911 craftsmen who take the time to build guns right and expect them to last. For many years, he personally test fired every firearm that his company produced. I’ve lost track of how many Les Baer guns that I’ve fired over the years, but, without exception, I have found them to be accurate and reliable handguns—the kind of pistol a man could bet his life on.”

The Les Baer Custom Premier I pistol is the firm’s M1911 king, so to speak, but there’s no shortage of other versions from which to choose. Its 10 mm-chambered Kenai Special—a tribute to the state of Alaska—has a corrosion-resistant, hard-chrome finish, timeless looks, Baer performance and its all in packaged in that reliable M1911 platform.


Colt Gold Cup National Match pistol 1911 .45 acp remote camera man shooting indoors GIF
Colt Gold Cup National Match pistol 1911 .45 acp remote camera man shooting indoors GIF

Rifleman Review: Colt Gold Cup National Match M1911

Colt is the brand that's traditionally associated with the M1911, and in this Rifleman Review, we look at how they're paying homage to the classic design with the Gold Cup National Match model.

New For 2024: Springfield Armory 1911 DS Prodigy Coyote Brown

Springfield Armory now offers several models of its 1911 DS Prodigy with a coyote-brown finish.

Rifleman Q&A: Savage Navy Revolvers

Q. Recently, at auction, I bought a “Savage Navy Revolver,” something I have wanted for a long time. It’s in good order and is a solid brute of a thing, but apart from the “Savage R.F.A. Co. Middleton, CT” stamp on the barrel...

The Viability Of The Vertical Foregrip

Learn the benefits of the vertical foregrip (VFG) and how this inexpensive upgrade can transform your tactical marksmanship skills.

New For 2024: Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 2.0

Smith & Wesson upgraded its semi-automatic Bodyguard handgun with an all-new 2.0 model in 2024.

Blaser USA And MidwayUSA Foundation Team Up To Give Back

Held at Joshua Creek Ranch in Boerne, Texas, Blaser USA and MidwayUSA Foundation paired recently to host a training event with proceeds benefiting youth shooting sports.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.