Les Baer Custom recently moved from Hillsdale, Ill., to LeClaire, Iowa. From the new location, the firm continues to produce AR-15 rifles and a wide range of M1911-style pistols, including the Custom High Capacity in .40 S&W.
The majority of its pistols are built on precisely machined receivers manufactured in-house, but the H.C. 40 requires a double-wide receiver and magazine. Les Baer employs the latest version of the Caspian high-capacity receiver, to which the firm fits other parts of its own manufacture. The only major component of the pistol not made by Les Baer, the receiver, is first cast then machined in detail to its final shape. It is noticeably wider than a typical M1911 frame to accept an 18-round-capacity double-column magazine.
In keeping with its action-shooting origins, the High Capacity frame has an integral, flared magazine well designed for fast magazine changes. This frame requires a slightly different magazine catch, mainspring housing, trigger and grip safety. The heel of the receiver is nicely rounded to better fit in the hand.
Les Baer finishes the gun with a number of useful shooter amenities. The trigger guard, for example, has a squared lower front corner and a flat face. Also, the typical thumb safety is ambidextrous, with a paddle on the right side of the receiver. Fine, closely spaced serrations at the rear and front of the slide aid its manipulation. The grip safety has an elevated ridge running in the vertical plane that ensures it is fully depressed when properly grasped. Further, the grip safety has a widened and extended beavertail, which protects the web of the hand from hammer bite.
The front sight is a slightly angled square post serrated on its rear face to reduce light reflection. The rear is a Bo-Mar-type unit with full-micrometer adjustments for both windage and elevation. Both front and rear are securely dovetailed into the top of the slide.
The single-action trigger pull was adjusted at the factory to a uniform 3 lbs., 8 ozs. with a clean break and no creep or excessive overtravel. An adjustment screw that regulates overtravel was perfectly set right out of the box.
Testing in the Ransom Rest showcased a high level of accuracy. Using three different makes of ordinary .40 S&W ammunition, the gun fired a series of five-shot groups that averaged 1.33". That includes groups as small as 0.82" and nothing larger than 2.00". The pistol exhibited abundant evidence of hand-lapping and hard-fitting of parts. There was no indication of sloppy slide fit, and the most critical component of accuracy-barrel fit-was precise.
All things considered, the H.C. 40 is a very shootable pistol. It is a strong, well-made handgun that benefits significantly from handfitting in the Baer shop. The gun's overall size and weight might be too much for some shooters, but it isn't intended for everyone. For the select competitors who need its higher capacity and blue chip accuracy, though, the H.C. 40 is a precision shooting tool well worth consideration.
Manufacturer: Les Baer Custom, Inc.; (563) 289-2126; Lesbaer.com
Caliber: .40 S&W
Action Type: recoil-operated, center-fire semi-automatic pistol
Rifling: 1:16" LH twist
Magazine Capacity: 18
Sights: fully adjustable match rear, post front
Trigger Pull: single-action; 3 lbs., 9 ozs.
Overall Length: 81⁄2"
Weight: 42 ozs.
Accessories: spare magazine, lock, manual
Suggested Retail Price: $2,960