Gun Digest

Chen SI Magwell: Making Life–And Reloads–Simple

The working end of the Chen Custom SI magwell: It’s everything you need, nothing you don’t—and all in an elegant package.
The working end of the Chen Custom SI magwell: It’s everything you need, nothing you don’t—and all in an elegant package.

Drop-in ease and crafted by a master 1911 pistol-smith, upgrades don't get much sweeter than the Chen SI Magwell.

The arguments will never end. The competition shooters tell you that you must have a great, big funnel on your pistol, because warp-speed reloads are vital.

I’ve seen funnels at matches that were big enough to get your fist into. The tacti-cool set will tell you that if you need a reload, you’ve already done something wrong (I guess the subtext here is: Because you’ve screwed up, you deserve whatever happens).

But I don’t buy it. I’ve had magwells and funnels on my pistols, competition and carry, for many years—decades, in fact. I think the first funnel was a Bill Wilson plastic one. It broke eventually, and I ended up with it super-glued in place.

My first few carry guns didn’t have funnels, but magwells back then were “competition-only,” and I also have the excuse that a magazine funnel on a revolver is pretty ridiculous. But once I figured a way, they all had them, one kind or another.

Both Right, Both Wrong

The two factions are both right … but they are also both wrong. For the gun shop commandos out there: You don’t have to screw up to be needing a reload. Life could have just handed you that bad a hand. There are plenty of instances for which the good guy did everything right and still needed more ammo than came in the gun when he/she started.

And the competition guys are wrong: Your funnel need not be half the size of Kansas to be useful. More than none, but not so large that you look as if you’re wearing some vaguely medical, and perhaps disgusting, controversial device on your belt.

Nevertheless, if you’re using a pistol in EDC mode, you do need a funnel that fits your carry style, works efficiently and doesn’t draw attention to itself.

Chen Shooter Installed Magwell

Well, 1911 fans, Stan Chen has just the thing.

The Chen Custom Shooter Installed (SI) magwell is slick. Stan is the kind of guy you might think has disappeared from America. He gave up the rat race to pursue a dream—and that dream is perfect 1911s.

A Chen Custom full-house 1911 is a work of art that works. It has a wait list of many years, is a house down payment in cost … and is almost too pretty to take out of the case.

The bottom corner of the Chen SI magwell is smooth and curved, so it won’t print when you’re carrying concealed.

The Shooter Installed magwell is the product of Stan’s refining of parts, and it’s simple: You pull out your mainspring housing, take the parts out, install them in the Chen magwell, and put that on your 1911.

Simple. Done. Unlike some other designs, there’s no soldering, no need to relieve grips for clearance and no need to drill the frame for a new mainspring housing pin hole.

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Stan spent a lot of time measuring every 1911 in current production that he could get his hands on to make sure the dimensions work out properly. If a Chen SI magwell doesn’t fit your 1911 properly, my first step would be to blame the pistol. The outside fits the curve of grips. The inside matches the opening of the frame. The front “tongs” are curved in and blended so they aren’t sharp points on the front edge. It’s long enough to aid in reloading but not so long that it makes the now-standard extended magazine pad too short to fully insert.

On the back, Stan put superb, 25-lines-per-inch (lpi) checkering (the magwell is machined from billet, so programming in checkering is not that big a deal for the right programmer), and yet, the checkering stops short of the funnel. The bottom end of the mainspring housing portion of the funnel is left smooth, so it won’t catch on clothing and cause your 1911 to print when going about town in your EDC life. Not only is the end smooth, it has also been rounded to remove a sharpish corner that might otherwise have been there.

No More Magwell Modifications

Because it doesn’t require alterations to the pistol, if you change guns, you can swap out the magwell. Plus, it can be had in blued steel or stainless.

I’ve been putting magwells on or modifying 1911 frames to make magwells for almost 40 years now. I have soldered on steel bars, heated and forged steel, welded on straps, drilled, tapped and bolted extras in place—even glued them on—then machined, ground and polished them, and it took this long for me to say, “I’m done. I’m just buying from now on.”

Don’t be stubborn, and don’t be left behind. Get the Chen Shooter Installed magwell and make life easy.

For more information on the Chen SI Magwell, please visit

The article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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