The new Guncrafter Industries Renaissance represents the American manufacturer’s top-of-the-line 1911, and as such, it is both highly functional and quite elegant.
Forty years ago, when I got involved in shooting, we rarely discussed shooting pistols as a way of improving our chances in a personal defense situation, and the NRA discouraged calling handguns “weapons.” Now, defensive handguns are the hottest segment of the firearms market. Carrying a handgun has become a way of life for citizens across the demographic board. From soccer moms to plumbers, the realization that the option of armed self-defense might be a life-changing practice is now common.
It’s harder today to find a bad defensive pistol than it is to find a good one. Modern engineering, metallurgy, technology and a rapidly growing market have created a perfect storm of improvement in firearms of all kinds. Modern handguns are designed to be easy to shoot well and have passive safety systems that allow a less-experienced shooter to operate them safely. Many offer interchangeable grip options to make it easier for the shooter to properly grip them. Use of polymer frames reduces weight and allows more comfortable carry, and double-stack magazines double magazine capacity. There are no better functional defensive handguns than modern striker-fired guns made by several popular companies.
Having said this, the popularity of the 1911 continues in spite of polymer frames, passive safety systems, double-stack magazines and reduced weight. While modern striker-fired designs may in some ways be better, they aren’t 1911s and have no romance. Any sane person would agree that a Toyota Prius is a very functional car, but many of us (including myself) would rather be driving a V8 Mustang with a manual transmission. In fact, I do drive a V8 Mustang with a manual transmission.
With a plethora of excellent handguns available, some people simply wish to own something that sets them apart from the crowd. There’s no doubt that the modern polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol is reliable, easy to learn, and accurate, but some of us are looking for more than functionality. Guncrafter Industries has been fulfilling that wish with guns built on the venerable 1911 design for years. During my career as a gun writer, I’ve tested several of them from the company’s CCO, an Officer’s sized compact 1911, to the big and powerful Model 4 with a 6-inch long slide and chambered in the potent, proprietary .50 GI round the company developed.
A Reputation for Quality
Every Guncrafter pistol I’ve tested has been impeccably built, flawless in workmanship, accurate far beyond average, and as reliable as a sledgehammer. Guncrafter firearms don’t rely on gadgetry for accuracy; the quality of the build is the focus. Frame-to-slide fit is perfect; the barrel bushing fits so perfectly, it must be carefully aligned for assembly, yet once aligned, it engages into the slide with buttery smoothness. Triggers break with no discernible creep and almost zero backlash. Machining marks are nonexistent, and finish is impeccable. In short, every aspect of the gun spells quality.
Several years ago, I developed an affinity for fine vintage shotguns, and I still enjoy shooting a 100-year-old side-by-side more than a modern autoloader. As I immersed myself in the vintage shotgun mindset, I learned the attraction was more than functionality. The attraction is more an appreciation of the gunmaker’s art. It comes from an emotional attraction to something that is truly exceptional in the execution of its creation. Therein lies the justification for ownership of a Guncrafter Industries Renaissance.
A Heritage of Competition
The Renaissance is the highest-quality product for a company that creates exceptionally fine products. Functionally, it’s like a top-of-the-line Excellence in Competition hardball .45. In the era when 1911 hardball .45s were the only guns allowed in the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the best gunsmiths in the country built special 1911s for EIC matches. These guns were designed to shoot the exclusive matches that allowed a pistol shooter to acquire the coveted Distinguished Pistol badge. They were robust guns because the only ammunition allowed in those matches was the 230-grain full metal jacket ammunition issued to troops or the more quality controlled hardball Lake City match ammunition with the same bullet and velocity, but loaded to higher standards for competition use.
Those guns had to be durable because a competitor would shoot thousands of rounds during a competitive season. They also had to be reliable because a malfunction could cost the competitor the match. They were remarkably accurate because they were fired from one hand at a range of 50 yards in slow, timed and rapid fire. The triggers had to break at no less than 4.5 pounds, and for one-handed accuracy at 50 yards, there could be no creep or backlash. At the time, they were the epitome of the 1911 builder’s art.
Not Just a Pretty Face
During my review of the Renaissance, I tested it in a Ransom Rest at 25 yards with Lake City Match 230-grain hardball ammunition. My worst group was a bit over 2 inches, while my best measured an absolutely remarkable .409 inches center to center. I don’t consider myself a great pistol shooter, and I know there was a certain amount of luck in that tiny group, but suffice it to say that the Renaissance is accurate. I have no doubt that in the hands of a good shooter the Renaissance could compete against one of those guns.
While all 1911s are similar, there are small things that make shooting some more comfortable than others. Besides amazing accuracy, the Guncrafter Renaissance is gently shaped to remove any sharp edges that make handling it uncomfortable. There’s texture where you need it, and smooth edges where they make the gun more comfortable. The defining thing one notices when shooting it is the trigger. The trigger on my test gun broke like a glass rod at just under 4 pounds, but the smooth first stage and almost indiscernible backlash made it feel lighter. In a group class, I allowed several clients who normally shoot striker-fired guns to shoot the Renaissance, and they were amazed at the trigger and the groups they shot with it. At 10 yards, several novice shooters tried it on the same B34 target with no shots outside the ten zone. It’s an easy gun to shoot well.
More Than the Sum of Its Parts
But there’s more to the Renaissance than function, and for the price there should be. Not only was my test gun extremely well built, it was also very beautiful. The finish is a rich traditional hot blue. The grips are smooth. The butt is gently rounded, the slide is tastefully hand engraved at the front and rear of the slide in a floral pattern and done by Jim Downing in Missouri; even the grip screws are engraved. There a lot of guns on the market with scrollwork that’s represented as engraving, but almost all those guns are roll stamped or laser cut. Hand engraving is cut by the craftsman using chisels, making each gun an individual work of art.
Is any 1911 worth $5,000? I suppose not from the standpoint of function alone, but a Timex watch will give you the time and a Ford will get you to work. There’s more to life than just whether or not something will perform the job. That’s why Rolex sells watches and Lamborgini sells cars, and it’s why Guncrafter Industries makes works of art like the Renaissance.
Guncrafter Industries Renaissance 1911
Type: Semi-auto, single action, hammer fired
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5 in., stainless steel match
Overall Length: 8.5 in.
Weight: 39 oz.
Grips: Polished exotic Ironwood
Sights: Novak U notch rear with cocking surface and gold bead front
Finish: High polish, hot salt blued
Manufacturer: Guncrafter Industries
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the April 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Drawing upon 70 years of expert gun writing from the Gun Digest annual, Best of Gun Digest: Handguns & Handgun Shooting explores the history, advancement and mystique of this indispensible tool. The 15 in-depth articles in the download study all aspects of modern and historic handguns, covering their roles in the firearms world, whether as military sidearms, law-enforcement pistols or semi-autos meant for home defense. Quite simply, if it’s about a pistol or revolver, it’s in this book. Get Your Copy Now