Many consider the holy grail of 1911‘s is having one custom made. I was introduced to the 1911 platform over 20 years ago, and my first was a Stainless Kimber Ultra Carry. It was a brutal little gun that I eventually decided to sell. It never failed to run or feed and was fairly accurate. Like many gun enthusiasts, I settled into a single platform; Sig Sauer pistols. The grip angle fits my hand and wrist like a glove, and the grip sizes have always been just right. These pistols have their places in my safe to this day. 


Who is Hayes Custom Guns? Aaron and Ben Hayes are not your typical gunsmiths. They aren’t the dodgy old-timer types that says they will have your pistol ready when it is ready. They won’t give you a hard time for asking questions, and they don’t treat you like you know nothing when you really might not know that much. They ask questions and want to find out what you prefer. They get just as excited as you when discussing a new build. The backbone of their business is custom builds. Whether it is a 1911, 2011 (more on that later), or a custom AR set up for 3-Gun. If a bullet exits the barrel, they are a part of it.

In the last few years, I wanted to get back to the grass roots of American semi-autos. For that journey and to honor my affinity for Sig pistols, I purchased a Sig Sauer XO (see the review here). I was pretty impressed with it’s feature vs. value. What I left out in my write-up was it later became my first foray into custom 1911’s with Hayes Custom Guns. After having my XO upgraded with a Clark barrel that shot <1.5 inches at 50 yards from a rest, and having trigger and accuracy work done, this got the wheels turning for my next idea.


I was hooked. My next goal was to purchase an already built STI Spartan and have Hayes work their magic. After plotting out the expenses and talking with Aaron, the decision was made to build one from the ground up. The price difference was negligible, and I would own my first truly custom gun. Aaron and I sat down and went over the possibilities. What parts did I want, what did I prefer for this and that, etc. He showed me several examples of what options I had and the difference in certain parts. By actually picking up these examples, I was able to get a good feel for what my custom build would be like. What I did know is that I wanted a traditional/modern pistol that was more accurate than I was.


This pistol is built on a Government-length Caspian frame and bald slide. Bald meaning no front/rear serration cuts or sight cuts are included. All of the milling is done by the smith. For caliber, I choose 9mm for several reasons. Several years ago I culled my calibers down to just a few with the goal being to consolidate ammo and reduce costs. If I was going to shoot this pistol a lot, I wanted something that was manageable and cheap to feed. My hands are also not what they used to be due to typing on a keyboard for 34 years. The recoil of a .45 begins to hurt after 50-75 rounds. Take the weight of an all steel 1911 and lighter 9mm round, and recoil becomes very manageable.


The first step towards modern comes from the Wilson-type rear serrations. These offer a little more grip when racking the slide and have a distinctive look over traditional fine-line serrations. The sights are Ed Brown Bo-mar style rear adjustable and matching front night sights. I preferred the 3-dot night sights for this build because I have this type on all of my Sig pistols. I am able to line them up easily and they are easy on my eyes. The added benefit of being able to see them in low light conditions is a plus. 


There are a lot of great parts out there, but I wanted to stick with a few brands for consistency. The trigger, hammer and sear come from Wilson. Wilson’s lightweight hammer and A2 sear are preferred by most smith’s. Controls are from Ed Brown and frame & slide internals are a mix of Wilson and Brown. The main spring housing is checkered at 25 LPI. The front strap is checkered to match at 25 LPI as well. 


Springs are Wolf and the sear spring is a Clark 4-finger. This spring breaks from the traditional 3 fingered springs found in most 1911’s today. The Clark spring allows for a specific place and the adjustment of the sear, dissconnector, trigger return, and grip safety independent of each other. The Ed Brown Memory Groove is my grip safety of choice. I really like the look and feel of the 3 grooves, and it is raised enough for positive engagement and it does not slip. I do not prefer ambi-thumb safeties, as I am right handed, so I went with a single-sided Tactical Extended Safety. If this was a match pistol, I would have opted for a wider thumb safety.


The black and grey double diamond G10 grips are from VZ and are in their standard thickness (.270”). They provide solid grip, but are not overly aggressive. I have medium sized hands so when ordering I added the thumb notch which allows easy engagement of the magazine release. After ordering a pair of VZ’s for my XO as well, I will never use any other grips for a 1911. Accuracy comes from a few things: slide/frame fit and barrel/bushing fit. After having great results with the Clark barrel in my XO, I opted for a 5.0 inch Clark 9mm barrel for this build and chose a standard short GI guide rod and plug. The bushing is tight but has seated after a few field strips. There is zero play and super-tight lockup with the barrel and slide. In order accommodate the Clark barrel, the frame was also milled for the required Clark/Para ramp.

Slide-to-frame fit is another way Hayes separates itself from other 1911 builders. There are two main ways to fit a slide and a frame: The first is to focus only the high spots of each part and remove enough material until the slide and frame fit together. This leaves only contact points where the rails and slide touch. This method leaves less material to wear, and as a result, causes a loose/poor fitting slide and frame in a much shorter round count (less material = larger gaps between the two). The second method [and the one that Hayes uses] is to match the slide and the fame on the entire surface of the rails. This provides a much larger contact area running the full length of both rails and eliminating any and all gaps; more material = no gaps between the two. This is demonstrated by the 80%+ even wear on the frame rails. This method is what makes a 1911 stay tight for tens-of-thousands of rounds; even the life of the pistol. 


Overall fit and finishing is superb. The frame and slide have zero play and the rear of the slide-to-frame fit is smooth and blends as a single piece with the grip safety. Although not measured, the trigger breaks crisp like glass. There is positive take up then…break. It is a welcome departure from the DA/SA triggers I am used to on my Sig pistols. I like my guns all black and simple. I decided on an all blued finish with blasted rounds and polished flats. This gives the pistol a shiny and matte finish that provides a good contrast. 


It shoots like a dream. I tried several different types of ammo with approximately 500 rounds through it and did not experience a single hiccup or failure. Wilson ETM 10 rounder magazines seem to be a perfect match as well. They seat and function flawlessly. I was asked by Aaron how it shot and my response was “boringly accurate”. When you get a new pistol you expect the first trip to the range to be a test and tune; adjust here, get used to it there, but this was not the case. Point and shoot, small groups at 7, 10 and 15 yards are standard operating procedure with a Hayes Custom pistol. My groups were tight with little variation. This gun tells me how I am shooting and is helping me become a better shooter.


I may not be considered a 1911 purist. My Hayes pistol is chambered in 9mm not .45. But, it was built to my specs and has exceeded all of my expectations. It took about 4 months to build coming in right at $2000 and it was well worth the wait. Understand that price is greatly impacted by the options chosen. I could have added front serration cuts, hard chrome or more expensive parts, but I didn’t. I wanted a reliable and classic 1911. This pistol is not one that I will ever contemplate selling. It is an heirloom that I will hand down to my daughter some day. I am sure it will be refinished a few times and a few parts replaced, but it will always be a Hayes Custom Pistol.


You can check out more from Hayes Custom guns at

Hayes Custom Guns – Custom 1911






Government Length

Overall Length

8.7 in

Overall Height

5.3 in

Overall Width

1.4 in

Barrel Length

5.2 in

Weight w/o Mag

40.7 oz

Weight w/full Mag

47.1 oz

Magazine Capacity

10 Rounds


Rear Adjustable and Front Night Sights


VZ G10 Black & Gray, Standard w/Thumb Notch

Frame & Slide Finish

Blued – Polished Flats, Blasted Rounds

*Depends on Options Chosen



By: Garret

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