by David Crane
A little while back, we reported on Paul Liebenberg opening up his own custom shop, Pistol Dynamics, now located in Indialantic, FL. Well, the July/August 2002 issue of "American Handgunner" contains a rather lengthy article by Cameron Hopkins about both Paul and his new "Limited Signature" Model 1911 he created in retro Armand Swenson/Richard Heinie style with squared and front-checkered trigger guard and Swenson-style ambi-safety. Ace photographer Ichiro Nagata shot the gun beautifully, as usual. *Click on "Read More" below for the rest of the story.*
I will now take you through some of the important aspects of the article gun, for those who can’t get ahold of a copy of "Handgunner": First, I guess it’s kind of appropriate that the gun is a little Swenson-like, since Liebenberg himself is kind of a modern day version of Armand Swenson. Like Swenson, Liebenberg develops and makes a lot of his own parts, some of which are quite innovative, like his "pocketed beavertail", "frame-locked" mag funnel, and new front sight system.
The pocketed beavertail features an accentuated up-sweep around the back of the commander hammer(traditional commander hammer beautifully checkered at 20 lpi), which I presume is to mitigate the possibility of the gun getting caught up on clothing on a fast draw from underneath a shirt or jacket.
The new frame-locked funnel is the result of a collaberation with Claudio Salassa, whom Liebenberg mentored years ago. This mag funnel doesn’t elongate the gun like the one on the Springfield Armory FBI gun. The FBI, of course, doesn’t have to worry about the gun printing under clothing, as long as they’re not working undercover. Here’s how Liebenberg describes the unit himself: "The Pistol Dynamics integrated, removable mag well blends perfectly with the frame of the Colt 1911 without increasing the overall length of the grip. The unit can be removed for refinishing or replacement after a period of punishing reloads. The mag well attaches via a precision machined rail and is held in place through mechanical advantage by the main spring housing and pin." Wow, sounds like a pretty good way to go, if I only knew what he was talking about. Just kidding. Actually, I know exactly what he’s talking about, and it’s a good solution.
Now we come to front sight system. Liebenberg’s new front sight is fixed, and not dovetailed for left-to-right movement. The site is interchangeable with a new barrel bushing design that actually locks the front sight into its recess. The sight is only adjustable for elevation, not windage. Adjustment for lateral shot dispersion comes under the pervue of the rear site, which, in this case, is a Bo-Mar. Bomars, by the way, are not my choice on a carry gun(If you need an adjustable sight for a carry gun, I’d recommend either a set of Novak’s brand new "Extreme Adjustable" sight, or MMC’s). What’s cool about the new front sight setup is that it’s interchangeable. If you need to adjust the sight for vertical point-of-impact, all you have to do is call Paul up, tell him what the situation is(how high or low the rounds are hitting at what distance) and he’ll send you a new one in the mail, perfectly calculated to hit to your desired point-of-aim.
I’ve got mixed feelings about an ambi-safety on a carry gun, as it can get sweeped off at inopportune times and potentially break and hang up the gun. However, the ambi-safety on this gun appears to be really nicely done. The gun also features a full-length guide rod, which I believe to be completely unnecessary on a carry gun, but I’m sure it is also done perfectly. Personally, I like to be able to press-check a Government .45 in the tradition style and take it apart without any tools, neither of which a full-length guide rod allows one to do. I guess I’m just old school on this one. Fortunately I’ve got guys like Steve Nastoff, Joe Bonar(out of Novak’s), and a couple other pretty knowledgable cats to back me up on my guide-rod position.
Just to remind everyone of Liebenberg’s background, Paul is South African, and a former member of South Africa’s Springbok IPSC team, where he was a top shooter. When he first came to the U.S, he worked under the guidance of Frank Pachmayr, in Los Angeles of all places. Liebenberg was the director of the gunsmithing department at the Pachmayr Custom Shop. He then went to work for Smith & Wesson(the bureaucracy and staff meetings over there apparently used to drive him a little bonzo), where he headed up their Performance Center in Springfield, Massachussetts. Paul was the primary drive behind the Performance Center’s innovative and world class competition pistols and parts. According to the "Handgunner" piece, he’s the creator of both the .40 S&W cartridge(DefRev has yet to confirm this ourselves), and the PC’s best-seller of all time, the Shorty Forty. Dean Spier, from "The Gun Zone", disagrees with Hopkins’ assertion that Liebenberg created the 40 S&W, and has told me that Tom Campbell(former S&W and presently of Safariland) and three S&W engineers named Foley, Baker, and Spencer all had a hand in the .40’s S&W’s birth. The management at Smith and Wesson didn’t even think the Forty Shorty could be done. Actually, one of the most interesting things to me about all of this is that Liebenberg did all this innovative work in two of the most anti-gun states in this country, California and Massachussetts, and a good portion of this work at Smith & Wesson, a company that many gun owners believe kowtowed to Clinton and the anti-gun crowd far too much(hopefully this will change under new the new management). Anyway, pretty ironic, huh?
So, what’s the upshot of all this? Basically, it looks like I’ve got a real-life, honest-to-God, gunsmithing badass living right here in my home state. If he doesn’t come down to Miami anytime soon, I just might have to take a drive up to Indialantic, Florida, wherever the hell that is. Now, if I can just remember where I put that map.
If you’d like to contact Paul to get in line for a custom gun, here’s the info:
Email: [email protected]
Click here to visit the Pistol Dynamics website and see some examples of Paul’s work, including the "Limited Signature" gun discussed in this story.