One of the most exciting custom handgun shops in the game right now is also among the newest, and already the company has its product dialed in, accuracy guaranteed and ready for action. But don’t expect to find anything waiting in the company’s inventory—it can’t keep them around long enough.
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Mass production isn’t the company’s thing, anyway. The gunsmiths at Republic Forge make just about every gun to fill a custom order. Instead of mass production, master gunsmith Jeff Meister focuses his team on hand-fitting virtually every component of each individual gun to fill custom orders—different every time.
Republic Forge’s founder, Benny Deal, aimed for the sweet spot between being a manufacturer and being a boutique: forming a company that creates masterpieces of function and design, on a scale sufficient to support the business. What he didn’t expect, as he and master gunsmith Jeff Meister discussed in an exclusive Special Weapons interview, is just how popular Republic Forge’s pistols would be, or how quickly the company’s reputation would spread. Here’s what Republic does, and why it’s so proud to do it in America.
Made In America
Republic Forge was founded in 2013, during which time Benny Deal brought Jeff Meister to Texas from Tennessee. They spent most of the year gathering equipment and personnel, making test models and building anticipation ahead of the company’s debut in early 2014.
Located in Perryton, Texas, Republic Forge’s facility is where its pistols are “made by Americans, for the Republic!” It’s a claim the employees take extremely seriously, extending their “made in America” ethos to even the equipment they use to make their pistols.
According to Benny Deal, “We wanted the physical equipment—the lathework and tools and everything—to be made in America. That’s the road we took, and it wasn’t easy—making a pistol with all-American parts is tough!”
In the end, they managed to pull it off. “We’re an American company,” Deal said proudly, “making American-made guns on American-made benches with American-made tools, and we’re not sacrificing quality for anything.”
Most of the components, from the Kart barrels (made in North Carolina) to the frames (forged in Texas), are purposely oversized. The pieces don’t even fit together off the line, which is the way Republic’s master gunsmith prefers it. “Pretty much everything we manufacture is oversized so that everything has to be hand-fit,” Meister said. “The difference that makes is that everything is tighter—you don’t have that looseness, that sloppiness, so you’ll have a more accurate and tighter gun…and everything is going to be smoother.”
The most commonly hand-fitted parts on a match-grade 1911 are the barrel-to-bushing connection, the bushing-to-slide connection and then the barrel-to-frame linkage, with the throat being polished and the slide’s ejection port being lowered and flared. Meister, or one of the journeymen gunsmiths under his direction, does all of this by hand. They also fit the slide to the frame, and every pin as well, so that the controls snap with authority.
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One of the subtler ways Republic Forge promotes this smoothness of function is through the Cerakote finishes favored in production, with their self-lubricating properties. Tougher than steel, this finish fights corrosion and slides against itself without the need for as much lubrication as a steel-on-steel connection requires. Republic Forge applies the full range of Cerakote colors, though Meister noted that the burnt bronze finish (especially set off by the graphite black finish on the controls) is currently the most popular.
What makes Republic Forge stand out in the market is the depth of the customization offered when ordering one of the company’s pistols, and the particular options involved. Like woolly mammoth ivory.
Republic’s standard grips are G10 laminate in a range of colors and several styles, but according to Deal, “Most of the guys upgrade to higher-end grips. Eighty percent of our builds include some kind of ivory. People, if they’re buying a high-end custom pistol, they go for it.”
While the company offers elephant ivory, the more exotic options come from woolly mammoth tusk (for $900 or $1,050 extra depending on grade) and wooly mammoth tooth (for $1,200 extra). This material is more than 10,000 years old and comes from the long-extinct mammals, so you may rest assured that no woolly mammoths were harmed in their collection.
Regardless of whether the pistol ends up with ivory, G10, walnut or other grips, they all start as one of eight base configurations, which vary from the carry-sized Defiant to the massive Long Slide. Chamberings range from .38 Super to 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm and .45 ACP. Of course, the most popular caliber is the .45 ACP.
For those unfamiliar with the world of custom, scratch-made 1911s, here’s another pleasant surprise: You can specify whether you want a traditional, flush-bottom grip frame or one with an elegantly beveled magazine well formed as an integrated component. The magazine well extends the length of the grip slightly but provides excellent guidance when jamming a fresh magazine into the magazine well under duress.
Many other options exist. The resulting combinations are too numerous for Republic Forge to forecast, so rather than building an inventory, the company responds to custom orders and makes for its dealers some spec models that reflect the most popular options, like Patriot models with a burnt bronze Cerakote finish, the Texas Star hammer and Novak night sights.
Upholding Our Rights
Benny Deal has a hand in various companies around Perryton and outlying areas. He is accustomed to the business world and some of the more exotic personalities therein, from the owners of professional sports teams to famous entertainers, all of whom seem to come to own a Republic Forge 1911.
Ted Nugent has one. So do other big names who prefer to remain anonymous. But what gets Deal excited is making one for “the guy who saves a bunch of his money just for our pistol. To me, that’s the most fun—to see someone get their dream firearm, that they worked hard to earn.” It’s rarely their first 1911, Deal says, and almost never their first gun altogether.
Rather, he and Meister notice that the average customer’s Republic Forge pistol is their third 1911—after they come to fully appreciate the platform and discover their abiding need for an heirloom-quality gun that makes a statement about themselves and, often, their beliefs.
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“I’ve been a lifelong enthusiast and collector, like a lot of our customers,” Deal said. “I’m enthusiastic about the Second Amendment…and we’re big supporters of those who want to keep that for us.” That ethos is echoed throughout the company, and indeed, rings from every church steeple and courthouse in the Republic of Texas.
General & Defiant
The smallest guns in the Republic Forge lineup, the General and Defiant are popular with concealed carriers who want a custom gun that is as lightweight and compact as possible; the specification of a bobtail frame is the giveaway that they’re making a carry gun. With 3.5-inch barrels, these guns are ready for low-profile carry.
The General features a shortened frame that saves several ounces and a fair amount of bulk. Intended for concealment, Generals are eligible for nearly the full range of parts and grips offered so that they can be built into pieces suitable for proud open carry as well.
The Defiant is slightly larger, with an Officer’s-sized slide on a full-sized frame, meaning that there is space for each of your fingers and no reduction in capacity. These ride very well in shoulder holsters and IWB rigs for those who sit a lot while carrying, as the shorter slide offers a greater range of motion while the full-sized frame means you’re not compromising any capacity.
Stryker, Valiant & Patriot
The Striker, Valiant and Patriot models take the medium-sized 1911’s approach to balancing weight, length and height. The Stryker, which features a full-sized frame with a dust-cover Picatinny rail and Commander-sized slide and barrel, is also available with a threaded barrel. The Valiant, which features a Commader-sized slide and barrel with a shortened frame, is available with or without an extended magazine well to speed reloads. The magazine-well frame option is available on many other models as well and has proven quite popular with customers.
The Patriot models are built on full-size frames with 4.25-inch barrels and Commander- length slides. They can be had with a bobtail or a traditional square-butt frame. The 25-lpi checkering on the frontstrap can be changed to knurling if that feels better to your hand, and the slide can receive forward cocking serrations or not depending on your tastes. The standard skeletonized trigger and hammer look great together, and the controls can come in the same finish as the frame and slide or in elegantly contrasting colors and finishes.
That touch, the elegant contrast, is seen throughout the custom setups Republic Forge ships every week. One of the more popular combinations is the burnt bronze frame with graphite black controls—an elegant combination that sets the frame up well to wear G10 grips in a complementary pattern.
Raider & Republic
A full-sized gun, the Raider is built on the Government-sized 1911 frame with a design eye towards some of the more rugged, modern features on defensive guns. The dead giveaway is the accessory rail milled into the dust cover, which offers ample space for a light, laser or other accessories. The Raider can also come with a threaded barrel and adjustable sights that, combined with the accessory rail, result in a gun that can seamlessly transition from true tactical work to hog hunting, plate shooting or backup duty on a wide range of adventures.
The Republic is just the ticket for fans of the classic, Government-sized 1911. Built on a full-sized frame with a full-sized barrel and slide, the Republic has probably the widest array of options, calibers and finishes of any Republic Forge model. The resulting handguns are among the most popular in Republic Forge’s sales, and Deal says that they ship to customers in law enforcement as often as they do to collectors.
The biggest 1911 models that Republic Forge makes are found in the Long Slide category, based around a 6-inch barrel with a full-length slide to go with it. These models have a lot of extra steel, which means you need some stout cartridges to cycle them, and the gun’s weight and distribution of mass combine to help tame the felt recoil impulse.
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These are commonly chambered in 10mm, generally putting eight rounds into the magazine and adding a full inch to the sight radius over a full-sized 1911. That extra sight radius helps to enhance your accuracy potential for longer-range shots. Look for that 6-inch barrel to produce some serious 10mm ballistics—like propelling Buffalo Bore’s 180-grain jacketed hollow core (JHC) projectile a tad faster than 1,400 fps for more than 780 foot-pounds of energy.
For more, visit republicforge.com or call 806-648-1911.