Dave Lauck of D&L Sports has a well-earned reputation for building some of the finest custom firearms in the country, specializing in M1911 and M1935 High-Power pistols, AR-type rifles and carbines and a variety of other firearms including Ruger handguns and rifles, Smith & Wesson handguns, Remington M700 rifles and M870 shotguns. In addition to being one of America’s premier custom gunsmiths, Dave Lauck is also a competitive shooter, author and police officer—a man of many talents. We have tested D&L precision tactical rifles in the past and they have proven to be superb shooting machines, so when the opportunity came to work with one of D&L’s Professional Model M1911s, we eagerly looked forward to the experience.
We should note that each D&L firearm is a custom firearm in the fullest sense of the word. Dave is the only gunsmith at D&L and every firearm that leaves D&L is the product of his hands. One aspect of the test and evaluation M1911 we discussed with Dave was the fact that it was a “long slide” with a 6-inch barrel. Long slide M1911s are rarely encountered and are invariably custom guns. Like the 1911 itself, long slide pistols are not for everyone. The long slide is most definitely not a concealed carry pistol; it is simply too large in every dimension. For duty carry or field use, however, a long slide M1911 is an alternative to standard 5-inch M1911s. If the user takes the time to master it, the long slide has several advantages. First, there’s an increased sight radius of approximately 7.5 inches versus an inch less for a standard length M1911. Longer sight radii makes for better accuracy. Another benefit of longer barrels is slightly increased velocity. We noted that muzzle velocity during our long slide’s testing ran slightly higher than usual. Finally, longer barrels tend to deliver better accuracy, all things being equal. Besides, there is a “cool” factor that’s hard to miss.
Our first impression of the Professional Model when we picked it up was the overall quality of the fit and finish. D&L’s Professional Model 1911s are put together and adjusted to be as reliable as a mechanical device can possibly be. There are no shortcuts taken in construction and every pistol must pass a 100-percent test for reliability, which includes mechanical function that incorporates not only overall fit and finish, but timing, lockup, accuracy and point of impact. The care in construction of this pistol shows. Our initial inspection revealed absolutely zero “slop” between the slide and frame. Timing and lockup were perfect. The CeraKote final finish was a satin black that added to the aesthetic appeal of this superb example of the gunsmith’s art. Beneath the CeraKote, the steel is hard chrome plated for durability and corrosion resistance. Although our pistol was black, other colors such as OD green are optional.
Sharp edges were “melted” and gave the pistol a soft yet purposeful appearance. The long slide wasn’t given what we would call a full melt treatment, just enough to soften critical sharp edges. The front grip strap and mainspring housing are checkered at 30 lines per inch (lpi), and the aluminum grips have a checkering pattern that enhances the pistol’s retention. The grip scales feel so good we didn’t realize at first that they were aluminum. The grip safety is the obligatory beavertail, preventing hammer bite, and sits the pistol a bit lower in the shooter’s hand to reduce muzzle jump. The grip safety’s “memory bump” ensures that the grip safety is properly depressed every time the shooter grasps the pistol. The magazine well has a large funnel to guide the magazine into place during rapid reloads. Unlike most others, D&L’s funnel is integral to the frame, a nice touch. The mainspring housing is rounded at the butt, which adds to shooting comfort. Some flat mainspring housings are so sharp at the butt that they “bite” during recoil. A MIL-STD-1913 rail on the dust cover accommodates white lights or lasers, and we chose to use a SureFire X200 LED high intensity white light.
The pistol came heavily coated with what appeared to be machine oil, so prior to shooting, we completely degreased the pistol and lubricated it with Mil-Comm TW25B. TW25B is a PTFE polymer that penetrates the metal at the microscopic level, providing a superior lubricating surface that invariably makes a significant difference in the smoothness of every gun we test. The D&L was no exception. Although the operation was exceptionally smooth from the box, applying TW25B improved it. Our method is to first degrease the firearm, then spray the interior and working parts with TW25B spray that coats the metal with PTFE in an alcohol carrier that quickly evaporates, leaving a nearly dry film of PTFE. This enhances resistance to grit and dust while facilitating cleaning because fouling doesn’t stick to the PTFE. Next, to the sliding surfaces we applied a light coat of MC2500 oil, which carries the PTFE in a liquid that provides a thin film that greatly reduces friction. Finally, we applied a light touch of TW25B grease to stressed surfaces such as locking lugs. Nothing but Mil-Comm lubricants touches our personal firearms. All Mil-Comm lubricants are non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
One would instinctively think that the long slide would be significantly heavier than a standard M1911, but this is not the case. We put several of our standard size 1911s on our digital postage scale and the long slide weighed only 5 to 6 ounces more than standard M1911s. The longer barrel is slightly more muzzle heavy than a standard pistol, but we didn’t find this to be particularly detrimental to overall handling. Basically, the D&L long slide generally handles and shoots like a 1911. After a few rounds, we were hard pressed to tell the difference between this pistol and a standard M1911. On the other hand, D&L Professional Models have features that set them apart from most other custom M1911-type pistols.
Sights are another unique D&L feature. Both front and rear sights feature tritium inserts and non-glare serrations. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and held in place by two Allen head screws, rather than the usual single screw, again to enhance durability and reliability. The front sight is another story. While most custom M1911s have dovetailed front sights, this is the part of the pistol that’s liable to take the most abuse, which can knock the sight out of alignment. Small movement might not be visible, but could cause large changes in point of impact. For this reason Dave installs his front sight by inletting the slide, mounting the sight and locking it down with no less than three locking screws. This front sight isn’t going anywhere unless it is physically torn off the pistol.
The trigger is a Colt-type series 80 with trigger-actuated firing pin safety. Some say it’s almost impossible to achieve a high quality trigger pull with the Series 80 firing mechanism, but Dave has disproved this. Our long slide’s trigger broke like a piece of glass snapping at 5.5 pounds with no creep or backlash. Although some firing pin safeties are actuated off the grip safety and this was indeed the first such safety incorporated by Colt in the 1930s, Dave prefers the trigger safety for the simple reason that the firing pin isn’t freed until the trigger is pulled. Dave uses titanium-plated components for the safety to help smooth the trigger’s operation. With a grip safety actuated firing pin safety, the firing pin is released as soon as the pistol is gripped, which is almost like having no firing pin safety at all. Such safeties serve basically as a “drop” safety that blocks the firing pin should the pistol be dropped.
One reliability-enhancing feature of D&L Professional Models is sand cuts in the barrel and slide. The barrel cuts are visible in the ejection port, while the slide cuts are visible only when the pistol is disassembled. These cuts are unique to D&L custom pistols, as far as we know. With many Special Forces users buying their own M1911-type handguns for use in “The Sandbox,” sand cuts are a pretty good idea because sand has caused a plethora of operational difficulties with just about every military small arm in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Sand cuts in conjunction with a virtually dry lubricant like TW25B enhance reliability. What sand does get into the works of D&L’s pistols has someplace to go besides into the operating parts where it can cause a stoppage. This doesn’t eliminate good maintenance procedures, but does help when the chips are down.
One potential problem with 1911 pistols can happen should the extractor hook break, making the pistol inoperable. Dave Lauck has solved this problem with his patent pending “Tanto” extractor, so called because in profile it resembles a tanto knife point. While Dave still recommends that his 1911s be fed in the traditional manner from the magazine, his design is far more forgiving than traditional extractors when dropped onto a chambered round. The Tanto extractor can be fitted to any 1911 and requires a slight bit of gunsmithing to machine a small cut in the chamber to accommodate the extractor, but we believe Dave Lauck’s Tanto extractor is a worthwhile addition to any 1911.
A final reliability detail unique to D&L 1911s is a locking firing pin stop. While it is unlikely, Dave’s locking firing pin stop prevents any misalignment of the firing pin stop or extractor by positively locking the stop in place. Since the firing pin stop is held in place by nothing but the firing pin head under spring pressure, it is possible that the stop can drop slightly and not return to its correct position, allowing it to catch on the back of the cocked hammer. This isn’t a frequent stoppage, but in a gunfight it could have disastrous consequences, so it is one of those small details that differentiate D&L Sports’ 1911s from the rest.
Shooting the Professional Model long slide was a pleasure. The pistol functioned with total reliability and superb accuracy. Muzzle rise was virtually nil, partially due to the added weight out front and the slightly heavier weight of the pistol itself.
In sum, D&L’s Professional Model long slide isn’t cheap, but if the 1911 user is looking for a pistol that represents a custom pistol in the truest sense of the word, D&L Sports’ Professional Model is an excellent starting point in any barrel length. For those whose budget doesn’t allow purchase of a Professional Model, D&L’s Service Model is an alternative. Either way, Dave Lauck’s custom 1911 is about as good as it gets in the classic handgun that refuses to die.