Friday, January 30, 2009

We interrupt this transmission...

...for some serious panting and wheezing. Trash day today, and that meant some hasty excavation from the back yard of Roseholme Cottage around the side, to the front so as to be able to schlep the trash cans with a minimum amount of wading in foot-deep snow.

'Member that light, fluffy, easy-to-shovel snow I was talking about the other day? Well, after laying about for a couple days on the sidewalks, it's all surly and packed and doesn't like to be told to move. Ugh.

Anyhow, until I'm feeling a little bloggier, here's an excerpt from the comment thread on the Giant Cylinder & Slide "Pocket Hammerless":
Nathan Brindle: "Yummy...but IMHO way overpriced, sorry. Yeah, I understand the law of supply and demand, and the concept of limited production runs, and collector's items, and all that. But why can't a gun like this be made for the masses? JMB wouldn't have screwed around with that kind of thing, he'd have made the gun affordable."
One thing I was surprised to find out in the business was how expensive handwork is as part of the overall cost of a gun. And that "Model of 2006" has a lot of handwork in it. There are hours and hours just making and fitting up the slide extension...
Me: Nope, not overpriced at all. That gun is largely handwork by a master gunsmith. The labor hours/shop time alone in fabricating, welding up, and polishing the rear slide extension would probably pay for a used Glock all by themselves, and all you'd have when you were done was a slide in the white.

If the slides and frames were sold as blanks, and with the labor done by the guy at your local gun-haus, you'd end up with a gun that cost about as much as a Brownell's-kit 1911, which is to say anything from ~$800 if your guy is cheap and you're willing to settle for CMC or generic parts, or $2000+ if you've got a top flight smith and you go the Kart/C&S/Brown route.

If a factory tooled up to produce them, however, they probably wouldn't cost a lot more than a decent 1911, although they'd have to make up for lack of volume with higher prices, since they'd have to recoup tooling and setup costs over a smaller production run. Springfield or S&W could probably bring it to market for a bit over a grand, street price.

24 comments:

Matt G said...

Funny-- I was thinking how cheap that $8k pricetag was, considering that it's completely hand-made. When you consider the probable cost-per-hour, it's probably making the guys bagging fries at McDonalds look flush.

Tam said...

Well, the big things were buiding up the rear frame & slide area on regular 1911 parts...

There's got to be a day or two in the rear of the slide. I don't know what Laughridge's shop rates are, but I know CCA's. I know how much Shannon had to charge for the Commander-length High Power with the custom-fabricated bushing. It was a walk in the park compared to this thing, and I still don't think we made much money on it at $2k.

Nathan Brindle said...

Mea culpa :)

Perhaps, not being a collector of much of anything, I simply don't understand the gun collector mentality :)

og said...

Most of the forgings/castings are forged/cast to near net- whcih means a minimum of machining required to finish. It is possible to make an investment casting to do something like this, and it can be done, on the order of somewhere around 10k. Per piece.

You might be able to cast one piece reasonably well for less than that, but why do all that work for one?

I do love some pocket hammerless, though. Even though the "Pocket" would have to be "Andre the Giant".

Wait, I've slipped a fullsized 45 in my pocket. Damn. I am a big bastard, ain't i?

Tam said...

Nathan,

It's not so much the "collector mentality" as it is what exactly goes into turning out the piece.

Machine time costs. Hand-fitting costs. If they were working from already-formed slides and frames rather than having to machine, and shape, and silver solder from stock, the costs would be a lot less.

The takedown plug in my 1902 took Gunsmith Bob a couple hours to machine by hand from a piece of drill rod. To break even making that one little part in that way, we'd have to charge over $100 for a part that could be CNC machined for a few bucks...

og said...

The rilly fun bit (at least in this case) is the massive difficulty in machining a piece that covers the hammer that's so verblasted thin. And then welding/soldering it in. I mean, the complexity of it is bad ebough but making it that thin and getting it welded on without distortion? Good lord.

I have an incredible gunsmith- Harry McGowen of St Anne Illinois. Might be worth a summmertime trip, Tam, a couple hours drive for you on country roads. He does very nice work at very reasonable prices- but even a "reasonable" trigger job by a good gunsmith will cost you. He did put a new turned down bolt on my Arisaka for $75. Which I thought was a STEAL.

Nathan Brindle said...

I never really thought about it, but it sounds like there is a lot more handwork that goes into even a production gun than I thought. Too many stories of Eli Whitney percolating through my head, I suppose.

I used to work in a factory shop that was right next to another shop that did fine machining (in aluminum and stainless steel) for things you'd expect would be mass-produced (mostly defense contracts that specified horrendously small tolerances). The guys who worked in that shop were true artists. I should have realized that the same would hold true in gunsmithing.

But that was long ago and the wench is dead :)

staghounds said...

As you say, it could be done by a serious factory already in the business.

Maybe the Chinese...

There is money in it- in theory. Problem is, we all say oosh, but how many actual people are going to lay out say $1500 for what's basically a toy?

As I look at it, almost all the difficult work is the top half- the bottom half modifications are basically just metal removal on a standard 1911 frame. I actually did this to an Argentine Colt a while back, it's the way they ought to have been made from the start- look at the 1900 and 1903 .38s.

You could make and sell just the top half...

Bob said...

It amazes me that some entrepreneur hasn't tooled a factory up to make those old Browning gun patterns. The patents expired long ago, after all.

I guess that's what Norinco was doing before Clinton closed that avenue off. After all, they were producing inexpensive 1911's, Woodsmans, and even Broomy Mausers, as I recall. Weren't they contemplating a Broomy in .45ACP?

John B said...

Well if I could get it on a payment plan like my 2-wheeled Milwaukee Self Image Machine, or my 4-wheeled Mexican Nazi Roller Skate. But I'd want some guarantee that the ass wouldn't fly off just as I'm getting in the zone.

perlhaqr said...

I would love to see the sequence of how it comes apart.

But, yeah, I think a CNC program would be the way to go on that. Then, at least, once you had the program done, you could run it over and over again for the cost of coolant, metal, and tooling.

Tam said...

Bob,

"Weren't they contemplating a Broomy in .45ACP?"

Yes there are a bunch of Shansei .45 Broomies out there on the market that were imported in the mid-'90s. Save your money; they look like they were chewed from billet by angry beavers and none of the ones I've had experience with ran worth a damn.

og said...

the unicorn i want is the 45 acp luger. broomies are sweet but a 45 luger would rock.

Robert said...

That thing is freaking gorgeous. I like it even better than the 1911, and I never really liked the 1903 that much.

If they start producing it commercially for <= $2k, I'd seriously consider buying one.

kbarrett said...

Ten .45 Lugers were made for the US Army Ordinance T-10 test ... the whereabouts of two are known.

One sold for a bit over $2,000,000.

( sorry about the language ... I couldn't find copyright abuse in proper english )

hpcc19 said...

Krausewerk was making .45 Lugers a few years ago at $10-$15K a pop. Guess that puts the $8K in perpective. I think he may be out of business or R.I.P.


http://luger.gunboards.com/uploaded/ron%20wood/2006628223654_45L.jpg

I have one of the 3 flavors of .45 Shansei's. Outwardly it is very nicely done. Inside it is a bit rough. I think it is flavor #2..not vintage, but early import.

Matt G said...

The summer that I attended academy, (and thus had something to lose if I were caught wandering around federal lands with a pistol in my pocket. Texas had no CHL licensing yet at that time) I carried a 1908 in the right pocket of my close-fitting blue jeans all over Big Bend National Park, with no one noticing. It's slick as a gut.

HTRN said...

Here's a little story that may illustrate the effect lot size has on final price. I once did a 500 part run, that wound up going for 6 bucks a piece. Not six months later, the customer calls up, wanting the exact same part, only they only want 1. That one part cost them 100 dollars, and that's only because we had it in inventory. If we didn't, it would have cost them even more. It boils down to setup time - 8 hours spread over 500 parts, or over 1. And at 75-150 dollars/hr, it can add up very, VERY quickly.

Gewehr98 said...

John Martz built a .45 ACP Luger a few years ago, using a pair of 9mm guns as donors for the wide-body conversion.

Nicely done, but you want to talk about the cost of custom labor?

(Mr. Martz put the new 6" barrel on my 1918 DWM Luger. Talking to him while he did the work was the experience of a lifetime!)

TBeck said...

There's a quote I read years ago on rpg.net that I keep in mind whenever my hackles rise over a pricetag.

"Just because you can't afford something doesn't mean it's too expensive. It just means that you can't afford it."

It's the same principle whether we're discussing a $2,000 pistol or an $80 game book.

wv: emotorqz

Firehand said...

When I was doing a lot of forging, knives in particular, there was ALWAYS somebody bitching that "It's not worth that, there's a guy over there with knives for $5!"

The fact that I'd forged, heat-treated, polished and finished the things myself, and that they'd hold an edge longer than that $5 knife would stay together, just didn't seem to matter.

Tam said...

It amazes me that people buy the $5 knives at gun shows. It's even funnier to watch them get all huffy when they defend their purchase.

Tam said...

(...of course it's really hard to explain to them that, say, the Benchmade 910 in my pocket is a nice, mid-priced, mass-production knife.)

B Smith said...

I seem to recall seeing something (in American Handgunner, I think) about that Pocket Hammerless re-do. I've always liked the looks of the original 1903s, but never thought too much of .32 caliber.
Now here comes some JMB uber-geek turning one out in .45, and I think, "rock ON !!" While there's no way in Hell I could afford the tag on that puppy (jeez, even looking at it--- its IMAGE--- hurts !), if the price were to come down to speculated levels, I could seriously lust after one of those.
How 'bout some stimulus in this direction, Mr. President???