Finely Tuned Firearms: Custom-Shop Options Grow in Popularity

posted on July 21, 2019

In 1989, Smith & Wesson officially assembled an elite team of highly skilled gunsmiths under its Performance Center banner. It thrives to this day, and some of its most-popular services have nothing to do with precious metal, although there’s no missing the golden touches added to an otherwise “stock” firearm.

“All Performance Center firearms are purpose-built for specific uses, including personal protection, hunting, competition and many more,” explained Matt Spafford, media manager for Smith & Wesson. “Tuned actions are one of the most popular enhancements that are performed.”

Specialty shops that tweak and modify firearms come and go—some even thrive—but few can rival the success of Wilson Combat, established in 1977. Founder Bill Wilson is an avid shooting competitor who appreciates improvements that increase hit count and understands the value they bring to the gun owner.

Knowledge and experience are one thing, but Wilson said key ingredients that built the company include, “The quality of the components we use, our attention to detail and the amount of testing the product gets prior to shipping.” The firm has expanded exponentially and now manufactures a line of already upgraded firearms, including its popular EDC X9 handgun and Recon Series of ARs.

Mission focus hasn’t blurred, though. “Unlike many companies that seem to deviate away from what got them started in the first place as they grow, Wilson Combat still offers the same services we did when we started in 1977,” he said. What’s the most common gun they receive for tuning and enhancement? “…[I]t’s probably Glock work right now,” Wilson said.

Ruger may be the relative newcomer to the trend, but the launch of its custom lineup made headlines a few years ago—rightfully so. Today enthusiasts can own an SR1911 Competition Pistol, 10/22 Competition Rifle and Super GP100 Competition Revolver, tweaked, tuned and polished by the same company building these classics.

“Our customers have been craving high-end performance variations of our popular models for a long time,” Chris Killoy, Ruger president and CEO said when the special brand was introduced. “We are thrilled to respond to the call and bring the Ruger Custom Shop to fruition.”

Custom guns from SIG Sauer will be available in 2020 although custom engraving and other services are already available. “SIG Sauer offers the ability to order new firearms with logos, text and scroll engraving through its engraving program,” said Tim Butler, general manager of SIG Custom Works.

As for quality, look no further than the company’s M17 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Pistols currently standing guard at Arlington National Cemetery, covered in this article by Guy J. Sagi.

“Someone could literally give a history lesson about the Tomb of the Unknown by explaining the details of the pistol,” Butler said.


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