Review: Larry Vickers’ 1911 Advanced Gunsmithing Class

It’s a class like this that gives one true appreciation for the craftsmanship of Nighthawk, Wilson Combat, and the other high-end 1911 manufacturers. I was naive to thinking that working for a firearms company, which we produce thousands of products each month on CNC and engineer and program new products daily would serve as a basis by which to leap into a properly hand-fit 1911.

Author’s Note: I paid for all my supplies, travel, and the class personally as this was the “last ditch” effort for a fun trip until a new “little gunner” shows up in my household. Neither Larry Vickers nor TFB asked me to attend this class or write about it. This review is a personal opinion only. I went through everything a normal student would. 

I had grandiose ideas about how awesome my handgun would be upon leaving the class, having something that would shame the earlier mentioned companies. Those ideas were wrong, but that does not mean the class was not worth attending. I did leave with a functional high-quality and hand-fit handgun, which does have a mark of personal pride. It also bears the marks of my brutish filing, a botched barrel fitting, and garish extended magazine well blending. I have much left to learn.

Still, the class was valuable on teaching one the little tips and tricks to get one started on the road to being a true 1911 gunsmith. The real question is: was it worth the cost of money, time, supplies, sweat, and more than a few cuts, bruises, and burns?

What is the Class?

Basically, its taking one from an armorer to a full gunsmith on the platform, which is not an easy task. Rather than waste prose attempting to cover all the details, the description is pulled from Larry’s website:

1911 gunsmithing; – 6 days – This picks up where the armorers course leaves off and allows the student to build a complete custom 1911 from a box of oversize gunsmith fit parts; complete details of fitting an oversize match barrel, slide to frame fit, fitting and blending thumb and grip safeties, trigger job, complete blending of all components for a custom pistol are covered. In addition metal checkering is discussed and practiced on a limited scale. Recommended parts and sources are also covered. This is the complete package and is a great start to anyone wanting to do get into building custom 1911′s. Students of this course have had very positive comments thus far. Max class size is 7 and a specific tool and part list (student supplied) is part of this course.

Larry pulls no punches warning those who would come to the class. There is a detailed tool list and pre-requisites to be successful that should be followed:


The class originally was supposed to be co-taught by Jason Burton of Heirloom Precision, but due to a scheduling issue, Jason was not able to attend. The original admission price was reduced from $3,000 to $2,500.

Tooling was about $1,300, not including calipers and mics, which I owned prior to the class. Travel came in at about $2,000 for airplane ticket to Denver, rental car, food, and reimbursing family for a place to stay in the area.

From there, parts for the handgun were another $900 as I went to a semi-custom frame and slide from Caspian (Note- Caspian has awesome customer service).

Total bill for the week? $5,700. Expensive, but as a last-hurrah, I was OK with it.

The Class Itself:

I arrived a day early to ensure I could pick-up some last minute supplies like ammunition without having to worry about flying with them. I scouted out the class location (which from the outside is a rather non-descript warehouse) and proceeded to settle in with family with whom I was staying with in Boulder.


Arriving early Monday morning, my fellow classmates and I were surprised by the professional outfit at Mile High Shooting Accessories. They had cleared out  section of warehouse and had ten work-ready tables and vices for students ready to go. A pleasant surprise, as most classes tend to force students to share either tables and/or vices which can be a logistical problem.

My fellow students were a diverse bunch. I was on the second to last table on the left. In front of me there was a certified gunsmith and a veterinarian from California. To the right and front was an enthusiastic young man with relatively little experience (but the best attitude I have ever seen). Behind him were two brothers, both dentists and one a former Marine. and finally to my rear was a father and son; the father was a senior IT manager at a major Web 2.0 company.

Larry arrived about 1/2 hour later than Mile-High told us to be there with little fanfare (there was no actual communication on start-times for the class on the first day) and upon setting down his bag, introduced himself in two short sentences.

Having never met him prior to that morning, he was an incredible juxtaposition. Dressed in an old Wilson Combat t-shirt, cargo shorts, and well-worn flip-flops, he is of short stature but took on a larger-than-life persona. For those who have watched his videos know Larry’s scratched-vinyl record voice well and the round belly seemed to amplify it it amply. (I would assume they don’t need a mic when recording.)

It was “off to the races” from about 30 seconds in. Within the first hour, the class had gone through parts inventory and already onto frame to slide fit with Larry using a whiteboard and dry-erase markers to show the basics of each step. There were no demos, samples, or parts to showcase what perfect was. The students were expected to know or at least be stubborn enough to figure it out the hard way.

Day 1:

  • Inventory
  • Slide to Frame Fit
  • Start Barrel to Slide Fit

Day 2:

  • Finish Barrel to Slide Fit
  • Barrel, Slide, and Frame Fit, Head-spacing
  • Choosing Links, Barrel Assembly, & Feed Ramps

Day 3:

  • Finish Barrel Fit
  • Beavertail Fit
  • Extractor, Retention Plate, & Firing Pin Fitment

Day 4:

  • Bushing Fit to Barrel
  • Ejector Fit
  • Assemble mainspring housing
  • Magazine Catch
  • Start Trigger Job

Day 5:

  • Finish Trigger Job
  • Final Assembly
  • Test Firing

Day 6:

  • (If at a range, some range time)
  • Zeroing

While the tasks to complete each day were minimal, each took painstaking time to work through, especially using fine hand files. Each step has to be checked and re-checked on the steel to de-conflict any interference between parts. The barrel fit to the frame and slide is a slow affair and if one does not keep their head down and just work, can fall into despair or anger here quickly. But, getting them together well is the foundation that the handguns are based on.


My desk is the one with the open case.

Larry’s Style:

Prepare for “big boy rules”. Ask questions when you need help or get to work. When asking questions about the steps, Larry was generally good although could make one feel stupid. I think its important to note that the students are in the class because we don’t know the answer to the question, but we always knew he meant well.

However, in the case of a “big name instructor” class, one goes not just for the knowledge, but for the man imparting said knowledge. There were technically astute people in the class, but we made mistakes–often. Those mistakes could have been caught if Larry was paying attention even every few minutes to our activities. Instead, he seemed distant, and instead of working on his own handgun (which he says he normally does), Larry was on a tablet working on unrelated items. Its like going on a date and she keeps her phone out instead of enjoying the moment.

The Result:

I have a handgun that I am proud of, but suspect that it would be difficult to sell as a custom gun. It bears all the imperfections that I put into it, of which there are many. I royally screwed up milling the barrel lug, instead from the rear of the lug versus the front as I should have. The firing pin retention plate repeatedly bashed the frame as I forgot the firing pin spring, and the frame rails aren’t perfectly vertical, but with the barrel lock-up, its incredibly solid.

From there, I have a litany of tips and tricks from classmate’s and Larry’s experience to draw upon for future builds. Key information was what is considered good components, especially parts that are near perfect fit from the factory cutting time needed to hand-fit and little things like what are the best filing techniques for barrel lugs and similar.

In short, I feel prepared to build and learn from my second pistol. It won’t be perfect, but I’m not sure anything ever will be as I will always know the imperfections.

If one looks closely, you can see the cant towards the low left on the right-hand frame rail.

If one looks closely, you can see the cant towards the low left on the right-hand frame rail.

The Good:

  • One does learn all the steps needed to custom-fit and finish a 1911 from gunsmith parts, but it does not give one the experience to do it right the first time, every time. That’s near impossible, but it lays the foundation for future success.
  • Mile High Shooting Accessories, which put on the event, was a fantastic host, having tables, vices, and their gunsmiths available to help out the doofuses in the class (like yours truly).
  • Despite the cost, one does leave with nearly all the tools needed for smithing the handgun. Buy once, cry once.
  • My fellow classmates were awesome people. Varied backgrounds but all loved the 1911 and were there to learn more. High-end classes tend to attract high-end people.

The Notable:

  • The class is run by “big boy rules” meaning figure it our yourself or man up and ask questions.
  • The tool list was exhaustive, but much heartache could have been avoided if the list recommended purchase a few extra of commonly screwed-up components such as barrels, links, etc. In my case, I ended up over-nighting a few components at significant cost.
  • Larry is every bit the personality presented in his articles, videos, etc. Loud, strongly opinionated, and knowledgeable is a good combination for a charismatic, if abrasive person.
  • While not expressly included in the class, would like to see some work on the special options and more detail on checkering and funneled magazine wells.

The Bad:

  • I polled the class prior to leaving and at the time they did not feel that Larry was always “there” with us.
  • Would like to see some better communication from Larry prior to the class, checking on if parts are good, arrival times, and a syllabus with the tips and tricks for each part would be excellent value-adders.
  • No certificate or anything is provided to show successful completion of the class. This would be a nice touch. I, for one, would proudly hang it in my office.


Final Thoughts & Verdict:

Until the lunch with Larry on Thursday, I would have said that the class was not worth it for the money, time, effort, etc. Putting this in terms of money, for $16,000 (eight students times an estimated $2,000 class fee from each), the instructor can afford to be with us both professionally and personally.

Despite this, I find myself appreciating the hard-won knowledge more as I am already whittling on a second handgun that is heads-and shoulders above the first; though not without its own faults. Larry said that it took him about six handguns before it all “clicked” and that will likely be the case (if not more) for myself. Another couple of years of this, and I am confident I can make heirloom-quality pieces for my friends and family.

As such, I come to two recommendations, of which either would make the class “worth it” from a subjective standpoint and if both were present, a do-not-miss experience for the true enthusiast or hopeful gunsmith.

  1. Students should show-up with the pre-requisites, tooling (and extra parts for inevitable screw-ups), and a can-do attitude that does not accept set-backs and a gung-ho mentality to take advantage of the knowledge in the room. Do not be afraid to ask direct questions and do not be afraid if the answers are equally direct. Socialize with classmates and work to pull the passion and knoledge from the instructor.
  2. Larry is an awesome person, full of hard-won experience, a brimming passion for the platform, and energy. Reach out to the students on a personal level, pay attention to what they are doing, and walk around the room more. Focus on the class, not a tablet. Every time he stopped by my desk, something good to great came from the encounter and my handgun is better because of it.

All said and done, my 1911 is ready to go for outside services. What do you think I should do? Cerakote, blueing, QPQ Nitride, or leave it bright?


Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Will

    GREAT report.
    Brought back SO MANY memories of numerous police armorers schools I attended 1981-2006.
    I can only imagine the level of intensity of a gun smithing school.
    I liked the report.
    Thank you.

  • UninfringedTech

    Great Job, Nathan! If I’d built that fine handgun I’d leave the finish as is. A testament to the value of the experience, unashamed of the mistakes I’d learned from! Thank you for the great morning reading.

    • Kind of what I was thinking.

      • Thomas Gomez

        I second that. Looks good just the way it is. Nice pistol Nathan! Congratulations on your newly acquired skill!

  • Mr. FN

    Turnbull that shiyyyyyeeeeeeet.

    Anyhow, nice article. I can see how one could learn a lot from that. If only someone did that for the FAL….

    • G0rdon_Fr33man

      Sadly a lack og FAL build info out there… Just got my hands on an Israeli receiver…

  • MacGyver

    Great article! I wonder if Larry promoted the miracle use of canola oil as a solve all
    gun lubricant during the class?

  • Swarf

    You keep saying what a great guy Larry is, even as you tell us about things like the fact that he spent most of his time dinking around on his tablet and couldn’t even be bothered to give a start time for the class.

    Those aren’t “big boy rules”, that is someone being dickishly contemptuous of you and the large sum of money you put down to learn from someone.

    Larry, frankly, sounds like a f’ing jackass who should have let someone else teach if he wasn’t willing to put in the time himself.

    You should be pissed, because your gun should be perfect. Maybe it would have been if your instructor could have bothered to, you know, teach.

    • DB

      You’re a fool if you think a beginner/novice is going to do build a “perfect” 1911 in 40-50 hours their first time out. I don’t care if your instructor is ghost of John Browning, it’s just not a reasonable expectation.

      • Mrninjatoes

        Does not excuse the instructor from showing up late, being vague about start times and ignoring the class.

      • Agreed.

      • Swarf

        That’s what you take from my comment? An hours breakdown? Okay.

        • DB

          No, this is just the part that is completely erroneous. The expectation of creating such a pistol…by an amateur…in the class parameters is an impossibility.

          I would feel that Nathan (and other students) have a legitimate gripe about instructor attention. Given the course content and price paid, a student should not get that impression. That said, Vickers’ undivided attention would not ensure “perfection”…but I’m sure it would have prevented some mistakes.

    • Its hard to be late when one does not communicate to the class the actual start time. Plus, I was late the second day due to traffic, so it happens to the best of us.

      • Swarf


        If I were being paid that kind of other people’s money for my time and talent, you can be damn sure I would be there before my students, syllabus in hand, and I would feel like a complete turd if I didn’t pay attention to my students every step of the way.

        But maybe I just have too much respect for other people to be a famous gun guy.

        I don’t know why you’re giving Vickers a pass, but he sure hasn’t earned my respect based on your descriptions, despite the fact that he somehow still has yours.

        • I didn’t give him a pass, I simply gave everyone the ability to make their own decision based on the information as I saw it.

          • Swarf

            Sure, okay. That’s one way to approach it. I mean, you are a blog poster, and make no claims at being a journalist, so… you did that. And I know it seems like I’m dogging you personally, but that is not my intent.

            I’m just pissed off at Vickers on behalf of all the other guys who paid a shitload of money to be ignored.

            But hey. It’s not my side of the street. If you’re happy, great.

          • Journalists present both sides of a story, which I did.

            I did not have an entirely negative opinion. I had an ambivalent one.

        • Rick5555

          I absolutely agree with your stance regarding Larry Vickers. Seems as if Larry sold out a long time ago. One of my med school professors told me. Doesn’t matter what you did or achieved in the past. People will always remember you. For what you did today. I’m a gastro intestinal surgeon, at Vanderbilt University, Medical Center. Hence, I have residents under my charge. Though these students graduated medical school. And should know things already. That isn’t how things go in the real world. I expect my students to ask questions, as well as keep up too. But I would never act contentious to them. People like Larry get some respect for their achievements. But they aren’t owed anything. He wasn’t forced in to service. He elected to take that path. Sacrifice comes in all industries. Sorry. but Larry is not special in my book. I would be pissed if I spent a large sum of money. With expectations that weren’t subsequently fulfilled. And I would have let Mr. Vickers know how I felt…after the course. Your name will only get a person so far.

  • Wolfgar

    I consider screw ups the cost of learning. On the other hand if I spend a large some of money for much needed information I expect a large some of money type of information to be given. I don’t care who is providing the information the instructor works for me when I pay for their knowledge and if the information was sub standard they failed in that agreement. Only you can answer that question. Being a celebrity means nothing unless that is why you went there in the first place. Larry Vickers should have been walking around the room looking for mistakes and been readily accessible. Everyone in his class should have had his full attention. Passing time on a tablet during class time say’s a lot about his work ethic and commitment to his students . Eye opening, thank’s for the article.

    • Brian M

      There’s always the chance Mr. Vickers had something that couldn’t wait, but if he did, then he could have at least put an assistant in there or offered to move the class. I’m a student and I pay a lot for my education. There’s a contract between instructors and students. The students pay, come, listen, and work. The instructor teaches, answers, helps, and criticizes. If you’re paying someone for a service, they’d better do it. If I walked into Russian Literature Seminar one day to find my professor playing Angry Birds and telling us to translate a Pushkin poem to hand in by the end of the lesson, I’d be angry. “Big boy rules” means you come to class and bring your a-game. It doesn’t mean teach yourself. You’re paying to take a class for the instruction; not getting that instruction is a waste of everything you put into it. For $2000 plus travel, lodging, food, parts, and incidentals, you deserve a hell of a lot more than what you got.

    • Oldgrumpyguy

      I wonder what happened between Larry Vickers and Jason Burton. This was a highly anticipated class. The first flyers and press releases went out last year around late summer/early fall on Soldier Systems. What’s funny is Jason Burton popped up in the Travis Haley Cowboy video. Larry is very critical of Travis. All very interesting. As an older gun guy I have seen it over and over where the older trainers slowly lose relevance. Paul Howe is still very relevant. Travis Haley, Pat McNamara, Frank Proctor are examples of shooters that are pushing the training envelope forward. Of late it just seems that Larry is all about the money.

      • Wolfgar

        Maybe I shouldn’t jump to conclusions since I never took the class, but with the articles description of events I would have been quite disappointed considering the amount of money invested. I have watched Larry Vickers for quite awhile and respect the man for his past service and knowledge. There are only alpha sharks in the competitive world of firearm instruction and differences of opinion and techniques will always occur. Jeff Cooper was a good example with his stubbornness with endorsing the Weaver stance even though competition proved the superiority of the Isosceles stance. Cooper was revolutionary and a pioneer to handgun shooting in his time but his shooting techniques became dated as shooting evolved. Larry Vickers is no mall ninja and even though he is older and fatter as injuries and age will do, I would not like to get into a gun fight with the man as he is still a very experienced, competent shooter and knowledgeable warrior. I am a USPSA competitor and I will be the first to acknowledge that competition is not combat. Travis Haley is a phenomenal shooter and thinker who puts a lot of thought into his training who I also respect immensely. They have different styles and approach but since I have never trained under either of them I wont pass judgement. As far as Larry only being about the money that is no surprise as all instructors are only about the money, that is how they make their living, “like we all do”. Getting your money’s worth is another story.

      • Some Guy

        If Haley’s whole thing about hiring kinesiologists and psychologists to study how people shoot is more than a marketing lie then I’d say with confidence that he has the right approach to training.

        Going with the “I was a badass and didn’t die. Here’s what I did. You should do it too.” isn’t nearly as valuable to someone as understanding WHY X,Y, or Z works.

    • Mk43Mod0

      You guys realize that Larry, just two weeks ago was on M4C posting, in his own words, that the firearms community has made him a “millionaire”.

      Then he posts “Why I’m Fat” videos and surfs his iPad during a $2,500-per-student 1911 class.

      Seems legit.

      (BTW, great writeup Nathan. Very well done.)

      • Wolfgar

        I’m not sure what your point was but I do know Travis Hailey and other famous firearm instructors don’t live on the wrong side of the tracts either. Nobody was apologizing for his dismal performance during his class if that is what you were thinking. I do know personally how a life of body abuse and old age is like so I can sympathize.

  • Mrninjatoes

    $2500 for the instructor to show up late and surf his tablet? Not interested. Thanks for the awesome review Nathan. I do like your pistol. How does it shoot? Pretty accurate?

    • Haven’t ransomed it yet, but better than I can.

      It does need some tuning on the springs. I think the stock ones were a little light, but I can do that at home.

      • Mrninjatoes

        Nice! When you finish your second build you should definitely put up a “Lightning Review”. Some guys are selling 80% 1911 kits. Do you have any opinions on those kits?

        Thank you Sir.

      • Edeco

        I’ll give $200 for that 1911 up there 😛

  • Don Ward

    I came for the FireCLEAN jokes. I stayed for the Vickers-on-a-tablet-can’t-be-arsed bashing.

    With that said.

    Good job on the write-up Nathan S. I appreciate it when TFB and one of its writers goes all in on an article, speaks with a voice and presents something new and interesting.

  • G0rdon_Fr33man

    Just a shameless money grab from a shameless ex-something who have learned the value of social media and marketing…

  • Lance

    Blue it!!!

  • Rog Uinta

    Thanks for the report.

    Sadly, though, this put the nail in the LAV coffin for me. I’ve taken many, many classes and seminars over the years — from welding to obscure martial arts — and in none of them did I ever have a teacher so disrespectful of his students as to goof off or “do his own thing” while the class was working.

  • Oldandgrumpy

    Earlier this year I attended Specialized Armament Warehouse’s “M16 Armorer Course & Advanced m16 Armorer Course” The guy who taught the course, Ken Elmore, who is also the owner of Specialized Armament Warehouse is a larger then life and very colorful individual. When not teaching or demonstrating a task he was walking around the class or staring intently at us like an old DI with a half grin/half scowl. He was “with us” for all 40 hours. He was quick to correct us, and all of the students felt like they were being watched, at all times. Ken Elmore has built some of the best M16/M4/Mk18’s in existence, and has an EXTREMELY high opinion of himself. Ken does not suffer fools but he answered even the most dim witted questions in a professional manner and willingly helped the “special students”.

    I would have been extremely pissed off after paying $3000 for the instructor to just sit at the head of the class and poke around on an ipad. Walking in 30 minutes late upon first meet is unprofessional. There are a lot of 1911 builders classes out there. Thank for for the article. You really showed a lot of us who Larry Vickers really is. Larry should have been building a gun along with you and offering tips and tricks or at least walking around the room. Sad.

    • John Shore

      Definite agreement about Mr. Elmore; He’s an INSTRUCTOR when he takes you from a pile of AR parts to a functioning rifle; I figure that his background entitles him to that high personal opinion. He’s a pr*ck, but he’s MY kind of pr*ck.
      The only time that I hated him dearly during the class was when he wouldn’t give me a replacement takedown pin detent plunger when one went sproinging across the classroom on my final ‘test’ assembly; The evil grin on his face was worth the price of admission.

      • Thomas Gomez

        Fellow SAW Armorers!

        You are absolutely correct John. Elmore is an Instructor. That guy never turned it off….even during lunch as he snacked on a green chili bagel he just sat there and transferred knowledge.

        We had a couple of instances in my class when miscellaneous parts were dropped on the floor. The whole class was on their hands and knees looking for the lost parts. Even during the final, students stayed behind to help look for parts just in case something was dropped. Elmore aggressively led from the front and created a good, semi competitive atmosphere among the student. He was on time, polite and 100% in charge of the entire class. I had a detent spring fly across the room. For the final I took a big clear freezer bag and positioned it to capture my detent spring just in case I lost control of it. Elmore gave me a stern nod of approval.

        My fondest memory was looking up and seeing Elmore, hands on his hips, 1911 printing under his polo, looking to bust that one guy who was to lazy to use a roll pin starter/punch. Amazing class. Leave your gun ego at home. According to Elmore, if you don’t own a Colt rifle, your gun probably is pile of dog sh*t.

        • iksnilol

          Gotta disagree with that last statement, then again, Americans don’t have much exposure to Sauer rifles (the German made ones).

          Still, Elmore seems like an interesting guy to meet if I want to build an AR.

          • Thomas Gomez

            Hey there. The class was an Ar15/M16/M4 course. Elmore was referring to Colt Ar-15 type rifles.

            Sauer rifles are amazing! I have never held a German rifle, with the exception of the MR556, that I wasn’t immediately fond of.

          • iksnilol

            Ah. My bad, I thought he meant that if your rifle wasn’t an Colt that it was then automatically bad.

            Didn’t realize he was thinking about ARs. Then again, PSA ARs are good, aren’t they?

          • Thomas Gomez

            It was an Ar-15/M16/M4 armorer class. That’s all we were talking about, with the exception of a 5 minute conversation on the AK platform.

            In regards to PSA, they source their barrels from FN, which are AWESOME. All Ar-15’s are either a good or bad copy of the real thing. The “real thing” being a rifle built according to the Colt Technical Data Package and independently tested. I have had mostly good luck with PSA uppers, lowers and parts kits, with the exception of a hammer that was to large and a castle nut that was to soft. I only source bolts from Colt or BCM so I have no opinion in regards to their bolts. In order to completely evaluate a PSA rifle I would need gages, calipers, micrometers, Rockwell Tester etc. and a Colt 6920 to compare it to. One of 10-8 guys has thousands and thousands of rounds through his PSA rifle. For home defense and heavy training a PSA rifle should be fine. Shoot good milspec ammo (XM193 or M855), use good magazines, replace your gas rings, extractor and extractor spring every 5000 rounds and you should be fine.

            Good to see you in the comments! You are always welcome in my comments section.

          • iksnilol

            I try to learn a thing or two… also I don’t mind sharing what I know or at the very least share a bad joke or two.

  • Craig W

    Thanks for the writeup, Natah. Mr. Vickers is highly knowledgeable and respectable. However, I get the feeling that you paid for the brand more than the product. Any worthy gunsmithing class would have taught you all that and more. You call it “big boy rules” and say there wasn’t much handholding.The question is where the you drawn the line between independence and neglect.

    You and the rest of the class there agreed that the instructor was checked out and the actual instruction was pretty brief. If you got the instruction you paid for, you probably could have gotten the info needed, as well as the intervention to avoid some of your bigger messups. Secondly, you said that there were no syllabus or handouts or advice to bring extra parts and tools, or for that matter, a certificate for completing the course. I’m saying that is the less intense and less expensive Glock armorer’s course grants a certificate to graduate, a gunsmithing course absolutely should, too. Besides, you all paid a lot for just the course, meaning you were paying the instructor’s salary, and when you’re paying someone for a service, they’d better do it.

    At any other school or instructor I’ve ever heard of, if the instructor was preoccupied or absent, they’d find students becoming scarce rapidly. Instructors are people, but a class is an obligation they’d have to know about months in advance. If they could have things in the way, either they could at least put an assistant in with you guys, if not offer to move you to a different date, or if they must cancel, alert you ahead of time and offer a refund.

    What what I’ve heard for Vicker’s shooting classes, the man is brash, opinionated, and knowledgeable, but he’s also very keen on giving intense instruction. He won’t humor chumps, but he is always on point and expects everyone else to be, too. Perhaps his technical classes are not held up to that same standard? Either way, think twice before you take another class from that man.

    The M1911 you built looks sweet. Perhaps you could have a TFBTV quickie put together where you put it through its paces?

  • Marco Phallus

    It was good to read this review. Thank you for taking time to post your experience. This mirrors what we have all been hearing about the man and the myth. This has been well documented before but recently he has surfaced again with the likes of Wilson and Hackathorn. Buyer beware with the likes of Vickers. He is caustic. Has a lousy work ethic and truth be told, does not shoot that well. Hope that you get your gun fixed up and are happy with it. Nobody tells you on only get a half finished barely functional firearm after this class. The rest is up to you.

    • iksnilol

      You know the disdain is real in the gun community when you say that an individual “doesn’t even shoot that well”.


      I am enjoying this more than I should.

      • Edeco

        Stuff just got real.

    • Mrninjatoes

      Where was it documented? I was under the impression this class was one of the best in the industry.

      • Marco Phallus

        It has been discussed in the AAR’s of other courses that have been published on other forums. It has been going on long enough to make this old news. The trick is to find the places that dont delete unfavorable news due to man worship. I credit this site for posting an honest report.

        As for best in the industry, well beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are courses teaching 1911 gunsmithing that are taught by true craftsmen.

        And you leave those classes with a completed finished custom 1911 that you made. Vickers shows you how to get your parts minimally assembled and 70% functional before he sends you on your way.

        And it is worth talking to some of his colleagues from the Army about his tenure. Not all of it is high flying rescue operations.

  • iksnilol

    I am convinced you could have saved at least 2000 dollars by just going on Youtube and looking up the info.

    • Nashvone

      There’s a series of books on Brownells that include part numbers and the tools to install the parts.

      • iksnilol

        So even going literally by the books is way cheaper!?

  • John Shore

    After reading this, while trying to keep any personal opinions of Mr. Vickers in check, I could only think of factory armorer classes I’ve attended.
    I went to S&W armorer classes in Revolver and 1st-Generation Autos many years ago, when S&W was THE gun manufacturer; Their instructors were brilliant, personable men who came from the factory fitting room, and almost held us by the hand through the process of filing and fitting totally by hand small, unfinished steel bits over and over again to end up with a handgun that we could buy, or that, if satisfactory, went into a factory box to be sold. Revolver fitting, as I found out, is a bit like making a fine clock, if you’re to do it right.
    The instructors never left us alone, they came to our stations to check up on our progress regularly, judged our work at each step to give feedback continuously, told us where we’d gone wrong or right, and approved the end result. No matter how big the screw-up, they never belittled–they taught. Usually, though, they were there to catch a screw-up before it got out of hand.
    I’m thinking I’d not want to attend a Vickers class. In anything.

  • Don Ward

    I have to ask. Given the geographic region, he must be a relation to the infamous Hatfields vs. McCoys.

    • Edeco

      Hey hey, let us not conflate regular Virginia with West Virginia. Not that there’s anything wrong with West Virginia…



  • Uniform223


  • Don McGaffey

    The comments are working for me as a firearms trainer. Explains the success I have had in the past, and confirms the base for going forward.
    ~Don McGaffey
    Learning something every day!

  • Captain Kirk

    I have a photo of Vickers doing a mag change with an HK .45. The gun is pointed skyward and so are his eyes. The whole point of a semi auto is that a tactical mag change allows you to maintain your sight picture and track your target.

  • Captain Kirk

    The 1911 platform is one of the most mechanically straightforward pistol designs ever built. It should not cost you a ton of money to understand it’s “mysteries”.
    Buy a quality gun, field strip it and apply a slurry of polishing compound mixed with Ballistol to the rails, barrel hood, locking lugs, mag release and pick up rail.
    Make sure your bore is clean and use quality magazines.
    Reassemble the pistol and hit the range. Using only factory hardball, put a minimum of 200 rounds through it, cleaning the bore every 50 rounds.
    If the gun is functioning reliably, take it home, field strip and thoroughly clean and apply a light coat of gun oil to the moving parts.
    Lastly, use a dremel with a buffing pad and jewelers rouge to buff the feed ramp to a high degree of polish. If your internals are rough, they can be buffed as well but, as long as your trigger is decent, the gun should run reliably.
    Browning designed his masterpiece to run reliably in the mud and sand and rain. The 1911 only gave us trouble when people started messing around with the tolerances.
    I have a stock Remington Rand made in 1945 and she runs just fine.

    • Mrninjatoes

      Thank you. So technically I can go buy a cheap Remington, Kimber or Rock Island, gently polish it so the parts meld a little bit better and it should work? That might be my next project.

      • Captain Kirk

        Most of the Kimbers I have owned have been great right out of the box but their magazines are hit and miss. I just bought a pile of Colt mags when Brownells had them on sale and they seem to work very well in the Kimbers.
        The Remingtons seem to be good guns and cost less. I have no experience with Rock Island. Take a look at the STI Spartans, I’ve heard some good things about them as well.

        • Mrninjatoes

          Thank you sir. For giggles I just want to buy the cheapest 1911 on the market, rebuild it, and get it to run at least 1000 rounds without failure. I will look at the STI Spartans.

  • John Frank

    So glad I happened upon this article; scratch attending Larry Vickers’ 1911 assembly class.

    I had a residency program director who loved to spout, “I have given you the chance to teach yourself orthopaedics.” He should have never been allowed to be involved with resident education. Sounds like a similar sentiment is held by Mr. Vickers.

    As a regular army 96B20, I had the privilege of superb training by NCOs and GS grade intelligence analysts at a multitude of courses. This is the reputation that Mr. Vickers is trading on and will loose quickly if this is indeed how he views his current for profit training classes.

  • McThag

    You learned despite the instructor rather than because of him. This is a common problem with higher education too.

  • Ludasmith

    There have been (non-gun) classes that I have taken, get back to work, try to apply what I learned and go “Doh! I wish we had worked through my example!” So I’m guessing Larry would say that you learned more by doing it yourself and having the guidance as necessary. Most of us want to get as much information, help, advice, etc right then and there. Then we can go home and screw up trying to apply it again. I guess different strokes for different folks, but it sounds lazy to me.

    Maybe the other instructor was the one that does the actual work while the movie star sits and plays on his tablet.