The 10mm Auto cartridge is one of those rounds that has a cult following. And although the cartridge is experiencing a recent flurry of popularity in the way of a bunch of new pistols from several different manufacturers and a few recent ammunition offerings from some of the biggest ammomakers, it's never going to be as popular as other auto pistol cartridges like, say, the 9mm Luger.
That doesn't matter to me because I like the 10mm — a lot.
Just as the 10mm doesn't appeal to every handgunner, the Model 1911 pistol platform doesn't appeal to every handgunner. In fact, it's often referred to as "the expert's pistol." (Our esteemed staff writer Terry Wieland just called it that in last month's installment of his "Gunsmoke" column.)
I don't consider myself an expert, but I like the Model 1911 — a lot. I'd go so far as to say it's my favorite type of semiautomatic pistol.
So, as you might expect, when I heard that Les Baer Custom was making a 10mm Model 1911, I got pretty excited. Baer Custom 1911s are some of the best-crafted, tightest-fitting 1911s you can buy. They are always extremely accurate.
They are not cheap, but I think they are definitely worth every penny. During my 24 years as an editor of Shooting Times, I have purchased three Baer Custom 1911s: two .38 Supers and one .45 ACP.
One of the .38 Supers is the Stinger model with a 4.25-inch barrel and Officer's grip frame. The other two are full-size 5-inch-barreled guns. The fact that I have shelled out my hard-earned cash ought to indicate that I like Baer Custom 1911s — a lot.
As soon as I learned that Les Baer is now chambering the 10mm, I got one of the first pistols to come out of his shop and put it through a thorough shooting review.
Here's how it fared.
The new 10mm pistol is part of Baer's Premier II line. It has Baer's throated and fully supported National Match 6-inch barrel and slide. It has a steel frame, a stainless-steel bushing, a low-mount adjustable rear sight, and a green fiber-optic front sight that's dovetailed into the slide.
The pistol also has a tuned and polished extractor, a Baer extended ejector, a Baer checkered slide stop, a Baer extended thumb safety, a Baer aluminum trigger, a Baer deluxe skeletonized Commander hammer, and a Baer deluxe sear. It comes with a Baer beavertail grip safety and a flat mainspring housing.
The Premier II's mag well is beveled, and its frontstrap is checkered 20 lines per inch. The pistol is tuned for total reliability, and my pistol came with textured G10 grip panels and two, nine-round magazines. The magazines are made by Tripp Research, and they have polymer base pads.
The slide has fine serrations at the rear and at the front (25 up front and 30 at the back), and the ejection port is lowered and flared. The barrel's feedramp is polished.
The pistol's fit, finish, and hand-craftsmanship are par excellence. Its rich black finish is evenly matched over the entire gun. Every part matches.
Baer 1911s are known to have extremely tight fits. This one is no exception. Some effort is needed to work the slide due to the close fit of the slide and frame, and while you might think that such a tight fit might inhibit reliable functioning, this pistol proved otherwise. It functioned perfectly throughout my test session.
All edges and corners of the Premier II 10mm are smooth. Obviously, the company's technicians have done a lot of handwork on it. This results in a tremendously smooth-working pistol.
The front sight, as I mentioned earlier, has a green fiber-optic insert. The housing is 0.125 inch wide and 0.185 inch tall. I happen to like the green, but if green isn't your color of choice, don't worry. Baer includes red and yellow rods so you can easily switch.
The adjustable target-type rear sight is similar in style and design to the classic BoMar rear sight, but the top two corners have been rounded off to prevent snagging. The face is all black and finely serrated, and the whole unit has been recessed into the top of the slide.
Just about every high-performance 1911 comes with a beavertail grip safety these days, and the Baer Premier II does, too, but a few words about this particular safety may be of interest. Les Baer designed his grip safety to have a 0.250-inch radius cut from the pin hole.
The raised "memory" bump ensures positive disengagement even if you ride your thumb on the thumb safety. The hammer fits perfectly into the notch, and the wide beavertail effectively eliminates hammer bite.
The pistol has an extended thumb safety for right-handed shooters and a standard magazine release. The grip panel has been sculpted to allow easy, quick access to the magazine release.
The skeletonized aluminum trigger is Baer's Speed Trigger, which has three holes and a slightly oversized trigger pad. My sample pistol's trigger pull averaged exactly 4.0 pounds, with only 2 ounces of variation over a sequence of 10 measurements.
I fired nine different factory loads in the Premier II 10mm with bullet weights ranging from 155 grains through 175 grains to 180 grains and styles ranging from hollowpoints through jacketed softpoints to full metal jackets. All types fed, fired, extracted, and ejected perfectly.
Velocity ranged from 1,143 to 1,310 fps, measured 12 feet from the muzzle. I fired the rounds for velocity over a sandbag rest, and recoil was not sharp whatsoever. Undoubtedly, the pistol's 2.76-pound weight (44.2 ounces) helped tame the recoil. Recoil values, as calculated with an online source, ranged from 4.9 ft-lbs to 8.6 ft-lbs.
Comparing those figures to popular .45 ACP loads fired in a typical 5-inch-barreled 1911 (weighing 39 ounces) that normally generate recoil values ranging from 4.5 to 7.2 ft-lbs reveals that the Premier II 10mm's recoil is not much more.
As for accuracy, to remove the human element, I mounted the pistol in my Ransom Rest and fired five, five-shot groups with each load at 25 yards, averaged those groups for each load, and then calculated an overall average accuracy for all loads.
The overall average accuracy was 1.68 inches. The best load averaged 1.38 inches, and the "worst" load averaged 2.25 inches. I don't have to tell you 2.25 inches at 25 yards is quite good, and 1.38 inches is extremely good. The complete results are listed in the accompanying chart.
My favorite 10mm factory load has generally been Winchester's 175-grain Silvertip loading because it is very close in ballistics to my favorite .41 Magnum revolver round, which happens to also be loaded with a Winchester 175-grain Silvertip bullet, but after shooting Federal's 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP offering in the Baer Custom Premier II 10mm pistol, I'm reconsidering it.
The Federal load produces an average velocity of 1,310 fps with a muzzle energy of 686 ft-lbs, and it had the best average accuracy of 1.38 inches. It's specifically designed for hunting, which is what I particularly like to do with the 10mm Auto cartridge.
For plain old plinking, the Barnes 155-grain TAC-XP was the softest shooting load I tried, and its accuracy was more than acceptable. And for home-defense, I'd most likely go with either the HPR 180-grain JHP or the Hornady 155-grain XTP loadings.
They were very good in the accuracy department, and their bullet styles have proven to be effective for defensive applications.
I've been hankering for a long slide 10mm 1911 for a long time. I think it would make an almost perfect deer- and hog-hunting pistol, and it surely would be great as a home-defense gun, too.
Plus, I just like shooting the 10mm round out of a longer, heavier pistol. I'm glad Les Baer Custom is now chambering the powerful round in the 6-inch-barreled Premier II.
It has three features that my other Baer 1911s don't have: the fiber-optic front sight (my others have either black post or tritium dot front sights), the G10 grips (my others have premium checkered wood grips), and the 6-inch barrel (my others have 5-inch or 4.25-inch barrels).
Oh, and the Stinger pistol has serrations at the rear of the slide only.
I like the features of this Premier II 10mm — a lot. I think I just bought my fourth Baer Custom 1911.