Photos by Michael Anschuetz
To my way of thinking, the Premier II is the flagship of Les Bear’s superb Model 1911s. Sure, the company has a bunch of fine models, including the Black Bear, Boss, Bullseye Wadcutter, CMP-Legal National Match Hardball, Commanche, Concept, Custom Carry, GT Monolith Stinger, GT Monolith Stinger Heavyweight, Hemi, Monolith, Monolith Commanche, Monolith Heavyweight, P.P.C. Distinguished Match, P.P.C. Open Class, Shooting USA Custom Pistol, Stinger, Swift Response Pistol, Ultimate Master, Ultimate Recon, Ultimate Tactical Carry, and a limited-edition presentation-grade model. Phew! That sure is a lot of models. But as its name implies, the Premier II is the top gun.
I’ve been fortunate to work with several Premier IIs over the years. The first was a .45 ACP Super Tac model that was built sometime around 2001. The next one was chambered for .38 Super and was made in 2010. Both had 5.0-inch barrels. The most recent one, prior to the one I fired specifically for this report, was a 6.0-inch-barreled 10mm Premier II I wrote up for this magazine exactly two years ago. All were incredibly tight, had excellent trigger pulls, and were extremely accurate. The newest addition to the Premier II line is the 5.0-inch-barreled 10mm pistol that I’m reviewing here.
When John Moses Browning designed the Model 1911, he had already developed a .38-caliber semiautomatic pistol called the Model 1902 and was in the process of updating its design to .45 caliber. That .45 pistol was known as the Model 1905. When the call came from the U.S. military to build a better .45, Browning quickly made some modifications and submitted the pistol for review. A second set of modifications was transmitted to Browning by the Ordnance Department, and after a 6,000-round torture test without a single failure—a first in the history of firearms—the Army adopted the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911. Since then the Model 1911 has become the king of service and self-defense pistols.
Those first military Model 1911s were developed to be fired one-handed and generally just pointed toward the target. Many of the tactics of that time were holdovers from the cavalry days when one hand was needed to control the horse while the other operated the handgun.
The Model 1911’s grip safety was an Ordnance Department requirement based on a notion that a light single-action trigger could be inadvertently fired from a less than proper grip. In addition, an absolute necessity for these fast-firing pistols was reliability, especially if they got dropped in the mud. It was imperative that the soldier picking it up would still be in the fight, so tolerances were loosened to accommodate the dirt and grunge of combat. Accuracy was a distant, second-place priority back in those days.
The Model 1911 has undergone many refinements and modifications during the last 108 years. Modifications that Les Baer Custom has mastered enhance the accuracy of the pistol, make the pistol handle better and quicker, and improve the pistol’s reliability. I’ll get to some of them shortly, but Baer has tightened tolerances and redesigned certain features, such as the grip safety, to make Browning’s masterpiece even better.
Everything I wrote about the 6.0-inch 10mm Premier II two years ago can be said about the 5.0-inch Premier II, except, of course, the barrel length. Both guns have Baer’s throated and fully supported National Match barrels and slides. They have steel frames, stainless-steel bushings, low-mount adjustable rear sights, and green fiber-optic front sights that are dovetailed into the slides.They both have tuned and polished extractors, Baer extended ejectors, Baer checkered slide stops, Baer extended thumb safeties, Baer aluminum triggers, Baer deluxe skeletonized Commander hammers, and Baer deluxe sears. They come with flat mainspring housings and Baer beavertail grip safeties.
Speaking of the grip safety, 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 hammerbite.
The gun’s mag well is beveled, and the grip’s frontstrap is checkered 30 lines per inch. The pistol comes with two nine-round magazines that are made by Tripp Research, and they have COBRAMAG HV polymer base pads.
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 like the green, but Baer also includes easy-to-switch red and yellow rods if green isn’t your color of choice.
The adjustable target-type rear sight is similar in style and design to the classic BoMar rear sight, but the top corners have been rounded off to prevent snagging. The face is all black and finely striated, and the notch is 0.114 inch wide. The whole unit has been recessed into the top of the slide.
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 Premier II uses a standard recoil spring guide rod assembly.
The pistol has an extended thumb safety for right-handed shooters and a standard magazine release. The textured G10 grip panel has been contoured to allow easy 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, 2 ounces, with just 2 ounces of variation over a sequence of five measurements. There was just a hint of take-up, and letoff was crisp and consistent.
The pistol is tuned for total reliability, and the pistol’s fit, finish, and hand-craftsmanship are excellent. All edges and corners of the Premier II 10mm are smooth.
Like every other Baer Premier II 1911 I’ve worked with, this new one has an extremely tight fit. Due to the close fit of the slide and frame, there is zero wiggle between the slide and frame. The barrel locks up extremely tightly with the slide, and some effort is needed to “pop” the slide back. When in battery, the barrel doesn’t budge a bit when I push down on the hood. Experts tend to agree that slide-to-frame fit and barrel lockup are critical for optimal accuracy, and the Premier II’s fit is as tight as I’ve ever experienced.
The barrel bushing to barrel fit is also very tight. In fact, I couldn’t turn the bushing with just my fingers and had to use the supplied bushing wrench to disassemble the new pistol.
As for the accuracy of the new 5.0-inch 10mm Premier II, for this report I fired six factory loads with bullet weights ranging from 155 grains to 200 grains and styles ranging from lead roundnoses to hollowpoints. All types fed, fired, extracted, and ejected perfectly.
Velocity ranged from 1,134 to 1,288 fps, measured 12 feet from the muzzle, and average accuracy ranged from 1.15 inches to 2.53 inches. Overall average accuracy was 1.83 inches. The accuracy results were obtained with the pistol mounted in my Ransom Rest, and they represent five, five-shot groups with each load at 25 yards. The complete results are listed in the accompanying chart, and I’ve also included accuracy results for the other Premier IIs I’ve fired. Like the 5.0-inch 10mm, all results are for the guns mounted in a Ransom Rest.
After shooting the new Premier II for accuracy, I banged away offhand at steel plates and bouncing ball targets at ranges from between seven yards and 25 yards. I also stretched out the pistol at 35 and 50 yards with two hunting loads, shooting from a stable rest. The pistol was well-balanced and easy to shoot well, and hitting a 10-inch-diameter steel plate at the extended distances was not too much of a challenge.
I’ve fired a lot of 10mm ammunition over the last couple years. The 10mm is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, with introductions of new guns and ammunition, and I currently have a few favorite factory loads. One is the Barnes 155-grain TAC-XP. This load is the softest-shooting 10mm load I’ve found. For that reason, it’s great for plinking, and it’s not too shabby in the accuracy department.
Another favorite is Hornady’s 155-grain JHP-XTP. The XTP bullet has more than proven itself for self-defense applications, and it’s typically my choice for personal protection.
Winchester’s 175-grain Silvertip loading has been a favorite 10mm load of mine for a long time because its ballistics are close to the ballistics of Winchester’s 175-grain Silvertip .41 Magnum loading, which is my favorite all-around revolver cartridge. I would feel confident using it for everything from defense to hunting.
Two hunting-specific factory 10mm loads I enjoy are Federal’s 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP and HSM’s 200-grain RNFP Bear Load. Both generate significant muzzle energy and are right for downing deer and black bears.
Les Baer 1911s are some of the best-crafted, tightest-fitting 1911s you can buy. The Premier II pistols are my favorites. They are smooth-working, perfectly functioning, extremely accurate pistols. In my opinion, the Premier II is a bona fide masterpiece.