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Alchemy Custom Weaponry’s Prime 1911 Pistol

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Alchemy, according to the Oxford Dictionary is “the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold.”

Of course, in modern times, we know that such a feat is nearly impossible. Each element has its own atomic structure and some types, such as radioactive ones can change as unstable atoms attempt to stabilize ina process called transmutation. Yet, turning lead or tin into gold is the stuff of fiction.

Or is it?

I have seen custom knife makers, literally take $200 worth of raw materials and turn them into $5000 knives. It is not the magic of alchemy that makes this possible, but the hard work of a dedicated craftsman.

Alchemy Custom Weaponry offers the most unique checkered front strap I have seen in a long time.

Custom 1911s are a lot like custom knives. There was a time when a customer would tell the knife maker or gunsmith exactly what they wanted in a custom piece, an agreement was made, time was spent building the knife or pistol and when all the work was done the owner had a true custom “one of a kind” item. It's still like that in some instances but for the most part, custom makers of both items became known for a feature or style and that custom article became a catalog item.

In other words, aside from the handwork that went into making it, your custom looked a lot like somebody else's, unless you had your initials engraved in the steel or your face scrimshawed on the grip.

I think a better term is handcrafted.

If you're looking for a true handcrafted 1911, you need to look no further than master gunsmith Rob Schauland of aptly named Alchemy Custom Weaponry (ACW).

Schauland sent me one of his pistols, the Prime Elite, to take for a test drive at my local shooting spot and gave me a little background on why I, and of course, you, the reader, should take a look at one of his handcrafted pistols.

Schauland's career as a gunsmith goes back three decades:

I started off at Springfield Armory building their P9 pistols (these were CZ75 style handguns, back when they were a little hard to come by outside of what is now the Czech Republic). Then, I worked on the standard 1911 line for a good while. I did work very closely with Les Baer, Jack Weigand, and David Williams while I was there. When I left Springfield I was Assistant Custom Shop Director. It's a super long story. The firearms business was very volatile for us back in those days. Lack of diversity in the product line resulted in much shuffling of staff and many layoffs. It made for some very interesting ‘you'll go where we need you' kind of arrangements but I gained experience in almost every facet of the company.

Schauland went on to work for Les Baer after he left Springfield and eventually hung out his shingle as Alchemy Custom Weaponry (ACW), the company was later acquired by Cabot Arms for the sole purpose of bringing Schauland's talents to Cabot.

ACW frames and slides are designed by Schauland and incorporate both traditional styling cues with ergonomic features such as a high cut front strap designed for both comfort and control. The frames are made from domestic forgings and machined in house to his proprietary print specifications. The slides are constructed from bar stock steel to the same specifications. The grip safety, ejector and extractor are machined from USA sourced 4140-grade bar stock steel. Barrels are made in the USA from 416R certified hammer-forged stainless steel. Bushings are turned from 416 SS bar stock stainless steel. Ignition components are constructed in-house from 420-grade stainless steel billet. The hammer, sear, and strut are made precisely using EDM Wire technology machining. Disconnectors are constructed from tool steel. The external safeties are made by Cylinder and Slide.

Alchemy Custom Weaponry Prime 1911

From an engineering perspective, these components are constructed from some of the best materials available. But just as people make the mistake of putting the value of a finished object on material cost alone; they don't take into account the hours of work to make it into a true work of art.

The front strap is hand checkered at 25 LPI (lines per inch) and is smoothed to lines at the edge of the front strap for comfortable carry. The rear of the slide and frame are blended by hand and the barrels fitted the same way. The plunger tube is countersunk and properly staked. Of course, the barrels and bushings are hand-fitted as well.

I could not get a bead on who makes the triggers, but they are cleverly designed with a set screw at the back of the trigger pad so there is no hole in the face of the trigger to irritate your trigger finger. The break was a super crisp and clean 3.5 pounds.

Alchemy Custom Weapons excellent rear sight.

Particularly, I loved the rear sight and how it's mounted and blended into the frame. Without a doubt, it is the highest cut frame I have ever seen on a 1911. The front sight's gold bead is a nice touch as well.

As a shooter and collector of 1911 pistols and having built a few on my own in another life, I went through the pistol extra carefully. I did not see a single flaw. No machining or tooling marks, whatsoever. It was as if somebody created this pistol out of thin air. Even the slotted grip screws were indexed to set horizontally. Maybe that is the real magic of Alchemy?

Range Time

At the range, a restrictive state-run entity this time where I was restricted to 50-feet, I set up my target and tried a mixed bag of ammunition. Some 230-grain FMJ I had loaded a few months ago, a few boxes of Speer 185 Grain Lawman and a box of Federal 230 grain JHP.

My personal loads grouped at about 1.76-inches. With the Speer Lawman, I flashed back to my brief time as a speed shooter in the 1990s and ran it as fast as the RSO would allow me to squeeze the trigger and my group suffered for it opening up to a little over 3-inches. My point of impact shifted from my point of aim a bit low and to the left. I put this fully on me for probably jerking the trigger as I was mag dumping because when I took my time again with the Federals and I was back in the ten-ring and a lot tighter with an average group that was over 2-inches.

Alchemy claims their pistols are accurate to sub-1.5-inches at 25 yards. Although I certainly did not do that well, I can see it being done by a skilled shooter who takes his time and had not been shooting three completely different firearm action types at the same range session (SA revolvers, DA revolvers, and a striker-fired polymer gun). I can also see that feat being done from a Ransom Rest.

Alchemy Custom Weaponry 1911

So, this time I went to an indoor range and was not at the mercy of the wind and elements with some Black Hills 200-grain semi-wadcutters that were collecting dust on my ammo shelf. I ran my target out to 25 yards, relaxed and took my time. I shot two magazines full of the Black Hills ammo and had the added ability to fire a few rounds, run the target back, check it and run it out again.

My best group came in at 1.46-inches!

Alchemy Custom Weaponry uses a low profile roll mark on the right-hand side of the frame.

Final thoughts

In addition to their hand-built catalog models, Alchemy Custom Weaponry takes custom orders so you can have the pistol built exactly how you want it. If I was in the market for a true custom handmade 1911, they would be the first place that I would contact. The attention to detail on this handgun is nothing short of flawless.

If you've read this far and are a hater of 1911s, your exposure has probably been limited to factory pistols, ones that a buddy's friend “worked on,” saw a few choke in a class or you dislike the weight, capacity or whatever else. If you shoot an Alchemy Prime, you'll definitely find out what you have been missing as Rob Schauland's work is nothing short of magical.

This is one of maybe a handful of test guns over the years that I didn't really want to send back!

Manufacturer: Alchemy Custom Weaponry
Model: Prime
Caliber: 45 ACP
Capacity: 8+1
Weight: 38 oz.
Length: 8.7-inches
Height: 5.6-inches
Bbl Length: 5-inches
Finish: Polished blue
MSRP: $2,595

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