Gun Test: Guncrafter HOSS

Guns and Gear | Contributor

By Dick Jones, Gun Digest

The Guncrafter Industries HOSS is an overbuilt version of Browning’s classic 1911, designed to address some of the common failure points on that particular pistol.

How this beefed up 1911 is engineered to last a lifetime:

  • The HOSS was conceived as a 1911 that would last a lifetime.
  • To do this, Guncrafter’s engineers addressed common failures in the design one by one.
  • Nearly every facet of the gun is beefed up, from its magnum-sized extractor to a larger barrel link.
  • Additionally, the barrel wall thickness was increased by 56 percent.
  • With extremely tight fitting, the gun performs admirably and is as accurate as fussier 1911s.
  • The 40-ounce HOSS has 8+1 capacity and is constructed from stainless steel.
  • The pistol’s MSRP is $3,700.

If there were a book of firearms successes, probably the first chapter would be dedicated to John Browning’s 1911 pistol. Designed in 1908 and adopted by the U.S. Army in 1911, it’s a design that’s stood the test of time for more than 100 years, and it’s still as popular as ever. There are dozens of companies producing 1911s, but only a few of those makers truly approach the undertaking of building the best pistol possible as a serious challenge.

The HOSS is expensive, sure, but it’s a perfect combination of good looks and rugged durability.
The HOSS is expensive, sure, but it’s a perfect combination of good looks and rugged durability.

Obviously, the pistols Guncrafter Industries — located in Huntsville, Arkansas — makes are built to sell, but they’re built to sell to the most discriminating buyer who’s only satisfied with the best gun money can buy. In my experience as a writer, I’ve tested four Guncrafter guns and never experienced a single malfunction. It’s easy to build a 1911 that doesn’t malfunction, but to build a 1911 that’s capable of shooting rifle-sized groups off a Ransom Rest without malfunctions is another story.

Beefing Up The Hoss

When the HOSS project was undertaken, the idea was to build a pistol that not only was accurate, but also reliable, not just for range sessions, but for a lifetime. Like all other mechanical devices, the 1911 design has weaknesses: Those who’ve shot thousands of rounds through them have experienced breakages that relate to those weaknesses.

The engineers at Guncrafter Industries considered every one of those common failures and addressed them — one by one. The extractor is beefed up, and the slide stop pin is increased in diameter by 33 percent. The plunger tube is also fattened up, and two more location pins are added. The ejector is increased to twice the normal size, and the width of the barrel link is increased and the material improved over standard.

In addition, barrel wall thickness is increased by 56 percent. The lower lugs are beefed up, and, finally, the barrel bushing is not only larger in diameter to accommodate the larger diameter barrel, but it’s also thicker in the front portion that locks into the recoil spring plug.

A tight fit between the slide and frame is always an important factor on a 1911, and Guncrafter’s HOSS doesn’t disappoint.
A tight fit between the slide and frame is always an important factor on a 1911, and Guncrafter’s HOSS doesn’t disappoint.

Each of these modifications represents the elimination, or at least a greatly reduced chance, of failure of these parts. The official reasoning behind the “HOSS” designation of this model is “Heavy Operating Shooting System.” Personally, when Alex Zimmerman described the gun and told me the name, I automatically agreed “HOSS” was perfect, thinking of Hoss Cartwright of the Bonanza TV series.

Maintaining The Hoss’ Finesse

So, it’s established that the new gun from Guncrafter Industries is designed to be reliable, both in the short and long-term, but making a gun reliable generally comes at the price of gilt-edged accuracy. Super accurate 1911s have a reputation for being fussy about ammunition and somewhat fragile. Accomplishing extreme reliability while maintaining pinpoint accuracy is where the gunmaker’s art comes into the equation.

Accuracy in a short-recoil-operated pistol requires precise fit of several critical parts. First, the barrel must fit closely in the bushing or bearing surface on the front of the slide where the barrel moves. Second, the barrel must lock up consistently to make sure there’s no barrel tilt when the gun is fully into battery. With a 1911, this is accomplished by careful fitting of the locking lugs and having the correct barrel link to assure the barrel is fully engaged in the top of the slide recesses.

Third, the slide itself must have a minimum of play on the slide rails because it controls the front of the barrel, and the sights are mounted on the reciprocating slide. Proper fitting of the slide on the rails assures repeatable positioning when in battery. All these operations, along with a high-quality barrel, provide accuracy, but of course, the better the work, the more accurate the gun.

Seven components of the basic 1911 were beefed up to produce an even more bulletproof gun than a standard 1911. (Author Photo)
Seven components of the basic 1911 were beefed up to produce an even more bulletproof gun than a standard 1911. (Author Photo)

There are other factors that affect accuracy in terms of the shooter interfacing with the firearm because if the gun has poor sights or an inconsistent trigger, the shooter will be unable to utilize the inherent capabilities of the gun. To allow an improved level of interface, the Guncrafter Industries HOSS is provided with high-quality sights: low mount night sights with Tritium inserts grace the slide and allow heel cocking off the stepped forward face of the rear sight.

While a gun with a mediocre trigger can provide great accuracy, it makes it much harder for the shooter to achieve that accuracy. Guncrafter Industries has provided the shooter with the optimum opportunity to utilize the accuracy potential of the HOSS by shipping it with one the best triggers I’ve ever felt on a 1911. The trigger break is crisp with no creep, and there’s no visible or tactile backlash. My test gun broke at 4.5 pounds, the lightest trigger that should be used for a defensive pistol.

The Hoss Proves A Theory

Of course, I had no expectations of being able to test the HOSS to failure level. The time-tested 1911 has the reputation for extreme reliability in the toughest of conditions, and I expected no less of the HOSS. Still, I decided to run a few hundred rounds through the HOSS, and, as expected, I didn’t experience a single malfunction, even with light-loaded semi-wadcutter match loads. Accuracy was far beyond my capability, as has been the case with every gun I’ve ever tested from Guncrafter.

I tested it with Winchester 230-grain hardball, Winchester 185-grain Silvertip defensive ammunition and even some 185-grain semi-wadcutter match loads. Normally, those light loads won’t run in guns set up for service or defensive loads, but the HOSS is so well fitted and smooth operating that they ran without a hitch. On a couple of occasions, the slide didn’t lock back on the last round, but these loads aren’t meant for use in guns with standard recoil springs and generally give guns with standard springs a fit.

Hoss-Specs

 

Off the bench, I managed a 10-shot, 1.123-inch group at 25 yards with the Winchester 230-grain hardball. I feel certain a good shooter could win leg points in a CMP Distinguished Pistol Shot match with this out-of-the-box handgun, and that’s quite a statement. My standing 10-shot groups at 15 yards were ragged holes, and fast shooting at that distance produced well-centered groups. While the refined build and quality barrel contributed greatly to this, the excellent sights and trigger made shooting much easier.

Magazine changes were easily accomplished; the magazine release was positive, and the extended magazine well made fast insertion easy. Recoil was manageable, and the night sights were easy to find during recoil recovery.

Alright, I know a pistol with an almost $3,800 price tag isn’t for everybody, and even if it was, the price would be even higher because not many gunsmiths can accomplish what Guncrafter has in the HOSS. The HOSS, like all the other models in the Guncrafter line, is a gun built for a shooter who wants the very best and is willing to pay for that kind of quality. It’s an heirloom gun that will last for generations and provide its owner with the pride of knowing you can’t buy a better pistol.

Thanks to Gun Digest for this post. Click here to visit GunDigest.com.

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