Column: Bunker Arms 1911s are works of art (w/Video)

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Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 12:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 12:26 p.m.


If a high-end, custom 1911 is the pinnacle of the gunmaker’s art, then Brandan Bunker is one of the best artists in the country.

Owner of Bunker Arms, Brandan has been turning out some of the best 1911s ever made. They easily command $4,000 to $5,000 per pistol, and they are well worth it.

 Brandan Bunker built matching his and hers customs 1911s for a local customer. Bunker Arms is a custom 1911 builder in Bradenton. COURTESY PHOTO / BRANDAN BUNKER

Brandan Bunker built matching his and hers customs 1911s for a local customer. Bunker Arms is a custom 1911 builder in Bradenton.

“From start to finish, the pistol is completed by only one person — me,” he said.

Bunker has a unique background for a gunbuilder: an MBA, an appreciation of fine art, and superior machinist skills that he learned from his father, a gunsmith, machinist, tool-and-die maker and a semi-pro skeet shooter.

“In this business, I can put as much creativity into my product as I want, with no limitations,” he said.

His end-users include collectors, competitors, ex-military operators, a few overseas contractors — but mostly they’re shooters.

Bunker Arms sells very few “safe queens.” These pistols are meant to be shot.

Bunker Arms is a custom 1911 builder in Bradenton, Florida. (photo provided by Brandan Bunker)   photo provided by Brandan Bunker

Bunker Arms is a custom 1911 builder in Bradenton, Florida. (photo provided by Brandan Bunker)
photo provided by Brandan Bunker

One contractor has fired more than 80,000 rounds without a single malfunction. When a new customer walks in, the first thing Bunker does is ask about their needs.

“We talk about how they’re going to use the pistol. Depending on that, we’ll move forward to talk about the build,” he said. “The end use is the most important component.”

For bullseye shooters, Bunker Arms guarantees its pistol will produce less-than-1-inch groups at 50 yards.

“If it doesn’t, I will throw the barrel away,” Bunker said.

While Bunker Arms specializes in 1911s, they are also a full-service gun shop, which includes gunsmithing and what Bunker calls “period restorations” — a process that involves historical research so the firearm matches its original factory specs. His period restoration of a Colt Government Model, built in 1917, would be the envy of any museum, or gun writer.

Bunker makes many of the 1911 components himself, and obtains the frames, barrels and other parts from a proprietary list of the industry’s best manufacturers.

The result is a smooth-as-glass slide-to-frame fit with tolerances measured down to 1/10,000 of an inch.

His triggers are works of art. They need to be experienced rather than explained.

I dry-fired a customer’s gun with a 2.5-pound trigger, which is about as light as Bunker is willing to go.

Without any discernible movement, the trigger broke cleanly with a crisp snap. Reset was too quick for me to even discern.

And did I mention the grips?

Bunker Arms obtains the most unique woods, including swirling maple and redwood burls. Bunker stabilizes the grip blanks in a vacuum, which removes air and any moisture. He then adds an acrylic, which is absorbed into the pores of the wood.

“Then we cut and polish. There’s no varnish on any of my grips,” he said. “They last a lifetime, like the guns.”

For more information, go to

If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 361-4975, by email at or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You also can follow me on social media at or


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Pingback: Column: Bunker Arms 1911s are works of art (w/Video) | pistolponies

  2. Jesse R Bunker on

    I very much enjoyed the article you done on Bunker Arms. Most people do not understand that guns are tools. Just like a fine watch, or a hand crafted knife from a forge. Not everyone can create such quality and craftsmanship, it takes a love for your trade that makes it special. And it takes special people to make others understand the beauty and function of these works of art. Thank you for sharing my son’s story. J.R.Bunker

    • Harvey Davis on

      Jesse: WOW! I may ship you our Springfield for a little tweaking and a Ceracote job. I am really impressed!

      Good luck to you and Brandon.


  3. Norm Cianfarani on

    I have heard nothing but good things about Brendan Bunker on all the forums. It is refreshing to hear about an individual so dedicated and so talented when it comes to the art of creating guns. I think that we in Manatee County and Sarasota County are especially lucky to have several individuals with a similar passion as Brendan. I happen to use Ken Smith and his dad @ S3 Customs in Bradenton. I enjoy their pursuits of perfection in everything they do. I also enjoy the fact that Ken is an ex LEO officer. He builds guns like lives depend on them. That is what he is used to, and I am grateful for that. I’m sure that there are other gifted talented gunsmiths in the area. Aren’t we lucky to be surrounded by such talent?

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