Hardware Talk: Stan Chen Custom 1911 Parts

by Tommy Grant

We take a look at Stan Chen Customs’ excellent aftermarket 1911 thumb safeties.

It’s easy to become a snob in this business. There are many truly good products, but by the same measure, there can’t be too many. I’ve known Stan Chen for (mumble, mumble, how many years?) a good long time, and he never ceases to amaze me.

He just sent me some of his thumb safeties—and wow. OK, so you want a safety on your 1911, but which one? How big, what shape, what need?

Stan makes three; they’re all stainless, and they’re all perfect.

You’ve got the “baby bear,” which is the short, narrow, thumb safety for deep concealment.

If you have bigger hands or less need of deep concealment, then the “mama” safety—the longer and wider one, but not too long or wide—will serve you perfectly.

And then, for those who don’t worry about concealment or have learned to dress around the gun and want all the leverage they can get, there’s the “papa” safety—longer, wider but not lower. (Not a ’49 Hudson, so to speak. It’s an inside joke.) Open carry, competition, or just “I want a big safety.”


All three are de-horned, so there are no sharp edges or corners to bite or gnaw your hands. They are all deeply grooved on top, so you will have full purchase to press them off when the noisy times commence. With the deep grooving, those of you who are doing it properly, that is, your thumb riding on the safety when firing, will not have to worry about your thumb slipping off during recoil.

And they are, after being machined, bead-blasted so they don’t show the toolmarks (not that Stan would leave any) and will blend in with any finish except a polished stainless or nickel 1911. (Who does that?)

And those of you who have had an opportunity to wrestle with various 1911s will appreciate this: The detent angles and engagement surfaces have been designed and engineered so it clicks on and off cleanly and precisely. No squish, no “is it off or on?” where is the lever riding—Stan won’t have it otherwise.


They do require fitting, because there is no such thing as a drop-in thumb safety on a 1911. And since you are springing for top-end parts, you might want to practice on a lesser thumb safety before touching a file to a Stan Chen Custom part.

If stainless isn’t your thing, or you have a blued 1911 and don’t want the contrasting finish, of course Stan makes them in blued steel. C’mon, get real. The safeties, like all the other Stan Chen Custom parts, are made in-house by Stan or an assistant who has been trained by Stan. Stan doesn’t send things out or have subcontractors and thus doesn’t have to gauge everything nor negotiate “good enough” specs and dimensions. It’s right or it doesn’t get packaged and shipped.

Quality doesn’t come cheap, but remember the old adage, “Buy right, cry once.” At $75 to $80 each, you could buy any of a wide selection of thumb safeties for less … even half that. And after you’ve fitted it, then de-horned it and adjusted the up-and-down engagement, the saved money will be nothing but a memory, replaced by the recollection of the hassle of refining your “inexpensive” part.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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