M1911.ORG Visits Cabot Guns, LLC
By Steve Clark for M1911.ORG
Robert Bianchin, President and CEO of Cabot Guns, LLC, suggested to our El Comandante (John Caradimas), that an editor/writer for the M1911.ORG E-Zine should come to their facility in Western Pennsylvania. The primary purpose of this visit would be to show that editor the manufacturing techniques that set Cabot Guns apart from the rest of the 1911 makers in the world. I was fortunate enough to be selected for this assignment. “Fortunate” is the operative word, because although I have some passing knowledge of the terms Computer Numerical Control (CNC), Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM), and metal stamping and plating, I had very little practical experience with the machines involved. And to be perfectly honest, metal grinding (in my experience) was something we did to tools at the railroad!
Cabot Guns, LLC, was formed to brand and market the pistols made by Penn United Technologies Inc.
For a comprehensive over-view of Penn United Technologies, visit their web site at
The Tour of Penn United Technologies, Inc.
Cabot Guns and Penn United Technologies are located between the Boroughs of Saxonburg and Cabot, Pennsylvania. After my arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport, the GPS unit in my rental car failed. The result was a very circuitous route to my hotel in Saxonburg. A trip that normally takes a little over an hour stretched into a several hour journey. But the sheer beauty of that part of the United States more than made up for my frustration at being semi-lost.
Rob Bianchin met me at the Hotel Saxonburg, and we had dinner together and discussed the details of my visit. He suggested that a tour of the Penn United Technologies campus would enlighten me to the intricacies involved in the production of each Cabot Guns model.
At eight-fifteen the following morning, I arrived at Penn United’s corporate offices, and after a brief meeting with Rob, I entered the Board Room where I was introduced to Bill Jones, Penn United’s President. I also met several other executives, as well as Steve Orange, the Sales Engineer. It would be Mr. Orange who would accompany me on the tour.
During this orientation session, the one recurring theme was absolute integrity. From the management team, through the engineers, journeymen, technicians, machinists, and on through the rank-and-file, integrity is paramount at Penn United. I saw this attitude displayed in the corporate board room, but more importantly, I saw it first-hand in every building I visited during my stay at the facility.
Everyone reading this article must understand that I must keep specifics rather vague, for a very good reason. The nature of Penn United’s business is very sensitive in many areas. It is not uncommon for manufacturers to closely guard the machines, manner of production, final assembly, and distribution methods of their companies. Photographs of the actual machines were forbidden in the plant. This same attention to security was required when the M1911.ORG staff visited Colt's Manufacturing. The reader may click on the Penn United Technologies link in the third paragraph of this article to see approved photographs of the campus, machines, and philosophy of the company.
Steve Orange made our first stop at the Carl E. Jones Learning Center, where the Learning Institute for the Growth of High Technology (L.I.G.H.T.) training facility is located. New employees are enrolled in an intensive program that includes classroom, hands-on instruction with machines similar to those which they’ll utilize at work, and actual factory experience. The L.I.G.H.T. training facility is also open to those wishing a tool and die education, even though some of these folks will be working at Penn United’s competitors.
Steve then led me through the rest of the facility, to see for myself the intricacies of the machines, the manufactured products and, most importantly, the people who work there. It was fascinating to watch these highly skilled folks working on projects that might (and usually do) have tolerances so exact that a variance of the width of a human hair could make the difference between a successful tool or product, or a reject. Because of the people, their training, and those marvelous machines, I saw very few rejects. More importantly, I saw pride at each work station, or “cell," I visited.
I also saw an environment in which “change” is undertaken to enhance productivity, efficiency, or more compatible working conditions.
Metals react to temperature differences. Because of this fact, all the temperatures within the manufacturing buildings at Penn United are kept at pre-determined constants. This is particularly important during the rather severe winters which occur in Western Pennsylvania. But it’s equally important during any season of the year.
I looked at literally thousands of extremely small parts, connected by bandoliers, which were perfect in their construction. Quality control constantly checks these parts with microscopes, to insure that each customer of Penn United receives the absolute best part available in the marketplace today.
Before lunch, Steve, Rob, and I drove into Saxonburg to tour their Penn United Carbide (PUC) plant. PUC blends their own formula for tungsten carbide and, watching the manufacturing process from start (initially has the consistency of chalk) to finish (highly polished, dense, and extremely heavy) was an experience I won’t soon forget. Tungsten carbide is so hard that it must be polished with diamond-impregnated wheels.
We returned to the primary facility for lunch, where Bill Jones (the son of founder Carl E. Jones) joined us. Bill explained that Penn United is an employee-owned company, which has the added benefit of allowing each worker to profit by the success of the company. This naturally adds to the pride an employee takes in his/her work, and the products they manufacture. (I later learned that Bill had started “at the bottom," rather than enter his father’s company in an executive position. Being very old school myself, I really appreciated this fact.)
Cabot Guns, LLC
Pennsylvania is a gun-friendly state, and everyone I met at Cabot Guns is a particular admirer of the 1911. A few years ago, several individuals approached Penn United’s Bill Jones with an idea. Why not use Penn United’s superior machining technology to build a state-of-the-art 1911?
After much discussion and investigation into the possibilities, Cabot Guns, LLC, was formed.
Detailed blueprints of the full-size 1911 were obtained, and Engineering and Ray Rozic (the team leader) began the arduous process of providing the necessary information to the machinists, technicians, and other support staff to initiate the manufacture of a Cabot Guns’ 1911.
It had been decided, from the outset, that this would be an American-made firearm. American components molded by American craftsmen into an All-American pistol.
Early on, the decision had been made to use 4140 billet steel for the major components (slide and frame) of the pistol.
This photograph shows the 4140 steel blanks used for the frame and slide for Cabot Guns.
The previously shown steel blanks alongside a finished pistol.
These blanks are machined into the frame and slide, with tolerances of .001 of an inch, or less! I was able to confirm these remarkable tolerances on my first visit to Ray’s work station. He handed me a random completed frame, then proceeded to allow me to pick and choose from several completed slides. Each slide moved on the frame rails as if on ball bearings!
It is imperative to understand that this fit was not just "close". Regardless of the frame selected, each and every random slide fit exactly on that frame, with no looseness, no end-shake, and complete smoothness.
While I was with Ray, he showed me several tools he had designed and made to enhance various functions of the pistol. One of these was a tool to alter the barrel hood, to provide an accurate fit in the slide. This would guarantee precise lock-up and link-down during firing. Another was a tool which altered the trigger bow. For comparison, Ray allowed me to dry-fire one of the first pistols produced by Cabot Guns, and compare that trigger pull with a current production pistol. The differences were astonishing, and very nice. (When the T&E pistol arrives, I will give exact measurements of that trigger pull.)
Cabot Guns established their own area for bluing of their guns, and I was allowed to view that part of their facility. However, no good bluing job will cover up inferior polishing. I met, and interviewed the gentleman in charge of polishing the components used in Cabot Guns. This man is truly an artist! I own one firearm on which a mistake had obviously been made during polishing. Although you can’t feel the imperfection, in bright light a small dished-out area can be seen on both sides of the slide. Cabot’s polishing technician explained that if a mistake is made during the polishing of steel, that type of imperfection can often occur. He does not make these types of mistakes, but if he did, that part would be scrapped!
Back in Ray’s office, I saw rows of drawers containing the various small parts that make up the rest of the essentials in a 1911. Wolff springs, Kart barrels, Chip McCormick magazines, the slide stops, thumb safeties, grip safeties, mainspring housings, sears, disconnectors, triggers, hammers, etc. were all in specific locations, ready to be applied to each new pistol.
One drawer in a filing cabinet contained the various targets used to evaluate the accuracy of the various guns. These targets consisted of shots which had been fired from 25 to 50 yards, and all represented excellent, accurate results.
One special corner of the room held several pistols which were in the process of being prepared for customers. These included all four designs which are currently offered by Cabot Guns. The flagship of the line, the “Jones 1911” and the “RangeMaster” are both equipped with adjustable target-type sights. The “CGI/Classic” and the “GI/Classic” represent contemporary renditions of the classic 1911A-1.
Attention to detail, exacting standards, and beautiful presentation were evident in each of the pistols I saw while in Ray’s office. The pride he has in these guns cannot easily be explained.
Prior to leaving for the day, I returned to Rob’s office for some photographs, and to get any unanswered questions taken care of.
A special dual pistol display case in Rob Bianchin's office features two of Cabot's pistols. The case is made from formed
acrylic resin (similar to Plexigas) and brushed aluminum, and sports a key-lockable lid.
The cardboard box in which Cabot Guns' pistols are shipped.
Opening the cardboard shipping box reveals the true packaging magic involved with Cabot Guns. The pistol is secured in
a cut-out acrylic resin interior, with the key-lockable exterior showing a combination of brushed aluminum and clear
acrylic resin furniture. This is a superior pistol case, suitable for rough use or proud display by the owner of a Cabot gun.
The world famous firm of H. Gerstner & Sons of Dayton, Ohio provides owners of Cabot Guns' flagship model, the
"Jones 1911", the opportunity to own the finest custom made display cases available. These superb, hand-made pistol
cases are included with each "Jones 1911." These cases can also be purchased separately by Cabot customers
for use with any of Cabot's other pistols. The price for this accessory is listed at $349 per case.
This photograph shows, but does not do adequate justice to, one of the (Gerstner manufactured) Cabot Guns' pistol cases.
The purpose of my trip to Penn United Technologies and Cabot Guns was to show me, a layman, HOW these guns are built. I honestly acknowledge my ignorance in understanding all of the intricacies involved in this type of manufacturing. I can, however, almost appreciate the results. “Almost” is used intentionally because I still must receive the T&E pistol and put it through my usual testing protocol.
Much discussion has arisen as to the high costs of these guns. I am not qualified to justify or vilify these prices. I can only report that the .001 inch or less tolerance achieved by the Penn United and Cabot technicians could only be reproduced by a very competant gunsmith using all of his/her skills. The ability of the technicians at Cabot Guns to reproduce these tight tolerances time after time, pistol after pistol, is what sets this company apart. The attention paid to these pistols, both pre-production and during actual assembly is astonishing. The final product is superb.
The team at Cabot Guns is quite frank in admitting that their pistols are not intended for everyone. They do not want to challenge Les Baer, Ed Brown, Heirloom Precision, or any of the other custom or semi-custom makers of 1911s. These firearms are manufactured their way, using their technology. Everyone involved acknowledges that their love of the 1911 encouraged them to try this method of gun making. The pride and integrity represented in the final product is exhibited in the advertising, the packaging, and the promotion of these pistols.
It only remains for me to receive and evaluate the aforementioned test pistol, and give my impressions of a Cabot Gun.
From the moment my plane landed at Pittsburgh, I was struck by the warmth and friendliness of the people of Western Pennsylvania. Nowhere was this more evident than the folks in Saxonburg, PA, and the people of Penn United Technologies and Cabot Guns.
While I’ve mentioned the names of Rob Bianchin, Bill Jones, Steve Orange, and Ray Rozic, I would do a disservice to not include each and every employee of both companies. Everyone was concerned with my comfort, and genuinely wanted me to enjoy my visit. You may all rest assured that my tour was one of the best experiences of my life, and I sincerely thank you for your hospitality and friendship. I also want to include a little special “thank you” to Betty, who made sure (with her instructions and maps) that I would successfully find Pittsburgh International Airport, without repeating the “quest” I experienced when my GPS failed upon arrival.
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Cabot Gun Company LLC
799 N. Pike Road
Cabot, PA USA 16023
Phone: 1-855-THE-1911 (1-855-843-1911)
Web Site: http://www.cabotguns.com/