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Ed Brown ZEV 1911 Review

Ed Brown ZEV 1911 Review

Collaborations are huge in the knife industry. Custom knife makers like Ken Onion and Allen Elishewitz regularly team up with knife manufacturers such as Kershaw and Gerber to produce custom-designed knives with factory production numbers.

This kind of collaboration is not as common in the gun industry, but it’s out there. Take, for example, the Ed Brown/ZEV 1911. For several years now Ed Brown Products (known for custom 1911s) has teamed up with ZEV Technologies (known for custom Glocks) to produce limited-edition 1911s. The pistol is styled by ZEV Technologies and produced by Ed Brown, and the end result is one magnificent piece of firearms art.

What immediately draws your eye to this pistol are the Orion slide cuts. While I understand some 1911 traditionalists may not like them at all—beauty being in the eye of the beholder, etc.—they are what make this pistol stand out. Before we dive into the ZEV stylings, let’s look at the specs of the pistol.

The Ed Brown/ZEV 1911 is offered in two flavors: an all-black suppressor- ready model with a factory-mounted Trijicon RMR and extended threaded barrel; and a grayish silver Commander-size model with iron sights. I secured a sample of the latter for testing.

Ed Brown ZEV 1911
As a custom house collaboration, the Ed Brown/ZEV 1911 is a functional work of art. The finish is Ed Brown’s Industrial Stainless.

This pistol sports a 4.25-inch barrel and is chambered in 9mm. This is not a stainless steel gun, but instead it has a gray/black G4 corrosion-resistant finish that helps highlight all the work done to the frame and slide. “G4” indicates it is Ed Brown’s Gen 4 thermoset polymer ceramic coating. Weight is 37 ounces.

There are so many custom features on this gun it’s hard to know where to start. First, the barrel sports ZEV dimples along its length. This removes a little weight, but the dimples are as much for looks as anything else. The barrel is flush with the bushing and has a recessed crown.

Ed Brown ZEV 1911
The black controls and trigger contrast nicely with the finish. The grips are VZ G10 Alien, and the texturing matches the frontstrap and mainspring housing.

The pistol has VZ G10 Alien grips, with texturing on the frontstrap and the flat mainspring housing to match the grips. This variable-thickness texturing is horizontal and keeps the pistol locked into your hand during recoil.

At the bottom of the frame you’ll see a Gen 2 magwell designed by Stan Chen, one of the most well-known custom 1911 gunsmiths in the country. The frame has been shortened so that with this steel magazine well in place—it’s all one piece with the mainspring housing—the overall length is the same as a standard frame.

The magazine well sports a huge funnel, but externally it is not any wider than the grips, so it does not make the pistol harder to conceal—basically giving you all the benefits of a large mag well without any drawbacks.

Ed Brown ZEV 1911
The mag well is attached to a shortened frame, with the overall length the same as an unmodified frame, and the mag well opening isn’t any wider than the grips.

It’s a 9mm, and two nine-round stainless steel Ed Brown magazines with base pads come standard with the pistol.

Unlike with the original GI design, the slide stop pin does not protrude from the right side of the frame. The slide stop pin has been machined to be flush with the frame, and the face of it has been serrated. The thumb safety is extended and single-sided, and the magazine release is checkered.

All of the small parts on the gun (slide and magazine release, grip and thumb safety, trigger, hammer, mag well, pins, barrel bushing, grip screws) are black for color contrast to the gray slide/frame. Trigger pull on my sample was a crisp four pounds.


Trijicon set the standard for modern day/night defensive sights with its HD tritium sights, and the Ed Brown/ZEV 1911 features the latest iteration of these: the EVO HD XR sights.

The rear sight is plain black with a serrated face and U-shaped notch. The front of the rear sight has a vertical face so you can rack the slide one-handed on a hard surface if necessary. The front sight has a tritium insert surrounded by a large orange circle highly visible even in low light.

The Orion slide cuts are stylish, and they’re also functional in providing a good gripping surface to rack the slide. The flats are polished to match the frame in what Ed Brown calls its Industrial Stainless finish, with the recesses in the slide having a darker gray matte finish. The front of the slide has three cuts on either side that go all the way through to reveal the dimples on the barrel. The top of the slide is flattened and serrated.

Between the Orion patterning and the finish, the overall look of this 1911 might not be for everyone, but I really like it, and it shoots like a dream. It is, however, a collaboration between two custom pistol houses, so expect to pay for what you get.

Ed Brown ZEV 1911
Notes: Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at 25 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots measured with an Oehler Model 35P 12 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviation: JHP, jacketed hollowpoint


  • TYPE: 1911
  • CALIBER: 9mm
  • CAPACITY: 9+1
  • BARREL LENGTH: 4.25 in.
  • OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 7.75/5.5/1.3 in.
  • WEIGHT: 37 oz.
  • CONSTRUCTION: carbon steel slide and frame; Ed Brown G4 Industrial Stainless finish
  • SIGHTS: Trijicon EVO HD XR day/night sights
  • TRIGGER: 4 lb. pull (measured)
  • SAFETIES: grip, thumb
  • PRICE: $3,995
  • MANUFACTURER: Ed Brown Products,

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