February 12, 2021
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Those familiar with Norse mythology will recognize the name Ymir as the first giant created by the gods, a being formed when the heat of fire and the chill of ice collided. Those familiar with 1911s will recognize Ymir as the name of Brian Lohman’s new custom 1911 pistol.
It’s a bold move to borrow the name of the demigod who gave rise to all mankind for your first custom firearm. But it might not be as bold as what Lohman is trying to accomplish with the Ymir. There are, after all, a lot of 1911s out there, and there are a lot of custom builders that have set the bar quite high for the modern interpretation of Browning’s original design. At the very least, the Ymir is aiming to challenge those guns and even surpass them as one of the preeminent heirloom-grade 1911s available today, a gun that looks divine and shoots exceptionally well.
So, who is Brian Lohman? There’s a good chance you are already familiar with his products. After serving as a college and professional-level football coach for almost a decade, Lohman decided to hang up the whistle and concentrate on a career that was more stable and less demanding of his time. He went into the insurance business, and business was good.
But Lohman was a firearms fan from way back. He was particularly interested in firearms restoration, and he’s one of the few people who can say he completed his first full restoration at eight years old, rebarreling and restocking his father’s .22 as part of a 4-H project.
Lohman learned to love firearms from his father, who served in World War II, and from an early age he was interested in the 1911. He also learned mechanical aptitude from his dad.
“We didn’t take anything anywhere to get fixed,” Lohman says. That do-it-yourself attitude and his love of firearms would come together eventually, but not for several years.
Following his career in coaching and the establishment of a successful insurance agency, Lohman realized his career was keeping him away from his true passion: working with guns. He started an online store selling firearms parts, and that eventually led to the establishment of a retail store and the hiring of a gunsmith in 2012 who had worked extensively with 1911s at one of the largest custom builders. That reignited Lohman’s interest in the 1911, and it was the genesis of the Ymir.
“John Moses Browning invented the 1911 pistol at the same time the Wright Brothers were building their first airplane,” Lohman says. “John Browning was a designer ahead of his time.”
While the 1911 remains a popular handgun today, it’s fundamentally different than more modern polymer frame striker-fired pistols in many respects. Many modern semiauto pistols are designed for simple, efficient production. The 1911 is a more complicated beast, something Bill Wilson described as a “gunsmith’s gun” that benefits from hand-tuning and personalized attention. That’s not to say the 1911 is in anyway inferior, but it’s a product of a time when gun makers honed their firearms to perfection.
There are still plenty of custom builders honing Browning’s design today, and understanding the Ymir really requires an understanding of how production 1911s and custom 1911s differ. Mass-produced 1911s don’t require the hand-fitting of a custom gun. Tolerances on factory guns aren’t as tight as custom guns, but that also keeps costs lower. Custom 1911s have tight-fitting parts with minimal variation. That type of precision takes time and demands more money, but the finished product is capable of improved accuracy.
There’s a break-in period associated with this level of precision. Tight custom 1911 chambers often require touch-ups like extra reaming to allow a full range of ammunition to function in the gun. Lohman saw this, and he wanted to build a 1911 pistol that offered sufficiently tight tolerances for superb accuracy without the need for a break-in period.
That’s where the concept for the Ymir began, and what it developed into is a gun with custom fit and finish and extremely high-grade materials that performs like a broken-in 1911 right out of the box.
The Ymir’s Commander-length match-grade barrel and match-grade bushing are made by Nowlin of 416 stainless steel and are fitted by Lohman gunsmiths. The slide is high-quality steel and receives bluing in-house. The frame comes with a color case-hardened finish, and that is also done by Lohman’s team.
In actuality, the Ymir is not only Lohman’s flagship firearm but also a palette for Lohman to display some of the techniques used in their restoration of other firearms, which is a substantial portion of the business.
The Ymir’s stunning grips are made of lace burl redwood, but despite their classical design, they’re something of an evolutionary step forward in 1911 grip engineering. Not many pistol makers want to use such high-end wood. Cost is the primary factor, but also many high-grade woods are relatively fragile.
Few custom gun manufacturers bother to work with these expensive woods, but Lohman’s team has figured out a way to strengthen the grips. It all comes down to backing, Lohman says, although he doesn’t delve into the deeper details of just how he managed to accomplish this. That allows these gorgeous grips not only to be beautiful but also to be extremely durable—a rare combination in the realm of 1911 pistols.
Lohman’s team dedicates roughly 10 hours per pistol to precision machining and hand-fitting, and that is followed by about 12 hours of sculpting and polishing parts. It’s a lot of time to spend on a handgun, but the results show in every Ymir that leaves Lohman’s facility.
The fit and finish are superb, as good as any 1911 I’ve seen, and the contrasting colors of the blued slide, color case-hardened frame and redwood grips give this gun an unmistakable look. Not surprisingly, everything on the gun fits together like the workings of a precision timepiece. Pull back on the slide and you’ll feel the weight of the 18-pound spring as the metal parts move with flawless precision.
The threads of the two piece, full-length guide rod are precise and clean. The polished safety and slide stop click into position with authority. The Mec-Gar magazines (seven and eight rounds) fit neatly into the gun and lock with an audible click. It feels like a well-oiled machine because that’s what it is.
One of the special touches that sets the Ymir apart are the 18 key components stamped with an American eagle seal with arrows and an olive branch plus numbers that match the last three digits of the gun’s serial number. That might not seem like a big deal to some, but in the rarified world of ultra-high-end heirloom guns, it matters. Take the gun apart and you’ll see that all the internals were fitted together by Lohman gunsmiths, and the proof of the continuity of parts is stamped right there in steel.
On the rear of the slide you’ll find fine-line serrations offering extra grip for cycling the slide. Apart from those, however, the gun is fairly free of the typical texturing and serrations common among 1911s. The frontstrap and mainspring housing are contoured and smooth, and they blend with the contour of the pistol grip.
The dust cover bears the name “YMIR,” but there’s no accessory rail. There is an extended beavertail and a skeletonized hammer and trigger. The ejection port is lowered. And the mainspring housing is bobtailed to aid in concealment should you opt to carry this gun.
Lohman equips the Ymir with a set of Novak VU notch rear sight and a Novak bead front sight of 14-karat gold. The VU rear features a U-shaped notch with a V-shaped upper portion of the sight, and this is a versatile and stylish set of irons that don’t look out of place on an heirloom pistol yet work well in most shooting situations. The front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide.
With its 4.25-inch barrel the Ymir measures eight inches long and 5.8 inches tall. At its widest point it measures 1.3 inches. Unloaded weight was 38.7 ounces for the gun I tested; there may be slight variations from one gun to the next due to wood density. Lohman also offers an optional hand-stitched leather pistol rug with wool interior as an optional accessory.
Now the price: The Ymir costs $6,999, which is a lot for any gun.
What’s it like shooting a 1911 costing seven grand? Not surprisingly, the Ymir has a superb trigger. The test gun averaged 4.1 pounds for 10 trigger pulls using a Wheeler trigger gauge, and the break weight was very consistent with minimal take-up.
This gun’s lack of any texturing on the frontstrap and grip surfaces might lead some to believe that holding it while firing is like trying to hold an eel, but the mirror-smooth surfaces don’t cause an issue under normal shooting conditions.
The Novak VU notch sight is an interesting choice for this gun. It has a classy profile, and the gold bead front dot adds a touch of sophistication to an already handsome pistol, but the system does have its disadvantages. It’s a great setup for obtaining a flash sight picture in full daylight, but those with poor eyes will probably elect to have another sight on here. That being said, the Novak VU is precise enough for accurate shot placement.
How accurate is it? How about 1.18 inches for five shots at 25 yards. That’s a pretty tight cluster of shots, and it proves the Ymir has the accuracy chops to face down other custom 1911s. In fact, many of the loads tested, which ranged from 185 to 230 grains, held under two inches at 25 yards. That’s certainly better than average for a pistol with a 4.25-inch barrel. The VU notch sights shine when shooting from a bench, as long as you take the time to properly align the gold bead front dot with the U-notch.
The Ymir was a pleasure to shoot off the bench, too. The slide moves smoothly along the rails, and the trigger is one of the sweetest I’ve shot in a pistol. And there’s something to be said for the Ymir’s looks. After all, no one wants to spend seven grand on a custom 1911 that doesn’t look good, and the rich polished bluing and color case-hardening looks great in full sunlight. The contrasting lace burl walnut also looks better in the light of day where all the fine flame and feathering of the wood can truly be appreciated.
It’s a lot of gun and costs a lot of money, but there’s no doubt the Ymir is well built. I asked about an accuracy guarantee, and Lohman said the pistols they’d tested have gone around an inch. The real problem with an accuracy guarantee is that it relies on the shooter to be able to shoot well. But Lohman said he’s never had one of the Ymirs returned for accuracy. I certainly was impressed by the one I shot.
Reliability was good, which is what Ymir customers demand. One of the biggest issues with any gun is overlubricating, and that’s especially detrimental to custom 1911s where the metal-to-metal finish is so tight that excess oil can cause issues. I stripped the Lohman down and made sure the internals had a light coat of lubricant before reassembling and testing. Having done that, I had no issues with function.
The Ymir is simultaneously familiar and exotic. It’s as reliable and comfortable as an old pair of blue jeans and as stylish and well put together as a custom Lanieri suit. And, like a Lanieri suit, it’s also quite expensive. But the Ymir is an elite 1911, a gun that manages to stay true to its roots while pushing the design envelope forward. I think John Browning would have approved.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7, 8
Barrel: 4.25 in
OAL/Height/Width: 8.0/5.8/1.4 in.
Weight: 38.7 oz.
Grips: high gloss lace burl redwood
Finish: color case-hardened frame, blued slide
Trigger: 4.1 lb. (measured)
Sights: Novak VU rear, Novak 14K gold bead front
Manufacturer: Lohman Gunsmithing, lohmangunsmith.com