PWS MK111 Pro Pistol custom, lead
(Photo by Alex Landeen)

For this steamy “Custom Challenge,” Primary Weapons Systems (PWS) shipped a pair of MK111 Pro pistols to the coating masters at Blowndeadline and MCM Firearms to let them showcase their creativity in a head-to-head face-off. There was only one direction, and it came down to a simple question: Who wants fire and who wants ice?

A Fire-Breathing PWS MK111 Pro

PWS MK111 Pro Pistol, blown deadline
(Photo by Alex Landeen)

We all know just how awesome fire is. Sitting by some crackling pine with a glass of bourbon and a good cigar is one of the finest situations known to modern man. Our history with this lovely entropic process is well documented, so it’s easy to understand why it warms my bones just looking at the fine creation by the crew at Blowndeadline.

The color choices here were pretty basic: Crimson, yellow and orange Cerakote for the flames and a custom mix of black and gray for the smoke. Pretty simple, but it’s the small creative details that bring this custom finish to life. You could say that the details make it sizzle. There, I said it.

Centralizing the fire around the chamber of the pistol creates a balance to the finish, and the combination of free-hand and soft-edge stencil work gives real depth to the colors. The crimson-painted barrel and titanium control pieces really bring the overall theme to the top of the Scoville index. This PWS pistol looks great from a distance and up close, but don’t get too near, because this one’s hot, hot, hot!

Cold As Ice

Primary Weapons Systems Pro Pistol, cerakote
(Photo by Alex Landeen)

Fire is rather dynamic, almost alive in some respects. Ice is basically the opposite. (Duh.) So using it as a theme for a paint job obviously presented challenges. Just ask those Night’s Watch fellas from Game of Thrones. Ice is pretty boring.

That being said, I really like what MCM Firearms accomplished with its custom PWS pistol. The simple Snow White base coat, accented with custom blues and grays, is somehow both subtle and striking. This gun looks cold. But there are a few detail points that push this job over the edge, including the simulated water droplets.

MCM Firearms owner Brock Gardner is the man behind the mask (or respirator) on this paint job. He said that he took his color inspiration from looking up paintings of ice. Although Brock didn’t tell me how he accomplished the simulated drops, he did say that it was difficult. I think he used actual water in the process, letting the drops collect the Cerakote before evaporating. Just a guess on my part. But however it was done, it’s a pretty gangsta move!

Speaking of “gangsta,” that other detail that just tickled my heart is the engraving of Ice Cube on the front of the magazine well. Apparently, the MCM crew had joked about putting Ice Cube and Vanilla Ice all over the gun. Once Brock had finished painting, he told the guys that the finishing touch would be to engrave Ice Cube’s face in a place that wouldn’t be obvious. And it wasn’t at first, but once I saw it, it became my favorite detail.

PWS MK111 Range Duel

This Ballistic “Custom Challenge” is a little unique because I actually got to take both guns to the range for a little shooting practice. And I couldn’t have been happier to have the opportunity to test these works of art. The main reason for my excitement is that I had yet to experience PWS’ long-stroke piston operating system in action. It’s a truly unique system in the world of AR rifles and pistols.

In short, the operating rod is attached to the bolt carrier group and runs down a sleeve to where the piston mates up with the gas block. When fired, the gas strikes the piston head, pushing the whole system to the rear. Gas is vented through holes in the bottom of the piston sleeve as the piston moves rearward. These holes are designed to vent the gas gradually, smoothing out the recoil impulse.

The result is a gun that runs both cooler and much cleaner compared to direct-impingement designs, and the recoil impulse is smoother than with other piston systems. Also, because the whole system is essentially one piece, there’s no chance of carrier tilt, and the bolt carrier group takes less of a beating.

All of this is to say that both MK111 Pro pistols were a pleasure to shoot, and I was able to repeatedly print 1-inch groups at 50 yards on a breezy day with an imperfect rest, so we know there’s precision in that 11-inch, 416 stainless steel, button-rifled barrel.

Up Next

Dr. Dabbs: COVID-19 Explosion Should Remind Us It’s Still Here

Ballistic's resident doctor examines the more recent COVID-19 explosion, along with the hypocrisy associated...