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Naked S-Class Cabot (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

And so it’s time for a TTAG project gun. The frame you see above is a naked Cabot Guns S-Class, the start of our journey into extreme customization. No, we’re not doing anything funny with the 1911’s function. John Moses Browning’s meisterwerk needs nothing in the way of light, lasers or other accoutrements. Nor are we building anything other than a .45. The gun above is getting the full Otto Carter. You may remember Mr. Carter as the Texas-born and bred engraver whose Bond Arms derringer blazed new territory with its resurrection of the Aesthetic Movement of the Victorian era. Carter first came across the style . . .

while online looking through a Victorian ephemera website for inspiration. The Master Engraver came across articles on the British “Aesthetic Movement.” Here’s Otto’s take on its history:


During the 1850’s, International Exhibitions of manufactured goods from all over the world displayed an eclectic array of styles influenced by the different cultures. Motifs ranged from Maori tattoos to Assyrian architecture. These exhibitions revealed a lack of creativity on the part of British manufactured goods.

Design reformers of the era sought to add some spice to their conservative goods and came up with product designs characterized by an eclectic if not exotic use of Japanese, Moorish, Egyptian and geometricized natural forms. “Art for Arts Sake” was an apt moniker of this idea and thus the term “Artistic” was applied to the style. “Artistic Printing” was the name given to the letterpress printing industry of the time.

Aesthetic movement book (courtesy

Competition in the print industry caused much experimentation of Artistic printing and lead to developments in type setting techniques. New technology enabled the use of decorative elements in printed material like never before. More books became available offering opinions and advice on design which promoted the development of Artistic printing. At this time Artistic printing began to flourish as did the Aesthetic style in manufactured goods. Books and publications of that era include; Oscar H. Harpel’s “Harpel’s Typograph”, “The American Model Printer”, “Art Age”, and “The Superior Printer”.

Artisans applied the Aesthetic Movemen to furniture, door hinges, metalwork and more. It was original to the Victorian period and not a revival of older styles. As with any design period, it had its detractors. After a 20-year life span it faded away. Economics caused the print industry to adopt high volume, low-cost production which ended the labor intensive product of Artistic printing. The same paradigm applied to mass-produced decoration.

How does this end up as a gun engraving topic? My favorite engraving resource book is “L.D. Nimschke: Firearms Engraver”. My favorite parts of the book are not the ubiquitous scroll designs but all of the unique space-filling motifs that are tasteful accents which work to embellish an area while at the same time separating it from the scroll fields. These designs are executed primarily with single point graver cuts.

Otto Carter (courtesy

The exotic Victorian embellishments are rendered similarly and add artistic surprises throughout the piece. As a student of design it is fun to revisit the past and make the old new again. What we end up with is a total departure from normal engraving and a “what is that?” from the casual observer.

Otto studied Aesthetic Movement designs engraved on English door hinges, escutcheon, furniture and architectural pieces. He was immediately, irretrievably smitten. “It’s still highly sought after by collectors today because it’s so damn pretty,” Otto told TTAG.

Copy that. Not literally, of course. Otto will put his own spin on the TTAG project gun engraving and keep us in the loop with regular updates. He’ll be bringing the gun to the Texas Firearms Festival on November 14 and 15 at Best of the West Shooting Sports in Liberty Hill, Texas. (Click here for tickets.) Meanwhile, watch this space, as unadorned as it is.

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  1. Are we going to maintain shootability? I have no use for a gun which cannot be fired. Do we have a target price? If I recall, the naked Cabot is beyond belief. I am probably going to want this, it would be nice if it is completely beyond my means.

    Meanwhile, how can a gun look so good completely naked?

    • Because form follows function. The beauty of the naked gun is in its simplicity and efficiency.
      It’s not some tart that has to cake on a layer of makeup to be beautiful.

  2. That is so gaudy, it makes me want to cry.

    The only engraving I’ve ever found useful is my trust name.

  3. Start by replacing that stripper tattoo-esque trigger. Next, put some grips on. Then let your time at the range do your engraving.

    • That trigger is a tramp-stamp, but let’s be honest, it’s on a girl who loves her IROC-Z…

      (In my misspent youth, I owned a Gold Cup MKIV. It’s something you move past.)

  4. For the kind of money that Cabot is, how about having someone open up the clearances a bit so the gun can be fired reliably?

  5. Please tell me you’re going to get rid of that trashy trigger with the star cutouts. Leaving that in a gorgeously-engraved piece would be like leaving a greasy turd on the hood of a pristine Jaguar E-Type.

  6. Rather than marring it with useless engraving, I’d like to see a 1911 with an untouched slide. No serrations (front or back), no stamps, no useless safety warnings, no stupid model names IN ALL CAPS and certainly not any engraving (never cared for it). Also, no stipling on the front/back straps. A monolithic slab-sided 1911.

    As others have said, replace that trigger. Preferably with a standard, non-milled out version. Then put on some grips and sights, and call it done. Minimalism at it’s finest.

    And yes, I know that a lack of slide serrations will make racking more difficult while under stress. Don’t care — we’re talking about saving this blank slate from graffiti.

  7. Lighten up folks. Otto Carter will be displaying his talents at this fall’s firearms festival. Here’s another canvas to showcase his artistry.

    I prefer women’s skin unadorned, but I can appreciate a tattoo done by a real artist.

    I prefer clean walls, but I can appreciate a mural done by a talented graffiti artist.

    I own two Dan Wesson 1911s that are both clean and unadorned. Regardless of my preferences or misgivings, I’ll be looking forward to viewing Mr. Carter’s talented work on this Cabot specimen.

  8. I never had an opinion of Cabot guns until they showed up on TTAG.
    Now, I would never consider purchasing one and would discourage anyone I know from doing so as well.
    But keep these Cabot posts coming guys.

  9. Do we think the engraving will be complete by TIFF time? Or will he be working on it? Unlike a lot of posters here, I am looking forward to this, the work has fascinated me since I used to stop into a tiny engraving shop in Yokosuka, Japan in 1960, and watch these old guys cut scrollwork into lever action rifles and then hammer gold and silver wire into the cuts. I figure guys from the base (Japanese couldn’t and can’t own firearms) bought the rifles at the PX and had the engraving done, and could sell them when they returned to the States for a profit equal to a year’s pay or more. And this guy’s work looks to be far more intricate.

    • The gun should be done by then. Otto will have a spot in the Retail Village to display it. He’ll be working on another project, live, in person.

  10. If there was ever a stream of comments that deserved a “lighten up Francis”, it’s this one. Cabot made a dud. They worked hard to fix it. I’d still get one if I had the dough. You guys are complaining that your Jaguar E-type doesn’t run as reliably as your Toyota Camry.

    The 1911 is a finicky platform at this level of tightness. The point of the Cabot is to have something that represents the finest bespoke 1911 possible. And I can see how sometimes they miss the mark and make one that needs a lot of work to get to run right.

    This is going to be awesome. PS – do a custom engraved Freedom Arms M97 next…

  11. I’ve only got one kidney left to do its work, and my liver has seen better days. But I’ve got a few kids, and surely one or two of them would give up whole or partial organs so that pappa can have this pistol.
    What’s a plane ticket for a kid to Beijing cost?

  12. “…tasteful accents…”

    You must be using a different definition of “tasteful” because, in my opinion, people who own guns like that have ALL of their taste in their mouths.

  13. I know the sign of a good artist is to evoke a reaction….I’ve just not seen it accomplished prior to the artist doing any actual work.

    Master engravers’ work brings extremely high prices, the engraving on this gun would likely cost much more than the pistol itself. The gun is just the canvas….a functional one, but just a canvas none the less.

    • The gun is just the canvas….a functional one, but just a canvas none the less.

      Well that word “functional” is the issue here… It certainly is intended to be functional.

      I hope the engraver does a bang-up awesome job, because all of the value of the gun is going to be in how it looks.

  14. Before I read the description I looked at that picture and was admiring the raw sleek beauty. Add some grips and sights (I could take or leave the star trigger) and that thing would be right purty as is.

  15. This site obviously boasts the occasional fool merged with the uneducated artist and one that can’t afford fine art to begin with.

    The work from Otto is unequaled as he finds different ways of drawing on the canvas. When he sees the gun, he sees a canvas ready for his artistic touch. You see it and all you see is a gun that may have once not been the best in engineering. I for one appreciate the skill and talent and am a proud owner as a fellow artist of one of Otto’s fine engravings and know full well the skill and talent needed to do what he does.

    Just admit you can’t afford it and shut the hell up!


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