Paul Liebenberg - Gun Builder

In the late 70's and early 80's South Africa was a dominant force in IPSC competition producing a number of world-class shooters such as Jimmy von Sorgenfrei, Gavin Carson and Paul Liebenberg. Unfortunately during those early days of IPSC the arms embargo against South Africa was taking its toll on the ability of competitive shooters in that country to keep up with the ever-changing developments in equipment and the need for replenishing worn pistols.

It was in this environment in 1974 that Paul started dabbling in pistol and component design. Paul utilized his formal training in Industrial Design to start building the pistols and parts he needed to compete with. His gun building quickly evolved from a hobby of necessity to a full time business. His skills as a designer and shooter became evident as he successfully competed in world and national championships and represented South Africa as a member of the World Champion Springbok team.

In 1981 Liebenberg's technical prowess with the 1911 was brought to the attention of Frank Pachmayr by the then current World Champion, Ross Seyfried. Frank was impressed with Paul as a gun builder and invited him to join Pachmayr Gun Works, which he did in 1983. During his stint at Pachmayr, Paul designed the remote bushing modular pistol, the slide guard, deflection compensator and adapted the Pachmayr spherical bushing and Wide-Link to the standard 1911 pistol.

Paul continued to compete on the professional shooting circuit winning the Bianchi international division four times, setting NRA action shooting records on two occasions and was one of the first shooters to break the magic 1900 mark at the 'Cup'. He won the inaugural California State Action shooting Championship with a clean score and won the professional class at the first S&W Masters tournament. This experience as a professional shooter helped elevate his ability as a gun builder.

One of his projects at Pachmayr was to adapt the Whit Collins designed Centimeter cartridge to the 1911 pistol chassis. However the project was short lived when the new owners of Pachmayr Gun Works closed the custom gun shop. Paul opened Pistol Dynamics in response and was contracted by Pachmayr to build the remaining backlog of 'Combat Specials'. In addition, Paul and Whit continued to move forward with the development of the Centimeter; Whit doing the theoretical ballistic work and Paul the technical development. Together with ammunition maker Bud Watson and barrel guru Irving O. Stone, the first Centimeter pistol (40 Caliber) was fired in 1986.

With close friend and IPSC competitor Tom Campbell stoking the coals, attempts were made to interest S&W in the Centimeter project. There was little success until the President, Steve Melvin, sent Paul a purchase order for two S&W 5906 Centimeter conversions. Paul's converted 5906 prototypes were a resounding success and the 40 S&W was born.

Steve Melvin then approached Paul with the concept of a Performance Center at Smith & Wesson that would market hot rod S&W pistols and revolvers. Paul realizing that the gun business in California was in jeopardy, and that a move of some kind was imminent, moved to Massachusetts to form what was to become the biggest and most successful performance gun operation of its kind.

In 2001 Paul reopened Pistol Dynamics and is once again building custom handguns and designing components that set performance and accuracy levels that are an expected consequence of his 30 years experience as one of the most successful performance handgun designers in modern history. His understanding of Industrial Design, 3D CAD and CNC manufacturing technology, coupled with the innate ability to literally make every part for a pistol by hand on a manual machine puts him in a unique position in the industry. He also has the unusual advantage for a gun builder of being a former world-class professional shooter and certified firearms instructor . He has built guns for members of the South African Special Forces, FBI, Navy Seals, World Class competition shooters and collectors; individuals with high expectations and specific needs.

Marie-Julia Liebenberg