How do you build a 1911 and more?
The 1911 has always been a tool for me. I first used one in “combat pistol” matches. Later those same matches became IPSC matches and latter still USPSA. I had the opportunity to use the 1911 as a tool, putting people in jail and the loathsome responsibility to wear one 24/7. I used the 1911 as a student and as a teacher applying what I have learned in my world and hopefully showing others how to avoid using their 1911s.
That learning process preceeded much of how I applied the information to my gun work. This is how I apply that experience to my gun work now.
First let me explain that it takes very little in the way of expensive machinery to rebuild a 1911.
I use a mill to install sights, cut checkering and in the case of this example to cut a single line, French border. I use a lathe to cut and crown the barrel. The rest is done primarily with hand tools, (read files and emery paper), a bench grinder and tiny amount with a dremel tool. (There are any number of folks that will happily do excellent millwork for you)
There are 50 some parts in a 1911. In the finished stainless version here I started with the Colt frame and slide, 7 piece pin set, the grip bushings, mag release spring, recoil cap and guide and plunger tube. The other 35+ parts I discarded for that project.
I then added, a BarSto barrel, Wolfe springs (main, recoil, leaf), low mount, dovetailed sights, BCP beavertail, hammer, sear, disconnector and trigger, Brown thumb safety and main spring housing, Wilson slide release, Nowlin mag release, S&A grip screws and a little of my sweat equity for the details. In this case I like to say the “devil’s in the details” because that is what defines a great pistol from a run of the mill pistol, all the detail work.
You can buy all the parts I used including a match grade frame and slide, if you prefer them to a Colt product, for $1300 to $1500. The elephant ivory will run you a little extra :)
My personal priorities are easily seen in this project. For a fighting handgun I first want a good set of sights.
Next I want the gun to feel good in my hand. That gets you a beavertail, flat main and a thumb safety.
Third, I want a better trigger. In this case BCP parts.
Next comes accuracy and a match grade barrel. Finally, whatever it takes for your skill and tastes to hang on to the gun. I used 20 lpi on this one but prefer almost anything to checkering.
Let’s talk a bit about finishes. Most common is blue. Blead blast blue is one of the easiest to hide metal prep flaws under. When you buy or build an expensive gun remember both sides of the coin.
Nice polished blue that hides very little.
parkerized BCP 1911 delivered July 5 2002.
Parkerizing? It is even easier to hide metal prep flaws under, including milling marks. It also takes some little experience to get a 1911 running after you parkerize it. Any one’s polymer coating offer fair protection but are just a paint job, for better or worse, sorry.
Swenson hard chromed gun from the late 70's.
Hard chrome? Now you are talking a finish. Durable? You bet, but it also shows the quality of the metal prep of the builder.
Want to play with the big boys? Build “in the white” (stainless is a good example) and see what you can really do with metal. The more that is bead blasted the more you can "hide".
What to make it harder still? Do a combination of high polish, engraved, checkered, stippled and bead blasted on the same gun and leave it all in the white. Like this most recent BCP creation.
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