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What does it take to build a 1911, a journey.

Discussion in 'Maintenance & Gunsmithing' started by gunjunky, Jun 6, 2014.

  1. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    I have some experience with this process having been trained to work on the platform while I was an armorer in the military. I have built a number of guns for myself and for friends and co-workers. However, what I have not done is talk about the process before.

    I have been in the planning stages of another build for some time. So attached is the first 'journal' entry I made regarding this build. If there is any interest (posted comments) I will continue to update the post with the process and photos.

    Thought this might be a good learning tool for anyone considering building a pistol. I have done this process a few times and each time it is different. On this one I made some "make it easy" choices, like having the frame slide fit by Caspian. I also am trying my first build in .40 S&W and using my first Wilson/Nowlin ramped barrel. So it will be a learning process for me as well.

    Hope you will join me.

    Caspian .40 S&W 1911 build log:
    24 March (unknown how much time wasted here), have been planning this build for some time and setting aside a few dollars to try and get the ball rolling and of course thinking about the concept of what the pistol should be. Thought about building an STI double stack with rail but finally settled on a more classic pistol (that fits all of the holsters I already have).
    I did a spread sheet to keep track of everything and of course that does the math for you as you change things and modify the plan. The total tips the budget at just over $1300. Could have just bought the new Sig in .40 for way less and hit the range you say, not much satisfaction in that though.

    Today was the day to get all the parts on order. Caspian/Foster will be the source for the stainless frame and slide, some machine operations, rear sight, front sight, ejector, hammer strut and mag catch. In addition they will fit frame/slide and carbonize as well as flat top and serrate the slide, do the cuts for sights and ball end cut the front of the slide. I have fit the previous frame/slide sets I have purchased from Caspian but the carbonize treatment sounds like a plus so I decided to go for it (lots of time saved here as well).

    All of the other parts were sourced from Brownell’s and read like a laundry list but the highlights are: Kart easy fit 5” barrel with W/N ramp (Caspian did that cut also), Wilson beavertail, S&A MSH, Cylinder & Slide fire control and all the other little goodies.

    March 29, all the parts sourced from Brownell’s arrived, everything looks good, waiting is the hardest part after the go button is pushed.

    June 1, the frame/slide and other parts shipped from Caspian.

    June 6 (20-30 min), had some free time (frame/slide still not here) but decided to cut the MSH for round butt fit. I prefer the look of the rounded MSH rather than a sharp corner. It also helps on a gun that will be carried and prevents clothes from hanging up on the butt of the gun. I also knocked the sharp points off the 20lpi checkering. The S&A part appears to be very well made and as expected the internals dropped right in.

    Pic of the parts pile.
    2wpv56v.jpg


    The start of the MSH
    2yocrjs.jpg
     
    gryghin likes this.
  2. Keane

    Keane Hillsboro, OR Active Member

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    I would love to see this! I keep thinking seriously about grabbing a kit from Sarco and doing a crappy-budget build in my spare time. I have no experience with 1911s besides ownership/detail strip, so this sounds like it could be an exciting project.
     
  3. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    Keane;
    I have not used Sarco components in a build. I have used Caspian/Foster, Remsport, built up some Colt's and Springfield's and worked on most of the brands out there. Call Foster you might be surprised what you can get a frame/slide set for.
     
  4. Keane

    Keane Hillsboro, OR Active Member

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    I always check out Caspian (same company as Foster?!) and they seem to be much more expensive :) All parts but the frame for $200 from Sarco would make my mess-ups hurt a heck of a lot less. I hear they are crap, but at least it would give me a 'mess up' set before getting into good stuff.
     
  5. iamme

    iamme Lane County Well-Known Member

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    Foster does Caspian blem and over runs.
     
  6. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    June 9, The frame/slide set arrived and I was able to pick up after work at my ffl, glad he is a friend who let me interrupt dinner. The other parts were in the box as well and all look very nice. Now all I have to do is not screw them up. The Foster frame looks very nice; it must have been an overrun as I can’t see any obvious flaws. It is also the first time I have used a Bo-Mar style rear sight and the cut on the slide is nice and the ball cuts look cool. I will start to do some work in the shop the next couple of days and try to get the grip safety fit.

    24ytmjq.jpg
     
    gryghin likes this.
  7. Keane

    Keane Hillsboro, OR Active Member

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    Awesome! Please take tons of pictures!

    Oh, and get a 1911 gunsmith mat :)
     
  8. techieguy

    techieguy Well-Known Member

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    subscribed...
     
  9. Nickb

    Nickb Moxee Active Member

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    Looks like it will be a nice build. I've thought about building my next 1911 rather than buying.
     
  10. iamme

    iamme Lane County Well-Known Member

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    I love ball cuts. They look so good.
    Go slow on that beavertail! ! But a well fit GS is a thing of beauty.
     
  11. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    As you can probably see from the frame slide pic, a bunch of material has to come off for the grip safety to fit properly.

    June 10 (2 hours), got home from work and wanted to get out to the shop and do some work on this project. Had a bit of a long day and fatigue can lead to mistakes when using a file on an expensive gun part. So to be sure I kept the stress down I added a glass of bourbon to the work area ;) Decided it would be a good time to get started on fitting the grip safety. I like the look of the Wilson Combat beavertail so that is the one I decided to use in this build (I think the part number is 965-298-002wb from Brownell’s). I have used products from Ed Brown (also very nice) Chip McCormick and Smith & Alexander (if I misspelled any blame the bourbon). A good source for guidance is www.blindhogg.com, he offers step by step instructions in his gunsmith section to install a beavertail.

    I use a jig from Wilson Combat that I have had for about 10 years and used on a number of guns. The jist is this; install the jig, use a file that will remove some material and file to the jig.
    sp9gu8.jpg
    Then the hard part because you have to go slow and use a sharpie and needle files to get the final fit, take your time here and don’t create a gap between the frame and the grip safety. Remember you can always take more off but it is very hard to get it back on. Here area a couple of pics as I moved along, not done as final fitting still needs to be done but you get the idea.
    3467pl1.jpg
    znlyzq.jpg
     
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  12. iamme

    iamme Lane County Well-Known Member

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    Once all polished up should look good! One day I aspire to have Roger's level of talent at least on grip safeties!
     
  13. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    I agree, and something about the curve of the Wilson just makes the pistol look great IMO. This is my first build with ball cuts, have been debating using them on the last couple. I think they will look very nice as well.

    Nickb:

    Go for it. It is very rewarding to build, shoot and carry a pistol you crafted.
     
  14. gryghin

    gryghin Beaverton Active Member

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    Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us. I've been toying with the idea of building a 1911, but I'm still having fun teaching my kids how to build ARs.
     
  15. Nickb

    Nickb Moxee Active Member

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    I've done a bit of work to my Ruger CMD. I'm thinking I'm going to buy a cheap RIA 9mm and got through everything and add some machine work. I'm pretty confident with working on them and being a machinist with keys to the shop I have a lot of useful tools.
    The only thing I think I "need" to learn is fitting a barrel and checkering.
     
  16. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    gryghin;
    A fellow sailor I see. I also enjoy working on the AR platform, but if you enjoy that you will really like 1911 work. There is something to be said for tailoring firearms to your specific likes.

    Nickb;
    Wish I had a machine shop and the skill set to run a mill, one of the things I have always wanted to do. It would be really cool to just buy the raw parts and do all the machine work like serrations, checkering and sight cuts. One of the PI guns would be a great place to start a mil spec pistol comes in at a very fair price. Also I think the offerings from Remington would be a good jump off point.

    The first personally owned pistol I "tuned" was a Kimber, already a very nice pistol, that got an Ed Brown grip safety, Heinie sights, Nowlin fire control and some other stuff I am forgetting. At the time the OD green Wilson CQB was a hot item so I sent it off for paint. It was a great pistol but went on the block for parts for another build from the ground up. Now the only sort of factory 1911 I have is a joint effort with my work and machine work from Miller Custom on a Colt that I did for a retirement gift to me when I retired from the Navy.
     
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  17. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    June 11 (3.5 hours), today was a day off so after family time I was able to head out to the shop for some work. Finished up the grip safety except for fitting it to the trigger bow and a bead blast. Speaking of bead blast that is something I have not worked out, anyone out there have access to a blast cabinet that would be willing to help out with that? The closer to Everett the better. Then did a mild bevel job to the slide and frame to knock off the sharp edges. Did not get very radical here, wanted to maintain traditional lines of the pistol. Also fit the MSH by blending the frame to the bevel I already cut on the housing. Next was the magazine release which dropped right in. I decided to file the firing pin stop as well; because I am using an adjustable Bo-Mar style sight it has to be cut to clear the rear sight. Also got started on the trigger; I say got started because it is proving to be a pain in the butt. Usually fitting a trigger is no big deal but this one is proving to be a pain. Either the trigger bow is out of speck or the cuts in the frame are off a bit. Usually it takes just some filing on the top and bottom of the trigger to get one to fit. Not this time, the top, the bottom both sides and then the bow and the bow still needs some work and feels like I will have to lap it in.

    Only took one pic and tried to get all the elements I discussed into it.
    2u4j320.jpg
     
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  18. gryghin

    gryghin Beaverton Active Member

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    That's coming along nicely. I've now been out almost twice as long as I was in, hard to believe how fast time goes by. Left in '95 after 10 years in the Sub Service - Sea and Shore tour, long enough to decide to help raise the kids.

    After looking at your post, I'm almost thinking it would be a good idea to start off with a SAM (ATI import) or other mil-spec PI, completely tear down and rebuild. The cost of the functioning 1911 would be the same as frame & slide alone.

    My winter EDC is an ATI FX45 GI (Commander size). I've taken up training again and am very happy with it. So, I was thinking of getting another and then build up/tune/modify.
     
  19. Swedish K

    Swedish K SW Washington Moderator Staff Member

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    FYI - you no longer have to post to subscribe to a thread - now you can go to the top of the thread and click on "watch thread".

    OP - great info - looks good so far.
     
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  20. gunjunky

    gunjunky Arlington, WA Active Member

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    gryghin,
    It would keep costs down to start with a base mil-spec gun, I have done a number of them for myself and others. However, basic components from Caspian/Foster would also be much less. The added features of checkering, flat top slide with serrations etc. drive costs up. Truth be told skateboard tape on the front strap works just as good as checkering and I could have just file textured the top of slide. But I had a specific "idea" I was after and this is actually saving money compared to the 'custom' from a famous shop it mimics.
     
    gryghin likes this.