Tell me about titanium 1911 frames.


Zak Smith
March 6, 2003, 03:38 PM
I am considering using a Caspian titanium frame for my next 1911 (Commander size). If you have a Caspian/titanium-framed 1911, please respond:

1. How many rounds has your frame survived, so far?

2. Have you had any problems with it?


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March 6, 2003, 05:46 PM
Just an unrelated note, but I have Ti flex frames on my glasses.

These bend but always come back to the original shape.

Not that they'd use the same alloy for guns, but this flexibility property of the alloy, if made into something rigid like a frame, would seem to be indicative of high resistence to stress.

The link to the above article would seem to bear out my observations about the elasticity of Ti alloy.

Again, none of this is 1911 specific.

March 6, 2003, 06:28 PM
Can't imagine why anybody would use Ti for a 1911 frame. Ti has a different coefficient of expansion of either steel or aluminum. In the wheelgun snubbies, the Ti cylinder guns often will bind after they get the cylinder hot. Ti is also easy to scratch and requires special cleaning methods. Give me a good steel frame, I'll live with those extra five ounces.

Johnny Guest
March 6, 2003, 06:34 PM
- - -I'd like to know the answer to the question, myownself.

But, if 39 oz weight of a full size/weight piece is too much, there's always the Commander--About 27 oz, depending on the stocks and so forth. That's my choice--a proven design, with proven material, without having to pay the premium price.;)


Zak Smith
March 6, 2003, 06:40 PM

6061-T6 Al has a thermal expansion of 24.3 um/m/C
120VCA Ti - 9.36
"304" steel - 17.8

So titanium expands at about 1/3 the rate of Al, and about 1/2 the rate of steel.


Zak Smith
March 6, 2003, 06:43 PM
A Gov't model weighs about 39oz,
Combat Commander: 34 oz
LW Commander: 27 oz
"Ti" Commander: 29.4

So the Ti-frame is close in weight o the LW Commander. The appeal of Ti would be that it would last longer than aluminum. Aluminum-frame 1911's are known to self-destruct; after a certain number of rounds, the frame will crack. This is why Caspian does not warranty their Al frames. A steel 1911 frame, if properly heat-treated, will last virtually forever.

If Ti does not have the longevity problem of Al, it would be quite attractive, since it is almost as light.


March 6, 2003, 06:44 PM
"6061-T6 Al has a thermal expansion of 24.3 um/m/C
120VCA Ti - 9.36
"304" steel - 17.8

So titanium expands at about 1/3 the rate of Al, and about 1/2 the rate of steel."

All I know is the Ti snubbies have a lot of problems with the cylinder binding against the forcing cone when they get hot. Taurus guns do this a lot. The published reason was that the coef of expansion was different than steel. Maybe the just aren't making them right, but that's the story.

March 6, 2003, 06:58 PM
Ti is a wonderful material for almost any application that steel has. If it was plentiful and cheap to refine and machine, it would be used most everywhere. You would also be insisting on it's use.

It doesn't corrode. It can take many more cycles than even steel without work hardening. It's light. Heating mustn't be that big a problem if Ti is used in jet engines.

Golfers, cyclists and aerospace engineers are just several decades ahead of gun people. There's nothing wrong with the metal.

Zak Smith
March 6, 2003, 08:40 PM

I have no background in materials. What attributes of steel contribute to cracked frames, when they do occur? Is it work hardening, or something else?


March 6, 2003, 08:56 PM
My materials backround, aside from reading, is from many years in sales and as a mechanic in the bicycle industry. But I would say your summation is pretty much right on.

I have seen bicycles (really good ones) broken from repetive cycles (also known as riding) in every material except Ti. While engineers could go on about it, the basic comparison to a wire bent to many times is valid.

Ti, despite it's strength, doesn't mind bending. Harder steels do. Steel frames that are softer might not crack so easily, but would wear quicker. I'm sure there are steel alloys that are better than what are used in guns, but no one bothers with them. Maybe in the P7 slide, and certainly in better barrels, but not in frames.

March 6, 2003, 09:08 PM
Zak , it's called fatigue failure - the repeatative stressing of the metal.

Zak Smith
March 6, 2003, 09:15 PM
mete, Handy.

Thanks. Do I understand correctly that Ti is more resistant to fatigue failure from repeated stressing that the steel used in guns?

I think Caspian used CPTi (Commercially Pure Ti). Is this going to differ much from the other alloys of Ti?


Harold Mayo
March 6, 2003, 10:34 PM
I'll chime in...

I've been considering having a Commander built using a Caspian titanium frame. I have a little background in mechanics of materials from an engineering education and metallurgical engineering classes but I wanted something more than theoretical stuff. A friend of mine builds high-performance drag-car engines and I quizzed him about the use of Ti in them. From his experience, Ti is better than steel in those applications...and this is high-temp and high-pressure, far more so than in a handgun frame. The only downsides that he thought it had was the cost and that electrolysis sometimes came into play.

I have faith in the metal itself...or even the alloy used by Caspian.

My problem with it is this: although Caspian makes great products, the gunsmith with whom I have been talking about the project was not overly impressed with the offering from Caspian. His experience with it is, admittedly, limited, but he is imaginative and intelligent and and not normally constrained by the mainstream and I normally trust his judgement on these things. That alone makes me reconsider.

I have my heart set on a Ti frame, though. I purchased a lightweight Springfield Armory 1911 just to get the feel of a light-framed full-sized gun (it's up for sale now if anyone cares to purchase it?) and I love it.

It's still up in the air for me, though. Caspian claims that they've had no problems with the frames to date and they've been out in the field for, I believe, 4 years now (prototypes) under use at places like Gunsite. This swings me the other way.

All in all, I'm still curious about it, myself. I know of no one with one of the Caspian frames to speak with about it and, until I hear from someone with actual trigger time with one, I'll probably hold off on making my final decision.

Chairman Meow
March 6, 2003, 10:52 PM
Bounty Hunter -

It could be that the problem with the titanium framed revolvers is that they are made of both steel and titanium (steel in the barrel, titanium in the frame). As the gun heats, the parts are expanding at different rates, causing the shape of the weapon to change slightly and bind. Just an idea.

March 6, 2003, 11:27 PM

The Ti alloys in my experience; 6/4 and 3/25 are ductile and tough. They are also hellacious to machine and are usually water cut. The Caspian frame is oversized and must be machined for slide fitting, so I have no idea what kind of alloy it is or exactly what properties it has. I would strongly suggest a call to Caspian to at least get their speil on it.

But I do think that a well designed Ti alloy would make about the toughest 1911 frame you could buy. Caspian has a good reputation; let's hope they did their homework.

March 7, 2003, 02:02 AM
Okay, I will brag a little. I designed the first titanium springs ever used in a volume consumer product.(Mountain bike suspension)

I have no interest in it for a pistol frame, though.

Aluminum is strong enough for occasional use in carry guns, and heat treated alloy steel is stronger than titanium.

The best aluminums go about 75 - 85ksi ultimate tensile strength

6-4 Ti, when heat treated, can get up to about 150 ksi.

Beta Titaniums, used for springs, do get up to 200 ksi, but they are very expensive and hard to work.

Plain 'ol 4340 steel can easily go to 240 ksi tensile, and is still tough at that tensile strength.

Titanium has some rather odd habits - heat it up to 1000 degrees or so, it will absorb impurities from the air, from oil, even from the sweat on your skin - then become extremely brittle and crack.

For springs, we have to acid etch the surface of the metal, handle them only with clean cotton gloves, and then put the spotlessly clean parts in a high vaccum furnace, during heat treating. Touch it with your bare hand, put it in a furnace, it will break where you touched it.


An ultimate lightweight autoloader could indeed be an alloy frame with Ti slide, but you'd have to do some tricks to get it to cycle reliably. For the frame? No, it's the wrong material.

March 7, 2003, 07:54 AM
According to what I read long ago, the SR71 "Blackbird" had a titanium skin that had gaps in the panels when the bird was on the ground. One of the pilots said when you got her up to speed she had a contiguous skin that IIRC glowed red. :eek:

March 7, 2003, 09:14 AM
Perhaps the better material for a lightweight frame is plastic-poymer. Like many others, I hate to see the proud and honorable 1911 dressed in polymer, but Glock has proven that it does work.

Polymers seem to be self lubricating. That realy isn't surprising when you think about it. Steel rubbing against a slick polymer should offer little resistance.

Time and ultraviolet rays are probably the worst enemies of plastics. I would assume after many years, we will see frames that are cracked because of mere age, but I doubt it will be from recoil alone.

Sean Smith
March 7, 2003, 09:38 AM
For the curious, here is a Ti custom gun made by Ted Yost.

FYI, Caspian's titanium frame costs the same as their barstock 4140 steel frames (about $300).

Zak Smith
March 7, 2003, 10:30 AM

Maybe I missed it, but exactly what are the reasons you think Ti is the wrong material for a pistol frame? I don't think getting up to 1000 degrees is an issue (e.g., you don't see Glock frames melting unless you put it in the oven).

The appeal of a Ti frame would be that it would be almost as light as Al alloy, but it would last much, much longer. You could presumably shoot a Ti frame a lot, where you would relegate an Al alloy frame to "carry a lot, shoot a little."


In Glocks, HK USPs, etc, there are steel rails embedded in the frame which the slide contacts.


March 7, 2003, 10:37 AM
The Caspian frames are cast in commercially pure (CP) titanium by Ruger. I've never heard of anyone having any problems with them, but then again, there aren't that many of them out there.
6AL/4V would have been a better alloy as it is considerably stronger than CP, but also harder to work with.
Quality steel frames don't seem to have a problem with cracking due to a lack of fatigue strength, as many of them have gone 300,000 rounds and beyond with no problems.
The one area where the Caspian titanium frames may fall short of the steel frames is in wear resistance, as they are softer.
Here is what Gary Smith of Caspian had to say about his frames on another forum:


Here are some statistics that might help clear things up

Tensile stregnth:
AL 356 T6 32000
Ti CP 65000
4140 Steel 120000

Yeild Strength
AL 22000
Ti 55000
4140 100000

AL 3%
Ti 14%
4140 15%

AL does not even come close to the RC scale
Ti RC10
4140 RC 16 - 25 (depending on manufacturer, Caspian opts for 25, any harder and your asking for trouble)

What does this mean?

First of all titanium has it all over aluminum hands down. It has good ductility and is not as hard as a steel frame, so there goes the BRITTLE argument.
It is a tough material that lends itself well to this application. Ti frame have been on the market long enought to have proved themselves.
Also, A titanium frame is 4.6oz LIGHTER than a steel frame.
That's over a quarter of a pound, which most will consider quite significant

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