Homebuild 1911A1


July 7, 2006, 11:50 PM
Gents, here is my 1911A1 built on an Essex frame. It has a Brazilian (unmarked) slide, wide spur hammer, orginal 1911 trigger, original Colt barrel (1943 mfg), wilson hand lapped match barrel bushing to fit the barrel very nicely. It fires nicely. It resembles a WWII A1 less the proofs and stampings perfectly. This was my winter project starting in October of last year. The sample picture of the target is 25yds. The more I shoot it, the better it (or I ) get. This turned out to be a pretty accurate little monkey and I'm sure it can shoot better than I. Home built's? Yup, you can build a decient one if you try.:)

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July 8, 2006, 12:47 AM
cool, I have been thinking about using an armscor frame and slide to make one

July 8, 2006, 03:01 PM
Yup, you can build a decient one if you try.

I agree. Here's my Colt/Essex project gun, I put together several years ago.


It was a nice learning experience...


July 8, 2006, 03:37 PM
Very nice! I've got a Springfield GI I'm beginning to modify.

Tom C.
July 9, 2006, 10:27 AM
I built a pair of Essex frame 1911s in the 70's. One had a Colt WWII slide, and a Colt Series 70 barrel that fit very nicely in the slide. It shot very well, even if it had box stock WWII style tiny sights.
The second one was built up using a National Match slide and barrel, with heavy Bomar Ramp. Shot well, but I needed a standard slide.
The third one was built up on a Caspian slide and frame, with a fully ramped Kart barrel. I got the slide precut for Bomar sights. All the bells and wistles I wanted. Very accurate. I used it for IPSC for a number of years.
One of the nicest aspects of building your own is you can dial it in with the features you want from the beginning, with out buying someone else's idea of what you want, then changing things to suit your self.

July 9, 2006, 01:02 PM
Very nice looking handgun vic, how much money did it take to put that together?

July 9, 2006, 01:27 PM
If I had not made any mistakes, about $325.00. Since the learning curve was not on my side and money for parts got lost in the mail, add about $125.00. Still, for the accuracy (historic and otherwise), I an pleased with the end results.

July 9, 2006, 05:32 PM
Here is my humble attempt:
Colt '70 GM frame
Colt 45acp officers barrel
Novak low pros
Officers length square top slide no markings will engrave "Black Mamba"
Also will replace trigger,hammer,biv-tail,msh,safety with Wilson Combat as soon as budget allows.
other than that shoots awesome.

July 9, 2006, 06:01 PM
:cool: Essex makes awsome stainless frames and slides. Another project? My first build I just wanted a historically correct with reasonable accuracy A1. I feel I have achieved that even though it shouldn't have cost the price of a GI spec copy. I still got one little bug I'm working on with the grip safety in the fact that it fires with out pressure on the grip safety. I've replaced the spring and the grip safety...still fires with no pressure on it. It's down to the disconnect, sear, or slide being the cause. Something is out of spec and it's taking a while to nail it down. It's simple, but I'm not seeing it. The old sear spring ended up looking like a pretzel after so many adjustments, so I put in a new one. I like the photos of other home builts...awsome. If they hit sub-2" at 25 yards...tack drivers! SInce the 1911 was origanally developed for 6"@ 25yds and under severe conditions, my build would have passed as combat ready so I'm content. I'm sure with a little more practice and better ammo, I could shrink the group to 2" on mine.

July 11, 2006, 02:12 AM


A few years back a friend who was short of money sold me a 1911 he had built on an Auto-Ord frame. It had a non-functioning grip safety, but it was otherwise OK, and it was mine for $200. I looked at the Kuhnhausen manuals, and determined that the fire control parts had been fitted with the trigger bow set too deep into the frame; the sear would trip before the trigger bow engaged the grip safety.

Keep in mind that the trigger, sear, hammer, thumb safety, and disconnector are interrelated. I replaced the trigger with an ultralight one with the adjustable pre-travel tabs on the bow, and set it to the correct position, according to Kuhnhausen. ( I also recommend Wilson Combat's "Combat Customizing the 1911 Auto" video). Then I replaced, fit, and polished the hammer (skeletonized), sear, disconnector, and thumb safety. While I was at it, I replaced the hammer strut and main spring cap with titanium items in order to minimize the lock time without sacrificing durability. During the fitting process, I noticed that the (medium quality) hammer, sear, disconnector, and thumb safety were quite easy to cut with a file. That's too soft for those parts to last very long, so I case-hardened them. I didn't modify the grip safety at all.

So now my Auto-Ord has a smooth, crisp, reliable and durable fire contol group; the trigger breaks smoothly and crisply at 4.0 lbs with no take up or overtravel. The thumb safety works like a light switch; either off or on, no in-between, no grit, smooth and easy. Two thousand rounds with no malfunctions at all.

This pistol is now more accurate, pleasant, and reliable than my bone stock Springfield Armory 1911A1 for a total cash involvement of less than $350.

Good luck!


July 11, 2006, 07:31 AM
interesting...I suspected the hammer first and foremost and was getting ready to buy another. The other related parts may also be affected by bad fit. Mine is as you say...operates fine except the grip safety. I'll look into it closer.;)

July 11, 2006, 11:03 AM
it fires with out pressure on the grip safety

Kinda sounds like the tab on the grip safety is a little short. You can always peen it a little longer or add a bit of weld and then refit.

Good Luck...


July 12, 2006, 11:15 AM
I thought just replacing the whole grip safety with a known good one would cure it, but it didn't. This suggests the above that the parts are not contacting each other properly. I still think the hammer may be a major contributer because I put a new un-touched hammer in it and you could not fire the weapon at all, grip safety or not...so I filed the catch on the hammer a little, and it fires/functions fine...except the grip safety is inoperative. Oh my aching NASTY. I've also replaced the sear spring...no good. Maybe the holes drilled in the frame are enough out of spec (by essex) to cause this? Who knows? I'll keep plugging away till I figure it out. The good thing is that when I do figure it out, I'll be smarter than I was the day before I did figure it out.:banghead:

UPDATE...the problem is the disconnet and sear spring. The middle finger of the sear spring should push the disconnect up while depressing the grip safety allowing the fire control group to function...this is NOT happening. The disconnect is also sticking a little. Since it's an Auto Ordnance kit, I'll suspect things don't quite fit right. I'll replace the sear spring and disconnect with a Wilson or Ed Brown quality system for the internals.

July 13, 2006, 12:27 PM
so what do you guys find is the most difficult part of a 1911 build? i would think it is slide-to-frame fit, bushing-to-slide fit, or barrel link-to-frame fit

July 13, 2006, 01:45 PM
What I've found is that the essex frame is good in the slide to frame fit...tight, but not excessive. The holes to mount small parts may be off as much as .005 causing you some minor adjusting/polishing to get correct contact of parts. The hardest part is to buy GOOD parts the FIRST time. You might want to save a buck and buy cheaper parts and end up replacing them anyway because they don't work right. I bought an undersized Wilson NM barrel bushing and hand lapped the bushing to fit the barrel and the slide needed polished for correct fit for the bushing. The fit is awsome! IT is a lot of fun.

July 13, 2006, 01:51 PM
Hi !
I am new here,
And I want to do a build of a 1911, used to work in a Gun shop,
I was thinking of making a simpler build up using a classic look,
An Essex Arms parkerized Slide & Frame, comes complete with sights and tube, anyone know where I can get G.I. style parts ?
Mainspring housing ? Hammer ? barrel ?
Not too many Gun shows near Me either.

July 14, 2006, 01:57 AM

Check the Shotgun news for 2 weeks consecutively...there is usually a supplier that puts in 10-12 page ads towards the back of paper...can't think of the name...lots of surplus 1911 and GI spec stuff listed...might be SAMCO?!? They either list weekly or every other week.

I was going to retro a Springer MilSpec a few years ago before they came out with the GI series and was looking at the array of parts for the project, but I traded the gun to get a 6" S&W 686 PowerPort for hunting

July 14, 2006, 02:06 AM
After all, Essex frames are good enough for Dan Wesson.

But once you go Casp(ian) you'll never go back.

July 14, 2006, 02:23 AM
I've done well on EVIL BAY for parts but beware the gougers (inflated shipping prices). Your best bet on EBAY is private parties selling off their excess parts from a conversion they did. I got a 09/42 Colt slide for about $125.00 and the slide was very good (I did have to re-parkerize it though). I think I got lucky on that one though. Be wary of SARCO...they sell "used up" items. They are pretty well shot when SARCO buys them. GunParts INC is another option but the shipping is steep...good stuff though. Brownells sells new stuff by Wilson and others with shipping being fair, prices are very good. Be sure to ask your local gun dealer/smith if he has any parts laying around from a conversion or two he might have done. Parts pop up in the weirdest places and are of good quality, some being real GI stuff. The Brazilian slides SARCO is selling for $68.00 are good, manufactured under Colt license in the 1940's or so. I bought one and stripped it down to white, removed the Brazilian marks and parked it. This is the slide that's on the gun in my original post, and it holds a nice group.:cool:

July 14, 2006, 04:53 AM
Thanks for the reply ! :)

July 14, 2006, 05:48 AM
Sarco has some 1911 slides for 37.00 seem to be complete but need some finish work.

July 14, 2006, 10:59 AM
You might want to try Midwayusa.com also. They usually have good quality parts on closeout and the shipping is fair. I also ran into another vendor by mistake, it's CDNN...couldn't believe their prices.

July 14, 2006, 03:22 PM


So have you checked how deep the trigger is set in the frame when it engages the sear and compared it to Kuhnhausen's recommendation?


July 15, 2006, 07:51 AM
Just ordered a new disconnector and sear spring. Since my sear spring now looks like a pretzel from tweeking, I'll wait for the new spring and disconnector before going any further. I'm on hold now. I don't think it's the hammer anymore because of verifying the middle finger of the sear spring was not pushing the disconnector up to the ready position. With the grip safety not pushed in the disconnector should gravity fall and hold OUT of battery position preventing the sear from tripping the hammer. Pressure on the grip safety causes the middle finger to push the disconnector up (locking it in battery) thus engaging the sear to trip the hammer, releasing the grip safety reverses the procedure. Remember what I said about the learning curve? If I buy quality replacement parts (I'm glad these are the cheap parts), I may nail this last problem down...I hope.:uhoh:

Got the parts...didn't cure the problem. I did incurr a new development though. move slide to drop the disconnect...disengagement. Press the grip safety...it wont re-set the disconnect as it should. If you pull the trigger once (grip safety pressed or not) the disconnect re-sets, the next pull of the trigger (grip safety or not), the hammer drops. I don't have time to mess with it tonight, but I'll be messing with it tomorrow to find out what gives more closely. There's nothing more humbling than getting your butt kicked by something that don't even have IQ points. Some time in the near future, I should be smarter than this 1911A1. Challenges keep the mind in a state of readiness, for what? I have no idea.

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