1911 From Scratch?


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Plumber576
December 5, 2006, 11:51 PM
What would it take/how much would it cost to build a 1911 from scratch? Let's say I wanted to learn more about firarms, get a 1911, and truly make it my own custom. High costs/low costs?

I would want to build something similar to a Wilson CQB with a lght rail. Is it even legal to assemble one?

Where would I go for parts? Frame, slide, triggers, sights...People to look for? Parts to stay away from? I would like a frame with a built in light rail.

I think the 1911 bug might have bit me, and bit me bad...and I am poor. Maybe this way I could buy parts as I gain money.

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10-Ring
December 5, 2006, 11:54 PM
If you do it piece by piece, you'll probably spend more than if you just buy the gun you want outright. You can buy the parts through Brownells & the frame & slide from your mfr of choice
Enjoy your project ;)

Beatnik
December 6, 2006, 12:01 AM
Gee, that assumes that you already have the mill, the lathe, the rifling equipment, the shaper, other handy specialty stuff like EDM, laser, and abrasivejet, all the hand tools, finishing machines like belt sanders & buffs, and last, but not least, the vacuum heat treating equipment.

All of that will cost you (conservatively) the better part of $1,000,000.00.

I can't really put a price on the education to run all of that stuff, but I hear that tool&die is an 8 year apprenticeship.

If you're just talking about materials, there's probably $10 or so of steel that goes into it.

(I thought about this - how cool would it be to make a 1911 by 2011. But seriously, there's a reason people just buy certain things.)

Jim Watson
December 6, 2006, 12:14 AM
Caspian sells good quality slides and receivers; and some other parts. The rest you have to select and obtain. Get a Brownell's print catalog, it is easier to browse than their website.

It is legal for you to build any firearm for your own use that is legal for you to buy. (No machine guns.) You cannot build and sell guns without a manufacturer's license and payment of excise tax.

Building a gun from parts in the white is not like reassembling a working gun that you have taken apart. Tools, technique, and knowhow are required. There are books, websites, and classes on the subject. Brownell's has the literature, too. The Kuhnhausen books are a good resource. Read up at
http://www.roderuscustom.tzo.com/
http://www.blindhogg.com/index.html

The last time I counted it up, a respectable quality 1911 on Caspian slide and receiver would take almost $1000 in parts alone.

GrandmasterB
December 6, 2006, 01:46 AM
In today's world, you can build a pretty good 1911 yourself thanks to CNC machines and tight manufacturing tolerances. One key to doing this is to try to use as many parts from the same supplier as possible. (assuming it is a hi-quality supplier -- you don't want junk!)

Caspian will fit a frame and slide for you. They can also do sight cuts, beavertail cuts and stake your plunger tube, install the ejector, etc. If you are more concerned about reliability, take advantage of these services. If you want to have every part on your pistol perfectly blended together so that everything looks 1000% fabulous, then you are in for a lot of work and you will need a lot of tools.

A person with average mechanical skills and a good working knowledge of a 1911 can assemble a pistol from parts that will work well. For example, if you buy a CMC frame and slide, they will fit well. If you add a CMC barrel, it will drop in. You can then buy a complete drop-in hammer/sear/disconnector/sear spring set that will drop in and work. It may not be the greatest trigger pull in the world, but it will do. You can make a functioning pistol this way.

Oh, did I mention that you will pay much more than if you just went and bought a Kimber, Colt or Springfield? This is not meant to be a deterrent, but you should only build a 1911 yourself if you aren't concerned about the money you will spend. You are likely to spend as much as some very nice semi-custom guns like a Les Baer (especially if you need to buy tools) just to build one pistol.

When people start figuring out how much it costs, many try to do things cheaper. So they buy and old Brazilian slide for $50 and an old Essex frame for $100 and then get a bunch of really crappy mil-spec type parts that are just pure junk and they build a frankenpistol for $450 dollars that ultimately won't run and has all kinds of problems. For $100 more they could've had a Springfield loaded with lots more bells and whistles and a warranty.

Sorry to go on and on with a rant here, but the truth is, you get what you pay for. If you have the money and want to learn and don't mind making costly mistakes and want to buy tools, etc., then go ahead and spend $1500 or more to build yourself a 1911. If you take a hard look at the project and yourself and decide you don't want to do this, buy a new pistol of your choice and enjoy!

BTW -- I have built a 1911 myself from the ground up, so I have "been there, done that". It was fun and enjoyable. I did pay more than buying a new pistol, but mine is a "one and only"!.

Good luck to you in whatever you decide.

pedaldude
December 6, 2006, 02:07 AM
whenever I see one of these posts I always think the poster means to make one out of raw materials like JMB did. Back in the day machinists would also make their own files and most of all the tools they'd need.

it's like when a chick says she made you a pie from scratch and then it just turns out to be a frozen crust with pre-mix in it, it ain't from scratch.

think of it if you bought and assembled replacement parts for a car, you'd spend ten times what the car is worth. Not quite so bad with a firearm, but with some excellent cheap 1911s out now you won't be saving any money.

If it's for the adventure there are a few sites that will help you along and please post your results,

good luck.

Plumber576
December 6, 2006, 02:19 AM
Ok, this is not fully "from scratch." Fine. I get that. Yes, it's going to cost more. But, Oh well. I have a roomate joining me in building his own.

I get this is going to be work. I'm out to learn though. It's going to take a while...but, oh well. I have other .45's to shoot in the mean time. Doing this, I will have what I want, and not skimp. I cannot affor a Rock River Tactical 1911, but for under $600 I can start with a rock river slide and frame, and then go for something like a bar-sto barrel. There are many possibilities. The research is jsut beginning.

Look, I get it. Any insight, deals, knowledge, websites, pictures, ect, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for the concern, but bring on the support!

I will probably be asking some questions coming up here, stupid, serious, whatever, and any responses will be greatly appreciated. hopefully, I can post some pictues and fill y'all in as I go.

First question. Can I buy a lower receive, registered as a firearm to start with? I don't need to start "white." If it is possible, what are the restrictions? Any legal issues that may come up I would like to know fully about before I start.

Thanks!

BullfrogKen
December 6, 2006, 05:59 AM
You can assemble one. Whether it'll work when you are done . . . Who knows.


I've build one. I spent about $3k. And I didn't have to buy any tools, either.


If you are poor, this ain't, is not, will not be, no way in hell is cheaper . . . . did I say won't be less expensive . . . than buying one. Go buy a used Colt, Kimber, Springfield. You'll have one that actually works, and for less than $600 most likely.


It looks easy when you take a 1911 apart. All the parts fit, the safeties work properly. Hey, they should. It was made to be the factory, with the proper jigs and tools, by folks that have been shown how to do it by ones who did.


You are soooooo far behind the learning curve, you don't even know what you don't know. Its not an insult. Its just the way it is. Go try to build a motor for amateur stock car races, or a model flying plane. Get my point? If you don't have the tools, and the know-how, you are digging a money pit. If you can't figure out how to read a Kuhnhausen manual, you have no idea how complex actually building a functioning, safe 1911 is. If anyone could do it, dude, guys wouldn't have been making livings doing it for over 2 generations for the rest of us.

First question. Can I buy a lower receive, registered as a firearm to start with?

Yes. . . Call Brownell's and set up an account. They'll tell ya all you need to know. If you're serious, you'll spend A LOT of money there over the next year or two, and you'll need the account anyway. So, just go set it up now and get it done with.

Sam38
December 6, 2006, 06:55 AM
You wrote, "...I get this is going to be work. I'm out to learn though. It's going to take a while...but, oh well. I have other .45's to shoot in the mean time. Doing this, I will have what I want, and not skimp. I cannot affor a Rock River Tactical 1911, but for under $600 I can start with a rock river slide and frame, and then go for something like a bar-sto barrel. There are many possibilities. The research is jsut beginning....."

Yep, it can be done. The only semi-difficult part is fitting the barrel and as others have said it will be more expensive -- but you can spread the cost over time.

You can have your local gunshop order you a frame and slide from Brownells and take receipt after the NICS check. From there you just fit and add on the parts.

I'll try to post more information tomorrow.

Sam38

RS2
December 6, 2006, 08:51 AM
Hey, I know you ;) *


Your first investment should, no MUST, be the two volumes of KUHNHAUSEN's manuals. Then the Brownell's catalog. Then decide how you want to proceed.








* aka RSS1911

HSMITH
December 6, 2006, 09:32 AM
If you are a guy with the right background this isn't all that hard, not even doing it from all oversized 'gunsmith fit' components. If you don't have the right background it can still be done, it isn't like you are trying to put a man on the moon!!! You are going to try to fit parts to known specifications, dimensions are available, tools are available, the instructions on HOW to do each step are available. The only voodoo in this is the hammer and sear, it takes experience to cut them exactly right and you might go through a couple sets getting it down. Not a big deal.

It will not be cheaper if you use all first rate components, but that is no reason not to try. There is one real downside to building your own, and that is re-sale value. A Wilson that was $2500 new in good used condition will probably bring $1800 if you wanted to sell it, if you build your gun better than the Wilson and spend $2800 on it I don't think you will be able to get $1000 if you sell it unless you get extremely lucky.

I have two builds in progress right now, and a few under my belt. I CAN do it better than I can buy in some respects and equal in all other respects. That difference that I make is the motivator and I enjoy building them so I don't see a way to lose.

Jim Watson
December 6, 2006, 10:17 AM
First question. Can I buy a lower receive, registered as a firearm to start with?

Yes. Buying a Caspian frame is just like buying a complete pistol. The receiver is the serial numbered part and is considered equivalent to a "firearm" under law. Just have to pick the variant you want - Caspian has a lot of them - and have a FFL order it for you. He will paper it just like a new gun.

I don't know your state and local requirements for registration, if any.

jmorris
December 6, 2006, 10:30 AM
If you are wanting to start from as close to “scratch” as possible (no ffl parts) http://www.ktordnance.com can supply an 80% frame for $300 you (and only you) will have to finish the remaining 20% of the work and the finished pistol is nontransferable (you can’t ever sell it). They also sell a finish kit that is supposed to have everything else you would need for $350 (I didn’t see a barrel in the photo). I suppose you could combine the above finishing kit with an Essex (http://www.essexarms.com/orderinfooriginal.htm) frame and be under $600 with a bake on gun coating. More than likely a “first time” $600 built pistol won’t be the same quality as a $600 factory pistol. Try to duplicate your car/truck from parts a $20,000 vehicle would wind up costing over $1,000,000 using new parts. If you are just wanting to learn and work on the 1911 platform, I would suggest purchasing a stainless (so you don’t have to refinish when done) Armscore, I saw them a while back in shotgun news for $350. Then buy a few 1911 books and make the preverbal silk purse. Before you begin your build, as others have said, get a (1 800-741-0015) Brownells catalog (and a tax id #, any will do) and add up all of the parts you want then look at other pistols in that price range.

dust_101
December 6, 2006, 04:36 PM
Brownell's? bah... just learned something tasty from a friend who works over at Numrich, they have a group of 1911 frames/slides both cast and forged that are from the same folks that supply them to Les Baer and other high end custom 1911's but these things are supposed to be cheaper. If i can get a link i'll post it...

GrandmasterB
December 6, 2006, 06:15 PM
www.homegunsmith.com is a site with lots of info on building a 1911 at home.

Plumber576
December 6, 2006, 06:44 PM
I don't get why there are so many negative responses. I have clearly accepted risks and prices involved. I am actually excited about this. I think people would be more suppportive of a person who wants to learn for themselves, becasue, as you people should know, you can never have enough firearms information. I'm not planning on starting with an 80% frame, I'm going to start with a completed frame and slide.

Which brings me to good news. I called Wilson's technical line today, to ask some preliminary questions. After explaining my situation and what i was doing, they offered me a discount for being in college! Larry, at Wilson said, "...hey, college is expensive enough." Looks like I will start with a Wilson frame and slide, and work from there.

So, I'm doing it. Now I;m looking for ideas and advice. What are parts to stay away from? What parts are necessay? Full length guide rod vs GI spec? What trigger parts?

I'll probably be annoying asking questions left and right coming up, but knowledge is power.

AnthonyRSS
December 6, 2006, 07:09 PM
Which brings me to good news. I called Wilson's technical line today, to ask some preliminary questions. After explaining my situation and what i was doing, they offered me a discount for being in college! Larry, at Wilson said, "...hey, college is expensive enough." Looks like I will start with a Wilson frame and slide, and work from there.


That-Is awesome.

Building a 1911 isn't as difficult as some would make it out to be. Its not easy, but with much practice and reading and studying it can be done.

www.m1911.org

Look for 1911Tuner's posts. He knows his stuff.

Anthony

Jim Watson
December 6, 2006, 07:22 PM
What parts are necessay?

The various books and sites have parts breakdowns. You need them all.
It is sort of like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn taking the alarm clock apart and putting it back together. They only had two parts left over and could not see why it did not run.

What are parts to stay away from? Full length guide rod vs GI spec? What trigger parts?

There are some cheesy no-name parts available, but stick to recognized brand names and you will be ok. Since Wilson is cutting you a deal, you could do a lot worse than stick with Wilson.

I don't think they sell ignition parts package deals, you might do better there with an EGW, Nowlin, or C&S matched set of hammer, sear, disconnector, and springs.

I took the full length guide rod out of my .45 to make the IDPA weight limit and could tell little if any difference in the shooting. I would only use a FLGR if they supplied the slide with recoil spring tunnel cut for a "reverse plug" and captured disassembly. A two piece FLGR is an abomination in my eye; much better to go GI.

Magnumite
December 6, 2006, 09:13 PM
Here's my take on this. I am just finishing up a pistol. I just have to fit a barrel I got for it. I have virtually $900 in good parts on that pistol. I really was lucky and waited for good deals on good parts and managed to get that bag of parts for that price. If I started fresh, retail, no shopping, I would be looking at about $1100-1300. A short list of parts names are Caspian frame, Colt slide, Kart barrel, NM Colt bushing, Wilson Combat, CMC, Ed Brown...

I still have to send it out for finishing...the cold blues don't do it for me. I am not interested in a home finish. I am looking at somewhere around $125 to $250 for the finish I want.

Any machining you need done will be an extra expense. The jigs, files, stones and a few other things will set you back another $100 to $300, depending on your depth of involvement (I already have some of these).

By the time I am done with that, I'll have $1200 in the gun, maybe more. This does not include the tools since I have those already. So for $300 more dollars, I could buy a Baer PII, a nice semi custom I will get one day, and it will have more resale value since a name smith built it. And no MIM...not a big issue with me, but forged/barstock parts are comforting in some applications.

But, like you, there is more to it than that. Just something to nibble on.

Plumber576
December 6, 2006, 09:26 PM
Before you begin your build, as others have said, get a (1 800-741-0015) Brownells catalog (and a tax id #, any will do) and add up all of the parts you want then look at other pistols in that price range.

I have a tax ID# i can use, does that mean I can get a free catalog?

CWL
December 6, 2006, 09:57 PM
My suggestion is to buy a Springfield GI (I bought mine in CA for ~$350 new) Shoot it, get used to it and then start customizing it a bit at a time until you get to the point where you are satisfied. This will allow you to use it as a shooter the whole time rather than sitting in a box until you are ready to assemble.

For such a low start cost, you can afford to make mistakes that you may not want to do with a Caspian slide.

jmorris
December 7, 2006, 10:09 AM
plumber,

Brownells will send a free catalog to anyone, to get the good prices you need a tax id#. Your business doesn't have to ge gun related. If you have to go get a # (it only costs $20), you will save more than that on your first order.

TX1911fan
December 7, 2006, 11:08 AM
C&S for the hammer, sear, sear spring and disconnector. Mine is great. I started from a Springfield GI and have spent a bunch of money, but I LEARNED a ton about the 1911. I am very comfortable with this firearm now, and it has a better trigger pull than my stock TRP. Have fun. The worst part is waiting until you have the money to get more parts.

JoeHatley
December 7, 2006, 01:09 PM
I called Wilson's technical line today

That's pretty much what I did, when I built this Frankenpistol.

http://www.iowatelecom.net/~hatley/frankenpistol_l.jpg

I told them I had an old Colt slide and a local FFL had ordered me a frame, and I needed everything else. The folks at Wilson fixed me right up.

Yes... I spent more by doing it myself, but I had fun and learned a lot.

Everyone should "build" at least one...

Joe

banddr2
December 7, 2006, 01:32 PM
+1 to what CWL said. That is exactly what I did 20 years ago. That way you can take it apart and study the function of all the internals. One example is when you go to fitting the new beavertail, you have to old one to look at so you know how much to file from the nose.

If you are already getting the Wilson frame and slide, then I recommend that you find another 1911 that you can shoot and detail strip to learn all the interanal fitting problems before you start on your project.

Good Luck, I am all for it.

45auto
December 7, 2006, 03:00 PM
If your starting with a Wilson frame and slide, I'd use a lot of Wilson parts. ;)
Sounds like they are helping you out and might give you a discount on parts also...and some "advise" if you need it.

If you need to save some money they have a "value line" of parts also...use them and "upgrade" later if you ever need to.

FireBreather01
December 7, 2006, 06:57 PM
I've always wanted to take Sample's class and build a longslide 10mm, I think it would be fun, greatly enhance my 1911 knowledge, and I would get one hell of an incredibly unique gun out of it! - http://www.1911patriotcop.us/class.html

Longbow
December 7, 2006, 10:51 PM
I built one 3 years ago using an Armscor frame ($95), Kart barrel ($130) and a gunshow special Colt slide ($45) and parts from http://www.cdnninvestments.com/
Some 72 hours of fitting and $425 later, I couldn't be happier. :)
I built it myself, it works, and I got all the parts that I wanted. I use it mainly for USPSA competitions.
If you are patient and has some good mechanical skills, I say go for it!

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