need advice RE: building a 9mm 1911


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Detritus
August 26, 2007, 04:02 AM
I see ONE little ad listing a decent quality entry level 1911A1 in .38super and this is where it gets me.... :rolleyes:

Ok here's the deal. As a few of you might remember from November of last year, my wife wants a 1911 of her own and she wants it to be a 9mm. the priority of this item was for various reasons placed at "when/if we find one that meets requirements at the same time we happen to have the money" in other words placed on the "not any time soon" list.

but friday evening i stumbled upon something that made me stop, start to brainstorm, and then realize i was out of my depth and needed advice.
Seems centerfire systems is selling a Rock Island Armory GI-style 1911 in 38super for about $300, which is less than a stripped slide and frame from caspian. This got me thinking, what exactly WOULD it cost to take one of these and use it for the basis for building a 9mm?

So far i have been able to come up with the following modifications (and have a few parts prices from midway and Brownells)

fit 9mm barrel and bushing, 9mm recoil spring
9mm magazines from Metalform/SA
replace hammer with a commander style unit
install Beavertail grip safety
replace GI sights with some she can actually SEE. this will possibly involve getting the slide cut to allow this
possibly replace the flat MSH with arched MSH
probably have the ejection port flared and lowered but not sure on that


what i'm trying to get info on is not only a general idea of what these changes will likely cost, and who i should think about having do the work, but if there are any snafus i need to avoid. such as since i will likely have the work done over time, are there any changes that should be done together or things not on the list that should be changed out when an item that IS on the list is swapped? Example: when i have the Beavertail safety and commander hammer installed should i also be plannning to have anything else that interacts with those parts replaced as well?

to sum it up i know next to nothing about how to go about such a project, and would really appreciate any advice those of you in the know might care to share.
I guess deep down what i'm trying to figure out now that i've thought about it some is whether it's better to go this route or to buy a slide and frame from caspian, and build from there (just the bare frame and slide from caspian is nearly $100 more before you figure in the needed parts and gunsmith fees to build the gun)

again as always any and all advice is welcome, thank you for your time.

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ugaarguy
August 26, 2007, 06:42 AM
Detritus, that's an idea I've often played with myself. The RIAs are good guns, and a co-worker has one that our shop gunsmith lightly customized. The eceonomy of an RIA 38 Super to 9mm conversion depends heavily on what else you want done beyond fitting the new barrel & bushing - i.e. beavertail grip safety, new sights, etc.

I'll try to check into the frame tang dimensions on the RIAs. If they use one of the same dimensions as Colt uses (Colt commander & Officer Frames have their own radius for the Colt beavertails, different ffrom their Gov't frames) you'd be able to install a Wilson semi drop-in beavertail grip safety yourself. This would save you the cost of getting the frame radius cut & refinished/touched up for the new grip safety. Installation of these is easy with a little patience, a basic needle file set, and some cold blue to touch up where you file the safety to fit.

When you start looking at the cost of good low profile carry sights like Novaks or others it gets expensive. Factor in the cost of the sight, labor cost of getting the slide milled to the sight cut, the actual sight fitting & installation, and again getting the slide touched up or refinished after the mill cuts - things get pricey. Someone else may know of a less expensive way to get improved sights on there.

Having a gunsmith fit the new barrel & bushing will probably be easier than new sights.

Mags and a recoil spring are cheap.

when i have the Beavertail safety and commander hammer installed should i also be plannning to have anything else that interacts with those parts replaced as well?
Personally I'd go ahead and get a C&S or Nowlin matched hammer, sear, and disconnect installed. You may as well get the whole fire control group upgraded since the gunsmith will have to fit the hammer/sear engagement surfaces anyway.

If your wife will be happy with just a barrel & bushing fitted so it will run 9mm until other upgrades can be done then there's nothing wrong with using the RIA as a base gun.

If the upgraded sights, plus beavertail grip safety (and the new commander hammer or bobbed factory hammer this requires) are a big issue then a Kimber or Springfield 9mm that's set up this way out of the box would be more economical. The base model blued 5" Kimber Custom II in 9mm and base model Springfield Loaded 9mm are rather economical when the cost of upgrading the RIA GI style to gun those pistols' standard features is factored in.

Weighing all this out in my search for the economical 9mm 1911 lead me to buy an Israeli built Hi-Power clone. If you're able, let her try a Hi-Power and see what she thinks.

Detritus
August 26, 2007, 02:08 PM
The base model blued 5" Kimber Custom II in 9mm and base model Springfield Loaded 9mm are rather economical when the cost of upgrading the RIA GI style to gun those pistols' standard features is factored in.


except that the lone 5" model kimber lists in 9mm, and both of the 9mm models SA has, are Stainless. which happens to be an instant no-go for this project. Stainless reminds her of cap guns and she won't budge on "her guns" having dark finishes (i don't make the rules, i just gotta work within em).
If Kimber or springfield currently offered a full sized 9mm that was blued, parkerized, etc, She'd already own one, instead of settling on an XD9 in the meantime.

I know that no matter how i go about this the actual cost will still likely go above $1,000. So MY logic is that if i'm going to spend that much anyway i may as well not only come out the other side with a gun as close to what she seems to want as i can, but also spead the cost out a little bit.

as for what i would have done when.
First off i'd probably buy all the aftermarket parts first and then as funds permited send it off to the smith for each increment of change.

I'd probably have the caliber conversion, and Slide work (sights, flare and lower port) done at the same time. these being in truth the modifications most important to my wife's enjoyment of the gun. heck with most if not all major brand factory .38super being loaded down to near .38auto levels, If she finds the recoil acceptable, the conversion may get delayed a little.

then a little while later i'd have the hammer and grip safety replaced.

one concern that come to mind as i type this is that I know that due to some of the chages planned at least parts of the gun are going to have to be refinished. but i don't know if, since the base gun is Parkerized, should i just break down and have the whole thing re-done?

SouthpawShootr
August 26, 2007, 02:33 PM
If you wait long enough, maybe Taurus will bring out a 9mm PT1911. I want a full size 1911 9mm for range/fun gun, but I don't want to sink $1000 into one right now. IF Taurus ever manages to get their 9mm PT1911 on the market, I'll buy one the second I find one.

I was poking around gunbroker last night and saw an STI Ranger in 9mm priced at $900 NIB. This seemed like an extraordinary buy to me and if I managed to catch one of these in person, I'd snap it up. But I wouldn't do this for Springfield or Para-Ord.

mballai
August 26, 2007, 04:39 PM
Project guns are always more expensive than they look. And how much is your time worth? While it's nice to be able to fully customize something, it's not always the best deal. I bought a Springfield in 9mm and am very happy with it. You could do the same and have someone refinish it if that's something of an issue. If you do that you can spend the difference on a trigger job and still be months and dollars ahead.

ugaarguy
August 26, 2007, 06:44 PM
except that the lone 5" model kimber lists in 9mm, and both of the 9mm models SA has, are Stainless. which happens to be an instant no-go for this project.
I got the 5" gun confused with the Pro Carry. The blued Pro Carrys are available in 45 or 9mm, and the SS Pro Carrys are 45 or 40.

Either way you can get a dark finish put on a stainless gun. It would still be cheaper than all the conversion work to the base RIA.

tbtrout
August 26, 2007, 11:37 PM
I am going to be building a couple more in a month or two. They are both going to be 9mm( 1 commander and the other full size) and I will be using the Essex Arms enhanced slides and frames. The frames are already .250 radius and high cut under the trigger guard. Both the frames and slides are cut a little large for the rails so they can be filed and fitted together. It is a lot of fun to do, but the tools to do it properly can be quite costly.

bannockburn
August 27, 2007, 08:43 PM
I built my own Super 38 a number of years ago, starting only with an Essex frame that I picked up a few years prior to that. I've had a number of Super 38/9 mm convertibles in the past and I thought this would make for a good project gun, with the costs spread out over time. I started with a complete frame parts kit, (minus the frame of course), from some surplus wholesaler in California. Ended up throwing about half of the parts out because they were junk; poorly finished, rough castings, improperly fitted, etc. Paid a little bit more but went with parts from quality manufacturers. Two things that helped immensely with the build; Hallock's book on the .45, which covered everything in great detail, and having another 1911 at hand that I could detail strip to see how everything was supposed to fit together. The most essential tools that I used were a great set of Swiss files that I bought at Sears. These were invaluable for all of the close-in, delicate work required for doing a quality build. If you're got the ability and dexterity to do this kind of work, I think it can be a very attainable and rewarding thing to do.

Detritus
August 27, 2007, 09:30 PM
If you're got the ability and dexterity to do this kind of work,

Once i actually considered getting a how-to guide or similar, starting with a stripped slide and frame, and doing everything except the barrel fitting and final finishing myself.
my fear though is that i may not HAVE the dexterity for the job. When i was younger (grade school) i was diagnosed as having poor fine motor skills. what this REALLY means is that when it comes to "fine work" I can choose to do it in a reasonable amount of time and the quality be poor, or i can choose to "do it right" and take at least 3-4x as long as someone with "normal" fine motor function/skill.

but then again, who knows i might find that the learned and now ingrained meticulousness about such tasks, would serve me well in building a 1911 or my own.

so just to add to my pool of options where would you guys suggest getting the parts, etc. ?

Rex B
August 28, 2007, 12:52 AM
I think your original plan was sound - buy the barrel and bushing and fit it yourself. All that other stuff is probably nice but non-essential. And you can do it yourself with a Wilson drop-in beavertail, and their economy sear and hammer set. Unless you are a total mechanical klutz, it's no harder than building a model was when you were a kid.

At the risk of committing heresy, have you considered a HiPower? I bought a Charles Daly HiPower a few weeks ago, and I like the way it handles and points better than my 1911s. It's not as top-heavy, and the sights on the CD version just work for me. Your wife might agree.
And it's already a 15 rnd 9mm

Detritus
August 28, 2007, 02:30 AM
have you considered a HiPower

actually yes, back when we first started looking at "guns for her" she took a look at one and for whatever reason, just wasn't interested. in fact the only two handgun designs she has ever shown any real interest or enthusiasm for have been 1911s and the XD (THAT one came out of nowhere she HATES glocks, but XDs she likes :scrutiny:)


to be quite honest this project may be dead in the water, i was just talking to her about the cost estimates so far to make this gun one way or the other. and after about 5-10 minutes of talking, including comparisons of ease and cost of getting on in 9mm Vs. .45 (she asked the question). she said "well if it's THAT much of a price jump, i'll just learn to use one in .45"
:rolleyes: :scrutiny:

I think my life just got a whole lot simpler (well not quite but that's another thread).... now to find a real world price on a good SA Loaded :D

Jim Watson
August 28, 2007, 09:48 AM
I'll just learn to use one in .45"

A Dillon Square Deal B will cost no more than all the stuff you were going to have to add on to a .38 Super to make it a 9mm with "features". And a .45 with handloads is very versatile; powderpuff loads easier to shoot than 9mm up to bear bumpers... or at least Bambi bashers.

Reloading is not as mechanically demanding as building or rebuilding a gun. I load almost all my ammo, but take gunsmithing projects to my gunsmith.


My favorite case study is our club Teenybopper, daughter of our club Pharmacist. She went with us to the IDPA Nationals at age 13. She shoots a Springfield .45 by choice, dropping down to 9mm only when Dad is too busy to load .45s for her. Pity she has too many school and extracurricular activities to shoot much these days.

railroader
August 28, 2007, 10:45 AM
I know it's not a 1911 but there also is the cz75b single action. They run a little over $400 online. I have a cz75b and the accuracy is right up there with my 2 kimbers. Mark

Detritus
August 28, 2007, 11:26 AM
I know it's not a 1911 but there also is the cz75b single action.

the reason this project was being contemplated was that SWMBO specificly wants/wanted a 9mm 1911. she already has another 9mm that she likes, an XD9 which is currently off getting a set of Sure Sights installed. nothing against any other gun designs (a CZ75B is on MY list for future purchase), they just aren't part of the equation this time around.

Jim, actually i already reload and at this point i can't imagine not reloading. thinking back on it i think the only centerfire round i ever had a gun for, that i did not reload was .45colt, mainly b/c I didn't keep the gun long enough to build a decent supply of brass.

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