Planning to Customize a 1911 - Would a S&W 1911 Be a Good Base Gun?


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D-Man
August 1, 2008, 01:26 PM
I'm thinking about customizing a 1911, and currently own a S&W 1911. Do you think this would serve as a good base gun to use? The type of work I'd want done are more basic things like night-sites, a magwell, reliability work, checkering, etc.

This is not work I would do myself - it would most likely be sent to Springfield Armory's Custom Shop. I have spoken to them and they have no problems working on the S&W's external extractor, but something just continues to sit in the back of my head that maybe this isn't the gun to customize. Do note that for the 1,200 rounds or so fired it's ran great for me.

My other option would be to go with a Springfield Mil-Spec, and have that built up and keep the S&W as is.

So, what would you do?

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Jim Watson
August 1, 2008, 01:44 PM
I see no reason not to let Springfield change sights, checker (the frontstrap, I presume) and install a mag well funnel on the SW.

When you start talking about "reliability work" by another company I get to wondering.
Is the SW UNreliable? If so, I'd let the S&W warranty clerk sort it out, they are good about fixing their nonstandard extractor and firing pin obstruction. If not, why mess with a good thing?

rcmodel
August 1, 2008, 01:47 PM
+1
You said:
Do note that for the 1,200 rounds or so fired it's ran great for me.

So, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Anything done may only make it less reliable!

rcmodel

Spartacus451
August 1, 2008, 01:53 PM
With a S&W 1911 you get a breech face that is not flat, mediocre at best beavertail fit, loose slide to frame fit, loose trigger, proprietary sight cut, proprietary extractor, and a proprietary Swartz style safety that has a well known history of failing.

For the money you can do much better. Unless you live an Mass. and are stuck with S&W I don't see a reason to settle for defective by design. Set yourself up for success and get something that can be turned into a custom 1911.

Steve C
August 1, 2008, 01:58 PM
I see little point in customizing a $900+ pistol that already has many "custom" features. The only thing that's worth doing is customizing light.... perhaps a trigger job, a finish change, a new set of sights or some grip stippling.

What kind of customization are you planning? Making a specialty gun for Bullseye, an engraved gun to look pretty, or some other function?

If you are going to spend a couple thousand to customize a pistol it would make more sense to start with a gun that could use it. For a working gun a $300 used Norinco is a good base. Any used 70 series or earlier Colt would be a good base gun too.

M203Sniper
August 1, 2008, 02:46 PM
Get a Colt or go to one of the many smaller mfg. out there that start with a bare frame.

BlindJustice
August 1, 2008, 03:46 PM
+1 for Jim Watson & RCmodel

The rest are entitled to thier opinion on the SW1911

CUrious

* have you looked at the S&W Perf. Center 1911
packages available?

* why the mag well? The SW1911s already have the
mag well opening relieved at an angle for ease of
mag insertion. I use WIlson Combat Mags with my SW1911
and inserting the mag/extraction isn't an issue. so?

* how about a trigger job replace the stock trigger with the
videcki that has an adjustable trigger stop and get the trigger job
for a clean crisp break, some gunsmiths also replace the MIM hammer
with an aftermarket forged hammer

ALso the front strap of a S&W already has vertical serrationws might
limit the type of checkering to be done if you must.

Is this for a carry, range or comp. gun?

Randall

9mmepiphany
August 1, 2008, 07:41 PM
it doesn't sound like he's looking at "customizing" the S&W as much as adding features he wants...unless i'm wrong. for the simple things he wants, the Springfield custom shop in pretty reasonable.

my S&W 1911 happens to be pretty tight and has nice trigger too. i like vertical serrations on the frontstap, but it can easily be checkered over...the serrations set the LPI

if it were mine, i'd have them check the extractor tension, clean up the trigger, add the mag well and replace the sights (assuming they are fixed) with real Novaks. at the next level, i'd have them fit the beavertail and replace the MIM parts. if the FP safety is working now, it is properly adjusted

Jim Watson
August 1, 2008, 10:19 PM
What do you do if you "check the extractor tension" on the SW and don't like it?
Last I heard, they would not sell spares.

Spartacus451
August 1, 2008, 11:23 PM
The tension is set by a spring and you can modify the existing one or make your own using a Wolff or Brownell's spring kit. You also can't dress the hook yourself. Taking material off is risky because there is barely enough material there to do the job in even the best case. The extractor .125 tall instead of .175 like a regular internal and it also centered at the firing pin instead of slightly below it. On some guns the extractor loses control after the barrel links down and you get cases messing with the mag and inconsistent ejection.

9MMEpiphany can you post a photo of the slide to frame fit on you Smith 1911?

mattk
August 1, 2008, 11:48 PM
While I like the SW 1911's, I don't think they are a good base for much custom work.
The .220 radius beavertail cut limits your options for adding a better fitting beavertail.
The Novak sights are cut specificaly for the SW 1911 and the dovetails are not the same as standard Novak cuts.
The one I had was very accurate and reliable but I sold it because I have other 1911s that I like better.

kcshooter
August 2, 2008, 01:11 AM
I see no reason not to let Springfield change sights, checker (the frontstrap, I presume) and install a mag well funnel on the SW.

When you start talking about "reliability work" by another company I get to wondering.
Is the SW UNreliable? If so, I'd let the S&W warranty clerk sort it out, they are good about fixing their nonstandard extractor and firing pin obstruction. If not, why mess with a good thing?Best answer was the first one. There's nothing wrong with S&W 1911's but as Jim said, if it isn't unreliable, I wouldn't have another company mess with it. It really depends on what you mean by reliability work. If it was unreliable, it should be made reliable under warranty by S&W.
Nothing wrong with sights and checkering and a magwell, if that's your thing. I still carry my S&W the way it was out of the box, with a bit of polishing on the inside and trigger work.

MT GUNNY
August 2, 2008, 03:39 AM
If it ain't broke don't fix it!!

loop
August 2, 2008, 07:44 AM
Get an RIA or a Charles Daly to fool around with. If your Smith shoots well then keep it as your main or backup gun.

For a mag well get a Smith & Alexander and a set of brass punches.

As for checkering the front strap, I don't bother. I have big hands and need an arched mainspring housing, fat grips and finger grooves just to make it fill my hands. If you have small hands you'll be able to get a grip on it without any changes.

Avoid the SA mil spec. It is not mil spec, it just looks that way. For the millionth time I will say the firing pin, firing pin hole, ejector and other parts are not mil spec.There are other parts that are not mil spec too, but at 2 a.m. I can't recall what they are.

I love 1911s. They are not really that complicated, but they are quirky. I finished one rebuild on Thursday and another on Friday. More important than anything else is that you start with a true mil spec frame and stay with mil spec parts for the major parts.

The best format to build upon that I've found is the Norinco. It is true mil spec all the way. Most parts need no adjustments at all to work properly. I just finished one and it took one stroke of a file to fit the beavertail and the thumb safety took three strokes.

That is how close the tolerances are. I can count the number of strokes with a file to make parts fit.

Send off your S&W and you are asking for problems. Send off an RI and you won't sweat it. You have your properly functioning gun in you possession.

Guess what I'm saying is don't fiddle with your primary weapon. If you want to fool around do it with a something you won't miss when it is unavailable.

I'll toss this out there, too. I really like building on a Norinco frame. No matter what I buy it either fits or is really close. They are forged so they are workable.

CD and RIA are cast so no metallic adjustment is available to the frame, save filing.

If it were me, I'd buy a cheap RIA or CD and use it as a learning experience. In the end you have a real nice gun and all your mistakes were relatively cheap. You've also kept your carry gun in carry condition.

You have to take my comments with a grain of salt because I have enough carry .45s to fill a large packing box. And, IMHO, if it ain't a bar-b-que gun, it ain't worth holstering. Guess that's what happens when you hit retirement age.

At least I get to shoot two rebuilds tomorrow. They'll probably just send me back to the bench though...

Eric F
August 2, 2008, 09:29 AM
The type of work I'd want done are more basic things like night-sites, a magwell, reliability work, checkering, etc

As stated if it feeds everything you are shooting(including hollow points)then no real point in reliability work. The mag well you can do your self if you get the mainspring house/magwell that is one unit. Sights.....well if you dont like what you have then thats always a good move

Checkering.........matter of personal prefrence here but why not?

All in all you can save some money not sure I would go through any one in particular but I would think if you really wanted to your gun would be fine to modify.

If you really wanted to learn to do stuff on your own then get an RIA and build that.

JDGray
August 2, 2008, 04:27 PM
My Smith SC commander is my tightest 1911. Great shooter:) Love racking the slide, its sooooo smooth:D

Mil spec would be my choice to build up:)

jedi
August 3, 2008, 05:41 AM
I have the stainless version with fixed sights. Mine has a very tight frame to slide fit, no movement at all up and down or side to side. The grip safety is perfectly fitted and the thumb safety is perfect positive on or off click.

I'm not sure where adw got his info but from what I've seen the Smith is just about the best fitted production 1911 out there. I haven't seen any documentation of the grip safety failing on the Smith, certainly not enough to be called well known. I also must point out that it works differently then the Kimber design so maybe there is some confusion there. The external extractor works perfect for me.

This certainly is not my first 1911, but it is my finest. Maybe I got a freakishly good one but my guess is most people are talking without much first hand knowledge of the gun. Put a thousand rounds through one and I doubt you'll have any more complaints then you would with Kimber or Springfield (I know I certainly don't)....unless you just don't like Smith no
matter what they do, or have some irrational fear of external extractors.

9mmepiphany
August 3, 2008, 01:35 PM
9MMEpiphany can you post a photo of the slide to frame fit on you Smith 1911?

not the greatest pic, but here it is. the top rear of the frame rails are beveled downward, there is actually hardly any play between the frame and slide. if i had work done to this, i'd have an ejector fitted and the rear of the slide serrated. it does look a little different without the extractor cut...might serrate better. this picture is shot at f/5.6

http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n79/9mmepiphany/DSC_0848.jpg

D-Man
August 3, 2008, 07:18 PM
I appreciate all the comments so far. As mentioned in the thread, the add-ons for the gun would pretty much be considered cosmetic in nature - sights, magwell, possible checkering of the front-strap (yes, there is some vertical lines already, but maybe something slightly more aggressive if it can be done). The only true mechanical work would be more of a tune-up / function check variety.

I think I am leaning towards getting a SA Mil-Spec, and putting the add-ons I want on that gun, and keeping the S&W I have stock.

kcshooter
August 3, 2008, 08:37 PM
I think I am leaning towards getting a SA Mil-Spec, and putting the add-ons I want on that gun, and keeping the S&W I have stock.I would consider this a wise move, and would be what I'd do personally. Be sure to find out the differences between a S.A GI and MilSpec. There are differences even though many sellers call one or both models "MilSpec GI". I would use the MilSpec as a base but either would be acceptable as a starting point.

9mmepiphany
August 3, 2008, 09:11 PM
for a SA as a base gun, i've had recommened to me that i get the one with the frame manufactured in Brazil.

less out of pocket expense for when you start throwing stuff away during the build-up

Storm
August 4, 2008, 10:08 AM
As to the Smith, let it be.

If you want to build one go with the mil-spec Springer and let them work on their own gun.

kcshooter
August 4, 2008, 11:51 PM
for a SA as a base gun, i've had recommened to me that i get the one with the frame manufactured in Brazil.

less out of pocket expense for when you start throwing stuff away during the build-upThat should be easy, as every single S.A. 1911 will have a Brazilian frame, just exactly like they always have.

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