Building a 1911 9mm from scratch: What am I looking at?


Deer Hunter
October 26, 2008, 11:27 PM
My girlfriend wants a gun. She wants to shoot IPSC, or at least get somewhat better at shooting. She also picked out a Dan Wesson 1911 that she really likes. She seems to like the look of a 1911. However, she's never shot a .45 but shoots my 9mm CZ with authority.

I'd love to build her a 1911 9mm. But I'm at a loss. I know I'd need a frame (FFL part), however I dont know if I need a special frame or just a special slide assembly.

I'd appreciate the help of a few 1911 junkies. They are not my area of expertise, but I'm a quick learner.

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Kind of Blued
October 27, 2008, 12:13 AM
Do you know how much it would end up costing or do you just want to enjoy the DIY process? Springfield makes an all-steel full-size 9mm 1911 that should go bang right out of the box. I think STI has a somewhat affordable one as well.

Deer Hunter
October 27, 2008, 12:32 AM
I'm a tinkerer. I tinker. I think it would be fun.

Also, I would be able to buy it piece by piece. Easier on the budget than buying an entire gun.

Kind of Blued
October 27, 2008, 12:36 AM
Sorry, I forgot who I was talking to. ;)

October 27, 2008, 12:45 AM
Have you ever built a 1911 before? Do you have all the tools it takes to put one together? Or do you plan on buying the major parts that were already fit by a professional or a custom shop?

Deer Hunter
October 27, 2008, 12:48 AM
I have never built a 1911 before. Nor have I ever owned one. I've got tools, perhaps not all I need but definantly a few. I planned on buying the frame then getting a list of parts needed. After that, I'd buy them as the budget permitted. Once I have them all I would put the entire gun together.

And from an initial look, it would be cheaper than buying a 700-800 dollar 1911 in the first place.

October 27, 2008, 01:07 AM
Well, I have put a 1911 together from parts before. It took a week, and I did it under the supervision and teaching of one of the country's finer gunsmiths.

You'll need tools that aren't your garden variety shop tools. If you've never put one together before, and you aren't going to do it under the guidance of someone who knows what he's doing, expect to ruin a few parts in the process, too.

Plan on spending at least $2,000 buying the parts and the tools necessary.

I admire your initiative. But putting a 1911 together properly consists of a lot more than dropping in parts, or even fitting them so they go in the right spots. Not even having owned one before, you don't even know what you don't know about how they are supposed to properly function. The project will wind up costing you far more than buying one already made, or even having one made for you.

My advice, for whatever its worth to you, is buy one. New or used doesn't really matter. If you can't find one, or find one for a good price, try looking for a 38 Super and have a 9mm barrel fit for it. If none of those options work out, have one made by someone or a shop who knows 1911's. Doing it yourself is the last thing I'd suggest you do, especially with your experience with 1911's.

Tom Fury
October 27, 2008, 03:51 AM
I think it will be a lot of fun.
Suggestions: Buy the Kuehnhausen manuals; if nothing else, they will give you a better idea of what you're in for. A Brownells' catalogue is indispensible too.
There are some operations I would avoid, or let others do;
Buy a fitted Slide/Frame set; Caspian I think; (Tho there are others) they are offering frames with integral plunger tubes; never had one, always thought it would be a good idea. Someone will have to polish the feed ramp.
There are some operations that I think there are people in the industry that do better than anyone else; Bar-sto barrels for instance, or Novak sights. I'd let them; they can do things to the slide without having the frame.
Many custom aftermarket drop in parts...aren't. They want tweaking.
Colt or commercial barrels usually drop into Caspian basics tho.
There are reputable "triggerjob in a bag" kits out there (Cylinder & Slide) this is a crucial operation for safety and reliable functioning. Fitting thumb safety and grip safety are actually part of trigger job.
When you think you're finished, not to insult you, but it probably wouldn't hurt to have it safety checked by a Smith.
I agree with the others somewhat, in that if you screw up some of the operations that are more critical than others, you are left with a very expensive paperweight. In todays market, almost even money to buy one and then have it customized.
But I'm a tinkerer too; I have had a lot of fun with DIY guns; priceless.
Let us know how it goes.
Cheers, TF

October 27, 2008, 04:21 AM
That reminds me of a story of a guy coming into the motorcycle shop with lot of money to spend, so to make his Honda FT500 faster. Well, it was easy, "BUY A FASTER MOTORCYCLE" Of course he didn't listen, and the little Cho Cho, that could, it didn't.:neener:

Carry on

October 27, 2008, 07:52 AM

October 27, 2008, 08:07 AM
Cylinder and Slide has what I understand is a good course:

For around 4,500.00 (not including lodging, transporatation and meals) you get about a 2,000.00 pistol. The next one is cheaper.

Jim Watson
October 27, 2008, 08:26 AM
Not to be discouraging, but it will take in the neighborhood of $1000 in parts to assemble a good quality 1911 pattern pistol. And there are some specialized tools that you will need.

On the other hand, a club member here recently bought an STI Trojan for about that and it is a very good shooter.

On the gripping hand, a 9mm will put her at a scoring disadvantage in IPSC. Maybe she could handle a .40 or .45 with proper technique. Maybe she would like IDPA where the light caliber would not be competing in the same division as Major calibers.

October 27, 2008, 10:31 AM

Good Luck. :)

Deer Hunter
October 27, 2008, 12:06 PM
Thank you for all the information, guys.

I understand it would probably cost more than really it would be worth. I just needed a little information. I've been looking at slides, frames, barrels, etc on various sites (STI, Caspian, etc). Honestly I probably would need to buy some tools to put them together as well.

I'll keep looking, but I probably wont go this route without getting my hands on a 1911 and learning a bit more.

Thanks for all the imput guys. As much as I love to tinker, I equally hate screwing guns up.

October 27, 2008, 01:11 PM
Through the magic of the Wayback Machine, we can see what C&S used to recommend as prerequisite purchases for the class.

This came in pretty handy back when...

October 27, 2008, 02:03 PM
Do you know which she points most naturally between the CZ and 1911? It's important if she's good with the CZ already.

If she just wants a 1911 she may find that the radically different grip angles of the two change her mind right away.

Deer Hunter
October 27, 2008, 02:22 PM
She likes the CZ, but I need to take her into a store and let her feel a few of the guns to see what she would like best. I think the grip may be a little wide on my CZ, so I need to let her hold a few other guns.

I wasn't thinking of going out and building her a 1911, but if I ever DID, I wanted a little info on the process.

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