Self fitting 1911 parts.


May 17, 2011, 08:00 PM
I recently bought a Wilson Combat beavertail grip, Commander hammer, and trigger to replace a normal safety and trigger and a spur hammer.

Are these parts able to be fit by myself with a caliper, hand files and patience? I'd like to consider myself mechanically inclined, or should i take this to a gunsmith?

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May 17, 2011, 08:34 PM
You should get this manual, considered the "bible" of 1911 gunsmithing for your reference.

Even with drop-in parts, there will be need for some file-fit and fine tuning, and if you are thinking about stoning the sear, you definitely want some guidance.

May 17, 2011, 08:54 PM
Totally doable by yourself- and online guides do exist. 1911Tuner has a number of posts stickied on this forum that will guide you on the process, as well as other 1911 oriented forums with similar stickied 'how to' posts.

May 17, 2011, 10:22 PM
If it's the 'drop in' beavertail this might help. If it's not, then... not. :)

May 18, 2011, 11:47 AM
You should add a new sear and thumb safety to the new parts list and be prepared for headaches or a trip to the smith.

Here's how my last trigger swap went: detail strip, stone the top of the trigger shoe to fit, reassemble, too long, strip, stone the stirrup, reassemble, Deja vu, file and stone, file the sear feet, reassemble, no grip safety, strip, file the tab on GS, reassemble, strip try try again, done.

You're talking about multiple interacting parts and a pistol that does not function properly unless fitted properly. Even with new parts if the geometry is not correct then your money has been wasted on a zero improvement upgrade.

Many of those stickies are to demonstrate what is involved so those not terribly familiar will choose the option best suited to them (the smith). My .02

Mad Magyar
May 18, 2011, 11:59 AM
If mfgr's are selling pistols that need a 500 rd break-in for their own parts to mate, imagine replacing other parts not original to the model! The easy "drop-in" is an advertising gimmick...

May 18, 2011, 02:03 PM
Do not touch the hammer with a file. Odds are, you won't need to stone it, either, but if you do, you'd better have a very, very fine and hard stone and you'd better not remove any metal or change any angles.

Almost 40 years ago, I wanted some custom work done on my 1911, but couldn't afford a custom 'smith. I got some books and learned to do it myself. Since then, I've built dozens of custom 1911s and only screwed up once when I thought I could cut a sight notch by hand. When I finished, it wasn't square with the slide. I had to buy another slide out of my pocket and re-do it the right way.

Go ahead and do it. It'll be a good experience.

ETA: Here's my latest effort. This was an Argentine 1927 that had a bad barrel when I bought it. I installed a bunch of Wilson parts and the BoMar rear and dovetail front.
I still need to lower and flare the ejection port and do a bunch of checkering, but it shoots pretty well now.

Two 5 shot groups at 25 yds yesterday. These were fired two-hand standing, so I'm sure the gun will do better.

May 18, 2011, 04:37 PM
You can certainly do the work yourself but, I would buy the fitting fixture Wilson sells. That way you don't have to worry about cutting away too much metal. That's what I did.
Try this link:

May 18, 2011, 05:04 PM
Japle, that's a beauty! :cool:

451 Detonics
May 18, 2011, 05:17 PM
Wilson does make a pre-fit beavertail safety for the DIY folks who don't want to cut the frame. Personally I own the jig and cut the frame myself but the drop in version works great too.

As far as stoning the trigger surfaces you will remove metal but the amount removed should be miniscule. More polishing to remove machine marks than anything. My stones for this are both old and hard enough they are translucent...I haven't seen stones that equal their quality in 30 years. Use the finest grade white stone you can find and proceed carefully so you do not change the angles any at all. The book shown above is ok but I think Hallock's 45 Auto Book is better and is the real "bible" for working on the 1911.

May 18, 2011, 08:04 PM
If you're going to do any cutting on any part of a 1911 buy the Kuhnhausen Shop Manual. It will pay for itself by keeping you out of trouble and you will have a much better understanding of how the 1911 works. I have an old copy of the Hallock's book and while it's an interesting read it really was more useful back in the days before aftermarket oversized parts were commonly available. The guys who accurized .45 autos back in the old days had much less to work with. Doing any stoning beyond very light smoothing of the hammer hooks and sear surfaces really requires a jig and the knowledge of how to use it. Even with the jigs you can still get into trouble on trigger work. If you don't want to dive very deeply into this stuff pay a good smith to do it.

May 19, 2011, 09:08 PM
Thanks for the replies, It has given me alot to consider. I am definitely picking up a copy of Kuhnhausen's book, a set of stones, and an extra fine set of files. It'll give me something to stay occupied while I'm on leave.

I intend to take measurements of all the surfaces and match the new parts to the old parts dimensions. I'm not really looking to make things fit tighter to increase accuracy (yet) but just to improve ergonomics. The pistol is far from a beauty, it's an Argentine with about 5% finish, so once I get it running, It's going to get a duracoat, or possibly a hard chrome, if I can find someone to go that route.

May 19, 2011, 09:10 PM
Whoops, Doubletap.

May 20, 2011, 10:29 AM

Thanks for your service, Semper Fi from an old retired swabie:)

May 20, 2011, 04:20 PM
what type of thumb safety do you currently have?

if it's not an extended model and your considering using a high, thumb on top of TS style grip (like 90% of the action pistol competitors use), then you should seriously consider doing the thumb safety in concert with these upgrades.

The reason why is because a fit beavertail (not a drop in) will be fit to the TS. Change the TS later on and the beavertail may not match up to it well.

I'm planning on doing all these same mods myself.... but I've been reading up on it for some time. The Gunsmithing forum over on is awesome and has lots of tips and advice threads from some of the master 1911 pistol smiths.

If you're happy with your current trigger pull and you have a quality sear on the pistol now, it may not be neccessary to change it. But realize that the interface between the sear and the hammer hooks is critical and they may need to be fitted.

Regarless what you do... make sure you know how to do a complete function check on your 1911.

Cylinder and Slide has a pretty good write up on it in their info. section.

May 20, 2011, 04:22 PM
It's been brought to my attention that since I'm replacing the grip safety, hammer and trigger, I'd do well to replace the sear too. Can anyone confirm/deny this?

May 20, 2011, 04:39 PM
Yes. Replace the sear too.
If the old sear angle or surface is buggered up, it will ruin the new hammer hooks in short order.
At least start out with matching sear & hammer angles until you figure it all out.

If your Argentine Modelo 1927 frame is fairly right, the drop-in trigger & sear kits from Wilson, Ed Brown, Chip McCormick, and others will often give a very nice trigger pull with little or no stone work.

I intend to take measurements of all the surfaces and match the new parts to the old parts dimensions.I would not do that.
Old GI parts, even old Argintene GI parts, are often worn or very sloppy to start with.

If you are going to the expense & trouble to put new match parts in it?
Fit them to the frame correctly as outlined in the Kuhnhausen book.


May 20, 2011, 05:23 PM
Sagely advise. I hadn't really thought of that, I was going the best i could with the adage "if it aint broke, dont fix it" While still giving life to an old pistol. I havent had hands on it yet as I still have a couple days left in Afghanistan, but as soon as I get out of this lovely little corner of the world, I'm going to need something to tinker with.

I know comparing assembly to fitting parts is comparing apples to oranges, but if I can put together an m4gery from a box of spare parts to zeroing in irons in an afternoon. I think I should be able to get a pistol running in a month.

May 20, 2011, 07:11 PM
Bought the rest of of the stuff I'll need,off brownells, sear, new springs and pins, book, and a stone and file set and got a decent discount for being military. Sometimes this gig does have a perk or two.

May 20, 2011, 07:13 PM
Sometimes this gig does have a perk or two.

As well it should!;)

May 20, 2011, 07:23 PM
Don't forget that online resources aren't the only ones available. I've no idea what else is in your area (back here) but lots of guys have figured out how to keep these things running and hunting one down to help you out might be worth the effort.

Sounds like you've got some other armory experience behind you but I'd hate to see you tear up new parts, especially knowing how you pay for them. That's some hard earned, thank you for your service.

May 23, 2011, 09:23 AM
if I can put together an m4gery from a box of spare parts to zeroing in irons in an afternoon. I think I should be able to get a pistol running in a month.

I know it seems that way... but the AR platform was designed from the ground up as a modular weapons system with late 1960s technology.

The 1911 design and system dates back to the turn of the century and has always involved individual parts being fitted.

None the less, if the pin holes in the frame are accurately positioned and drilled perpendicular, a modern EDM/CNC manufactured hammer and sear set, with pre polished surfaces may just be the ticket.

I'd suggest looking at Dave Berryhill's ignition set. Harrison Custom, Wilson Combat, Cylinder and Slide and Evolution Gun Works are also very highly praised. And whoever you buy from, call them up and discuss your project (a good reason to buy direct from the smith / mfg. and not a distributor, even if it costs you a few bucks more), as they may steer you in a different direction when they know what platform you're upgrading.

May 23, 2011, 09:43 AM
Be advised that any modificartion to the trigger and/or sear can result in a very dangerous weapon. ADs can result, so be very careful and seriously test the action with dummy rounds/snap caps before loading live ammunition. If you do not have the correct fixtures for both the hammer and sear this is a job best handled by a 1911 smith.

I just reworked a friends "Charles Daley" and it took a week of very careful work with all of the right tools and fixtures.

451 Detonics
May 23, 2011, 09:44 AM
If you do like shooting with a high thumb, mine stays on the thumb safety when shooting, the consider adding a guard like the one on my Action Pistol 1911. These are available from Pachmayr and others. (

May 23, 2011, 03:25 PM
Rest assured, Once I set everything down and if i think "I cant handle this" it'll all go to a smith, and I'll let him put it together. Should I tackle it, I'll give it a very though function check, with snap caps, and then Primered empty casings, to essentially try and make it fire.

It's a 5" government model, I dont see it becoming a carry gun, I have a stable of 9mm's and mouseguns for that.

451 Detonics, Nice race gun, Although that's not the direction I'm going in. The closest Competition around me is about a 2 hour drive from my house, and I've never competed before.

451 Detonics
May 23, 2011, 04:09 PM
The thumb guards work great on any 1911 if you shoot high thumb.

May 23, 2011, 07:38 PM
Typically, I dont like thumbrest grips, but my experience with them is limited to a PA-63 and a Makarov. I usually "trap" my right thumb with my left, pushing forward with my right hand, while pulling back with my left. Keeps a solid grip which keeps me from limp wristing.

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