Buying vs building 1911


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dashootist
June 28, 2011, 12:37 AM
I talked to a gunsmith briefly about his Caspian 1911. He built it with top quality parts. Of course, it shoots better than anything I've ever touched.

I'm mechanically inclined, and have always been interested in doing weekend gunsmithing. I'm thinking of building a 1911 like this gunsmith's. Is this a crazy idea? Alternatively, I can just go out and buy a Les Baer for $2000. I imagine both option would cost about the same. But wouldn't it be more fun to build it yourself?

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docnyt
June 28, 2011, 12:43 AM
Not only would it be fun but a good learning experience.

MICHAEL T
June 28, 2011, 12:44 AM
I would go with Les Baer then move up to a Wilson later. Les make some fine hand fitted pistols. Best of all he sends in a card board box. Not a silly take up space I don't want another one plastic case. That we all pay for .

Magnumite
June 28, 2011, 01:04 AM
Building your own and doing all the work you can yourself will cost you $$$$. I have collected parts for a couple years knowing I was eventually going to build a gun. I got good deals on good parts I wanted to use. But it still cost me $800 (up to last year) just for parts. I haven't applied the finish yet.

I'd say go with a built pistol, like Springfield Armory Milspec or GI. Decide on what configuration 1911 you want then acquire the proper parts to do it. Then do the mods one at a time. This way, you are starting with a working gun. If you make a modification and things don't work, you can look closely at what YOU did and find the problem. Starting with a box of parts and not being completely familiar with function and how to fit the parts can lead to malfunctions which may be caused from interrelated fitting issues you are not aware of.

Buy a good clean used SA MilSpec. You'll pay about $450 - $550 for a good one. A new Caspian frame and slide will cost you over $425. Plus you'll have the small parts to complete the build, and can sell many of the parts you will be taking off the working pistol. Then you've acquired some experience go for the ground up build.

Nothing like the satisfaction that YOU did all that work. Plus you can alter configurations as you learn what you like about the pistols. It would cost several thousand to have different configurations done by a gunsmith.

If you just want a custom level finished pistol, you are better off buying a Baer or whatever brand/configuration lights you fire.
Whichever path you choose, good luck.

Zerodefect
June 28, 2011, 01:34 AM
It's a whole lot easier to buy a Les Baer or Dan Wesson and fix the parts that need fixing. Learning as you go, and as you upgrade the gun to suit your needs.

Doing a whole 1911 before you've even hacked up any other 1911's is alot harder than it looks. It's not like assembling an AR15 or Glock. There are alot of very frustrating parts to fit.

Even a perfect 1911 still needs alot of work before I'll carry it:
-sight replacement
-sensitize the grip safety
-stone all the internal parts clean
-polish the barrel throat
-polish the magazine feed lips and install a Tripp kit

That's quite a bit of work allready, and that's the easy stuff.



Fusion makes kits that have all the hard parts prefitted. All you have to fit is the small stuff like:
-Thumb safety (hard)
-Slide lock lever (medium)
-mag release (easy)
- Grip safety (easy)
-sights (medium)
-main spring housing (easy)
-trigger parts (super easy if you have a EB sear jig)

So I'd get a fusion kit if you decide to go that route.

ranburr
June 28, 2011, 05:22 AM
I have done it both ways and it is much cheaper to just buy a semi-custom (Baer, Brown, etc).

jon_in_wv
June 28, 2011, 08:23 PM
Even a perfect 1911 still needs alot of work before I'll carry it:

Wouldn't it, by definition, NOT be perfect then?

451 Detonics
June 28, 2011, 08:35 PM
The first 1911 I built up is the gun I used to win Regionals in NRA Action Pistol with. Started with an unfit Caspian slide and frame and a copy of Hallock's 45 Auto Handbook. Only thing I didn't do myself was cut the frame for the ramped barrel. I did cut the slide for the cone comp by hand and really wished I has access to a lathe...lol.

If you are mechanically inclined and willing to invest in a couple specialized jigs and tools then it really is an easy build. The better the parts fir together the better the accuracy will be so plan on doing a lot of hand work and leave the Dremel unplugged. My 1911s will run with the best of them as far as accuracy. The may not be as pretty but I didn't want to pay anyone to make them pretty. Stainless slide and I had the frame done in NP3 by Robar.

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z271/reloader1959/handguns/super1-1.jpg

dashootist
June 29, 2011, 02:26 AM
What's the best place online to buy a LB 1911 Primier 2?

xr1200
June 29, 2011, 02:46 AM
This has been well discussed before, the bottom line is that unless your a student enrolled in a college gun smith course or if your are a qualified gun smith or at least a good machinist.

You would have to be an idiot to try it.
1. Most cases the guns assembled by amatuers, don't function well.
2. The guns are not accurate.
3. The gun have no real resale value. Note even worth what you could buy a cheap RIA 45
4. You need a lot expensive tools.
5. screw up the slide, barrel or frame and your out $150-$300

Granted there are some ppl that are really good mechanically and have lucked out building a good 45acp, but this is rare.

Best thing to do is buy the best 1911 you can afford, shoot it and enjoy, and don't waste time and money building one, it is always cheaper to buy a completed gun than it is to build one from scratch.

xr1200
June 29, 2011, 02:55 AM
Search gunbroker.com auction arms and gunsamerica online I picked up a baer premier 2 with the accuracy guarantee , used unfired for $1000 a couple of years ago. Expect to pay about $1250-$1400 for a good used one and $1600-$1800 for a new one.

Or just call around locally and find a good shop that will order you one for about a $25-$50 mark up

Magnumite
June 29, 2011, 03:55 AM
First time out, doing a full build with good results and no previous experience...that might be luck. But don't pass out improving or modifying working guns as total luck if one is not a smith or student in a gs program. We all learn somewhere, some time. And some of us can reason, assimilate and put into manipulative action from studying a mechanism and doing some background research.

451 Detonics
June 29, 2011, 07:22 AM
This has been well discussed before, the bottom line is that unless your a student enrolled in a college gun smith course or if your are a qualified gun smith or at least a good machinist.

You would have to be an idiot to try it.
1. Most cases the guns assembled by amatuers, don't function well.
2. The guns are not accurate.
3. The gun have no real resale value. Note even worth what you could buy a cheap RIA 45
4. You need a lot expensive tools.
5. screw up the slide, barrel or frame and your out $150-$300

Granted there are some ppl that are really good mechanically and have lucked out building a good 45acp, but this is rare.

Best thing to do is buy the best 1911 you can afford, shoot it and enjoy, and don't waste time and money building one, it is always cheaper to buy a completed gun than it is to build one from scratch.

This response really surprised me.

1. Most cases the guns assembled by amatuers, don't function well.

I have attended a number of 1911 build parties, I would say there is a 80% success rate in those guys putting together their first 1911. I can normally predict the ones who will have problems, they are the guys trying to force parts together. A small amount of patience and attention to detail goes far. And with the high quality of the pre-fit components available a great functioning gun is not that hard to build.

2. The guns are not accurate.

Again, the accuracy depends on the amount of time you are willing to invest in properly fitting the parts. Most guys (and gals) are capable of building a gun that is as accurate as most non-custom 1911s.

3. The gun have no real resale value. Note even worth what you could buy a cheap RIA 45

Who cares, I build a gun to suit me and it is something I have pride in...I don't build them for resale. But if you start with a quality slide and frame and use quality parts it will be worth more than a cheap import.

4. You need a lot expensive tools.

A few stones, a couple punches, and if you buy an over sized hammer, sear set a jig is nice to have. Add in some mild abrasives for fitting and you might have 30 bucks in build tools.

5. screw up the slide, barrel or frame and your out $150-$300

True enough, however if you keep your hands off the power tools chances are you won't. It is like the old carpenter's saying "measure twice and cut once". You remove material in very small increments and do a lot of trial fitting. Putting together a 1911 is not like building up an AR, it does take time and patience.

There is no reason a reasonably intelligent person cannot build a reliable and accurate 1911. There are several great books that will walk you through each step. And there is nothing better than out shooting your buddy and his high end gun with one you built yourself.

Zach S
June 29, 2011, 10:54 AM
I like Magnumite's idea, for the same reasons.

Although I wanted to, I didn't build a 347 stroker for my first car. Good thing too, because I had to go back into the motor I slowly built up and fix what I upgraded a few times. You have to crawl before you walk.

Magnumite
June 29, 2011, 11:50 AM
Most who build or modify the guns do so to obtain features they want. The greatest motivators seem to be economics, challenge to do so, they don't see configurations they like, or like me, they've been doing mechanical things since they were two years old and can handle the understanding and implementation.

I remember when Kimber first marketed their 1911 - the Classic. It put the 1911 industry on its ear. I fiend'd for one. But I wouldn't buy it because I knew I would just have to do something to it...and it didn't need it. I eventually did get a Kimber, beaute of a Series I Gold Match. It wasn't quite what I wanted so sold it and acquired a SA Trophy Match. That gun is ladden with features. Sold it because I had too many on that platform. Shoulda kept it.

Some go to gun shows and such looking for guns and ammo. I go to look for parts. I means whole guns are cool, we all know that, and good buy on an appealing arm does come about, but to score a good slide, couple of barrels, real GI parts...now that's cool.

Of the 1911's I own now, only three are shadows of their original form. I've built all the others and they run well, look good, accurate and they fit and suit me. You can definitely see a progression from the earliest build to the latest. Mostly in the aesthetics. Takes a while to understand ergonomics and appealing form.

Do I save money? Yes, but only if you look at final product. My guns built to the grade they are at will cost $1600 to $2000. Okay, I don't use the high tech finishes but the parts are good and fitting is sound. But the parts I acquire eventually are close to $1k in value. I have virtually all parts for the next build. If I marketed those as the new untouched parts they are, I am looking at about $1000 income. The complete pistol would eventually sell for more than that. Inflation, a good target and certificate from a gunsmith will help seal the deal. It will not bring Wilson Combat prices because I am a nobody in that arena. But its the same quality and I build them to keep.

Sometimes one may acquire enough Frankenparts to build a beater or shooter. Properly done (i won't build unsafe or substandard), , I shoot them awhile, acquire new learning, many times in just what formats work and are desired. I sell them and I make a few $$$ when I sell it within a know market level. These are usually to guys looking for beaters or shooters.

Sorry for rambling...but this subject can bring a high when you are into it.

Here is my latest build. Still need to do the permanent finish...it will be parked. That's a full group shot off hand at 25 yards with ball ammo. It will do it all day long. Well, on shot is covered up by the quarter...but I called that. Got excited.

squarles67
June 29, 2011, 12:52 PM
I've done it, I enjoyed it and I learned alot.

There are some specialized tools involved, I found most of mine used on Ebay. As has been mentioned stay away from the power tools and stick with stones and files.

Jerry Kuhnhausen's 1911 book Vol 1&2 was a "must" have for me and is a very good book whether you go through with the build or not.

I wouldn't start with high end parts. Get you an Armscor frame for $90 from Sarco and learn on the low end parts. You'll learn alot the first time through. Tune on it and tinker with it and if it's your "cup of tea" then move on up to the high end stuff.

Even if you get a pre-fit slide and frame it will not be just putting a bunch of other parts on, lots of hand fitting is required.

Ultravox
June 29, 2011, 03:37 PM
Here is a really nice writeup by someone who built their own. It's worth a read.

http://how-i-did-it.org/1911-project/

Tune_up
June 29, 2011, 04:46 PM
I did it, or to be honest, I did it from a Fusion kit (frame and slide fitted). Was it worth it? Depends on what you want, If you want to learn a lot, enjoy doing the work and take pride in building a 1911, sure. If you want a quality gun for the least amount of money, buy a custom or a good quality base gun and have a smith make the desired changes.
I started from the kit and added the parts of my choice. I Ruined one safety and had to replace and I didnít like the first set of sites so I replace those. Purchased about $50 worth of files/stones and other tools that I didnít have. My trigger job was as good as a couple of colts I have, but ended up having a trigger job done. I also sent it off for DLC coating, (shipping both ways). I love the finished gun, itís totally reliable, (2000+ rounds), as accurate as any gun I own except a Heinie Springfield, and I guess I have a special relationship with it since I built it, but for what I spent I could have purchased a very nice gun.
Would I do it again? WellÖ...... Iíve been considering it, go figure :confused:.

xr1200
June 29, 2011, 05:02 PM
You need more tools than a few punches and stones.

To properly fit the gun your going to need the special slide barrel lug and frame files, bushing should be lathes turned.

Slide to frame fitting tools, files and the bending or alignment jigs for a match fit.

Slide groove cutters may be needed and what about a trigger, hammer, sear fitting jig.

Plunger stacking tool and protector.

Now how are you going to do a novak or bomar sight cut if needed on a standard gi model, don't tell me the files.

You could probably cobble together a gi grade model with a lot of drop in or GI loose spec parts, but in most cases your not going to produce a match grade gun.

Also resale is not existant, try and sell a no name gun cobbled together and you would be lucky to get $300 for it.

Price putting together a good quality gun with either , brown , baer, wilson , STI, and even caspian. It would cost you almost $1000 or more for the parts alone and still you have to risk fitting everything.

Where ppl are making a lot of wrong assumptions about building firearms, is mainly due to all the AK47 kits and ar15 kits that are easy to build and in most cases will be acceptable in accuracy and function.

But when your dealing with the 1911 as a match grade gun, it must be fitted and assembled by a competent gun smith, who knows what they are doing.

xr1200
June 29, 2011, 06:20 PM
http://how-i-did-it.org/1911-project/lessonslearned.html
Also note in this documented 1911 build the author never posted any actual pics of targets at acceptable ranges, and there were even a lot of parts he scrapped and bought new ones. So if you decide to build one , then be ready for at least what this guy ran into and more.

jackpinesavages
June 29, 2011, 06:43 PM
Buy a Les Baer Thunder Ranch, and start stockpiling parts for your own build, in a conservative manner. See one of my other posts per 1911s and the LB TRSs.

Magnumite
June 30, 2011, 02:24 AM
Sounds like someone botched a build or two.

viking499
June 30, 2011, 08:50 AM
I built one over the winter. Remsport bobbed stainless frame and slide and Ed Brown and Fusion parts. Cost was OK. Experience gained from it was worth a lot to me. Still tinkering and polishing out a few "bugs", but would do it again if given the chance.

mgmorden
June 30, 2011, 09:15 AM
I'd go the buy route. 1911's aren't quite like AR15's or 10/22's where all the parts are drop ins and you just choose high quality and go from there. There's a lot of hand tuning and tweaking involved, and if you don't get it quite right then in the end you've got a $1000-2000 gun that constantly jams.

Chris Rhines
June 30, 2011, 09:49 AM
Nothing wrong with building a 1911, everyone should give it a try at least once.

Don't underestimate the difficulty and the expense, though. Building a 1911 is a long, involved, fiddily process. You absolutely will need some special tools - hammer/sear fixture, plunger tube staking punch and support, extractor gauge, vise, files, etc. You will also most likely ruin at least one expensive part.

If you're not already familiar with the 1911 platform, I would buy a quality pistol from Colt, Springfield, S&W, etc. Then look at building one, if you're still of a mind to. Having a working 1911 to refer back to could be handy.

-C

Magnumite
June 30, 2011, 10:19 AM
Viking, I hear the Remsports are good foundations to work from. At least one custom 1911 smith uses them in many of this builds. For the money, they looked liked a good buy. But, the frames are not approved for sale in Maryland....(barf)

velocette
June 30, 2011, 10:51 AM
My first and only 1911 build was made for competition. I built a ball gun for service pistol competition. I used a Caspian frame & slide. I told Caspian what the pistol was to be used for & asked them to fit the frame & slide. I then send the frame & slide to Bar-Sto & had Irv Stone fit his match barrel. Then back to my home where all the rest of it was fitted & assembled. An Austin Behlert hammer & sear, BoMar adjustable sights, some GI parts, aluminum trigger with overtravel set screw. I used the best parts available at that time. (1985)
That pistol shot groups from a Ransome Rest using match ammo of 1 5/8". It was then then and is now totally reliable. Since that time, it has been softened up for target wadcutter ammo, hardened up for carry / self defense ammo, shot in matches, shot for fun, shot in PPC, shot by my son, neighbors, friends. Still shoots under 2" with 200 swcs & 5 gr of Bullseye, still reliable.
Yes you can build a 1911 that will be reliable and accurate. Total cost was less than buying a pistol & paying a good smith to prepare it for match use. (not to mention waiting many months for the work to be done by the smith) Pick and choose your parts wisely. Have the pieces that MUST be fitted correctly done by those that know what they are doing, or do it yourself very carefully. And most of all, enjoy the process.

Roger

theQman23
October 14, 2011, 01:30 AM
I wanted to learn how to work on 1911's from a gunsmith perspective, not so much as carrying one, (that's what glock 27's are for I thought,) so I bought a rattle trap beat to snot springfield GI. Not a bad gun out of the box when new, but this used one, it didn't have a tight part in it.

Originally it shot a 10 inch group at 25 yards, and that was with both myself, and a pistol competitor at our club shooting it. Horrible, I know. So I welded up the barrel lugs, and the hood sides, and bushing, and then put then in the lathe and trimmed them appropriately. A longer link and some lockup work helped to get the barrel higher into the locking lugs in the slide as well. Then I welded four pads in the rails, extreme front, extreme rear, both sides. Then I milled them so that the slide is loose on its way back and when picking up the next round, but at the position of full forward lockup the rails get tight again. That took five hours right there, which includes the hand fitting with flitz polish and sand material. The rails look ugly when the gun is apart, but I don't care, you can't see them when it's running and they are perfect. Loose enough to feed reliably and tight as one piece of metal when you pull the trigger. After this work the gun shot 3 inch groups at 25 yards with the exact same ammo. So far at this point in the project, I spent 400$ on the ratty gun, and about $25 on a link kit. Everything else was done on the mill, or lathe, (or with a dremel, eeeekkkkkk) and I used up maybe $3 worth of wire and gas with the mig. Grand total, $428, to shoot 3 inches at 25 yards. I know with a ransom rest and a match grade tighter chamber barrel it'll shoot better still, but from a sand bag with a worn barrel I'm happy.

Then I ordered a larger beavertail, safety, slide stop, plunger tube, pin kit, etc. etc and after fitting those parts I decided to also bobtail the grip. I didn't buy a bobtail kit and guide, I re-pinned and shaped the orignal mainspring housing. This left a huge hole where the spring was, so I welded that up too. Another 3$ in wire and gas. Originally I wasn't going to carry the gun, but now that I've fallen in love with it, it's personal to me, so I bobtailed the corner off so it doesn't print as bad.

I built a standard looking gun that shot very well for less than $500 including the transfer fee. But that wasn't enough. I had to fit all the gizmos, and do all the "cool things" just to prove to myself I could. Trigger job, (bought the guide), checkering the front strap and top of mainspring housing, (bought the files) and after another $400 in parts and tools I have all the cool stuff installed. (Sans compensators and optics, this is a carry gun,) and after I spend another $200 it'll be refinished and it'll be gorgeous too.

Moral of story? You can build almost anything you want, or need, for less than a grand if you have a mill, lathe, welder, and/or access to them. If you don't have those things, go on ebay, spend $500 on old worn out used mills and lathes that people are hauling to the recycler, and learn to recondition them and use them. I did, it was fun, and well worth it.

Don't let ANYONE tell you that you can't do this. Now wear safety glasses and get to work!!!!! Enjoy.

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