Replacing a barrel in a 1911?


February 2, 2012, 11:15 AM
I have a SS Colt Series 80 1911. It was my dad's, and he didn't really keep up with cleaning it like he should have. As a result, it has (what appears to be) two rather large (approx. 1/16" to 1/8" each) blemishes in the barrel just on the rifling side of the chamber. They look like pits, essentially, but I can't determine their depth to any reasonable degree of certainty.

I've never had an issue with the gun in terms of real accuracy (although, I've never tried to ring every last 1/4" out of the gun either) or reliability.

My question is this - is this something (from a safety standpoint) that I need to look into replacing the barrel? And, if so, are there true "drop in" fit versions that would work well (I'd like to keep the parts as original as I can for sentimental reasons and all I see from Colt in terms of aftermarket barrels is "semi-drop-in" versions)?


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February 2, 2012, 11:25 AM
Have you examined fired cases? If you do have some pitting in the chamber you should be able to see the impression on a newly fired case. If your dad shot lead he may have a bit of lead in the forward edge of the chamber whch can be removed carefully with a plastic pick or by using a bronze brush.
Some manufacturers do offer drop in barrels but fitting is normally required. The Kunkhausen manual on 1911's describes how to fit the barrel. If you are mechanically challenge I would advise leaving the fitting to a gunsmith.

February 2, 2012, 11:30 AM
It is actually just forward of the chamber; just into the rifling area. I have tried scraping it with everything I have (including a pick and a brush) and with all sorts of solvents left to soak on it overnight, etc. I'm fairly sure they're holes in the metal (as opposed to raised areas).

The Lone Haranguer
February 2, 2012, 12:28 PM
I doubt if I would go to the expense of a new barrel plus the fitting charges for very minor pitting.

Ron James
February 2, 2012, 12:31 PM
If it shoots OK, if it were mine, I wouldn't fix something that isn't broken.

February 2, 2012, 06:45 PM
To answer the other part of your question. There really aren't any drop-in barrels for the 1911...if you are interested in accuracy as opposed to it just working. Unlike modern designs, the 1911 just wasn't designed to have parts replaced without fitting.

A replacement barrel may fit and it may not, that is why they refer to them as semi-drop-in

February 2, 2012, 11:25 PM
Hello TDooley57, .02 worth from an old 1911 guy. I have changed barrels in several 1911 type guns over the last 30 years or so. Some of even the drop-in or pre-fit barrels do require a little fitting; some of the "gunsmith fit" barrels require a lot of fitting. That being said, I have never come across a 1911 type Colt that would not accept a Colt factory replacement barrel for the same model, and function with the same reliability and accuracy as a factory installed barrel. Colt barrels, and Colt parts in general, are not closely or tightly fitted, but are of good quality and very consistent in their dimensions, and don't often require any "fitting". The exceptions would commonly be the thumb and grip safety. I have never personally seen any evidence that 1970 and later production Colt barrels are "fitted", even the ones with NM stamped on the chamber. This would include the several Gold Cups I've owned, my Colt Custom Shop Special Combat Govt. and a number of the same models I've examined over the years. I'm certainly not a master pistolmith, black ops combat ninja,etc, but at least this is my personal experience I'm relating, not something I read about on the internet. I'm not referring to the old National Match barrels that actually were intended for gunsmith fitting.

BTW, If I had a nice Colt with pitting in the chamber or bore, I would replace the barrel. I realize this is just me, and many would not as long as the bullet continued to come out the appropriate end of the tube. If you decide to replace the barrel, and use a new replacement barrel from Colt, I doubt you'd encounter any fitting issues... ymmv

February 3, 2012, 01:45 AM
If the gunshoots acceptably, it may be a nonissue. I just sold a slide/barrel set that would hold 3.5" at 25 yards and the barrel was 'frosted' (rough low level surface corrosion).

February 3, 2012, 05:41 AM
Most of the semi-drop in barrels I've encountered required a little adjustment in the hood area in order for the barrel to enter the slide and function. Not exactly brain surgery.

The main issue with drop-in replacement barrels is that you don't know where the lugs are in relation to the slide's lugs are, even assuming sufficient vertical engagement.

Very few drop-ins...and that includes factory installed barrels, which are essentially drop-ins...provide equalized lug involvement horizontally. If you're lucky, the first lug...the strongest, most supported...will be involved, with maybe one of the others. If you're very lucky, the other will be the second lug. If you're not...maybe it's one of the others that bears the brunt of the recoil forces. Becuse the barrel tilts up at the rear, each lug forward has a little less vertical engagement. The third lug is the weakest.

In the original pistols that used soft barrels and slides, that wasn't a major issue. The lugs in both would deform with use until the others came into play. Today, it's a little different. Harder steels make it more likely that the barrel lugs will crack or shear completely off if the dead space between the barrel lug and its corresponding slide lug is greater than about .001 inch. While it's possible for modern barrel and slide lugs to seat and equalize, the preliminary fitting is more critical than with the old ones.

If you get lucky, a drop-in or semi-drop in will live long and prosper. If you're'll give notice within about 5,000 rounds. Keep a close eye on the two unsupported lugs.

On the OP's question...It probably doesn't warrant replacement. If the gun is functional and the accuracy is suitable...shoot it and don't worry about it.

February 3, 2012, 12:12 PM
Before you get too carried away, clean the crap out of it with this.

Most like a build-up of jacket fouling.
JB will remove all traces of it.


February 13, 2012, 12:13 PM
Upon further inspection, it looks like someone (my dad bought this gun used a while back I've discovered) stuck something into the barrel that shouldn't have been there. Maybe a cleaning rod or something.

Either way, it's actually gouged the barrel just into the rifling. It's pushed a little material from a land into a groove and appears to have "skipped" (for lack of a better term) such that it basically has a rippled scratch that runs the opposite direction of the rifling in two spots with a piece of the gouged material stuck to the barrel.

Really, this makes no sense why the material would have stayed in the barrel, but it's there and it's stuck there as best I can tell. The spot that stayed in the barrel is about 1/8" across (maybe a little less) and the rippled gouges are about 1/8" long.

The Lone Haranguer
February 13, 2012, 12:35 PM
This is at the breech end, correct? (The muzzle is a different matter.) This is a close-quarter combat weapon, not a benchrest rifle. I don't think there is enough damage, from your description, to warrant the expense of a new barrel.

February 13, 2012, 02:12 PM
Correct. Near the breach end. Roughly 1/4" to 1/2" from the chamber (moving towards the muzzle).

February 14, 2012, 06:11 PM
"Before you get too carried away, clean the crap out of it with this.

Most like a build-up of jacket fouling.
JB will remove all traces of it.

rc "

I bought a shotgun barrel which looked like it had a corroded barrel. Got $$$ off for that reasong. Took it home, cleaned it, and it appeared less rough, shot okay, so I didn't think much of it. The next time I cleaned it the rough area was gone! After sitting in the safe for a couple months, I rechecked the bore. The rough area was back and cleaning it smoothed it out and revealed no rust on the patch. Seems like an extreme build up of powder and shot cup fowling. This has happened twice. I let it soak with a heavy coat of BreakFree in it, that seems to have loosened up the rest of it. Got lucky on that one..

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