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1911 Viewpoint

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by 1911Tuner, May 28, 2003.

  1. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts
    Here's a new old view of the M-1911 pistol. have patience...I post this on every forum that I am involved with, mainly to get the "Custom" questions addressed.

    I don't build high-end custom guns. I feel that it's best left to the artists, and because it's just not the way that I look at a 1911 pistol. It's been rumored that I don't do it because I can't do it well. Of course I can. I'm a toolmaker. I've worked with tolerances of less than .00005 inch, and made tooling worth 3,000 dollars that you can literally carry around in a shirt pocket. The tolerances in even a perfectly-fitted 1911 are a football field by comparison.

    I don't do it because I don't look at the gun as a toy, even though there are lines of custom-built guns that are aimed at the serious pistolero. The 1911 was never intended to be a target arm, nor a pistol to use for playing IDPA, IPSC, or other games of "Let's Pretend." It was...and is, a pure killing machine with nothing incidental or that doesn't lend itself to that task. Even the lanyard ring is multi-purposed. Much too sturdy to be used simply for tying the pistol to the cavalryman, it's also a skull pommel, and it makes for a nifty bottle opener too.

    It was never intended to have a crisp, light trigger, nor 50-yard accuracy. It didn't need these things. It was designed for close-quarters fighting, and as something that was handed to troops whose MOS didn't call for the issuance of a rifle. Officers, mortar crews, tank crews, and bomber and fighter pilots are examples. Lastly, it was an emergency, last-ditch-effort tool to use to extract a man from the swamp if he suddenly found himself up to his...er...hip pockets in alligators.

    I don't consider the issue of the slide locking open on the last round to have much impact on the real-world use of the pistol. That is nothing more than a stoppage, even though it's an engineered stoppage. It's much like surgery... which is essentially engineered, controlled trauma. If you are reduced to having nothing but a pistol to fight for your life with, you're in a pretty bad fix , and a stoppage of any type is not the desideratum. Take advantage of the fact that it can be reloaded with the slide in battery on a hot chamber. The fraction of a second that it takes you to react to a surprise slidelock could
    very well determine the outcome of the confrontation...and then there's the fumble-factor involved in hitting that little release pad while your antagonist is lining up his sights on your chest.

    In this light, I don't entertain misplaced notions of bullseye accuracy...points of impact that are an inch or so off center at 25 yards, and triggers that break like a glass rod with half of the original pull weight. I don't do triggers that fall under 4 and a half pounds, and I'm happier with 5. Even 6 doesn't bother me
    as long as it breaks fairly cleanly without grittiness. A little creep isn't an issue for me. There is a very good reason for that 6-pound-on-average pull and the small amount of take-up and creep in the trigger typically found in GI-spec guns.

    The pistol isn't a toy, and it's not your friend. It's as dangerous as a rattlesnake and should be viewed as hostile at all times. Once, when a wheelgun shooter saw me do an overhand live-round ejection, he commented that it didn't look very safe.
    My answer: "Safe? It's NOT safe. It's a gun." Please bear that simple statement in mind.

  2. George Hill

    George Hill Mentor

    Dec 22, 2002
    Uintah Basin, UT
    "I post this on every forum that I am involved with, mainly to get the "Custom" questions addressed."

    Well... we feel special now.
  3. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts

    Well...I guess I need to justify it...I didn't throw it out there to
    provoke anyone or to give the impression that I have any
    inside information on anything. Only because I find that I
    get requests for custom building techniques or instructions
    on How to Lighten my Trigger in 3 easy steps, and that
    a blanket statement is faster than explaining it to each individual
    who asks...Plus it defines my personal stance on modifications
    and unnecessary affectations that get hung on the gun in
    hopes of making it better somehow.

    Didn't mean to push anyone's buttons here.

  4. Hawkman

    Hawkman Member

    Jan 2, 2003

    Nice, concise statement on the realities of the 1911. If you take it for what it was designed for it is one heckuva weapon.
  5. RON in PA

    RON in PA Senior Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    S.E. PA, USA
    Seems to me that the type of 1911 that you advocate is the same as an out-of-the box, over-the-counter "new rollmarked" Colt Government Model. And there are probably Springfield and Kimber equivilents. Same as JMB designed the gun for the US Cavalry.
  6. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts

    Thanks Hawkman. Just tryin' to get back to the basics.

    Ron...not exactly. Out of box Colts or Springfields or Kimbers,
    etc. aren't really true-blue clones of the original. My main point
    was that the pistol has been around for so long that many
    have lost sight of what it's original intent was, and
    the trend for the last 25-odd years has been to try to make something out it besides what it is. Nothing
    against the custom guns. I've seen some beautiful work,
    and marvel at the skill and patience that went into them.
    I've even built a couple. The owners have them in the vault
    beside the Rolex Watches and the silver bullion while they
    wind up carrying the old GI pistols or the beaters. Just too
    pretty to carry or shoot...

  7. BigG

    BigG Mentor

    Dec 24, 2002
    Thanks for the intro, 1911Tuner! :D

    I like standard Colt Gold Cups and Government Models and learned to operate them as recieved. My first was a GI Rem Rand 1911A1 that I sold in a foolish moment. It took a few years to sink in but I bought my first commercial Colt, then another, etc. Never been without one since that first lapse of sanity. :eek:
  8. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts
    Old Colts

    Howdy Big G...I've got a Rand and a Union Switch that I'll
    likely be buried with. The Rand is original, correct, and
    does regular range duty. It's like that Energizer Rabbit.

    On that Gold Cup...I HATE that little pre-load spring. If you've
    ever had it down to the frame, you know what I mean.:cuss: :banghead:

    When I heard that Colt had started using a lighter trigger and
    did away with the spring and clip, I was turnin' cartwheels...
    figuratively speakin' of course. One real one would land me
    in bed for 3 days.:(

    Thanks for the postive response. Didn't mean for anybody to
    take it the wrong way.

  9. NapAttack

    NapAttack New Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    1911tuner, Not flaming you or anything but your post sounds pretty elitist to me. You have every right to your opinion, you are a business man and what work you choose to accept or not is up to you. I am not questioning your skills or your abilities either.

    A long time ago an economics professor explained the market place requirements for machinery to me. I had made the stupid statement "planned obsolescence" in his hearing.

    Engineers are not simply given a free hand to design a machine best suited to a particular task, they have a host of costraints, not the least of which is that the machine must be marketable.

    John Browning designed the 1911 to meet the criteria of a government contract so that he could sell it to the military. He added the grip safety at the request of the military. Did the grip safety serve a purpose in better suiting the task you state, that of killing? I would say no. It is however a testament to Browning's genius that the 1911 can be modified, rather easily, to do many other things quite well, better than almost any other pistol. Else, it would not be the pistol of choice for so many different types of competition.

    This would indicate to me that you consider any modification beyond the basic design of the pistol to transform it from a killing machine to a toy. So my adding a beavertail, thin grips, disabling the grip safety and fitting a flat mainspring housing transforms it from a killing machine to a toy. I do these modifications so that it better fits my hands.

    You continue on poo-pooing various other modifications. It seems to me the ideal "killing machine" is one that can be shot quickly, accurately and has sufficient power. Oops, the motto of IPSC.
  10. dsk

    dsk Active Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    If there is one current fad with 1911s that I think is a bad idea, it's this fetish for tight slides and frames and super-tight barrel lockup. I know many people sneer at Colts because the slides aren't always as tight as a Kimber or Springfield. Listen guys, the 1911 was originally designed with certain clearances for a reason. A tight 1911 might still be reliable for you, but since it equates to a non-existent gain in practical accuracy at combat ranges what's the point? Buy a nice, tight 1911 for your collection or for gaming if you like, but leave your defense gun a little loose.
  11. dsk

    dsk Active Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    Not by design. The lanyard loop on GI guns is made of fairly soft steel and bends easily. However, the Argentinians must agree with you as most of the Hartford Colts and Sistemas coming into this country all seem to have bent-over lanyard loops. :rolleyes:
  12. 444

    444 Mentor

    Dec 26, 2002
    That is one man's opinion. Thank you for sharing it. I would like to compliment you on actually explaining your reasoning.

    I personally don't agree with it.

    The first guys that put together what is now called a computer never envisioned the majority of people having one in their home. They never designed the computer to be a toy. They never designed it to provide mass communication to the common man. Doing things like watching DVDs or viewing personal photos, or playing games, or having conversations about firearms was the furthest thing from their mind at the time. But guess what ? The basic design has evolved into what it is today, and I for one would not like to go back to the days that it was a dedicated business tool.
  13. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    Dec 21, 2002

    I have to wonder how much of that legendary "looseness" is because most folks have never seen a military 1911 in brand-new condition? I reckon you'd be the person to ask; were they, say, commercial-Colt-tight when new?

    I do think that having a slide squeezed to get that "tight" feeling is silly and asking for trouble, but Les Baers (f'rinstance) are made to quite tight tolerances and aren't considered unreliable at all.
  14. Cal4D4

    Cal4D4 Active Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Half a tenth tolerance (+/- ?) is fine work indeed. Even consistent measurement requires controlled temp room. Maybe less so with ceramics. Liked other posting about springing. What do you look for before cutting coils? Is it a length thing or a measurement under load?
  15. Wildalaska

    Wildalaska member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Give em the mud test then.....bet they wont pass...

    I sort of dont like really tight pistols. Give me that shaky feeling, sort of like dropping a PSP in the mud and prayin it cocks.

  16. Croyance

    Croyance Participating Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    I understand an aversion to race guns, but not usable modifications.
    Not to flame, but what do you do to guns? You listed what you wouldn't do.
    The original 1911 did not have sights you could quickly use. Modern doctrine uses sights in close combat, sights that are quickly and easily aquired seem best. As you say, the original purpose of the 1911 was close quarters combat.
    Some people get gashed by the slide or hammer. A beavertail safety keeps that from happening. It seems like cutting the webbing of your hand would be distracting, possibly fatally so in combat.
    I like a usable safety. I really don't want to miss that switch when I need it.
    Thin and smooth grips help me carry concealed. Not really part of its original design, but the design seems to lend itself to carry.
    Why wouldn't I want an accurate gun? It can be done to a reasonable degree and still be reliable.
    The 1911 was not designed for hollow points, and from what I have read, early 1911's needed modification to properly and reliably feed hollow points. For self defense (since I am not in the military) I would definitely prefer hollowpoints.
    Just because it was not designed for certain things, why is it bad to modify it?
    Gunpowder was invented as a means to immortality. Those fireworks sure look pretty, and we all seem to like our guns. At best, it extends our life to its natural end, yet you don't object to the modification in purpose.
    People are bipeds, but our anatomy is not well designed for it. Our structures came from quadrapeds, and it shows. You go back first.
    Horses originally lived in trees. They look silly and awkward there now, but look magnificent running across a field.
    Guns can be toys. Dangerous toys. Just because somebody thinks something is a game or toy doesn't mean they take it frivolously. I have seen people who are more disciplined and conscientious with their games than with the rest of their lives.
  17. Rob96

    Rob96 Participating Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    Allentown, PA
    I can see what Tuner is saying. But I also see nothing wrong with the high dollar custom pistols. I was in the market for a 1911 type and put a new Colt 1991A1 on layaway. I know it is not the "original", or a Wilson, Baer or such. If I wanted one of them I would have just saved a little longer. As far as "squeezing" a slide to make a tighter fit, I don't really like that idea. From what I have read, when you do that, the slide is no longer parallel. I plan on keeping my new Colt as simple as possible. If I don't get hammer bite, I won't be changing the hammer or the grip safety. The only thing that may get changed are the sites.
  18. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts

    Lemme try to get all this covered in one response...:uhoh:

    I'm not in business, and I'm surely not an elitist. I'm a
    realist. The 1911 has been around for so long, that many don't
    consider what, and for whom, it was designed. "Engineered
    Obsolescence"? I don't think so...That's something that has
    come as a result of the dawning of the age of the fee-grabber.
    The old craftsmen didn't put their John Henry on anything
    that wasn't their best effort...Honor and posterity was
    no doubt the key. Look closely at a Westly Richards
    Best Grade double rifle, and you'll see what I mean.
    Moreover, if the 1911 had any built in obsolesence, it
    would have fallen by the wayside long ago. The 1916
    Steyr and M-96 mauser are just two examples. The
    M-98 mauser is an example of,"Ya can't beat this, bubba."

    Yep...half a tenth is close work. So close that a fingerprint
    will change the finished dimension, and brought into spec
    on a grinder...The rule of thumb on such an operation was:
    "If you see the wheel strike a spark, you've probably killed the

    Moving on...dsk said a mouthful, and I've had the opportunity to
    closely examine a commercial model 1911 that was built in 1921,
    whose owner had died, and whose widow simply wrapped the gun up and put it away. It stayed in her attic for 62 years, in
    condition one, and worked perfectly when i got my coveting
    little mitts on it...and it had a little "rattle" in it.

    The lanyard ring may have been soft, like the rest of the
    pistol was, except in key areas, (Note the discoloration
    on places on GI slides) where it was hardened and drawn...
    bu the skull pommel part was used fairly often in the trenches
    of WW1...at least according to my grandfather. The feature
    had been pointed out to the conscripts who found themselves
    caught up in the maelstrom. That may not have been its intent,
    but if you think about it, it IS a bit sturdy for use simply as
    a lanyard ring...

    Finally, I never said that there's anything wrong with a high-grade
    custom gun. I marvel at the finished product, and at the skill
    and patience that went into the effort, but at that point, the gun
    takes on a different persona...meant to be admired rather than
    actually pressed into hard service. Would YOU pay 3500 dollars
    for a pistol and carry it every day? Shoot it 25,000 times a year?
    A millionaire might...A local neurosurgeon that I know has
    several such pistols...and carries none of them. His carry gun
    is a 1991 A1 Commander with upgraded internals, and a
    relatively stock trigger...and quite a bit of rattle. He's rich,
    but he's also a realist.

    Me...an elitist?:D I'm much closer to "Bubba the Redneck"
    by most standards.

    Hope this clears up a few points,
  19. sm

    sm member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Between black coffee, and shiftn' gears
    I've just always heard the emphasis stressed between "fitted right vs fitted tight "

    dsk, I too am curious.
  20. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts
    Oops! Forgot Croyance

    Sorry, I didn't mean to ignore your questions. Too early,
    not enough coffee...yet.

    What do I do to a 1911? My reliability tune-up:

    I upgrade any MIM or investment cast small parts that I find,
    including the sear on Colts, but notably the extractor on all of the
    rank and file ordnance-spec guns...which most of them are.
    The grip safety is the exception, as they are generally up to
    the task.

    I get both hammer hooks bearing evenly on the sear, and cut the hooks to a length of .025, unless they are shorter, and then
    I leave them alone. I refuse to cut hammer hooks shorter than
    .022 inch ...If they are less to begin with, I re-cut them on a mill.

    I check for proper barrel throat gap at the top of the feed ramp, and adjust as needed, and polish the throat and ramp lightly
    with a piece of 600-grit wet or dry paper. Dremels are
    used very carefully and sparingly. I also check headspace
    with a gauge.

    I install new springs throughout the gun...Factory springs
    are supplied by the lowest bidder. I check for proper link length.
    You'd be surprised at the number of guns that come in wrong here. If the link pin comes out too easily for my tastes, I
    press in a larger pin. .156 usually does it. Again, you'd
    be surprised how many come in wrong.

    I tune the recoil spring rate to the gun...They vary as to what they
    run best with. This is observed by test-firing and examining the
    brass for dings and burrs on the edges of the rim. If the burrs
    are there, the gun is oversprung...but first I tweak the magazines
    and springs for a .535 inch dimension across the top of the
    magazine, just under the lips. The springs are treated to an "extra power" tweak. It's easy to do, but takes a while to describe, so that can be done on another thread if there's
    a desire.

    I perform a gravity test on the gun. With the recoil system removed, and the mainspring housing removed to nullify the
    influenceof the disconnect. If I can tilt the gun to 45 degtrees and
    have the slide come out of battery, and return when reverse-tilted, the gun is good...If not, I make it so with a slurry made
    from CLP or other good grade oil and J&B bore cleaner coated
    on the rails, upper and lower lugs, link and slidestop crosspin,
    barrel chamber area, and bushing. Two hundred hand-cycles
    generally does it on most guns unless they are far too tight to
    begin with. Hint: If the slide won't rattle, the gun will fail
    the gravity test about 90% of the time.

    The sights on most modern production 1911's are big enough,
    and if you try it for a while, you wll discover that you can do
    quite well with a front sight only, unless you intend to try for a
    ragged, one hole group at an unrealistic distance. None of
    my practice guns have rear sights, as I find that they slow me down on a timed, reaction drill.

    That's about the best that I can explain it in a limited space.
    The devil's in the details, and most are a "feel" or "experienced eye" issue...not generally vital, but I tend to be anal over any
    reliability issue on a carry gun.

    Hope this clears up the questions a little better,
    Take care, and shoot straight!

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