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Are the 1911 aftermarket parts really worth it?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by blo0dyhatchet, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. blo0dyhatchet

    blo0dyhatchet Well-Known Member

    I recently bought a 1911 and was looking around at the aftermarket triggers and hammers. I like the looks of the McCormick hammer and triggers, and I want to get a set, but I have noticed a lot of other parts and wonder what parts are actually worth while and make a difference of some sort. I have came across a lot of hammer/sear combo's etc. and wonder what your guys opinions are on the parts available and whats worth while. Any input would be appreciated.
  2. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

    That depends on your individual 1911. If you have an off-brand 1911 where the quality of the original parts is questionable, then yes. Anything else is just looks and feel.

    The only thing that will sometimes benefit a 1911 is an aftermarket barrel. Some 1911's don't have much of a feed ramp on the barrel, and have problems with certain types of ammo. Replacing the barrel gets you a new feed ramp. Additionally, some barrels may simply be a bit better than the original.
  3. Sunray

    Sunray Well-Known Member

    The only parts I changed on my Series 70 Colt were the sights and grips. It's 100% reliable with my 230 grain cast RN or FP handloads. No SWC's, ever. Everything else is marketing.
    "...I want..." That's reason enough though.
  4. Oro

    Oro Well-Known Member

    Whew, this could be lengthy! But basically, I don't think mods are really necessary much at all. But analyzing each is helpful. I have built or had built for me about six 1911s over the last 20 years, and tried a various combinations of the common mods. I also have some stock guns unmodified. There are others here with much more trigger time than I, and with more guns, and mods, but I have some experience. These answers are going to vary based on whether you are building a production class competition gun, high-end cc gun, or just a want a plinker/nightstand gun.

    My thoughts for what they are worth, mostly assuming a non-competition, non daily cc gun are below. When I say "stock" or standard I am referring to what you would find on a typical post-war Colt commercial or Series 70 style 1911.

    Trigger: Assuming your gun is reliable and "combat accurate" to begin with, the only mod I've universally found to consistently improve things is a well-polished and installed long trigger, coupled with a flat mainspring housing. This gets you a proper grip and the gun to point more naturally (as it was originally designed before the Army mods in 1923).

    Sights: If the gun is for regular target range work, adjustable Bo-Mar style sights make it easier to shoot accurately, but this does not of course make the gun inherently more accurate, or better in a typical SD scenario. Even low GI sights work acceptably well with practice. If going to the expense and time of making new sight cuts (like for a low-mount Novack style), installing non-adjustable sights seems like a waste - they can't be regulated for different loads or distances. Others like them, but I find the lack of versatility for the expense disappointing.

    I do not find original style spur hammers and grip safety shape to be a hindrance. For LOTS of rounds, an upswept beavertail with a rounded hammer and is more comfortable over time.

    Grip Safety: Regular style works fine. For lots of extended shooting, a an upswept type, with a cut-out for the hammer to rest in, is nice. Best to get one with a "speed bump" - otherwise the safety may not deactivate with a high-hand hold.

    Slide stops and thumb safeties: Stock type works well. Extended, stipled, tactical, ambidextrous, etc. don't offer that much added benefit. An "extended tactical" (narrow and extends forward along the plunger tube a little bit) seems to be my pick of the aftermarket types.

    Stipling, checkering, etc.: Nice but not necessary.

    Guide Rods: Add a little smoother, more linear recoil, but no demonstrable improvement in function or reliability.

    Shock buffs: Messes with the spring rate, negatively affect reliability. Avoid.

    Grips: Smooth or checkered, wood or synthetic, you can learn to like and work with any. I have all types on various guns and it does not make a great difference.

    Magazines: Now this does matter. Make sure they reliably work with the rounds you will shoot. I find ones with flat polymer followers to work the most reliably with the greatest range of ammunition.

    With all the modded guns, my current favorite is a 70's era Colt Gov't Model, with the only mods being 1) long trigger, 2) flat MSH, 3) group gripper guide rod, 4) Smooth colt medallion faux ivory grips. It is utterly reliable, classic looking, and as much fun to shoot as Custom builds worth three times the price and with all the bells and whistles.

    Hope this helps, or serves as a starting point for others to agree/disagree/branch out.
  5. blo0dyhatchet

    blo0dyhatchet Well-Known Member

    Actually that was exactly what I was looking for Oro. Thanks all for the guidance.
  6. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

    One thing it's important to note is that 1911's, particularly older ones, can be finicky beasts and won't like some kinds of ammo. You have to figure out what your gun likes and doesn't like. Some of the newer ones are more tolerant because they've improved the feed ramps, but there's always going to be ammo it just won't shoot. Figure out what works well in your gun and stick with it. Feed her well and she'll treat you well.
  7. Deanimator

    Deanimator Well-Known Member

    1. As someone else pointed out, you might have a basically good gun with iffy internals. My Norinco M1911 is a case in point. My smith replaced all of the trigger parts because they were crap. Now I've got a reliable, accurate CCW gun that still hasn't cost me much more than the $300 I paid for it.

    2. Don't change things just to be changing them, but change what needs to be changed to fit YOU, be that a longer or shorter trigger, an extended safety, a beavertail grip safety, or a different mainspring housing.
  8. Drail

    Drail Well-Known Member

    "Shock buffs messes with spring rate,negatively affect reliability" OK sure. I have three 1911s that I have run shock buffs in for twenty years and thousands and thousands of rounds and I've never seen a problem caused by a shock buff. If you don't like them that's fine but don't make stuff like that up and put it on the net.
  9. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Well-Known Member

    I very much agree with Oro. My dad recently got a SA Mil-Spec 1911. I told him to get that one as a base model to start with, and if he wanted to modify it, we could work with it from there. A combat handgun should have everything you need, nothing you don't. This is still pretty subjective to the individual.

    I thought my dad would want the beavertail safety, because he has big, meaty hands, I warned him about the possible hammer bite, and let him try my Kimber with the beavertail, but he said it wasn't an issue for him. He doesn't like G.I. style sights, so we are looking at more modern options. My Kimber comes with the skeletonized match hammer, but I can't discern any handling or comfort advantage over a G.I. hammer, I guess it just looks newer.

    On my Kimber, I dropped the full-length guide-rod, I have a .22 conversion kit, and I got tired of losing my grip on the tube and having it ding the ceiling of my dad's truck when I wanted to switch. I have Meprolight night sights, but they are starting to fade after about five years. Not good. I'll get some trijicons with the notch cut for emergency cocking. An ambidextrous safety makes sense for weak-hand shooting. I like the Hogue wrap-around finger grips I put on it, I want it gripable even when it's wet and cold. I thought I wanted an extended slide release, but I later decided it's better to use the standard one with the non-firing hand. My friend's Para Ordnance hasa great black-finish skeletonized trigger, which I would love, in wanting to make the whole gun dark in finish, but the SS trigger I already have fires perfectly for me. I THINK, if you have a 1911 trigger that's perfect, you don't want to mess with it. Like I say, get what you need, but ask yourself seriously, "Do I want this because it would help the function, or does it just look cool?"

    I recommend, go to brownells.com, and get their free 1911 catalog. All kinds of stuff you never knew you needed.
  10. Oro

    Oro Well-Known Member

    Drail, Take a breath, have a drink, do what it takes, but calm down and stop being insulting and accusing others of "making things up." Very unprofessional. You can search "shock buff" and find many threads about high-volume shooters having them wear out, toss off chunks and gum up slides and springs. I've had it happen once. I know from past posts you've seen others post about the same thing and are aware it happens with frequency, so to accuse me of "making it up" is a falsehood on your part.

    I've also had both a .45acp and a .45 Super that wouldn't work with them because of the spring interaction, even with new and properly calibrated spring rates and lengths. The physics of springs is something I am thoroughly familiar with. Here's a sample thread, of many, where others report the same experiences:


    That you have experienced no problems is fine, but many haven't had such success. Shooting others down just because you don't like the bad news about a product you like isn't a great way to carry on a debate. Use evidence, even if anecdotal, instead of insult to make your point.
  11. clown714

    clown714 Well-Known Member

    I've never had a problem with shock-buffers.

    yes,they wear out and need to be replaced.

    I only run them on range guns,never on my carry pistols.

    just my $.02

  12. Oro

    Oro Well-Known Member

    Re: Shock Buffs, in their defense:

    'nuff said.
  13. CWL

    CWL Well-Known Member

    Compare most gun upgrades to 'racing' parts you can add to your car, most people don't realize that these expensive parts are designed to be used once during the course of a 100-500 mile race, not for a lifetime of operation.

    Some really need the upgraded parts, but most civvies do not. Military LEO and competition shooters may get the benefits out of the cost/reliability.

    For most others, it is for looks and bragging rights.

    Your gun was designed to work using the parts it came with.

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