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Upgrades to Inexpensive 1911's

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by emtpacker, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. emtpacker

    emtpacker Well-Known Member

    Hi, guys and gals!

    I am going to be taking a drink of the 1911 kool-aid here in the next few months and I'm trying to get as much information before I take the plunge.

    This will be my first 1911 and I'm not looking to spend a lot of money, due to family concerns and also because I don't want to shell out a lot of money on some features that I find I don't like or want. I have shot 1911's before and have a basic set of specs that I'm looking for. I'm going for government size, beavertail, improved sights (not GI type), and an extended thumb safety. This pistol will likely be my carry gun after I determine it's reliability. The two front runners are:

    RIA tactical
    I really like this pistol for a number of reasons: most reviews are extremely positive concerning the quality, durability, reliability, and customer service when/if needed.

    I'm hesitant only because the finish is parkerized and I don't know how well that will hold up for daily carry in the hot, humid Magic City.

    Metro Arms American Classic II
    Like this one a lot, too, especially the hard chrome version. The LGS had one of these for $500 out the door and it felt very nice in my hand. The big roll mark is a bit garrish and the hammer is goofy looking, but other than that, the pistol seemed to fit the bill for me.

    One unknown about these is the overall quality and customer service issues are not as well established as RIA.

    What I don't know about either of these guns or the other inexpensive 1911's is the possibility of upgrading them down the road. Are the dovetails cut for aftermarket sights? Can new slide stops, safeties, etc, be dropped in? I don't plan on this pistol being a "project" gun, just one to learn the platform on and enjoy as much as possible.

    I am open to any suggestions and input you all may have. I have to keep my budget to less than $600 for the pistol, so saving more for anything else is really not feasible at this time. Thanks!

  2. bdb benzino

    bdb benzino Well-Known Member

    Love my Metro Arms American Classic II!! I have added the following parts with zero fitting necessary... a Springfeild Armory SS barrel bushing, a Colt SS Enhanced 5'' barrel, an ED Brown chainlink MSH, a Wilson Combat 2 peice FLGR. They stay true to Colt specs and even use Colt dovetail cuts for the sights. All parts fit tight and correct, even had the barrel checked for correct fit by a gunsmith.

    I like the fact that the slide is forged on the Metro Arms. The commander and officer sized models look great but have not enjoyed the reputation for reliability like the Government models do. My Government model is an earlier one and seems to be extremly well fit and smooth for the price. I have not had any failure of any kind yet in the 1000 plus rounds.

    I have also had all sizes of 1911's made by Armscor or RIA. I still own the 4'' mid size. They have all been great and reliable, but if I were looking for a 5'' Government model I would go with the Metro Arms all the way!!
    Good luck.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2011
  3. mgmorden

    mgmorden Well-Known Member

    Parkerized finishes were used by the military in some pretty rough environments for a long time. They'll do fine. Their drawback is in their appearance, not durability.

    As to upgrades - I know that the RIA dovetails are a little off from Novak, but close. Aftermarket parks - 1911 and "drop in" is a bit of an oxymoron - even on high quality pieces. The design is made to have parts fitted. They all use the same types of parts as any other 1911, but depending on what piece you're talking about it may need to be fitted. That's an issue with the 1911 - whether its an RIA or a Les Baer.
  4. 2wheels

    2wheels Well-Known Member

    "Drop in" is hit or miss with 1911s. I had to fit my Wilson Combat beavertail grip safety on my Colt, even though it is advertised as drop in for Colt 1911s.

    Not a big deal, I half expected it and it took me all of 2 minutes.
  5. essayons21

    essayons21 Well-Known Member

    Go with the RIA Tactical, you won't be dissapointed.

    The sight cut dimensions are a PITA, but depending on your mechanical ability it shouldn't be a huge problem with the correct file. If not, any competent gunsmith should be able to swap them out for you. I still have the stock sights that came on my Tactical, they are more than adequate.

    The parkerized finish they use is of very good quality, no corrosion problems there.

    If you don't like the finish, you can sandblast it or rough it up with some fine grit sandpaper and apply an at home bake on finish like aluma-hyde. No need to remove all the parkerized metal, just rough it up.

    I undercut the trigger guard, did a light carry melt to the frame, and refinished with alumahyde II, all other finish is stock.


    This is my primary range gun, it probably has about 5k rounds of .45 and twice that of .22 with a ciener conversion.

    The only part that I have swapped is the extractor, not that it needed it I just wanted to compare the fit with that of another gun, both Ed Brown and Springfield extractors fit just fine.
  6. tuj

    tuj Well-Known Member

    Don't forget about the STI Spartan. Very good gun.
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

  8. Sniper X

    Sniper X Well-Known Member

    Well, since I have a RIA tactical and can say I have done a lot to it I can chime in here. I have done a Wilson tool steel ignition (matched 3.5lb trigger) set, and when I installed them, I lightly polished (stoned) the trigger tracks, and I fitted a Briley Spherical barrel bushing, and am putting on a system made by Hocue that is grips, and a MSH that has an integral magwell housing. After I finish it I am going to have the whole pistol refiished hard chrome frame in silver, and have the slide and furniture high polish blued.
  9. Ghost Tracker

    Ghost Tracker Well-Known Member

    I think (IMHO) a lot of folks do the same thing with a 1911 that happens to an AR or a Ruger 10/22. The inexpensive buy-in is always the priority, but by the time you do all the mods you "need" you could have bought a nicer model to begin with! And saved yourself the trouble of having a drawer-full of factory OEM parts you no longer use or need (but just can't BRING yourself to get rid of). *This is the once-costly, wiser-now voice of experience talking. ;)

    I, personally, would rather spend my $600 budget on a higher-quality used 1911 with some holster wear or scratches than get that "new-gun-smell" in a cheaper NIB 1911 that I know I'm soon gonna' be putting higher-quality parts & a new finish on anyway!
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2011
  10. Olympus

    Olympus Well-Known Member

    My experience with Armscor 1911s with parkerized finishes are that the finishes are very thin. The finish will begin to show wear immediately in the areas that see frequent movement, like on the frame around the thumb safety and the sides of the grip safety. The parkerizing on the one I had was so thin that I had to keep it moist with oil or it would start to develop a film of rust on the surface.

    I'd pick just about anything else over a parkerized Armscor 1911.
  11. emtpacker

    emtpacker Well-Known Member

    guys, thanks to all of you for your input.

    bdb benzino: I appreciate the plug for the AC II. If I go with this pistol, I will most likely only upgrade the sights.

    essayons21 and Olympus: I know that anything made by men is prone to inconsistency, but how old are the RIA's that you have had experience with? Only asking in case the finish was thin a few years ago, but since improved. I don't know.

    rcmodel and tuj: the only negative for me with regards to the RO and the Spartan is the target sight. I'm not a big fan of that style on a potential carry gun.

    Again, thanks for the responses!
  12. essayons21

    essayons21 Well-Known Member

    Mine is about 4 years old. I don't know what models Olympus was experiencing thin parkerization on, the RIA I have had no such problem. I know as I took sandpaper to the entire frame. I originally wanted to take it down to bare metal, but soon gave up. After learning that thoroughly degreased park would take the finish just as well I roughed up all of the areas and applied the finish with no problems.

    The only spot showing any wear is the top of the chamber on the barrel, and all of my 1911s show some scuffing here.

    I should also note that I live on the east coast, and this gun is abused by my standards, shot with sweaty hands and put away dirty and stored with no oil, and I haven't had any problems with rust. On the other hand, my Springfield Champion which is my EDC for the past 6 years, and costs twice as much as the RIA, is starting to show some rust on some small parts.
  13. Rail Driver

    Rail Driver Well-Known Member

    Parking is good stuff if you keep it oiled. It's a lot more forgiving of a finish than some
  14. Olympus

    Olympus Well-Known Member

    I had a Citadel (made by Armscor) that was terrible. It was about a year and a half ago, maybe more. The extractor was improperly tuned and my first range session resulted in hundreds of little tick marks on the top of the slide. Took it home for cleaning and really got to looking at them, and it wasn't just brass transfer scuff like I had thought while at the range. But the brass had actually taken little nicks out of the parkerizing just from being ejected. That's poor in my book. It got to the point where I just decided to completely Duracoat the entire gun. I have photos somewhere. I also had some issues with rust forming on the barrel hood as well, but that's not parkerized so not really relevant.

    It doesn't take very long to look at the RIA photo threads at the various 1911 forums to see the kind of wear I'm talking about in the park. It's just not for me.
  15. Zach S

    Zach S Well-Known Member

    I have no experience with either one of the pistols mentioned by the OP, but would consider the RIA based on what I've read here at THR. Parkerizing is good stuff, the only downside IMO is having to have it refinished if you have to have the sight milled for whatever sight you install. Otherwise, upkeep is as easy as stainless.

    I prefer a fixed sight as well. However, Harrison Design has fixed sights to fit the Bo-Mar and LPA cuts. IIRC, they cost about $75. They also have night sights available with one trituim vial (a la Heinie Straight 8) or two dots (for traditional three dot).

    Some of the nicer models have bells and whisltes you dont want.

    Take one of my Kimbers for example. It has had all of the screws replaced with slotted ones, the FLGR has been cut down with the proper plug installed, a night sight installed up front, a 10-8 sight in the rear.

    A Colt 1991A1 would have to have the slide milled for a Novak front.

    Having owned both Kimbers, and a box-stock 1991A1 that I had customized, the Colt was less expensive. Both guns were bought used.

    BIGBANG Well-Known Member

    +1 to the Metro Arms! I've had mine for almost a year and it has right over 2,000 rounds through it.When I first got mine it was tight and it wouldn't feed a full mag, after about 2 to 300 rounds it started feeding and hasn't had a hickup yet. I carry it at least 3 days a week depending on my attire.
  17. Olympus

    Olympus Well-Known Member

    Full size Metro Arms would be another great choice. Here's what my commander looked like when I first bought it. I would rather have the bluing on the Metro Arms compared to a parkerized finish.


  18. Byrd666

    Byrd666 Well-Known Member

    I have also heard quite a bit of good about another Filipino brand by the name of Shooters Arms Manufacturing, S.A.M., imported by A.T.I., American Tactical Imports
    I have been doing as much research as possible on the ATI FX Titan, it's a 3.18" bbl .45acp that Ive heard a lot of good about. Both in person and the web. The same can be said about the full size models as well. And as far as I've read on/about them, a lot of the Asian and South Pacific countries use them for for LEO and Military applications. They may not be a Colt or a Springfield but, they have me interested.
  19. TennJed

    TennJed Well-Known Member

    To some people (myself included) half the fun is tinkering, building, and customizing. Neither way is necessarily better than the other, just personal preference.

    In a gun like a 1911,10/22, or AR I would not want a gun that came with everything I wanted
  20. emtpacker

    emtpacker Well-Known Member

    Ghost Tracker: I appreciate your insight, and the way I read your advice is that I should save up to buy the 1911 that I really want and get it right the first time. I agree with this principle, but at this point I don't know what it is in a 1911 that I really want other than some basic enhancements that I listed in the opening thread. I know that this will not not be my last 1911, so I dont want to save up and break the bank and end up with a pistol that I want to change, but can't afford to.

    Olympus, that's a very nice commander! The grips really set off the nice bluing job. How has your experience been with the gun and the company as a whole?

    BIGBANG, which model are you carrying? Did you do anything besides shoot the thing to get it reliable?

    Thanks again, guys!

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