Restoration of a WWII era 1911!

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Darkmind, Apr 26, 2005.

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  1. Darkmind

    Darkmind Member

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    I was cleaning out the safe the other week when I picked up my colt and got to thinking. This Colt has an SN that dates it back to 1943. The pistol was very poorly refinished sometime in the sixties when the last owner purchased it. After a good detail striping a quick look at everything shows that a lot of the internal areas and inside parts still have the original parking on them. He also put some target sights on it for bullseye shooting. He also put in a factory drop in barrel some time in the sixties. I still have all of the of original parts minus the sights. So since the pistol has been refinished and target sights put on, the collectors value has been kicked out the door.

    I got to thinking some more and started to realize how much dust it has been collecting from the time I picked it up. I began to wonder how much it was worth and how much I could get out of it. I knew right off the bat that I did not want to get rid of it, but I just was not sure what to do with it. I have not been doing very much shooting of the .45 flavor and have had most of my hobby money tied up in other things. So I ended up doing an appraisal by email and pics. The gentleman was somewhat close on the amounts that he quoted me, but I was somewhat insulted by the fact that he would not give me more than $135 clams for it. I told him that this was not some kind of parts gun and that I was not interested in selling it anyway and left it at that.

    After a nice ice cold glass of milk and some more thinking ( also a nice talk and a little persuasion from Mr. 1911 Tuner ) I said to myself hay I'll just restore it. So thats where I'm at now but I have a number of questions.

    1) Sights, where should I go to get some 1943 era sights? Mr 1911 Tuner was gracious enough to tell me that he mite be able to help me out with a front sight. But I still need to come up with a rear sight.

    2) Refinishing, where do I look too for a 1943 era repark job? I also want it done right the first time. I will be very upset with my self if I put money into a repark job and get the pistol back and find that some markings have disappeared. I understand that there will be a chance that some markings may not be saved, but I want to do everything I can to make sure that ALL of the markings make it out of the reparking with out any problems.

    3) The target sights, because of the prior owner putting target sights on it is there a chance that he did any kind of cutting to the slide? As of right now the rear sight sits in a grove that looks something like this /__\. If he did some kind of cutting is there a chance that the rear sight area can not be fully restored? If thats the case I'll just look into getting a DuPont finish and doing it up as a carry pistol.

    4) Also need a lanyard loop, need to keep an eye out for one at the gun shows.

    So thats where I'm at now, questions and research. So now that the question are out of the way, on to some gun candy for everyone. :D

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    Last edited: Apr 26, 2005
  2. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    Nice gun, I wish I had one like it.
     
  3. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Colt Resto Project

    Hey hey!

    Well...I pretty much killed that front sight tryin' to get it out of the slide. They knew how to stake'em back then, for sure...

    You'll probably need to search the gun shows for the front and rear sights.
    Give Essex Arms a call and ask for Gary. He has some narrow tenon GI
    repro front sights that will work. Your rear sight dovetail was probably unaltered for the sight that the gun is wearin' now, but there's a small chance that the installer may have had to open it up a little with a triangular file, so any given original rear sight may be a loose fit. If it is, it can be tightened up a little. Let us know what you've got, and we'll go from there.

    You can get a kit from Brownells to parkerize the gun yourself. I hear that they do a nice job if you follow the instructions carefully. You'll probably have to enlist a smith to punch the serial numbers and the inspector code a little deeper. Don't know what to tell ya about the other markings, since finding a smith that has just the right dies for the United States property
    markings may be a problem. The crossed cannon ordnance mark is gonna be tough too.

    I've got a '42 Colt on the bench as we speak. I picked it up last week, and I want to rework it sometime this summer. It's pretty rough, so I won't even try a restoration on it...but I can make a pretty nice shooter out of it. For
    200 bucks, how can I go wrong? :cool:

    Check your PMs.
     
  4. Gunsnrovers

    Gunsnrovers Member

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    Best of luck.

    Just from the pictures, I'll go out on a limb and say I bet your rear dovetail is unaltered or if so very little as Tuner said above.

    I have heard that Texas Armament is the choice for parkerizing. More then a few gunsmiths have recommended them. I don't think they have a web page, but their number is (325) 646-5827.

    Keep us posted.
     
  5. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I wouldn't try to "refresh" the markings and serial number - too much chance of messing it up, and the original markings were faint sometimes.

    If the rear sight dovetail is too big it can be welded up and recut on one side only, but from the pictures I'd say it looks alright. That particular model of Micro sight was made to fit the standard dovetail. Can't say about the front sight, so I'll leave that too Tuner.

    Who ever polished it rounded the edges on some parts - especially the slide stop. If you can find an original checkered USGI part I would replace it. Otherwise, lightly bead-blast the parts and then Parkerize them. Be aware that during World War Two the Parkerizing that Colt used was zinc, not manganese based.
     
  6. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

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    You probably already know this, but given what has been done to this gun in the past, it sounds as though there's not much you can do now to enhance or restore its "collectible" value. (I'm on break at work, but they've got some websites blocked, so I can't see the pictures.)

    Based upon what I've read above, this gun will have lost most of its appeal for a serious collector if any of the frame or slide markings were "lightened" when polished and refinished. (And, regardless, refinishing generally devalues a "collectible" gun.) Only the big, high-dollar restorers can refinish a gun without lowering their value for a collector. (Really picky bunch, those collectors.)

    I can't see the pictures, and am not familiar enough with the markings, even then, to assess their condition were I able to see the pictures. But if that is the case -- they have been rounded or made less sharp -- not having some of the original parts becomes a moot issue, too.

    It still sounds as though you can enhance its value (and its aesthetic appeal to you) as quality "shooter" without investeing a lot of time or money. That means you'll still have a gun of which you can be justifiably proud.

    Lots of good advice, above.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2005
  7. Mossyrock

    Mossyrock Member

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    Actually, those markings are in good shape. The ordnance marking on my 1945 Remington Rand looks just like that one. I would replace the sights, have it parkerized and not worry about it.
     
  8. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Resto Parts

    Well...There's a looped, GI mainspring housing wingin' its way to the resto project. I got it to the P.O. just a few minutes ago. Couldn't find that trigger, but I'll keep lookin' just in case it's needed. I've also got a NOS
    slidestop here...somewhere. I may have to wait 'til after the big move before I can find it, so don't give up hope. I'll see what else I can dig up in the meantime.

    Since my Colt isn't slated for a correct restoration, I think this one's gonna
    get a Kart E-Z Fit barrel. It's the perfect candidate, and I'm curious to see
    what the deal is with those barrels. I'll start a thread on the project later on,
    in case anybody's curious. Sorry...I don't have a digi-cam, so pictures will be in the mind's eye...except for the guys who come visit. I may try to duplicate the Du-Lite finish for this one...just to see how close I can get to that "brushed" look.

    I just LOVE fixin' up these old girls... :cool:
     
  9. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    If I had such a gun and wanted to shoot it much, I would have to make a little compromise with authenticity and put on sights I could see. The sights on a Colt 1991A1 are not glaringly bigger than GI but they are a good deal more visible. And Brownells lists them without white dots, too. Have to file down the wide tenon to fit a '43. My FLG does that on the milling machine.
     
  10. Darkmind

    Darkmind Member

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    WOW, Just WOW! Thanks for all of the great info everyone! And Mr. Tuner, I owe you big time.

    I was thinking the same thing, I would really like to find someone that can repark it without trying to refresh the markings but yet still keeping them as fresh as they are now.

    I'll keep an eye out for an original checkered slide stop. Glad to know about the zinc parkerizing, thanks.


    Guys this project is is going to take some time, being that this is the first time I've ever tried something like this. And I'm still in research mode. I really really want to make sure I do this right the first time. Plus the hobby fund is running really low right now but that will change in the next few weeks hopefully.
     
  11. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    I don't recommend you have them do the work unless you're very, VERY well off, but talk to Turnbull Restoration about your project. They might be able to give you advice, and perhaps leads on where to get parts.

    I'd also suggest contacting Jim Clark Jr. at Clark Custom Guns (their telephone number is [318]949-9884, and their Web site is here). They've customized literally thousands of 1911's over the years, and in visiting their workshop, I've seen several boxes of parts discarded from guns after being replaced with more modern equivalents. You may find that Jim has the parts you need scattered all over his workshop!
     
  12. Mossyrock

    Mossyrock Member

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    I was also on the look out for a checkered GI slide stop and came up empty. HOWEVER, Evolution Gun Works (EGW) makes a checkered slide stop that is a ringer for a GI slide stop. Take a look HERE.
     
  13. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    If it was my gun I would shoot it and enjoys it as it is.

    It has its own unique history,

    The person who carried it through the war used it to save his life and the lives of his commrades at the battle of the Bulge, when the war ended he brought it home, he liked it so much as it defended him at his side, he then retired it to civilian service, had it refinnished and added match sights, he enjoyed it by using to compete in some bullseye matches, and who knows maybe even Camp Perry!!!!

    Its not a valuable collector item, and refinishing it wont really improve it much. It has a long history and its original owner loved it so enjoy it for its unique history and personality.

    If you refinnish it it will wipe out that patina which took 60 years to develop, and it will just be another refinnished pistol.

    JMHO YMMV
     
  14. Sean Smith

    Sean Smith Member

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    Well, it already is a refinished pistol. So he might as well do it again. ;)
     
  15. Darkmind

    Darkmind Member

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    Thats what I was thinking. It lost its patina a long time ago. The man that I bought it from was the one that refinished it and added bullseye sights to it, he's no where old enough to be the original user/carrier.
     
  16. Navy87Guy

    Navy87Guy Member

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    That's why my 1911 will stay just the way it is...warts and all. My great-uncle carried it through the Pacific as a torpedoman chief in World War II. I'm grateful that no one ever tried to "update" it...it still has the original walnut grips and iron sights. Other than some springs and maybe new magazines, I won't do anything to it.

    If I were in darkmind's shoes, I guess I'd decide depending on what I wanted to achieve. If it's a "hobby" project, that's one thing. If I wanted a GI-issue look-alike, that's another. I think I would probably be inclined to do what it took to keep the gun from deteriorating (finish problems) and probably give up on the "history" aspect, since previous owners already wiped that out with mods and a poor refinishing job.

    There's something to be said for the pure fun of doing the project...I had a lot of fun "tricking out" a Mossberg shotgun for home defense. In the end, it was completely impractical and I sold it for a loss....but I had fun doing it!

    Whatever you do, darkmind, keep the pictures coming!

    Jim
     
  17. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Great Uncle's Pistol

    :p Navy Guy...Aw man! There's a pistol that wouldn't be sold at any cost, and passed along to sons and grandsons. Your only task is in teachin'em exactly what they've got, and to instill a sense of pride in owning the gun so that they'll appreciate it and keep it in an honored place among their possessions...even if they don't keep other guns.

    Your story is one of the reasons that I like these forums...There are thousands of owners out there with treasured heirlooms hidden away, and when they find these sites, they come outta the woodwork and tell their stories. Thanks for sharing that...and welcome aboard. :cool:

    You're not very far from me. If you'd like to bring that old pistol for an inspection sometime, I'd be honored to have a look. If you haven't detail-stripped it for a good cleanin' or don't know how, I'd also be honored to do it for ya at no cost.

    EDITED:

    Whoops! My bad...I was thinkin' of Stuart, Va...not Stafford. You're over 300 miles away. Guess you'd hafta take a road trip for that teardown and inspection. :p
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2005
  18. Darkmind

    Darkmind Member

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    Well I talked to the prior owner today, I do security work from time to time where he works. Come to find out, he says he knows that he has the original sights for the pistol, but he can not remember where he put them (Why i did not ask him about them when I picked up the pistol I have no idea). Hes in the middle of moving into a new house on a big plot, he even had most of his stuff packed up when I picked up the pistol from him a few months ago. He asked that I get back to him in a week or two after he has had time to rifle threw some of his gun boxes.

    I'm really hoping that he does find them, but if not I'll just keep me eye out.
     
  19. Darkmind

    Darkmind Member

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    Mr. Tuner,

    I forgot to stop by and say thanks again. I got the looped mainspring housing in the mail on Friday. I got stuck at the VA hospital all day today. Thanks again, one more thing I can cross off the list.
     
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