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Thinking of building a 1911

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by chipperi, Jul 31, 2008.

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  1. chipperi

    chipperi Member

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    I am toying of building a 1911 from parts. I am not a gunsmith by any means so I want to stick to drop in ready parts. I am thinking either a 4" commander or 3.5" officers. I have searched all the major manufactures of frames and have found Government and Commander size but no officers. Would I be wrong to assume that the officers model is an officers slide on a commander frame?

    I would like duo tone either a stainless frame and a parkerized slide or vice- versa, a skeletonized hammer and trigger, ambi safety, novak style sites, and Hogue grips as I have huge hands. I am still up in the air about the type of guide rod setup I want I have read some recent articles that say they aren't necessary. Feedback and good links with pics would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Joshua M. Smith

    Joshua M. Smith Member

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    Officers have their own frames.

    Josh <><
     
  3. dmazur

    dmazur Member

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    I'm not a gunsmith, either. However (no Holiday Inn references, please), I have done a few trigger jobs, replaced an ejector, changed mainsprings and firing pins, and rebuilt troublesome magazines.

    I found out that there are very few "drop-in" parts for the 1911, especially when it concerns the trigger. Most triggers are sold oversized, and you file the hoop down until it just fits the grooves in your frame. The sear and hammer may be sold as a matched set, and if your frame holes are to spec, they will work. If not, you have to buy oversized parts and stone them to work correctly.

    Slides may/may not fit the frames correctly.

    If you check the Brownell's web site, you can find a ton of tools and jigs for working on 1911's. The cost of all of these can be $1000 or more.

    I'd get a book on 1911's and proceed carefully. These beasties aren't AR15's.
     
  4. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    I have built an M1911 from parts. It is not a job for the faint-hearted!

    As mentioned above, you need quite a layout in specialized tools. You also need Kuhnhausen's books. And in the end, you wind up spending more for the parts that for a complete gun.
     
  5. SHOOT1SAM

    SHOOT1SAM Member

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    An Officer's frame with a Commander slide is usually referred to as a CCO.

    There is a specific Officer's frame; a Commander is the shorter slide/barrel on a Govt. size frame.

    As the shorter (read: Officer's) barrel/slide set-up can require significantly more tweaking for reliability, you may want to stick with a either the Govt. or Commander for a first run build.

    I'd also warn you about Essex frames-they are not necessarily built to the same specs as one would expect. I bought one (an Officer's) for a CCO build. Vitually NONE of the standard parts would fit, and the machining required to make them fit would have upped my overall cost so much, that it was more economical to buy another frame and start from there. BTW, I did not build it myself.

    Be careful, good luck, & have fun.

    Sam
     
  6. gb6491

    gb6491 Member

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    SHOOT1SAM,
    Where did you get an Essex Officer's frame? I've never seen one on their site and would be interested in one. I have a Government size pistol built on one of their frames and slide that has bee reliable and accurate over the years.

    chipperi,
    Caspian and Foster Ind. Inc. (Caspian cosmetic seconds) have Officer's frame available.

    Regards,
    Greg
     
  7. mainmech48

    mainmech48 Member

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    Unless you're more interested in the experience than the cost or the relative quality level manifested in the majority of initial projects of this magnitude, I'd just buy one from a quality manufacturer that has the features you want.

    As Vern pointed out, "drop-in" is an appropriate term on a Glock or the like which was designed specifically to have all of its parts 100% interchangable, but gets to be extemely relative where a weapon designed for older manufacturing technology where the original tolerance spreads are much more "generous" is involved.

    Especially when there are several different sources of component parts involved.

    The main culprit here is "tolerance stacking", and it will bite you. In the absence of any absolute recognized standard specs, every individual maker decides what works best for them. Those vary widely, making the probability for conflict where a part on the "+" or "-" side of one set meets another incompatible set and requires careful hand alteration if it's to be resolved.

    Doing this often requires a specially designed fixture or tool as well as some practised skill sets to be done safely and correctly. These aren't cheap to acquire and almost always end up costing a great deal more than the job they're designed to do would cost from even an expensive pro.

    IMO, about the most cost-effective way to gain some skill and experience in all of the aspects required for a project this "ambitious" and the greatest potential for a finished product you can be proud of is to enroll in one of the hands-on "build your own" classes from a custom shop or school.

    IMO, the result will still end up costing as much or more than a Les Baer, Wilson, or other fine 1911 but you will be proud and able to tell folks you made it yourself. Just kinda depends on how much you're willing to pay for the priviledge, I suppose.

    Good luck with whatever path you choose.
     
  8. brickeyee

    brickeyee Member

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    Buy at least the first volume of Kuhnhausen and read it.
    Unless you can amortize some of the tooling over a number of guns it ends up pretty pricey for a 'one off.'
     
  9. ugaarguy

    ugaarguy Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, Commanders have their own frames too. The dustcover is shorter and the spring tunnel is machined a little further back than on a GM frame. The grip length is the same as on a GM though.
     
  10. SHOOT1SAM

    SHOOT1SAM Member

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    gb6491
    I got it from Brownell's on a closeout. Could have been just a fluke, or that might have been why it was on closeout, I don't know.


    ugaarguy

    I stand corrected. Was thinking of the grip and posted before the coffee had kicked in.

    Sam
     
  11. GearHead_1

    GearHead_1 Member

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    Another consideration might be to pick up a quality used 1911 or even and entry level 1911 and add/change the parts you want until the pistol is what you want. The benefit here is that you would be starting out with a known good or working piece. This often helps when it comes to replacement parts and improving what already exists. In essence you have a model for what you want or don't want right in front of you. I'm one that finds comfort in being able to compare tolerances when fitting parts, that's probably just the rookie in me. You'll still end up with the gun you want once finished and be able to shoot it all along the way during the build. Specialty tools for the .45 are many, not quite like the AR platform. All in all it a little tougher build. I've picked up a few books, videos and tools to help me work on the .45 over the years. You can end up with a really nice gun but I think you'll probably find you haven't saved much money over a name brand and of course you're the entity standing behind the warranty instead of SA or Kimber.
     
  12. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Good advice.

    Here's the key to making a standard M1911 into a real shooter:

    1. Sights. Sights are easy to fit. You can file a dovetail for the front sight, if you just work carefully.

    2. Trigger. I installed a Chip McCormic prepped trigger and sear in a gun I built, and it made a good gun into a great one.

    3. Barrel and bushing. Kart makes a hand-fit kit. Anyone who can use a file can fit a Kart barrel.

    Other things you might want:

    1. Beavertail grip safety -- a bit more difficult to fit, but doable with hand tools.

    2. Lowered and beveled ejection port -- doable with a vise and file.

    3. Safety lock, slide lock and mag release -- basically drop-in.
     
  13. chipperi

    chipperi Member

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    Wow I figured the 1911 was basically cut from the same blueprints being that is is a mil-spec gun. With the exception of highly customized variants they should use interchangeable parts. I don't want to drop 1000+ on a gun as I just don't think it's worth it. I wanted to build one just to say that I did and to say its exactly the way I want it.
     
  14. M1911

    M1911 Member

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    You won't be able to put together a 1911 with all drop-in parts. 1911s require fitting.
     
  15. HM2PAC

    HM2PAC Member

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    There are really nice kits from Fusion that are reasonable as far as price goes.

    http://www.fusionfirearms.com/

    I'm thinking of doing one this winter myself.
     
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