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Project 1911 Gun

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Steve in Allentown
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Post by Soupy44 6/30/2021, 9:38 pm

Don't know if this will come to fruition with a 7 week old at home, but...

What would folks suggest for a project 1911 to learn to do work to it? My goal is a deeper understanding of the 1911 and not blowing fingers off.

My initial internet search pointed me to 80% kits, way too much for me.

Then I looked at buying parts and fitting them. This only worries my on cost, both for parts and tools/jigs. I feel I could take my time and not screw up too much.

Then I got to thinking that even the guns I have aren't that custom. KC did the whole work up on my RO to make it a wad gun, and I have a Kimber I shoot for service pistol that he did a trigger and bushing. Maybe I should get a cheap 1911 for a few hundred and do a trigger job, bushing, and maybe barrel. Would be great if it's BE quality, but I'm tempering my expectations for sure.

Another question I have is how different is a 9mm 1911 from a 45? Figure I have great 45 examples to reference worked on by KC.

Thoughts?


Last edited by Soupy44 on 6/30/2021, 10:43 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by chiz1180 6/30/2021, 10:11 pm

I have “built” a few lowers for my own 22 conversions from various frames and more recently a 45 wadgun from a machine fit frame and slide that needed to be lapped. Few key things that I personally found:
1). Fitting fitting parts to a lower is much easier than fitting a barrel
2). Figuring out how to make the trigger have the exact feel you want will take time and probably some ruined parts
3).Figuring out exactly which parts you need (and who makes good ones) can be a challenge. Obviously not insurmountable but it is a definite learning curve
4).Finishing the end result (blued, parkerized, cerakote, ect) can take just as much effort (and potentially more equipment) as the build itself.

My final product turned out well, especially so for a first attempt, but it is not in the same league as a build by KC. Would I build another one? Probably. Would I get a gun build by KC or a contemporary, absolutely.

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Post by kc.crawford.7 7/1/2021, 6:28 am

My thoughts on this project.  I think you need to break it down into smaller projects that can be accomplished.  Building a trigger is something I think virtually every bullseye shooter will benefit from.  You learn how to build the trigger you want.  Fitting a barrel, bushing, link and slide stop pin, with only hand tools elevates that difficulty level greatly.  And you're going to have to get a chamber reamer to add to the mix.  Finally getting a "cheap" 1911 to start your project with is potentially a HUGE problem.  Not knowing if things are straight, true and in spec can have you chasing your tail forever without ever knowing what the true problem could be.  That being said virtually and Springfield Armory pistol would be a good starting point.  And you can compare parts off the original pistol to the parts you're trying to fit and get a better understanding of how things go together.
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Post by mspingeld 7/1/2021, 7:01 am

Not cheap but would be a fun and informative alternative to going it alone.

I've known Bruce for years. I've shot along side him and he's built many 1911's and done some quality smithing for me. His character is up there with the premier smiths mentioned often on this forum. He's a champion shooter and, even though bullseye is not his thing, he is a master level bullseye shooter.

Check out his gun building course: https://brucepiatt.com/

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Post by jimsteele 7/1/2021, 7:53 am

I had the same goal a couple years ago. Learn how a 1911 works, and get comfortable working on it.

So I bought a Foster frame, Caspian slide, and all the parts needed to complete one except the kart barrel, which was unavailable at the time. I even slow rust blued it, which tuned out OK.

It would take me pages to type how I did everything, and I'm old, and I don't want to either, so I will keep this short .
 
The build took me a month or so. Probably costs twice what a Range Officer would. Was about half as accurate as a R.O. ( I used a spare Govt. barrel I had in the box ). Was not as pretty as a R.O. either.

But it was mine, all mine. I am very comfortable now working on my 1911 platforms. I know where the parts go, and how to get them there, so it was well worth it to me. However...I would not do it again.

I would prefer to take a gun building course offered by folks like Bob Marvel. Where you learn the "why" as well as the "how" of gun building.

And if I needed a good wad gun, I will spend the $4000 or so to get one because I know that I can not build one as good.
I have a Steve Woods built / K.C. reworked wad gun so I know the difference.....Jim

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Post by Steve in Allentown 7/1/2021, 8:02 am

Nearly all the various 1911 parts can be relatively easily fit using hand tools. One of the most complicated small parts to fit is the extractor.  If you can master fitting internal 1911 extractors, you'll be well on your way to being able to handle all the other small parts.  Barrel fitting is a step up in difficulty and requires more tools than just a few files.

As a DIY guy I'm a self-taught kitchen table, amateur 'smith.  But knowing my limitations, I didn't just grab a file and start removing metal.  I first read everything I could get my hands on concerning the specific part I wanted to fit.

The information at this LINK may be of some value when you get the urge to try your hand at fitting a new extractor.
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Post by Soupy44 7/1/2021, 8:59 am

Thank you everyone for the input. 

I guess my next question is what guns are quality enough to start with? I bought a RO blindly on advice I received. No regrets but now I'm expanding my knowledge (and trying to save a few pennies).

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Post by jimsteele 7/1/2021, 12:46 pm

I think that by the time you are accomplished enough to know that the R.O. is holding you back, you will know who you want to build your next Bullseye pistol...Jim

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Post by Soupy44 7/2/2021, 9:35 pm

Sorry, wasn't specific on the timeline. I bought a RO for KC to work up a few years ago. That work is done and very much out shooting me.

I'm interested in what to buy now. Would a Mil Spec be quality enough for this project?

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Post by chiz1180 7/2/2021, 9:59 pm

The major benefit of a RO over a mil spec, adjustable sights. If you plan on a dot, probably not as important.

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Post by Soupy44 7/2/2021, 10:09 pm

Then maybe the Mil Spec is an opportunity to learn about sights too!

I am good on BE guns for now. This gun is an educational tool first and foremost.

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Post by Jack H 7/3/2021, 12:49 am

Why not first take one apart and study every detail
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Post by jimsteele 7/3/2021, 6:16 am

You will learn a lot more, by taking one of the bullseye gun building courses offered by several good gunsmiths. Bob Marvel immediately comes to mind, but there are others
   They do this in a classroom atmosphere that has workbenches, and tools.
I don't think they charge too much, because the charge includes all the gun parts that you need, the loan of some tools that you probably don't have, A ton of advice and instructions that you would not get otherwise, Then, at the end of the week, they take you to the range where you test fire your new gun.

That is a lot of value. Plus a lot of knowledge....Jim

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Post by Soupy44 7/3/2021, 8:41 am

I would love to do one of those classes, but the time commitment puts it out of my reach. With a 7week old and a 2.5yo at home, taking a week off for that will not be in the cards for a while. If folks could list some options here that would be great.

I foresee being able to tinker on the gun for a few hours during the week and a few hours on weekends.

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Post by jglenn21 7/3/2021, 9:29 am

mil spec SA is fine for your project if you can live with the sights.. or always drill and tap the slide and add a rail for a dot mounted wadcutter.. the Kart Ezfit barrel/bushing is a good way to start learning about barrel fit.. you only have to fit the barrel hood and upper lockup. the kit Kart sells for this barrel is worth the $$. pretty much everything you need other than a vice. the instructions are very detailed.

you can use the existing ignition parts or upgrade to a better sear and hammer for < $100( I personally like Extreme engineering parts). sear work pretty much requires a Jig to do the work properly..I highly recommend the TR sear jig for around $100.. Simple to use and will last you a lifetime pretty much.

lots of videos on youTube some are pretty good.  The Jack Weigand video on barrel hood fit is a good primer.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-TobPABcjY
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Post by jglenn21 7/3/2021, 9:30 am

mil spec SA is fine for your project if you can live with the sights.. or always drill and tap the slide and add a rail for a dot mounted wadcutter.. the Kart Ezfit barrel/bushing is a good way to start learning about barrel fit.. you only have to fit the barrel hood and upper lockup. the kit Kart sells for this barrel is worth the $$. pretty much everything you need other than a vice. the instructions are very detailed.

you can use the existing ignition parts or upgrade to a better sear and hammer for < $100( I personally like Extreme engineering parts). sear work pretty much requires a Jig to do the work properly..I highly recommend the TR sear jig for around $100.. Simple to use and will last you a lifetime pretty much.

lots of videos on youTube some are pretty good.  The Jack Weigand video on barrel hood fit is a good primer.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-TobPABcjY


there are excellent gunsmiths on this forum who freely give professional advice.. Lots of us YouTube gunsmiths too.. Project 1911 Gun 1f601


Last edited by jglenn21 on 7/3/2021, 10:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Soupy44 7/3/2021, 9:35 am

I have been watch build videos by Jay Philip Williams on YouTube. I like that he rarely has cuts in the videos as it shows how long things take. If he's not someone to watch, let me know.

I will check out Jack Weigand. 

Any other folks to check out?

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Post by jglenn21 7/3/2021, 10:44 am

The williams videos are very good for detailing how to with hand tools.
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Post by jimsteele 7/4/2021, 6:43 am

Yes, of course, the time commitment.
Being retired for the last 15 years, the time commitment did not enter my mind as a problem.
   Neither did being away from a young family for a week. My wife of 60 years would encourage me to go away for a week. Yours would not.

I'm not sure what you get with a "mil spec", but with the Caspian/ Foster brand you can order the sight dovetails, and checkering already done for you. Then, since the rails are over size, you can sand them for a snug fit.

What ever you decide to do, good luck. It's a tedious job, with countless assembly/disassemblies to get the parts well fitted. But when you are done, there is a real feeling of accomplishment...Jim

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Post by Wobbley 7/4/2021, 9:14 am

Time commitments….  The key here is to carve out a time to commit to the task at hand.  One hour a week? Saturday afternoons?  Whatever you can fit and then keep that as a commitment.  Get an agreement from your spouse that it’s important to you so that they don’t infringe on it except perhaps for special occasions.   That’s how me and my hubby did it.  If he or I had a project going, we never interfered with each other’s time for that project, in fact I pitched in whenever I could.
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Post by Soupy44 7/6/2021, 6:40 pm

Well I am now the proud owner of a 9mm Range Officer. Got it new for $650! Couldn't pass that up!

So where would be a good place for parts for a trigger job?  I haven't seen a crazy difference in cost where ever I look, but I'm not sure what is quality. I plan to buy 2-3 hammers and sears, probably only 1 disconnectors (jinxed myself hard just now).

I'm also curious if there are any wood workers turned metal workers here. I'm used to fitting dados, rabbits, mortise and tenon joints, but those fittings are hundredths of an inch, not thousandths. I feel the tools are designed to take metal off at commensurate rates to wood, likely a little slower. Adding in a healthy bite of patience and I feel confident. 

And with that confidence, I would like a healthy dose of pitfall warnings and bad experiences from all who have them!

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Post by Wobbley 7/6/2021, 6:58 pm

I’m not sure I’d start with the trigger.  I’d go through it with a set of digital calipers in hand checking the barrel fit,  ushing fit, breech fit, etc.  then I’d look at a LOT of Videos and read books like Jerry Kuhnhausen’s and a bunch of others.
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Post by james r chapman 7/6/2021, 7:15 pm

Start of with a EGW fitted bushing.
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Post by Soupy44 7/7/2021, 9:11 am

I'll order two bushings and two sets of trigger parts.  The idea of measuring everything I like. Been picking up on standard measurements watching videos. Working back through the Williams videos again and working on ordering that book. Really wish I could get it electronically!

Seeing my father in law this weekend. He has experience in doing this work himself. Someone else suggested a shorter one day trigger class, hoping to find one of those locally.

Still hoping for some stories from folks!

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Post by Soupy44 7/14/2021, 3:35 pm

Had a good trip to visit my father in law. He was a BE shooter then moved to NRA Action shooting, USPSA, and IDPA. He gave me his walkthrough of a 1911 and his experience working on triggers and building guns. 

He then generously gave me a number of his tools: stones, 45 chamber reamer, lower lug cutter, and a sear jig. More than enough to get started! 

Project 1911 Gun Img_2013

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