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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

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chiz1180
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by boisepaw Sat Dec 30, 2023 6:28 am

Feel free to respond to any/all…


I’m starting with the cheapest gun I could find…brand new 5” TISAS for $317.


1) Which steps will most enhance the accuracy of the 38 Super…barrel fit? slide-to-frame fit? match barrel? match bushing? Something else?

2) Barrel bushing…angle bore or not? Which manufacturer and where to find it? Is it simply a “small bore” or a specific caliber or measurement?  How hard is it to fit a bushing and how much does that enhance accuracy?


3)  Is it pretty simple to modify the breechface myself if I am not shooting 38 Super Comp brass? 


4). Other essential considerations?

5) Where the heck do you find 38 Super ammo for less than $1 a round? Or just get that doggone used Dillon 550 set up?

6) Anyone checker a gun themself? Is it really eight hours of time, lots of expense for jigs and files which break in the process and then hand surgery afterwards?

7) What loads…powder, powder weight and bullets do I use…assuming I eventually get the Dillon up and running…. I have seven pounds if Bullseye I’ve been carrying around for 15 years expecting to set up a Dillon. Will that work? And along with the used Dillon 550 I got a hechuva lot of lead bullets in unmarked boxes of different sizes and weights…what do I do with that?

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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by james r chapman Sat Dec 30, 2023 6:44 am

First place to start, use search

Each word must be followed by a + sign

Ex: 38+super
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by Steve in Allentown Sat Dec 30, 2023 8:37 am

boisepaw wrote:1) Which steps will most enhance the accuracy of the 38 Super…barrel fit?


6) Anyone checker a gun themself? Is it really eight hours of time, lots of expense for jigs and files which break in the process and then hand surgery afterwards?

My opinion:

1) A Kart barrel fit correctly to the slide and slide stop cross pin plus a custom cut EGW angle bore bushing will do the most for accuracy.

6) Yup.  It takes lots of time.  I've never had a checkering file that broke.
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by chiz1180 Sat Dec 30, 2023 9:43 am

1) Excellent Barrel/bushing fit is key to accuracy, a good trigger makes the accuracy useable.

2)Angle bore is popular with lots of folks, but a more traditional style also works too. EGW has a good article on bushings

3)Everything is simple enough if you know what you are doing. 

4)Is your frame cut for a ramped barrel or not? If so which one?

5)You don't find 38 super ammo inexpensively. You can find 9mm relatively affordably by comparison.

6)I checkered a mainspring housing freehand with a 60 degree file. Took a ton of time. Results were ok.

7)Sort out the bullets you have and take inventory of what you have. Get a loading manual for a starting point.


Not to come off as a jerk but if you are struggling getting your 550 up and running, a cartridge conversion in a 1911 may not be the right project for you.
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty 38 Super

Post by jjfitch Sat Dec 30, 2023 9:51 am

#3: What breach face modification are you referring to?
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by Allgoodhits Sat Dec 30, 2023 10:01 am

It would take a long time to address all of your questions. Here are some:

The breech face of the slide will work for 9mm, .38 Super & .38 Super Comp. Extractor tension will vary. Some 1911 will work fine with .38 Super and .38 Super Comp with no extractor tension change, some will not. The extractor hook length is a separate issue. With Super Comp the hook may need to be shortened slightly. For optimum accuracy, you don't want the hook to touch the extractor groove in the brass.

I had a .38 S which needed to be rebarreled. I sent it to a well none, competent smith for rebarreling. It cam back with a test target which was < 1.5" @ 50yds. I went to shoot it. It would not chamber. It wrongly was rebarreled as a 9mm. I sent it back they were to fix it. It came back with another test target, equally as good. I questioned what they did? They simply cut the existing chamber from 9mm to .38 Super. It is very accurate and works flawlessly. Since I have learned this does not always work, but it did in this case. Some will state it can't happen. They are wrong. It can happen, but it may not always happen with a good outcome.

If you are going to reload, I would go .38 Super. I would shy away from Super Comp only because of limited brass. Getting a quality .38 Super hand load to shoot is reasonably forgiving. Quality, accurate .38 Super ammo is expensive and not always easy to obtain.

If you are going to shoot factory ammo, get a 9mm. Plentiful inexpensive ammo, and a selection of quality ammo. Handloading 9mm is finnicky. Finding the right components and setting up is much more hit or miss than Super, .45 or .38 spl. Why, I do not know? 9mm will shoot very well with the right stuff.

Bushing. Go to EGW website. Carefully measure OD of barrel and ID of slide at muzzle. Order an angle bore bushing given those dimensions. Fit the bushing. For about $30-40 and a little time, this may be the easiest, fastest and least expensive approach other than trigger work and skill building. Most guns, any of them, will outshoot most all of us.

Kart offers an Exact Fit barrel. It comes with link and bushing. You have to fit the barrel hood and the contact pads in the barrel lugs to the slide. You may or may not have to fit the OD of the provided busing to the slide. They offer a kit to install. About $50. They say it takes an hour. I have done several, but I took 3 times or more that much time, but I went very, very slow. Removing material is easier than adding it. If you go this route, you need to make sure you have the correct barrel. Ramp or unramped and if ramped, Wilson/Nowlin or Clark/Para frame cut. If your frame is not cut for a ramped barrel, then if you want a ramped barrel, then you need to decide which, and then have frame cut properly for that ramped barrel. If you are shooting target loads, the ramped barrel is not necessary. However, a ramped barrel may make the gun feed a bigger variety of bullets.

Checkering? You could apply skate board tape to front of grip frame as an inexpensive, fast alternative.

Dillon. If you go that route, try to get a 650 or 750. To keep cost down, eliminate the case feeder or bullet feeder. Add those as budget/desire dictate.
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by boisepaw Sat Dec 30, 2023 10:29 am

chiz1180 wrote:1) Excellent Barrel/bushing fit is key to accuracy, a good trigger makes the accuracy useable.

2)Angle bore is popular with lots of folks, but a more traditional style also works too. EGW has a good article on bushings

3)Everything is simple enough if you know what you are doing. 

4)Is your frame cut for a ramped barrel or not? If so which one?

5)You don't find 38 super ammo inexpensively. You can find 9mm relatively affordably by comparison.

6)I checkered a mainspring housing freehand with a 60 degree file. Took a ton of time. Results were ok.

7)Sort out the bullets you have and take inventory of what you have. Get a loading manual for a starting point.


Not to come off as a jerk but if you are struggling getting your 550 up and running, a cartridge conversion in a 1911 may not be the right project for you.
I did get a good laugh from the last comment.  Especially given the fact that I’ve only changed one light switch in my life.

But what can I say?  Life is short and things that interest me…interest me.  No harm in trying.

Actually…as I’m thinking about it…I want to have something by way of firearms to pass on to my grandsons that truly has my fingerprints on it.

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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by boisepaw Sat Dec 30, 2023 10:35 am

Steve in Allentown wrote:
boisepaw wrote:1) Which steps will most enhance the accuracy of the 38 Super…barrel fit?


6) Anyone checker a gun themself? Is it really eight hours of time, lots of expense for jigs and files which break in the process and then hand surgery afterwards?

My opinion:

1) A Kart barrel fit correctly to the slide and slide stop cross pin plus a custom cut EGW angle bore bushing will do the most for accuracy.

6) Yup.  It takes lots of time.  I've never had a checkering file that broke.
I was looking at EGW at 1 AM this morning.  Are there only large and small barrel bushings?  It didn’t seem like they were broken out by caliber.  I guess I never stopped and thought about the obvious…perhaps all barrels have have one of those two outside dimensions…large or small.  Since it is the inside dimension that gives me the caliber.  Duh!

Will the bushing require hand fitting?  Is that a DIY kind of thing to still get it right?

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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by boisepaw Sat Dec 30, 2023 10:43 am

jjfitch wrote:#3: What breach face modification are you referring to?
My understanding is that a 9mm breechface mostly just works with 38 Super Comp (“rimless”) brass if not modified.  The standard 38 Super brass is too big.

I measured a bunch of 38 Super different loads and indeed…Winchester factory loads measure a rim of .492.  Then just in Starline brass…38 Super has a rim of .398.0 but 38 Super Comp is .388.

A factory 9mm had a rim of .388 as well.

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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by boisepaw Sat Dec 30, 2023 10:48 am

Allgoodhits wrote:It would take a long time to address all of your questions. Here are some:

The breech face of the slide will work for 9mm, .38 Super & .38 Super Comp. Extractor tension will vary. Some 1911 will work fine with .38 Super and .38 Super Comp with no extractor tension change, some will not. The extractor hook length is a separate issue. With Super Comp the hook may need to be shortened slightly. For optimum accuracy, you don't want the hook to touch the extractor groove in the brass.

I had a .38 S which needed to be rebarreled. I sent it to a well none, competent smith for rebarreling. It cam back with a test target which was < 1.5" @ 50yds. I went to shoot it. It would not chamber. It wrongly was rebarreled as a 9mm. I sent it back they were to fix it. It came back with another test target, equally as good. I questioned what they did? They simply cut the existing chamber from 9mm to .38 Super. It is very accurate and works flawlessly. Since I have learned this does not always work, but it did in this case. Some will state it can't happen. They are wrong. It can happen, but it may not always happen with a good outcome.

If you are going to reload, I would go .38 Super. I would shy away from Super Comp only because of limited brass. Getting a quality .38 Super hand load to shoot is reasonably forgiving. Quality, accurate .38 Super ammo is expensive and not always easy to obtain.

If you are going to shoot factory ammo, get a 9mm. Plentiful inexpensive ammo, and a selection of quality ammo. Handloading 9mm is finnicky. Finding the right components and setting up is much more hit or miss than Super, .45 or .38 spl. Why, I do not know? 9mm will shoot very well with the right stuff.

Bushing. Go to EGW website. Carefully measure OD of barrel and ID of slide at muzzle. Order an angle bore bushing given those dimensions. Fit the bushing. For about $30-40 and a little time, this may be the easiest, fastest and least expensive approach other than trigger work and skill building. Most guns, any of them, will outshoot most all of us.  

Kart offers an Exact Fit barrel. It comes with link and bushing. You have to fit the barrel hood and the contact pads in the barrel lugs to the slide. You may or may not have to fit the OD of the provided busing to the slide. They offer a kit to install. About $50. They say it takes an hour. I have done several, but I took 3 times or more that much time, but I went very, very slow. Removing material is easier than adding it. If you go this route, you need to make sure you have the correct barrel. Ramp or unramped and if ramped, Wilson/Nowlin or Clark/Para frame cut. If your frame is not cut for a ramped barrel, then if you want a ramped barrel, then you need to decide which, and then have frame cut properly for that ramped barrel. If you are shooting target loads, the ramped barrel is not necessary. However, a ramped barrel may make the gun feed a bigger variety of bullets.

Checkering? You could apply skate board tape to front of grip frame as an inexpensive, fast alternative.

Dillon. If you go that route, try to get a 650 or 750. To keep cost down, eliminate the case feeder or bullet feeder. Add those as budget/desire dictate.
Perhaps my dumbest question yet…but I’m sure I’ll think of others…

How can I tell if my frame is cut for a ramped barrel or not?

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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by Sc0 Sat Dec 30, 2023 11:00 am

The gunsmith who did my .38 Super conversion on a Springfield Range Officer 9mm had to open up the breechface, if you go to SuperComp brass then this step can be omitted. Starline makes the brass and is showing in stock and for Bullseye using a net for brass recovery will net at least 98% recovery depending on how the gun is tuned. Can shoot anywhere between 115gr to 150gr bullets, a few threads here discuss loads. Don't forget the. 38 Super magazines, I prefer removable floorplates as most of my welded Metalforms ends up cracking after the warranty period expires.

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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by chiz1180 Sat Dec 30, 2023 12:42 pm

boisepaw wrote:I did get a good laugh from the last comment.  Especially given the fact that I’ve only changed one light switch in my life.

But what can I say?  Life is short and things that interest me…interest me.  No harm in trying.

Actually…as I’m thinking about it…I want to have something by way of firearms to pass on to my grandsons that truly has my fingerprints on it.
I am giving practical advice, you are asking about a niche conversion (yes it has and can be done) that has very little actual use. Of all of the CF cartridge's used in this game I may have seen it on the line once. In my personal experience people struggle loading for pistol, even if they have had experience loading for rifle. Its hard to know if a caliber conversion project is successful if the ammo is questionable.

In regards to figuring out what/if your frame is cut for a ramped barrel, pull off the slide the ramp if on the frame is between the slide stop pin hole and lever. Google Wilson/Nolin vs Clark/Para ramp cut for examples.  The non-ramped 1911 is what is standard in 45acp. A ramped barrel has the ramp incorporated into the barrel not the frame.
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by Allgoodhits Sat Dec 30, 2023 7:42 pm

boisepaw wrote:
Allgoodhits wrote:It would take a long time to address all of your questions. Here are some:

The breech face of the slide will work for 9mm, .38 Super & .38 Super Comp. Extractor tension will vary. Some 1911 will work fine with .38 Super and .38 Super Comp with no extractor tension change, some will not. The extractor hook length is a separate issue. With Super Comp the hook may need to be shortened slightly. For optimum accuracy, you don't want the hook to touch the extractor groove in the brass.

I had a .38 S which needed to be rebarreled. I sent it to a well none, competent smith for rebarreling. It cam back with a test target which was < 1.5" @ 50yds. I went to shoot it. It would not chamber. It wrongly was rebarreled as a 9mm. I sent it back they were to fix it. It came back with another test target, equally as good. I questioned what they did? They simply cut the existing chamber from 9mm to .38 Super. It is very accurate and works flawlessly. Since I have learned this does not always work, but it did in this case. Some will state it can't happen. They are wrong. It can happen, but it may not always happen with a good outcome.

If you are going to reload, I would go .38 Super. I would shy away from Super Comp only because of limited brass. Getting a quality .38 Super hand load to shoot is reasonably forgiving. Quality, accurate .38 Super ammo is expensive and not always easy to obtain.

If you are going to shoot factory ammo, get a 9mm. Plentiful inexpensive ammo, and a selection of quality ammo. Handloading 9mm is finnicky. Finding the right components and setting up is much more hit or miss than Super, .45 or .38 spl. Why, I do not know? 9mm will shoot very well with the right stuff.

Bushing. Go to EGW website. Carefully measure OD of barrel and ID of slide at muzzle. Order an angle bore bushing given those dimensions. Fit the bushing. For about $30-40 and a little time, this may be the easiest, fastest and least expensive approach other than trigger work and skill building. Most guns, any of them, will outshoot most all of us.  

Kart offers an Exact Fit barrel. It comes with link and bushing. You have to fit the barrel hood and the contact pads in the barrel lugs to the slide. You may or may not have to fit the OD of the provided busing to the slide. They offer a kit to install. About $50. They say it takes an hour. I have done several, but I took 3 times or more that much time, but I went very, very slow. Removing material is easier than adding it. If you go this route, you need to make sure you have the correct barrel. Ramp or unramped and if ramped, Wilson/Nowlin or Clark/Para frame cut. If your frame is not cut for a ramped barrel, then if you want a ramped barrel, then you need to decide which, and then have frame cut properly for that ramped barrel. If you are shooting target loads, the ramped barrel is not necessary. However, a ramped barrel may make the gun feed a bigger variety of bullets.

Checkering? You could apply skate board tape to front of grip frame as an inexpensive, fast alternative.

Dillon. If you go that route, try to get a 650 or 750. To keep cost down, eliminate the case feeder or bullet feeder. Add those as budget/desire dictate.
Perhaps my dumbest question yet…but I’m sure I’ll think of others…

How can I tell if my frame is cut for a ramped barrel or not?

Does your current barrel have built in, extended ramp leading up to the chamber? If not, your frame is not cut for a ramp. As example, most .45's do not have a ramped barrel. If you have a 1911 .45 compare the barrels. If you do have a ramped barrel, then go to a barrel maker website or Google and select a Clark/Para and a Wilson/Nowlin ramp. They typically have pictures showing the differences. The Clark/Para cut is a radius, the Wilson/Nowlin is a flat cut. Look at pictures it will be easier to determine. I think I would just start with replacing the bushing. A question is? How does the gun shoot now? If it shoots good, leave it alone.
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DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super Empty Re: DIY 1911 conversion…9mm to 38 Super

Post by ASchlem Fri Jan 05, 2024 10:43 pm

I have read good things about the Tisas forged frames and slides. What about a barrel bushing and recut your existing barrels chamber to 38 super?

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