To build or not to build?
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:25 AM   #1
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Default To build or not to build?

O.K. guys I'm getting that itch. I'm a retired/disabled police officer and love to target shoot. I know that after all of my years of shooting, any of my pistols can out shoot me in someone elses hands. I have my CCW and home/auto defense covered and now want something budget friendly for the range. I am definitely going the 1911 .45 ACP route and need some opinions (good or bad). I am very familiar with the nomenclature of the 1911 and what helps builds accuracy. What I am not sure of is if I can build a 1911 mid size 25 yard target pistol for under $1000.00 and be able to tell that it is a far better shooter than my stock pistols. It don't have to start out pretty. When I was welding as a side business to police work, my theory was "Make it work now and make it sexy later". I have the time and I have the skill. What I don't have is the experience of attempting this before. So with that said, am I crazy to want to try this as a temporary hobby (albeit a serious hobby) or would the payoff not be worth the effort? I don't want to just sit down and throw parts together and voila, pistol. I want to spend the time in front of the T.V. shaping parts and building up to that final WOW factor. Sorry so long winded but I wanted you guys to know as much about what I want to attempt as possible. Thanks ahead of time for the advice, criticism, ridicule and laughs. I'm tough. I can take it.
Michael

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Old 12-09-2012, 09:42 AM   #2
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Building a 1911 platformed firearm goes from "it's a piece of cake" to "it's a piece of sh!t" or could be any where in between.

While there are no secrets to the 1911, there are plenty of mysteries.

Yes, you could build (or assemble) a accurate handgun for under $1000. You can also buy accurate handguns for under $1000. Or, you could buy an inexpensive 1911 and build on that (my recommendation).

It used to be that to build an accurate handgun, you gave up reliability (but not anymore). Mr Kuhnhausen has a couple of books out on the 1911 with very good info and schematics. Having those in you library is highly recommended. Specs on parts, troubleshooting, accruacy tips are included.

But the question is how will you "be able to tell that it is a far better shooter than my stock pistols"? Putting it in a rest of some sort tells you that it is accurate in a rest, but not necessarily in your (or my hands).

I would suggest purchasing a used 1911 and work from there. Save the old parts as you replace or make new ones.
I have an old Springfield Armory and I have changed out, rebuilt, replaced so many parts, the only things that are original is the frame and slide. But, on a good day, with the moon in the right position, I can get it to shoot 5 rounds touching each other at 15 yards.

Good luck!

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Old 12-09-2012, 01:20 PM   #3
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Can you build a 1911 for around $1000 that will have noticeably higher accuracy than a production gun? You'd have to be damn lucky to achieve that on your first attempt at a building a 1911. Big name manufacturers have had years and years to perfect their process. They have invested in expensive equipment and good materials.

If you ask me what your chances of building a more accurate pistol, dollar for dollar, to a production gun in the $1000 bracket, I'd say slim to none.

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Old 12-09-2012, 07:55 PM   #4
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Thanks for the feedback. I was actually leaning toward buying an inexpensive and or used 1911 and going from there. I don't want to take anything away from all of the guys (and gals) on here that can do it and do it right. I KNOW that I'm not going to build the best firearm out there and probably wouldn't even be able to build a good firearm without alot of knowledge assistance and practice. That's why I decided to start my quest here. I may not even pick up a tool for the next year while studying everything that I can find on the subject. Please don't think that I believe myself to be as good as anyone else just because I know how to use tools. I just want a project that I can learn to customize and change at will without creating a dangerous situation for myself or others. If were to attempt any work down the road I still plan on sending it to a good gunsmith to look over before trying to fire it.

With that said; It looks like my suspicions are valid and I need to be schooled on the subject before attempting anything as compared to the learn it piece by piece approach.

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Old 12-09-2012, 10:35 PM   #5
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A lot of the work you need to focus in is the minute details of fitment. I agree that your best route would be to buy an affordable 1911 to use a learning tool and base. You will have a functioning pistol with a good portion of the work done for you.

Then I'd suggest collecting the tools necessary for the work. Files, stones, jigs, etc. Then start researching how to do a proper trigger job. That's a good place to start. Then work on buying some upgraded parts that require minor gunsmithing and learn how to properly fit these parts yourself, ie MSH, trigger, hammer, beavertail, and thumb safeties. This should be enough to get you through at least a year of work. I'd save the barrel, barrel link, link pin, slide stop, and barrel bushing until you've perfected the other parts first.

If you've got patience, mechanical skill, and a will to learn, then its definitely not out of your reach. Just know that it's going to be a long, slow process your first time.

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Old 12-09-2012, 11:38 PM   #6
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some really good advice here has been given. building a nice and functional 1911 can be done, but some think they can buy some parts and put together a 1911 cheaper than they can buy one. false! some think building a 1911 is like assembling an AR. again false! even mil-spec 1911 parts sometimes need fitting and tuning to work properly.

my suggestion would be the same as what the others have suggested, buy an inexpensive 1911 and modify and customize it. most of them with some fitting and tuning can be very accurate. buy several books on customizing 1911's and start buying specific tools for the 1911 would be a way to go as well.

this is my American Classic Commander i customized several weeks ago. before and after pictures.

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Old 12-10-2012, 01:58 AM   #7
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Thanks Axxe. I have experience building single action cowboy guns and rifles. I've built my own internal parts such as sears and springs in the past and have several build books for the 1911. I'm not looking to get out cheaper by any means. I just set $1000.00 as a cap for the sake of the post, because we all know that anything is possible with unlimited funds. I have a safe full of guns of all types of calibers and configurations, be it rifle pistol or shotgun, so the build can take as much time as it takes. among these is a RIA 1911 which I will probably start with when I'm ready. An old friend of mine moved and left me all of his armorer's tools. I don't know yet if he left me everything that I need but I'm sure he left me with more than I know what to do with right now. I plan on starting with a trigger job as Olympus suggested at some point when I am comfortable with all of the aspects of it. In the mean time I plan to learn and prepare my patience for the "oh ****" moments that are sure to come.

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Old 12-10-2012, 02:06 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by mwblackmon View Post
Thanks Axxe. I have experience building single action cowboy guns and rifles. I've built my own internal parts such as sears and springs in the past and have several build books for the 1911. I'm not looking to get out cheaper by any means. I just set $1000.00 as a cap for the sake of the post, because we all know that anything is possible with unlimited funds. I have a safe full of guns of all types of calibers and configurations, be it rifle pistol or shotgun, so the build can take as much time as it takes. among these is a RIA 1911 which I will probably start with when I'm ready. An old friend of mine moved and left me all of his armorer's tools. I don't know yet if he left me everything that I need but I'm sure he left me with more than I know what to do with right now. I plan on starting with a trigger job as Olympus suggested at some point when I am comfortable with all of the aspects of it. In the mean time I plan to learn and prepare my patience for the "oh ****" moments that are sure to come.
my statements was kind of broad as some people come on here saying, "i want to build a 1911 pistol". i can see you aren't one of those. my suggestion is still the same, just start slow and learn, and with your skill level, i believe in no time you will be able to do just about anything with one. good luck and show us some finished work.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:09 AM   #9
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IF you could happen into a deal like I did once, where a Springfield Armory pistol came into teh local pawn shop missing the hammer, grip safety, grips, and a couple grip screw bushings, you might have a happy project for not a lot of cash. I was able to walk out with the hardest and most expensive parts to fit (frame, slide and barrel) for right around $200. That leaves a lot of room for some quality parts to be fitted and added. The Springers usea forged frame and slide as well, which means they will last and can be worked a bit more than some of the cast frames (there are high quality cast frames out there from Caspian, and others, but there were also some early ones that are not too forgiving).

IT would also alow a budget to get some high quality tools for tuning the 1911. Shims for fitting the slide to the frame, stones and files for fitting small parts, jigs for staking front sights, fitting beaver tails, trigger and sear fitting, etc. can add up. EGW makes bushings to your barrels specs. And if you wanted a good match barrel Brownells has Kart EZ fit barrels and also offer a kit that includes the barrel fitting tools.

With a properly fitted slide/frame, and barrel with a well fitted barrel bushing you should see significant accuracy improvements. Getting a trigger and sear properly tuned will make it easier to wring the accuracy out of it too.

Might still break the $1000 barrier though, once you are done with tools and parts, then all of that metal work will need to have a proper finish applied.

I didn't go all out on my Springer. I didn't get a match barrel or do the exact fitting of slide to frame, but the trigger and EGW bushing made it tighten groups a bit and I have about $500 tied up in it. I have a Fusion frame, slide, barrel combo that is my match gun and has minimal play between frame and slide or barrel and bushing, but I have a bit more than $1000 in it in parts, tools and finish.

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Old 12-10-2012, 03:19 AM   #10
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Wow! That's one hell of a find, Doc. I have to say I'm a little jealous. I own two Springfields (an XD and an XDs) not 1911's but I love my Springfields. I know that I have the blocks, jigs, files and different lapping tools but i'm not ready for that yet. If the build goes over the $1000.00 mark, so be it. I will have something that is uniquely mine and that's what this is mostly about for me. I'm one of those guys that tie my own flies, build my own fishing rods and longbows and arrows. The natural next step for me is to build (or partially build) my own pistol. Thanks Doc.

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