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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, well I'm looking to build my own 1911. It won't be for the purposes of saving money, but to put together something truly customized to my tastes. The satisfaction of doing it myself will also be a big part of this project.

I need opinions on frames. So far I've looked at Essex, Caspian, STI, and Ed Brown. What experience have you had with any of these, and which would you recommend?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Heavy C
 

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I have built several with Caspian Parts, but I'm sure any of the mentioned frames are fine. One of the biggest issues with putting together a 1911 from scratch is the slide to frame fit. It takes a lot of finess, and a number of tools which are kind of expensive if you are only going to use them once. You can bypass this step if you buy a prefitted Caspian or Les Baer slide and frame set.

There is 2 Volume DVD set from the American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) that can guide you through the process. It's well worth the price if you are serious about building your own 1911. The DVD's will cover the tools you will need for the job, but some of the tools mentioned are not necessary, especially when fitting a new frame to a new slide.

You said you didn't expect to save any money, and that's good, because you won't.
 

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I have in the old days, taken military receivers and slides and slightly peened the rails on the receiver, and squeezed the slide in a big vice just a little until they would not quite slide together. Then I would coat both parts rails with fine valve grinding compound, put the receiver in a vice with wood blocks, and take a rubber mallet and literally drive the slide on, and work it back and fourth until it slide smoothly. I then put a longer barrel link on a barsto barrel, and fitted it to the slide. Result was usually match grade, along with a good trigger, and properly cut sear. Back then we put S&W rear sights on the slide, and a good post on the front. Beaver tail grip safeties were really that well know, and we would cut the flair off the grip safety, and put a Commander hammer on it place of the spurred one. Took the bite out of the web of the hand.
If they want them pretty after all the work was done, I took them to a friend whom did the best blue work I have ever seen. He stood at his polishing wheels on crutches. He had polio when a child, and had the patients of Job. Many times he never washed the lettering at all on the slide.
Do it the hard way Heavy, it will be a hoot building. ;)
 

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Dee: how do you fit a barrel to a slide? I have read some about the process but am not totally clear on it. I have a slide and barrel combo I would like to work with but don't want to bugger it up - as I am wont to do if ya give me a Dremel tool anna pair of pliers.........

You mentioned the longer barrel link - how do you come to determine which length link you should use???

Thanks.

BTW - I once owned a colt Army match gun in both 45 and 38 spl/super that had been 'peened' a number of times. Worked great...........
 

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Your locking lugs on your barrel should be oversize, so with a swiss file (small fine) star finding where the barrel will not fit into the matching lugs in the slide and file. GO VERY SLOW, AND CHECK VERY VERY VERY OFTEN. You can take metal off, but you can't put it back. When you can slide the barrel rearward with the slide laying on it's back, and the barrel neatly engages, your there.
Start puttin links in and each time use the new longer until the gun will not go completely in to battery. Back off one link. A little goes a long way here.
A reliability tune is pretty routine on a 1911, as they are all the same in construction basically. You go for the common trouble spots, and guys like me have a few extra "pet" spots we like to improve. However, the building of one or some parts changes there may be a lot of tearing down, and putting back together.
An uncle a few years ago, came home with a Kimber. Took it out and it had a tendency for the hammer to follow the slide down to half cock. Was it the sear angle? Nope! They had not cut the thumb safety correctly at the factory, and it was interfering with the sear engagement. Two minutes with a swiss file and problem solved. Understanding exactly how the pistol works is the key.
There is also a myth that if you drop the slide on an empty chamber it will damage a sear and the trigger pull. MAYBE, some hot rod comp shooter with an edge of **** cut sear on a comp gun. MAYBE. If the sear is cut right? BS. Don't make a habit of it though, as it is just good practice to assist the slide to slowly close by hand. Remember, it's metal on metal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for your comments so far...good discussion. Good insights.

Dee, where do you find these old frames?

What I'm thinking is I can use one of these to build my first gun for myself. That way I can work out bugs and really just educate myself. Later I'd like to build 3; one for each of my younger brothers. On those I would go with more premium parts and even get personalized serial numbers. Yes, I love my brothers!

Anybody else with experience out there? Share your thoughts. Do's and don'ts.
 

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Heavy said:
Thanks for your comments so far...good discussion. Good insights.

Dee, where do you find these old frames?

What I'm thinking is I can use one of these to build my first gun for myself. That way I can work out bugs and really just educate myself. Later I'd like to build 3; one for each of my younger brothers. On those I would go with more premium parts and even get personalized serial numbers. Yes, I love my brothers!

Anybody else with experience out there? Share your thoughts. Do's and don'ts.
HeavyC, I am going back to the late 70s, and early 80s when these parts were cheap and every where. The last few I did were brought to me in boxes by folks that wanted a 1911 and had bought the various parts I suppose at gun shows. When I was building up really nice pistols, I usually started with pretty good frames and slides, and used Bill Wilson parts. BUT! When I finished, the pistols weren't cheap to the pocket book. They didn't cost near as much as Wilson's which I think are ridiculously priced, but they still weren't cheap, and were pretty nice looking too.
I did a Colt Combat Commander the last one I built. It was the rich Colt blue on the frame and slide, and I did everything else including the barrel and bushing in polished stainless, topped with linen (ivory) micarta grips. It was truly a beautiful piece, and a good carry pistol too. The first guy that looked at it bought it and did not try to haggle.
 

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Lotta good advise from Dee.
You can buy frames from both Caspian and STI---I think from Kimber also, although I think Kimber uses Caspian.
Vandenberg is using a Caspian slide on a Commander he is doing for me.
I bought a pig in a poke Norinco that I am going to try my own hand at doing some parts changing. Vandenberg is going to have too cut the dovetails for the Heinie's and do the trigger-----well, er, I am not so sure that he won't hafta undo some of my stuff in the process----I have big hammers and no skills.
While I'm at it--Dee, how do you engage the lugs to find the---Oh what the heck, this is getting beyound my brain and I am getting a headache.
Blessings
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Dee, I figured you were going to say that. With all of the 1911 rage and surplus I'm sure is gone. I haven't been to a gun show in quite some time.

That Colt you described sounds beautiful. That ability to mix and match and configure just the way I want is what I'm looking to do. Cost is not really an issue as I plan to do this one little step at a time.

Dee: Can you explain again about peening the slide. I have a used Kimber that I picked up for a 460 Rowland project. After fitting the barrel with the comp and the extended guide rod I noticed that there was some play between the frame and slide.
 

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Sure but an unloaded 1911 that is a little lose is not necessarily bad. To peen, strip the receiver completely down and lock in a vise. If you have a frame block fine but, if not, leave the grip screw inserts in the frame and drill to align in two blocks of wood. This will keep the frame from moving in the vise, but don't tighten so much that you crush the frame even a little. Just snug.
Take a small punch and slightly round the tip, and using a light shop hammer start tapping the top of the rails on the frame. Do so evenly and the length of each rail. You will notice when they begin to become slightly misshapen on the OUTSIDE of the rail.
Check the slide to frame fit occasionally, until it starts getting to the point it will start on but, then stops. Coat the inside rails of the slide and the frame rails with the finest valve grinding compound you can get. Tap the slide onto the frame with a rubber mallet, and tap it back and fourth the ENTIRE LENGTH until it starts to lap in. In the end you can do this by hand, until it slides smoothly. Remove all the compound and your done. The frame and slide will be perfectly mated. Take care mating the barrel and barrel bushing, and those components will be, with a quality barrel and bushing near match grade. Don't expect perfection your first time, but don't be surprised either.
 
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