The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > Hogan's Alley > Handguns: The Semi-automatic Forum

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old March 18, 2013, 02:53 PM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: January 16, 2013
Posts: 1
Building your own 1911

I had a friend who built his own ar15 from ordering parts, and it got me thinking how hard would it be to build your own 1911?, just for fun and maybe to save some money.
matt35750 is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 03:21 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: May 29, 2007
Location: St. Louis, MO area
Posts: 4,011
MUCH harder.

With an AR-15 it takes very little special skilled labor to assemble one. All you need is a few rifle specific tools, some generic tools, and it all just bolts together. If you buy a barreled upper you don't even need that much. It's designed to very exact tolerances so most parts can be thrown together and it's going to work right.

A 1911 is very much not the same beast. It was designed in a different era for more labor intensive production. To do it right you need special jigs for fitting things like hammer/sear engagement, staking plunger tools, and that's before you even get into cutting barrel lugs and fitting slides to frames (you can buy pre-fit frame/slide combos). You can't just toss the parts together and have it work. The safety may or may not engage. The trigger pull might be decent, nasty, or outright dangerous. You can peen upper barrel lugs and shear the lower ones. All because you didn't know what you were doing.

I'd *love* to be able to do that kind of thing to a 1911, but I have neither the tools nor the experience. Maybe one day I can dedicate myself to learning that craft, but I wouldn't dare try it... it would cost me much more in time and effort to do it right, all for an end result that could be handily beaten by buying a production gun.

And I have several ARs, all of which I assembled to one extent or another (there's a few complete uppers in the mix, but a few I barreled myself). And I'm not even close to competent enough to fit a 1911 barrel to a slide.
Technosavant is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 03:32 PM   #3
Join Date: June 11, 2007
Posts: 77
A 1911 is a great platform, but they can be headstrong at times as far as being reliable and running right. Without knowing your skill level, I will say spend the money and have an experienced company build you what you want.

However, should you decide to do it, please post some pics and give a write up.
cbennettx is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 04:25 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: August 22, 2012
Posts: 1,031
Buy a box of AR parts, slap them together, and you have functional AR.

Buy a box of 1911 parts, slap them together... and you have an assembled box of 1911 parts.

There's a reason handcrafted 1911s cost 2-3 grand. You have to be a pistolsmith to be able to know how it all fits together... and how to make it work.

Any ape with a dremmel can ruin a feed ramp.
thedudeabides is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 05:01 PM   #5
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 8,763
It's not hard, but it is more difficult than an AR-15. And you won't save money over an entry-level pistol with a warranty, such as offered by Armscor/Rock Island, Metro Arms, ATI/Shooters Arms manufacturing, or the Umarex Regent 100.

You can buy a receiver (Armscor) from Sarco Incorporated in New Jersey. They also have everything else you'll need to build the pistol. But be advised that several parts of the 1911 require some fitting in order to function properly.

I built my own from a Sarco kit. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything -- I learned a tremendous amount that I would never have picked up from disassembling and reassembling a completed firearm. I have since upgraded a few parts to suit my sense of aesthetics (no functional reason), but I estimate that as I originally built it I probably had invested about $100 more than if I had just bought a complete Rock Island pistol. And the complete pistol would have had a warranty.

The learning experience was worth it for me. If you just want a gun to shoot -- buy a gun, not a kit.
Aguila Blanca is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 05:09 PM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: August 22, 2012
Posts: 1,031
I built my own from a Sarco kit. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything -- I learned a tremendous amount that I would never have picked up from disassembling and reassembling a completed firearm. I have since upgraded a few parts to suit my sense of aesthetics (no functional reason), but I estimate that as I originally built it I probably had invested about $100 more than if I had just bought a complete Rock Island pistol. And the complete pistol would have had a warranty.
I did the same thing. It was a huge PITA, but when everything finally worked (don't even ask how much time I spent on it) I applied the same skills to tweak some of my less expensive 1911s.

It's still one of my favorite guns, because I built it. Still, it was a LOT harder than building an AR.
thedudeabides is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 06:17 PM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: December 20, 2001
Location: Ohio
Posts: 364
I built one from parts as well. I used the Armscor slide and mostly Sarco parts, but swapped in a handful of Ed Brown parts (thumb safety, grip safety, sear, disconnector etc. ). It was a time consuming but enjoyable project.
I didn't buy any special tools, but I should add that I make knives and had built one muzzle loader from parts, and one falling block .22wmr rifle from scratch prior to the 1911 so I already had an assortment of files, stones and what not.

I'm sure I could have bought a nicer gun for the money, but this one shoots pretty well and feeds everything I have put through it. I have between $500-$600 in it if I remember correctly. If you want to experience the build, thats money well spent. If you just want another gun, get a ruger, springfield, rock island etc. and start shooting.

Fix it right the first time...
Use Baling Wire !
redneck is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 08:33 PM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: March 22, 2009
Location: S.E.PA.
Posts: 804
A friend at my club has built 2 bullseye guns recently. We were just talking about his guns the other day.
I asked him what it cost him to build one, since I was considring taking on a build myself.
By the time he was done, he had $1,000 in the gun, not including hard chrome finish.
The guns are spectacular. The guy even hand checkered the front strap himself.
NRA member, DCF&S member, PAFOA member, USPSA member, NSCA member

SauerGrapes is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 09:48 PM   #9
Senior Member
Join Date: April 12, 2010
Location: Lake Martin, AL
Posts: 2,692
I suggest SauerGrapes is on target. In my honest opinion it would be hard to build a decent 1911 for the price of a new one.

The last one I purchased was a Remington and cost me $550.00. Try to replicate that at this price and a life time warranty included.

I say no way unless someone can prove me wrong.

How much will you home grown cheap oh pistol be worth?

You were talking about a non-descript cheap built pistol unless I mis-read your post.
lamarw is online now  
Old March 18, 2013, 09:57 PM   #10
Join Date: March 9, 2011
Posts: 55
I built a commander off of a RIA frame from sarco and assorted colt sti and fusion parts.
Turned out pretty good except the front site had a slight screw up and I had to replace it.
Mr.Scott is offline  
Old March 18, 2013, 10:22 PM   #11
Senior Member
Join Date: April 12, 2010
Location: Lake Martin, AL
Posts: 2,692
To help us here Mr.Scott since you have done it and most of the rest of us have not. How much would you estimate the cost of a moderate priced 1911 to build starting from scratch?

I am hoping your experience can support my opinion. My opinion is a new 1911 at around six to seven hundred or less to purchase new with a warranty.

This might help with the poster's specific question. I am also curious.
lamarw is online now  
Old March 19, 2013, 09:34 AM   #12
Senior Member
Join Date: April 5, 2011
Location: NE Ohio
Posts: 2,461
I've done it, but I still had to send out my slide, barrel, and frame to have them professionally fit. Fitting the rest of the components takes time with hand tools, but the slide to barrel to frame fit is too critical, and if you mess up, you pretty much have to scrap it.
Favorite range gun for the money - CZ 75B or STI Spartan V 9mm
Go-to carry setup - Walther PPS or PPQ in FIST kydex holster 1AK
Favorite semi-auto design - HK P7
"A Sig is like a lightsaber - not as clumsy or random as a Glock."
loose_holster_dan is offline  
Old March 19, 2013, 10:38 AM   #13
Junior member
Join Date: May 1, 2010
Posts: 5,797
1911a1 kit, building....

I looked into building a 1911a1 series .45acp with all the parts & kits in the early 1990s. If you have the time, resources & $$$, have at it!

For resources, see;

Brownells puts out a 1911 pistol parts/service printed catalog.
There are a few DVDs(and maybe Blu-Ray format) gunsmithing guides. Books & step by step guides are all over too.
ClydeFrog is offline  
Old March 19, 2013, 10:38 PM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: March 1, 2000
Location: Western WA
Posts: 6,788
I built a gun from a box of parts, about fifteen years ago. I had Hallock's .45 Auto Handbook, and Kuhnhausen's shop manual, and essentially learned as I went, as I had no metalworking experience.
Buying all the parts from one company, like Caspian, can make it easier than trying to fit parts that are all over the map, in terms of dimensions, which can easily happen when the parts come from a number of makers.
My first gun didn't have more than two or three parts from a single maker, and I had to do some amount of fitting on just about every part but the plunger tube.
It's not a big saver of money, but you do get the satisfaction of shooting a gun that you put together yourself. It is certainly NOT merely assembling a gun.

Some year later, when my gunsmithing, and photography skills had improved, I build a gun from high-end parts, and I was very happy with the results. This later project involved a lot more machine work and finishing work that I farmed out to skilled professionals, but the resulting gun was a nice shooter, looked great, and was a source of some pride in my achievement.

RickB is offline  
Old March 19, 2013, 10:51 PM   #15
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 8,763
Originally Posted by lamarw
To help us here Mr.Scott since you have done it and most of the rest of us have not. How much would you estimate the cost of a moderate priced 1911 to build starting from scratch?
I'm not Mr. Scott, but I have done it.

If you want to go for the absolute lowest price build, you go all Sarco. The receiver, IIRC, goes for around $109. Their complete build kit (which includes a slide, a barrel, and all the other parts, goes for $230. So you're at $340 plus shipping for the parts, plus transfer fee for the receiver.

A couple/few years ago you could buy a complete Rock Island GI with warranty for about $390. That's not the case any longer, but I think you can find the Turkish Tisas/Trabzon/Umarex Regent 100 for under $400. So if you go bare bones you can build a pistol for about the same price as an entry-level finished pistol.
Aguila Blanca is offline  
Old March 19, 2013, 11:25 PM   #16
Senior Member
Join Date: February 24, 2001
Location: San Joaquin Valley, CA
Posts: 1,036
I've done it: twice. Once as a practice thing and another time as a full-on target [non-carry, range use ONLY] pistol.

No savings. You do it because you can or you want to learn how. You can buy a reliable 1911 for less than you spend on the parts.

My frame and slide for my 'race gun' cost me around $800, counting having the frame lapped to the slide [caspian on both]. You can get a RIA Tactical that works decently [I actually love mine for a 'carry 1911' or truck gun] for that and still have money left over for overpriced .45acp ammo.

When I was done, my 1911 probably ran into the range of at least $1500, and I have only cold blued it: no final finish installed.

You can buy many Springfields or Kimbers [I like Kimber also, but understand some have had issues] in the $1200 range that will work JUST as well as my expensive one.

My 'other one' cost me about $600 in parts so far [ I think: I'm guessing and I think I'm guessing low], not counting the frame or the finish to the frame. The frame was a fully functioning Sistema I had hard chromed. The only 'original' parts on it now are the frame, MSH and plunger tube. I've changed EVERYTHING else. The Sistema was about $400 [after tax and DROS] when I bought it, so around $1000, for something that fires as good as a $1000 pistol. I could get a Springfield or Kimber for the same price that works about as well.

HOWEVER, I KNOW the quality of all of the parts, as I picked them and fitted them. My $1000 Sistema has a LOT of EGW parts [except extractor, trigger and MSH]. My Caspian is Ed Brown, except trigger and grip safety [CMC and Wilson]. They work GREAT, are very accurate, feel great in my hand, and I DID THEM.

HOWEVER, There was NO savings of money involved. AND, if I had to sell one, I'd NEVER get my investment back, as I installed the stuff: not a professional gunsmith with a reputation.

You don't build a 1911 to save money, in my opinion. You build it because you want to, you can, and you want something that YOU made.

I'll tell you this though: fitting the sear on a 1911 is a lot easier for me that fitting the sear on my Browning Hi Powers!

The AR15 I built [and sold] was a SNAP compared to the 1911.

If you want reliable and no hassle: buy a new gun with a warrenty. If you want the fun of the project and to learn, then a 1911 can be fun.

Just be sure to follow all safety precautions when fitting the sear and test firing. Follow Kuhnhausen. Read on Learn some serious skills.

Oh, and I didn't count jigs, stones and fixtures in the cost of those guns.

I didn't save a CENT: I just made it myself. My RIA Tactical and Kimber Compact II work almost as well without any messing with them.
jmstr is offline  
Old March 20, 2013, 12:09 AM   #17
Senior Member
Join Date: November 13, 2006
Posts: 4,677
Last time I looked,a complete "tactical" grade 1911 with beavertail,etc was $419 on Sarco.A barrel/frame/slide was $225.

A Cylinder and Slide hammer/trigger sear set is about $125

The rest of the parts will add up fast,a beavertail might be $30,a fitting tool might be $20

You might need two thumb safeties,there is some to learn and they must be just right,a Colt is about $18

Mainspring housing,$25 or so.....

Then there is a sear jig$30+,sear stone $15+,plunger tube staking tool(this is an important job)$50-$80

I'm talking all Ed Brown or Wilson or EGW,etc parts for these prices

You might look at FusionFirearms web site.No experience myself,but it looks likeyou can get a high quality kit with most of the critical work done for around $700.You can get whatever sight dovetail,etc.

I would still say the Kunhausen and some other references are necessary.

I began with advanced machinist skills.

My first time,I had to buy a second safety,and a couple of sear springs.

It would sure be good to have a mentor.The Wilson Combat gunsmithing cd's helped.$$$

I'm in the middle of another build,a "leftovers" gun.

IMO,if the point is coming up with a 1911,just buy one.If you have hand skills,and can read and understand a technical book enough to do the job...if you consider the main point to be an education on how to build one,it may be worth it to do.I think it was for me.
HiBC is offline  
Old March 20, 2013, 10:52 AM   #18
Senior Member
Join Date: April 12, 2010
Location: Lake Martin, AL
Posts: 2,692
A thorough and educated answer from HiBC since he as done it and also understands the question asked by the original poster.
lamarw is online now  
Old March 20, 2013, 11:10 PM   #19
Senior Member
Join Date: January 17, 2007
Location: Morehead,Ky
Posts: 751
scottl is offline  
Old March 21, 2013, 06:40 AM   #20
Senior Member
Join Date: September 7, 2001
Location: Washington State
Posts: 2,162
Matt 35750:

As it has been mentioned already, building a AR series rifle is worlds apart from building a 1911.

You CAN buy a kit--and get pretty lucky when most of the parts fit together without too much trouble. However, be well advised that the parts you get in most kits are of unknown quality. Some will be good steel--some might be not-so-good, some might be plain trash.

Like I said, you might get lucky. Or, you might not.

Here's my recommendation....

1. Obtain and study the Shop Manual on the 1911 pistol by Jerry Kuhnhausen. Read it from cover to cover--and then read it again. There is a wealth of information there.

2. You're going to need some decent tools, too. Sure--you can fit the thing together with the tools available from your local hardware store, but why not do it right?

3. ALWAYS remember the phrase: Buy quality ONCE, or buy cheap repeatedly. This is not to say that you can't good parts at a good price; but you will quickly find that the law of diminishing returns is in full force here. It does you no good to save $10.00 on a hammer if you have to buy two or three of them to get the gun to work.

4. Put down the Dremel, and back away SLOWLY.

Seriously, resolve that you'll put your first 1911 together without touching a Dremel tool. You can get into serious trouble with that thing.

I have been building and working on 1911 pistols now since early in my military career--starting about 1981. Here are the things I have learned the hard way about building and working on 1911 pistols.

a. Measure first. Then measure again. If you can, get someone to verify your measurements before you touch a tool.
b. Take your time, and go SLOWLY. When you get to the fitting, if there is any metal removal to be done, use what I call the 4/1 rule--for every 4 soft passes with a stone, measure once.
c. Get a sear and hammer jig. Really. Buy one and read the instructions.
d. Drop in parts usually don't.
e. Always cut on the cheapest part FIRST.

Good luck with your decision! If you want more info, PM me.
Hiding in plain sight...
Powderman is offline  
Old March 21, 2013, 09:16 AM   #21
Senior Member
Join Date: July 26, 2005
Location: The Bluegrass
Posts: 8,238
One of the reasons the AR is cheaper to "build" than to buy is that, by separately buying the receiver and the upper, you avoid the 11% federal excise tax right off the bat. In other words, on a $1,500 completed AR-15, you would save $225 but the seller/manufacturer would make the same amount of money.

You save 10% on a pistol but it is a savings that may be lost because of the cost of manufacturing the various parts.
KyJim is offline  
Old March 22, 2013, 03:01 PM   #22
Senior Member
Join Date: September 22, 2012
Location: Marriottsville, Maryland
Posts: 1,232
I believe Cylinder & Slide still has pistolsmithing classes on 1911 building, which might be the best route for you to go. They are located in Freemount NE.

Brownells sells all the tools needed, inorder to fit a 1911.

Last edited by Erno86; March 22, 2013 at 03:12 PM.
Erno86 is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:25 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2016 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.16817 seconds with 9 queries