View Full Version : Are 1911 ramped barrels really an improvement?

February 7, 2005, 01:59 AM
I'm reading one of the Sweeney gunsmithing books, and he passingly mentions the ramped barrel. ("Wilson-Nowlins" ramp.) To me, it looks like a worthwhile reliability mod for guns that will be shooting hollowpoint ammunition, but that's just a knee-jerk reaction.

February 7, 2005, 02:05 AM
That depends. The hollowpoint problem can relate to a number of things like feed lips, overall cartridge length and feed ramp angle, none of which are necessarily addressed by moving the feed ramp to the barrel.

But it does seem like a good idea, doesn't it? ;)

February 7, 2005, 04:16 AM
A ramped barrel gives better chamber support for the brass in the lower end of the case. In a .45 ACP this is less important than in a .38 Super or .40 S&W because of the pressures involved and the strength of the brass.

To have a ramped barrel in a 1911 the frame has to be milled out to fit it. This is generally done on .38 competition guns that are loaded hot enough to make major calibre, since the .38 Super was originally not designed to be such a hot cartridge and the bottom area of the brass is not very strong.

February 7, 2005, 01:11 PM
In a 1911, I think ramped barrels are necessary only for high-pressure rounds that require them. For instance, they are probably necessary for hot-loaded .38 Super, but not for 10mm. If you are overloading your 10 to the extent that some overload the Super, then you might want a ramp, after all. Some believe a ramped .45 barrel does not feed as reliably as the "two-piece" ramp composed of the frame and standard barrel. Since you don't need the extra case support in a .45, it seems like a lot of expense with no return (it does make it easier to build a multi-caliber gun that will use one frame and multiple uppers, though).

Dave Sample
February 7, 2005, 02:10 PM
They are great for LW 1911's. Much better than the aluminum feed ramps.

Harry Bonar
February 8, 2005, 12:26 PM
Dear Sir:
Respectfully, let me give my opinion; DO NOT put any ramped barrel in a 1911 single stack package in 45A.C.P. caliber - they don't feed reliably! Our experience. I know, the 9MM works O.K. as made in 9MM. and if you want a ramped barrel in a 9, fine.
My personal opinion is this: If you want a 9MM get it in something other than a 1911 package - a Hi-Power, or something like that! I believe a person only needs 1 (one) 9MM! To me, (let me show my prejudice) the ONLY fighting weapon (handgun) is the 1911 single stack with a Wilson Rogers 7 (SEVEN) round mag with one up the spout and one added in the clip - COCKED AND LOCKED!
As to the Nowlin cut, yes I've made the tooling to do this, have done it, and DON'T like it! :( Boy, I'm really prejudiced today aren"t I! :D ) I like the Para' cut on wide bodies like the Para kits you have to cut in their "gunsmith kit."
For gunfighting don't pick up a 9, a 40, or anmything other than what you've TRAINED WITH!!! - and that's, for my beans a 45 with hardball, year round!
I'm sorry fellas - guess I really showed myself - must have been breakfast! :)

Dave Sample
February 8, 2005, 01:13 PM
I have to say that I respect Harry's opinion, but I have built a LW GI 5" 1911 that feeds ammo like it was greased. It feeds my semi-waddcutters like it loves them and that is a hard test. All of us have our secret things we hate and some ramped barrels are a problem. I have never had a problem making any 1911 reliable, but understand that I am just lucky. A steel feed ramp pinned in with some good 640 LocTite in there is a better choice that a ramped barrel. The cost is roughly the same.

Jim Watson
February 8, 2005, 03:23 PM
My FLG doesn't like integral ramp barrels, either, but he has figured out how to make them work when necessary. If you don't get all goo-goo eyed over "case head support" which nobody needs to but a racegun shooter loading about half again the pressures he should, the integral ramp can be given an angle and contour to mimic the standard setup. He has done a couple of 9mm Springfields (sorry, Harry) and a .45 for me that shoot just fine.

February 8, 2005, 05:41 PM

Could you explain why attaching the feed ramp to the barrel destroys reliability?

Dave Sample
February 9, 2005, 02:49 PM
Handy: He is just speaking about his personal experience with ramped barrels. I did not read it that a ramped barrel "Destroys Reliablity". He just does not have good luck with them. I do not think of Harry as a Pistolsmith. He is a Gunsmith. The things he has posted about this and that make me think that he is a jack of all trades. All the Pistolsmiths that I know can do a good ramped barrel any time they want. Some of them have bad angles that have to be re-cut on a Mill. I used them in "Race Guns" shooting very hot 38 Supers with no problems at all. Here is one with over 20,000 rounds through it. It has a 2lb trigger pull that has never followed or gone to half cock.


This was built in 1992. The Red Eye Special was at the Shot Show and Chip Loved it. "The good old days", he said!

February 9, 2005, 02:54 PM
Thanks, Dave. It was just that Gunsmith Harry did state an authorative opinion, and I'm curious why. He certainly did not pose it in the "didn't work for me" vein. He actually said, "DO NOT put any ramped barrel in a 1911 single stack package in 45A.C.P. caliber - they don't feed reliably!" That doesn't leave much wiggle room.

So I am curious why having the ramp continue down from the barrel is physically unworkable in this pistol, in Harry's opinion.

Harry Bonar
February 9, 2005, 04:46 PM
Our experience at Novaks (we make only combat guns) has been that with the 1911 single-stack in 45 cal, we do have feeding problems with ramped barrels in 45 cal. We have found that the standard barrel fit properly is much better. The angle of the ramped, ramp, is slightly different and that caused jams.
That's the best explanation I can give, just our experience; I'm sure others may not have this perspective and I realize that my answer is "foggy."
The angle of the feed ramp coming back past the original feed ramp native to the 1911 seems to get in the way of the cartridge as it makes battery. Now, on some ramped barrels with a different ramp angle this might not be a problem.
When I first started out I saw nothing wrong with a "ramped" bbl. in a single-stack 45. As we talked about it at Novaks we felt the ramped bbl. in a single stack had a different angle than the original. I'm sure others have had no trouble.
I should not have been so dogmatic -- (must have been breakfast!) :eek:

Harry Bonar
February 9, 2005, 04:51 PM
Dear Dave SAmples
:confused: Yesterday I couldn,t spell either "gunsmith" or "pistolsmith!!!!!"
Thanks guys! Harry B.

Bill Z
February 9, 2005, 05:10 PM
Don't feel pregnant Harry, I still can't, I must not be either. :eek:

Handy, a lot of us get that way when we find something that works or especially when we find something that doesn't work, and we are convinced and it certainly does show through in posts and conversation. People don't realize all of the variables that go into each and every item. I had a smith I highly respect have me do a little test the other day. He had me pull out several frames from different manufacturers and measure how deep the feedramps were. I consistantly use a paricular frame that has a shallower feedramp and make them run. This particular smith uses a different number, and he's not the only one BTW, and this doesn't fall into the number he picked out to be satisfied with and back his work up on. I can see his pint on the number, or the depth, and agree with him, and he sees I make guns run with what I am satisfied with. Who's right and who's wrong? I know that's kind of abstract, but can be applied to many things besides feedramps. When something works for a guy and he sticks by it and doesn't compromise, you have identified a crafstman in his trade. This doesn't mean we cannot learn and expand on ideas, but when something works 100% for you, there's not much room for improvement.

Just my 2 cents worth. Got any change to kick back because it's not worth that much. ;)

February 9, 2005, 06:14 PM

That isn't foggy; that's a first class explanation. The only thing you could have added were the actual numbers pertaining to angle, ramp starting point, etc. Thanks.

Bill Z,
Your comments neatly sum up why I conceptually hate these pistols. :)

Dave Sample
February 9, 2005, 07:58 PM
I stopped by to see Wayne at the Shot Show and we ended up with a few of his new magazines. I had a nice chat with him, but we didn't talk shop much. If you were there Harry, I didn't see you or I would have howdied and shook. I have built this five inch GI out of various parts that I had lying around. The slide is an unknown vintage from a Comp gun I built 17-18 years ago. It is hard chromed, one of the few I ever finished that way, and it still looks pretty nice after having many thousands of rounds through it. The lower end is a Caspian Second that I got cheap while they were clearing them out. Cory at Gunsite bought 10 of them. The Storm Lake Barrel was in a slide I bought for a project that never happened and I gave it to Don Williams for his extra stuff. Then, I did an Indian Giver and got it back from him for this gun. He was nice enough to do the ramp cut and I used a lug cutter to get it in right. It needs to go to be hard anodized and still needs some clean up, but it will make a nice carry gun.
I know where you are coming from and we all understand that we do not do things we don't believe in and I think you are right for sticking to your guns here. Keep us on our toes!

February 9, 2005, 08:22 PM
"They are great for LW 1911's."

Thanks-thats the first justification I have heard for a fully supported barrel which makes sense to me. Aluminum framed 1911's have always felt good to me, but I never wanted to buy one and have the feed ramp chewed by hollow-points. The insert, however, does sound like a better way to go.

Dave Sample
February 9, 2005, 09:16 PM
That is what Chuck Rogers thinks, David. I have to bow to his superior experience with these LW Frames. I know that he can also make any ramped barrel work if he has to. You are right about LW feed ramps. One box of the wrong hollowpoints and you can kiss it goodbye. I like the insert idea but this was an el cheapo project for me and I am happy with the way it turned out. I have about $150.00 in it so far.

dale taylor
February 10, 2005, 07:59 AM
Jumping in with an anecdotal case report is bad medicine and probably bad here. I unknowingly purchased a series 70 which had to much metal removed. It failed to eject frequently. It ended up in Arizona to have a weld job to restore reliability. I respect MR. Bonnnar, Sample and Zollo, but warn non-expert "pistolsmiths" to avoid them. [email protected]

Bill Z
February 10, 2005, 09:13 AM
Bill Z,
Your comments neatly sum up why I conceptually hate these pistols.

Don't be a hater, be a player. Sometimes we can overcomplicate what is ordinarily a simple machine in the quest for perfection, and the last one we do is the most perfect until the next one we do. It is really a great platform for any type of shooting from light recreational, to serious sport, from personal defense to full time duty. Some call them antiquated antiques and are sick of them popping up everywhere, but that's only until they shoot them for a while and realize that they are timeless masterpieces. ;)

Hey, where's my change cheapskate. :D

February 10, 2005, 11:42 AM
Bill, my annoyance is with "simple machines" that can't be accurately fitted without hand tools and is a jumble of conventions and guesstimations, rather than dimensions and angles.

Harry Bonar
February 10, 2005, 11:53 AM
Dear Shooters:
Boy! I didn't realize what a flurry of opinions I'd stirred up .
To ease things over let me give you my milling dimensions for ramped (Para cut) frames.
Set up frame in a good solid vise and touch down on top rail (I use a .001 feeler guage) to check for contact with top frame rail and center your 3/8 mill in frame channel (try to select a 3/8 mill that has been sharpened - you want the radius to be as that on the barrel and also to be as close to bbl thickness as possible but still clearing)) - mill down .315 to clear the first step on your bbl. (back out mill and put bbl. in and slide it back to make sure this just clears the bottom of bbl. ramp.)
I then install a slave slide stop pin in the hole and coat milled portion with lay-out dye. I set my dial calipers at .580 and scribe the general location to mill down for the Para ramp from rear of slave pin. I put cutter just in front of this line and mill down to.578 deep (This is, of course measured ,again, from the top surface of slide rail, not from the .315 cut; the top surface of our slide rail is the starting point for all of our depth cuts) and continue cut forward (after removing slave pin).Then I'll take a good accurate measure from the pin (replace it) and mill as needed until rear of Para cut is .580 from rear of slave pin (These are Para dimensions.)
Then, I.ll change to a .190 mill (with a 3/8 shank) and touch down in original link cut and come back far enough to let link swing freely.
Take it up to the bead blast cabinet and bead it - looks like factory job
Hope I've been clear enough and haven't left anything out! :) Harry B.

Dave Sample
February 10, 2005, 01:48 PM
Great information, Harry. You are the Man!

Bill Z
February 10, 2005, 02:28 PM
Sure beats me hogging them out with an 1/8th inch bur and my Dremel tool. :eek:

Harry Bonar
February 10, 2005, 09:27 PM
Dear Shooters:
I should have added, (be sure to level your rail tops so they are perfectly leveled with mill table) :) I know you guys knew to do that!
I'm going to try to give a picture of the cut???

February 11, 2005, 12:59 AM
Thanks for the milling info, even if I (now) don't plan on installing a ramped barrel on my current project 1911. I envisioned the cut in the frame to be a lot deeper than .315" for some reason. Your description is a good reality check.