View Full Version : building a 1911 parts gun

March 15, 2008, 11:57 AM
Ive done an ar15 parts gun wich proved to be a pretty fun project for me. Ive been kicking around the idea of building a 1911 wich Im sure is more challenging, but Ive been told you pretty much need to be a gun smith to do so. can any one shed some light on this for me? with basic knowledge would I be able to do most of the work myself?

Superhouse 15
March 15, 2008, 12:53 PM
Depends on the quality of parts you get, and what you consider "basic". If you get "drop in" parts and can do minor fitting work, no problem. I think the hardest part to fit is the safety. If you get a lot of oversized parts you have to fit in every dimension, you had better have some skill and some patience. Is there maybe a local gunsmith you could go to for advice? Do most of the work yourself and have someone do the hard stuff and-or check your work?

March 15, 2008, 01:51 PM
The M1911 has even more traps for the unwary than the AR-15, perhaps two orders of magnitude more.

While it's possible to put an M1911 together just by assembling the parts, it may be that the hammer and sear don't play well, or that the thumb safety doesn't work (or, when off, continues to block the sear), or that the grip safety isn't properly fitted...

Then, of course, we get into such issues as link length, barrel (lower) lug contour, engagement of the slide stop and magazine, ensuring that the magazine catch both engages and releases the magazine...

At this point I'm not certain which resource to recommend; I'm in the process of research for my book series on the 1911 so I'm reviewing everything I can find. As I do, and work with custom pistolsmiths learning how they do "it," I'm learning just how much I don't know.

And after 50 years with the 1911 I thought I knew most of it. I was wrong :eek: .



trigger happy
March 15, 2008, 02:11 PM
fun projects :D

March 15, 2008, 03:05 PM
I always used to hear talk of folks investing 150$ in used GI parts and assembling a functional 1911. That was parts that were made to the original mil specs and meant to interchange. Nowadays with "custom" parts and parts of unknown parantage floating around, it might be more of a skilled task to assemble a good tight gun that works, easily. I figure the GI parts guns worked but probably you ended up with a gun that was not too tight, and grouped like a well used GI pistol. You can buy premade frame/slide sets that are fitted together for a quality function. You can buy hammer/sear sets that are made to function correctly together, assuming the holes in the frame are exactly in the right place and the right sized pins are installed, etc. But getting all the quality mfr parts together might not be as economical anymore, when the total is compared to cost of a basic 1911. That is why maybe more folks buy a complete gun and customize, with that as a starting point. The factory assembled gun is presumably ready to run, so anything that you change can be taken out if problems occur with each "mod". Worth looking into, but I would fish around to contact someone who has done it lately. Probably custom gunsmiths do it the most nowadays.

March 16, 2008, 02:44 AM
Jerry Kuhnhausen has written two manuals on the 1911A1 that are worthwhile - http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/catsearch.aspx?k=KUHNHAUSEN&ps=10&si=True

Building a 1911 from scratch is a big undertaking - it involves much more than simply assembling the parts.

March 16, 2008, 09:47 AM
Kuhnhusen is a great reference source. However, lacking a fully-equipped machine shop, you may find it difficult to emulate his procedures :) .

I must admit that the first time I read Vol II my brain exploded :eek: . The third and fourth readings are beginning to sink it.



March 16, 2008, 05:33 PM
I say go for it! Good luck with your project.

March 23, 2008, 08:24 PM
I built a gunsmith fit Caspian Arms 45 with hand tools and a lot of patience. The only thing that was farmed out was the machining of the trigger housing to fit a much fatter target trigger.

I bought a sear jig for $25 many years ago that got the proper angle on the sear and then filed its face to make it the target marvel that it is today.

I polished every piece of metal that made a sliding contact with any other and used an Atlas lathe to match the barrel to the bushing.

The barrel lug was fitted by hand with a file and a stone and when it was completed I Ransom Rested 10 shots to a 2" group at 50 yards.

It took 2 weeks to do as an after work project and the knowledge came from Jerry Kuhnhausen's book as well as a copy of Guns and Ammo titled 45 Auto King of the Handguns from many years ago.

March 23, 2008, 10:16 PM
You can buy a complete GI parts kit for the government model from DIYguns for 300$. It includes everything but the frame. An essex frame is about 100$. I built up a GI spec gun from the above parts, and it required no machining. File work and the Kunhausen manual.

I don't know that it would be cost effective to build one with the rock bottom prices of some of the cheap 1911s, like the Rock Island, etc. It sure is fun though.

March 24, 2008, 08:03 AM
I built a few 1911's on various frames with just hand tools (needle files, stones,etc.), but as other folks have stated above, there are a lot of measurements that have to be considered...so patience is a must, along with dial calipers and gauges. That said, I enjoyed my 1st build, even though it took a lot longer than I expected. I "buggered up" a couple of parts and had to start over with replacements, but I had 2 cigar boxes of parts to work with I recieved from my uncle. You learn something with every one you build. Just use an easy touch with the files and stones...ya can't put the metal back on, unless you're experienced with welding up parts and filing them back down. A metal lathe and milling machine make some tasks much easier, but I didn't have either. Patience really IS a virtue. Shooting the finished product is very satisfying though.:D

March 25, 2008, 08:59 AM
Kuhnhusen is a great reference source. However, lacking a fully-equipped machine shop, you may find it difficult to emulate his procedures

Very few of the things detailed in Volume 1 require a machine shop to execute.
It is almost all good old hand work with files, and a reamer for barrel bushing work.

if you want a GI grade pistol you might be able to assemble one.
If you want something 'better' you will need a decent handful of specialized hand tools to do the job.

March 25, 2008, 05:50 PM
If you're just looking to assemble a 1911, Sarco sells a variety of frames and slides along with a parts kit - http://www.sarcoinc.com/

These aren't high-end component, but they're inexpensive, and probably a good way to get started.

March 25, 2008, 06:37 PM
As others have said, lots of fun and many traps. Don't let that stop you though. Be aware - if you build one, you will have to build another. It's just like cocaine. I am an addict.

January 30, 2010, 10:21 PM
Here's a thought, why not buy a cheap gun and 'hot-rod it into something special? At least then you could shoot some groups along the way to see improvment. eg; Norinco or Sam 1911. It would be an excellent learning experience i think. Considering doing it one day myself, but to avoid heart failure i wont be adding up the cost an the end of the project!!:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:;);)

James K
January 30, 2010, 11:46 PM
The key word here is "functional". I think anyone with good mechanical knowhow and maybe a good book can assemble a functional 1911 from parts. But if one wants to build a top notch competition gun, that is a whole nother ball game. Then you get into a lot of fit and try with links, bushings, slide fit, hammer notch cutting, and on and on.


January 31, 2010, 05:58 PM
Any 9mm 1911 kit available?