View Full Version : Building a 1911 from a kit, questions.

April 30, 2009, 03:37 PM
First off, every tells me that you will spend between $500-600 bucks on tools alone. So if anyone who's built a 1911 from a parts kit can tell me if a drill press, grinding and wire brush wheels (it's an all-in-one), about ten different files, a pound or two of sandpaper, and an unorganized toolbox are enough?

Second off, keep hearing that this is going to cost between $2-3 THOUSAND dollars to do. Just for the parts. The thing that is baffling me about that is that Sarco inc has every part you need minus the frame for $210 ( http://www.sarcoinc.com/cgm.html ). Brownells is selling frames from $200-ish ( http://www.brownells.com/aspx/ns/sto...UTO%20RECEIVER ) to the $400-ish mark.

So for Sarco parts and a frame from Brownells it's going to be around anywhere from $400 to $700 bucks (includings tax). Is there something seriously wrong with Sarco made gear? Or Caspian Frames?

Just what exactly are some guys using to make these things for $3000? I can't even figure out where your getting the parts from that would make it cost that much.

April 30, 2009, 04:30 PM
I built mine last year with a Caspian frame and slide that were paid for by other people (Christmas gift and birthday present), the rest of the parts were either Wilson or Ed Brown that I purchased at gun shows or through the internet. I had Caspian radius the rear and fit their beaver tail safety to the frame and install the plunger tube as I didn’t want to purchase the tooling to do it, the rest I did myself. The only tools I used were files, stones, hammers (ball peen and lead); all in all I think I spent around $300 for all the parts and some of the files. The cost comes in their time building it and that’s where ANY of the high end 1911’s cost comes from, getting a slide to fit is time consuming…same thing for the barrel and various parts. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and only need to pass a file across it a couple times…then other times it will take couple hours for another part. I’m in the process of building 2 other 1911’s; one for a Colt Ace top end my father had and the other just to have a blued one to match the stainless. IMO the best 1911 builder is/was Larry Vickers and if memory serves me he did EVERTYTHING by hand and if it’s good enough for him it’s damn sure good enough for a hack like me. It took me close to a year to finish the gun to where I could fire it, just because I purchased parts as I got the money and didn’t want to get a “kit” as I wanted top end parts that I knew would be good from the start and needed minimal if any fitting…it paid off in the end I think.


April 30, 2009, 07:32 PM
Very nice job, does she shoot as well as she looks GE?

April 30, 2009, 08:29 PM
Hey GE-Minigun, I keep getting these e-mails and pm's about how I need "special tools" and even someone who said I needed a CNC milling machine. I doubt I need the CNC (I don't think they were around when this thing was designed), but do you have any idea what these "special tools" are I need?

May 1, 2009, 05:47 AM
Buy Jery Kuhnhausens shop manual Vol 1 before you buy any parts or tools. Read it front to back. Get a Brownells catalog.

May 1, 2009, 08:16 AM
Very nice job, does she shoot as well as she looks GE?

25 yrd, 10 shots, offhand...


Hey GE-Minigun, I keep getting these e-mails and pm's about how I need "special tools" and even someone who said I needed a CNC milling machine. I doubt I need the CNC (I don't think they were around when this thing was designed), but do you have any idea what these "special tools" are I need?

As mentioned I used a couple files, stones and hammers…I never seen the need for a CNC machine to build a 1911 unless you are going to do it for a living, however it would make some of the jobs easier. Yes there are some “special tools” that you could purchase, but again, unless you’re going to build multiple guns I wouldn’t do it. The only “special tool” I have is a fixture to hold the frame in a vise, if you want a tight fit you beat the snot out of both. As mentioned by drail get both of Jerry Kuhnhausen’s books, they saved me more than once. Another thing…if you don’t want to do a lot of work on your first build, let Caspian do most of the work for you. They’ll fit the slide to frame either completely or part of the way and install most or all of the parts. Granted you’ll pay more for it but it will save you the aggravation. As mentioned I had them fit the grip safety to the frame and install the plunger tube, also had them checker the front strap as I didn’t want to buy the “tool” to do it. I would highly recommend getting a Kart easy fit barrel and the installation kit…if memory serves…$200 for both through Brownells.

Hunter Customs
May 1, 2009, 08:43 AM
There's nothing wrong with Caspian frames and slides. When it comes to the small parts if you want the gun to last you might want to consider buying top shelf parts from a known supplier, Caspian also sells small parts.

Before building there's some things you really need to understand about the gun and one of the most important is barrel timing.
If your barrel is not timed correctly you will shear the radial lugs on the barrel and in the slide ruining both. After the shearing if the gun continues to run you will very likely see lower lug failure, the lug can shear completely off the barrel. I've seen some mis-timed guns shoot as many as 10,000 rounds before total failure takes place, but when it does the shooter will be buying a lot of new parts. Timing is the thing that most hobby builders fail to understand.

Make sure you fully understand how the trigger group parts work and can do all the safety function test of those parts. There's drop in trigger group kits that give a decent trigger job however they never feel as good as a trigger job that's done by someone that knows what they are doing.

The frame ramp is an important issue, make sure you understand the proper depth and angle of the ramp and where the measurements are taken from. I've seen many frames ruined because bad cutting of frame ramps from novice builders.

Barrel throating is another area that you need to understand. Many novice builders trying to make their mis-timed gun run and feed all types of ammo over throat their barrel. This can lead to a very dangerous situation where you can have brass failure which will allow the hot gases to flow into the mag tunnel, which in turn can denonate the remainder of the rounds in the mag.

My advice for those wanting to build a 1911 style gun would be to take some classes from the pros or a good gunsmith school that teaches the 1911 style gun.

As for tools, yes you can build one by hand but there's nothing as accurate as good machinery when it comes to fitting parts.

Bob Hunter

May 1, 2009, 02:45 PM
Hey Hunter Customs, I see your located in MO. You don't happen to offer any classes do you :D ? Or rent tools? :)

Hunter Customs
May 2, 2009, 08:46 AM
I'm sorry, as for now I don't have time to teach classes or renting my tools out.
Maybe someday I may consider teaching classes on the 1911, but everyone will be required to furnish their own tools.
At one time Bill at Cylinder&Slide was giving classes, I'm not sure if he still offers that.
Bob Hunter

May 2, 2009, 11:42 AM
I'm wondering if any here has looked into the kits at Fusion Firearms? I am told that all the major machining is done as far as barrel to slide to frame, and all the fellow at home has to do is fit small parts and apply some kind of finish.

I am interested in the 10mm longslide kit they offer.

May 2, 2009, 12:29 PM
Last I checked, Cylinder and Slide still offers classes. Be prepared for the cost though, they're not cheap. And like Bob said, you have to furnish a lot of your own tools. Check out C&S's web page (a google search should find them). You should be able to find their class information.

May 2, 2009, 02:27 PM
I'm not sure if I can go all the way to Fremont, NE. It would be a six hour drive to and back for class.

Maybe I'll just order the parts, get every last hand-tool I've got, use a guide I found, and see where that takes me. So long as I'm not doing work to the frame, I'm not to terribly worried about work on the smaller parts you can get with a Sarco kit. At worst, I'm out $40 for the barrel.

Well, summer is a'comin and I've got a project a'brewin.

May 2, 2009, 06:46 PM
Just get a pre-fitted frame and slide and have a good gunsmith assemble the whole 1911 for you.

May 3, 2009, 01:10 PM
The above suggestion would take a lot of the fun out of the original poster's "do it yourself" project.
You can do the work yourself. Its a great way to really get to know your gun. But do have a qualified gunsmith check it before you shoot it.

May 3, 2009, 02:40 PM
I have the impression that the Sarco kits are more of a 1911 assembly kit, than a builders kit - i.e. they're meant to enable you to put together a 1911 w/o any machining. But you'd want to confirm this before buying one - I've never purchased their kits.