In a previous post we went over the idea of starting to do your own Garage Gunsmithing, this week I show you that I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is and start my own project. I selected a truly American Classic for my first project, the 1911 .45 ACP. We discussed when starting a project to not have any emotional attachment to a project and trying to get it as cheaply as possible. With the help of an old Russian Mosin Nagant and a SKS Carbine I was able to pull off a trade for a plain Mil Spec Springfield Armory 1911 Government Model. So now that I have a project, Where to start the build?
Laying out the rough guidelines of any project is important, but remember most goals and plans will change when doing any project and a Garage Gunsmithing project is no different. I would suggest everyone who starts projects like this write down your plan and notes, so you don’t forget your original ideas. When I first got this 1911 I noticed it had a fair amount of holster wear, which was great to me, makes things easier. So I made of list of things on it I didn’t like and remembered back to when I was fortunate enough to own a Les Baer Concept VII and what I loved about it.
Being that this was going to be the first in a series of working on the 1911 pistol, and had very little knowledge about the internal mechanisms I decided to start small and play it safe. So after consulting with a few friends that were a lot more knowledgable than I was about the 1911, I created my master list. The following parts are what I decided to change out, although not all at the same time.
- Mainspring Housing
- Slide Stop
- Beavertail Safety
- Trigger & Sear
- Thumb Safety
- Magazine Release
I also chose to do some frame modifications be we will go over that more in a later episode. I consulted the almighty You Tube and found that our own Nick Schultz has a very nice series on how to completely disassemble the 1911, other users thoroughly diagram how to perform the very work I was trying to do. All the links to what I consider to be helpful You Tubers will be at the bottom of the article. So with some hesitation I began my project by logging into Midway USA and making my shopping list.
I won’t lie I was nervous starting this but I reminded myself that the pathway to knowledge starts somewhere and that somewhere was here on my work bench. The mainspring housing was advertised as a “drop in” piece which means no filing or sanding, the perfect starter piece. So after watching a video and breaking out my punches I slowly tapped the mainspring retaining pin free from the receiver and with one tap it slide right out. Shockingly simple really. So I opened the package to free the Ed Brown Mainspring Housing (Part # 818C2) from its confines and slid it all the way in. As advertised it needed no custom finishing or sanding. When It was completely inserted I tapped the retaining pin back in and it was nearly complete. This magwell is a two piece and comes with a mag chute that is held in with an allen screw into the bottom of the mainspring housing. I completed the installation of the screw and this is what I had in front of me when I was complete, it was a ridiculously simple job.
Once it was assembled I performed the required safety checks to make sure that nothing was out of was and that all the safeties and trigger still worked. All components worked as they should so I was onto the next part of what I was dubbing “Phase 1” of this project, replacing the slide stop. A feat that proved to be interesting and semi confusing. The slide stop was not advertised as a “drop in” part, in fact it comes slightly oversized. A fact I would learn quickly and over come with the correct amount of swearing and filing of metal. This is when it’s very helpful to have a set of calipers and the original part on hand, but more on that in a second.
In order to replace the slide stop you have to completely field strip the 1911, Is it possible to do it without a basic field stripping ? Maybe but I wanted to be able to see what was happening in the hopes of preventing a game of ” Throw tools into the workbench in anger”. When the slide stop was removed the from frame of the 1911, I didn’t think anything about using the calipers to check the dimensions of the old part, I simple tried to insert the Ed Brown slide stop (Part # 970-45). That didn’t work as the shaft was oversized and didn’t fit correctly. Some patience and some files, that was corrected
Once I confirmed the slide stop was a slightly larger diameter than the sloppy original one I used some 800 grit sand paper to polish the surface up and used some needle files to chamfered the outside edges of the stop. My goal was to ensure that all parts coming in contact with a shooters hand or the pistol frame were smooth yet functional. Once again the 1911 was reassembled and the slide stop was inserted to check the tightness and it was a noticeably tighter fit that provided a positive lock up.
The feeling of joy and satisfaction that I felt after switching these parts and performing several flawless operations checks on the pistol was bizarre. It’s a feeling I hope to feel several more times as this project progresses, but I know there will be set backs. For now I would enjoy the feeling and decided that I had to go to my favorite shooting range The Birchwood Recreation & Shooting Park, and test out my simple modifications. It also proved a great time to meet up with James Foley of Arctic Arms to go over future projects for the site, but those are still a secret, but you will like it I assure you.
I loaded up my five magazines with generic old .45 ACP ammunition I had acquired in the initial trade for the 1911 and began the live fire portion of the testing. I intend to do this after each set of modifications, my thought is that I can narrow down and issues or problems and be able to isolate what component is causing the issues. With the magazines loaded I engaged the steel target and all the rounds fired successfully, but I did have one problem not connected to my modifications and that was a failure to extract one of the final rounds I shot. This wasn’t connect to the project but will be corrected.
This concludes a successful Phase 1 of the Garage Gunsmithing 1911 Project. I have been hard at work lining up Phase 2 and acquired the needed supplies to make it a reality. If you have done a 1911 project yourself be sure to post pictures of it in the comments section and tell us about it. If you have a favorite gunsmith that has treated you right in the past, let us know that also. We are always looking for small companies to highlight and spread the word about.
Phase 2 of the project will consist of shaping and rounding some elements of the frame and slide by hand, as well as the cutting and installation of the Ed Brown Beavertail safety and a Ed Brown Extended Magazine Release. Here are a few sample pics of what is to come. Stay safe and enjoy the fall hunting season that is closely approaching.