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Latest 1911 project


I am at it again. A while back, I posted pics of my 1911 BBQ gun in 38 Super. It is a beautiful gun, accurate, and fun to shoot. I got to thinking the other day that I needed a BBQ in 45 ACP, so after finding a Rock Island at Buds that was the basic configuration I wanted, it was ordered, along with a sack full of new parts. Once the gun arrived, I tore it down and only kept the slide, frame, and grip safety. Everything else is to be replaced. I have been working on it off and on for a couple of weeks now, and it is finally ready to run a couple boxes of ammo through before I strip the parkerizing, polish it out, and hot blue it.
As with the first one, I will have to get a licensed gunsmith to re-stamp the serial number (probably under the right grip panel), as the polish job will surely obliterate the original, or most of it. This MUST be done while the original serial is still clearly legible, so it will happen prior to refinishing.

Right now, it is wearing the new grips I ordered for it. Gaboon ebony, inlaid with cocobolo.

I can't order the front sight till I test fire it and see where it is hitting. I just finished fitting a BarSto hard fit barrel and it's a sure bet that the point of impact has changed.
I like starting with Armscor guns. They don't cost an arm and a leg and I have found them to be extremely well made. No rough spots or tool marks internally, correct dimensionally, and I like the slide to frame fit. Not too tight. The new barrel is TIGHT and headspace is line on line with a go gauge. It could be a few tenths under, but rounds chamber without issue.

Once 'shot in' and the serial re-stamped, this gun will be stripped, polished to a mirror finish (except for the top of the slide), then I will hot blue everything in my garage. I get a real kick out of doing things like this.

If you guys are interested, I will update this post as the rest of the build progresses, up to and including the wipe down after everything is finished.

I love the grips. Between living in NJ, getting older, a move, and Covid, I haven't fired my Kimber Raptor .45 (or it's .22 conversion barrel) in years. In past years, we'd bring it down to KY when visiting my brother-in-law (a retired P.O.) and practice in his back yard.
Fellows, I apologize. I never thought of doing a step by step and now, all the internal work is finished. I will be more than glad to report on the initial firing, sight regulation, and do a series on surface prep and bluing.
Anyone who wants the home recipe for hot bluing, please send me a PM with your email address and I'll send it to you. You need a 'grill' propane tank, turkey fryer burner, and a glazed steel pot from somplace like WalMart. I think I paid eight dollars for mine. The chemicals are Sodium Hydroxide (lye), Sodium Nitrate fertilizer (NOT Ammonium nitrate), both sourced from Amazon, and two gallons of distilled water. CHEAP, and outstanding results. You will also need some iron wire like you tie rebar together with (hardware store), and a couple sticks of steel rod (same hardware store). I bought a four foot chunk of 1/4 inch and cut it in two. The rods are for stirring and hanging parts.
Paying a gunsmith to hot blue it the first time is what drove me to learn how to do it myself. His price was reasonable, but the finish wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted a black mirror finish. Blind Hogg's recipe gives just such a finish and at a somewhat lower temperature than commercially available salts from gun parts suppliers.

Note: Don't put anything that isn't iron based in hot bluing salts. It can kill the salts or it will simply dissolve (zinc and aluminum come to mind). This process isn't gradual.

Yes, I learned how to hot blue pistols and small parts in my garage with a turkey fryer, lye, and sodium nitrate fertilizer. You can't imagine how handy this is. Idiot scratch? Blend it out, fire up the tank, and all is like new after 20 minutes in the salts. Want to polish out your rifle's bolt handle and re-blue it? Easy. A buddy polished out a single action Ruger revolver and an old, beat up PPK and ran both through my tank. They looked better than they had when new.

One last thought; I didn't give credit where credit is due. Photographs do not and cannot do those grips justice. They are gaboon ebony inlaid with cocobolo and they are flawless. Absolutely stunning. I was blown away when I opened the package. They weren't cheap (close to $150), but if you saw them in person, you would agree that they justify their asking price. They are made to order by a company called WoodCaliber. You will wait a couple of weeks for them (maybe more), but when they arrive, you will have some of the finest 1911 grips on the market.

Let me know if you want the "how to" for hot bluing in the garage and I'll send it to you in a PDF file.

I can post a parts list if anyone wants one.

Parts List

BarSto hard fit/gunsmith fit barrel and barrel bushing (includes link and link pin)

EGW angle bored thick barrel bushing in blue with carry bevel (custom ordered to match barrel and slide).

EGW: Sear, disconnector, hammer, titanium hammer strut, mag release, square bottomed oversize firing pin stop, GI type recoil spring rod, recoil spring plug for thick bushing, and a smooth mainspring housing.

Wilson short, ultralight trigger, thumb safety, stainless firing pin, extractor, and plunger tube

Ed Brown slide stop

Generic grip screw bushings and slot head screws

Nowlin reduced power sear spring

Wolff 16 pound recoil spring, 19 pound mainspring, firing pin spring, and plunger tube spring

Nighthawk pin set

Dawson Precision fiber optic sights (Novak pattern)

Custom grips by WoodCaliber

I don't know what all this cost and I really don't want to know. It is what it is.
Worked on the trigger for a little while. I have approximately .075 pre-travel (this is necessary for the reset to operate properly) and the digital trigger gauge averages at 2 lbs 14 oz. It passes the click test and the dykem tells me that I have full and even engagement between the sear face and the hammer hooks. There is no discernible trigger overtravel. This is turning out to be one nice pistol. My double stack Super is also a sub 3 lb trigger and has been absolutely reliable. I won't take one much below these numbers, as I just don't trust it not to bounce. In a gun that weighs as much as a 1911, a 2.5 - 3 lb trigger is light enough for precision work, especially when the sear break has no creep or overtravel.

Side note: I have always been impressed with EGW's offerings. Their sears are as close to perfect as possible to make them. I won't use anything else. This build sports one of their lightened hammers. This is the first EGW hammer I have used and I am amazed. Out of the package, it was true and the hammer hooks were square, polished, and trimmed to the correct length. I inspected it with a 30X loupe and could find nothing that needed attention. No, I don't work for EGW or anyone else (I'm retired). I am just reporting what I found. I will use EGW hammers exclusively from here on out.

The hammer in question:


Will try to shoot it this week.

@Mhinagoya, you sure do know your way around a 1911. I could sit around reading your posts all day. :)

You humble me Sir. Thank you.
You are welcome to drive up and spend the day. At your leisure. I'm not that far away (Not now. Not like when I lived in Washington).

I am nowhere close to being an expert. I have met a real 1911 expert, so I know the difference. That being said, I have spent a lot of time with gunsmith hand tools and destroyed a lot of expensive parts learning what little I know. There is no such thing as a free education.

By the way, I fit and installed an EGW oversize firing pin stop this morning. I like the square bottom stops. That is how JMB originally designed these pistols and it has a positive effect on felt recoil
Start with an oversize stop, take some measurements, get it close to the correct width with a file, then start shaving the thickness on the sides till it will just start to slip in. Continue to breathe on it a little here and there, trying the fit each time, till it can just be tapped in to place and still let the firing pin pop in to the hole. Then, check the bottom to make sure it is shear with the disconnector ramp surface, file to fit if necessary, and you are good to go.

Why go to all this trouble? Fit this way, the extractor can't 'clock' or turn in its tunnel. Clocked extractors have driven 1911 shooters nuts trying to figure out why their pistol won't feed reliably. The second reason isn't so simple. When you buy a 1911 today, the bottom of the firing pin stop has a radius on it to make it easy to cycle the action with the hammer down. This would seem to be a benefit. Unfortunately, it also means that when making it easier for the slide to **** the hammer, you are not forcing the gun to consume recoil force when compressing the main spring (that powers the hammer). The square bottom stop robs the gun of the mechanical advantage the radius provides. In essence, you reduce the length of the lever (the distance from the hammer pivot pin to the point on the hammer where it is contacted by the slide stop). The result is to delay the recoil impulse and consume more of the recoil energy (from the moving slide) when cocking the hammer. The reduction in energy transferred to the hand is real and very noticeable.

Sorry. That got wordy. However, it is real and all my pistols have square bottom firing pin stops because of it. I have never had issues with a clocked extractor either.

An update:

The new rear sight from Dawson Precision came in, so I decided to swap them out for the test firing, as the new sight was a different height from the one that came in the pistol.
I couldn't get the existing sight to budge. I have a sight pusher. It didn't work. I chucked the slide up in the vice (hard nylon jaws) and took a punch and a ball peen hammer to it. Nada.
Finally, I got it to move a little, but that was it.
Not wanting to take a torch to the slide to heat it up, I made the decision to cut the rear sight (cross wise), almost to the slide in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure holding the sight in place. I had already pulled the set screw, so I took a Dremel and started a cut through the sight in the center of the dovetail. Once the cut was well established, I used a hacksaw to continue (checking about every four strokes to make certain I didn't cut in to the slide) and when I was close to the bottom of the dovetail, I put it back in the sight pusher. It squawked with every turn of the sight pusher, but I got it out. This is unusual, but as I wanted optical fiber sights, it was only an inconvenience. It took some filing, but the Dawson sight is now in place. It is higher, so I expect it to raise the POI, but the barrel sits higher in the upper lugs, so that will lower the POI. I'm trying to say that I have no earthly idea where this gun will shoot, but I can't order the new front sight till it is test fired and I run the numbers to know what height front sight to order. The barrel lockup is so tight that the slide hesitates when cycled by hand. A couple hundred rounds will smooth this out nicely.

For anyone wondering, I won't pull the sights when I blue the gun. I will remove the optical fiber first, but Dawson sights are steel and will be regulated at that point, so the filed surfaces will blue just like the rest of the slide and everything will match.

It looks terrible at the moment. I used an aluminum drift to drive the new sight in to the slide, so it has aluminum 'stains' on it. This will flash off when it hits the hot bluing salts. Been here, done this before. No big deal.

Your wish Sir:

What appears to be scuffs and marring is dust and aluminum. Nothing more. It looks terrible, but this is just part of building a pistol. It's just "dirty" and at this point, that is irrelevant. Please note the slight mismatch frame to slide at the rear of the slide. This is as the gun was received and not all that unusual. I will blend most of this out (if not all of it), and use a metal checkering file to horizontally 'line' the back of the slide to control reflection and glare. This won't be a one and done, as I have fit two additional extractors, so I will 'file in' the grooves (30 per inch) which will include the back of the extractor and the back of the ejector, swap out extractors, do it again, then a third time. All parts will be blued together, so if/when I break an extractor, I can do a swap out and the lines/grooves will match up perfectly.
Please note the Wilson wide paddle thumb safety. Ambi safety GONE.

I nearly forgot to mention that the grips have been changed from the ebony in the original photo to a set of working grips for the rest of the build. The nice ones are put away for now.

Stay tuned.
Ok, something of note and something odd.

This shot is of a 'normal' firing pin stop. I tried to position it so you could see the radius on the bottom clearly. Square bottom stops have no such radius.

This is a rear shot of the slide with the square stop installed.
The "something odd" is obvious. First, it appears that the extractor is clocked. It isn't. This is the way it was ground. I am leaving it in for the initial testing and when the testing is finished, it will hit the trash can. It's a good extractor, is properly fit and properly tensioned. I won't leave it in looking like that on a gun I have dropped this much money on. Why would I? Really good extractors are thirty bucks and I have three laying here that have been properly fit.
The second thing is that the stop looks crooked. Again, it isn't. In this case, you are seeing an odd camera angle and the fact that I haven't fully tapped it home yet (evidenced by how the firing pin is sitting).

In my experience, everything on these guns requires fitting. EVERYTHING.

Really good extractors are thirty bucks and I have three laying here that have been properly fit.
Curious to know why you haven't gone with an Aftec extractor. They are stupid prices but you have dropped some decent money on other parts. I have a 40S&W that has done in excess of 250k rounds, still has the original springs but on its second saddle.
Curious to know why you haven't gone with an Aftec extractor. They are stupid prices but you have dropped some decent money on other parts. I have a 40S&W that has done in excess of 250k rounds, still has the original springs but on its second saddle.
Please forgive me for waiting so long to reply. Life has intruded on my living and I have been stupid busy.

I have something in the neighborhood of fourteen 1911 pistols. I don't get to shoot a lot, so it is rare for one of my pistols to see 300 rounds in a year. Were I shooting competitively, I would run an Aftec extractor. Yes, I agree with you. They are worth their price.

I have made a promise to myself every weekend to get to a range that week and test fire the pistol so I can order a new front sight and have the serial number duplicated under one of the grip panels. I must do this before stripping the parkerizing and polishing the gun for bluing, as the original serial number will be obliterated. As long as a licensed gunsmith does the stamping while the original serial number is unmolested, it is legal.

Note: My weekly promises to shoot this thing are starting to sound like "The check is in the mail".

I have been hand cycling the gun and it will almost go in to battery without dropping the slide. I fit the new BarSto barrel TIGHT. With the slide off the frame, it clicks in to place with thumb pressure. I also cut the lower lugs a tiny bit undersize and very gently filed them to final fit. It is a hard lockup on the slide stop pin. I installed an Ed Brown forged slide stop because the very tight fit would initially put a lot of load on the pin. The EGW custom bushing is clearanced* to the barrel less than .001(my measurements with my vernier mics) and I need a bushing wrench to turn it in the slide (I can almost turn it by hand. Almost). When I first fit the barrel and dropped the slide in to battery, I had to shove it against my work bench to get it to unlock. Barrel hood to breech face is line on line.
Upper lug engagement is greater than .050. This set the center of the chamber slightly high relative to the firing pin. I will swap dead center firing pin strikes for more upper lug engagement any day.

So my words aren't misunderstood.

Clearances: The gap between two or more parts.
Tolerances: The amount a part is allowed to dimensionally vary from its theoretical (as designed) nominal.

Initial firing will be done with a liberal dressing of moly/graphite grease on lugs and barrel bushing to allow wear-in without risk of galling as well as a very thin coat on the slide to frame rails. Same grease is on the sear to hammer hook interface.

If anyone is wondering, that moly/graphite grease is an automotive grease I cut with turbine engine oil to the consistency I want. It is far too thick straight out of the tube and the esters in turbine oil do an excellent job keeping the solids in suspension.

Enough. I have promised myself to get to a range this week. . . and the check is in the mail.

#60 “O” rings on grip screws?
Probably not. I use red loctite on my grip screw bushings when I install them in the frame, then after I have checked grip panel to bushing fit (the bushing must be below the surface of the grip screw counterbore. Around .010 works well), I will install the screws with a tiny bit of blue loctite. I have never had anything stuck, cracked, or butchered doing this.
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