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Building a 1911 from the ground up

Discussion in '1911 Forums' started by Jim S., Mar 12, 2011.

  1. I recently was given a Colt frame and slide.
    Completely bare and in need of some repair to the frame feed ramp.
    I found a good smith who does this work in "Innovative Custom Guns".
    It is actually a cheap cost to do this repair.
    My point of this posting is that looking at buying GOOD quality parts to complete a 1911 build is going to be quite expensive.
    It almost seems to me that you could probably buy a pretty decent 1911 for the cost of all the parts and work involved.
    Now granted I got a frame and slide for nothing more than the cost of a repair, radius cut for the grip safety, and cutting the sight dovetails in the slide, but it will eventually cost me a lot to get all the parts together for the rebuild.
    Is it worth the cost because of the quality of parts I will get for it?
    Is it worth the cost because it will be a more desireable gun to me because I built it?
    Anyone who has done a project from a bare slide and frame please chime in.
    Part of me is saying it's nuts to spend that kind of money when I could buy a good 1911 in the same price range.
    Part of me is saying how cool it will be to have my hands on every bit of what this gun will eventually be.
    I'm leaning toward the "who cares what it will cost" because I will be building it.
    Not like I have to be in a hurry to finish it either. I can spread the cost out as long as I want to.
    What do you guys think?
  2. I am going to build a very bottom dollar one in the next month or two if all goes well, I might try a more expensive parts one. I am going bottom dollar first just to see how the parts fit and learn how to do filing

  3. TSAX


    Jun 5, 2010
    Yep, the parts are expensive, Wilson and Nighthawk have excellent quality parts but the cost is high.
  4. FLIPPER 348

    FLIPPER 348 Happy Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    Bend Oregon

    Not really. You don't build a 1911 to save money. What you learn and the satisfaction you get are worth much more than the higher cost. Buy your parts from Colt, EGW and Fusion & Brown.

    Sights are as expensive as you want them to be. Build it was a series 70 and leave the radius and sights as they are.

    If you what to go the least expensive route:

    The parts are not the highest quality but serviceable and you will have your 'favorite' 1911 when you are done!
  5. Quack

    Quack Rent this space

    Jan 7, 2002
    NE Ohio
    after it's all said and done (if you don't have all the tools already) it would come close to having a gun built.

    Lawdog, if you need help give me a shout.
  6. I'm not going to go through the trouble of building a 1911 and not use the best parts I can put in her.
    I've got the tools and know how and have worked on many 1911's over the years.
    I've just never built one for myself from a bare slide and frame before.
    I know I could probably buy a TRP or equivalent gun by the time I'm done.
    It will be special, and it will be a good gun when it's done.
    Just that it will be expensive.
    I can take my time and build it as I feel like spending the money buy I know that once I start I'll want to get it done because thats the way I am.
    Are they worth doing this way as far as a possible resale value?
    I doubt I would want to sell it but if it isn't even worth the cost of parts then is it really worth doing?
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  7. And...
    No flat triggers either. :)
  8. Quack

    Quack Rent this space

    Jan 7, 2002
    NE Ohio
  9. GlockRik


    Sep 14, 2001
    If you are considering the cost, then no, it is not worth it.

  10. FLIPPER 348

    FLIPPER 348 Happy Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    Bend Oregon

    well worth it

    You will never sell it and it will be your favorite 1911. But I would not recommend using high-end/$$$$ parts for your 1st build.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  11. There's a link on TOS where the guy documented his ground-up build. And it's fairly detailed with info. He has a lot of specs that one should look out for.

    I've priced out the parts for my build, and I'm not saving anything from buying an equivalent pistol.
  12. cscprez


    Mar 11, 2011
    I have built a couple of Government models from scratch. One was on a Kimber Custom frame and slide, and one on a MKIV Series 80 frame and slide. I own a lot of tools for building them, plus a lathe and a mill/drill. My personal experience is that unless you start with a good, tight slide to frame fit, and all of your pin holes are tight, you cannot build a match quality gun with a used foundation. You will have to tighten then lap the slide rails, which involves driving the frame rails down and squeezing the slide. Then, you need to dress the frame rails with a file, and final lap them in with silicon carbide grits. This can also cause problems later in the build with cutting the bottom feet of the new barrel, because the distance from top lugs to the slide stop pin has been reduced. You will need to remove a lot of material to fit the lockup. A better way to go, if you have your heart set on a frame up build, is buy one of the prefitted frame and slide combos from STI or Essex. If you spend the big bucks, you can go with Les Baer. They all come with beavertail cuts, sight dovetails, frontstrap checkering, ejection port, etc. already done. The breechface will be accurate and smooth and the slide needs little if no lapping. Remember, a house is only as good as it's foundation. If you start with a frame that has egged pin holes or loose slide to frame fit, you will need to do tons more work to get a quality product. Also consider the cost of machine work and checkering. Unless your smith is set up to do machine checkering, it can cost dearly to hand checker a front strap. My eyes aren't good enough to do even 20 LPI any more. The personal satisfaction of building one is worth it to me, and I know what went into it. They shoot beautifully, and many people don't believe that I built them myself, but who cares? I know exactly how every part is fitted, and my trigger jobs have lasted many thousands of rounds with no variation in pull weight or feel. Do it, but just remember that you need to start with a good, solid foundation, or you will just be throwing a lot of expensive parts down a hole.