Looking for some advice re: gunsmisthing

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Thread: Looking for some advice re: gunsmisthing

  1. #1
    Member Array Ford's Avatar
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    Looking for some advice re: gunsmisthing

    Hi all,

    This forum is the best gun forum I have ever been a part of. There may be forums more specifically oriented around my question, however I would like to see what you all have to say.

    I have a Rock Island 1911 mid-sized and want to do some work to it. Eventually I'd like some sort of night sights or fiber optic sights, which will likely entail some machine work on the slide, and a duracoat job. For now I'd really like an extended beavertail, and either a bobbed hammer or a hammer that will work with the extended beavertail. The pistol also needs some help to feed JHP ammo, which certainly include more rounds to break in as well as decent quality magazines (I will be purchasing some Wilson Combat 47D's soon).

    On to my question. I could send this thing in, pay around $200, and get the work done (extended beavertail, hammer, tuned for JHP reliability), or I could do it myself. I am a DIYer all the way, which is the only reason I consider doing this stuff myself. I'm a mechanical engineering major, so obviously am mechanically inclined. When the engine blew in my truck last summer, instead of buying a new truck like everyone told me to, I bought another truck with a tired body but good engine and put that engine in my truck. I've never paid a mechanic to do anything to my truck, and never intend to either unless I'm far from home and for some reason didn't bring enough tools with me. I know there is a learning curve to everything, including gunsmithing. This gun is a $400 gun to start with so maybe a good starting point.

    Am I nuts? Anyone learned minor gunsmithing like this on the internet and been happy with the outcome?

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Array HK Dan's Avatar
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    A buddy of mine went through this. He bought a 1911 GI model and tried to make it into a Wilson with aftermarket parts; he wound up spending a ton of money and the new parts didn't work exactly right. He sold it and bought a Para with the stuff on it that he wanted. That would be my advice to you. It never fails, the 1911s you see t a USPSA or IDPA match that choke and puke are the pnes that the owner played with. With that gun, I'd stay "factory".
    "What does Marcellus Wallace LOOK like?"

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    VIP Member Array automatic slim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ford View Post
    Hi all,

    This forum is the best gun forum I have ever been a part of. There may be forums more specifically oriented around my question, however I would like to see what you all have to say.

    I have a Rock Island 1911 mid-sized and want to do some work to it. Eventually I'd like some sort of night sights or fiber optic sights, which will likely entail some machine work on the slide, and a duracoat job. For now I'd really like an extended beavertail, and either a bobbed hammer or a hammer that will work with the extended beavertail. The pistol also needs some help to feed JHP ammo, which certainly include more rounds to break in as well as decent quality magazines (I will be purchasing some Wilson Combat 47D's soon).

    On to my question. I could send this thing in, pay around $200, and get the work done (extended beavertail, hammer, tuned for JHP reliability), or I could do it myself. I am a DIYer all the way, which is the only reason I consider doing this stuff myself. I'm a mechanical engineering major, so obviously am mechanically inclined. When the engine blew in my truck last summer, instead of buying a new truck like everyone told me to, I bought another truck with a tired body but good engine and put that engine in my truck. I've never paid a mechanic to do anything to my truck, and never intend to either unless I'm far from home and for some reason didn't bring enough tools with me. I know there is a learning curve to everything, including gunsmithing. This gun is a $400 gun to start with so maybe a good starting point.

    Am I nuts? Anyone learned minor gunsmithing like this on the internet and been happy with the outcome?
    I'm self taught on gunsmithing and have gotten excellent results. There are two important factors, know the gun you're working on inside and out and having the proper tools. The rest is learning from experience. All the modifications you mention, I have performed with a few simple tools. The only thing I see where you would need outside assistance is the dovetail cut for the front sight, although I believe there are nite sites made for tenon style guns. The beavertail requires a couple of files and a jig. You'll find a dremel tool invaluable and will need one to polish the feed ramp and to remove the old front sight. I have about $500 in tools, but have worked on oodles of 1911's, my favorite gun to work on.
    Brownells can supply you with the proper tools and parts. Wilson Combat has a series of gunsmithing videos you might find helpful. Good luck!
    "First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand."
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    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    IMO......you're not "nuts". Gunsmith myself to a certain extent. No expert, but not a novice. I built a nice custom out of a Norinco 1911A1 years ago. The price of the pistol almost made it a build for me automatically. Back when all of the favorite amenities were being talked and raved about in the gun magazines. Truth be known, I should have kept it like it was right out of the box. Closest I'd come to my former USMC issue Colt 1911A1. Since I had depended on it so much, and lived with and survived with it..........it's the first pistol I wanted back on the outside and in civilian life. The basic, mil spec 1911A1 is a real nice piece of work, and easy to work on when you know the mechanics and each and every part and how they work together. The basic 1911A1 or 1911 is an icon. An indelible mark on history. A custom 1911 is more of a work of art, and best customized to the user. A generically 'customized' 1911 is just that and commercially available with any of the end user specifics pick and choose. But at what price? Wilson Combat turns out nice pistols. Back in my day with my Norinco, they would do a custom build off the frame and slide. I had an inside track on parts through Ajax...printed catalog. A couple of years before I even had internet. I made my custom build 1911A1. A lot of the parts were stainless on my blued Government model, but it all came together well with what I wanted at the time. The two-tone appearance actually made it more appealing to the eye. Match barrel, link, bushing, full guide rod, extended thumb safety, extended slide release, custom hammer, light weight trigger, beaver-tail grip, flat mainspring housing, the works. I did rather well on the build, and it always shot everything I put through it. I made it a bit better than it was, but at this point in time, I wasn't really sure what it was I wanted. Years pass, and I'm getting back into civilian life and reading articles in the magazines and such, and decide I don't need this as much as I want something else. That Norinco got sold for something else low and behold. In a way, I'm still lacking a 1911 for my own reasons. We all live with our decisions. I sort of miss the heft and feel of something all steel, and I like the single action .45. A few years ago, the SIG came out with a single action in their P220. That's where I am now with the 45ACP ordeal. Enough about my road. Thing is......you and your pistol. Cost and time. If you can get your pistol lie you want it for $200....these days, I'd say that was a bargain considering parts and labor. Thing is, I know you could do all of this yourself over a period of time, and accumulating the correct tools to do the job. Parts (or the correct ones) may be harder to find these days. Costs of tools and equipment have also gone up. There are plenty of venues for the DIYer these days via the internet. The real question is would you rather do it yourself and accomplish something...gain some knowledge and experience? Or pay someone else to do it faster and have it ready for the range in a few weeks + shipping costs? Seriously....I don't think it's a question of saving a few bucks here and there. I think it's more of a question whether or not you want to make your own custom. The internet is your friend, and any information can be found for free. Your risks in learning the ins and outs of your pistol are minimal. Parts where you can find them (suggest subscribing to ShotGunNews magazine), and internet, and I know you could make a go of it yourself without risking the integrity of your factory pistol since all parts would need to be fitted to it.....so you can always put it back to square one if your fitted parts don't work or you've taken too much off this part or another. There is nothing like a DIY build. If learning is something you like....that's the way I'd do it. Even if things don't work out as expected....you'll learn your pistol, and you'll know how to correct any mistakes in the process. Doing it yourself has it's own satisfaction above and beyond money spent. Knowledge will last you a lifetime....money is spent in the blink of an eye. Make what you want. Your abilities are priceless.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ford View Post
    I am a DIYer all the way, which is the only reason I consider doing this stuff myself. I'm a mechanical engineering major, so obviously am mechanically inclined. When the engine blew in my truck last summer, instead of buying a new truck like everyone told me to, I bought another truck with a tired body but good engine and put that engine in my truck. I've never paid a mechanic to do anything to my truck, and never intend to either unless I'm far from home and for some reason didn't bring enough tools with me. I know there is a learning curve to everything, including gunsmithing. This gun is a $400 gun to start with so maybe a good starting point.
    Good to hear from another ME who's a tinkerer. Offline you can ask about the vintage Volvo I keep alive and well!

    First thing I would do is get the Brownell's specialty 1911 catalog. That's got 'the' definitive compendium of 1911 parts together in one place.

    You can get a drop-in, zero-metalworking beavertail safety. Not as pretty, but it saves having to re-finish the gun. I put one of those on my first 1911 20 years ago and it's never let me down.

    Trigger work? Get new Ed Brown/Wilson/Les Baer parts, AND the trigger jig (pricey, but a one-time purchase) and stones to do your own trigger job. It takes diligence, but it's not rocket science.

    Sights? Comes down to the dovetail cuts already in your slide, and what will fit. Worst case, you're looking at finding a gunsmith/machinist with the proper cutter for his milling machine, then pressing the new sight in yourself.

    Finish? Again, look to the Brownell's catalog for bake-on finishes, and since you're an ME I don't need to repeat my usual cautions about using kitchen ovens for curing and temperature limits.

    And if the worst happens, you screwed up a $400 gun, not a Wilson or a Nighthawk!
    Smitty
    NRA Endowment Member

  7. #6
    VIP Member Array AZ Husker's Avatar
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    Buy the Kuhnhausen books, volume one especially.
    Treat me good, I'll treat you better. Treat me bad, I'll treat you worse.

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    New Member Array roanokejim's Avatar
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    Hi. Yeah. I agree with AZ. I learned a lot with that Kuhnhausen books. :D

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    Member Array TapRackBang's Avatar
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    I went throught the Colt Armors course..I'm no gunsmith, but the 1911 is an easy gun to get to know. Stay away from a dremel for anything but polishing..many a 1911 turned into a deco art paperweight at the hands of a dude with a dremel tool and too much time on his hands.

    many of the upgrades you mentioned are drop in and if you get the right fit, you should be fine. But take a course or get a good dvd or book. start simple and learn as you go.
    "Arms in the hands of individual citizens may be used at individual discretion..in private self defense." John Adams

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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ Husker View Post
    Buy the Kuhnhausen books, volume one especially.
    Ha ha. This is what I was going to post! : )


    Link:

    "The Colt .45 Automatic: A Shop Manual Volume 1" Book by Jerry Kuhnhausen - MidwayUSA
    It is surely true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Nor can you make them grateful for your efforts.

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