How does one evaluate a 1911?

This is a discussion on How does one evaluate a 1911? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I have been poking around some shops near work and I saw a nice little 1911 style pistol, I forget the name, and I can ...

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Thread: How does one evaluate a 1911?

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Paco's Avatar
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    How does one evaluate a 1911?

    I have been poking around some shops near work and I saw a nice little 1911 style pistol, I forget the name, and I can actually sort of almost afford it.

    My question is this, when buying used (in addition to a reputable store) how does one make sure they are getting a good 1911? Other than the obvious to any handgun, what are things that need to be checked out if there is no way to test fire the weapon?
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    Member Array LiveLFF's Avatar
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    There is a post on the Concealed Carry Guns section of these forums.

    Its a 1911 function check, to make sure all the safety mechanisms and such work. I would definitely do that before purchasing the gun.

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    My formula is simple. I ask JD and see what he says.
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    Or, you buy a gun with far fewer moving parts and a much simpler manual of arms... ;)

    Seriously, read the "test protocols" and go through them. Check the slide to frame fit, the barrel wear, and all the things you would check buying any gun, new or used. Just be aware that there are more things that can go wrong with a 1911, and if you aren't intimately familiar with them it might pay to bring along a kool-aid drinker...ahem, traditionalist who knows them well...
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

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    Tastes Good

    "and if you aren't intimately familiar with them it might pay to bring along a kool-aid drinker...ahem, traditionalist who knows them well.."

    YES! and it tastes delicious!!! and it is extremely additive, but don't worry it is safe.
    Last edited by ecbaatz; October 10th, 2008 at 10:07 PM. Reason: Edit quote
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    Senior Member Array Juggernaut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OPFOR View Post
    Or, you buy a gun with far fewer moving parts and a much simpler manual of arms... ;)

    Seriously, read the "test protocols" and go through them. Check the slide to frame fit, the barrel wear, and all the things you would check buying any gun, new or used. Just be aware that there are more things that can go wrong with a 1911, and if you aren't intimately familiar with them it might pay to bring along a kool-aid drinker...ahem, traditionalist who knows them well...
    I don't consider "battle rattle" (loose slide-to-frame) a deterrent to buying a semiauto, barrel-to-slide lockup is the determining factor in accuracy. There are several other measurements you can take, but you're going to need some feeler gages. Check out the 1911 forums, there is more information there than your can shake a stick at.

    After doing the safety check, try hand cycling some empty cases from a magazine. If they feed reliably, it should eat just about any JHP on the market.

    Also, get a Kool-aid chugger along with you if you can.
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    Another thing to consider is that if it's a Springfield, it has a bumper to bumper lifetime warranty that is not limited to the original buyer. That can be a big deal..

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    If you are really new to 1911s, I would agree to take along someone knowledgeable on the platform. Buy one of the known brands and if it's your first, I'd buy new, you won't know what to look for if you buy used. Don't let OPFOR scare ya, he likes to kid the 1911 fans, the Government Model has 6 more parts than the Glock and 15 fewer than the Sig 228.

    Glock

    Government Model

    Sig 228
    Last edited by OD*; October 11th, 2008 at 11:34 AM. Reason: Correction
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    VIP Member Array Paco's Avatar
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    Great info all, thank you. I tried to search and didn't find anything, odd.

    I'll read the posts and JD's stuff too.
    "Don't hit a man if you can possibly avoid it; but if you do hit him, put him to sleep." - Theodore Roosevelt

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    Other than the safety check...

    I check for the following:

    Any parts that don't look stock or properly fitted: Home gunsmiths can ruin a good 1911, this can be made easy if you know the gun you're looking at. You need to get the gun info, with all the different makers/models out there, it's hard to tell what comes on what from the factory. I look for different things if I'm looking at a Springfield Loaded or a Springfield GI. If there's been a lot of work done to the gun, I'll pass.

    Check the feed ramp: Look for gouges scrapes and swirl patterns, if it's an alloy framed gun and the previous owner used mags with steel followers, there could be some scrapes on the feed ramp, if there's swirl patterns, they used a Dremmel to polish the feed ramp, some don't care but in most cases Dremmel=home gunsmith.

    Serviceability: If permitted field strip the gun completely and check for worn / loose fitting parts. If they will not let you do it, see if someone at the shop will field strip it for you. If you don't know how to get all the parts out of a 1911, don't try it on a gun that's not yours, let someone else that knows do it.

    Grip screws/bushings: Check and see how these look, if you notice that the screws are beat up check the bushings and see if those are stripped as well, I recently saw a 1911 with the Hex screws that someone tried to take out with a Torx bit, hence the previous owner doesn't know the difference between a Hex and Torx or just didn't care enough about the gun to use the right tool.

    Warranty: Will the manufacturer still perform warranty if you're not the original owner? If you do end up with a headache gun, it will be nice if you don't have to pay to get it fixed.

    Value: A:Is this gun actually worth what they are asking? Find someone with a "Blue Book" (Hint I know a guy that has a wife that works in a gun shop that has a Blue Book ) Pending on what 1911 were talking about, you could have one heck of a deal or you might be getting robbed, Blue Book does not always reflect market price due to demand of certain guns.

    B: If you decide to move the gun later, what can you get from it later down the road? A used Springfield will have more resale value than a used Taurus, think long term.

    Finish wear: This is kind of minor as guns can be refinished, but this does have to go with value, is the gun worth refinishing? Also, if it's blued, what shape is the bluing in? You can tell a lot about a gun from the finish, holster wear is normal, and is not IMHO a disqualifying factor, but scratches, dents, scrapes, and rust are a big turnoff.

    The "Idiot" mark: Known as the mark of Cain to the 1911, check the area just below the slide stop near the relief cut behind the trigger, this is fairly common on most used 1911s and shows that someone has at least once put the gun together in a hurry, wasn't paying attention, or just didn't know how to do it right. Again, it's common enough that it isn't a big issue to me, but give the choice of two guns, one with the mark of the beast and the other without, I'll take the gun with no scratch, OR haggle on the price of the scratched gun, it all depends on the guns in question.

    Accessories/Features: What is on the gun? Night sights, front strap checkering, hard chrome, other custom finish? These things will help dictate value or what you feel the gun is worth. When I picked up my used Les Baer, I jumped on it as it was equipped 100% with what I wanted, this included a hard chrome barrel, single sided safety, great resistant finish, Heinie sights, S&A mag well (properly installed and blended). To find another TRS of that exact configuration would be a one in a million shot, that made it all the more worth it to me as it all ready had all the options that I would have liked to do to the gun.


    Now, if you've made your choice and bought your new (to you) 1911 there are some things I would recommend.

    Get a new spring kit and replace all the springs, this way you KNOW the round count that your springs are seeing.

    Learn you're new gun, here are several helpful links:

    STI 1911 Animation

    The Sight M1911 Care and Maintenance

    Leave it alone unless it NEEDs to be altered. I hear about people that take a gun to a gunsmith for a "reliability package" immediately before they've even shot the darn thing. You don't need to do this, see how the gun shoots after learning how everything operates and go from there.

    Some 1911s may be mag/ammo snobs, so don't be discouraged if you have an issue or two, you may need to try some different things, but research before hand can cut your issues in half if not totally remove them.

    In the case of buying used, you're probably only going to get one magazine, buy quality replacements, check out this thread regarding counterfeit magazines .

    Don't go overboard with ammo of one type on the first range outing, get small amounts of different types and see what runs the best, in most cases you won't have any feed issues, but you may notice better groups with one brand/weight than another.

    That's about it for now. I'll update more later if I think of some missed points.

    If you decide to buy new, I wrote up a series on 1911 purchasing in my blog, it's mainly for new guns as anything that is used could be a complete 180 from a new gun, but it may still be found helpful.

    So you want to buy a 1911(Part 1)

    So you want to buy a 1911(Part 2)

    So you want to buy a 1911(Part 3)

    So you want to buy a 1911(Part 4)

    ETA* Bringing someone with you who knows about 1911s is probably the best info I've found in this thread, even including my own post.

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