Building a 1911?!

Perhaps it’s a rite of passage or just an itch I want to scratch, but I am going to build my own 1911. When I say “build,” I don’t mean to build it from blocks of steel bar stock.

Without a vertical mill nor a lathe, I’ll be using all hand tools and working with already machined parts. For example, I’ve ordered a slide from Caspian Arms (with Novak sight dovetails and a ball end radius to the dust cover) and a complete frame from JEM Guns (with 25LPI front strap checkering).

But before I could order anything, I had to establish two things in my mind: the purpose and the style of the pistol. The purpose was easy enough; I want a gun set up for IDPA/USPSA/IPSC competition.

JEM Frame
JEM Frame

Deciding on the style took a little more thinking, looking at manufacturer’s websites, and talking with 1911-shooting friends. From all that, I assembled a mental image of the pistol: a blacked-out Government model with few ornaments.

The only exception to hand tools will be milling rear slide cocking serrations; I have a friend with a Bridgeport vertical mill who is willing to help me do that. I’m planning on serrations cut with a 3/32” ball end mill to match the ball end cut at the front of the slide.

1911 Build Parts
1911 Build Parts

Virtually all the components of the pistol will be carbon steel; either forged, bar stock, or tool steel. I’ll use Birchwood Casey cold blue to protect the parts where they are sanded or filed until the whole gun is finished in graphite black Cerakote.

Instead of listing all the parts I picked here, I’ll introduce them as this series of posts on the process continues. But each was selected based on the manufacturer’s reputation, any experience I’ve had with the manufacturer, the style of the part, and the extent to which it matches the purpose and style I’m after.

The series starts here.

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