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  • So, you want to buy a 1911, huh?

    So, I take it since you clicked on this link/thread that you are interested in the 1911 platform, and are possibly in the decision process for buying one.

    You could fill volumes with what I don’t know about the 1911, but I do have some personal experience with them, and figured I could share what I DO know. Hopefully it will help you make your next purchase decision (or at least entertain you with some information for the next few minutes!)

    Government model of 1911

    For the history of the platform, there are many sources available on the web.

    For starters, you could go to the Wikipedia 1911 page for some background info.

    Simply put, there are two “Gov’t” models: 1911 and 1911A1. Pictured below are the two models for comparison:



    The original 1911 was improved in 1924 to include a larger ejection port, ergonomic enhancements such as the thumb/finger indent on the frame near the trigger and swelled mainspring housing, and a slightly larger beaver tail on the grip safety.

    There are very few original 1911 pistols that can be found at reasonable prices, so unless you are specifically looking for an historic piece, disregard the 1911. There are reproduction model available from Colt if you have a strong need for an “original.”

    Modern Commercial Options

    Of the multitude of 1911 manufacturers available on the commercial market, there are still basically three choices a consumer has to make. There are the entry-level 1911 pistols, which are basically variations of the 1911A1. The second option is for a factory semi-custom, which are 1911 pistols that come straight from the factory with upgraded parts and but are interchangeable with USGI parts. The third option is a hybrid pistol, which basically resembles the ergonomics of the 1911, but does not use USGI parts (varying degrees of differentiation). The fourth option is a custom-built pistol.

    ENTRY-LEVEL

    The market is flooded with options in the $350-600 range, most of which are 1911A1 knock-offs that are built to varying degrees of quality. The most common include the Colt 1991A1, Springfield Mil-Spec, High Standard, Rock Island Armory, and the once available Norinco and 1927 Sistema.

    Basic features of the pistol will vary by manufacturer, but the Springfield Mil-Spec should show what is expected on an entry-level 1911.



    My 5” Springfield 1911 Mil-Spec comes with standard 1911A1 parts.

    Hammer:



    Thumb safety and grip safety:



    Swelled mainspring housing:



    Short trigger:



    Unless you are just wanting an exact replica of the 1911A1, a new commercial model should come with a lowered and flared ejection port, which is the number one modification that the pistol needs to enhance its reliability.



    The market is full of variations, with some offering very few features and others coming standard with quite a number that are typically reserved for custom builds.


    FACTORY SEMI-CUSTOM

    Above the entry-level, there is the feature-rich, high-end factory built guns. These would include those pistols made by Colt, Springfield, and others that are built to exceptional quality standards and full of high-end features, but are factory built and widely available. These share more in common with the entry-level than the other two categories, in that they are basically 1911A1 knock-offs made out of high-end parts.

    Examples of these would include the following:

    Springfield Trophy Match:



    Kimber Gold Match:




    Some of these factory semi-customs actually start to diverge so much from the original USGI parts, that they could be described somewhat as a hybrid. I tried to pick some examples that still used the barrel bushing, but some incorporated a full-length guide rod.
    Last edited by jwise; 02-22-2010, 09:31 PM.
    J. Wise

    AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

    "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

    Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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  • #2
    Hybrid

    Hybrid 1911 pistols are probably the widest variety, as this grouping incorporates everything from polymer framed, high-capacity handguns to double-action to bull-barrel designs.

    The commonality of these pistols are that they are not “true” 1911s, but merely mimic the ergonomics of the platform. They follow the form of the 1911 in either the grip, the controls, or both.

    The standard grip of a 1911 is iconic for being one of the most comfortable grips of any handgun in history. One reason the 1911 grip is so comfortable is because it is narrow. This limits the standard 1911 to a single-stacked USGI magazine (7rds for USGI mags, and 8rds for most commercial mags.)

    In an effort to increase the capacity of the 1911 pistol, some manufacturers have created double-stacked versions of the 1911. These include the Para-Ordnance pistols, as well as some of the newer polymer framed double-stacked handguns.

    Other hybrid variations include bull-barrel “match” handguns that diverge from the USGI barrel/bushing design, but from the outside appear to be like any other 1911.

    My Kimber Pro CDP fits this description. At first glance, it appears to be just like any other 1911, but is actually much different.



    The frame is aluminum, instead of steel. The dust cover (black part) on the Kimber is rounded instead of squared-off, cutting down on even more mass.



    It also has a bull barrel and lacks a barrel bushing, and incorporates a full-length guide rod instead of the standard guide rod.



    There are many more variations of hybrids out there, all offering something new to the market. Not all hybrid variations are improvements, and not all variations are features that everyone wants.

    Here is just a smattering of what is out there:

    High Capacity 1911 Hybrids:

    Infinity (SVI):



    STI Edge:



    Para Ordnance LDA:


    The LDA also represents another kind of hybrid, in that it incorporates a smooth "Light" Double Action (LDA) trigger, instead of the traditional single action. This is a very unique design, which I have had very little experience with.

    Micro 1911s

    There are several offerings out there for those who want something even smaller than the Officer's model. Here are just a few.

    Kimber CDP Ultra:


    This pistol is smaller than the Officer's, but is still chambered in .45acp

    Kimber Aegis (9mm):


    Springfield also has a micro 9mm, called the EMP

    And the latest arrival, the Sig Sauer P238 (.380):



    Polymer Hybrids

    There are a few manufacturers mating steel 1911 uppers onto polymer lowers. These usually also take high-capacity magazines. This hybrid design cuts down on overall weight, and gives the user more ammunition onboard.

    Wilson Combat Spec Ops 9:

    Last edited by jwise; 09-19-2009, 11:06 PM.
    J. Wise

    AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

    "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

    Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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    • #3
      Custom

      The fourth type of handgun you can choose is a custom build. These are 1911s that either started life as an entry-level, or were manufactured from the ground up as a custom build.

      Many custom smiths can take your entry-level model and turn it into a work of art. Others offer their own lineup, and don’t work on customer’s guns. Many smiths do both.

      When it came time for me to buy a nice custom 1911, I actually stumbled into one! I found a very nice used Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special for a very attractive price. I was happy to find it, as it was just what I was looking for. I didn’t necessarily want a ritzy-glitzy feature-packed super-pistol, but a more or less stock pistol that is made to exceptional standards.



      One thing about a custom pistol, is that you HAVE to LISTEN to the smith who built it. Les Baer builds his pistols super-tight, and you have to break them in if you want to be able to work the slide without exerting enormous force. In addition, the bushings on custom pistols are usually super-tight, and require a bushing wrench to turn. This is juxtaposed with entry-level 1911s that the user can usually turn by hand.

      (See below for disassembly instructions)

      Not only will a custom pistol be rich with high-end features, but it will also be a true work of art, showing off the maker’s skill.

      Stainless match barrel bushing:



      Checkered front strap:



      Very fine slide serrations:



      Extended thumb safety, stainless commander hammer, and extended beavertail:



      Checkered steel flat mainspring housing, and "memory bump" grip safety:



      Front slide serrations and dovetailed front sight:





      Other custom features are seen on the Kimber Pro CDP.

      Meltdown package (deburring the sharp edges):



      Skeletonized trigger:



      Ambidextrous thumb safety:

      Last edited by jwise; 09-20-2009, 10:54 PM.
      J. Wise

      AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

      "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

      Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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      • #4
        SIZES

        When you buy a 1911, you will have a number of different size options. The three main sizes for 1911s is the fullsize 5” Gov’t Model, the 4” Commander, and the 3.5” Officer’s Model.

        5” Gov’t Model



        The 5” is commonly referred to as the Gov’t Model, because it is the original size of the 1911 and 1911A1. It is my favorite

        Commander/Champion



        The Commander (Colt name) or Champion (Springfield name) has a 4” barrel and a fullsize grip frame. Having the standard fullsize grip frame, it takes the standard USGI magazine. The nice thing about this size handgun is that it fits the hand well, but has a slightly compact barrel length for concealment (barrel length isn’t always that important with Inside Waist Band (IWB) holsters, but it can be very important with other methods of carry.) In addition, the 4” barrel is the same length as most combat handguns, so its not like it is “short.” Finally, having an inch of steel missing from the front of the pistol takes quite a bit of weight off, and makes it handle very nicely.

        Compact/Officer’s



        The Officer’s Model sports a 3.5” barrel, and a reduced grip length. The Officer’s model takes a shortened 6rd magazine, but aftermarket magazines can boost that number to 7 and still fit flush. This is a pretty small handgun, and some complain that getting this small has a negative impact on reliability. I personally don’t have much experience with 1911s this small, so I tend to stick to the larger ones.
        Last edited by jwise; 09-18-2009, 11:37 PM.
        J. Wise

        AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

        "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

        Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

        sigpic

        Comment


        • #5
          The standard 1911 disassembles in a much more complicated manner than say, a Glock. However, you won't have to shoot yourself in the hand, pull back ever-so-slightly on the slide and pull down on two tiny tabs on both sides of the frame in order to do so...

          Disassembly of a Mil-Spec 1911

          First, remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear. Inspect the chamber physically and visually to be sure it is unloaded.



          The barrel bushing on the front of the pistol is held in place by the round checkered spring-loaded "button" (recoil spring plug). Depress the plug and then turn the bushing to the left.



          This will allow the recoil spring plug (the button) to be released out the front.



          Then turn the bushing back to the right, which will allow the bushing to come out the front of the slide.



          The slide can now be taken off like a modern pistol, by pulling back on the slide until the slide stop lines up with the detent on the slide.



          Push the pin on the opposite side of the frame, knocking out the slide stop and allowing the slide to be removed from the front of the frame.

          After you remove the slide, the guide rod and recoil spring will lift right out. Pull the barrel out the front of the slide, and then slap yourself on the back because you've done it!



          The only issue on re-assembly, is lining up the barrel lockup with the hole in the frame where the slide stop is to be inserted. Look through the frame, and wiggle the barrel until the barrel link lines up.



          Once it is lined up, push in the slide stop to lock the barrel in place.



          Everything else about assembly just works backwards from disassembly.
          Last edited by jwise; 09-20-2009, 11:02 PM.
          J. Wise

          AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

          "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

          Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

          sigpic

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          • #6
            The Kimber Pro CDP may LOOK like a standard 1911, but it is much different. Here's a run-down on how to disassemble the Kimber.

            Kimber Pro CDP Disassembly

            First, remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear. Visually and physically inspect the pistol to be sure it is unloaded.

            Notice the very small hole in the full-length guide rod, right next to the front of the slide.



            That hole is there for a reason. The Kimber came with a special tool that needs to be inserted into that hole in order to disassemble the pistol. Luckily, the "special tool" can be quickly made with a standard paper clip. Just open up one side, and then use a set of pliers to make a small 90 deg bend in the tip.



            Insert the bent tip in the hole, and release the slide.



            Now the spring is loaded and held in place by the paper clip, and the tension on the slide is removed. From this point, disassemble the pistol in much the same way as the mil-spec 1911.

            Line up the slide release and the slide detent:



            Push out the slide release:



            And pull off the slide from the front. The guide rod with paper clip still in place will lift right out, and the barrel will slide out the front of the slide.



            To reassemble, I have found it easier to do everything upside down. This keeps the guide rod and barrel from falling out.

            Last edited by jwise; 09-18-2009, 10:15 PM.
            J. Wise

            AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

            "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

            Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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            Comment


            • #7
              Disassembling a very tight custom 1911, you will need a bushing wrench, and perhaps another tool every gun tinkerer should have at his disposal... The rubber mallet!



              Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special disassembly:

              First, remove the magazine and lock the slide back. Visually and physically inspect the chamber to be sure it is unloaded.

              If this was a mil-spec 1911, just push down on the recoil spring plug and turn the bushing... Ha! Good joke if you've got a finely tuned 1911 with a match bushing! You will need a barrel bushing wrench. The wrench will depress the plug as it is pressed down against the front of the pistol, and simply turn it to the left. (Proceed just as above in the Mil-Spec section.)



              However, if your chosen custom is as tight as my Les Baer, you will not be able to MOVE the bushing, even with the wrench! There is another way to skin this cat...

              Go ahead and pull back on the slide, lining up the slide release with the detent on the slide.



              Pop out the slide release by pushing on the pin on the opposite side of the frame.



              To prevent the recoil spring from shooting out as the slide comes off, I hold the pistol by the dust cover. My hand covers the recoil spring, where it would otherwise be exposed once the frame is removed.



              The recoil spring, guide rod, and recoil spring plug can now be lifted out the slide.



              Now, use the wrench to remove the bushing. The bushing will turn easier when the barrel is not locked up to it. Push the barrel a little ways out of battery, and the bushing will turn much easier.



              If your match bushing is as tight as mine, you will need a little "love tap" with a rubber mallet to tap the bushing out the front of the slide. Remember, pull the barrel out of battery a few centimeters, and the bushing will come out MUCH easier!



              Notice how tight the bushing is, in that it has stripped the finish right off the front of the barrel where they mate.



              For re-assembly, the only trick is to keep a firm "covering" grasp on the slide over the recoil spring and guide rod while sliding the frame back onto the slide. Again, do this upside down, as it will be easier.

              Last edited by jwise; 09-20-2009, 11:08 PM.
              J. Wise

              AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

              "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

              Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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              • #8
                And in case you wondering how these three stack up, accuracy-wise:


                Les Baer TRS:





                Kimber Pro CDP:





                Springfield Mil-Spec:


                (Disregard the .22lr holes)
                Last edited by jwise; 09-20-2009, 11:08 PM.
                J. Wise

                AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

                "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

                Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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                • #9
                  On the reassembly it might be mentioned to be careful to avoid the ever infamous idiot scratch created by the slide stop when swinging back into position (avoid making contact on the frame with the slide stop).
                  Last edited by SCV-Sop; 09-18-2009, 11:27 PM.
                  _____________
                  "Corruptisima republica plurimae leges."

                  "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."
                  - Cornelius Tacitus

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                  • #10
                    Heh-heh-heh... Yeah, that's always funny when that happens...


                    More Hybrids

                    S&W uses external extractors, which are touted as being more reliable. I don't necessarily believe it, and really like the original internal extractors.

                    S&W 1911:



                    Sig Sauer, in addition to their micro P238, offer a full size lineup called the GSR. They use a slightly different slide profile, hinting back to the P series, stylistically. They also use the external extractors.

                    Sig Sauer GSR Target:



                    Kimber used external extractors in some of their models, as seen here in this TLE (Thanks, GGG for the pics!)





                    This picture highlights the extractor working, but also shows the loaded chamber indicator that a lot of manufacturers are starting to put on their handguns (the cutout on the top of the chamber, shows the cartridge case on the inside):



                    Para Ordnance created the P13-45 for concealed carry, offering a small package with a lot of firepower by incorporating the shorter barrel length upper with a double-stacked lower:



                    They added porting to the barrel to help tame the recoil:

                    Last edited by jwise; 09-22-2009, 09:47 AM.
                    J. Wise

                    AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

                    "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

                    Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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                    • #11
                      The officer model has a similar takedown to the full size, but is a little different. Also, due to the terrible finish of my Rock Island model, I do a slightly more thorough breakdown of my pistol than jwise recommends to get at the most rust-prone parts. One positive point is that on my loosely-fit officer model, no tools are required! Since I do that every day after carry for what will become obvious reasons, I've got the whole thing down to well less than a minute.

                      The officer guide rod requires no manipulation prior to removal of the slide. You simply draw back the slide and remove the slide stop.

                      Draw the slide back so that the indent on the slide matches the stop, press the pin on the right side of the slide, and the slide stop comes out.


                      Now one may simply pull the slide completely from the dust cover.



                      The mainspring lifts free and the barrel slides easily out the front.



                      But wait! Here's where the fun part starts. When carrying the 1911 in an inner waist band holster, sweat will find a way down the beavertail and inside the thumb safety. If either of these points lock up due to rust, the weapon becomes difficult or impossible to fire. We need to take the weapon down just a little further.

                      The first step is to remove the thumb safety. By rotating the safety halfway between safe and off, it may be pressed out. Watch the spring-loaded pin adjacent to it, don't allow it to fly away.

                      I like to press the hard nub of the slide stop against the back of the thumb safety while slowly rotating it up towards safe. It should press out easily.


                      Now one may gently release and ease the hammer down and pull free the grip safety.



                      And then the hammer may come loose by removing the hammer pin.

                      I find the grip safety makes a dandy tool to press the hammer pin through.


                      And then of course we may pull free the hammer! Further disassembly isn't necessary unless you dunk the pistol in water or some such foolishness. The sear's a real pain to put together, and the trigger's nicely shielded by your holster from sweat and corrosion.

                      The enemy revealed


                      After a thorough cleaning, reassembly is the same in the opposite direction. There aren't any real surprises, unless one decides to take apart the guide rod. It's not a piece that gets dirty very easily, but if it is put together backwards, tragedy awaits.

                      The guide rod, disassembled.


                      Look carefully at the main spring. It's not the same on both ends. The flat portion of the main spring must be opposite the spring cap when assembled, to prevent the spring from being trapped behind the cap during recoil. If the spring is inserted backwards, the weapon will jam and fail to return to battery.

                      A properly assembled guide rod.


                      After its nightly cleaning the 1911 is greased lightly along the rails and at any point where the parkerizing has been worn off by the polishing effect of recoil, reassembled, and the surfaces are oiled thoroughly to help ward off surface corrosion. It's ready to be reloaded and carried another day.
                      Last edited by TimK; 09-19-2009, 12:26 AM.
                      **Not a LEO**

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                      • #12
                        I hope your getting extra credit at school for your online reports.
                        The comments made herein are those solely of author and in no way reflect the opinions of any other person, agency or other entity.

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                        • #13
                          Tim- THANK YOU! I have not had access to an Officer's model in years, so your addition REALLY helped!

                          To those of you who have "hybrids", or pistols that have different custom features than shown above, please post pics!

                          Like I said at first, you could fill volumes with what I don't know about 1911s, so if you have further knowledge that could help someone make a purchase decision, please post it!
                          J. Wise

                          AR-15 - AK-47 - NFA Trusts - My Pick - Carry Guns - 1911s

                          "Some say you can tell how the world stands by the prices of AK-47s...." Chit2001

                          Any comments contained herein regarding the legality of firearms, or the application of law, are strictly applicable to Texas. If you live in CA, NY, IL, MA, D.C., etc., the above comments will probably shock you, and should be read for educational purposes only. Most likely nothing I write will apply to you.

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                          • #14
                            I have a Kimber TLE/RL II, Para P13 alloy frame, and STI Edge if want any pics of those, but am far from knowledgeable on 1911's.

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                            • #15
                              jwise, as much a I love to read your stuff, I refuse to read this thread. Why? If I do, I'll end up buying a 1911. I must resist. I must resist. I must resist. I must resist.
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