1911 ‘smithing

A little while back I asked some 1911 barrel questions. I had mistakenly ordered the wrong sort of Storm Lake Barrel, (needed the non-ramped) and wondered about the best path forward. After reading the comments (thanks, everyone, very educational!) and a bit of Bing-fu I contacted John at JPL Precision. I talked to him for a little while, then returned my wrong barrel to MidwayUSA (great customer service) and dropped off my fairly stock Colt 1991A1 to fit a new barrel.

My requirements were minute-of-bad-guy accuracy and magazine-of-OH-SHIT! reliability. Yeah, I’m a “tools guy” sort of shooter. He ordered the proper KKM Precision threaded barrel for me, fitted it properly so it’s nice and tight (noticeably tighter lockup than previously, and he pointed out the wear patterns on the factory barrel that were not good, but typical of Colts) with a Wilson Combat hardened link, test-fired it, and got it back to me in about a month, for less than the cost of the back-ordered-until-October Storm Lake barrel by itself. I haven’t had a chance to test-fire it rigorously with my normal ammo, magazines, and all that, but so far things are looking good. Guess I’ll have to go to the range soon, so I can post an update.

Side note: Anyone have a good link/source of images that show normal and atypical or dangerous wear patters, showing how a well-used gun should and shouldn’t show where things are rubbing, demonstrating proper and improper fitting/timing for a barrel? Not really necessary, for anything, just curious.

3 thoughts on “1911 ‘smithing

  1. rolf:

    re: 1911’s

    if it goes “bang” when you pull the trigger, and it cycles, and you have another round up and the hammer is back, then it seems to me that it works, regardless of what you think of the “wear pattern.” if you can hit a “small pizza” tray at ten steps, then it seems to me that you have a very serviceable arm. again, quite regardless of what you think of the “wear pattern.”

    i for one want nothing to do w/ a “tight lock up” in a pistol intended to shoot “minute of bad guy.”

    now, some people drive cadillacs & mercs, some drive chevies. it’s a matter of taste, and how tasteful and aesthetic one can afford to be. i am a chevy guy. i want absolutely nothing to do w/ $3500 guns and $3500 gun smiths, who talk about wear patterns.

    i bought a $309.94 weatherby vanguard in .308 winchester, with a plastic stock. it’s gone, with a $94 boyds laminate stock in its place. it has a 10x42mm super sniper in place, $400 or so, and not $3000 spelled “nightforce.” it shoots very well, thank you, factory trigger in place, no glass bedding, no cyro on the barrel, no barrel flutes and no “nuthin’ else.” oh, i did put a $17 winchester (imitation “harris” w/ no swivel), but the jury is out on whether it adds much, … , i tend to think not, and i will probably take it off and just continue shooting over a bag.

    as to what a “typical wear pattern” is, i suspect it is what a specific gun does, more or less. i suspect “typical wear pattern” is what we used to call “sales puffery” in the old days, …. , e.g., just what some smith thinks garners him some business. i will just add, that colt had enough sense to buy the 1911 from john browning, and has been making it a little over 100 years, in one form or another. i suspect that they know how to do it, whether it meets the standards of “discerning taste” or not.

    i have a dead stock colt 1911 in 9x23mm winchester, the only modification putting in a safety with a little larger platform. a wilson, that a friend gave me. i fit it myself, taking a little over 8 weeks of tinkering to get it to work correctly, e.g., nice snicks at both “ends” of the process. dead stock. did i repeat dead stock, in every other respect?

    it has never jammed, or failed to go off, and the bullets have always hit something. this with my handloads, and w/ factory ammo. using plain old dead stock colt magazines as the air force says, everything they’ve ever put up has come back to earth. every mission a success in that regard.

    i don’t think that you’ve wasted you money. you spent it, you had fun with it, and now you have a “better” pistol, because of it, in your estimation. i think you would have been better off using the money to buy some good pendleton’s 1910 canadian rye, but, that is my opinion. whatever floats your boat.

    i suspect that it will be quite hard for you to quantify in any sense, how much better your pistol is now that you’ve discarded “the improper wear patterns,” replacing them with “proper” patterns, and more expensive parts. did i mention that my dead stock pistol shoots more or less where i think it is going to, if i concentrate on a proper sight pattern and a good trigger pull, w/ the proper follow through?

    same as the $309.94 weatherby. and, yes, i see a pattern here.

    john jay
    136 s.e. 8th avenue
    milton freewater, oregon usa

    • As always, all opinions welcome, taken in the spirit in which they are offered. 🙂

      Yeah, I’m mostly a KISS sort of guy, too, and and often a relatively cheap bastid, too. I’ve taken more deer with my plastic-stock Rem 700 with factory Tasco scope (“hunting trip in a box”) than any other gun.

      Wear patterns: as in, one of the two locking lugs on the stock barrel had much more wear, because the other one wasn’t actually engaging properly, and on another part it showed very uneven wear, again because it wasn’t particularly well made and wasn’t fitting or moving properly. Things were not rounded off or unevenly worn to the point of being unsafe, but the old barrel wasn’t going to last anywhere close to the expected or potential number of rounds it should.
      The stock barrel wasn’t threaded, and I needed on if I want to screw a suppressor on it, which I do. So, getting a new barrel was necessary, for my current definition of “necessary.” Getting the new barrel AND having it installed and fit for (at the very least) proper and safe functioning under normal circumstances for less than the original barrel by itself I considered is a good deal, pretty much no matter how you slice it.

      “Minute of bad guy,” i.e., plate sized groups at ten meters is perfectly adequate; you must have misunderstood what I meant. It somewhat larger than “minute of deer,” which means a heart-sized area (call it four inches across) at typical distance (meaning a hundred yards or so).

      Reliability for self-defense is critical, but this isn’t my primary self-defense gun, which is a stock (except for night sights) Glock. In this case, it appears to work flawlessly without the suppressor on the end. However, it may be that it’s a bit too tight for hanging a can on the end, because when I tried it I had one minor malfunction about every ten rounds, always the same problem: it ejected the spend brass, but stopped mid return, unable to strip the next round and chamber it. If I pulled the slide back and let it return freely, it had no problem. The suppressor guy at Wade’s looked the thing over, said it was a nicely fitted quality barrel for normal use and should last virtually forever, but it will either take a while to break in so it’s not quite so tight (because the extra weight of the suppressor make recoiling and unlocking on a tight gun more difficult), or I could try a slightly lighter mainspring, or I could ask John to take just a tad off in the right spots so it was a little looser and wouldn’t bind quite as much from the leverage of the extra weight on the end of the barrel. Personally, I don’t think “tight” is good in and of itself, but “tight enough to be safe and long-lasting because all the recoil lugs and support points are engaging properly” is good. I this particular case, however, when looking at suppressor reliability, it may be distinctly bad. I’m cool with whatever variation *works*.

      WRT wasting money on whiskey, being a teetotaler with taste-buds that don’t really care about the difference between Starbucks and army issue coffee, and greatly disliking the taste or smell of alcohol, I’ll pass because there are less expensive calories out there, but if you want some, have at it.

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