Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I was in a hurry when I posted my plans to build the Sean Linnane M1911; I wanted to capture my thoughts before they went to The Place Where All The Good Ideas Go . . .

Tom made some good points in Comments;

Single vs. Double Stack: I thought I was clear about single-stack when I said I wanted to keep as close as possible to the original 1911, and of a utilitarian theme.

Along those lines: 'utilitarian' means concealed-carry, lightweight - so as well as single stack (to cut weight); flat mainspring housing for smoother draw and flatter profile.

Ambidextrous Safety: this will be necessary for my brother (he's a lefty) but not for me.

More to follow . . . S.L.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. I recommend:
    Novak low profile tritium fixed sights
    rubber grips
    checkered front strap or wraparound grip for fingers
    beveled magazine well. Not a huge funnel like a competition pistol, but just a little bevel to help insert a clip.
    beaver tail grip safety with a round hammer. Safety protects hammer from being bumped when cocked.
    Stainless pistols are heavier but have less or no muzzle climb when shot. Entirely your preference but just something to think about.
    adjustable trigger to suit your hand
    extended thumb safety with the edges smoothed to prevent snagging on clothes when drawn and limit painful imprints on your skin if you carry inside your pants.
    Barrel at least 4" long. I use a 5" and have no problem concealing it. It is a little slower to draw though. Hope this helps.

  2. I ran across this guy- Larry Vickers, ex-Delta and what not.
    He supposedly works on 1911’s and tunes them to the extreme.
    I am not saying to your 1911 needs to come from him, but he probably could add some ideas.
    After all, what good is it being in a rare fraternity if you cannot use it to your advantage?

    a good article on his work.

    Just some thoughts.

    PS. I will be celebrating the centennial anniversary of the 1911 by purchasing one, but I got a lot to learn as I am a child of the post 2000 Army and accustom to black guns with plastic pieces.

  3. Nothing points like a 1911. Light is good, but I have an alloy-frame Kimber and I wouldn't recommend it. I'm looking for a commander size gun. Lots of frame/component options if you're going to build it. As an early retirement present to myself I'm considering an Ed Brown Special Forces Carry.

  4. Sean, sounds like you want to set one up for concealed carry and self defense, do I got that right? The requirements are way different than for a race gun or bullseye pistol. Reliable fires-every-time trumps one-hole groups*, eh?

    I'll second flashman about Commander size, no shorter, as there may be failures to feed and round count as well as sight radius is reduced; also to get one that's all steel. I had a couple alloy framed S&W 1911PDs, great guns, good workmanship, but I screwed up on a reload and turned one of them into a hand-held claymore. My fault, thank God all I got was a nose full of shrapnel (Barb sez, with that sly way women have, it didn't hurt my looks none). From then on no more alloy for me, uh uh.

    I presently carry a s/s Colt Commander that I sent away to Wilson Combat. They de-horned it and tweaked it, a "reliability package", match trigger group, not much else. and it is sweet. I think that if you want to carry a 1911, KISS, and commit to a bit of weight. If you want light weight and invisible concealed the 1911 ain't the one to get. The basic design has been around for a hundred years, in the hands of some clumsy dumb Joe Schmoe GIs as well as the hot shots and it works. Drop it in mud, don't clean it for 1000 rds, fast draw, rattle-trap parts gun, whatever, the thing shoots. The more you fuss and accurize and tighten the tolerances the more unreliable it becomes. Sure, out at the range on the bench on a sunny day my Gold Cups all worked fine, with premium ammo. But I would not stake my life on them when I'm carrying and maybe rolling around a bit or it's snowing or I drop it or ... Get the trigger pull below 3-1/2 to 4 lbs and you could double tap when the adrenaline starts flowing.

    *Remember the 1911 was designed as a killing machine, nothing more. It is a gun for a thousand inches, not a thousand yards. Think about the size of a human head. 8" approx, right? If you can produce head shots or groups 4-8" at 25 yds every time you fire in all kinds of running kneeling moving scenarios what more do you want?

    just my two cents worth. Well I talk a lot, mebbe a nickle's worth.

  5. I'm on a coffee jag now so I thought I'd share a story about accuracy and M1s:

    I was visiting my father-in-law in the nursing home and I got to talking with one of the other old guys there, about how I have some M1s and I recently got one from the CMP and it's a low number Springfield, lockbar sights, a Breda barrel (was a Danish return) yak yak yak and I'm agonizing over not getting a 4" group at 100yds. Well his eyes lit up and he started telling me how he carried one from Normandy to the Rhine, (sometimes it felt like it weighed 30 pounds but he loved every minute of it). And he said something to me that I first thought was senile rambling but I went away and his voice never left my mind.
    He sez to me, "kid, can you hit a chicken with it? Huh? Out about 60-70 yards, maybe a hundred, can you hit a chicken?" I deeply respected the old man and I thanked him for what he did for our country and I went away with that question ringing in my mind. Then a week or so later it hit me. Think about it. A chicken is about, what, 8" diameter or so? And it's hopping around, not stationary like some steel or cardboard. Hmm, just about head-size. And what he and so many others were doing was shooting at people, maybe a hundred yards out maybe more, maybe point blank, and he was telling me indirectly - kid, this is a killing machine. If you can hit "chickens" whenever you pull the trigger, you are doing just fine. Looking back I think he was laughing to himself about my whining over getting 4" groups.

    And from then on I expect different things from the different firearms I shoot.

  6. WELL, thinking it over for general purpose and sometimes concealed:

    I'd probably start with an STI Spartan Slide and Frame as they're a good value and they have the forward grooves already cut. Yes, they are cast in the Philippines, but they are done well. On the gunsmith frame kits I have never actually asked what, if Anything they do to them up North of me the other side of the Colorado River. There's plenty of meat left on them to properly fit the slide.

    I don't like stainless for anything. It's harder to work with on all counts and Virgil Tripp Super Hard Chrome on Carbon Steel for race gun purposes, but I don't like shiny carry guns as they draw attention when you don't want them to more easily, so Blue or Parkerized suits me. Satin finish on the top surface of the slide as I don't like glare.

    Beveled magwell. Racegun or milder, matter of taste.

    Checker or stiple mainspring housing. I prefer vertical grooves to checkering on my front straps.

    I dislike tritium and fibber optic night sights intensely. I like a wider rear slot, as below, but not that wide. Serrated rears with NO dots and a gold bead instead of tritium or fibbercocticum in the front ALSO SERRATED sight. Gold picks up any ambient light well and serrations also pick up light and if you're operating at night if you're in the complete dark, night sights don't help anyway, and if you aren't in the complete dark it's going to pick up light nicely from your flashlight or just ambient, just like gold beads on shotguns early morning or late day birding...0.125" front blade and 0.140", Faster target acquisition and it doesn't bother me at all at 25 yards either. At 50 yards 0.125" paired works better but you shouldn't be fighting with a general purpose 1911 trying to pick people off at 50 yards :-) Rectangular notch, I don't like V-cuts or wounded, sorry, rounded rear sights. The rounding you do to the OUTSIDE of the sights so they don't snag on things for concealed carry, not to the bottom of my sight notches. STI Bo-Mar BMCS copies work perfectly fine for me with a bit of touch up of countour to suit me.

    Trigger, last one got the STI Stailess/Polymer Long Curve with overtravel screw. Put in a decent trigger that is comfortable for you and do a decent job with the stones on the parts that really matter. Only you know if you like short or long better. One way to go is to get a "Gunsmith Blank" version of a decent trigger you like and file it till it's just about perfect and them polish it and serrations are my preference but some people like polished or vertical grooves. Back in the land of severe personal preferences again.

  7. NONE of the "drop-in" target hammers with EDM sears do, at least not to my satisfaction for trigger pull. I'd buy a decent fire control set from a reputable manufacturer with a hammer you like and expect to put a bit of time into getting it stoned. 3.5lbs for general carry. No creep, ZERO, break like glass rod. I like sorta Commanderish target loop hammers, but slightly more squared than standard with a bit more pointiness to them, some like rounded better.

    Don't like ambi safeties because they are structurally weaker by their very mechanical nature and much more likely to break at inopportune times.

    Grip safeties, I've gone back and forth. Everything I have now started out with some form of Ed Brown Beavertail and then grindered and filed and polished to suit application, as far as clearing hammer, not snagging things, comfort, etc. Tried "speed bumps", not keen on them, because I don't like the way they feel and I've never had a FTF because I didn't squeeze hard enough. At times I've pinned grip safeties to where the grip was most comfortable with the actual safety mechanism disabled. Kinda like that best but it might be a liability if you had to shoot somebody and the enemy lawyer says "He disabled a safety mechanism on the gun! He's reckless and dangerous!!!" So it's a good concept but a possible bad legal one. Depending on the stocks you put on it and your hand and how you personally grip the firearm, different amounts of beavertail will feel better or worse to you so there isn't a perfect answer for everybody there.

    Get a bag of Wolf springs to tune things with.

    FLGR don't add much accuracy and make cleaning a bit more of a hassle but some people really like them, and if it makes you a more confident person in your firearm, well confidence is part of shooting. I've guns both ways.

    I like Clark or Bar-Sto match barrels. Never had a bad one.

    Virgil Tripp 8 round Cobra Mags because they're the best 1911 mags made. I'll stand on Chip McCormick and Wilson's coffee tables in my Cowboy boots and tell them that.

    Well probably not Chip's because he's semi-local and he's got a mean temper and lack of self control at times so it'd be imprudent. He got the nickname "Chip" because people in High School thought he had a Chip on his shoulder. My friend Ray Chapman had him disqualified from a match once for cheating and he proved that bit by holding a grudge against Ray for the rest of Ray's life, not like Ray cared, as Ray could beat him at will at any shooting game anyway. :-) Some of my neighbors had to go to high school with him, I've heard a lot worse than what I put here as to both personal behavior and business ethics so I try not to guide any money into his hands. It ain't libel if it's TRUE!

    I've owned them all. Cobra Mags==Near seamless welding, perfect feed lips springs and finish, polymer followers BUT with a steel insert where they hit the slide stop. Nobody else does that and they all have followers wear out and fail to lock the slide back eventually if you actually shoot them enough. And they cost a bit less than the also-ran magazine makers and they're made in Alpine, Texas by one of the BEST 1911 Mechanics ever walked the earth.

  8. Kinda wore out typing that. Best I can do for ya at this point in your selection process. Hope some of the ideas help. Prettied Up commanders are nice but I don't find full-frame single stacks that bulky, so up to you. I've got a 3" Springer I did for myself and it's good for a concealed gun but it's not much fun to shoot with defensive loadings, yet in a short barrel you sorta need to run the hottest loads because you're losing a decent bit of velocity, so you end up with something that's fine for target light load plinking with cast wadcutters or round-nosed, but a hell for loud uncomfortable firebreather with the loads one ought to carry in them. Commander seems a better compromise if you don't go full meal sized, to me anyway.

    I seem to have spent way too much time over the decades thinking about this stuff, aye?

  9. Awake again. One thing to remember on the "match grade" vs "utility" issue. Just because you use match grade parts to build a duty gun doesn't mean it will be finicky. That's dependent on the TOLERANCES related to reliability the smith who puts it together uses. If you aren't carving and forging your own parts you can be guaranteed that the good name parts will be of good materials and properly made (except for a couple people that have reputations that have exceeded their talents through advertising and a couple shops that have added too many people and their parts aren't the same as when they were a couple people who did EVERYTHING and really cared).

    You can build what looks to be a full bore race gun that you can drop in mud and it'll still run, iffin you know what you're doing. Won't shoot half inch groups but it'll have the same parts and it'll be reliable.

    Back when I used to be a sports car mechanic we used to build what we called Super Reliability Engines for quite a few customers. They Had the forged crank, rods, piston, titanium valves,full meal deal EXCEPT they were tuned just a bit hotter than stockers. Full race version 2.5 six might make 235hp. Stock were around 110-120. Full race parts with very mild compression bump, slightly warm cams, headers, webers, running maybe 145-160hp-->you got a fun GTV-6 you can romp and stomp on and have a lot of fun with and the engines last 150,000 miles instead of 30,000 in the 235hp incarnation.

    Race guns can be done the same way, except you want to make modifications for sometimes concealment and cosmetics. My two cents anyway. Never hurts anything to start with the best parts you can get even if you open up the tolerances for reliability. Of course, my next 1911 build is going to be done on a KT Ordnance Frame so I can make everything fit up EXACTLY how I want it. http://www.ktordnance.com/kto/products.php

    I've got what started as a Kimber Custom II that was finicky. Not super high end but they aren't cheap and I bought it new to tinker on. After a bit of fiddling with tolerances and springs I'd use it as a Carry. Happily eats whatever you feed it in reliable fashion and prints hair over 2" at 25 when I'm having a good day. Just had to loose some things up a bit, as it came too tight from the factory. Bit of jewelers rouge and stoning and application of a rawhide mallet and such, trigger job, and 250 rounds of break in and she's like Mikey. She'll devour anything.

    If I had a foundry...wistful thinking..I'd make my own from scratch. Of course you run into the time value of money on all this. There are a couple reliability mods I'd put in this thread that I wouldn't for a non-smith because if you do them wrong it could be unsafe, so I didn't.

    Just remember the most important things of 1911 pistol smithin'. Don't screw with the intended feed ramp angles or flow them into things as you'll either cause failures to feed or case head lack of support ruptures. Many people destroy 1911s that way. When you do your first ever 1911 trigger job, or trigger job on anything else for that matter, thump it hard on the bench to see if it jumps sear (empty, of course) and when you go to test fire it after it passes that test, only load one round. Seven or eight rounds of ACP accidentally gone FA AA Gunner doesn't make you any friends at the range and will startle the hell out of you :-)

  10. Imho, the 1911 is fun for spaying lead, but when I need a reliable 1 shot = 1kill...I have to stick w/ my trusty S&W model 19.