Well my 100th
anniversary 1911 reproduction pistol has turned out to be quite a project.
I should have started a year earlier!
The logistics of reproducing the 1911 exactly like it was when it was
first produced in 1911/1912 has taken on a life of its own.
I have finally gotten
samples of all of the unique parts that were in the very 1st
guns. I probably will not have
any of the actual reproduction pistols ready for the Shot Show but I will
have 3 sample pistols ready. I
refuse to cut any corners in making these pistols just to make the Shot
Show. Every part in the pistol
will be CNC machined from billet steel and the frame and slide will be made
from forgings. The only real
differences from the original pistols will be that the steels used will be
modern alloys properly heat treated and the very coarse tool marks found
internally will not be there. The
modern CNC machines produce a surface finish on the parts that was
impossible back in the 1911/1912 times.
There are 18 parts that are
unique to the original production pistols as well as the polishing and
finishing. I will cover each
part and what the differences were. I
have taken some bench top digital pictures comparing the old with the new.
Some of the photos are not very good but it was the best that I could
do with what I have.
#1. Firing Pin Stop:
The original firing pin
stop had a small radius on the bottom to start the cocking of the hammer.
It was later determined that if the radius was made larger the slide
would have more leverage on the hammer and the slide would cock the hammer
without depleting as much energy from the slide as the small radius firing
pin stop did. You will find
that the pistol will be much harder to rack the slide with the hammer down.
The original grip safety
had a short tang on it. The
short tang didn’t cause a big problem with biting the web of the hand at
first as the hammer spur was short. Later
the Ordnance Department wanted the hammer spur extended to make it easier to
cock the pistol. The longer
hammer spur extended over the end of the grip safety when fully cocked to
the rear during firing. The
web of the shooter’s hand would ride up over the end of the short tang
grip safety and the long spur hammer would pinch the web of the shooters
hand between the hammer and the grip safety.
It would literally take a bite of flesh out of the web of your hand!
It was a MANLY pistol. OUCH!
#3. Wide Spur Hammer:
The original hammer had a
short wide checkered spur hammer. This
hammer reminds me of a bull dog’s head in comparison to the later long
wide checkered spur hammers. Manufacturing
a reproduction of this original style hammer has proven to be quite a task.
To manufacture the wide spur you have to cut your hammer blank from
steel stock that is the thickness of the wide spur and then thin the main
body of the hammer to the correct width.
The drawback to this is that you make chips out of almost as much
steel as you end up with, not to mention the time factor.
The shape of the top of the spur is not too bad to
do with a CNC milling machine. The tough part was to apply the correct style of 40 LPI
checkering to the top of the spur. I
believe that we have solved the checkering issue and will be producing a
correct reproduction of the original hammer.
#4. Sear Spring
The original sear spring
did not have the turned down end on the right tine of the sear spring.
Evidently the military or Colt figured out that the sear spring could
slide off of the sear leg during assembly unless they put the turned down
tab on the sear spring. I will
agree that it is very easy to have the sear spring slide off of the sear
during assembly without the tab. Once
you have the mainspring housing pushed up about ˝ ways during assembly the
sear spring will stay put.
#5. Grip Screws
The original grip screws
had a very thin head which made the screw driver slot very shallow.
The shallow slot made it very easy to slip out of the slot with the
screw driver blade and damage the slot.
It didn’t take very long until the grip screw slots were so badly
burred up that it was very difficult to remove and replace them.
#6. Grip Screw Bushings
The original grip screw
bushings had to be taller to support the grip under the thin head grip
screws. The grip screw bushings
had to be made shorter when the grip screw heads were made thicker. This
would allow the thicker grip screw heads to be flush with the top of the
The original grips were
made from American Black Walnut and had the distinctive double diamond
checkering pattern. There seems
to be an argument among collectors far more knowledgeable than I, whether
the original grips were hand checkered or machine checkered.
I know that the first time I was consulting to the Colt Custom Shop
there was a large pantograph checkering machine stuck back in the corner of
the shop. I asked what it was
and was shown that it was used to checker 6 pair of 1911 grips at once. I know that the machine was probably made in the Colt tool
room and the components that the machine was made from would not have been
available in 1911. I am
having the grips for my reproduction checkered by hand from American Black
Walnut. There also seems to be
differing opinions on what type of finish was applied to the grips. I think that I will stick with the China Oil (Tung Oil) unless
someone can convince me that another finish is a more authentic choice.
#8. Thumb Safety
The original thumb safety
had the raised square pad that the thumb piece protruded from.
The checkering on the thumb piece was diagonal and 30 lines per inch.
Manufacturing a reproduction of the original thumb safety required
some out of the box thinking to fixture it so the CNC machine could do
the job in a cost effective manner.
The checkering had to be pressed into the thumb piece as shown by the
original safeties. We found
that it is very difficult to press the checkering in very deep.
We are currently working on making our checkering match the depth of
#9. Slide Stop
The original slide stop had
a couple of very unique features. The
checkering horizontal lines were parallel to the top edge of the slide stop
and there was a V shaped flat under the checkered thumb piece that was wide
at the front and tapered to nothing at the rear of the slide stop.
The checkering appears to have been machine cut on the originals that
I have examined so the checkering on our slide stops will be machine cut.
The checkering is 30 lines per inch. I
would guess that Colt had one of their tool makers make up two form tools.
One tool would cut the checkering lines for the horizontal lines and
one tool would cut the vertical lines.
We are cutting each line individually on our CNC machines.
The cost to have two form tools made would be prohibitive IF you
could find a tool maker who could do it.
#10. Recoil Spring Guide
The original recoil spring
guide had a thin back flange that had tall ears sticking up.
The tube of the recoil spring guide was very thin and had almost no
bevel on the front of it. I
would guess that it was found that the recoil spring guide was somewhat
prone to break and deform. The
later recoil spring guides are made from much heavier stock.
#11. Recoil Spring Plug
The original recoil spring
plug was checkered 25 lines per inch on the front and there was no tab
punched into the tube to capture the open end of the recoil spring.
I have examined several original recoil spring plugs and it appears
that the checkering was cut with a form tool.
We are cutting the checkering lines individually as a form tool would
be very expensive.
The original barrel was
made from a forging and is pretty much the same in form as it is today with
a couple of small variations. The
throat on the original barrel was a small trough that was designed to feed
ball ammunition. I have had a
hard time finding an original barrel that has not been “throated”.
I don’t know if the military had the barrels throated or someone
did it over the many years that these pistols have been floating around.
I have finally found a couple of documented original pistols with a
correct ball throat in the barrel. The
relief cut below the locking lugs is another area that is unique to the
original barrels. The relief on the original barrels was cut with a form tool
on a rotary table with the barrel held muzzle up.
All of the barrels currently being manufactured have this relief cut
made on the CNC lathe. Our
barrels will have this relief cut made on a rotary table with a form tool.
This is just a tiny thing but I think that it is important to do my
best to make a true reproduction of the original.
#13. Front Sight
The original front sight
was just a sliver usually called a bump.
The sight was .100” high, .400” long, and .058” wide at the
base tapering to .030” at the top. Those
of us over 50 don’t stand a chance of seeing the front sight well enough
to shoot the pistol to its accuracy capability!
#14. Rear Sight
The rear sight was not much
bigger than the front sight. The
top of the original rear sight was rounded from side to side and looked like
a small hump. The sight was
.626” wide and .245” high. The
rear sight notch was a U shape .060” wide and .040” deep.
Again, those of us with old eyes can’t usually see the notch in the
#15. Magazine Catch
The magazine catch on the
original pistols varies only in the number of diamonds of checkering from
those made today. The original
magazine catches had 8 diamonds of checkering each way on the longest lines.
This amounts to 25 lines per inch.
The other distinctive feature of the original magazine catch was the
way that you had to remove it from the frame.
The magazine catch had to be pressed as far to the right as possible
and rotated clockwise until the magazine catch lock popped out of the
magazine catch. Then the
magazine catch could be removed from the frame.
The slot for the tab on the magazine catch lock was much deeper to
allow the magazine catch to be pushed far enough to the right to turn it. There was no radial notch to allow the tab on the magazine
catch lock to be turned out of engagement.
It is a real pain in the butt to remove the magazine catch and even a
bigger one to replace it. The
other real problem was that the magazine catch lock was easily lost when it
popped out of the magazine catch under the high spring pressure of the
magazine catch spring. I do not
recommend that you try to remove the magazine catch from my reproduction
pistol as you will most certainly scratch the frame and probably lose the
magazine catch lock! Our
magazine catch will be machine checkered correctly.
#16. Magazine Catch Lock
The original magazine catch
lock was just slightly different than what we know today.
The difference was the original did not have the screw driver slot in
the head. It had a rounded
dimple in the center of the head. This one item was probably the worst
feature of the original 1911 pistols. According
to my sources this feature was changed after serial number 3,188. Our magazine catch lock will have the dimple and not
Mainspring Housing Retaining Pin
The original mainspring
housing pin was rounded on both ends. This
made it very difficult to push the pin out as the rounded ends would allow
the punch to slip off of the pin when trying to drive it out.
The dimple in one end of the pin was authorized at SN# 6,499.
Our pin will be rounded on each end.
The original magazines were
made from seamless tubing that was purchased from Germany.
We will be using modern formed and welded magazine tubes as seamless
magazine tubing just doesn’t exist to the best of my knowledge.
The feed lips will be the original style long ball feed lips.
The base plates will have the lanyard loop riveted on and the bases
will be held on to the magazine body with two pins that are riveted.
The sides of the base plates will be visible below the magazine body
as the originals were. These
magazines were called visible base magazines.
Making these magazines is a
very big job. The base plates
must be machined with two bosses that will stick up in side of the magazine
body. There must be a 1/16 hole
drilled in each boss to allow the pin to slide through and hold the base on
the body. The bodies have to
have two holes in each side that properly align with the bosses.
The killer is that the original magazines were not heat treated so
the holes could be drilled. Our
magazine bodies are properly heat treated and there is no way that the holes
could be drilled or punched so we will have the holes laser burned into the
bodies. The floor plates must
be polished before the lanyard loop is riveted on them.
Once the floor plates have been riveted on, the magazine assembly is
then buffed on the sides to blend the bases to the bodies.
Then, the magazines will be carbona blued to match the pistol.
The magazine followers will
be the standard flat dimpled style and they will be heat blued as per the
originals. Roy Huntington has
graciously loaned me an original visible base magazine to use as a sample
and the follower still has some of the heat bluing on it.
It appears that the floor plate was hand filed to match the body as
the file marks are still visible. Ours
will be far better in appearance.
Now some food for thought,
there are 6 rivet heads that must be done on each magazine, two to attach
the lanyard loop to the floor plate and 4 for the floor plate retaining
pins. To say that making the
visible floor plate magazines is labor intensive is a very big
understatement. The price per
magazine will be in the $150-$250 range.
One magazine comes with each pistol.
I will have some spares available for sale.
All external parts and the
frame and slide will be polished to duplicate the original polishing. The
original pistols were finished to commercial standards until SN# 2400.
This was a fairly high polish. The
polishing will be done to the correct grit and in the proper directions with
extreme care not to round off any edges or wash any holes.
The original Colt polishers used polishing wheels that were made in
house. These wheels were made
from laminated wood and were about 24” in diameter.
The face of the wheel was covered with leather.
The grit size that was to be used on a wheel was mixed up with glue
and applied to form a “head” on the wheel.
The head was trued up and the wheel was given to the polisher.
The polisher had to break in the wheel before he could use it.
Once a wheel was broken in by a polisher no one else was allowed to
use that wheel. The polishing
machines, called buffing jacks, were very large and powerful.
The shaft speed was infinitely variable so that the polisher could
run the polishing wheel at the speed he needed to properly polish the work.
We will be using modern wheels and grits but the work is accomplished
in the same manner. Great skill
and practice is needed to be a master polisher.
The polishers at Colt were the highest paid workers at that time.
The bluing of the pistols
will be done with two different methods.
The frame, slide, grip safety, mainspring housing, sear, disconnector,
recoil spring guide, and recoil spring plug will be carbona blued.
This process most closely matches the bluing done during the
1911/1912 time frame. The
hammer, trigger thumb safety, slide stop, pins, grip screws, magazine catch,
and magazine catch lock will be heat blued.
We will be using Niter Salts to do this.
The original heat bluing was done over charcoal beds.
The charcoal produced the temperature needed to bring the parts to
the iridescent blue color. The
Niter salts are heated to the proper temperature to produce the same
iridescent blue color. Trying
to use charcoal to do this would require a vast ventilation system to pull
off the carbon monoxide fumes or you would have to do the bluing outdoors.
The last time I checked it gets too darn cold here in Nebraska to do
that during the winter. Not to
mention that the cost of the pistol would increase at least $500 and I
don’t know where you could find anyone who was skilled in this or would be
willing to stand over a glowing bed of charcoal for days to blue all of the
#20. Roll Marking
The roll markings will be
the same as the originals other than the Colt name and logo.
Cylinder & Slide Inc. will replace the COLT’S PT.F.A.MFG.CO.
FREMONT,NE,U.S.A. will replace the Hartford address.
The Colt logo will be replaced by a specially designed Cylinder &
Slide Logo. The fonts used for the original markings will be duplicated
as closely as possible. The
serial numbers will be hand stamped in front of the slide stop hole on the
right side of the dust cover as the originals were for the 100 pistols that
will be marked MODEL 1911 US ARMY. The
10 pistols that will be marked MODEL 1911 US NAVY will have their serial
numbers stamped in front of the slide stop pin on the right side starting
with 501 and ending with 510. There
will also be 5 pistols made that will be marked MODEL 1911 USMC.
There were never any 1911 pistols marked this way but I felt that
there must be at least 5 Marines who would want one. The 5 pistols marked USMC well have their serial numbers
stamped in front of the slide stop pin starting with 3501 and ending with
3505. The serial numbers on the
US NAVY and USMC pistols represent the first serial numbers assigned to
The pistols will be shipped
in the original style two piece brown Kraft paper covered boxes wrapped in
heavy brown waxed paper.
do not ask me to change any of the features of these 115 pistols.
I have worked too long and too hard to make these as close to the
originals as possible. I will
not make any changes. I will
have 25 extra pistols that I can customize any way that you might like to
include special serial numbers. I
will be happy to quote those on an individual basis.
These pistols will be built
with extreme care and patience. Please
do not order one and then become impatient with me.
I will not be rushed! I
hope to complete the entire run in 18 months. I have been assigning numbers
as the orders have been received. If
you desire a specific number and it is still available, there will be an
extra $250 charge.
reproduction pistols are $5000 each with a $2500 deposit due upon order.
I could go on and on about
all of the tiny little things that I have found out about the early 1911
pistols but there just isn’t room or time here.
I have been fortunate to have been loaned #305, #469, #C67, and
several later pistols for complete examination. I would like to thank those
who trusted enough to allow me the privilege of examining their treasured
1911s. I also have a set of blue prints that are dated 1914 from the
Springfield Armory. These
prints were marked obsolete! I
have very closely measured the parts from the early Colt pistols and I am
convinced that these prints were Colt prints that the Springfield Armory was
given to produce the pistols. Springfield
then made changes to reflect their manufacturing abilities that made these
Another problem that I ran
into was that the internal measurements of the Colt original parts matched
the blue prints very closely but the external radiuses and such did not
match the prints in many cases. The
light bulb finally came on. Each
pistol was hand fitted together and then sent to the polishers to be blended
and polished for finishing! The
individual polishers would change the external radiuses and surfaces from
the print during the blending and buffing.
They were not concerned with print dimensions, they were concerned
with how well the pistols external surfaces were blended and polished for
appearance! So, I am convinced that every early 1911 pistol was
The internal surfaces on
the early pistols that I examined showed the fitters file marks that were
made during the hand fitting that occurred on every pistol.
Remember, during that day and age they were not capable of holding
tolerances like we know today. The
parts were the most expensive part of the pistol and the labor was very
cheap in comparison at that time. The
parts were made to be fitted by highly skilled builders so that a minimum of
wasted expensive parts occurred. Now
for the really unbelievable, I very carefully tried parts from one pistol
into another and almost every time the parts could be interchanged. SO, even though the parts showed that they had been file
fitted to each individual pistol the parts were interchangeable into other
pistols most of the time! I
then noted that the frames and slides did not show any fitting marks
internally. Eureka, the frames
and slides were made with such close precision that when the parts were
fitted properly to them they were interchangeable.
WOW do we need to learn from our past!
Many of you will remember
the cool little tool that the military used to produce that was used to take
the pistol completely apart. It
looked like an L. The short leg
was a screw driver blade that was used to remove and replace the grip
screws. The long leg was rounded for about the last 1” or so and
the end was rounded. It looked
like the end of the hammer strut. I
have several of them stashed away. I
always thought that the rounded end was used to depress the firing pin so
you could remove the firing pin stop and also used to push out the
mainspring housing pin. I am
sure that this is true. BUT, it
just dawned on me that on the very early pistols that had the magazine catch
lock that only had the dimple in it the tool was used to depress the
magazine catch lock into the magazine catch so you could reinstall the
magazine catch into the frame! I
have already started the ball rolling on having them made.
I am hoping that I can have them made from forgings, highly polished
and them Niter blued. They will
probably be pricey little things. I
don’t think they have been made since before WWII.
I hope that you share my
passion for the 1911 as much I do and that you will purchase one of my
commemorative reproduction 1911 pistols.
I truly believe that the 1911 pistol is one of our countries greatest
heritages that have stood the test of time.
My anniversary 1911 reproduction is a tribute to the genius who
designed it and to the company who first mass produced it.