Garage Gunsmithing : 1911 Slide Work & Safety


In our previous three installments of Garage Gunsmithing we covered the basic breakdown, and cleaning of our guinea pig Springfield 1911 as well as the beginning phases of the project. It’s been over a month since I posted anything on it so I figure its a perfect time to recap how we got to this point in the project. When we last saw the pistol it had been dehorned and sanded down, and the Ed Brown extended beavertail safety had been installed after a long session with a series of files and sandpaper. I will say that as aggravating as this part of the project was, I learned a great deal about myself, my abilities and exactly how bad the nerve endings are in the hands and fingers. The one thing that through this project that really amazed me was the large amount of working gunsmiths that gave me encouragement and helped me with advice along the way. These are skilled men who have decades of experience building guns as a profession and still took the time to encourage and help someone who was dabbling in Garage Gunsmithing


Once the beavertail was in place as I described in Part Two of the series I turned my attention to fitting the thumb safety. I chose the Wilson Combat Bulletproof Safety (P/N 6BNBP), for this gun I knew from past experiences that I prefer a single safety as opposed to an ambidextrous model. Also using the Wilson Combat safety was advertised as needing less hand fitting and to be honest I was really tired of hand fitting everything by this point in the build. Plus the ergonomics of the Wilson safety just felt better to me, based of my previous experience handling other guns with this model of Wilson safety installed.

Wilson Combat safety looks right at home. Alot of hand blending was done on this pistol

The pistol was really starting to take shape, I consulted my notebooks and knew what parts I wanted and began the process of ordering one or two pieces each payday. In the past I had excellent experiences with Ed Brown Products, based on those experiences I tried to keep all of the new parts I was ordering made by Ed Brown Products, with a few exceptions. At the end of this series of articles I will have a parts list complete with part numbers I used in case anyone is curious as to what I retained from the original Springfield Armory pistol and what I replaced.

When I completed this part of the project I knew that my resources and skills had been exceeded. I was in need of a CNC machine or a mill and a skilled operator, neither of which I possessed. The important part of any project whether it be a gunsmithing project or a home improvement project is to know you limitations and accept them. I learned that from a line in the  Clint Eastwood 1973 classic movie  Magnum Force. The way I figure it there are some lessons that you can afford to learn the hard way, there are others that you pay to learn and still never master. I wasn’t in the business of being a gun building master, so I farmed the work out to a competent machinist and welder I know who builds race guns on the 1911 platform. Greg Parret my gunsmith has built pistols used successfully in International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) events, as well as Three Gun events and Open Class Pistol competitions. I looked at several of his guns when discussing and planning the modifications I wanted to my slide.

Slide work
Slide work in the beginning phases


I looked at several Open Class race guns and decided to have some modifications done to the slide but nothing super crazy. Retaining the Springfield Armory logo was something I wanted to do, as well as having the top of the slide flattened. Greg asked if I had ever looked into getting the slide cut in a “Tri-Top” style and I have to admit I was ignorant to it. Once I saw it I was sold on the idea but I was unsure of what sight selection and set up would work best, it took about another 60 seconds to narrow everything down and move forward with the project. I knew I wanted a fiber optic front sight on the pistol, after my experiences with the Rock Island Armory 1911 we performed an extensive test and evaluation on. In that pistol I found picking up a red front sight was noticeably easier for me when running drills. After a little research I settled on a rear sight featuring a Bomar style cut from Harrison Design model HD-001.

I heard a saying once from my Grandfather he said “If you are paying for something make sure you get exactly what you want, Its your money “, I had that in my mind when we began to plan for the lightening cuts and the rest of the work on the slide. I had my front and rear sights picked out, I had my slide lightly dehorned and planned the Tri-Top cuts. I asked Greg what he thought, and again a short conversation later he knew I wanted something special but not something futuristic and out of some installment of Starship Troopers or Aliens. I left my box of parts in Greg’s hands and left the meeting feeling confident my pistol would come back looking amazing. I also had to tell myself to let my machinist work his magic and not pester him.


Parts bead blasted and ready for finish and final fit

Two weeks later I’m sitting at home watching an NHL Hockey game on the T.V. not really paying attention to it as I was going over pre planning notes for The Arms Guide’s trip to SHOT Show 2017. That’s  when my phone buzzed and broke my train of thought, I look to see its a message from Greg. It says simply “Pre Park”, now I had up to that point received a few text pictures from him with the progress of the slide that I have included in this post but I had no idea how long it would be. I didn’t ask because as is well documented I can be very impatient, and I did not want to hound a guy who was helping me out and offering very reasonable rates for his skills.

So the pistol was ready to go in the dip tank and get parkerized, that meant it was close to being finished, very close in fact. I still had no idea as to how long it would take to parkerize, I didn’t know if it had to set up and dry or bake on. I was oblivious to the exact process of parkerizing aside from the fact it was a very durable finish and often times used as a base finish for guns that were being Cerakoted. I resisted the urge to pick up the phone and call, I didn’t want to be “That Customer” that all gunsmiths dread dealing with.

So that is where we will leave this installment of Garage Gunsmithing, the pistol has been successfully planned, milled, trimmed, sanded, bead blasted and ready to go into the parkerizing tank for the final refinish. The rough file marks have been smoothed out with a combination of dremel tools, files, and more than half a dozen varieties of sanding cloth. Will this formerly stock Springfield Armory 1911 turn out to be the gun I dreamed about or a total lemon that would go back on the trading block ? Tune in for the final installment of Garage Gunsmithing, until then here is a teaser picture


Just the Tip
Just the Tip




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