For the last year or so I've been interested in building a new 1911 similar to the Dan Wesson CBOB I wear for the class and EDC but I wanted a 9mm for cheaper ammo than the .45 acp.
I wanted to build one to save money and because I thought it'd be fun. The choices were to get the parts new from a company like Caspian or Fusion and then get all the internal parts from companies like Wilson Combat. The problem was it would be about the same price as a new decent 1911. I would like to do one of these projects later but for know I wanted a "learner project." When your talking about $1k in parts it's a little nerve racking to just wade in and start fitting. Mistakes can be costly.
Option B was to find a cheaper more or less functional 1911 and do some upgrades a little at a time. After a couple years looking I found what I was looking for. This one is a Rock Island Armory commander sized 9mm. It's been bobtailed and has a Caspian slide well fit by a competent gunsmith. These projects were probably done a while ago because it looks like it's had a very high round count and holster wear.
I picked it up cleaned and oiled it and took it out for a test drive. I had a few failures to feed and many failures to extract resulting in double feeds on the empty case. Also, the front sight fell off on the third shot.
I took it home and stripped it down to the frame. I found a lot of crud and some surface rust on the frame and some of the internals.
After a quick cleaning and test firing. Note the absence of a front sight and the rough condition of the finish.
I did some tweaking on the internal extractor that fixed the FTE issue and did a better cleaning job and havn't been able to get it to fail fo feed. I'm cautiously optomistic but it seems to function fine. It won't be my EDC so an occasional malfunction will be a challenge, not an emergency.
Ten minutes later...
After a little research I've decided to finish the pistol using Alumahyde 2 from Brownell's. It's an epoxy coating that comes in an aerosol can and adhers chemically to the metal and is resistant to the solvents used to clean and lubricate. I'm concerned about the finish sticking to stainless steel but it wasn't expensive. If it doesn't work I'm only out $20 and a little time. We'll see.
I've started sanding and have the springs from Wolff ready to go in. Now it's just some elbow grease to prepare for the finish which will be in Grey and Tan. Probably.
I took the time waiting for the stuff from Brownell's to take care of the grips. Personally it always seemed like a shame to checker a wood as beautiful as cocobolo. It hides the grain and IMO is like painting flames on a Ferrari.
After I sanded the checkering and laquer finish off I used 0000 steel wool to rub on Minwax oil.
The alumihyde came today and I deciced to repaint the frame on my EAA Witness 9mm/22 conv. It is all black and is showing some holster wear. I'm still not 100% about my color choice for the 1911 so I decided to paint the Witness while I thought about it.
I detail stripped the frame and gave it a once over with 400 grit wet or dry sanpaper and ran into a problem. The S/N is essentially only in the finish. I guess I'll have to get a stamp set and stamp it into the frame.
On a brighter note I was able to pretty much get rid of the "read instructions before operating gun" stamp visible to the far left.
Wild Hair Witness Frame Refinish
Reciever sprayed with 4 coats
Needs to cure for a week or so above 70f. I took a plastic bin, dowel and light fixture to keep it warm.
Now I just need to be patient and not reassemble before the alumahyde fully cures. I'm not a very patient person so this will be a challenge.
I almost hosed myself for impatience yesterday by reassembling the Witness before is was fully cured. My usually non existant voice of reason spoke up and I decided to work on the 1911 instead.
I wasn't happy with the way the mainspring housing was fit and I wasn't crazy about the checkering. I decided to go ahead and see if I could fix it...
Here is the before and after pics. I did the rough shaping with three earth bits stacked on a dremmel and then a belt/ disc sander to do the clean up. Sanded with 220 and 320 wet or dry and now it feels like glass.
The pic shows some sanding marks but you can't feel them and I want the finish to stick..
I'm happy with the outcome. I sprayed the rails as well so we can see how the finish holds up in a high wear area.
I still have some fixing up to do but here it is. I will have to respray the barrel bushing. It came out a little rough. It seems like it will function fine but it's hard to turn to get the recoil spring plug out. I still need to decide what to do about the front sight. I might replace both the front and rear.
The only componant I have replaced so far is the trigger with A Caspian flat skeletonized.
I also softened the all the edges on the slide.
The cocobolo grips above were very thin to begin with and one of them cracked. Here is my first attempt at making stocks. The zebrawood looked better before the natural oil finish. I'm going to get some other types of wood to experiment with.
The Alumahyde 2 isn't holding up as well as I'd hoped. You can see wear on the side of the GS and the pin of the slide stop.
I'm going to start looking into a media blasting cabinet and airbrush to try ceracoat next time.
Here is the ironwood or Lignum Vitae stocks along with a blank. This wood used to be used as bearings for the masts for tall ships and is so dense it sinks in water. It's a slow process to work with since the dust is fairly toxic so I would work for a while then leave the workshop to let the dust settle.
I've also added a fiberoptic front sight by Hi Viz but they were not able to match the cut of the rear sight so I am stuck with the XS for now.
Here are some pics of building the stocks.
I started with the 3/8" blank above
<-- I used the OE grips of my CBOB to trace the basic shape and do the rough cuts with a chop saw. I have a pretty limited woodshop.
Then I used the disc to do the fine shaping. This is the part that created a bunch of airborne particles so I left the shop for a while to let them settle.
I put the 80 grit belt on the 6" belt sander and used that to thin the grips to close to what I wanted and then switched to 120 for the finer work. It probably took less than 2 min of actual sanding to go from 3/8" to less than 1/4" If you try to do it all with the 120 grit it gets gummed up before you get done and it takes quite a while.
After thinning and shaping with the 120 grit on the belt then I stacked up the grips and marked the holes.
<-- I can't find a chuck key for my garage sale drill press so a punch and screwdriver work for now.
Also I have to use both hands to line up the bit with the hole so I use the remote starting system below. :)
Dry fitting went well. I forgot to show how I cut the relief for the TS and SL plunger tube. Just eyeballed it with an angle grinder. Even taking it slow and trying often only took a few minutes.
Below is the scrap I used to try the oil finishes. It is a moving target since the wood changes color so fast after it's been worked. Try a bunch and let them sit.
Here it is marked for the cut for the mag release. No pics but I just used a drum on a dremmel. Then I sanded with 320. After I applied the oil I found I didn't like the shape so I sanded it down some more and re-oiled.
Here is the final stock. Look how much the other one has changed color over a week or so.