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Thread: Top 5 Modifications you should make to a 1911 - Bill Wilson & Massad Ayoob

  1. #1

    Top 5 Modifications you should make to a 1911 - Bill Wilson & Massad Ayoob

    "What modifications to a 1911 would Bill Wilson recommend?" Massad Ayoob sat down with Bill to ask him just that. Here are Bill's recommendations for turn a good 1911 into a great 1911.


  2. #2
    Site Supporter JonInWA's Avatar
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    Pretty decent video. Today, it would have had arguably more relevance if Ayoob had used, say, a basic current Colt offering, like the current 1911 Classic, or one of the more basic Springfield Armory offerings. as the baseline 1911 has in most cases evolved out-of-the-box with decent sights and a decent thumb safety.

    While I'm certainly not opposed to a more custom beavertail, frankly I haven't ever experienced any operational issues with the standard traditional 1911 grip safety and tang. I'm not denying that there are advantages accrued to the updated approaches, but they also seem to be "gateway drugs" to a further cascade of "necessary" components and modifications, such as slotted hammers, gunsmith fitting and tuning, etc. I recommend that the owner of a basic 1911 spend some time with the gun as it comes to familiarize you with the gun, and to more empirically assess and determine what, if any modifications need to be made.

    I'm a little surprised that improved grips weren't mentioned; an improved set of grips can provide tangible improvements for a relatively low cost without gunsmithing.

    While I've gone the semi-bespoke and improved 1911 routes, with my Colt Series 70 Stainless Reproduction the only thing I've felt operationally compelled to do was switch the grips out for a more grippier set (first a set of Hogue G10s and currently with a set of VCDs) and paint the back face of the front sight flourescent orange.

    Wilson's discussion of lubrication was well done.

    And Ayoob's repeated use of the term "investment" was interesting. Given that the average cost of a semi-custom 1911 these days seems to hover around the $2,500 - $3,500 level, it's no surprise that manufacturers would like prospective buyers see them as investments. I question the viability of that from a strictly monetarily analysis, as ROI on a semi-custom 1911 doesen't really seem all that viable if your expectation is that you can sell it for more than you paid for it these days. From an operational and ergonomic standpoint, I strongly suspect that most needs would be more than adequately met with a decent quality contemporary non-semi-custom 1911, such as a Colt, Dan Wesson or Ruger example, with subsequent minor tweaking driven by actual use as necessary.

    That's not to say that there's not additive value provided by more expensive and elaborately equipped 1911s. But for the price and actual need, I counsel taking a hard look at whether the juice warrents the squeeze.

    Best, Jon

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonInWA View Post
    Pretty decent video.
    Agreed, it is pretty decent though nothing to surprise PF members.

    While I'm certainly not opposed to a more custom beavertail, frankly I haven't ever experienced any operational issues with the standard traditional 1911 grip safety and tang.
    I can shoot a gun with the GI grip safety just fine -- in fact I enjoy it and will probably always keep at least one basic format 1911 around.

    The main disadvantage to the GI grip safety for me is that it is more difficult to attain a good grip when drawing from the appendix position. If wearing the gun on the hip with a canted holster it doesn't matter as much, but when I draw that type of pistol from AIWB the web of skin between my thumb and forefinger sometimes gets hung up on the end of the safety tang. So a good beavertail safety is a must for carry -- for me personally.

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    The downside to this approach is that you sink a bunch of money into a gun and at the end of it you have a heavy singlestack that is no more mechanically accurate than a typical factory production gun like a Glock, Sig, or M&P, and the only perceived advantage is that most people don't know how to use a 1911 if they take yours away. IMO 1911s are mostly interesting because of history or accuracy so the idea of incremental upgrades with a bunch of refinishing in between is just a nonstarter in terms of $$$ to performance. If I'm going to be carrying a 1911 the trigger, slide to frame fit, and barrel fit had all better be good which you probably won't find on most factory guns. If you do opt for this approach buy a stainless gun so you aren't sending the gun out to be reblued or DLC'd every time some work is done.
    Last edited by Eyesquared; 05-05-2022 at 02:40 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Eyesquared View Post
    If you do opt for this approach buy a stainless gun so you aren't sending the gun out to be reblued or DLC'd every time some work is done.
    I’m far from a 1911 guy, but I wanted one in my collection… went with a Ruger for that main reason. And that I like stainless. [emoji41]

    Ruger definitely is more budget than most 1911 guys like, but fit what I was looking for. Wanted Series 70. Wanted to swap in stainless parts for the MIM parts… not because they are bad, but because I like the look of all stainless (well, minus the ejector, extractor, sights, and grips). Sights weren’t bad… but swapped in a set of Heinie Straight-8s.

    Only thing I really had to do was take a wheel to the engravings (were very rough, to the point that would catch on everything) and polish the barrel and feed ramps. Gun was reliable without polishing, but had the Dremel out for the other stuff… some polish and Q-tips wouldn’t hurt anything.

    The one thing I have to do is have the barrel crown redone. I was shocked with how rough Ruger let it go out the door… but it shoots good, so I’m sure they won’t mess with it. Kind of holding out until all the other parts come in (hammer, mainspring housing, grip safety, thumb safety), being if I don’t feel comfortable doing it, I’d probably try to find someone to do it all.

    I know the end result won’t be a Nighthawk or other high end 1911… but really not the intent of the gun. I wanted a nice 1911 that I could carry… but affordable and will work. Think it will be there at the end of the project.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Screwball View Post
    I’m far from a 1911 guy, but I wanted one in my collection… went with a Ruger for that main reason. And that I like stainless. [emoji41]

    Ruger definitely is more budget than most 1911 guys like, but fit what I was looking for. Wanted Series 70. Wanted to swap in stainless parts for the MIM parts… not because they are bad, but because I like the look of all stainless (well, minus the ejector, extractor, sights, and grips). Sights weren’t bad… but swapped in a set of Heinie Straight-8s.

    Only thing I really had to do was take a wheel to the engravings (were very rough, to the point that would catch on everything) and polish the barrel and feed ramps. Gun was reliable without polishing, but had the Dremel out for the other stuff… some polish and Q-tips wouldn’t hurt anything.

    The one thing I have to do is have the barrel crown redone. I was shocked with how rough Ruger let it go out the door… but it shoots good, so I’m sure they won’t mess with it. Kind of holding out until all the other parts come in (hammer, mainspring housing, grip safety, thumb safety), being if I don’t feel comfortable doing it, I’d probably try to find someone to do it all.

    I know the end result won’t be a Nighthawk or other high end 1911… but really not the intent of the gun. I wanted a nice 1911 that I could carry… but affordable and will work. Think it will be there at the end of the project.
    That makes sense to me. I am tempted to buy a stainless gun for myself to do stuff like fit safeties, slide stop, etc and just make my own. Not a practical thing and I doubt it would run near as good as a properly built gun but it would be a hands on education.

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    not sure I'd wanta spend almost $3Gs for a COLT CUSTOM COMPETITION S70 45 AUTO 5" 8-RD PISTOL so I can, like someone mentioned, 'tinker' with it and then daily carry the expensive handgun for my exclusive SD device.

    nightmares of using it, winning the case but then having the firearm destroyed by court order.

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    Not a bad video. On sights, Novaks are good, but you can keep the GI/national match cut and install a Harrison or 10-8 rear sight for much less and have a good sight pitcher. Peened front sights are not hard to install if you are the least bit handy.

    I would skip the grip safety and invest in a fitted bushing, EGW will make one to your measurements for less than $40. Check your slide stop, again, EGW has you covered. It can help with lock up and stop standing on a link. In those two things your accuracy is improved and you are out less money than a grip safety and file guide if you're brave, or gunsmith fitting it you're not.

    To the magazine list add Tripp, and in my experience the Mec Gar 8rd .45 mags are good. No experience with their other magazines, so I can't vouch for them.

    I'm not one upping either of those men. Just pointing out my limited experience and budget friendlier options. A base Colt, Springfield, Ruger make good learning guns with enough quality that they won't usually screw up the basics.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonInWA View Post
    Today, it would have had arguably more relevance if Ayoob had used, say, a basic current Colt offering, like the current 1911 Classic, or one of the more basic Springfield Armory offerings.
    I read this a few times and I'm not still not sure I understand what you're saying.

    The gun in front of Ayoob is equipped just like a Colt 1911 Classic https://www.novaksights.com/Content....ights%20101%22 or a Springfield Mil-Spec

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JTQ View Post
    I read this a few times and I'm not still not sure I understand what you're saying.

    The gun in front of Ayoob is equipped just like a Colt 1911 Classic https://www.novaksights.com/Content....ights%20101%22 or a Springfield Mil-Spec
    The Colt 1911 Ayoob was using as an exemplar was literally a 70 Series Colt 1911-not the 70 Series Reproduction (which was, and still is an excellent gun, but Colt morphed it into the current Classic-which is good in it's own right too).

    The 70 Series guns are long gone, and not particularly advisable as duty/catty guns, due to the collet bushing, whose fingers were noted for breaking and jamming things up. Additionally, the 70 Series guns had the miniscule sights (the 70 Series Repros used the larger sights from the concurrent 80 Series 1991s, albeit withut the dots, which was no huge loss)..

    Additionally, the 70 Series Repros came with a dimpled feed ramp, which is very effective with both ball and hollowpoint cartridges, eliminating the need for a trip to a gunsmith for feedramp throating.

    Basically, my point is that if Ayoob was chosing a 1911 as an exemplar of one that a current shooter was likely to get as a quality entry-level/basic 1911, he would have been better to have shown a basic current 1911 offering-most of which have adapted features eliminating the need to do some of the things he discusses as desirable.

    Or, better yet, discuss today's current basic entry-leevl 1911s compared to previous basic 1911s (such as your standard military 1911A1) and then to have gone into the discussion.

    Is that clearer?

    Best, Jon

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