Daniel E. Watters, a well known expert and my go-to man on many of the topics I write about, sent me info and photos of the beautiful 1911 pistols he has built.
I built this .38 Super pistol in late 2000 for use in IDPA’s Enhanced Service Pistol division. The frame and slide were from Caspian; each made from 416 stainless barstock. This was during the brief period that they offered barstock frames in addition to their usual cast frames. I had to lap the two together as their rails were purposefully cut oversize.
Starting from the top, the rear sight was the Novak LoMount, mated with a MGW front sight. I was delayed in completing the pistol by the lack of a front sight staking tool. A friend was supposed to lend me his MMC staking kit, but he couldn’t find it. Ultimately, he did find it, but only after he had ordered a replacement from Brownells. I did most of the early test firing without a front sight by using the front sight slot as an index. The barrel and bushing were from Bar-Sto. The barrel was ramped, with a Clark/Para lower lug profile. I used a lug cutting kit from Brownells to fit the lower lugs of the barrel. I don’t remember where I got the barrel links from, but I ended up having to buy a couple of kits to find an odd-ball size.
The firing pin was from Nowlin, and the oversized firing pin stop was from EGW. As few aftermarket vendors offered a stainless .38 Super extractor, I ended up buying a Colt high polished stainless extractor as that was the only one Brownells happened to have in stock. The guide rod was a two-piece model from Wilson Combat, as were the recoil springs. I bought one of their Spring Caddies that had different weight springs so I could tune it to the loads I was using. If I remember correctly, I ended up settling upon a 15 lb recoil spring.
For the lock work, I used a Wilson #299S Commander hammer as it was one of the few quality aftermarket hammers offered in stainless. This was mated with Wilson’s Deluxe A6 sear. The short length Dlask trigger has a magnesium shoe and a titanium bow. A tab on the bow allows the trigger to be adjusted for pre-travel. The sear spring was from Nowlin, as I had previously found it very easy to tune. I ended up settling on either a 20 or 21 lb mainspring from Wolff Springs. After some tweaking and stoning, I ended up with a crisp 2 lb trigger pull. It was still as nice nearly 3 years later. (After a couple more years, the current owner eventually replaced the sear and disconnector with the low mass models from Cylinder & Slide. At last check, he was also considering replacing the hammer with one of the Doug Koenig models offered by EGW.)
The grip safety was a standard stainless model from S&A. While the frame was precut for a .250″ radius, it still took little extra fitting to install the beavertail. The thumb safety was another Wilson product: their narrow extended tactical model in stainless. The stainless plunger tube was from Nowlin. The stainless extended .38 Super ejector was from King’s. The original magazine release was a stainless extended model from Nowlin, but you can see from the photos that the current owner has replaced it. I used Ed Brown’s stainless flat mainspring housing with 30 lpi checkering, which has since been discontinued.
The slide stop was originally one of the oversized EGW models that had recently been introduced in stainless. However, EGW had yet to offer a .38 Super specific slide stop, and occasionally, the follower of the Chip McCormick magazines would slip past the side stop. (A proper .38 Super slide stop has a longer engagement surface than its .45 ACP counterpart.) As a result, I ended up replacing the EGW slide stop with a stainless .38 Super model from Wilson. Oddly, the first Wilson slide stop would not seat flush with the frame. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the slide stop’s pin was warped. Thankfully, the shop had a second one to swap out. However, the manager of the shop ended up putting the defective part back into his display case. Speaking of magazines, I tried several different 10 round models before settling on the McCormick. The Wilson magazine was simply too hard to load to full capacity, and the follower of the MagPak magazine actually got stuck in the bottom of the tube once it was fully loaded.
The stocks were the Chip McCormick Slim Carry grips. As the name implies, these are thinner than standard stocks, and require their own shortened grip screws and grip screw bushings. The front strap of the frame was checkered at 30 lpi, which I cut by hand using a checkering file. You’ll note that I didn’t add any horizontal lines below the cutout for the front of the magazine baseplate. This allowed me to round over the ends of the vertical lines to keep them from snagging. I also beveled the magazine well using files. I prefer a deep angle, instead of the typical 45 degrees. At the time, Colt was cutting a deep bevel, but they didn’t continue it to the rear of the magwell. I did a carry bevel on all of the parts, and I rounded over the bottom rear corner of the frame.
I regret that I never got a chance to bead blast the frame. However, at last check, the current owner hasn’t done so either.
Funny story: A Highway Patrol firearm instructor moonlighted at a local range teaching CCW permit courses. He was seriously in love with the pistol. After I let him examine it, he handed it back to me, and I put it back in my range bag. We’d continue to talk, and then he would reach over to my range bag, unzip it, and remove the pistol in order to handle it some more. This process was repeated several times until it was time for his class.
UPDATE: Daniel has priced the parts for this pistol in the comments below.
Colt M1991A1 Compact .45 ACP
Hand cut 30 lpi checkering on front strap
Carry bevel, including rounding over bottom rear of frame
Ed Brown – beavertail grip safety
Wilson Combat – narrow extended thumb safety
Ed Brown – barrel bushing
Novak – Carry rear sight
Hogue – Kingwood stocks
King’s – short aluminum trigger (black)
I also fit and blended in a S&A mainspring housing/magwell that was not installed at the time of the photo. In the process, I cleaned up the factory’s half-hearted attempt to bevel the magwell. Also not visible is the EGW oversized firing pin stop.
Colt Combat Commander (XS Series) .45 ACP
Carry bevel, including rounding over bottom rear of frame
Ed Brown – 30 lpi mainspring housing
Wilson Combat – beavertail grip safety (replacing Colt Competition part)
Heinie – SlantPro rear sight (replacing Colt Competition part)
Ahrends – Kingwood stocks
Videcki – short aluminum trigger
Not visible is the EGW oversized firing pin stop. As before, I cleaned up the factory’s half-hearted attempt to bevel the magwell. The short-lived XS series was the product of the brief partnership of Colt with C-More, operating as Colt Competition. The XS series’ rear sight, thumb safety, and grip safety were all patented designs from C-More’s Ira Kay. When their partnership broke up, Kay took all of his designs with him. This led to Colt’s XSE series, which reverted to the parts Colt previously used on their Enhanced series. Of the Kay’s designs, only the grip safety lives on. It is now offered by Caspian and is standard on the SIG-Sauer 1911 models. Personally, I hate the design, as its “dragon’s tooth” digs uncomfortably into the palm of my hand during recoil.
Many thanks to Daniel for the info and D.A. Murray for the photos.