POTD: Turn 21, Buy A Gun, Break It, Build A Better One

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

Rick sent us photos of his awesome 1911 build that has a long backstory. Rick wrote …

This is what started as a Colt 1991A1 purchased the day I turned 21. It’s been my favorite gun among many. A couple years ago, the gun fell out of a flimsy back pack it used to be transported in almost daily, onto the highway. The initial impact warped and cracked the grip frame. It was then ran over a time or two which merely did some light cosmetic damage to the slide. The wife, taking pity on me, authorized the purchase of another. Alas, it would not be the same, though a Combat Elite looked aweful tempting. The top end of the gun was still fully serviceable and it would be a waste of a perfectly fitted $250 match barrel. So, $400 dollars and an unknown amount of time later I had a fully functioning, tighter than ever, 1911 again. I am no gunsmith, and am amateur at best, but am pretty good with a file and can handle most any task with proper instructions. With as much time as needed to get it together and good parts it was none too difficult. While it is now a worthless parts or frankengun, it’s a great, reliable shooter that’s better than ever.

The parts list:

New parts are:
• Caspian cast frame with .250 radius and integral plunger tube as options
• Ed Brown beavertail grip safety
• Ed Brown stainless spring plug
• Colt titanium firing pin
• Colt thumb safety
• Colt magazine release
• Wilson Combat guide rod
• Wilson Combat mainspring housing pin
• Wilson Combat hammer pin
• Harrison Retro rear sight
• Pachmayr Signature combat grips
• VZ grip bushings

Parts reused were:
• Schuemann classic match barrel
• Briley spherical bushing
• Chip McCormick slide stop
• Les Baer serrated mainspring housing
• Wilson Combat oversized firing pin stop
• Colt commander hammer

OEM parts were:
• Slide
• Sear
• Disconnector
• Sear spring
• Firing pin spring
• Grip screws
• Front sight
• Extractor
• Ejector
• Ejector pin
• Plungers/spring

It’s still a great gun, now with some character and a story. Hopefully someone down the line will enjoy the Rick A custom as much as I do.

Great job Rick!

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

More by Steve Johnson

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • Core Core on Aug 03, 2015

    There's nothing wrong with building a franken-gun. The best 1911 smith's use the best parts, it's just making it all work together and look coherent is that end goal. Sometimes it's as simple as a surface finish. The best 1911's are built in small custom shops from an array of name brand and custom parts. I always love the joint project guns, where the smiths pass them around adding their own specialty to the gun.

  • Mike Sanservino Mike Sanservino on Aug 11, 2015

    Get rid of the Pachmeyer rubber grips and put some grip tape (skateboard tape) across the front strap and then put some good looking checkered wood grips on the side. You will find that combo will be much more secure no matter how hot/cold, wet/dry, bloody/muddy your hand is. Rubber gets slippery under many conditions. We've bee using skateboard tape for decades in IPSC competition because it works and is a cheaper and easier on the hand than most checkered front straps.