So, I finally plunked down for a 1911. I bought a [Springfield Mil-Spec] because the frame, slide, and barrel fit and finish looked excellent, and the Mil-Spec had the frame, slide, and barrel mods that I would not have been able to do myself if I started with the base GI model.
Out of the box the pistol was perfectly reliable. No feeding, firing, or ejecting problems. But it was not a good shooter. The barrel bushing was loose in the slide and on the barrel at lock-up, and was binding on the barrel at link-up/down. The trigger pull was very bad - gritty and heavy. I am accustomed to shooting very fine old S&W revolvers, and this gun was not making me feel happy. Note that this is an NM serial numbered gun with no "Brazil" or "Imbel" markings anywhere.
However, I had selected a 1911 because there were lots of parts available for it, and a great [book], by Jerry Kuhnhausen, that tells all that can be done with the 1911 and some hand tools. I was ready to get my hands dirty.
I ordered an angle-bore bushing from [EGW], and a DUTY/Carry fire-kit from [Cylinder&Slide]. For the bushing, I sent EGW the O.D. measurement of my barrel and the I.D. measurement of my slide. For the fire-kit I chose the 4.5lb [Duty/Carry] kit because I did not want to have to fit a beavertail for a lightened trigger, and I did not want to reduce trigger pull too much on a "big-bore" handgun. C&S offers another kit that would also work, the [Classic Spur].
When the EGW bushing arrived, I checked it on the barrel, and it bound up solid halfway on. I started working on the inside with oiled 800 grit paper wrapped around my pinky, and checking it for fit every few minutes. After about an hour, it slipped on without binding. I then checked fit on the slide, and the bushing could be turned with a plastic wrench, but was stiff. At this point it could not be installed into the slide with the barrel in place. Since I knew the I.D. was right at this point, I sanded the inside of the slide with oiled 2200 grit paper wrapped around a finger to take the tooth off the internal surface of the slide. After just a minute of that, the bushing could be fitted to the slide with the barrel in place using the plastic wrench. Almost there!
Note that I did no sanding or polishing to the O.D. of the bushing. The lug keyed into the slide perfectly once the internal surface of the slide was deburred with the 2200 grit paper.
The I.D. of the bushing required a few more minutes of fitting with oiled 2200 grit paper before the slide would rack smoothly with the new bushing. I also did some very light polishing of the barrel O.D. with the 2200 grit to remove fine scratches resulting from the fitting process.
At this point, the barrel linked-up/down and locked-up like a swiss watch. Far better than any 1911 I handled during my shopping adventure. The bushing was a perfect, custom fit!
A trip to the range followed, and after putting 200 rounds of 230 grain fmj through the newly bushed gun, the only wear visible anywhere was on what must have been very slight high spots on the bushing I.D. and O.D. No rubbing visible on the barrel or slide. The bushing is, happily, a slightly softer alloy than the barrel or slide.
I then installed the C&S fire kit with the factory Springfield ILS mainspring housing. With no fitting of any sort, the C&S kit gave me a beautiful trigger. Similar trigger feel to the Springfield Custom Shop guns or the ~$1500 kimbers. The trigger kit was truly drop-in. Finish on the hammer, sear, and disconnector were perfection. The sear spring provided gave the attested 4-1/2 lb pull. The factory thumb safety worked properly with the C&S fire kit, but I noted that the factory fitting of the thumb safety was rather sloppy, looking like it was done by Bubba with a Dremel. I am going to try and fit a new EGW thumb safety.
I noticed that the clearance fit of the slide stop pin in the link was quite loose. The pin was 0.197, and the link hole, as well as I could measure it, was somewhat over 0.200. So, I ordered an EGW slide stop (I also looked at the Ed Brown HD Slide Stop, which had casting sprue all over it, and the cast serrations were a horrible sight - EGW wins again!). Fitting for the slide-stop consisted of re-radiusing the lug pin link-up surface to seat the 0.200 pin of the EGW, and drilling a slight dimple to catch the spring plunger. The re-radiusing was accomplished using 2200 grit paper wrapped around a 3/16ths drill rod blank. This should reduce any vertical stringing that might be occurring due to lockup variation. The dimpling was supposed to be done with the Kriger dimpling tool, but the EGW stop was too hard for the Krieger tool, so I wound up using a diamond burr. The Krieger tool only made a shiny spot.
I subsequently replaced the MSH with an EGW flat checkered one that fit my hand much better (I also tried out a Smith&Alexander MSH that was a piece of junk - An ugly, rough, warped casting). Switching from the stock Springfield MSH with the 23lb spring to the EGW with a 19lb spring had NO EFFECT on trigger feel at all, so don't bother swapping the ILS MSH unless you have small hands and want to get away from the big arched stock MSH. Switching to a lighter mainspring (aka hammer spring) might result in light primer strikes. If your primer strikes appear comma shaped after swapping springs, go back to the heavier spring.
Note that a heavier mainspring DOES reduce felt recoil, because the recoil stroke pushes the hammer back into full cock against the mainspring. Spring lightening is not always desirable! In fact, a light recoil spring will send your brass flying all over the place, irritating nearby shooters and making brass recovery for reloading a chore. I am currently using a 19lb mainspring and 18lb recoil spring with 230 grain factory loads. 16lb recoil spring with lightly loaded 200 grain SWC. Trigger pull is dominated by smoothly finished parts and the weight of the sear spring. Sear spring adjustment is beyond my ability at this time.
After shooting 400 rounds of 230 ball ammo through the gun, I went over it carefully and identified some slight battering damage to the fore-edge of the frame rails. I stoned the fore-edges lightly, removing the disturbed metal and radiusing the angles. I decided to switch to a full-length EGW Tungsten guide rod and a ShokBuf, to minimise any future battering. The Tungsten guide rod reduces muzzle flip significantly. Kuhnhausen liked the FLGR and the ShokBuf, so if you don't, well, get over it. I got this gun to shoot, not to play "army man".
I also very gently sanded the slide lug area with 2200 grit, and also the barrel hood area, which showed some very slight scraping from slide contact.
I fitted and installed the
[EGW Oversize Firing Pin Stop]
[EGW Oversize Firing Pin].
The EGW stop fits the gun much better than the Springfield part, which was poorly fitted, poorly finished and exhibited casting sprue marks. Fitting the stop required quite a bit of precision file work, with 5 surfaces needing attention and two radii needing to be recut. I also very slightly radiused the bottom edge on the striking face as recommended by some folks, but in retrospect this was not necessary.
I installed the [EGW Thumb Safety] because it facilitates high-thumb hold. I will have to file and sand the serrations on the rear half of the safety because they are chewing my thumb a bit (In fact, EGW has graciously sold me a non-serrated thumb safety).
The gun shoots very accurately and reliably. I am satisfied that it shoots as well in my hands as my very fine old S&W revolvers. A couple 25 yard targets:
I picked up an [EGW one-piece Tungsten Guide Rod]. The fit and finish are beautiful, and it puts a couple ounces of weight way out at the front of the gun for faster recovery. The rear third of the rod is stainless steel, with the forward 2/3 made of pure Tungsten.
At this point, there's nothing more to be done to this gun. It shoots like a tack driver. I am using [Chip McCormick] 10 round mags in it, and everything just works. If you want a 1911 that can shoot paper at 25-100 yards, for a decent price and with minimal hassle, the Mil-Spec is a fine choice.
A Note about EDM (Wire Machining): EDM is a high-precision machining technique, not an indication of a money-saving shortcut. Some folks in gun forums have suggested that EDM made parts contain critical starter cracks as-manufactured due to the EDM process... Just as likely are subcritical flaws caused by improper annealing of EDM or milled parts. EDM is often used to cut parts from pre-heat-treated alloys, because EDM does not adversely affect the heat treatment (though it may cause warping due to stress-relief, but this is less problematic with EDM than with other forming methods). What I'm saying is, EDM is GOOD!
A Note about magazines:As you can see in the pics, I use CMC 10 round Powermags. In fact, I have sent 1000 rounds through a CMC mag and it still functions flawlessly, 100% of the time. I did polish the lips, etc. with 800 grit paper - No point in not smoothing things that last little bit.
A bit of a letdown when I started working up loads. I discovered that the Springfield factory barrel just can't handle low power target loads (Anything with less than 4.6gr of Bullseye shows evidence of poor obturation, with melted lead blowing back on the outside of the brass) - The following near-full-power loads shoot very accurately. Looks like a match barrel is a 100% requirement with this gun. At this point, I would have been way ahead buying a custom gun. However, I did learn a great deal about the 1911 in the process of getting here!
Penn Match 200 SWC Lead - 1.255 OAL 4.6 Bullseye Missouri Flathead 225 TC (Truncated Cone) Lead - 1.210 OAL 4.8 Bullseye (Good to 100 yards)