Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I'm grumpy this morning.

From comments here:
Neither Para nor Kimber are known for their high-grade small parts, although Kimber sells a pretty fair frame/slide/barrel kit.

The 1911 was designed to be made out of certain materials to certain tolerances, not to be assembled from a range of plastic, cast, and MIM parts made to a wide range of tolerances by eleventy different subcontractors.

If I was planning on spending less than ~$1,100 or so on a gun, I'd go buy a used Glock.

Seriously. I have watched real spare-no-expense 1911s get built from the bare frame up. I know how much work goes into one. I know how much the parts cost, even in bulk.

Ironically, if you are planning on leaving the gun stock, you might be better off with a Filipino slag gun or a homely Brazilian than a midgrade domestic piece since I believe the former two do all their small parts in-house. They may be sloppy and cheaply-made, but at least they're consistently sloppy and cheaply-made, unlike the midprice domestic gun where the small parts are often coming from whatever outside vendor had them cheapest this week and the pace of production means not enough time can be spent on individual guns to compensate for variations in tolerances.

29 comments:

Joanna said...

You're grumpy every morning. :D

Buffboy said...

I tend to agree, odd isn't it that the "Fillipino slag guns" have a pretty good rating on the net, maybe it's lowered accuracy expectations but mostly they just flat work.

I wanted forged frame & slides, that's why I have 2 Taurus PT1911s. One all steel, one aluminum frame. The steel one rides the bat belt, the aluminum the rest of the time. I'm amazed how much that 1/2 pound increases comfort off duty. I've read the flame wars on them but both of mine are as close to 100% as you can get with good mags. $2k wonder pistols fail with bad mags too. Both are reasonably accurate, as in better than most glocks, and didn't cost much more.

Roberta X said...

I would still argue that if the big, basic bits are right and, better yet, properly-fitted -- slide, frame and barrel -- you can go buy all the little parts in honest forged or milled-from-billet steel. Some of the critical ones are even (mostly) pre-fitted. Butter up a good gunsmith (or cross his palm with silver) and hey, you'd have a real gun. Or at least be headin' that way.

...Or, yeah, buy a frikkin' Glock and just go shoot from Day One; but they ain't got no soul. (That's Roberta-talk for "I manage recoil better with a heavy frame.")

aczarnowski said...

I'm starting to come back to the idea that slowly upgrading the Spinger mil-spec I already have is a better idea than buying a new mid-priced item. Getting the slide milled for new sights is a big step though.

And Kimber? The SIS sealed them into a "no way ever" category for me. Holy crap was that slide ugly.

pdb said...

I've been fairly impressed with all the RIA 1911's I've handled and shot.

I think Ms X is on the right track. You can get a very high quality in the white frame and slide set from Brownells for under 3 bills, or half a G if you want forgings. If you shop carefully you can end up with a superb 1911 for well under $1000. You would still need to have it finished, but for a lot of reasons, I think building your own weapon is a big part of the spiritual development of a shooter.

DaddyBear said...

I've been absolutely happy with my Filipino slag gun. Yes, it's not a tack driver, but if I shoot properly (good grip, good sight alignment, don't jerk the trigger) my groups are all within tolerances for defensive shooting. Am I going to blow the balls off of a gnat at 50 paces with it? Probably not. Am I confident that if necessary I could ventilate a goblin at self defense engagement ranges and have high confidence that every time I pull the trigger it will go bang? You betcha. I will eventually take the time and money necessary to build a really sweet target/defense gun based on "good" parts that fits my hand perfectly and will allow me to emasculate insects on the other side of a football field, but for every day use, the stock cheaper gun is good enough.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"Getting the slide milled for new sights is a big step though."

I can understand getting the front dovetailed, if for no other reason than Springfield uses a mid-sized tenon nobody stocks. The rear? Now that Harrison making the old Yost Retro sight, I see no reason to go fancier on my build.

Anonymous said...

Sig! Sig!! Sig!!!

OK, you can throw tomatoes now...

cap'n chumbucket

Just My 2¢ said...

You can also find used Colt 1911s and 1991A1s (like mine) for a good price and have somebody you trust tune it for you.

One big problem is that everybody wants bling-bling. They want forward cocking serrations. They want a light rail. They want a checkered front strap. They want funky finishes. They want sexy grip panels. They want the barrel bushing to be so tight that you can't turn it without a wrench. They want one ragged hole at 50 yards.

None of that enhances reliability or makes a good carry gun (IMHO). The price difference has to be made up someplace.

Good sights, a good trigger, a comfortable grip safety, and good magazines. How hard is that?

Jay G said...

Meh. Who needs all of 8 rounds when six rounds of .38 Special is all you need anyways?

Mossyrock said...

I have built half a dozen 1911-type pistols from the frame up, using the best parts I could lay my hands on. Why? Because I couldn't buy what I wanted from any of the current manufacturers. Want a classic, top-of-the-line 1911 a-la a pre-war National Match? No such critter...start building. Right now I have an itch for an alloy-frame, 5 inch gun. A few are made, but their innards are made from MIM and Play-Doh and their overall configuration is not what I want in either format or finish. I suspect I will end up with a lightweight Springer as a base, and toss everything but the frame and slide into the junk box with the other 20 pounds of MIM, cast and plastic crap that is in there..... Sure, I could just buy a Glock (and own a few), but the Glock has about as much soul as a disposable Bic pen.

WV: "prostine", the exam of which involves rubber gloves and "a little discomfort"....

The Raving Prophet said...

I took my father to the range this past Saturday to shoot the Filipino slag gun (RIA Tactical) I had bought for him last year. I'm not sure why everybody gushes about RIA quality, honestly.

The extractor way WAY too tight, causing failures to go into battery. The slide stop was too short to hit the mag follower, so it never would lock open on the last round. The frame is just enough out of spec so a GI guide rod required a fair amount of Dremel work to fit.

OK, it shot fine other than those things, but the first two items are really easy things to get right, even with cheap labor. I fixed the extractor and a new slide stop should be arriving from Brownells.

The Taurus PT1911 I had just couldn't quit having light primer strikes, so it got traded.

I'll take my S&W and Springfield 1911s over the RIA or Taurus any day. True, the mid priced ones aren't the really high quality ones, but with the cheap ones I guarantee you that you aren't getting what you aren't paying for. The midpriced ones may fall short in some other arenas, but IMO, there's a better chance of getting something good from them.

Tam said...

I generally go with a forged domestic and toss the lockwork and slide stop, substituting C&S and Greider.

B.S. philosopher said...

I carry around a Commie 1911. Pre-ban Norinco. Guess what, everything on it is forged and the small parts are all honest-to-Shiva milled steel. It feels just like a GI example.

It's never ever ever ftf'd or fte'd on me and is 100% reliable with whatever I stuff in the mag.

Alas, they were banned because they were manufactured by evil Commies.

I bought it slightly used in '95 for $295, it's down to about 50% finish left on it now.

My only regret is the ugly Norinco symbol on the slide and the "Made in China"

That and the grip bushing screws are metric.

TotC said...

So the Para GI Expert in SS is not something I should be looking at?

Noah D said...

One more chiming in on the RIAs here. I've got two - one base GI, one Commander/Compact/Whatever, which is my carry gun. Maybe I've been lucky, but I've had no problems with them that weren't user errors (bad grip, not enough lube, let them get too dirty, etc.).

All that said, I am hardly an expert on the things. I had no idea of the forging v. milled v. MIM differences, etc. I bought it because it was the gun I wanted, in a price range I could afford. Why not a Glock? I've owned and carried them, but they just don't feel right in my hand - though I might see if the Gen4 backstraps have changed that at all...

Jeff the Baptist said...

I have an RIA. Haven't really had a problem with it, but after buying it for $300 I wouldn't have anything to complain about even if I did.

"OK, it shot fine other than those things, but the first two items are really easy things to get right, even with cheap labor."

No offense, but extractor tension doesn't seem to be that easy to get right. Or at least they're difficult enough that several manufacturers have just given up and gone to external extractors.

Justthisguy said...

Bobby has a point here. "but they ain't got no soul..." As a character in a Heinlein novel said, "I don't believe in animism, except when it comes to weapons."

WV: bomatini. Is that one of those new African Martinis?

Nate said...

Tam,
I've heard that the Greider parts are the poop, but I've been having trouble finding them anywhere, do you have a reliable supplier?

Sigivald said...

Considering how sloppy a worn 1911 from the US can be and still work fine, I'm not sure why I'd care anyway.

(Like BS Phil I own a cheapass Norinco 1911A1.

It's all milled, forged steel. Visible tool marks inside.

Cheap, not super-duper tight, shoots great.)

The Raving Prophet said...

Jeff, I'm not sure if they went to external extractors in order to avoid having to set tension- possible, but I don't know.

I'd read great things about RIA, and honestly, I'm glad the issues were so easy to fix (instead of being feed ramp problems), but still, those should have been detectable at the factory. The usual expedient test of "does the extractor hold a round against the breechface?" would have revealed that you had to darn near force the rim under the claw- that's far too tight.

I still love the 1911, but I'm more and more wondering if maybe I shouldn't have forced myself to live with a Glock.

Geodkyt said...

Prophet --

RIA gun, $380

New Wilson extractor $35

New Wilson slide stop $35

Cost of gun so far $450.

What's the problem?

(Of course, I REALLY regret not buying a Norinco like my buddy did -- back when people were buying them and throwing away everything but the FRAME to build custom guns.)

Mr. Blue said...

Question. If one is looking for a good semi-auto for under a grand, why is the number two choice automatically a Glock? There's CZ and Sig- both making honest to God metal pistols with proper hammers, triggers, and safeties- not some kludged copy of Glock's ND-O-riffic safety on the trigger nonsense.

Mark said...

The 1911 was designed in a time where good manual laborers were cheaper than the machinery used to do the forging work. This is why they take so much hand fitting.
The same cannot be said today, and CNC machining only goes so far.
Manufacturers use cheap parts because they can get away with it most of the time, since most of the people they sell their pistols to don't really put that many rounds downrange annually.
Like it is with M-4gery manufacturers, you might get one that works, but your chances of getting one that doesn't go up the further you get away from those who follow the TDP closest (read Colt).
Most of those who buy a 1911 would be just as well served with a Glock, anyway.

Divemedic said...

I shot expert in the mid 80's with a GI model, right before they replaced them with the Berettas.

I own Glocks, Sigs, and other DA autos. I also own Colts and several Kimbers. As for accuracy, the Colts and Kimbers are equal. I prefer mid sized pistols for carry.

For reliability, the Colt Commander is less reliable than the Kimbers, and the Kimbers all required 500 rounds of break in to become reliable. One of the Kimbers required factory repair to make it work.

The Glocks and Sigs all worked right out of the box.

All that being said, I carry them in order of preference:
Kimber ultra carry (commander sized)
Kimber Eclipse Custom (full sized)
Sig 229 in .357 Sig
Glock 26 in 9mm

Since the Colt has an FTF about once every hundred rounds or so, I do not carry it. A pistol should not require $2000 in gunsmithing
to be a reliable shooter.

Ed Foster said...

Ever notice how well the stainless steel Glock recievers are selling?

Although, under the "You never can tell" category, when I was working at Colts in the 1990's, a buddy from the custom shop told me about a customer return 1991 that supposedly wouldn't shoot well. He'd tried it from a ransom rest, and it outshot all the Gold Cups in testing.

I bought it on the monthly employees gun fair for $190, and stupidly let a friend talk me out of it a year or two later.

He lives on a boat, in a boatyard not known for it's sterling security. I'm more worried about it's getting lifted while he's away than his tuning up a badguy and having to wait for the policia to return it.

And yes, I offer to swap or buy it back 3 or more times a year, to no avail. He isn't stupid.

Chris M said...

Prophet, you should have called RIA and talked to them. Arnel (their gunsmith) would have made it right at no cost. I bought my 3.5" RIA 1911CS Compact nearly two years ago. It jammed repeatedly on the first magazine. I called RIA and had a new recoil assy. within a week. Over 800+ rounds of mostly LSWC through it since without a jam or failure.

The hammer did follow the slide to half-cock last fall when a friend dropped it on an empty chamber. I called RIA and Arnel said send it in, he'd tune and polish the entire gun. I didn't want to spend the shipping so he sent a new sear spring and sear that arrived, no charge, within less than two weeks. All this for a pistol that sells for about $425. Try to get service like that for your $1,000 name-brand guns.

Anonymous said...

If you can find someone willing to part with a mid 80's Thompson you will end up with a US produced, all metal/forged pieces, 1911 that is a great shooter out of the box and also a great starting point for a 'build'.
I have had several 1911's over the years including Kimbers ect and the old Thompson GI ,with a few mods is the gun I have kept.
I think I payed $325 back in 83-84, put about $200 into it and it will still shoot in the mid 270's Camp Perry style....Thats with an old man shooting it!

Dr. StrangeGun said...

my filipino slag gun needed a couple draws of a file across the top of the trigger bar, it was too thick and bound in the frame.

then again, I paid $299 for a double-stack 1911 specifically to use the frame for a dedicated mec-tec 10mm upper (i.e 'Spacegun') and got a spare 1911 slide in the deal, so I'm still overall quite happy :-D