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Discussion Starter #1
I have to decide whether to jump or not...

No pictures, but from what I can tell from looking it over, it's a 1918 production 1911, (in the 540000 serial number range) and looks like it has all the correct parts excepting the hammer, thumb safety, and possibly the slide release, these all look like much later replacements.

The finish is what I would ordinarily call very rough, no blue left, and pitting here there and everywhere. The grips look original, checkered wood, and worn, like the rest of the pistol. The bore looks OK, clean and not pitted. The magazine is badly pitted overall.

I'm used to looking at Smith and Wessons, and have no clue when it comes to Colts, but when I saw this guy languishing in the display case, I feel a need for a bit of history! If I saw a SW looking this rough, I'd leave it behind in a second (unless it was giveaway priced or something super rare like a registered magnum) but I'm not sure what's considered "passable" in an early Colt auto.

Anyway, it looks like it would be about $600 out the door, is this good, bad, fair, or "run back and buy it quick before the hordes of vultures descend and snatch it up from under you"?

Thanks for any advice!
Bill R.
By the way, I'm up to page 16 so far, a great wealth of info here!
 

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The price isn't bad for what you described, it's at or below what a shooter grade normally goes for. However, ask yourself, what have you got? An old beater. Why not pass on it, save up another $600 and then find a nicer example?
 

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I would probably get it because I'm kinda on the lookout for one like that to fix up. If the pitting is not too terribly bad you can have it blasted and Parkerized which helps hide it. The main thing aside from condition/originality is to make sure the slide goes with the frame, and all original markings are there even if they're worn. If the 'U.S. Property' or serial number have been removed, it's really not worth $600.
 

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Bill, You did not say why you want it. Sure $600 may be an okay price for a good Colt...BUT... If you want a gun to shoot what you describe is not a good candidate as its too old and not strong enough for a lot of pounding. So as a shooter it is not good, for $600 you can get a much better modern shooter. You have already told us its no longer an original gun (and in poor condition) so as a collectible, its not that. I doubt if it would be any good as an investment to turn around and sell for more money. So ask yourself, why do you want it? Bob
 

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$600 is only okay if it has all GI parts. Since many of the small parts have been swapped out already I'd say it's no bargain. Save your money, and wait for something that's at least 100% complete to come along.
 

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As long as all the markings on the frame and slide are intact, and if the barrel is close to "right", why not? You say you're not afraid of a project gun, and this might be one, if the metal is non-pitted and the markings are all there. The market on 1911's is insane, I know I'll never find another 350 dollar fixer-upper, so I know I'd do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well, I did it...

Got a bit better price, and after all the back and forth thinking, I decided to heck with it and went for it. If nothing else, I like the idea of our local gunshop staying in business!

Here's what I ended up with:
Taking a bath


After a soak in plain oil here's what I found:




I'm pretty sure the hammer is way wrong, looks like something made recently maybe? I also have questions about the safety and slide release, I'm guessing the trigger is correct though? I need to get a reference book or three I guess! Any chance of finding the correct replacement parts? I'll also definitely need a mainspring housing, the one I have is arched and checkered, but looks as old and battered as the rest of the pistol, so I'm guessing it was replaced early on.

Anyway, thanks for any help on the parts ID and sources, as well as for all the advice on purchase!

Bill R.
 

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bill, while i cant tell ya about the price, im not a collector by any means, i can say it looks like a good project gun.. would be great to see it up and running with a new finish...

keep us posted.

by the way, i may be wrong, but the hammer and slide release and thumb saftey look right, at least for that peroid.... if im wrong im sure someone will explain the difference....

russel
SDMF
 

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Trigger, hammer, thumbsafety & slide release look correct. The grip safety has the long tang & is probably a replacement. The mainspring housing [in the dip tank] looks to be 1911A-1 arched/checkered. It should be smooth/flat.

Looks like an interesting project piece. I recall circa 1990 some cases of "beater" 1911's came into a Canadian dealer allegedly from eastern Europe where they apparently, by the looks of condition, had languished since the end of WWII. I made a deal with him to pick out 12 workable examples for a princely sum of $99 each. These were split between three of us. They actually cleaned up quite nicely. The only one I have left is a "WB" marked 1942 vintage Colt 1911A-1 frame that I had reparked. It is the home of my Colt .22 conversion unit.

 

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Sometimes a "beater" can turn into something nice... :)

Before:



After:

 

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Certainly these old guns look nice, but the almost 100 yr old metals aren't that strong for a lot of shooting, even with mild ammo. Its taking a chance spending money to fix up something that has built-in aging limitations (and the before pic show quite a bit of metal degradation already). Having seen that happen I don'y shoot my 1911s any more except for one frame with a .22 slide. Bob
 

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rworthin, I don't know about the difference in steel and heat treat between 1911's and 1911A1's, but I have seen pics of GI frames still in service with the MEU(SOC)s and JSOC that have racked up some really horrible round counts and are still in service after all these years.

Some careful surface work ought to get it back in excellent shape. Looks like a damn lucky find.
 

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Three one, And they are probably 1911A1s. I've carried A1s in combat in Inf and spec ops in VN in '66, 67, 68, 69, with no problem. I've also been an Army competitive shooter and we shot our A1s 5-7 days a week with no problems. But I've had two 1911s, one frame and one slide, break, due to soft metals. I had an all original 1911 made in 1918 that developed small spiderweb type cracks just forward of the slide stop hole on the right side of the receiver, after shooting light hand loads. I had Bill Adair grind out the hole, weld it, and then restore the entire pistol. But I don't shoot any of my 1911s any more except for the .22. The Army's pistols are just tools, not collectible firearms, as is the same for the other services. We may have the same gun as a civilian shooter or collector and it now becomes more valuable. If the Army gun breaks, so what? An armorer may fix it or deem it unfit for service and its no big deal. After all, its just another gun.
My point being that a 90 plus year old gun will not take as much punishment as a more modern one. So we are not discussing the value of a collectible being rebuilt but a shooter, so why not get a newer frame and slide to rebuild and decrease the risk of it breaking? Bob
 

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The hammer is not GI. Note the circular casting marks on the side. Genuine Colt and GI contract small parts were aways machined, never cast. The only exception was the stamped trigger seen on later WW2 guns, and of course the springs. I'm guessing that it's a part by Masen or some other aftermarket vendor. The thumb safety, grip safety, slide stop, mainspring housing, and possibly the barrel are all WW2 vintage. Looks like it's gonna be a labor of love, as there's quite a lot of very heavy pitting to be ironed out. You might need to leave it as-is.
 

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You can also simply leave it as is. Adds authenticity. ;)

Seriously since we agree a refinish is probably in order, now that it has been cleaned, there is no downside to a quick dip in one of those phosphoric acid rust stopping solutions. If the gun was mine, I would do that, then parkerize it.

I would also start with Brownells for springs and stuff. You haven't said whether your goal is to fix it as a shooter, or a shelf queen (i.e., pretty to look at but never fired). If a shooter, add some modern sights. Which grips came with it? That will also be a clue as to when it left the service. Yes, sometimes parts crack on the older 1911s. Usually they can just be swapped out when and if.. I have heard and seen the slide stop holes 'rworthin' speaks of, but not on one of my own half dozen 1911s thank heavens. I know someone who had that happen and a visit to a TIG welder and a quick touch up refinish solved the problem.
 

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rworthin, read you lima charlie. Actually depending where you where in the RVN over those years, you and I may know some of the same people.
 

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The frame isn't usually the issue with the old pistols, it's the slide that may give you some trouble and then again it may last forever, there's just no telling. If you want to play it safe, get an after market slide (I see Fusion selling them on GB) and then you've got something. It looks like you did a pretty fair job in cleaning it up. You might want to send the original off the Bill Adair (recommend you email him first to see if he'll accept it and send your pics of it) and have it relettered and blued. He does a swell job. But, then the frame won't look too nice in comparison, so you'll probably want it sent off so that it too can look swell.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I'll definitely be getting this one lettered by the factory!

After that we'll see, but whatever I find out, this one definitely won't see any "improvements", I'll look for correct replacements for the parts that have been swapped with newer ones and just enjoy having a piece of history. I've got other 1911 style pistols for regular shooting, this one can be just for lookin at. (maybe just one mag of rounds, just so I can say I have!)

Bill R.
 
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