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Build a 1911 from scratch?

4617 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Mikey
Just got Caspian's brochure in the mail. Holy cow, these guys make some beautiful and tough slides/frames. I've been wanting to own/build a Caspian Commander for years, and now seem to have the $$ to start a pistol project.

Should I purchase the slide/receiver, and get to building it, or is there someplace that sells Caspian pistols that I'm not aware of? I added up most parts costs from Caspain's brochure, and a complete stainless Commander pistol from parts is about $1K (with barrel), without any 'smithing other than them cutting the site dovetails. It seems to have a slide fitted to the frame, and the barrel fitted properly will put me of the $1K mark. This will most likely take the best part of a year for me to buy in several orders of parts, and fitting, so I'm in no rush to have $1K all at once.

Anyone done this? Where do you buy things like plunger springs, plungers, and assorted little things that Caspian doesn't sell? Would you recommend any place else for smaller parts like thumb safety, ejectors? They only carry .45 ejectors in carbon streel, black and I wanted the whole pistol stainless.

Thanks guys,
Your collective knowledge is better than any other source I know!

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http://www.brownells.com for a start, but building a 1911 is not fot the faint of heart.
My My. You seem to have hit the mother lode! This is what dreams are made of. My advice to you after having built 100's of Caspians is to forget it. Caspian does not build finished pistols. The parts DO NOT fit together and only the highly skilled smiths can make them run. Every part has to be fitted and the job is beyond most. I can't think of a more worthless choice than a stainless commander type. Stainless is a tool destroyer and eats files for lunch. Gary Smith says they don't gall anymore and he's probably right. I don't like them and would not own one. I would suggest you hire a high end smith to build it for you. You can take your time and buy the parts as you go. The smith will probably charge you $1500.00 or so. Caspians are $3000.00 guns and there's no way to beat that. They are the best 1911's money can buy. If I were still doing it, mine would be $5000.00
Already ordered their catalog. Should be here in a few days...

I also want to buy that Kunhausen (sp?) about stripping & building 1911's. I'll do that very soon.

<no flame here>
While I appreciate your candor, and your advice, you seem to say that although you've built 100 or more Caspians, you don't like them? Re: Their parts are ill-fitting and hard on your tools? Is that the nature of SS, or Caspian parts?

I seem to get the opposite opinion from many others who swear by their Caspain frames/slides and built guns as the basis for the best pistol from ground up (granted mostly race guns). I can understand your concern for a DIY'er if the parts require some expert fitting, (although Caspian claims exacting standards for their frames & slides resulting in minimal fitting issues) but if it's a standard 1911 style pistol, with no comp, no C-More, no rail, no double stack receiver, where does all that $$ go in labor? Barrel fitting, slide/receiver fitting and thumb safety, for sure.

Would that cost $2K?
Well, well. I have lost the ability to communicate via the written word! I'll try the KISS program. I LOVE CASPIAN ARMS. I am their biggest fan and have been for nearly 18 years. I never said anything about ill-fitting parts. I said THE PARTS HAVE TO BE FITTED! I have a Caspian 38 Super out there that has 90,000 rounds thru it and feels and looks like the day it was built. I just re-barreled two Caspians I delivered 11 and 12 years ago that have had hard use over that time period. I put a Kart barrel in one and an Ed Brown Bull barrel in the other and they are both oneholers. I taught a class at the local college here 6 years ago on the art of the 1911 and we built 18 Caspians with custom serial numbers out of parts. at that time,the tuition and parts were about $1100.00. It was written up in Guns Magazine. Every gun would do 3/4" at 25 yards and we did not ruin one Part. There isn't too many people around that know more about this than me. I HATE STAINLESS STEEL IN 1911's. It has evil Mojo in it! Every other smith will tell you that I'm full of it. I can't help it. I like blue steel guns. I like to work with blue steel guns.A SS front strap will destroy a file with one use and they are $30.00 apiece now. I don't build 1911's anymore except for a few serious people whom I've worked for many years. They won't let me quit. I will take care of them 'til my last breath. I don't know how to send pictures to the forum but my demo guns are here with me and maybe I can get the wrench to shoot some pictures some day. I think he's upset with me now because I'm not too nice, but that will pass. BUILDING 1911's IS A HIGHLY SKILLED JOB! I have tried to repair my share of buchered guns and just had a Gold Cup through here a month ago that was UGLY! I had to re-do all of the guts including a bad sear,hammer and trigger. Also had to put a front sight on because Colt never learned how to keep a front sight on a Cup until the .125 tenon on the 80 series guns. I was building Caspians out of my shop[ in Aurora , Colorado when the rest of the smiths were beating rails and pinching slides trying to make good guns out of junk. They did it too, but I was way ahead of them and still am. Do me a favor and if you don't understand what I'm saying, read it again until you do!
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Your experience in building 1911's is obvious. So are you opinions. So if you say "I can't think of a more worthless choice than a stainless commander type," and "I HATE STAINLESS STEEL IN 1911's," those are your opinions. I respect them.

OTOH, I believe that spending $3~5K on building a Capsian pistol for general range shooting/CCW (no racing, pin-gun etc) is excessive, and not necessary to obtain a well-functioning and reliable pistol from their parts. Will I do 100% of the work myself. No, but I'd like to think I can drift another Novak site into it's dovetail, install and fit a grip safety, and several other things I'm proficient at from previous 1911's, and save some $$ while finishing part of the project myself.

Your opinion differs from mine, and while that may annoy some folks, that's cool with me.

I apologize for anything I missed in your in initial response. I appreicate your input as a Caspian gunsmith and a fellow shooter.


You go boy!

I have not built many from scratch, three so far, but I LOVE Caspian and I LOVE stainless. You are spot on about the $1K price tag. The only way to beat it is to get your parts at dealer prices and that could save you $150 to $200 on the whole project. Like you, I started out just modifying my "store boughts" but I knew I wouldn't be happy until I built one from the ground up.

Brownells is THE place to look for the small parts. I have used Wilson pin sets and spring sets. I like Wilson hammers and sears as well. I also like Wilson's beavertail (be sure to get Caspian to pre-cut the frame for the beavertail you choose and let them do the sight cuts on the slide). The Action Works extractor comes in stainless from Brownells. Nowlin's new lightweight trigger is very nice. The Ed Brown grip safety allows for a very high grip but requires a LOT of frame cutting - I won't use one again! I also like the EGW oversize slide stop - it's checkered instead of serrated. Get the "drop-in" or "pre-fitted" barrel and bushing from your supplier of choice (I like Nowlin and Kart) - you will still have plenty of fitting to do.

I have done all mine with hand tools at the kitchen table. A few good files, some fine automotive type sandpaper, a piece of good flat glass, some wooden sanding blocks and dowells and a Dremel tool (for polishing ONLY). Don't try to cut anything with the Dremel. Take your time and get help if you aren't sure about something before you start. If you know someone with a bead blast set-up they can refinish the frame and slide when you are done or you could send it to a pro for the finish.

Be careful, work slow and you can do it too!

I will be happy to share anything I've learned - however little that may be.

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That's a beauty! Where'd you get the nifty grips?
I agree with Mikey, 100%

I used hand tools to build-up my first 1911 project. I didn't totally start from scratch, as I found a great deal on a series 80 Gold Cup National Match top end as my starting point. I mated this to a stainless Caspian frame.

Parts used:
Caspian beavertail, slide stop, plunger tube and pin set
Les Baer mainspring housing
Wilson hammer, sear and disconnector
Nowlin trigger, sear spring, and all other springs
Chip McCormick thumb safety and mag catch
Colt NM barrel, firing pin spring & stop and extractor
Navidrex mahogony grips

This took way more time and fitting than I expected. I thought since the top end came complete, I wouldn't need to fit the barrel very much -- Boy was I wrong! It took quite some time, patience and lots of Kuhnhausen reading!!!
I had to lap the frame and slide together, the mainspring housing was way oversized and needed fitting, all of the trigger group needed fitting/polishing, stoning, etc. It definitely took patience.

I always wanted a Gold Cup, but I like beavertails and I also really like two-tone guns. Rather than buy a Gold Cup and customize it, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to build one "my way".

TackDriverm you can do this too. Take your time, READ, READ, READ!!! Kuhnhausen's books are a must IMHO. I think Capsian parts are top notch and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again for more projects in the future.

Best of luck to you!

Byron Simpson
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<Anyone done this? Where do you buy things like plunger springs, plungers, and assorted little things that Caspian doesn't sell? Would you recommend any place else for smaller parts like thumb safety, ejectors? They only carry .45 ejectors in carbon streel, black and I wanted the whole pistol stainless.>

Alright I usually use the Ed brown 1911 auto Rebuild kit it comes with every pin you need plus a mainspring spring and the plunger spring for only $15. I will only use Videki triggers and EGW sears. Thumb safeties are subjective, as are sights. I also like Ed Brown Match extractors and usually use gun show slide stops, after being inspected and Mic'd. and also gun show flat Mainspring housings. Good luck with your project and If interested I have a site with a little 1911 building info on it at. WWW.blindhogg.com
PS if you dont have a brownells catalogue get one tommorow at WWW.Brownells.com

Chris from va

[This message has been edited by blindhogg (edited 09-06-2001).]
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I want to compliment you on the beautiful pictures of the 1911's built by all of you.You have so many resources for really good parts now that I'm sure I'm wrong about the skill level needed these days. Please remember I'm from a different time and place.I started doing these things for the exact same reasons you are. The work put out by the pro's didn't impress me so I started on the kitchen table as we all did. I thought I could do better and I did. God Bless you all for your trying to do your best with what you have to work with. keep it up and you will get better and better. I never apologize for being me so If I have rattled your cage, so be it.

The grips are carbon fiber by Carbon Creations and are available thru Brownells. I was wanting a little "different" look on the Caspian Commmander project so I did the carbon fiber grips as an eye catcher. You ought to see them in person!

I'll have this gun with me at the IDPA Nationals if anyone wants to slobber on it. I'll be a CSO but don't know which stage yet.

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