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 Steel frame longevity for M1911A1's
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Keith
Advanced Member

USA
2826 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  09:16:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm asking this purely for historical reasons, so please understand that from the get-go.

I've heard that the last big batch of 1911A1's that Uncle Sam purchased was in something like 1945, and that the weapons were simply re-built clear up into the 1980's and beyond. I'm curious to know, reasonably speaking, how long will those beasties last as serviceable platforms to build serious pistols? Seems like those frames are darn near indestructible unless really abused.

Edited by - Keith on June 05 2013 09:17:32 AM

BobK
Advanced Member

USA
1983 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  09:31:55 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I remember using WWII era 1911's when I joined the military in 1981. They rattled. They were worn. But they worked fine and were accurate. I have no idea how many rounds they had through them.

I had a Kimber that I traded to a guy who in turn traded it at a gun shop. They put it in their rental case. It's been there over 12 years.

They had to replace the barrel once because it cracked. Something about a bad load. And recently the barrel bushing broke a flew out into the range. The frame is a little battered. But the gun runs well and is still accurate. They estimate conservatively that gun has over 300,000 rounds through it.

The caliber of the man counts more than the caliber of his gun.
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Arvinator
Advanced Member

USA
5252 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  09:35:40 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have a WWII era Colt 1911A1 issued to me by my PD. All I did was get the throat polished and put in a fresh recoil spring. Still going strong.....

Be honest, fair, and always prepared...
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RandyB45
Advanced Member

2413 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  09:41:41 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
They should last forever, as far as frames go. 1911s weren't shot much, outside of certain units. I'd be surprised if they had 25,000 rounds through them over their life. The arsenal rebuilds would have caught the bad ones.

I still tear up thinking of that Union Switch and Signal A1 my first company commander carried. Back in those days, you could adjust one digit of a serial number inventory per month to allow for error. It would have taken 6 months for me to switch that one out, had my armorer not been so honest....
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garrettwc
Advanced Member

1017 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  1:23:43 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
There was an article a while back about Sheriff Ken Campbell, getting some WWII surplus 1911s through the DRMO program, doing some basic repair and upgrade and then issuing them to deputies for use as duty weapons. And I know of one member here that has a 1912-era 1911 pistol.

If they are maintained and not abused, they will outlast most of us.

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
Teddy Roosevelt - San Francisco, CA, May 13, 1903
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Jim Higginbotham
Moderator

USA
9431 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  3:18:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Keith

I'm asking this purely for historical reasons, so please understand that from the get-go.

I've heard that the last big batch of 1911A1's that Uncle Sam purchased was in something like 1945, and that the weapons were simply re-built clear up into the 1980's and beyond. I'm curious to know, reasonably speaking, how long will those beasties last as serviceable platforms to build serious pistols? Seems like those frames are darn near indestructible unless really abused.



A very good friend retired as an armorer at Ft. Knox. I visited his armory several times and have often seen his 1911s shoot over 1000 rounds in a day. The habit was to put out one pistol on each stand and let 20 soldiers cycle through 50 rounds (10 rnds familiarity and 40 qualification) on that same pistol.

He had been in that position since getting back from Viet Nam in 1972 and they changed out his 1911s to M9s around the time of the First Gulf War. He kept a log with a round count on each gun. Many of the guns I examined when visiting had over 400,000 rounds through them according to the log. Bear in mind that was 400,000 rounds between 1972 and the late 1980s, some of those guns were 50 years old in 1972!!!!

He had some breakage (about 10 guns out of 600) and he replaced some barrels. He also replaced some slides. The replacement barrels were a problem and I was actually contracted to look into it...the problem was that the Army supplied the contractor with an incorrect blue print drawing (one wonders if it was not on purpose).

Yes, the newest frame in the inventory was made in 1945.

As an aside, after switching over to M9s there was also a corresponding drop in the actual usage of pistols and they had far fewer rounds per year fired through them. Even so within 3 years 25% of his 600 pistols were broken (he gave me two plastic bags full of broken parts but that was only part of them as most had been "depoed" ).

Jim H.

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Keith
Advanced Member

USA
2826 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  7:49:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Holy smokes! What a testament to ordnance steel and John Browning's design genius...!

I remember being a kid and poring over old books, journals and magazines about firearms. In an ancient copy of the NRA's old "Arms and the Man" that my grandfather had, there was an article about the M1911A1 written by some appreciative soldier in our old brown-shoe Army. As a young fighter he had served in a U.S. Volunteer Infantry regiment during the Philippine Insurrection. He ended the article with this ditty as his own tribute to the then-new issued service handgun:

The new steel Colt, the blued steel Colt,
She runs to stunts erratic.
She'll see you through, be tried and true,
This army automatic
.

Thanks to everyone for your responses.
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DBR
Average Member

304 Posts

Posted - June 05 2013 :  11:18:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I read an article at the time the military was looking for a commercial 1911 to replace the aging inventory of government 1911s some special units used. IIRC it said the original 1911 frames were good for around 500,000 rds, slides for 100,000 and barrels for 50,000 on average.
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RandyB45
Advanced Member

2413 Posts

Posted - June 06 2013 :  08:33:37 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Just as an aside, my Iraqi counterpart had a British lend lease 1911A1 that was covered in proof stamps. He showed me some .45 with Egyptian (?!?) headstamp he'd been shooting through it. Turns out it was cut down 7.62, complete with a heaping charge of the original powder. He'd shot a lot through it with no damage.

Wish I'd thought to take it to an armorer and had it checked.
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jle3030
Advanced Member

USA
4992 Posts

Posted - June 06 2013 :  09:23:45 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Sounds like a couple basic 1911A1's and a good supply of spare parts plus ammo might be a good thing to stockpile.

Jeff

jle3030
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Uncle Mike
Advanced Member

USA
1605 Posts

Posted - June 06 2013 :  09:36:20 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi, my 1911 was made in 1918. Still going strong and can eat up the center of a bullseye target. Regards, mike

"The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom, courage"...Thucyides

"War is sweet to those who do not know it."...Erasmus
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ACP230
Advanced Member

1056 Posts

Posted - June 06 2013 :  09:47:21 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have a 1911 made in 1918. Got it from a guy who got it from the old DCM program.
He included some parts including a spare barrel and adjustable sights like the ones on the Gold Cup.
I had it lightly targetized years after I bought it. Shot it in Bullseye with a .22 kit and as a .45 for a while.
Then took up bowling pin shooting. I practiced all winter with it as a .22 and switched to .45 in the spring.
The original target sights broke after many years and I had larger ones added.

Had 100 cases at the time. I would shoot them all one evening after work, load them the next evening and repeat the
process all week. Got more cases, loaded up a lot of rounds and went to the Second Chance Shoot.
It was my main gun there for a couple of years and then I got a custom Para made. My oldest son started shooting the
1911 in practice and then at Second Chance. We had fired thousands of rounds through it in practice and competition by the time SC ended in 1998.

"The Old Veteran" isn't being shot much now but is perfectly capable still.

While built for WWI the gun had been through the arsenal refinish in WWII. It had different grips and a hammer than original equipment. Had a replacement barrel too.
I have often wondered if it was issued in WWI, WWII and then Korea before going to the DCM.

"Never part with your weapons when you are in the field. You never know when, on some lengthy plain, you may suddenly need your spear." Old Norse saying.
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Whirlibird
New Member

USA
62 Posts

Posted - May 10 2015 :  11:12:50 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
My last department got 4 WWII vintage A1's.
I would say they were worn out but that doesn't cover it.

The best of the bunch was hard pressed to stay within 4" at 15y.
The 90's vintage Colt I was carrying would beat that at 50y.

A quick call to Brownells and hitting my own parts bin, taking my tools in to work, graveyards were extremely slow at the time and a little attention paid to them, probably the first since the factory. Things quickly changed.

First, the mixing of parts was corrected, the Colt slide on the Colt frame, Remington also and so on. The slides were properly fit, links and bushings done, springs changed for the proper weight and lengths.

Worn out, or suspect parts were replaced, new forged or bar stock parts in their place.
No permanent alteration except the slide fitting and night sights were made.

All trigger pulls hovered around the 5lb mark, keeping them close to the Glocks the department had gotten rid of several years prior.

Now the worst of the bunch would cut the 3" mark at 25y, and they were all reliable, thwy hadn't been so before.
I don't know who's working in the arsenals today who work on the 1911s, but they need a severe beating if these 4 were examples of reconditioned/refurbished. The only thing right was the parkerizing.

This was all the way back in 2009, I can't imagine anything has improved.

DCM may be getting some GI 1911s, prepare to put some time and money into them if you get one.

I'll post a couple of pictures when I find them.

FYI I have beaten a couple .45s half to death within 10, 000 rounds, don't overload the gun, it wasn't designed to be a magnum. Latee production Springers and Colts have held up to countless rounds, one race gun before rebarreling was near the 250k count. Itgot the barrel but the slide and frame were still tight. Much depends on the quality of the steel used, and the earlier guns are softer than current production.


Edited by - Whirlibird on May 10 2015 11:26:32 AM
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wolfgang2000
Advanced Member

USA
3742 Posts

Posted - May 10 2015 :  2:14:29 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I was a smallarms repairman in the army. We had tons of 1911a1,and even a few 1911. The only time I saw a frame go bad was when a Butter bar used his to hammer tent pegs in.

Still some filing would have fixed it, but I was told to dead line it because we had to many in storage. FYI that was in 74.

“The key is to hit them hard, hit them fast, and hit them repeatedly. The one shot stop is a unit of measurement not a tactical philosophy.” Evan Marshall
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Jim Higginbotham
Moderator

USA
9431 Posts

Posted - May 11 2015 :  1:26:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ironically I just looked at 3 a neighboring Sheriff got off the DRMO list last Saturday.

They had be "arsenaled" at Anniston and all were mismatched (which is OK for shooters I guess) - there was a USS, a Remington and an Ithica but all were on Colt frames (all of these were 1940s guns but occasiounally you see a 1918 frame).

All of these looked OK though one had a pretty loose fit on the barrel bushing. All had original G.I. barrels not contract replacements (which is good - the replacement barrels are nice but the contractor was given inadequate drawings and they need some "tweaking" to make them run).

I didn't shoot these three guns (yet) but I have two correct Remingtons, both 1943 guns that are completely stock.

Both hit dead on at 50 yards and both will do around 5" with Genuine G.I. ball made in the 1940s (not sure what they would do with Wal-mart special ammo today).

One of these guns will shoot about 1.5" at 25 with selected handloads, but not with factory.

I've had one since 1965 or so and one since 1974 (paid $35 for it from a Lexington Ky cop). I've never had a stoppage with either that I recall unless it was just experimenting with a new load with an odd shaped bullet. Remington and Federal JHPs work through both.

Jim

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Arvinator
Advanced Member

USA
5252 Posts

Posted - May 11 2015 :  2:32:28 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Never fired my for a bench grouping, I shot shoot quals and run my own course of fire when on my own dime shooting.

Be honest, fair, and always prepared...
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Whirlibird
New Member

USA
62 Posts

Posted - May 15 2015 :  12:56:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Had a loaner 1920 for a while, it would equal my Gold Cup and beat the socks off a match Kimber.
Factory original, including the springs, using Metalform or Wilson mags it would feed basically anything and shoot all 230gr loads to the same spot.

Hated to give that one back when the gent came back off deployment. His great grandfather had bought it new in Texas and the original receipt was in the box dated 1921.

The outside looked like twenty miles of bad road, my friend mentioned something about blood and being more concerned with stopping it than cleaning the gun off rihht away.

However the internals were a testimony to the skills of the original assembler.
Every gun I've built since then has been compared to that one for fit and feel.

Lets just say the bar was set almost 100 years ago and few production guns reach it.
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Ammoload518
Junior Member

USA
182 Posts

Posted - February 22 2016 :  8:24:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hello group, Proud owner of a 1918 and 1919 1911 which are still running strong. Just purchased a new Colt (Lou Horton) model 01991z
Series 80 parked finish,arched main spring. Great shooter, Be safe.
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Jim Higginbotham
Moderator

USA
9431 Posts

Posted - February 23 2016 :  10:17:20 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have a Remington Rand 1911a1 made in 1943 that I bought off of a Lexington Ky. Police Officer in 1974 for $35

It isn't the gun I shoot most but I really like it as it gives me an idea of what folks had.

I have shot as high as Sharpshooter on the current military *rifle* qualification using that gun and plain old generic ball.

I had it with me during the Gunsite Urban Combat Skills Course (which is largely a rifle course) and one day there was a spur of the moment Sudden Death 100 yard pistol shoot - shoot a pepper popper at 100 yards with your pistol until you miss.

There was a whole group of S.F. and Police officers in this class and the next oldest was 24 years younger than me - still I managed to hit the Popper 8 times in a row - the 2nd place was 4 times with either an H&K or a Sig.

Age and cunning......

Jim

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Jim Higginbotham
Moderator

USA
9431 Posts

Posted - February 23 2016 :  10:20:29 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Higginbotham

I have a Remington Rand 1911a1 made in 1943 that I bought off of a Lexington Ky. Police Officer in 1974 for $35

It isn't the gun I shoot most but I really like it as it gives me an idea of what folks had.

I have shot as high as Sharpshooter on the current military *rifle* qualification using that gun and plain old generic ball.

I had it with me during the Gunsite Urban Combat Skills Course (which is largely a rifle course) and one day there was a spur of the moment Sudden Death 100 yard pistol shoot - shoot a pepper popper at 100 yards with your pistol until you miss.

There was a whole group of S.F. and Police officers in this class and the next oldest was 24 years younger than me - still I managed to hit the Popper 8 times in a row - the 2nd place was 4 times with either an H&K or a Sig.

Age and cunning......

Jim



PS I have no idea how many rounds this gun has through it since it no doubt saw service in WW-II (when it was likely "liberated") - but I have not shot it all that much, maybe 5,000 or so - it is in excellent condition - no battering etc). All the parts have the correct markings for a Rem. Rand.

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michael t
Starting Member

USA
26 Posts

Posted - October 01 2016 :  5:40:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have a 1941 Colt USGI I bought in early 1990's for a 100 bucks. The barrel was a smooth bore I had barrel replaced and still shooting today Was my carry pistol for a while. Except for larger fixed sights and barrel all today as I bought it. I have some orginal USGI sights I can reinstall if I want. This pistol came out of Lexington Ky also .

1941 Colt USGI
1972 Combat Commander
Colt Mustang
PPK/S
Bersa Thunder

Edited by - michael t on October 01 2016 5:42:00 PM
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Jim Higginbotham
Moderator

USA
9431 Posts

Posted - October 05 2016 :  11:08:25 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by michael t

I have a 1941 Colt USGI I bought in early 1990's for a 100 bucks. The barrel was a smooth bore I had barrel replaced and still shooting today Was my carry pistol for a while. Except for larger fixed sights and barrel all today as I bought it. I have some orginal USGI sights I can reinstall if I want. This pistol came out of Lexington Ky also .




Small world.

I think most barrels (especially Garands) are worn out from cleaning than shooting.

I have a series 70 that I have over 150,000 rounds through ( it was the gun I shot most from the 70s to the 90s) - the bore is fine. I quit keeping my log book in the mid 80's (just got to be too much of a chore) and so after about 140,000 rounds I just have to guess (my press has a counter and I've loaded 265,000 rounds of .45 on it and my guess is that about 2/3s of that was fired through that one gun.

When I first got the gun I took the Mk IV "finger" bushing and ground down the lumps on it because I had seen some of those break. I prefer the solid bushing anyway but that one never gave me problems so I kept it.

Jim

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