Diary of building a Colt beater (or maybe not)

Discussion in '1911 Gunsmithing' started by Greg45acp, Mar 24, 2019.

  1. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    For a few years I had the idea of building up a beater Colt. I spend a lot of time in the Utah desert and it can be a dusty place. Bouncing along on a truck seat or getting bumped off boulders as I poke around in canyons isn't an ideal place for a collectable pistol.

    In the following posts I'll paste the entries I made in a Word doc just in case anyone is interested.
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  2. limbkiller

    limbkiller Pulling my hair. Supporting Addict

    Aug 18, 2011

  3. hks1911

    hks1911 Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2018
    sounds good to me.
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  4. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    Series 80 Government Model Project:

    Entering the serial number into the Colt serial number lookup page (https://www.colt.com/serial-lookup) revealed the following:

    Found 1 results for FG80***

    Year of Manufacture: 1988

    Model: Government Model

    I wanted to build up a minimalist 5” .45acp 1911 that had Cooper’s basics down. ~Sights you can see, a trigger you can manage, and a dehorn job~. This Colt is in pretty solid shape and I was able to buy it for a good price so it will become the project piece.

    It was built in the middle of the labor strike at Colt, about which one hears horror stories. The "scabs" or managers that built this one seemed to do about as good a job as the usual UAW goofballs, so that point of concern is over.

    dayofarrival 2.jpg

    The plan is to utilize a rat tail grip safety from a Para-Ordnance that I used to own and a Colt Commander hammer. There is no rust on this pistol (even under the Pachmayer grips) but it is bone dry and there is some carbon on the front of the slide, breech face and the top deck of the frame.

    The barrel shows very little finish wear. The pistol does not appear to have spent time in a holster.

    The bushing is solid (not a Collet style) the extractor has good tension and appears to be useable after some reshaping of the hook.


    The rollmarks are nice and clear and the frame and slide are polished better than current standard Colt pistols today. Hopefully I don’t mess these up…

    The trigger pull is heavy and it feels like the hammer hooks are tall. I intend to use a different hammer so I’m not concerned.

    The trigger itself is a short, GI style steel trigger and it will be replaced with a lighter, aluminum shoe version.

    All the edges are sharp; the ejection port is lowered but not flared (I may attempt to do a Yost/Burton style restrained flare)

    The magazine well needs to be opened up and I will attempt this by hand.

    The barrel has a bit of squat as you press down on the hood. If I don’t have another Colt barrel that I can use (mine are all Series 70, not sure if hood width is the same) I’ll fit a Kart gunsmith barrel.

    I plan to use a Novak .180 white dot front dovetail sight with either a 10-8 or Harrison GI rear sight.

    I’m planning on using the Mark Lee Rust Blue finish on this pistol when I’m finished and then acquiring a lot of honest wear with this Colt.

    All Series 80 components will be retained, although I will use the “N” lever to allow a trigger stop adjustment, and all parts will be polished as part of the trigger job. I want to see if I can produce as good a trigger with this Series 80 as Wilson did on another 80 series I own.

    The plunger tube is solidly mounted. I may leave it in place or I may replace it with an EGW piece so that I can use a ball cutter to chamfer the plunger tube holes on the inside of the frame.

    Right now the Colt is detail stripped and has a good coating of Ballistol working on the carbon and crud (it was pretty clean but I want it spotless).

    I’ll measure and evaluate the disconnector and sear to see if they’re suitable for tuning. I anticipate having to stone the trigger raceways and the trigger opening in the frame before spending money on a Harrison or C&S trigger.
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  5. Kip

    Kip Sir Kip Esquire

    Apr 12, 2016
    I'm in as well
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  6. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    Day 2:

    I spent the morning playing with the Colt.

    The pistol was detail stripped and cleaned with full strength Simple Green. Inspecting every component shows this pistol to be in better condition than I thought. The grip screw bushings and ejector were left in place as I saw no need to remove them.

    It took a fair amount of fitting to get the Para-Ordnance grip safety to fit and function. Once that part was working I decided to stone the OEM sear and cleaned up the disco (it is on the replacement list) as it is pretty rough.

    After rummaging in my parts box, I found an old, used, Greider/Videki trigger that needed a good bit of shoe material (top and bottom) to be removed but it now fits nicely in the Colt.

    Despite my best efforts with the Ed Brown jig and stones, I could not get a decent trigger pull using the stock sear and very rough disconnector. There was next to zero free play in the trigger before engagement.

    A Harrison sear came out of the parts box, along with a recent MIM Colt disconnector and a decent amount of free play before engagement was now present. A little polishing of the disconnector was done. The dimensions of the Harrison sear required refitting the stock thumb safety.

    I ended up using a .020 shim and stones to lower the hooks on the Colt Commander hammer to .020”.

    The series 80 plunger and lower lever were polished. A jeweled “N” upper lever from Teddy Jacobsen will be used.

    After some experimentation with the sear spring I’m satisfied with the trigger quality. A brand new 23 lb. mainspring and 16 lb. recoil spring + firing pin spring (all from Wolff) have this Colt ready for a range visit for function testing.

    I’m also surprised by how well it cleaned up. The seller could have sold it a lot easier if he’d bothered to clean and oil the pistol. Nice surprise for me. Upon further reading, a rust blue finish apparently requires a rougher surface (no more than 400 grit polish) so I’ll skip the refinish. This Colt still has a very nice finish and I don’t want to downgrade it.

    This pistol now kind of fails as a beater. Back to Gunbroker :D

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
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  7. hks1911

    hks1911 Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2018
    I like the Harrison design stuff, and C&S but if you go with C&S just use the Extreme Engineering stuff. Thats what I use now.
    Greg45acp likes this.
  8. DMiller

    DMiller Well-Known Member

    Apr 29, 2012
    Along for the ride.
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  9. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    I've heard they were the OEM for a fair number of parts. Do they have a website?
  10. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    Day 3:

    More time was spent on the leaf spring tweaks.

    I use Bill Laughridge’s 2 page safety checklist that is included with Cylinder & Slide ignition sets. It is more thorough than most and gives you a solid basis for regarding your pistol as “safe”.

    The lower portion of the extractor tensioning wall and lower edge of the extractor hook was radiused for easier cartridge pick up. An EGW oversized firing pin stop was ordered but there does not appear to be much movement with the OEM stop.

    Manually cycling the slide slowly shows this pistol feeds dummy rounds nicely.

    Range Visit:

    The pistol functioned perfectly. I left the handloads at home and used 50 rounds of TulAmmo (Russian garbage) and 80 rounds of Federal American Eagle. (stinking small primer pocket crap)

    The sights (currently) are small and the barrel fit is not great, but I had no feeding/firing/extraction/ejection problems at all. The lowered ejection port is not faired back but none of the cases were dented so I’ll probably leave it alone. Ejection was strong and consistent.

    After this range trip I stripped the slide and shipped it off to Novak’s for a dovetailed .180 front sight with a white dot. I’m keeping this pistol simple.

    My rear sight options are a Harrison GI, a 10-8 GI, and a Millet GI. I’m leaning towards the 10-8.
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  11. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    Part 4:

    The slide has returned after only a week at Novak’s.

    The slide stop pin diameter measures only .197. Most of my Colt OEM slide stops are .200 (per the design) so I’ll probably order an EGW slide stop.

    Replacing the rear sight and fitting the firing pin stop are the next projects that will see this pistol inch further along.

    Part 5:

    The EGW firing pin stop is now installed and locks the extractor in place as hoped for. I put a small chamfer at the bottom of the slide stop instead of a radius.

    The 10-8 GI style rear sight was installed. I like the Harrison GI rear sight but these 10-8 sights must use harder steel. Identical sight picture either way.

    My Timney trigger gauge shows an average pull weight of a hair under 4.5 pounds and I’m happy with that for a carry/truck gun.

    The trigger over travel screw was adjusted to clear all halfcock/ledge contact and then backed out 1 full turn to allow full travel of the Series 80 parts.

    On a whim, I pulled the barrel and slidestop out of a recent Series 70 reproduction (that is another project in the works). The fit of the newer barrel and slidestop is outstanding in this pistol (much better than in the repro 70).

    An Ed Brown drop-in bushing fits extremely well on both the newer Colt barrel and this pistol’s slide. It is stainless instead of blued, not sure if I dig the “Les Baer” look, but it will be a functional improvement.

    Hopefully I can get to a range this week and see how well it groups and POA/POI.

    I did break the sharp edges on the front of the slide and the frame dust cover using 240 grit paper backed up by a file or a dowel. This thing was eating leather. The polished edges were touched up with Brownells Oxpho-Blue.

    I should replace the ganked up grip screws....

    Target photos to follow. Posts from this point on will be in real time.

    This is how it looks today.

    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
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  12. Kip

    Kip Sir Kip Esquire

    Apr 12, 2016
    So nice to see plain.
    Well done :)
    Greg45acp likes this.
  13. FWoo45

    FWoo45 Well-Known Member

    Jan 13, 2017
    In for the ride. I like it.
    Greg45acp likes this.
  14. rmac

    rmac Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Jan 26, 2016
    Good ride so far, you tweak I'll watch.
    limbkiller and Greg45acp like this.
  15. BigSkyGuy

    BigSkyGuy Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2018
  16. hks1911

    hks1911 Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2018
    They don't but Dawson Precision carries them but the best selection for me has been Thunder Mountain Custom.
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  17. wrmiller

    wrmiller The Tinker

    Oct 29, 2016
    According to the owner of Extreme Engineering, C&S does not carry their parts. C&S's parts are made for them by someone else.
  18. hks1911

    hks1911 Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2018
    I believe you, but man do they look like the same thing.
  19. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016

    I could only run over to a dark and dumpy indoor range so I didn't shoot beyond 15 yards. It isn't super informative but at least I'm beginning to know where the sights regulate up close.

    At 5 yards it is a "drive the dot" pistol. That is 15 rounds and I was holding the front sight dot right over (kinda hard to tell when you have to obscure the target) the intersection of the inverted T.

    2 more magazines at 7 yards (all shooting done without a rest). POI starting to climb up to the top of the front blade.

    At 10 yards POI is basically right on top of the front blade. 14-15 rounds into each of the 10 yard targets.

    All shooting was done with this Federal aluminum cased stuff. I've never used it before so I have no idea how close it is to my 230 gr. handloads or regular AE.


    Hopefully I can shoot in the desert next weekend.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
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