How Do 'Smiths Tighten the Slide to Frame Fit??

Discussion in '1911 Gunsmithing' started by Nalajr, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. Nalajr

    Nalajr Well-Known Member

    Feb 17, 2015
    Hey all,

    Something that has always intrigued me is the slide to frame fit on 1911 and Hi Power pistols. I've never had the pleasure to own a semi-Custom or Custom 1911 so I can't really know what the slide to frame fit feels like on this class of 1911's. I have felt a couple really nice 1911's in shops before and it was really nice. Unfortunately, my Colt NRM does NOT feel like this, it has a loose fit that rattles a bit. My FN Hi Power does as well.

    If I wanted my Colt NRM, that's never been shot, to have a lapped in frame to slide fit, how would this be done? Would it be done the same way on a Hi Power?

    I know many 1911 owners and aficionados will say that a tight slide to frame fit isn't necessary and that some play is desirous to achieve maximum reliability. I'm not arguing that at all. For me though, it just aggravates me to have a loose fit. Maybe I'm just overtly anal about that area or just plain stupid to want such a thing.

    What would something like that cost to have done?

    Are there any "shadetree" 1911 "mechanics" around here or that you know of that are not in it to make a living but do it for the enjoyment and to make a bit of extra money that will take on jobs like this? I'd like to get it done to both my NRM Colt and my Hi Power as money permits. If you can recommend anyone that would be good to get in touch with on getting this done to my pistols, please add your suggestions and advice.
    If anyone want to recommend someone, but doesn't want to do it publicly, feel free to PM me.

    Thoughts please.

    Thank you for your time and help and have a great weekend.
  2. Bully

    Bully Is that so...

    May 12, 2016
    Hi Larry.
    Brownells sells a slide-peening kit where you essentially use a hammer and hardened steel dies to tighten the fit. It's a DIY kind of thing.
    Other option is to have someone micro-tig a bead on the rails and mill it to tolerance.
    Having a "shade-tree" guy take possession of your serialized part is maybe not the best way to go about it. Just sayin...
    Contact @Steve Owens on here. I've not used him but he is building a solid reputation.
    Good luck.

  3. Greg45acp

    Greg45acp Double Secret Banned Supporting Addict

    Oct 31, 2016
    Accu Rails is another option.

    Peening the rails doesn’t last as long as other methods.
    SCS1911, Gary Wells and boatdoc like this.
  4. 1911mechanik

    1911mechanik Christ is my front sight.

    Apr 29, 2016
    In the old days it was slide squeezing and rail peening. Those methods were common then as slides were harder than frames and there was a bit of an art to squeezing a slide without cracking it. Today's materials are a bit different. Lots of them have nickel and other metals blended in to make them a bit harder and these old school methods are lesser choices. Slides can get "sprung" and so forth. The best way to solve the problem today is, as suggested, have someone weld up and cut back. That way no metal fatigue is created by bending etc. Whatever you choose, good luck!
  5. wrmiller

    wrmiller The Tinker

    Oct 29, 2016
    Peening frame rails, if done correctly, works fine. Lots of very accurate bullseye pistols were built that way.

    I don't attempt to pinch the slide, because as others have said, the slide is harder and can crack. I fit the frame to the slide. Last time I did one that way though was my Kimber about 15 years (along with too many rounds to count) ago, and it's still plenty tight and accurate.

    And IMO it's not a DIY procedure, unless you just want to screw up a gun. But what do I know. ;)
  6. Gary Wells

    Gary Wells Active Member

    Sep 26, 2011
    I don't think that too many smiths want to do rail peening & slide squeezing any more due to the time involved & the length of time the slide-frame ass'y stays tight. The only way that I would consider it on a gun already built would be the Accu-Rail system, and I have heard that there aren't that many smiths that are great at doing that. I have heard only a few smiths names mentioned. So there is some risk involved in that also. However it is true that slide to frame fit is not the most critical aspect of an accurate handgun. Slide to frame fit can also be tightened by fitting a new barrel, but more so in the up & down movement than the side ways movement. IMHO on everything.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  7. wrmiller

    wrmiller The Tinker

    Oct 29, 2016
    A half-assed job will shoot loose quicker than a good fitment, true. And a good fitment job takes time, and time is money for a commercial 'smith. Yet another reason I don't do this for money. ;)

    For example, look at how many shops are now machine checkering. It's just faster. Well that and not everyone can cut good checkering by hand of course. I imagine that sooner or later all pistols (if we're still allowed to own them), will be built by machine. Progress.

    I'm too old and old-fashioned I guess, but if I were to spend thousands of dollars and spend years waiting for a pistol, I would prefer that it be hand built by a skilled artisan rather than a CNC machine. But that's just me.
  8. Old Sea Dragon

    Old Sea Dragon Well-Known Member

    Feb 10, 2018
    I'd shoot it before doing anything drastic. It might surprise you. Fitting a small, inexpensive part for the first time is one thing but I'd enlist the help of a gunsmith if you determine it is necessary. This is a risky proposition for a shade tree smith.
    wrmiller likes this.
  9. Jim w.

    Jim w. Well-Known Member

    Jul 27, 2016
    I have a squeezed and peened gun that has held up well. The gunsmith quit beating on them after breaking a slide, though.

    There are shops welding and machining for a closer fit. One gunsmith said he even had Accurail grooves welded up to let him get back to standard construction, only tighter. But the only Accurail gun I am familiar with was so nice, I don't know why he did that.

    As said, shoot first, rebuild last.

    An old piece in The Handgunner, Ltd. said that Brownings (of that day) were rather soft and there was no point in tightening them, they would loosen back up in short order.
  10. Badabing11

    Badabing11 I gotta have more cowbell

    Sep 6, 2015
    I had one done years ago. Welded , machined , and then hand fit. It was beautiful and looked new when done.

    My first shot at it was having it peeled . It looked like crap inside the frame.
  11. mike campbell

    mike campbell Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    May 25, 2018
    I'm well in tune with the OP.
    I have 2 bone stock, mass produced 1911's that were/are at the upper end of cost for such. They wiggle ... one rattles. I like em both too much to get rid of either. If I put money into them, it would have to be a bunch to make them anything more than what they already are in the marketplace. So, I considered my options and decided to buy a nice semi-custom.

    It's everything in terms of fit finish and curb appeal that I hoped it would be. When I go into my shop, it's the one I can't resist fondling.

    After I bought the semi-custom, I bought a Ransom rest. After extensive testing of the three 1911's this past summer, each in a different caliber, I found that all 3 are capable of 10 shots in 2" @ 50 yds....which is better than I could hope for or justify a need for.

    So I'm glad I took the approach I did. Expensive custom work would add nothing but a bit of sex appeal to the mass-produced guns, and the rest of the world would never see them as the equal of the celebrity maker. So all 3 are keepers and I've just bought my 4th, another celebrity.
    JNW and wrmiller like this.
  12. Nalajr

    Nalajr Well-Known Member

    Feb 17, 2015
    I guess I’m better off just enjoying it the way it is or trading up to a Dan Wesson A2 or something similar.

    By “shadetree” ‘smith, I was meaning someone that was trying to build a name and had not yet progressed to being well known where he/she would have a 1 year wait time.

    In NO WAY was I trying to get info to do it myself. I’m afraid to try and install a Beavertail, so there’s absolutely no way in the world I’d attempt something like this.

    Thanks for the advice.
  13. pscipio03

    pscipio03 Fun O' Meter on FULL

    Mar 11, 2013
    Accu-rail it.
    SCS1911 likes this.
  14. Busa Dave

    Busa Dave Well-Known Member

    Mar 3, 2018
    :) If you want one that was designed and machined that way and not dinked with buy a Cabot.:)
  15. JNW

    JNW Well-Known Member

    Apr 19, 2017
    Mr Campbell,
    What brands of production 1911s do you have that shoot so well? Enquiring minds want to know.

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