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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Here's a little write-up I did on another website yesterday, and I thought I'd chunk it up here to see what you guys thought. Does it give you info that you agree with? That opens your eyes to anything? As always, I especially appreciate the feedback I get here from MY homies!

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This is a long post. But, I urge you to read and understand it if you are considering building a really good 1911 from scratch because it may open your eyes to the suggestion that at least in one instance, the easier way may be just as good as the hard way, or even better. If all you want is a 1911 that works, then skip this article, call Sarco and build yourself a parts gun. But, if you’ve wanted to build a really good 1911 – one that you’ll be proud to carry and show, and eventually leave to your kids – read on.

Here, I’ll talk about one of the most esoteric and complex steps to building a good 1911: choosing a barrel. The more folks I talked to, the more I got the impression that the one thing that held them back from building a 1911 the most was barrel installation. Fitting a gunsmith-fit barrel takes lots of time, patience, skill and special tools. The rest of the work, let’s face it, just ain’t that hard (except trigger jobs, of course, which may not be necessary either . . . but that's another subject). Now, of course I’m not talking about the incredible artistry of some of the top smiths out there, but just about building a really solid, accurate 1911 pistol (that is like a Sarco parts gun about as much as apples are to oranges) is not that hard a task.

What I hope to show you here is that if barrel installation has held you back from trying to build a high-quality 1911, you can throw your concern out the window because . . .

YOU DON’T NEED A GUNSMITH-FIT BARREL! From what I’ve been taught and learned on my own, it’ll be just as good, or even better, for us ordinary folks to use a Kart EZ-Fit or even a Brown drop-in barrel instead of a gunsmith-fit barrel.

To really do this justice, I’ll go through it in stages. First, I’ll mention mechanical accuracy. Then, we’ll look at what I’d call a forgotten revolution first espoused by Mr. Ed Brown years ago, and why what he brought forth really guts so much of the tripe you read on the net and even the published instructions of some tool sellers. When I’m done, hopefully you’ll have had a light bulb go off and see that you don’t really need a gunsmith-fit barrel, and that this revelation will remove a major obstruction to your dream of building a truly high quality 1911 pistol.

Here we go.

Repeatability: One of the keys to having an accurate 1911 is to make sure that the barrel locks up to the same place every time. A master pistolsmith named Pete Single did a short article on “Mechanical Accuracy” on the 1911 forum, and it explains this well. Here's the link:

http://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=3856

Lots of stuff goes in to mechanical accuracy, but what it all boils down to is repeatability - the gun has to lock up the same way every time. That involves slide-to-frame fit and other things, but here I'll just talk about the barrel-fit part of it. I got a LOT of information from a 1911 course I took from Dave Sample and then, later, talking with Mr. Single, and other top smiths such as Chuck Rogers. (I’m not mentioning their names to suggest that I’m in that league, but only to give credit where credit is due. I am not worthy to wipe up the shavings from under the tables of any of those guys.)

Those conversations and reading everything I could find on the subject helped me get what I think is a good overall view of this subject. One of the things I read that provided additional insight was the instructions that come with the Kart EZ-Fit barrel. There, they mention the concept of a three-point stool. A three-point stool will sit solidly on all three legs, even if the floor is slanted. The more legs you introduce, the more you mess this up, since the stool will still always sit on only three legs, but what legs those are can be different when when you set the stool down each time if you have more than three legs. The Kart instructions say that the three legs for a barrel are the two top barrel lugs and the bottom lug area. To me, it makes more sense that the three legs are the top lugs (together), the bottom lug area and the bushing area. This assumes that the top lugs are engaging the same way in the slide each time. Usually, you’ll have one lug bearing, and if you’re lucky, and you’ll usually have two bearing after you shoot the gun a bit, which is fine for a .45 ACP. But, we’ll assume for what follows here that this has already been done. We’ll also assume that we’re working with a slide and receiver that are in spec.

The next thing I read was the real eye-opener. Let me tell you, it messed with my brain! At that point, I had already fit a few Kart EZ-Fits and I had even tried my hand at installing some gunsmith-fit barrels. Then, I read a short article written by Mr. Ed Brown many years ago. Reading the article is sorta like watching the movie, “The Graduate” over and over – each time I read it, I notice something new. One day, while reviewing the article again, it struck me that Mr. Brown was saying to start fitting a gunsmith-fit barrel by cutting the lower lugs to a standard first! - as in "before the hood area!"

WHAT the )@#(*$*&)(*?????

That sorta blew my mind – I had always been taught to fit the hood area first. Once I thought I had it figured out, I decided to post an innocuous question on a few gun boards. I just asked, “When you fit a barrel, do you start with the hood area, or with the lower lugs?” Most folks posted what I expected – “Hood area first.”

BUT!

My email pinged and said I had a private message on one of the boards. When I opened it, my jaw dropped – it was from master smith Pete Single. The message was sent in response to my innocuous-question post, and it just said, “If you are really serious about learning something, call me.”

Once I got my wits back, I did call Pete, and over the subsequent two-hour conversation, he explained that the Brown article is indeed correct, and it GUTS the arguments in favor of gunsmith-fit barrels, and it absolutely eviscerates much of the tripe you read on the web from internet gurus telling folks how to fix problems with stuff like different sized links! If I can explain this well enough, it may open your eyes too.

Why Kart-EZ Fits and Brown Drop-Ins Work So Well: Okay. Get a beer, because this is about to get weird.

First Key Understanding: The 1911 was designed – INTENDED – to function using a standard-cut lower lug and a standard .278 link.

The key, as he explained it, is that on a 1911, everything starts with the slide-stop pin, and then you measure everything out from there. The math is the same. In fact, he even mentioned that when he cuts barrel feet, they end up looking like the feet that come pre-cut with Kart EZ-Fits and Brown drop-ins.

And is that revelation important? OH, HELL YEA!!!!!! (An aside about fixing problems here, and then back to why drop-ins are great.) Because, you know all those long, convoluted posts you see on the net suggesting the use of longer links to cure problems? In many cases, that's like putting a bandaid on a problem instead of curing the problem. And that band aid can also cause problems - BAD problems - of its own. Instead of immediately jumping tot the conclusion that a longer link should be installed to OVERCOME problems with a particular gun, the better course would seem to be to first diagnose WHY the gun won't run with a standard link and related front-foot contour, and try to fix that problem first. Now, certainly there are problems that can't be fixed by those of us who aren't welders and machinists. I'm just saying that one should try to diagnose the true problem and see if it can be corrected so that the gun will run with a standard link instead of immediately jumping to a longer link as a solution.

Now, back to why drop-ins are so great . . .

So, ya gotta ask - if the feet are gonna end up looking the same (same profile) on a gunsmith-fit barrel as they would had I used a Kart EZ-Fit or a Brown drop-in, then why go to the trouble of using a gunsmith-fit barrel?

WOW!

With the lower lugs cut to a standard radius and a standard link used, that only leaves the two other legs to deal with – the hood area and the muzzle area. Here’s a little graphic to show where you may need to remove material from the hood of a Brown drop-in if it doesn't drop-in all on it's own, which it may but may not do. (The procedure for the hood is similar for a Kart EZ-Fit, but the Kart also has fitting pads to deal with that are beyond the subject of this post.)



One you get that done, only the third leg – the muzzle area – remains to be addressed. The bushing that comes with a Brown drop-in barrel is usually fine to give you a pretty tight finger-tight fit. If that’s not enough for you, then you can easily just fit up another bushing. The Kart EZ-Fit goes one step farther – the ID of the bushing comes already correctly fit to the OD of the barrel, so all you have to do is fit the bushing to the slide.

With all that, sure,there is a valid need for a lug cutting tool - if you are going to install a gunsmith-fit barrel. And if you aren't a machinist who can cut the lower lugs before you start trying to stick the barrel in the slide, you'll also have to start by fitting the upper end first (because the lower-lug tool is used with the barrel installed in the slide). Instead, my point, as I hope I've explained well, is that as far as we regular Joe's go, what's the point, when we can buy a Brown or Kart EZ with the lower area already cut?

To test your understanding of what I've written, consider why the instructions that come with the Brownell's lug-cutting tool are WRONG!

Let's say you open up your shiny, new rotary lug-cutter package you just received and, like all good men do, you read the directions. You see that the directions tell you to cut the lower lugs until the thumb safety will slide up into its notch in the slide. So, what they're saying is that the way to measure whether or not your lower lugs are cut to the correct depth is whether or not the TS will engage in the slide.

Bear with me now . . .

Now, answer these questions . . .

1. Are all slides cut to the precise same dimensions - to the same .001, .002, or even .005 of each other - in all dimensions, regardless of manufacturer? Obviously not.

2. Are all receivers cut to the same precise dimensions as all others, regardless of manufacturer? Again obviously not.

3. Are the flat parts of thumb safeties that fit into the slide notch all uniformly cut to the same dimensions, alone and relative to the TS post? Of course not - in fact, one of the things one might have to do is relieve the flat part so that it WILL clear the slide.

4. On about any frame/slide combination, will the TS only engage within only a couple of thousandths range of the slide being more forward or rearward? Obviously not.

5. So, Given 1 - 4, how in the hell can the TS fitting into the slide notch be any sort of accurate indicator of whether the lower lugs have been cut to the proper height and depth?

Remember earlier we said that everything starts with, and is measured off of, the slide-stop pin? That being the case, the TS notch in the slide has nothing to do with how deep the lower lugs should be cut! The only way to be sure that the lower lugs are cut properly is to MEASURE IT, and cut those lower lugs to a standard! And what is that standard? So that the lower lugs will work with a .278 link - so that when you perform the test with the linked barrel installed on the frame without the recoil system and with the slide stop pin in place, it passes the test. But what if you do that but the slide still hangs off the rear of the gun or the TS won't fit up into the TS notch in the slide? Then fix the TS, the TS notch, blend the slide, etc - in other words, address that problem at ITS source, not by trying to manipulate something entirely unrelated - like the length of the link or the contour of the feet.

It's like buying a pair of shoes. You don't buy a random pair and then try to make them fit by tightening or loosening the laces. You buy a pair that fits, and THEN you lace them up and wear them.

So, if you feel that your 1911 has to say something cool on top of the hood, go ahead and struggle with a gunsmith-fit barrel (Or, just use the Kart EZ-Fit, which has a nice, juicy “NM” right there and available for public oohs and aahs!) ;)

Best,
Jon
 

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Good post. I'm even less than a raw beginner when compared to your experience, Jon, but seems to me that a lot of people build/modify guns the hard way because they want to prove something. I've only fitted one barrel in my life. The 2-part barrel in my Browning Hi-Power developed a crack so i bought a Bar Sto semi drop-in barrel. I had to fit the lugs a little bit but it locked up nicely after a little file work. That 9mm shoots 10X better than it did before and with total reliability.

After reading of your adventures in building a 1911, someday I want to give it a try just to see what the result would be using first class parts. I'll take your advice and use the Kart E-Z Fit barrel. My only real gun fitting experience is with trigger jobs which I finally learned to do after ruining a couple of sears and hammers. Maybe I'll start gathering parts.

Thanks for the inspiration.

RIKA
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, R. I think you are absolutely right re: "Prove". But, that's a good thing, if they're trying to prove something to THEMSELVES. If you get ready to do one up, let me know if I can help. Would love to - I really enjoy it (as if you couldn't tell that. lol!)

Incidentally, I ran across a couple of neat posts about a Phillipine gun a guy upgraded. It is a very well-thought-out and -written article. Here are the links.

http://www.realguns.com/archives/150.htm

http://www.realguns.com/archives/151.htm

Best,
Jon
 

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BigJon you did a good job on the post its correct and to the point. in all of the years i've been using pre-fit barrels, there was only one that i remember that gave me problems with the lower lug fit. as you say drop in ain't always drop in. grip safeties are a good example of this point. i really liked it due to it taking the air out of a lot of smiths that tout that no barrel is accurate unless it a smith fit part. good job dude.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks neo! Yep, I witcha on the "drop-in" grip safeties. Drop in they often do NOT - AND what's worse, the first one I ever did - a Wilson - had incomplete fitting instructions! ARGH!!!!!
 

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Jon- Very good article.

Thanks for posting it here.

Bears out my limited experience with drop in vs. fitted barrels.
 

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Good article and thanks, my .400 CorBon barrel for my Colt Government Model should be in the mail right now.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks, folks. I wanted to post it here b/c I trust you all. You're my on-line homies, and I know you're knowlegeable and will set me straight.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
If you remember, this thread is generally about 1911s being designed to run with a standard, .278 link and that other problems should be fixed at their source and not by trying to change link size. We also talked about the fact that Kart EZ Fits and Ed Brown drop-ins come with the lower lugs cut to a standard, and with a .278 link already installed.

I ran across the following question, and Mr. Ed Brown's answer, in a thread from 2002 on another forum that pretty much sums it all up - and from the man himself.

Question: “Ed: In one of the other threads, you mentioned that you generally like to precut the lower barrel lugs for a #3 link, then fit the upper lugs appropriately. How do you accommodate for out of spec frames where the frame bridge may be too far to the rear, or slide/frame tolerance stacking issues that may preclude the use of a .278" center link?”

Ed Brown's Response: “Parts that are out of spec should be replaced. Our barrels as manufactured will fit at least snug, in a MAX tolerance gun. Any slide they would not fit into snug, should be replaced. Likely, the slide bore would be oversize, or mislocated if the barrel would not be snug, or tight. If a frame was worn, tightening up the frame rails would salvage it, and tighten up the barrel as well. If the bridge (recoil area) was too far to the rear, the slide should be returned to the maker if new, or scrapped. It was either made wrong, or has been pounded to death. I've only seen one that had been pounded that hard. We actually welded it, and it is still shooting. I don't recommend this. We did it as a stunt. I'm not going to say how many rounds the gun had. Nobody would believe me anyway. Still no need for a link longer than standard, unless your barrel is cut undersize on the upper locking grooves. Then I suggest barrel replacement. Ed”

Source: http://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=11380
 

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Discussion Starter #10
BINGO! If you haven't already been convinced, this oughta do it! Here's another old post by Mr. Ed Brown:


"I long ago found out that I didn't like extremely hard work very well. I have always found a better way, read easier way. I can save you a lot of time and labor, and offer a way to get better results at the same time.

"First, why are you re-cutting lugs in the first place? I can think of two reasons:

"If you have welded up a factory barrel might be one reason. This means to me that the upper locking grooves were cut too deep, and now you need to raise up the barrel to get it to fit tighter. This will require a longer link and this will make the gun shoot lower.

"Another reason is maybe you have an oversize by .020 gunsmith fit barrel that needs the lower lugs fit in the first place. If so, it is difficult to know which link you might need until you get done. How do you know how high to raise the barrel in the slide?

"We have solved both of those situations by making our own barrel. If you haven't already, take our virtual tour on our web site. There you will see our Hicell Turn Mill. It machines the barrel COMPLETE in one set up. So we can put the lugs the right size, and in the correct location the first time. I mean exactly right for a standard link.

"This means a standard link will ALWAYS be indicated, and the timing of the unlock cycle will always be correct and the gun will shoot correctly with the fixed sights.

"We have machined the upper locking groove a bit shallow for fitting into sloppy guns, or precision fit into a good gun. When the barrel is hitting the lower locking lugs correctly, and you have hand fitted the top of the barrel upper locking grooves to hit each side of the slide, the barrel will be centered, and have zero clearance just like a V-Block. Of course, you want the hood hitting square and hard on the back. I have always cleared the sides of the hood. Seems redundant to me if the barrel is already centered by the upper locking groove hitting the slide on each side.

"Our drop-in barrels don't drop in. And if you haven't tried one, you should. They will fit perfect with so little work, we call them 'drop-in'.

"If the occasion ever arose where I had to fit a oversize barrel down, I would set up that Advance rotary table on the Bridgeport with the Sony digital readout, swing the lower lug radius right up to the 30 degree clearance angle with a 3/16 carbide end mill.

"See what I mean by cheating. I've eliminated the entire operation. I don't need a Wilson cutter, nor have I ever used one.

"Once you see how easy it is to get our drop-in barrel to fit perfectly, with zero clearance, you won't want a lug cutter either."


Source: http://forums.1911forum.c...?p=87163&postcount=11
 
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