Most 1911s are built using what gunsmiths semi-affectionately call “bucket manufacturing.” All the pistol’s various parts—frame, grips, barrel, trigger assembly, etc.—are identical. Pull any part out of the proverbial bucket and it will fit with its associated part as well as any other similar part. And that’s how a 1911 assembler does his work. Any additional filing is merely correcting unexpected or undesirable manufacturing variations. There are advantages to this methodology . . .
The military likes/needs bucket firearms. When something breaks on a gun, they need to replace the part without laborious hand fitting. The same applies for police armorers. Bucket manufacturing is relatively cheap and efficient, both at the beginning of a gun’s life and during the course of its active service.
Contrary to some the opinions expressed by some of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia, bucket manufacturing does not produce a highly accurate firearm. It is simply not possible to make parts interchangeable and expect a high level of performance.
I just finished a week custom building a 1911 with Master 1911 gunsmith Jim Garthwaite. We started with a barebones, Springfield Armory pistol. We threw away everything except the firing pin, magazine catch and springs. We rebuilt it with hand-fitted oversize parts.
Beside a quality barrel, two characteristics account for a firearm’s mechanical accuracy: a consistent lock-up of the barrel to the slide and proper slide to frame fit. The only way to eliminate all extraneous movement in the barrel and slide: create a perfect fit. This is only possible with hand-filing and lapping. Machine processes, such as computer-aided milling, are not [yet] accurate or consistent enough to deliver the necessary fine tolerances.
When fitting the barrel to the slide, I saw various dimensions on the hood of the barrel, as well as on the portion of the accompanying slide. When we were done every part was a perfect fit—to the pistol we were working on. The parts were NOT interchangeable with any other pistol. This is how and why custom 1911 builders’ guns sell for $3-$5000.
Accurate yes. Four-hundred yard range? Well . . .
According to my ballistic calculator, a 185gr bullet (Corbon DPX) with a ballistic coefficient of 0.167 at a muzzle velocity of 1075fps, ½ inch sight above the bore line will drop 330 inches. That means that the pistol has to be aimed at a point 330 inches above the target. The bullet’s energy will drop from 475 ftlbs at the muzzle to 228ftlbs. As a comparison, 32ACP DPX has 147ftlbs at the muzzle.
Given that the .45 has very little stopping power at its strongest level of energy (as do all handguns), how much stopping power is offered at half its energy? In practical terms, a man-sized target will be covered up my any iron sighting system at 400 yards—if a man-sized target can be seen at all with iron sights at that distance.
Still, like building your own 1911, it’s worth a try.