Invented by firearms genius John Browning and officially adopted by the U.S. Military in 1902, then updated a couple of times until the final version in 1911, the Colt model 1911 is undoubtedly one of the most popular handguns ever invented. However, because it was specifically designed as a military weapon, it was absolutely imperative that the weapon work when it was needed regardless of the weather or terrain in which it was deployed. Consequently, it was necessarily designed with loose tolerances so that neither cold, rain, mud, sand, nor immersion in water would prevent it from firing when a soldier’s life was on the line. Therefore, due it its loose tolerances, it is also inherently far less accurate than it could be. However, there are three steps that civilian owners of this excellent pistol can take to correct this problem and thus, make their firearm far more accurate.
Thus, the first step is to tighten or “peen” the slide rails and this is accomplished by removing the slide from the frame and then removing the recoil spring and barrel from the slide. Next, you will need a special set of metal plates or a jig that can be purchased from a gunsmith supply such as Brownells (www.brownells.com).
Then, once you have these plates or jig in hand, you will need to insert the appropriate plate or jig into the slots on both the frame and the slide and then use a ball peen hammer to strike the rails in order to reduce their width to the thickness of the plates which will drastically improve the free play between the slide and the frame. However, you should also note that after doing this, you firearm will be far less tolerant of dirt and crud and thus you will need to keep the rails clean and it will need to be lubricated every now and then to prevent excess wear and stove piping of the spent cases.
Then, once you have completed this first step, you will then need to turn you attention to barrel. However, because standard barrels also feature somewhat loose tolerances as well, it is a wise choice to first purchase a match grade barrel in the appropriate caliber for your handgun since it sort of defeats the purpose of tightening the rails to not do so. However, once you have a match grade barrel in hand, you should then install an oversized barrel link which simply requires that you remove the single pin holding it in place and then insert the new link and then replace the pin. However, by doing this, when the slide in the battery position, the oversized link will force the barrel’s locking lugs upwards into the slide more firmly which serves to tighten the tolerances between both the barrel and slide and the slide and frame. However, there is still one last step that needs to be taken to fully accurize your 1911 and that is to install an extra tight barrel bushing (which is the bushing that you see in the front end of the slide surrounding the muzzle).
However, as the name implies, because this bushing is purposely designed with very tight tolerances between the barrel and the inside diameter of the bushing, it must be fitted to the individual barrel it is to be used with by hand. Thus, in order to do this, you will need a wooden dowel rod of a slightly smaller diameter than the inside of the bushing and then you will need to wrap said dowel rod with a fine grit sandpaper designed for sanding metal. Then, you simply rotate the dowel rod around inside of the barrel bushing until the inside diameter is large enough to barely slide over the muzzle of your barrel. However, it should be noted that it is best to only enlarge the hole in the bushing enough that, with a little lubrication applied, the bushing still requires some force to slide onto the muzzle of the barrel so that these two parts can wear in together. Then, once this final step is complete, you can reassemble your pistol.
So, once you have completed the above mentioned three steps and then reassembled your handgun, you should notice a significant improvement in its accuracy and, although it will still not likely rival the accuracy a revolver, it will be sufficient to equal the accuracy of other competition grade pistols.
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