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1911 Technical Reference Sources

Tinkering with the 1911 seems to be part and parcel of ownership of this classic American handgun. I typically discourage new 1911 owners from monkeying with their new weapons - it is analogous to purchasing a new car and deciding to tune it up without even so much as reading the owner's manual or driving it for any period of time. However, experienced users will want to get a deeper understanding of their chosen weapons system. Since the "home brain surgery" method of learning by ruining the gun is less than ideal, the responsible thing to do is to properly and thoroughly research the topic.

There is a ton of technical reference material on the 1911, and you will find that there is not one single source that will give you all the answers. Here are some of my go-to sources from which I built my library, with their Brownells part numbers included for convenience. If you acquire the references in the order listed, it will provide a good stepwise method of learning.

Ed Brown 1911 Guide on CD ROM, 087-000-002: There is some information on barrel lug geometry that is of value, but this is primarily intended to be a care and maintenance manual. A hardcore 1911 student will probably want this for their library, but it is more basic than the 1911 Users Guide available elsewhere on this site. It is a good beginner resource and does include photos, which my guide does not.

Kuhnhausen Shop Manual, Volume 1, 924-200-045: An introduction to the basic concepts of 1911 work. Some of the information is quite outdated, but there is plenty of useful information to help pave the way for fuller understanding of the 1911.

Kuhnhausen Shop Manual, Volume 2, 924-800-245: This is an excellent reference guide for the dimensions and geometry of every component. It is a bit overwhelming as far as the volume of information, and may be too much for the beginner to process. I have read this from cover to cover several times, and still refer to it periodically for technical data. This is a must have reference if you are serious about the technical aspects of the gun.

Wilson Combat COMBAT CUSTOMIZING THE 1911 AUTO video series, 4 Volume DVD set, 965-000-040: Wilson's master smiths walk you through the many steps of building a 1911. The production value is a bit low by television documentary standards (host Lenny Magill speaks off camera to ask questions, but he doesn't have a microphone and his voice is really muffled), but the information is solid and comprehensive. For the modern video generation, this is a good place to start in order to get a solid understanding of the inner workings of the 1911. Be prepared to take notes and review each section repeatedly.

American Gunsmith Institute (AGI) 1911 videos: BUILDING THE 1911 STYLE LIMITED CLASS OR CARRY GUN Vol. 1 & 2, 050-120-308, 050-000-001: Gunsmith Gene Shuey is very natural on the camera, and presents the information in a clear, concise manner. The production values are much higher, and the tapes are more cleanly organized and presented than the Wilson tape set. AGI's website has these on DVD. Another very comprehensive reference where you will want to take notes. Used in conjunction with the Wilson set, you can compile a pretty useful set of reference materials.

M1911A1 Technical Diagram Manual, Nicolaus & Associates, 100-003-759: This little known resource is a full copy of the arsenal blueprints, cleaned up for easier reading.  It is a good reference for the parts and very educational to see how everything was originally laid out.

If you are looking to learn more about the 1911, there are no shortcuts. You will need to get hands on with a number of guns and spend a lot of time diligently studying all of the above resources. I will leave you with a few useful adages passed down from previous generations of craftsmen:
"Measure twice, cut once."
"You can always cut off more, but you can't put it back on."



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