Friday, February 25, 2011

Custom Damascus 1911 The Saga Part 2

  I started out last time talking about the manner in which I decided to try building a custom 1911. The decision to build something that would fit my likes and be something other than the norm came while I was deployed to Iraq. If you have been or know someone that has deployed in the past you know there really is not a whole lot to do. There are many long days with nothing to do after work and on days off. I spend a lot of my time reading magazines my wife, family and friends sent me as well as those I was able to get from the BX/PX on the FOB (forward operating base). Articles written about guns customized specifically for what the author wanted stood out the most and were far more entertaining than those written about normal run of the mill straight from the factory guns. When I realized this I decided I needed to join the masses (or few) and build a custom gun. After all you aren’t a real gun nut till you start having them build for you right? 
  The internet is a great horrid beast. Not the best place to get information from but if you are discerning you can find a great deal of useful knowledge. My first suggestion would be to verify anything you find with a reliable source such as a gun smith before making your decisions. I on the other had did not do this. I was in Iraq, that’s my excuse not that I need one. I already had a base knowledge on 1911s having and currently owning several. So I decided to take what I knew and what I could find and jump right into the wood chipper.
  I have always been a fan of Wilson Combat as far as high end manufacturers goes and currently use one as my EDC (every day carry). Knowing and liking Wilson Combat I decided to go through them to acquire most of the small parts for the build. They also provide a military discount and I am always a fan of discounts. There are several other manufactures such as Les Baer, Ed Brown, EGW, Caspian and more that all provide quality parts. The more people you talk to the more answers you will get on what parts you should use, most are quality. Just remember, if it is cheap it’s probably not worth buying.

  Like the title hints I contacted Caspian Arms for the slide and receiver. This process can take a while due to all the options you can choose directly from Caspian. I placed my order over the phone while in Iraq, after talking over each other for a little while due to the delay we got the whole say a little wait then talk again system worked out. The people at Caspian are great and their customer service is way up on my list. They sent me a confirmation email with a copy of the work order, everything was correct even with the bad phone connection. Six months later my order is ready to be shipped. My order took longer because the damascus they use comes from spain and has to be imported. If you order standard stainless or carbon steel it will only take a month or two. 

  I already addressed most of the small parts the slide and receiver. The last parts I ordered where the barrel and action components. These I ordered directly from Nowlin. This is the part I might have done differently. A lot of gunsmiths recommend using Kart barrels they are cheaper than Nowlin products but I don’t really know how much better they are. I should not have any problems with accuracy and reliability as long as everything is installed correctly. I believe it will be as I have great faith in Neil. 
  I have included pictures of my parts order forms. You will notice I did not buy a barrel bushing, barrel link, or grip and screws. I somehow skipped the barrel bushing in my initial order and just decided to let Neil provide one. You don’t really know what barrel link is needed until installing the barrel so I leave that to the professionals. Lastly I have yet to find the grips I really want for the gun. I will probably order a set of cocobolo grips to use temporarily till the time that I find what I am looking for. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Strider SMF

  Lets talk knives. Knives are fun, they cut stuff (I have some nasty scars from unfortunate accidents, not so fun). I like knives because they are an every day tool for anyone willing to think outside the box. Well, with a knife you can cut your way out of that box. *Insert some rant about crazy tree huggers that don't think you should even carry a pocket knife here* Back to the useful knife thing. You can cut open letters, chop veggies, stir your coffee and gut a deer all before noon and with the same knife if you wish. I was recently told I should get an executive job because I have expensive taste, I am not quite sure what that means but I do like nice toys or um, tools.
  I was browsing through gunbroker one day and decided to see what sort of Strider knives people had up for sale. It so happens a new SMF was listed so I started watching it. The auction ended with no bids, the knife was then re-listed the next day. I took this as a sign from G*d that I was meant to own this beautiful Strider SMF with a digital blade. It became mine.
  These blades retail for right around $500 new. They have an S30V blade with a titanium handle with black G10 scales. As you can see this one also had the digital color on the blade, I believe it a $25 option. These are some of the sturdiest folding knives I have seen. It had great lock up with the blade and there was no wiggle room where the blade attached to the handle. These knives are shipped from the factory with an edge you could shave with, be it your arm, face or legs. Whatever you don't mind loosing if you slip. (Don't shave with knives kids, it is a fun way to demonstrate just how sharp your knife is but its dangerous)
  Now the first picture really does not depict this knife too well. I had never held one before I bought it so I did't know what to expect. I knew the dimensions and specs on the knife but that can be deceiving. Here is a picture to give a better understanding.

  As you can see this is no slouch. That does lead to some problems if you want an EDC knife. I found that for myself the knife was just too large to carry comfortably in a pocket every day. As a tactical, hiking, camping or utility knife it would be great. If you can stick it in a pack or on a vest it shouldn't be too hinder-some and should come in very useful. I love Strider and they make a great knife but I would recommend going for one of their smaller models such as the SNG if you want a knife to carry in a pocket all day long.
  Well, I traded the SMF for another knife, a fixed blade. I figure if you are going to carry something that size you might as well be carrying a fixed blade. For a pocket knife though I down sized to another great brand, a Spiderco Paramilitary plain edge. It also has an S30V blade and a black G10 handle. It seems just as sharp and retails around $120. The best part is it fits in my pocket and I wont feel bad if I scratch it or dull the blade.

Custom Damascus 1911 The Saga Part 1

  This is a story about a boy and his toys... well, something like that. I love the 1911, enough said? Not quite, most "enthusiasts" will probably say no collection is complete without a 1911. Is any collection ever complete? There are several way to approach a complete custom build on a handgun, I probably took the least advised route. The easiest route would be to find a custom shop with pre-built "custom" guns already sitting in their inventory. There are plenty of custom/semi-custom production manufactures around for the choosing, I think it is a good idea to do some research before making a decision of course. The next would be to call up one of these shops and do a ground up consultation. This will cost you more money and result in a longer wait for the final product. Some times you can wait on a list for more than a year before they even get to your build or your will call and the company you wanted to build your gun isn't even taking orders because they are so backed up.
  Now the route I took was this, buy all the parts I would like to build a gun with then start calling people only to find out they will not build a gun with my supplied parts. This leads into my first warning, do not start buying parts unless you have already found someone to build your gun and they have cleared you to purchase parts on your own. I had no idea this was the case when I started purchasing parts. I had gotten this idea that I could save a lot of money by buying parts with a military discount and then have one of the bigger names in custom hand guns build it for me. I was a little more than disappointed when I started calling people, getting turned down then being referred to another only to get turned down again. Now I didn't just get the idea that I would be able to take this route for no good reason. I have spent many hours reading hundreds of magazines and books all focused on firearms and their customization. The authors of many great articles have done what I was trying to do with great success, the thing I failed to realize is I am not an author that is going to provide such companies with thousands of dollars worth of free advertising. I was not worth their time and my money was no good. Some of you may be thinking that I just didn't get the right parts or quality parts something along that line. To the contrary I bought great parts and did not "cheapen" anything when it came to that. This is not to say that I wouldn't swap some parts out if I were to build another. Most of this is just based on personal preferences and biases not that one part is better than the other.
  I have finally found the man to build my gun. Neil Keller, owner operator of Kustom Ballistics currently has my project and will be doing the complete build. I believe I will be much happier with this experience now going through Neil than if I had been able to get one of the bigger names to build my gun.

Next: Parts used and technical specs on slide and receiver

S&W Model 40 Centennial Part 1

 As of right now my Model 40 is not complete and I don't even have most of the gun on hand. All I have is a lonely cylinder sitting forlorn on my desk next to a cut down Galco and a hand full of Buffalo Bore 38 special +P rounds. This little project started when a good friend of mine and I decided we wanted matching 38s that we could customize side by side. We started out looking at some of the older case hardened Model 40s. That idea was rapidly scrapped when we started thinking about what kind of ammo we wanted to use and with the advances in modern ammunition we decided the current +P rounds would put more stress than desired on an original. So we started researching newer models designed to handle more powerful loads. The idea was again to find case hardened new manufacture Model 40s. Apparently we were about a year late and Smith and Wesson had stopped producing the case hardened models. As is goes in the gun world what you want is not all ways what you can get. We started browsing through and called several gun shops we deal with but to no avail. We came across several used but none that were new and in the price range we wanted. This problem was not to hard to overcome, we settled with what was available. Two brand new blued Model 40s. Price wise the pair was right in the range we wanted and we were able to get an even better price because we bought two. Luckily S&W was also giving a $50 mail in rebate at the time. Bonus!

To be continued...