Jim Garthwaite’s 1911 Class

Last week, I spent some vacation time and enjoyed a week in Watsontown, PA. Several months ago, I scheduled a class with Jim Garthwaite to learn how to build a 1911. The class was fantastic. I learned a few important steps and processes:WP_20150807_13_53_05_Pro

  • Tear down and evaluation
  • Fitting the frame and slide
  • Fitting a barrel
  • Fitting a barrel bushing
  • Fitting a grip safety
  • Fitting a thumb safety
  • Fitting the trigger components
  • Misc
  • Test firing
  • Checkering

Tear down and evaluation – I have broken down a 1911 many times over the years, and I have always used a different method than the one that Jim taught us. I have always removed the recoil spring plug, then the slide stop. Jim’s method is to remove the slide stop first, and to hold the slide so that the recoil spring is captured in the hand. This process has a few nice benefits, one is the ease of inspecting how the guide rod engages the barrel link lug, and another benefit is that the barrel can be removed along with the barrel bushing by moving the barrel bushing further down the barrel and away from where the barrel is thickest. This method takes away the stress on the barrel bushing during disassembly. Jim then showed how he goes through each part and looks at wear marksWP_20150807_13_00_53_Pro and looks for any machine marks that need to be cleaned up as well as any edges that need to be cleaned up because the original cuts were not completed.

Jim showed us how to properly identify metal injection molding (MIM) parts. The important concern with MIM parts is that they are OK to use for some components and should never be used for others. The hammer and hammer strut, to the right, are perfect examples. The circles on the hammer strut identify it as a MIM part. The hammer, itself, is tool steel. The hammer has significant stress put on it each time the gun is fired. The spots where it engages the sear must hold their shape and not wear easily. The hammer strut, doesn’t experience significant pressure on it, so it is not an issue if it is a MIM part.

Frame and Slide – While we didn’t actually do the work on our individual builds, Jim took some time to show us the process on another build that he was working on. We got to see the process of tightening up the frame and slide fit from the measuring, to the peening, and the lapping process. We didn’t do the work in our builds because very little accuracy improvements can be made with this work. The vast majority of accuracy improvements come from the barrel fit and the barrel bushing fit. Of course, it was also a non-issue as the Springfield Frame and Slide fit incredibly well from the start.

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice
  • Peening hammer
  • 1911 Auto Slide Rail Micrometer
  • Everglades Slide Measuring Tool
  • Verniers Calipers
  • 1911 Auto Slide Fitting Bars
  • Files
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work})
  • Lapping Compound – Aluminum Oxide 600-800 grit

Fitting the barrel – We started with a Kart match grade barrel with oversized barrel WP_20150807_13_03_52_Prohood. Using a hood length gauge, we were able to measure the length from the breech face to the first lug in the slide. Next, we measured the length of the barrel hood from its edge to the first lug. The difference is what we had to remove from the barrel hood. For the left and right of the barrel hood, we were able to find the amounts to remove by measuring the width of the opening for the breach face, which gets us the total amount to be removed. To find how much needed to be removed from the right and left side, we measured the port side width of the slide and the distance to the barrel from the port side. From these measurements, the amount of material to be removed was found for the left and the right (port) sides of the hood.

Once the length and the sides of the barrel hood were filed down so that everything “almost” fit, then the rest of was lapped in. It was clear where the lapping fluid cut away material as it had a very nice shine to it. BTW, the barrel to the right is a bit dirty as I took the pictures after test firing.

To complete the barrel fitting, the lugs needed to be cut to fit the slide stop, and then the WP_20150807_13_03_24_Prolink needed to be pinned into place. As with everything we cut/filed, we cut the material down so that it was “almost” complete, and then lapped in the last bit to make sure we had a nice and tight fit, but that it didn’t bind.

The red in the picture to the right might be Dykem or it might be my blood. Smile

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice WP_20150818_20_41_48_Pro
  • Hood length gauge
  • Verniers Calipers
  • Depth micrometer
  • Plastic/Brass Hammer
  • 1911 Auto Lug Cutter
  • Files
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work)
  • Lapping Compound – Aluminum Oxide 600-800 grit

Fitting a barrel bushing – The key to fitting the barrel bushing is to make sure it has WP_20150807_13_05_39_Proenough room to tilt as the barrel goes into and out of battery, but not so much as to introduce slop and take away from the gun’s accuracy. In our cases, the barrel bushing didn’t take any work. It was a nice and snug fit, but still allowed the barrel to tilt. In my case, though, we had to take a little off of the front of the slide.

The barrel bushing is snug enough that it won’t just turn by hand and be removable WP_20150807_13_18_16_Prowith the bushing wrench. It will turn with the bushing wrench, but the barrel is actually used to bring it free by sliding the barrel forward after the bushing is turned properly so it can be removed.

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice
  • Verniers Calipers
  • Depth micrometer
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work)

Fitting a grip safety – The grip safety was, by far, the most fun that I had in the process of hand fitting the different components used in this build. In our cases, we used a nice beavertail grip safety. The work involved a few steps.WP_20150807_12_56_57_Pro

  • Fit the safety to the tang which, once fit, allows the safety pin to slide through the frame without interference. The tang should be fit so that the grip safety moves smoothly over the tang and is still a very close fit. Without a doubt, this was the toughest part. Fitting the tang so that its radius matches the grip safety’s radius meant that I had to apply lots of dykem, file, test it, mark it with more dykem, file, test it, and so on. I must have had the grip safety in and out at least 30 times to get this to match up nicely. WP_20150807_13_02_21_Pro
  • Fit the safety to engage the trigger bow. The whole purpose of the grip safety is that it has a leg on it that prevents the trigger bow from moving back and allowing the trigger to engage and fire the gun. In my case, it took some filing to get it to fit properly and disengage so that the trigger bow could move back.
  • Fit the external part of the grip safety to fit closely to the outside of the frame. This was WP_20150807_13_17_50_Prothe fun part for me. It was a joy to “sculpt” the external part of the grip safety to closely match the frame.

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice
  • Files
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work)

Fitting a Thumb Safety – The thumb safety is another part that needs to fit properly. WP_20150807_12_59_29_ProIt must be snug up against the frame so dirt and grit can’t get in between very easily, and it needs to be be smooth, but also it needs to have a very positive engagement and disengagement. After all, when it is engaged, we want it to stay engaged until we want to disengage it. The thumb safety, in my case, took a little filing so that it would full disengage and allow the trigger bow to move forward. WP_20150807_12_58_56_Pro

Another key to the thumb safety is that it needs to be shaped and contoured so that it is comfortable when against the body and is comfortable when being engaged and disengaged.

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice
  • Files
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work)

Fitting the Trigger – This involves more than just just fitting the trigger and the trigger WP_20150807_12_58_33_Probow. Filing the trigger’s top and bottom to fit the trigger channel is important. The trigger needs to slide in and out of the channel without dragging, but it also should move without having slop. An adjustable trigger can also be used to minimize/remove the over travel in the trigger.

As far as the well discussed “trigger Job” that is a part of all professional upgrades, there are lots of great jigs out there to help make sure that the sear engagement and the hammer engagements points properly fit and are as smooth as possible while locking up properly. Starting with good tools steal components is vital. We want those parts to keep their edges and points of engagement without wearing or deforming. WP_20150807_13_01_31_Pro

Another point of consideration is the disconnector. Its engagement with the slide is vital, but it is fairly easy to clean up the engagement points and polish them. Of course, the flat part of the disconnector that contacts the trigger box must also be properly polished so that it doesn’t drag when the trigger is pulled.

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice
  • Trigger jig
  • Files
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work)

Misc – The gun will need some clean-up. Basically, if you think about all of the edges and burrs that you can get in the manufacturing of metal objects, it is easy to see how the little things need to be cleaned-up. All parts should be full deburred, all edges should be rounded and cleaned so that they are smooth. WP_20150807_12_57_23_Pro

I heard the perfect description from Jim. He said that we should think about guns as something we wear, not something that we carry. They must be comfortable, and the only way we will have them comfortable is to round all of the edges, but we also need to be careful as to not make the edges and corners so soft that it is like a bar of soap. The image to the right shows how some of the edges have been rounded, but they are not overly dramatic.

I really liked Jim’s modification of the grip screw bushings, too. Taking a little off of the grip screw bushings is a great idea as it prevents the grip screws from directly locking down onto the bushings and prevents the bushings from backing out of the frame when taking the grips off. You can see in the picture to the right that the bushings have been filed down.

Tools used included the following:

  • Vice
  • Buffing/Grinding wheel
  • Files
  • Sandpaper (80-220 grit for most of the work)

Test Firing – Well that is a big duh. Of course you need to test fire the gun, but it is important to note any issues during firing. Wheter the extractor catches too much of the case and causes deep scratches, for example.

I was never told about clocking rounds so that they could be better used to identify any problems with the firing process, until I was in this class. As I was firing Remington rounds, I put the R at the very top of the round when loading my magazines. I could then look at the spent casings and see if the extractor was digging into the case, I was also able to look at the ejector impression, and verify that the firing pin was hitting the primer properly and was nicely centered.

Clocking would have shown whether the firing pin was too high or low because of issues with the barrel fit and the barrel not fully moving up into the barrel lugs in the slide properly.

Checkering – I am not comfortable with checkering, just yet, so I didn’t do any checkering on this particular gun. I do plan on spending some time working on some scrap metal and practicing for a future build, but I am not there just yet.


I strongly recommend attending the class if you have the opportunity. It was worth more than I ever thought it would be when I signed up.



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Aria Hotel and Casino–Las Vegas

I just got back from a week in Las Vegas, and stayed at the Aria. I thought it might be nice to share my opinion with the world, not that any of you really care, but I will share anyway. Smile

Technology – I have to admit that I was impressed by the room technology. From the panel by the bed, you can easily control all of the lights in the room, the temperature, and the TV along with the window coverings. You walk into the room, and you can have it automatically turn on lights, and turn on music or the TV. Pretty nice. The room keys are proximity keys, and I have to admit that I liked them.

Bars – I visited a couple of the bars, and the prices were not too outrageous considering that it is Las Vegas. However, there was nothing special.

Casino – Yep, they have all the typical Casino games. Nothing new, here.

Shows – Zarkan by Cirque du Soleil looked like a great show, but I never made it there. I was just a little too busy.

Food – Lots of different places in the building, and lots of options for the type of food. Nothing out of the ordinary, though.

Mini Bar – EFF ME! The prices are just absolutely stupid. They will even charge you $50 a day if you want to put something in the fridge to cool it off.

Fit and Finish – I have to admit that I look at the construction more and more when I am at hotels and restaurants. I noticed that the marble tiling was poorly laid, and badly chipped at the seams, and very poorly grouted. The carpet was poorly laid. The seams were obvious, and in many cases were frayed. When at The Buffet (food was meh, service was poor), I noticed that the counters were horribly built. Not only was the stone not fit closely, the caulking was coming out and each and every seam was clearly visible. For the amount of money involved, you would think they could make sure that quality materials and workmanship went into the construction.

Summary: Nothing special, and certainly not worth the money.

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A Bed, a Shower, and Waffles with Strawberries on Top

It has been a long time since I told this story, and today just seemed like a good day to share it with everyone.

Many years ago, back when the Earth was flat, and so was my stomach, I had many life altering experiences, but this is one of my favorite ones that I am allowed to legally share. Smile

I was with my squad in the Jungles of Central America. We were lost. Very lost. Lesson 1, never let the newbie navigate no matter how good he says he is or how much experience he thinks he has. We were supposed to be out for three days. It was day number 5. No food. Not safe water. We were on the last battery for the PRC 77. Worst of all, I didn’t have my woobie to help pass the nights.

We were lucky, and we made contact on the radio. After a few hours, a chopper circled over head, and they said they couldn’t pick us up because of the dense jungle, but they could pick us up the next day at a clearing that was about 6 klicks away. In the meantime, they were going to drop water to us. The idea was to tie some ponchos onto five gallon plastic cans of water and drop them to us from the chopper. Well, imagine how well that might work. It sounds good in theory. In practice, it means that heavy plastic bombs fall on you, and explode all around. We were wet, and were blasted with bits of plastic shrapnel. Yeah, not fun. Worse, not successful.

Good news, we were no longer lost. Bad news, we still didn’t have food or safe drinking water. The news became worse as the rains started hitting us and soaking us to the bone. Hey, we had a couple of extra ponchos. You have to look at the bright side.

That night, we managed to build a very non-tactical fire. It was huge. We managed to get dried out and then somebody said the magic words, “It could be worse.” Yeah, it could have been worse, we were about to have a wounded soldier as I was about to kick his ass. For the Young Frankenstein fans out there, yes, it was raining again.

I can’t remember who said it, but somebody said, “Hey, let’s talk about would make it better rather than what is making the suck suck more.” So, we had a quick round of negotiations and decided to tell each other what three things would make life so much better than it was at the moment, and they had to be small things. It couldn’t be that you were at the hotel with room service or owning a yacht.

My three things were:

  • A shower – even a cold one would be fine
  • A bed – no blankets or anything like that was needed
  • Waffles with strawberries on top

If I have a really crappy day that depresses me beyond belief, I remember that situation, and then I go to Denny’s, IHOP, or Village Inn.

Of course, I have my woobie, too.

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Dream–Raising Polar Bears

The cold weather just does something to me. In this case, it appears to have influenced my dreams.

I found that it is really easy to acquire Polar Bears over the Internet. I ordered two of them as a breeding pair, and they were delivered. Along with the bears, I also ordered tons and tons of ice and snow. I had them put it all in my back yard, and, in preparation, I had my fences raised and reinforced. As I was worried about the bears digging under the fence, I also had steel bars driven deep into the ground.

The bears really liked my back yard. I could sit out on my deck and watch them play all day. They are so beautiful and awe inspiring.

Right before I woke up, they were just delivering the life seals so that the bears can hunt them. I can’t believe how much seals cost. It is ridiculous!

Anyway, I called the HOA today. They said that there is no way that my dream can be a reality.

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Emergency Bag

In our current world, it is really easy to think that if I have a cell phone, that is all I really need. I can call for help in an emergency.

It is now getting into the cold months of Winter here in Colorado, which has made me think that it is time to re-assess my limited view on this topic. I think it would do us all a great deal of good to think about what we would like to have for an emergency, and more importantly, what we would like our loved ones to have available to them in the event of an emergency.

In the world of preppers, this kit of materials is also referred to as a Get Home Bag. Meaning, what would you need if it hit the fan and you were on the road and needed to get home. My view of materials might be close to a prepper’s point of view.

Anyway, let’s cover some of the basics.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency Food
  • A change of clothes – warm ones
  • and????

The first aid kit is an easy one. There are lots of them available and they can be cheaply acquired. Make sure the kit includes stuff like antihistamines, antibiotics, and pain killers.

Emergency food is also fairly simple. Foods that provide energy and can be stored for long-terms in cold or hot times. Also, don’t forget some bottled water. Maybe a couple of MREs that you can get pretty easily from an outdoors retailer. Eating utensils would be a good edition, if needed.

Clothes are also fairly easy, but it is also easy to steal from the kit. Oops, I forgot my gloves and it is cold. Oh well, I will just take them from the kit. They should also be weather resistant. I would strongly recommend a rain poncho or two, as well.

The last section is the hardest one. So, I thought I would provide my thoughts, and see what makes sense. So, what should be included in the and section?

  • Backpack – You will want something to pack everything into, and something that can be carried in the event that it is decided that the car needs to be abandoned.
  • Self Defense – This may be something as simple as pepper spray, or an assault pen, or even a baton. I know many people that would include a gun cleaning kit and extra ammo, but then there are many people that don’t believe in guns. I would also include a good whistle in this area.
  • Money – Not just folding cash, but some change to use in vending machines and possibly pay phones.
  • Auto road side kit – You can probably get one from AAA or any good auto parts store. It should have jumper cables, and basic tools. Let’s not forget everything required to change a flat tire. How about a tow strap?
  • A couple of good knives – While this might fall under self-defense, I can think of so many reasons to have a good knife or two.
  • Lights – This would include flashlights, preferably nice and powerful LED hand held lights, and I would also recommend some chemical lights and flares. Something with a red lens, too, in case there is a worry about being too visible to others.
  • Plastic bags and space blankets– Large garbage bags that can be used to keep the rain off as well as many other reasons as well as some smaller ones for keeping your stuff organized as well as dry.  Space blankets are great for helping to maintain body heat without taking up much room.
  • Fire starting materials – Matches, lighters,  and a Ferrocerium fire starter.
  • Personal hygiene items – Who can’t use some wet wipes and even a wash cloth? How about some toilet paper? I am sure you can think of other items. Keep it small, though.
  • Para cord – It has many uses for short and long term survival.
  • Water filter – I am starting to like the idea of having a life straw included in the kit.
  • Folding shovel – Maybe an entrenching tool as it can be used as an ax and as a hammer.
  • Cat litter or sand – Traction for the tires, and this would not need to be put into the back pack, though.

What did I miss?

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Shared Private Road–A Tax Analogy

I started using this example a few months ago to explain shared assets and how they are financed. It is pretty interesting, to me.

Scenario: There is a county road that comes close to two homes. The two homes are exactly the same distance from the road. A private road needs to be built. The road will run directly between their homes and connect to their driveways. The owners use the road exactly the same, and both use small passenger vehicles. Neither use trucks, heavy equipment, or anything that would stress the road. Below is a rough drawing.

The road will cost $1,000 dollars.


The question: How much should each person pay?

The expected answer: When I ask this question, almost everyone says it should be 50/50. Some people say that the guy that makes the most should volunteer to pay more of the bill, but nobody has every told me that the guy that makes the most should pay for it all.

The math: There are a few options:

  1. 50/50: So each of them pay $500.
  2. They pay based upon income: 30000/180000*1000=$16.67 for the guy that makes $30,000, which leaves $983.33 for the other guy. Fair? Some people will say that it is fair, but I don’t see it since they both get the same benefit and the one person is basically paying for it all, but gets a small token amount back.
  3. They pay based upon the way we do income tax collection in the US. Basically, the person making $30,000 doesn’t pay federal income taxes in most cases, so the other guy ends up paying for all of the road.

The reality: The guy making the most ends up paying for all of it, and the other guy gets a free road. It works that way because our Government forces it to work that way. If the guy that is better off refuses to pay his taxes, they will take him at gun point and lock him up.

A few facts:

Just a couple of simple facts, about 45-47% of the US households do not pay Federal income taxes. The top 20% pay over 90% of the Federal income taxes collected, while making no where near 90% of the income. So, the top 20% pay for almost everything for everyone else, and half get a free ride.

No, these facts aren’t from some ultra conservative web site, they come right from the CBO.

Source: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44604-AverageTaxRates.pdf

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Crazy Dream: Treat or Treat for Purses

I have to share this one because I think it is one of my better dreams.

In this dream, I am out trick or treating with Melissa Travers. Those that know Melissa will better understand this dream.

Anyway, in this dream, we are our current ages, but for some reason Melissa is in costume and I am in my regular clothes acting like her father and standing at the end of the walk while she goes up to the house. Melissa keeps getting purses at each house. Again, for those that know her, this makes sense.

This dream goes on for a bit with varying results at each house. In some cases, Melissa squeals like a little school girl and bounces around about her “score” of a really nice purse. At other places, she is not very happy about the quality of the purse and complains about the stitching. the material of the outside or inside of the purse, the handle or the strap. In a couple of cases, I have to hold Melissa back as she want to go back to the house and give them their piece of crap back. In one case, she started mumbling about a good trick like egging their house. It was at that point that I said to her that she was being way to cranky and it was time to go home to bed.

I completely forgot about this dream until Melissa posted on Facebook about how much candy she gave away today.

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