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You Need These 5 Tools for Your 1911 Pistol Build

Posted by 80-lower on Nov 1st 2019

Building your 1911 at home is surprisingly easy – all it takes to turn an 80% 1911 frame into a functional firearm is a few drilled holes and some frame rails cut with a hand tool. But these relatively simple machining steps (and final assembly) can be easy, or they can be impossible. Here’s why you need these four tools for your 1911 pistol build!

  1.    Table or Drill Press Vise

Once you seat your 80% 1911 frame in your 1911 jig, you’ll need to secure the entire assembly so you can precisely drill (with a press or hand drill), cut, and measure your progress while you complete your frame. A drill press vise is a critical component in making this happen. Without it, drilling your hammer pin and sear pin holes on a perfectly vertical axis can be nearly impossible. A vise is even more important if you’re completing your frame with a hand drill – you’ll need both hands to square up your drill bit, disallowing you from trying to secure your frame and jig by hand.

  1.    Micrometer

You’ll be making some rather precise measurements – one-hundredths of an inch – when you cut the frame rails and barrel seat on your 1911’s 80% frame. You’ll need to measure depths of 0.061” (for the frame rails) and 0.077” (for the barrel seat). A micrometer is the only approved way to capture these measurements.

  1.    Lapping Compound & Rubber Mallet (Or Slide Lapping Tool)

Once you’ve machine your 1911 frame to completion, you’ll need to fit your slide to the frame and ensure it is tight, but free to move without binding. Making two tight-fitting parts glide past each other effortlessly is a machining process that takes time, manual labor, and careful adjustment.

Lapping compound will be used as a sanding/polishing media while you fit the slide to your frame. There are numerous methods of lapping a 1911 frame and slide. The simplest method requires you to secure your frame and slide to your vise, filling both liberally with lapping compound first.

A rubber mallet is then used to gently tap the slide across the frame, allowing the lapping compound to remove metal and polish each contacting surface. This process is repeated until the slide fits just enough to glide smoothly without binding. Alternatively, a 1911 slide lapping tool can be purchased. This provides an oversized handle and lever that fits into the slide itself, allowing for better control during the lapping process.

  1.    1911 Trigger Track Stone

If you want your 1911 Build Kit’s trigger to go from “great” to “perfect”, then a trigger track stone is the key. This deceptively simple polishing stone allows you to polish inside the trigger bow and tracks, removing burrs and any rough edges. The result will be a light, crisp, clean trigger that feels like an upgrade right out of the box.

  1.    1911 Lug Iron

A 1911 lug iron allows you to quickly and accurately remove imperfections and machining marks left over in the slide lug area of your new piece. This polishing and extra consideration will ensure your barrel fits precisely and it’ll reduce barrel friction in order to improve accuracy.

DISCLAIMER: If you are new to the world of DIY gun building, you likely have a lot of questions and rightfully so. It’s an area that has a lot of questions that, without the correct answers, could have some serious implications. At, we are by no means providing this content on our website to serve as legal advice or legal counsel. We encourage each and every builder to perform their own research around their respective State laws as well as educating themselves on the Federal laws. When performing your own research, please be sure that you are getting your information from a reliable source.