Matt Hughes’ Custom Colt Pistol “Renovation”
Dave Erickson, from Condition One Pistolsmithing, recently created a custom 1911 pistol for Matt. Here is a description of the process in Dave's own words:
This project got off the ground shortly after SHOT Show in January 2009. During a few subsequent conversations and emails, Matt and I decided on a set of features and overall “feel” this pistol was to possess.
The base gun in this instance is a 1976 Colt Government Model in .45 ACP. It arrived on my doorstep much the same way it left Hartford, Connecticut over 30 years ago. This is a good thing in that it had survived without being subjected to irreversible alterations over the years.
That was about to change.
I believe that the core of a custom gun embodies smooth action, unmistakable accuracy, and unfailing reliability. Beyond this, ergonomics are addressed to make sure the gun is comfortable in the hand and easy to manipulate. Lastly, the exterior cosmetic elements are perfected.
I started out by correcting the loose slide-to-frame fit. This is done by TIG welding the frame rails, and then re-machining them for a tight, but smooth interaction with the slide. The legendary “Colt rattle” was gone, and now I can concentrate on fitting a barrel.
This Colt is intended to be a host for a sound suppressor, so we needed an extended and threaded barrel. KKM Precision makes some of the finest pistol barrels around, and they have done fantastic threading jobs for me time and again. The KKM Match Barrel was fit to the gun, and a match-grade barrel bushing was also fit to the barrel and slide.
All the ignition components were replaced with aftermarket tool steel offerings from Evolution Gun Works, Wilson Combat, and Harrison Custom. The Harrison Custom trigger was selected for a short length of pull. The EGW sear and disconnector work with the Wilson Combat hammer to produce a crisp 3.75 pound trigger pull.
EGW and Wilson parts were also selected for the precision-fit ejector, firing pin stop, and extractor. These parts are fundamental to the reliable operation of this pistol.
I checkered the frontstrap at a pleasing 25 line-per-inch pattern. Likewise, the mainspring housing also received the same grasping texture. Matt wanted the largest magwell opening on the planet, and that was provided by the Legacy Custom Magwell Suite. The frame was shortened, and the magwell shoe was TIG welded in place of the removed metal. The interior and exterior surfaces were blended by hand to provide snag-free magazine changes and comfort in the hand. If you can’t efficiently swap an empty magazine for a full magazine via this opening, you have problems.
Flattening the top of the slide increases the apparent height of the front sight, and “unclutters” the sight picture over the normally radiused slide top. The top of the slide was flattened and then serrated in my proprietary pattern. I don’t utilize CNC technology, so each individual cut was executed on my manual vertical mill. It’s a time-intensive process, but worth every second in order to provide a unique custom touch and one that is functional as well.
A feature that is desirable when using a silencer is incorporating “tall” sights. The front sight was profiled from an aftermarket sight “blank”. The rear sight took a bit more effort. Legendary Pistolsmith Chuck Rogers ( http://www.rogersprecision.com ) is a close personal friend, and has lent his talents in our joint projects before. Chuck fabricated a Tier One rear sight to be used on this pistol. He made it in a “tall” configuration to perfectly mate to the front sight. The sights had 3 tritium lamps installed to aid in aiming under low-light conditions.
The stocks were hand made from solid carbon fiber. These stocks are from remnants harvested from the construction of the F-22 Raptor aircraft. There are a few variations of carbon fiber weaves in the custom knife and gun builder market, but none are as sought-after as F-22 Carbon Fiber. This material is as tough as it is attractive.
Colt pistols of every vintage could use cosmetic correction to some extent. This pistol from 1976 was certainly no exception. Wavy lines on the slide and frame were abundant, as well as lumpy radii. All the lines on frame and slide were straightened and each radius was perfected. There was not an area that was not subject to the scrutiny of my eye, or out of reach of my files. Once that was complete, a user-friendly dehorning was performed. No sharp edges or hard corners now exist, allowing the pistol to be manipulated without the fear of drawing blood.
Lastly, the finish on the pistol is a classic two-tone combination. In years past, the frame was finished in hard chrome and the slide would be finished in traditional gun bluing. Matt specified the two-tone finish, and I was given liberty to utilize the best finishes and vendors available. The frame was beautifully hard chromed by Terry Wolford in Ocala, Florida. Instead of bluing the slide and its parts, I utilized a relatively new coating. IonBond DLC is a hard-as-nails coating that has given me exceptional performance over the last few years. It does not add any thickness to the precision-fit parts, resists rust very well, and has a very low coefficient of friction. Bottom line: the gun is finished in two of the most durable, maintenance free, and attractive finishes available today.
That’s about it… Matt, enjoy the pistol. Shoot the snot out of it, and I look forward to hearing how it performs for you.
Dave Erickson is a Pistolsmith in Omaha, Nebraska. His shop, Condition One Pistolsmithing is a one-man operation specializing in the customization of the venerable 1911 pistol design. Dave’s work features a unique blend of traditional styling with contemporary designs, and employing modern technology, driven by an old-fashioned work ethic.
Dave is also proud to serve on the Louder Than Words Board of Directors. Louder Than Words is an organization comprised of the nation’s top pistolsmiths, leather craftsmen, and industry partners, committed to giving tangible assistance to the less-fortunate. In the past, the efforts of LTW have benefitted such organizations as American Snipers and the Naval Special Warfare Foundation. Please join us at http://www.louderthanwords.us for the discussion of fine firearms, and an opportunity to “pay it forward”.
The pistol itself: