Load Development

I just wanted to spend a few minutes talking about load development.  When working up a new load it is imperative to use the guidelines from a reliable reloading manual.

Use the information provided to work on your starting load.  I usually try to load in .2 grain increments when working up a new load.  Start at the minimum and work up.  I do about 50 rounds at each powder charge.  That gives me plenty at each charge weight to chronograph, bench test for precision, check the ejection pattern and how the load feels.

Once I have a load where I think it should be I like to load up 20 to 25 rounds using the same headstamp brass.  Then I run all those rounds over the chronograph.  I check for acceptable Standard Deviation and Extreme Spread.

When loading hotter rounds be sure to work up in .1 grain increments.  Some really fast powders can pressure spike very quickly.  Check for flattened or pushed out primers.  Also make sure any gun you are shooting is in proper working order.  Take your time with reloading and stay safe.

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Grip Stippling

I decided that I wanted to run a stippled grip on this gun.  In the past I used a sandpaper type finish on my grips, but in the heat I still needed some pro grip to have a solid feel on the gun.  I use an inexpensive wood burning iron to do the stippling.  I use a custom tip that I made.

Wood Burning Iron

I do a random pattern that covers all the original checkering and leaves a very aggressive texture to the grip.

Grip Stippling

Grip Stippling

This texture really holds up well and provides a secure grip in even the worst weather conditions.

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Lots of Sanding and Final Payoff (almost)

The thumb and grip safety are smoothed to the frame and all sharp edges are removed. I use files, a Foredom tool, Cartridge rolls and sandpaper to get everything smooth. The back of the slide, extractor and ejector are smoothed to the frame.

Slide and frame need to be smoothed out

After some file work

After more filing 1

After more filing 2

Starting work with the Foredom

Starting work with the Foredom 2

The underside of the grip safety is blended to the frame.

Smoothing the grip safety

I like to remove the machine marks from the underside of the dust cover.



Ball cuts milled to the slide and all flats of the slide and comp are smoothed to 400 grit sandpaper before bead blasting. I break the corners of the slide and remove all sharp edges. The gun is now almost complete minus refinishing. I haven’t decided how I’m going to finish the gun. Either hard chrome, Atranite or Eifeler Lafer’s coating.

Right side ready for re-finishing

Left side ready for re-finishing

I need to stipple or add a sand finish to the grip and shorten the slide stop axle so it doesn’t stick out so far. Then it is off for refinishing.

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First Range Trip

After loading up some of my 9mm Major ammo I went to the range to run the gun. I ran about 300 rounds through it without many problems. I need to adjust the slide stop so it doesn’t lock open on an empty mag and I’m not sure I like the sideways C-More mount. I’ve been shooting for the past couple years with an upright mount. The gun feels unbalanced and I don’t like the way the dot travels with the sideways mount. I ran two practice sessions with the sideways mount (~700 rounds) and decided to switch back to the vertical mount. This is a video of my first trip out with the new gun. I need to try some different weight recoil springs to keep from having to muscle the gun.

Final sanding and prep are up next.

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Comp Fitting and Some Details

After we fit the barrel to the slide it is time to attach the comp. I screw the comp onto the barrel until it is clocked properly. I then install the barrel into the slide with the comp attached and measure the distance between the barrel hood and breech face. This is the amount I will need to remove from the rear of the comp to allow the barrel to go into battery. I usually cut the comp back a little further than zero tolerance to allow for a slight gap between the comp and slide. 5 to 7 thousandths clearance between the comp and slide should be sufficient.

Comp Attached to the Barrel

After fitting the comp I can do the final cuts on the top of the slide. I cut the comp to match the slide tri top and then scallop the rear of the slide and add a dovetail cut for the slide racker. All these cuts are done using a modified Yavappi jig.

Milling Slide and Comp

The extractor I use is an Aftec made by Millenium Custom. This extractor needs a little smoothing at the front. I use some small needle files and sandpaper to get everything smoothed the way I want. An Aftec extractor needs the firing pins stop fitted properly for proper functioning.


I use a fairly big radius on my firing pin stop for the Open gun. It helps the gun cycle a little faster. Make sure the firing pin stop is smooth with the disconnector rail. Smooth the disconnector rail for good cycling. I picked the following modification up from Joe Chambers on the 1911 forum. He is the owner of Chambers Customs. It is a small cut on the underside of the disconnector rail at the front. Joe builds some of the finest and most accurate 1911s available on the planet. He believes it aids in accuracy and functioning. I’m not one to argue with him. I have incorporated it into my last few builds and the guns definitely cycle more smoothly.

Disconnector Rail Cut

You may also need to slightly cut the head of the disconnector back to allow clearance.

This just about finishes the main part of the build. There is still lots of work left to do, but I’m ready for a test fire.

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Slide Cutting and Barrel Fitting

I’m using a KKM barrel and a Bedell Custom Comp on this open gun. The barrel is commander length and the slide is currently setup for a 5″ barrel. I use a chop saw with a toothed blade to cut off the barrel to slightly longer than the final length.

Setup in the Chop Saw

Slide Cut to Length

After cutting off the majority of the extra length with the chop saw I use the Yavappi jig to cut a 1 degree angle on the front of the slide. This angle allows clearance for the comp when the barrel goes into battery.

Cutting 1 Degree Angle on the Front of the Slide

I use the cutter and tool from Brownells to cut the lower lugs.

Cutting the Lower Lugs

Cutting the Lower Lugs

After I cut the lugs I use a file to fine tune the fit of the lower lugs. Going back and forth using dykem and lots of trial fitting I’m able to get good solid lower lug contact. I finish the lugs with an extra fine cratex bit to get them really smooth.

After I’m happy with the fit I select the correct length link and install it on the barrel. I use links from EGW. After installing the link I like to run the Schuemann Barrel Tests to ensure the barrel is timed properly. A pdf of the tests can be found here Barrel Test

Next up is attaching the comp and finish reaming the barrel.

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Barrel Fitting Part 1

The first thing to do when fitting a barrel is to trim the barrel hood to the proper width. This can be done using files or the milling machine.

Cutting hood width

After the proper width is achieved I use an EGW gauge to determine the hood length. I then cut the hood to length on the mill. Make sure you break the corners of the hood to ensure it doesn’t bind in the slide.

Setup to cut hood to length

EGW Gauge

Using the EGW gauge

Once the hood is fit for width and length we need to make sure that we have proper upper lug engagement. We need a minimum of .045″ engagement. This can be a time consuming fit and check process. Don’t rush anything here. Mark the surfaces and assemble. Then check for anywhere that is touching and address those areas. Rinse and repeat until you have proper engagement and hood clearance.

The KKM barrel comes with an unfinished chamber.  I use a chamber reamer to cut the chamber to proper dimensions.

Reaming the chamber

Up next we will trim the 5″ slide back to the proper dimension for our Commander length barrel and cut the lower lugs.

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Ammoload Mark X Pistol Ammunition Loader

Below is a video of our Ammoload Mark X. It is currently setup for 9mm. This machine can run up to 5000 rounds per hour. We usually run it at about 2000 rounds per hour. That allows for a visual inspection of every round that the machine produces. Here are the stations.

Berdan Prime and Foreign Object Check
Resize and Deprime
Primer Installation and Disk Check
Case Neck Belling
Powder Check
Bullet Seating
Final Sizing

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Tri Top Slide and Progress So Far

I used my Yavappi slide fixture earlier to flat top the slide and used it this time to Tri Top the slide. This reduces weight and adds a distinct look to the slide. Once the barrel and comp are fit I will continue the cuts so the comp matches the profile of the slide.

Cutting Tri Top

Cutting Tri Top

So far everything in the frame is fit except the ejector. The frame and slide are fit together. Up next is fitting the firing pin, firing pin stop, and Aftec extractor. Then I will fit the barrel and comp to the slide and frame. I also need to install the slide racker and do the final cosmetic cuts on the slide. Here is how it looks right now. Everything is starting to come together.



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Scope Mounting

I’m using a Quinn mount to attach a C-More scope to this gun. Doing this requires locating, drilling and tapping 5 holes in the frame. The holes are spaced .375″ apart. I use a center drill to locate the holes and then a #38 drill bit to drill the holes to the proper size. I don’t have a tap guide for my mill, so I hand tapped the holes with a #5-40 tap. I got the drill bits and tap from McMaster Carr.

Mounting Hole Drilling

When determining the location for the scope mount you need to consider that the top of the slide is not parallel with the bottom of the slide. You need to make sure that your scope will clear the rear of the slide so you can field strip the gun without removing the scope. I like to have .010″ to .020″ clearance between the bottom of the scope/mount and the slide. I place the scope/mount on the frame slide combo and place a feeler gauge under the scope to make sure there is adequate clearance. Then I use a center punch to mark the first hole.

Scope and Mount Installed Left Side

Scope and Mount Installed Right Side

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