The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Gun Pr0n And Range Report: Springfield 1911A1

Posted by Bill Nance on May 20, 2009

This edition of gun Pr0n is brought to you by the letters J, M, and B as in John Moses Browning (Peace Be Upon Him).

My new baby

Back in November I bought a Springfield Armory 1911A1. New, unfired and still in its box from 1987, the year it was manufactured.

The gun as I got it.

The gun as I got it.

Mil-spec 1911s can either be a wet-dream out of the box, a nightmare or something in between. This one was, as I suspected when I bought it, one of the latter variety. The gun shot quite well. The barrel is excellent and the crown was in perfect condition, without blemish. The fit of slide to frame and the fit of the beaver-tail grip safety were something else entirely. I had consistent failures to put the gun fully into battery and the grip-safety failed to disengage on a frequent basis unless I put a death-grip on the gun.

I bought the piece as a kit gun. In Massachusetts we have to live with an “approved firearms list”  which this gun isn’t on, making the $600 I paid for it a screaming deal. So a trip to the gunsmith had always been planned, but with the problems this gun had, that trip became pretty urgent.

Enter msr. Greg Derr of Derr Precision.

I freely admit that my experience with gunsmiths is limited.  My other 1911s, all Colts, were more than acceptable right out of the box. Then again they all cost me upwards of $1100. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that I approached Greg. Excited about the prospect of my first truly custom gun, but fearful about the cost.

The gun as I bought it, as can be seen above, was parkerized. A finish I’ve never been happy with since I’m not in the business of sneaking up on enemies fearing a reflection off the gun. Parkerized finishes also tend to scratch and mar very quickly as well, leaving the guns with a pretty worn-out look very quickly. Additionally, the Mil-spec hammer had to go, since I plan on using this as a carry gun. Finally, stippling of the front and back strap of the gun is a  must if you’re doing major work to any pistol and the trigger was too narrow to be comfortable.

So when I went into Greg’s shop I knew I wanted a few things done. The parts themselves not amounting to too much, about $500, but the labor and finish unknown quantities.

Some of my basic requests:

Ed Brown commander-style hammer, new trigger, and beavertail. Novak sights, botail mainspring housing, stippling of the front and rear backstraps and a new finsh, plus a proper mating of frame and slide. I chose a hard-chrome finish, which I will talk about later.

Greg suggested as well an extended mag release, shaving down the beavertail and slide release and a custom bushing, mated to the barrel, as well as work on the crown. For a finish I decided on hard-chrome, both for the look and the durability.

I picked up the gun on Saturday and the next day got it our to the range the next day.  All I can say is: Wow.

Granted I was only shooting at 7 yards, but putting seven rounds into a two to three -inch group without even working at it, with not a single FtF or failure to go into battery was sweet as could be. The trigger job, which Greg threw in for free, was awesome.

The only thing I wasn’t entirely thrilled with was the finish, The chroming was fine, but because the original was parkerized it limited the shiny aspect.  Something I can certainly live with, and not in any way anyone’s fault. It’s simply a matter of chemistry with a gun that starts out as parkerized.

As to my choices, this gun is meant to be a carry gun. The bobtail in particular is designed to lower the “print factor” when carrying concealed and the sights are workman-like, designed to catch the front sight quickly and easily.

At the range I instantly noticed how easy it was to bring this gun into firing position from a concealed carry, even from the particularly crappy holster I was using as a test model. The grip fits my hand like a glove, the grip safety disengages as soon as I take a firm grip on the gun and the whole package feels exactly like any custom gun should: effortless.

All in all I have $2000 invested in this gun and I think it’s money well-spent. It’s been something of a long trip for this gun, but one well worth it.

Some pics for you all:


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