Choosing a 1911 Frame? Read This

Choosing a 1911 Frame? Read This

Oct 6th 2022

The Gun Control Act of 1968, among other things, requires that all firearms manufactured in, or imported into, the United States of American, bear a serial number. Most modern firearms are stamped on their receiver with a serial number; other firearms, like the venerable 1911 (and other pistols modeled after it) bear the serial number on their frames. That means that a 1911 frame is the part of the gun regulated by the ATF as a “firearm.”

If you’re thinking about making your own 1911 by purchasing a 1911 frame or a build kit, there are a few good reasons for doing so. You’ll just want to make sure that you’re aware of some of the following considerations in this article before you proceed.

So You Want to Complete Your Own Build

First, let’s introduce some good reasons that some shooters choose to build their own 1911 pistols using frames and build kits instead of buying the handguns themselves.

  • Availability - Recently, the supply of both firearms and ammo has been impacted by sky-high demands. You may not be able to find a 1911 variant that appeals to you in your local gun shop, but you may be able to build it yourself.
  • Cost of parts - Firearm sales have recently exploded and demand has been at a sustained high for over a year. As a result, prices of firearms, parts, and ammo have also risen. It may be more cost-effective for you to build your own than to buy one.
  • Enjoying the process - Building your own pistol will bring you closer to the shooting sports you enjoy. It’s like building a model that you actually get to use.
  • Learning more about how the firearm works - You can’t learn about how a firearm works without either building, maintaining or cleaning it yourself. Building it is one of the best ways, and when you make your own pistol (effectively from scratch) you’ll be better able to make repairs and adjustments in the future, diminishing your need to rely on gunsmiths.
  • Making customizations to the platform - You can also make adjustments to the operation of a platform if you decide to build your own 1911 from a frame or with a kit. For example, if you’d like a better trigger or you want to install a stronger recoil spring or a recoil spring guide while making it, you can easily do so.

With all that in mind, you still need to be aware of a few more things regarding the build you intend to complete, specifically the compatibility of the components and the legality of the project.

                 1911 frame

Be Aware of State Laws or Other Local Legislation

Before we proceed any further - the following is NOT intended to serve as legal advice. Only a lawyer can furnish you with legal advice regarding firearms ownership, transfer, possession, transportation, or anything else similar. This is ONLY intended to raise your awareness regarding the variability in firearms legislation to which you may be subjected in different areas of the country.

Before you build a 1911 using a 1911 frame and a build kit, be entirely certain you are complying with all applicable state, regional and local laws. They may vary considerably from federal legislation.

For example, if you are not federally barred, as a prohibited person, from owning or possessing a firearm, it may be legal for you to purchase a 1911 frame and complete the build on your own. However, some states expressly prohibit the purchase, sale, possession or transfer of firearm frames or receivers, even those that are not fully completed and not recognized by the ATF as firearms.

Another example - our neighbor to the east, New Jersey, requires a separate pistol permit for the purchase of each pistol. Due to this (and a variety of other stringent, complicated regulations) we do not offer pistol frames for sale to residents in the state of New Jersey.

Laws vary by state and locality regarding purchase, transfer, and possession of firearms, as well as possession of firearm jigs, components, and other equipment used to create them. Before you attempt to create your own 1911, we encourage you to seek your own legal counsel, as we cannot offer it.

Be Cognizant of Size

In addition to the question of legality, you should also be aware that there are several different sizes of 1911 frames and they are not all universally compatible.

Generally speaking, however, 1911 frames are available in three different sizes, being the government frame, the commander frame, and the officer frame, with the government being the largest and the officer model being the smallest.

If you take a closer look at some of our 1911 frames for sale, you’ll see in the listings what components the frames are designed to accept, as well as what sizes they are compatible with. If you have any questions, you can always contact us and we will be more than happy to help answer your questions about sizing and compatibility.

Other Considerations

Finally, size alone is not the only important factor when it comes to picking out a frame for a 1911 build. You will also need to be aware of other considerations such as whether the frame is intended to accept a single or double stack mag. You will also want to be aware of any limitations you’ll experience with respect to the size of the slide and other components.

Also, be aware that many frames are not sold in a finished state and are considered “80% frames,” meaning that certain features must be altered before a functioning pistol can be finished and assembled in a firing state. For example, many of our frames have some screw holes drilled and tapped, but require holes to be drilled (and/or tapped) for the slide rails, hammer, sear, mainspring and ejector legs. To complete these builds, you may need special jigs and other tools.

Questions? Contact Us

Whether you have questions about what parts you will need to complete your 1911 build or you’re just looking for help assembling a complete list of all the tools you will need, we may be able to help. Give us a call at 610-250-3960 to speak with one of our firearms experts, or better yet, come visit us in our location in Easton, Pennsylvania.