Selecting 1911 Frames: What You Need to Know

Selecting 1911 Frames: What You Need to Know

Mar 31st 2021

The 1911 is a dinosaur. It has been around for well over a hundred years at this point and those who own and use them love them as much as the first generation of shooters that ever picked them up. They are reliable, rock-solid, timeless, and when paired with the .45 ACP for which they were originally designed, they provide uncommon stopping power.

The 1911 is a dinosaur, but not in the disparaging sense in which that term is often applied. It is a dinosaur because it will not die. In this sense, it is a dinosaur that has remained alive because it does not compromise or make way for newer models. The same features that made the 1911 practical over a hundred years ago still result in an excellent pistol today.

For that reason, many people choose to build their own 1911s from parts and kits. The central piece of the kit, and the one part that is regulated as a firearm, is the 1911 frame. Unlike most modern firearms that are stamped on the receiver with a serial number, the 1911 is stamped on its frame.

It is also not just a 1911 frame that you will need in order to put together a legal, operable 1911 pistol. You will also need a large number of other parts, including the following:

●A barrel, bushing and link

●Barrel link pin, extractor and ejector

●Firing pin, spring and stop

●Recoil spring, guide and plug

●Slide and slide stop


●Grips and grip safeties

●Hammer, sear, and springs

●Spring housings

Complete 1911 kits will come with this but you will often need to buy the frame separately because that is the part that is considered a firearm by the ATF. With a 1911 frame and a kit that includes at minimum the above parts, you should be able to assemble your own, custom 1911.

However, not all frames are created equal. When you set out to pair a 1911 frame to another parts kit or 1911 build kit, here are some things you need to be aware of.

1911 frame size: The frame size that you end up purchasing will also impact the parts that will be compatible with it as included in a build kit or a parts kit. Classically speaking, there are three sizes in which 1911 frames typically are manufactured. These are government frames, commander frames and officer frames. The largest of these is the government frame; a completely assembled “1911 Government” pistol has a 5.3 inch barrel, whereas a 1911 Commander has a 4.25 inch barrel and the 1911 Officer, the subcompact frame of the bunch, has a 3.5 inch barrel.

However, these are no longer the only styles of 1911 frames that are produced or remain in circulation. Due to the platform's immense and enduring popularity, many other producers have modeled pistols after the original M1911’s, including Rock Island and Para Ordnance pistols. These companies both have produced frames in the past that are only compatible with specific parts; we have some of these here at Sarco, Inc., so if you have any questions, feel free to call us.

●The caliber of the build: If you’re buying the frame and all of the parts separately, you need to be sure of the sizing and caliber rating of all of the parts of the build. For example, your firing pin and barrel will be caliber or cartridge specific. Many 1911 pistols are chambered in .45 ACP or 9mm Luger; many of the parts for these different pistols will not be interchangeable.

If you have any questions about the various parts in a parts kit or a build kit, reach out to us and we will see if we can provide specific information on how you can best proceed.

Ensuring the compatibility of the components you assemble is critical to ensuring the viability of the finished product. As stated, not all parts are interchangeable, and neither are all frames. If you have any questions whatsoever about compatibility or would like us to help you do some of the heavy lifting, just give us a call at 610-250-3960 and we’d be more than happy to do so.

Many people enjoy the process of assembling their own firearms from parts and build kits, and it is a very enjoyable form of recreation that also happens to be educational as well.

You won’t be able to complete the process without learning a lot about how your firearm operates, and we mean a lot. This will make it easier for you to make repairs, adjustments or replacements in the future, and it will also make it easier for you to upgrade parts.

Don’t like the way your factory trigger breaks? Not a fan of the barrel? You can swap each of these things and others out easily, especially after you assembled your own pistol from scratch.