John Moses Browning. Some refer to him as the God of Guns, some worship him, and some people value the lessons he learned and shared with us. The man was an amazing engineer and a brilliant gunsmith. He came from a family of pioneers and became one himself. His ingenuity gave us several designs that are still in use today, He was definitely a pioneer in the firearms industry. The best known of his designs was the 1911 pistol.
The original Browning design was made from standard hardened steel. Continuing into the late 1970’s and early 80’s, all 1911 frames were made of steel. Somewhere along the line, it was decided to start making the frames out of aluminum, which made the gun lighter and cheaper to produce. As they continued production, many companies jumped on the band wagon and started producing models of their own, thus flooding the market with good quality and bad quality firearms, as well as opening up the market for custom 1911 pistols as people started shooting them in the newly organized competitions.
My training with 1911 pistols came from one of those custom shops. I learned to build the gun from the rough cut frame up to a match grade firearm. Since then, I have built several and tuned up even more. I have learned over time how to completely remodel the gun to make it run faster and more accurate. The problem with custom guns is that they are expensive and take a lot of time to get them perfect. Not everyone can afford to spend that kind of money when they can buy a production model that is just as good, but not hand-tuned.
As I was going through my training, I constantly heard the phrase “steel is real.” This came from a Master Gunsmith that hated the polymer gun idea. He used to tell me that if God wanted us to use polymer guns he wouldn’t have given us Mr. Browning. My learning included almost every one of Mr. Browning’s works. However, we are still faced with the polymer guns of the world. I will always prefer steel, but polymer and aluminum work. and they work well.
I have recently been working on a newer design that included an 80% aluminum 1911 frame with a polymer grip. The upper part of the frame required a small amount of machining to make it where it could be built into a firearm. At first, I was a little leery of the design. However, as I got into the build, it seems to be a good quality way to build a nice carry gun and keep the weight down, which a nice feature in an everyday carry firearm. The gun is requiring the same custom fitting of the slide to the frame rails, the barrel and locking assembly and the safeties as the standard aluminum or steel frame 1911 I expect to have this firearm finished in the next couple of weeks and look forward to test firing it.
As I got into this build, I tried to look at the good and the bad (biased to the bad). I found less and less wrong with the design and more positives out of it. Has someone managed to improve on the 100-year-old design again? It appears so. The grip fits nicely in the hand and is very comfortable.
Now this kind of build is not for everyone. If you don’t have (or don’t know how to use) a milling machine, don’t try it. As I continue along on this adventure with new materials and new designs and the gun comes together, I hope to find that it performs the same as (if not better than) the original steel frame gun did so many years ago.
I really do hope that it continues to prove me wrong, because in the end “steel is real,” but a 1911 is a 1911 and they will always be one of the many amazing designs of John Moses Browning.