Owning a custom pistol is almost every gun hobbyist’s dream, but there’s always a catch. Did you know that the United State’s top gunsmiths charge clients $8,000 per custom build on average? This led to the creation of builder kits to prevent us from overpaying for customized weapons.
As a custom build fan myself, one of the many builds over the years was a 1911 pistol. And all done in the comforts of my own garage. I’ve made many build mistakes but every finished product made my efforts worth it. This guide has all you need to know about which kit is your perfect match. I’ve looked at the following 1911 builder kits:
- 1911 Builders – 1911 80% Kit: This comes with aluminum, standard, and stainless-steel frames.
- Brownells – 1911 Government Model Frame: Provides a corrosion-resistant 4041 frame.
- Ed Brown Products – Rebuild Kit for 1911 Frame: My personal favorite, which consists of a variety of springs and pins to complete a 1911 build.
- Nighthawk Custom – 1911 Government Match Grade Parts Kit: Costly at $1,275 but contains every 1911 part.
- Stealth Arms – 1911 80% Complete Build Kit: Also a total package, this is cheaper than the Nighthawk Custom ($985).
- Wolff – Colt 1911/1911A1 Service Pak: This includes factory weight coil springs for a sale price of $19.99.
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Why You Should Build Your Own 1911
Crafting your own 1911 may seem tedious to many, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Why is it better to craft yourself one than let a gunsmith do it all for you? Because doing so lets you:
- Spend less money: Letting another person do all the building requires you to spend thousands in return. Top gunsmiths charge hourly rates as high as $105 depending on skill and expertise. On top of that, you pay for parts and materials. This makes even a full kit costing $1,000+ worth it.
- Customize your gun however you want it: As the owner, you can customize your gun to your liking. I often bring my tailored red Colt Delta to the range because it fits well in my hand. You can hand-file the frame based on your personal preferences.
- Challenge yourself: Making your own 1911 build could put your crafting skills to the test. It could also serve as a side project to work on. The task requires patience and practice to complete but, once you’re done, that’s a life-winning achievement.
Common 1911 Builder Kit Tools
Not all kits contain all you need for a complete weapon. However, most kits will include:
Barrels’ sizes and heights vary depending on the kit you buy. In some cases, you need to make adjustments for better bullet spin performance. My local gun shop offered me three barrel length options when I bought my Kart Precision Barrel Kit. When choosing your kit, make sure that it has the barrel you want. This will affect your bullet’s general accuracy and velocity at the range.
The frame is a gun’s “skeleton” and general shape. This is a vital part of the build, so you don’t want to see it missing in your kit. You need the frame to help you put all the parts in their right places. This tool can affect your gun’s caliber, grip, slide, barrel, and grip. A faulty frame ruins the whole build, so take extra caution decking when one.
Once your kit has a frame, expect a slide that comes along with it. The slide helps load your rounds and ejects used casings after firing. You want to have a good slider to make your 1911’s shooting performance perfect. This is to ensure that it won’t fail or get stuck when you squeeze ammunition off.
Apart from the first three parts, the trigger is also a necessity for every kit. This will determine your gun’s total accuracy. A good trigger should weigh less than 5 pounds and is a “drop-in” type. Drop-in trigger pulls are easy to install without requiring a gunsmith to do it for you. You also need to know which trigger can help you fire accurate shots. Check out our trigger pull comparison article here to see more available options.
How Difficult Is It to Build a 1911?
It takes a lot of time and effort to build a gun and this includes 1911s. Even experienced custom builders will tell you that it is never an easy process. Newbies and professionals alike have their fair share of difficulties with the task. My palms still sweat a lot due to anxiety whenever I attempt to craft a new build. You need lots of patience and motivation to make this project a huge banger. The video below can show you how Tactical Toolbox’s Jonathan Wright built his homemade 1911:
6 Best 1911 Builder Kits
Today, I will review six of the best 1911 builder kits available in the current market. I know you want the specifics so I made a summarized table for you. You can see each of my chosen kits’ data in greater detail below:
|Product Name||Manufacturer||Kit Inclusions||Price|
|1911 Builders - 1911 80% Kit||1911 Builders||Forged 416 Stainless series 70 frames (aluminum, standard, and stainless steel)|
Forged 416 match grade GI barrel
Plunger tube ss
Internal extractor ss
Skeletonized 3-hole alu trigger
Beavertail safety ss
Mainspring house ss
All fire control parts ss
Pin kit ss
|Brownells - 1911 Government Model Frame||Brownells||Standard Government Model (full-sized) single-stack frame |
.250" radius cuts for an extended beavertail safety
|Ed Brown Products - Rebuild Kit for 1911 Frame||Ed Brown Products||Mainspring Cap|
Mainspring Housing Pin Retainer
Hammer Strut Pin
Mainspring Cap Pin
Magazine Catch Lock
Safety Lock Plunger Assembly
Barrel Link Pen
Mainspring Housing Pin
Mag Catch Spring
|Nighthawk Custom - 1911 Government Match Grade Parts Kit||Brownells||Corrosion resistant stainless steel|
Pre-machined Novak front & rear sight dovetails
.250" radius on grip safety
|Stealth Arms - 1911 80% Complete Build Kit||Stealth Arms||Grip Bushings and Screws|
9 Piece Pin Set
7 (all piece) String Set
Mag Catch Assembly
Barrel, Barrel Bushing, Link, and Pin
Firing Pin Stop
Novak Fixed Sights
8 Rnd Magazine
7075 Heat Treated Aluminum (Government, Tactical, or Commander)
|Wolff - Colt 1911.1911A1 Service Pak||Brownells||Factory weight spring coils||$19.99|
1. 1911 Builders – 1911 80% Kit
1911 Builders make the finest build kits, and this one also makes the cut. One of the kit’s highlights are the various frames that it has. The frames consist of aluminum, standard, and stainless-steel types. The aluminum frame is ideal for practice 1911 builds. When I created my very first 1911, I committed an error with the decking process. I was glad that I used aluminum at the time; otherwise, my money would have been wasted. Although it costs around $1,000, the 80% Build Kit also comes with complete parts. It has a slide, a barrel, plunger tubes, and other parts. Tactical Toolbox’s Jonathan Wright did a full unboxing of it here:
Ordering this kit is a good option for both newbies and pros looking to build their own 1911s. Its inclusions allow the most customization options for builders. If you’re feeling creative with building your 1911, then this kit is your ideal buy. 1911 Builders also added a hand-cutting rail jig for personal decking experience. If this feature doesn’t scream cool enough for you, then I don’t know what would.
The only issue I have with the 80% Build Kit is its printed instructions. Although its catalog is a classy booklet, the instructions say otherwise. The kit only has instructions printed and folded on plain bond paper. 1911 Builders could have done better when making guides for their kits. Other than that, this kit is a pretty complete package.
- Includes three different frames
- HHas complete parts ranging from slides to pin kits
- Aluminum frame perfect for 1911 practice builds
- Great for experienced and new builders
- Instructions only printed on plain bond paper
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2. Brownells – 1911 Government Model Frame
Brownells’ 1911 Frame is best suited for 10mm auto fans — myself included. Its premachined specifications make it the ideal base for any custom 1911. If you read our 1911 pistol comparison article, you can make your chosen model with it. I used two of these frames for my RIA and Taurus PT. That is how superior this kit is.
Corrosion-resistant stainless steel or 4140 carbon steel are two of your frame options. Also, its oversized frame rails serve several purposes. First, they ensure your slide’s smoothness whenever you move it back and forth. Second, they also allow you to customize your slide’s fit any way you want. This video discusses about other 1911 parts that you can pair with this frame:
Like any other product, the 1911 frame also has its setbacks. Since it is a custom-fit frame, you might need to see a gunsmith to finish a decent build. Obviously, costing you even more money. Its price is also a bit expensive and you need to make separate purchases for the other parts. But if you wish to have a chic pistol, the 1911 Government Model Frame is the one to choose.
- Two types of frames to consider
- Custom-fit for any 1911 build
- Has premachined parts
- Resembles government-style pistols
- Needs professional gunsmithing help to make a decent build
- A bit pricey
- Requires separate purchases for other 1911 parts
3. Ed Brown Products – Rebuild Kit for 1911 Frame
Did you break your precious 1911 while doing dry firing routines? Maybe you’re close to finishing your build but are missing some parts? If you agreed to any of those questions, then this kit is your lucky find. Living to its name, the Rebuild Kit for 1911 Frame is great for repairing or completing your pistol. It includes all the small parts you need for your build. From mainspring caps to magazine catch locks, this 1911 rebuild kit has it all. I chose this kit as my favorite due to its piece variety and affordability.
With its sale price of $19.95, this kit provides all the small screws needed to repair or build your gun. I bought three sets of this kit due to its cheap price and range of included parts. I used one to replace my 1911’s mainspring housing five months ago. CaptainBerz’s video tutorial helped me a lot on how to use it. Here’s how he replaced his mainspring housing from the Rebuild Kit for 1911 Frame:
Take note that this 1911 rebuild kit does not contain complete components. Major parts like the frames, slides, and barrels are absent in it. Parts like the sear pin are rare finds in most of the U.S.’s gun and machinery shops. Thus, keep these tiny screws safe in case of 1911 build or repair emergencies.
- Low cost
- Complete screw and pin collections
- Ideal for 1911 repairs and completion builds
- Major 1911 parts not included
- Small screws easy to misplace
4. Nighthawk Custom – 1911 Government Match Grade Parts Kit
Are you looking for a 1911 builder kit that has it all? You can consider investing in the 1911 Government Match Grade Parts Kit. It includes all the major and minor parts that every 1911 junkie needs for a complete build. Name any required part and this monster kit never fails to deliver.
Although the box houses all the materials, the parts are in separate resealable bags. These give the kit a neat look. Brownells use only the highest-quality stainless steel to craft all pieces. The manufacturer’s website posted a thorough description of the kit.
Since the parts are stainless steel, this allows anyone to handle them with bare hands. The hypoallergenic material in stainless steel prevents allergic reactions from appearing. Like the 1911 Government Model Frame, every piece got pre-machined for ideal finishes. The Grades Parts Kit also provides detailed instructions on how to use it.
If there’s a downside to this amazing kit, you might guess that it’s the price. Every complete and high-quality product comes with a high cost ($1,275). Another ironic thing to point out is the lack of a frame. You need to make a separate buy for a frame to use the kit’s pieces. Even so, I often recommend this kit every time a passionate gun builder asks me for gear advice. This total kit is worth the money that you spend.
- Includes most major and all minor parts for a full-custom 1911 build
- Premachined for great fits and finishes
- Steel made of hypoallergenic material
- Parts separated and organized with resealable plastic bags
- Lack of frame
- Very pricey
5. Stealth Arms – 1911 80% Complete Build Kit
The next best kit on this list is from Stealth Arms. Like the Nighthawk Custom, this kit is also a complete package. We start off by talking about the frame. The frame is aluminum and weighs 4.5 ounces, lighter than standard steels. This fits both newbies and pros who plan to build their custom 1911s. The frame’s weight makes it easy to carry but is subject to more recoil.
Another thing worth mentioning is the labeling. As advertised on their website, Stealth Arms stick labels on each piece. I bought one for my brother-in-law on his birthday two years back. He said that the tags helped him remember which part is which.
The Stealth Arms build kit can accommodate different calibers. It doesn’t matter if you have 9mm, 10mm, or even 40 Smith & Wesson — this kit could handle everything. Its manual even provides simple and clear instructions for proper use. Stealth Arms also has a “one screw up” policy for their kits. You can exchange a faulty frame with a new one at a lower cost. Click on the video below to watch this awesome kit’s detailed review.
The Stealth Arms build kit’s only catch is, you guessed it again, it’s pricing. Although a bit cheaper than the Nighthawk Custom, this kit still costs $1,000 to buy. Whether you are an expert builder or a newbie, I recommend this build kit with pride.
- Comes with complete parts
- Works on various calibers
- Every part has a label for easy identification and recall
- Aluminum frame weighs only 4.5 ounces
- Clear and detailed instructions provided
- Has a “one screw up” policy
- Recommended for novice and expert builders
6. Wolff – Colt 1911/1911A1 Service Pak
The last kit in this review is the Colt 1911/1911A1 Service Pak. This kit comes with factory weight coil springs. The coil spring set is ideal for refurbishing or repairing Colt pistol builds. Its modest price of $19.99 also adds to the charm of this particular build kit. Due to popular demand, Wolff also manufactures chrome silicone material for their springs. This is a much softer spring material than the HTCS. This causes the Colt to fire less powerful projectiles when.
Unlike most of the other kits we have about earlier, the Service Pak doesn’t come with fancy packaging. The kit houses its springs with a long and transparent plastic resealable bag. This is not an issue for me since I don’t focus on packaging designs that much. When I unboxed mine, the kit had printed labels covering its front and back. It also includes folded instructions about the springs and how to use them. This video covers an overview of the Service Pak.
The only issue I have with the Service Pak is its limited number of components. It only comes with conventional and firing pin recoil springs for replacing the Colt’s small parts. Thus, the Service Pak is not enough to build an entire custom 1911. This kit is great when you only need to change your pistol’s springs and nothing else.
- Very affordable price
- Small and compact
- Choose between chrome silicone or HTCS materials for springs
- Designed for Colt 1911
- Missing major and other minor 1911 parts
- Not enough resources to complete or build full-custom pistols
Which Kit Is the Best?
Every 1911 builder kit delivers according to your needs for your build. A 1911 builders’ kit is suitable for countless customization options. For low price value and part variety, I recommend Ed Brown Product’s Rebuild Kit for 1911 Frame. If you want the complete package, you can go with rebuild kits from either Nighthawk Custom or Stealth Arms. Which 1911 builder kit suits your taste? I would love to read your answers in the comments section below.Â