Building the 1911: Making the Nation’s Favorite Handgun Iain Harrison September 20th, 2012 | More From Iain Harrison Share0 Tweet Email Share on Facebook.Share on Twitter.Share on Google+After all the hoopla last year concerning the 1911, you might have thought someone would have made a pilgrimage to the source to see how the gun was actually made after 100 years. No one has ever accused me of being punctual, so here’s a little behind-the-times, behind-the-scenes tour of the Colt plant and what it takes to make a 45. Colt is going through some big changes at the moment due to a massive investment in new machinery. Some machine tools have been in almost continuous operation at the plant since they were driven by overhead belts, and many are being replaced by state-of-the-art CNC machining centers, which is good for us consumers, as it usually means increased productivity, shorter lead times, more product choices and better quality. Despite all the changes, JMB himself would feel right at home on the shop floor and maybe just a little proud that his iconic design is still going strong. GALLERY: Building the 1911: Making the Nation's Favorite Handgun 1 of 16 <h2>Ready for Service</h2>Raw forgings arrive from the foundry, ready for machine operations. There are other ways of making a 1911 frame, but beating red-hot steel with massive hammers has its own set of benefits. Besides, it’s a manly way to make a manly gun. <h2>Ready for Service</h2>Raw forgings arrive from the foundry, ready for machine operations. There are other ways of making a 1911 frame, but beating red-hot steel with massive hammers has its own set of benefits. Besides, it’s a manly way to make a manly gun. <h2>Steel Grain</h2>Like wood, forged steel exhibits a grain structure. When correctly oriented, this grain provides greater resistance to the shear forces generated when the pistol cycles. <h2>Precision Frames</h2>The 1911 frame requires many machine operations to complete, some of which are performed more efficiently on older tools. Here, the front strap and trigger guard are partially profiled. <h2>Cutting the Channel</h2>One of the most difficult operations to perform on modern equipment is cutting the channel for the trigger bow. The machines performing this operation have been in service since the plant first started making 1911s – as one is in use, the other is being rebuilt. <h2>Heavy Lifting</h2>Most of the heavy lifting is done on CNC machine centers like this one. <h2>Processed Frames</h2>Multiple frames are loaded into the machine and batch processed, saving time and handling. <h2>On the Rack</h2>The frames are placed on a rack together before the next step. <h2>Engraving</h2>Once fully machined and inspected, the frames are laser engraved with a serial number. At this point, a hunk of steel becomes a firearm. <h2>Polishing</h2>No machine is capable of handling the intricacies of polishing – a real, live and highly-skilled human is responsible for the final finishing of your 1911. <h2>In-House Barrels</h2>Barrels are produced in house on a CNC lathe. <h2>Profiling the Barrels</h2>After turning on the lathe, another CNC mill profiles the locking lugs and barrel feet. <h2>Rifling the Barrels</h2>Barrels are then rifled and chambered. Here, a rifling broach is seen next to the barrel it just produced. <h2>Slides Forged</h2>Slides also start out as forgings before making their way through the factory. <h2>Hand Fitting</h2>Once all parts have been manufactured, they come together for final hand fitting. <h2>Approved By...</h2>Once assembled and checked, the pistol is stamped on the trigger guard with the assembler’s initial. <h2>Proof Firing</h2>Guns are then proof fired at the range before being boxed up and shipped. Share on Facebook.Share on Twitter.Share on Google+ Share0 Tweet Email Load Comments ( ) Don’t forget to sign up! Get the Top Stories from Guns & Ammo Delivered to Your Inbox Every Week Even More For the Love of Competition Show More Get the Guns & Ammo Newsletter FREE! Get the top stories delivered right to your inbox every week. 9 Awesomely Creative Ways to Kill ZombiesRead Now! Advertisement ▶ Now on Tablets! Subscribe & Save! Temporary Price Reduction! Subscribe Now Give a Gift | Subscriber Services LIKE WHAT YOU'RE READING? Get 12 issues for the low price of just $9! Subscribe!