I own an older Colt 1911 that has been completely unmodified since its purchase in the early 1980’s. It has original iron sights and shot occasionally throughout the years, but I did keep it very clean.
My question is: I would like to do a few upgrades to make it an accurate shooter and maybe replace the sights. The gun feels “loose” to me and although it cycles very well, I can’t say it’s very accurate beyond about 15-20 feet. Where should I start and what kind of investment should I expect to make so that this is an accurate shooter for plinking and home defense, as well as upgrading the sights?
-Dave of Cherry Hill, NJ
Thanks for the question. The best advice that we can give you about reworking your Colt 1980’s 1911 would be to not do it at all. Leave it the way it is. While that might sound disappointing, here is the reason behind it.
There was an unfortunate period of decades within the Colt Company, between the mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s, which are representative of some poor decisions, internal turmoil and a severe lack of quality control. These factors contributed to an unfortunate but very real situation in that a great majority of the firearms produced during this time, and yes, including the 1911 line, were sub-par. In other words, it produced junk. Bouncing barrels, loose slide-to-frame fit, poor triggers and general inaccuracy marred the name of Colt at the time. However, it have come back with a vengeance since and strives to reinvent the quality that had been the Colt name.
Now, being that we strive to cover all bases, were you too insistently stomp your feet about getting the gun worked on, here is what you would most likely be facing:
- New barrel and bushing, match grade would be required to make this a good shooter. The cost is about $350.00.
- New sights, which you did ask about, but sights alone would not make this gun a shooter. Front sight ripped out and a dovetail for the front sight would be cut. Rear sight would be a Novak style and cost about $150 – $200. Double if you wanted night sights.
- Trigger job and internal replacements if necessary. Plan on around $100.
So you are looking at around a $600.00 investment just to bring the gun up to par. To make it a real shooter would require some hand fitting of the slide to frame, throat work, lowering the ejection port, etc. That kind of work would double your investment.
I’m sure you can see why the advice would be to not do the work and instead take the money and invest it into a new Colt 1911. Your gun may even have greater value the way it is, being that it is representative as a period piece in its original, unchanged condition, sad a shooter as it may be.Special thanks to Sean Reed for his advice on this question.