27 May 2015

Going Out On A Shaky Branch

A term, gun smith, is far more apt than most people realize.

They're really the last smithies.

Not a bad thing.

But what a gunsmith isn't is a manufacturing engineer.

Lots and lots of people who learn some smithing start to thinking they know how to manufacture.  But they don't.  I'll admit there's some smiths out there who've got their smithing down and crank out some decent volume.


I'll stop hinting around the edges.

I'm talking about 1911's.

I've lost count of the number of posts on various blogs about how 1911's are built all wrong, here's how to fix them.  Then a detailed thesis on tightening the shit out of it.

OK, Smith, how long did that take you?

Remington-Rand went from making typewriters in March 1942 and by three years later had cranked out more than 875,000 of the things.  That's about 800 a day.  Assuming two shifts, that's about 50 an HOUR.

It's actually higher than that because they used up most of 1942 and a good part of 1943 getting tooled up and fixing manufacturing problems.

I can't find how many people worked there.  In 1937 there were 500 employees manning a picket line who got into a row with 100 replacements.  In 1955 there were 2,500 people when Sperry bought the company, but they weren't making guns by then.  So let's split the difference and say 1,500 people working two eight hour shifts.  12,000 man-hours per day, or 15 man-hours per gun.  Edit: It was probably a lot fewer hours per gun since the 1,500 employees includes managers and administrative personnel.

That's from raw steel to shooting gun.

That's with 100% parts interchange.  This was why much of 1943 was lost production, Remington-Rand's guns worked, but they didn't interchange fully.

That's with scheduled and random checks where guns were pulled and had to digest 6,000 rounds without a stoppage or breakage or the whole lot was discarded and destroyed.

Did I mention that this was done without drawings?  Prospective manufacturers were given a pattern set of parts to make their own fixtures and jigs and to figure out their own processes.

But the point is 15 hours from blanks to gun and all the guns worked and all the parts swapped.

I don't think we can say that about Springfield Armory and Colt for parts swapping.  I know I've read stories where a gun had lots of feed problems and the shooter was told by the manufacturer that it was in its break-in period, and not to call back until at least 600 rounds had been fired.

I think I will concur with the smiths, 1911's are being built wrong.  They don't work out of the box and they don't parts interchange.

Part of the disconnect here is the makers of the M1911A1 were cranking out jeeps and people today are expecting Corvettes.


  1. 1911s are built wrong? HERESY! They have BLASPHEMED the PERFECT TRUTH of St. John Moses Browning! _Persecute! Persecute!_ Eradicate the infidels and heretics who deny the perfect goodness of St. John Moses Browning's designs! PURGE THE UNCLEAN!

    1. Two words. Series 80.

      Four more. Mainspring housing with lock.

    2. You will need to join the Colt forum to read this, they are scans of the Dec 1942 edition of Machinery magazines special insert on manufacturing the 1911, written by Colts production manager, down to types and sizes of steel stock for every part. 14 pages.
      Ever think about how hard it would be to cut the locking slots up inside the slide?


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