When I published the first in this series back in June I had no idea it would be over three months before the next installment, but here we are. It’s not because I’m a lazy schmuck (though I am) but because I was waiting for the final (?) parts to arrive- the Bar-Sto Semi-Fitted bull barrel, heavy guide-rod and reverse recoil-plug which have finally arrived.
This is no slam against Bar Sto; it says right on their web-site that with one thing and another it might take 12 weeks to get your barrel. OK, it took 13, but I’m not going to carp over one week. At last my eagerly awaited components arrived and I was ready to start.
Bar St says the semi-fitted barrel will require some fitting, and of course it did, but it took surprisingly little. I’ll say it with pictures-
This led to the actual first-step, which was assembling the gun with the barrel to see what needed to be done. This was pain-free, as the barrel came with an appropriate link already attached. The barrel-hood did not fit the cut-out in the slide, which required a few minutes careful filing. on the right-side of the lug. This is done with the barrel in a padded vice, cutting only on the push-stroke; if you saw the file back-and-forth you will inevitably go off-square and you’ll dull the file. Once the hood was filed-to-fit the gun almost went into battery. I consulted the sharpy marked section and there was one tiny mark in the ink at the bottom of the space between the lugs on the left-hand side. I kissed it with the file and the gun locked up proper. I remarked the lugs etc. and cycled the gun vigorously several times, and the fit is tight but it cycled without producing much in the way of wear marks. Moving on…
…and this is where things went a bit sideways, and it was entirely my fault. For some reason- I’m going to go with stupid here- I utterly failed to note the outside diameter of the recoil plug. Had I done so I would have noticed that it’s significantly smaller than the slide-stirrup. My only experience with reverse-recoil plugs is from Detonics, which was several decades ago. They cut the stirrup to fit the recoil plug, which had a rim that matched the stirrup. The Bar-Sto unit is designed to be sleeved into the stirrup. Read on for the results…
Feeling quite pleased with myself I assembled the gun for the first time in it’s final for and… oh. That’s not right.
OK, I screwed up. This is where I realized the recoil-plug was supposed to fit inside the reamed-out stirrup, not have the stirrup cut away. Bugger. Nothing for it now, I supposed, so I loaded a magazine and cycled the action… and the gun wouldn’t go into battery. Removing the barrel and checking I discovered the cartridges were about 1mm short of seating in the chamber. I pulled out a .45 ACP finishing reamer and carefully reamed the chamber by hand until the cartridge seated perfectly.
I’m not certain, but I seem to recall reading that the chambers of match barrels are deliberately cut short so that they can be cut precisely once the barrel is fitted. maybe so, maybe not, but after that the gun hand-cycled cartridges from the magazine just fine.
Of course there’s still that unsightly gap, and while I test-fired the gun in this state it didn’t stay that way. For convenience I’ll describe the work now and discuss the test firing below.
After consulting a couple of 1911 boffins the solution was to make a recoil-plug with a rim of the proper diameter. I have a lathe and had some O-1 tool-steel rod on hand, so this was accomplished pretty quickly.
With that accomplished there was one thing on the gun that I did not like- the beavertail grip safety. I mean, I’m a fan of the concept, but this one made me nervous. something about it’s shape always made me feel like I might not activate it at a crucial time. I have always kept my thumb on the safety while firing, and this grip-safety did not work well with that. It wasn’t comfortable, and on one or two occasions my grip failed to deactivate is. Can’t have that of course, so I considered replacing it. Pulling it out and looking it over I determined that I could probably modify it to suit, and I did so.
The new profile allows a higher, more comfortable grip, and more importantly I now cannot grip the gun in a firing position without deactivating the grip-safety.
The first trip to the range was with the original too-small recoil-plug. The load used was a mid-range one; a 200gr. LRNFP over 6.2gr. of Universal with a Winchester WLP primer. I fired a hundred rounds, and the only issue was some light primer strikes. That was a bit baffling; the gun had never done this before and I had not messed with that part of the mechanism. OK then. I cleaned the firing pin hole and firing pin, then installed a stiffer mainspring. Problem solved.
By the second trip I had fitted the new recoil-plug, and fifty rounds of the reload listed above and a couple magazines of my 200gr. Speer ‘Flying Ashtray’ JHP load went downrange without issue. I was starting to get a feel for the gun, and liking it. A lot.
The third trip was thing morning. Another fifty rounds of my handloads, and I decided to try some factory ammo. Ggasping from sticker-shock, I bought a box of Selior & Bellot 230gr Ball ammo and tried them out. Now, I have not always had the best of luck with S&B ammo, but it’s what they had on hand. I didn’t have the best luck this time either; on initial loading the gun failed to go into battery. A slight tap remedied this. Out of fifty rounds I experienced maybe a half-dozed failures of this sort. No feed issues, mind you, or any other mishaps.
Not awfully surprising that there have been no feed issues; you can hand-cycle a full magazine of empty cases from the magazine! Curious about the failures to go into battery, I measured the loaded S&B ammo, and at the case’s throat they are .470″. This is well within spec for .45 ACP ammunition. Next I measured my handloads, and they came out at .465″. That’s only five thousandths of an inch smaller, but apparently it is juuuust enough to occasionally impede it from going into battery. Huh.
I considering whether to re-ream the chamber; it’s pretty tight obviously. On the other hand for my purposes being iffy with factory ammo is not a huge concern; I don’t normally shoot factory ammo. We’ll see.
I think all the major work is done; I’d like to refinish the slide, and might replace some springs etc. simply as maintenance items, but the gun is pretty much finished as-is. It’s tight, reliable and accurate with the loads I intend to use in it. I’ll need to make a holster or two, as I never made one for this gun.
Hopefully as things get back towards normal, whatever that is, I’ll shoot some Action Shooting International matches and generally have fun with this gun. I think the friend that gave me this gun would be pleased with how it’s turned out.
Stay safe, and take care.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 2 October 2021
If you like what you read here, please consider clicking the link above and supporting me on Patreon.