Category Archives: Firearms Building and Gunsmithing

How to build and/or gunsmith on certain platforms.

Do you want replacement grip panels for your RIA A2 HC pistol? Check out Guuun Grips

In the first post, I told you about Stoner CNC for grips made from G10 composite, in the second I told you about a great option for wood – Browne Works and in this third post, we’ll cover a firm with a unique name and good grips.

The firm is called Guun Grips and they make custom G10 grips for bunch of pistol models and different styles of grips. You can find their offerings on their own website as well as tons of listings on eBay and Amazon. It’s my understanding that the grips are made in China and then sold in the US via Aurora, Colorado. So much is made in China these days that I’m not very surprised – it is interesting to note that when you search on them there are lots of satisfied 1911 and CZ.75 owners running their grip plates.

For the RIA A2 HC pistols, I could not find a listing on either Amazon or eBay but you can buy them directly off their store in either a black or grey color.

The grip plates are machined from G10 composite and available in either black or grey.
The back of the plates show good attention to detail. All edges are well formed and smooth.

Installation was very straight forward – unscrew the pair of grip screws and put on the new panel. I did need to do some light filing on the right side to get the G10 panels to sit flat and the holes to line up accordingly. Oddly enough, the left side went right on.

The plate does not want to sit flat or line up with the holes in the frame. These are indications that fitting is needed. It doesn’t take much filing to get them to fit.
The G10 files easily – use a dust mask as you really shouldn’t be breathing composite dust. Go slow and take your time – file, test fit and repeat until the plates sit flush.
The left two plates are the Guuun models and the right is the original RIA. You can see the slight differences in the number of divots and grooves as well as the depth of them. The Guuun grips actually feel quite good.
Once the plate is seated nicely flat on the frame the grip screws are reinstalled.
You know, I like the feel better than the original RIA plates. “Feel” is a subjective thing – but I do like the way the plate feels in my hand.
A closer view
And of the other side.

Summary

The Guuun grip plates are nicely made. To be honest, I didn’t expect them to be made very well but they are – the material, machining and finishing are all very good.

So, here’s another option for you whether you want to stick with black and have a different feel or opt for their grey color.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Do you want wood replacement grip panels for your RIA A2 HC pistol? Check out Browne Works

In the last post, I told you about Stoner CNC for grips made from G10 composite and in this one, I want to tell you a great option for wood – Browne Works, Inc.

Mark Browne is the owner of Browne Works, Inc., located in Pasadena, MD, southeast of Baltimore. He is a true custom grip maker and sands and finishes them by hand with a very wide offering for pistol models including the 1911, Beretta 92, Hudson G9, Llama, SIg Sauer and, of course, the Rock Island single and double stack pistols.

For Rock Island pistols he has a wide variety of offerings for the Ultra and Tac Ultra both FS and MS models. He also has them for the A2 HC (like I needed) plus the BBR. The pricing is very reasonable also and he has a variety of materials you can choose from – click here for his website.

The wood is Brazilian Rosewood. Mark added hardener and did a double diamond pattern on it. There is a satin finish sealant on them as well. I think they look amazing – the photos don’t do them justice.
Mark can do laser engraving if you want. He does engrave his logo on the back of each panel plus it shows you the attention to detail in terms of the finishing he does.

Installation was very straight forward – unscrew the pair of grip screws and put on the new panel. I did need to do some light filing to get the wood panels to sit flat and the holes to line up accordingly.

I did need to remove some off the bottom. I used a smooth file and would take a tad off in a straight line along the bottom and test repeatedly until the panel fit nice and snug.

Now I need to insert something here that Mark did that really helped me out. The photos in this post are actually of my second set. On the rear of the grip is a tab that covers a slot. I don’t know what happened but it cracked on my original right side plate. I contacted Mark and he told me he would make a new one and add hardener and use the cool double diamond pattern and he didn’t charge me! He had no idea who I was or that I planned a blog post – I never said anything. He took care of me and that speaks a lot about him and his customer service right there.

The grips look great!
And the other plate is fitted – the screws were next on the to-do list.
These grips are really nice. I never thought I would go with wood but I am leaving these plates on my pistol.
Both in terms of looks and how they feel, these

Summary

I’m not always a wood fan but to be perfectly honest, I like these – a lot. The checkering really gives you a nice grip without biting into your hand. They are staying on the pistol!

When it comes to Browne Works for RIA A2 HC pistols – I definitely recommend them based on my experience.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Do you want replacement grip panels for your RIA A2 HC pistol? Check out Stoner CNC

Because we sell customized magazines for the Rock Island A2 HC pistols – their staggered magazine pistols based on the Para design that hold 14-17 rounds depending on caliber – I am often asked if I make grip panels – the slabs that go on each side of the magazine housing. The short answer is no – I don’t make them. The next question is usually – do you know anyone who does and again, I’d answer no.

Well, if I get asked something enough eventually my curiosity perks up so I started digging. There are a couple of key things you need to know:

  • The Rock Island A2 HC pistols have very wide magazine wells so they use relative thin proprietary grip plates that are not compatible with regular 1911 pistols.
  • The bushings that are normally replaceable in a 1911 part of the A2 HC frame and can not be easily relaced. I don’t know for sure but I think they did this to keep the thickness down
  • They use unique screws – the screws are #10-32. Overall length is 0.205″ and the threaded shaft is about 0.145″. Advanced Tactical (the online retail business unit of Armscor) sells replacement screws and sometimes they pop up elsewhere. The key point is that they are not standard 1911 grip panel screws.
Here’s a good view if the integral bushings that are part of the frame. Probably to keep the overall thickness down, costs as well I bet, separate bushings were not used.

So who sells grip panels? Option 1: Stoner CNC

I found three vendors and ordered in panels for testing. I’m doing this first post on the first box I opened – no super secret selection crtieria. This first set came from Stoner CNC.

Matt Stoner is the owner of Stoner CNC located in Archbold, Ohio, and makes grip panels from G10 composite for just a ton of pistols – 1911, Kimber, Ruger, Springfield Armory, Beretta, RIA and more. I ran into one small snag – I couldn’t find any recent reviews, his Facebook page was last updated in 2019 and nobody answered emails from his website while I was searching. I kept digging and what I found out is that he also sells on eBay and on Amazon so I went ahead and ordered two sets of panels from eBay [Click here for the listing] and they arrived six days later — by the way, he also did reply to the email just before they arrived I think. My guess is that he’s like a lot of small businesses (including mine) – stretched thin trying to keep all the balls in the air – manufacturing, emails, Facebook, etc.

As of my writing this, he doesn’t have them listed on eBay or Amazon but does have the panels that you need on his website. He only offers one series of plates that he calls “Slash & Burn” under the 1911 doublestack listing on the main page. From there you can pick the color and specify what model frame the panels will go on. The RIA Short is for pistols with the factory mag well flare (the big bell bottom on the A2 HC pistols) installed and the Long model is if you have removed / don’t have the flare.

These are the “Slash & Burn” grips for double stack 1911s and they are for the RIA Short (Magwell) meaning the factory mag well flare is installed. He does offer a long cut if you do not have the magwell flare installed.
The machining of the G10 is nicely done. It seemed plenty strong from what I could tell.

Installation is very straight forward – unscrew the pair of screws and put on the new panel. I did not need to sand anything to fit. You’ll notice the holes are a little on the large side so you can move the panels a hair if you need to. If you must trim them to fit, look very carefully at the bottom at it may be hitting the flare and just need a bit of material removed. Again , mine went right on.

The far right plates are the Stoner Slash & Burn in Black. The middle plates are the originals from RIA and, of course, you can see the blue ones on the pistol.

Summary

They are well made, affordable and give you different color options. There is a little bit more of a positive feeling meaning I can feel the ridges and get more of a grip whereas the original RIA plates seem a tad smoother.

Bottom line, if you want something other than black then Stoner has you covered. If I had it to do over, I would have gotten another color for the second set other than black.

Would I recommend them – yes and I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Do you really have backup iron sights (BUIS) that you can count on? A lot of shooters do not and it’s not just the fault of the hardware

I’m sure there are a lot of shooters like me who buy and install back up iron sites on their weapons just in case the optic fails. Except for pure range toys that will never see use beyond having fun, I do think BUIS are a really good idea – optics fail for any number of reasons with batteries being dead quite possibly being the #1 issue – especially given how folks love their red dot, green dot and holographic sights. You need a backup for aiming your firearm.

What happens if the battery in the Vortex dies? Well, I do have the backup Magpul sights … right?

A quick comment about “BUIS” – it stands for Back Up Iron Sights. I’m a creature of habit and that’s how they were first introduced to me but not everyone uses that term. For example, Magpul calls their units MBUS – Magpul Back-Up Sights. Other’s just say “back up sights” or even just “attachable” or “folding” sights. So, if you are wanting to search and see what your options are, it will take some searching.

Four Camps of BUIS Users

In talking with shooters, regardless of their firearm platform (AR, AK, Stribog, HK, etc.) about their BUIS, I usually find they fit in one of four camps:

  1. Installed the BUIS and run them full time with their optic in a co-witness manner
  2. Installed the BUIS and periodically use them in a co-witness model but fold them down when not in use
  3. Installed the BUIS and only use them when needed but did sight them in. For example, if they need to remove the optic to deploy the sights or are using offset sights and tilt the weapon 45 degrees to use them.
  4. Attached the units to the Picatinny rail, did not sight them in and have never actually practiced using them to hit targets at the range … “but have them just in case”.

With scenario #1, you know those sights will work – it doesn’t matter if the scope is powered off as long as you can see through the glass.

With #2 & #3 – the sights will probably work as long as you can see through the glass or otherwise see them. Hopefully the shooter has practiced enough how to use the units.

The last one is the most concerning – camp #4 – to be honest, a person in this camp doesn’t really have a backup. Yeah, they have the sights but they aren’t dialed in and lack experience with them. This is a gamble you do not want to take. If this describes you – please don’t take it personally and read the next section – I want to help.

As far as I know, all BUIS are two parts – a front sight and a back sight. In the above photo – I am using Magpul polymer MBUS folding units and are on each far end of the top rail. They fold down until needed and then spring p when you push a lever on each.

If You Are In Camp #4…

First off, I am glad you invested in BUIS – if you are reading this and you haven’t yet, then do so. With that said, do you have quality units or did you buy something dirt cheap off Amazon or eBay. I’d recommend going with a brand name and not cheap airsoft import stuff – I like Magpul (they have a ton of models so click here to see them) plus, in all fairness, there are other quality BUIS sets from the likes of ARMS, Bobro, DiamondHead, Troy and others. Cheap stuff may not hold their zero or break easily. Buy quality to have true BUIS that you can count on.

Second, make sure they are mounted properly. Did you follow the instructions from the vendor who made them? Sometimes there is more to do than slap them on the Picatinny Rail.

Your backup sights should have come with instructions and any specialized tools – be sure to read and follow them. The little black key you see is used for adjusting a Magpul front sight.

Second, you need to sight in the BUIS. I use a laser to help get in the ballpark in the shop and then I do the final tuning at the range. Read up on the recommended range for your firearm and type of optic. For rifles, I go for 50 yards because then you are then zeroed for 50 yards and at 200. The BUIS are just that – emergency backups. I look to be in the ballpark with them and am not looking for perfection but some guys are amazingly proficient with them.

Third, absolutely take them to the range and practice with them!!! Buying, installing and zeroing the BUIS are only part of the game – you must also know how to use them. If they fold, practice on opening and closing them while shooting. If they are offset, practice transitioning to them. Bottom line, you need to practice hitting targets with them and adjust the sights and what you are doing accordingly. The more you practice the greater the odds that things will work when you need them. If you don’t practice then you are taking a huge gamble both on the BUIS and your ability to use them – so don’t gamble.

Magpul sells both basic polymer and pro steel versions of their MBUS. Above is a polymer rear unit on one of my ARs. I fold both the rear and front sights flat until needed – the small lever you see to the left of the mounting screw both releases the sight so it flips open via a spring and then locks up up right. I can count on them because they are zeroed and I practice with them.

Summary

The whole reason I wrote this is that it seems like I have encountered a lot of shooters this past year that had BUIS and fell square in camp 4 – they had never sighted them in or practiced with them. This is very concerning to me – they are gambling on something that shouldn’t be left to chance. So, yes, I think BUIS are a great idea but you need to sight them in and regularly practice using them also. If you don’t, then your backup probably isn’t a backup.

I hope this gives you some food for thought.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Are Rock Island Armory Double Stack 9mm 1911-Style A2 HC-series Pistols Any Good?

Rock Island Armory (RIA) is a brand name that is owned by Armscor Global Defense located in Marakina, Philippines. Armscor obtained a license from the Philippine government in 1952 to begin making firearms. In 1980 it became Arms Corporation of the Philippines (ArmsCor) and in the mid-80s they bought the US brand “Rock Island Armory” and began exporting firearms to the US. They have invested in quality improvement and automation to create their wide variety of firearms offered today. They also have opened plants in the US – one in Stevensville, MT, and the other in Pahrumo, NV.

In March 2022, a Philippine TV crew visited the Armscor factory in Marakina and produced this nice video that focuses mainly on their 1911 production area:

The reason I wanted to share this with you is that RIA pistols do have a long history and Armscor is not some fly by night company. This is my opinion – I would describe RIA 1911 pistols as being designed, built and sold to shooters who want an acceptable 1911 without spending a fortune. They are not claiming to turn out semi-custom pistols – instead, good enough pistols at an affordable price point.

In marketing, when you are trying to hit a certain price point to attract the buyers you are after, you have to figure out the features, the materials, and process combination to get you there. Now reliability and accuracy are features also so this needs to be factored in – the pistols need to be good enough but not necessarily over the top – even though we wish they were.

Ok, but are the 9mm HC 17 round pistols “good”?

So let’s go back to the question – are they good? For the price, yes. You can’t compare them to far higher end pistols such as Stacatto or Bul – it’s simply not fair. It would be like comparing a daily-driver economy model Ford or GM car to a BMW. Yes, they are all cars but the engineering and attention to detail during manufacturing in the BMW are going to be very different. They are for different markets comprised on people with different disposable income levels and tastes – and have different price points.

The two pistols I am discussing to be clear are the 9mm RIA A2 HC pistols – the 51679 Tac Ultra FS HC and the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC – by the way, FS means “Full Size” and HC means “high capacity” because they hold 17 rounds in staggered magazines.

The frames and slides are made from 4140 alloy steel via CNC and they do have QA steps. The barrel seems to be pretty decent but then the price point issue begins to creap in.

I bought four of the A2 HC 80% frames back when I was doing R&D on magazines for the 10mm/..40 S&W calibers (they use the same magazine design) and also the 9mm magazines. What not everyone knows is that these pistols also share a common frame. I installed the RIA magazine catch and ejector but they milled all of the holes and applied, as you can see, a very decent parkerized finish.
Here are two 80% frames with the top one holding a 10mm magazine and dummy red A-Zoom round. The bottom one has a 9mm magazine. The blue round is an A-zoom snap cap and I don’t use or recommend them any longer as the bullet is shaped very differently than a 115gr or 124gr FMJ round so you may think feeding will work when it doesn’t. I sure found that out the hard way.ĵ

For example, to keep costs down, Armscor uses metal injection molded (MIM) parts. I know through first hand experience, the extractors are MIM and they will not have the longevity of a forged part made from tool steel such as one from Wilson Combat *but* the extractors can be replaced if you ever have a problem so it’s not like you suddenly have a boat anchor and that’s one of the beauties of 1911-style pistols – there is a huge aftermarket parts industry and tons of websites/forums out there to help you sort out what is going on not to mention 1911 gunsmiths and that Armscor has good warranty service – I’ve had to avail on it twice – one on a 6″ 10mm Big Rock and also on a 9mm Tac Ultra that had failure to extract issues … and on that one, there was something seriously wrong because just replacing the extractor didn’t work. [Click here for a post I wrote about my extractor journeys with RIA 9mms].

The top is the original Armscor extractor and the claw snapped off. The bottom is a forged tool steel Wilscon Combat. If you run into an issue, read the post I wrote and upgrade to a Wilson.

They also use a parkerized finish and its applied very nicely. There is a but coming – but parkerizing leaves a rough finish and means they need to wear in more compared to other brands that use a different finish and/or have careful polishing and tuning while parts are assembled.

Every parkerized RIA pistol that I have seen has a very nice consistent finish on it. The left pistol is the TAC and you can tell due to the bushing, normal barrel and no checkering on the grip. The right pistol is the Match. It has a bull barrel, full length guide rod and checkering on the front of the grip. The rear sights differ but you can’t see them in this photo.
That’s an 80% frame with no modifications right next to it’s finished cousin – a 51679 Tac Ultra. Under the pistol is one of our tuned Mec-Gar P18 magazines with a Dawon +200 base plate. Click here for our 9mm RIA magazine offerings.

Conclusion

This is my way of saying they are good enough. You are buying an entry level pistol that has been on the market for many years and word would get around quickly if they were utter junk. Does the gun need wear in? Yes. Might there be issues? Yes. Do they have warranty support? Yes and they do stand behind and repair their pistols.

Would I recommend these RIA Tac Ultra FS and Pro Match Ultra HC pistols to someone looking for an entry level 17 round 9mm 1911 style pistol? You may find it odd but yes I would and I’d explain the above.

I hope this helps you out.

1/6/2023 Update: I’ve had zero problems since writing this post. Both pistols have cycled thousands of times during magazine testing (meaning rounds are cycled by hand but not actually fired) and the slides are smooth as glass. I took both to the range recently and they functioned just fine with both 115 and 124gr bulk FMJ – I think the 115gr was CCI and the 124gr was S&B if I recall right.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Fitting A Quick Takedown Pin To A Kalashnikov USA KP-9

Since Kalashinkov USA introduced the KP-9, I’ve had a handful of guys ask me to make a quick takedown pin for it. Well, it turns out it is a unique size and the hinge pin would need to be around 3.75mm – smaller than what any of my vendors could reliably hit. My existing pins all have a diameter of .156″ or about 3.96mm so they would not work.

So, what to do? I’d bought a KP-9 with their brace and it was a nice weapon in terms of fit, finish, and operation. I’d pressed out the unique hinge pin and saved it so I could have replaced it but I decided to go another route. By the way, the original pin was swollen at the ends from being set but the middle measure 3.75 so that’s the number I was going with.

KP-9 right out of the box.
There’s the hinge pin between the rear sight and the start of the dust cover rail.
There is a spring on the pin to help the dust cover pop up when the recoil rod is pushed in. Note, the fitment of the cover to the rear sight block and rear trunnion is very good. If it weren’t for the spring, the cover would stay down. By the way, the big black round thing you see on top of the barrel pin has a groove behind it. When the brace is swung into the folded position, a tab on the brace goes into the groove and holds it in the folded position.
This is the origianl hinge pin and the spring that pops the dust cover up. The pin is 2.75mm wide and about 24-25mm long – mine measured 24.31mm after I pressed it out. Some deformation would have occurred when it was pressed in and the ends flared open.

How To Remove The Original Pin

I used a punch on my air hammer to pop the old pin out. You could also press it out or drill it out.

I used my ATS air riveter to pop out the pin in a matter of seconds. You could press or drill out your pin.

Reaming the Hinge Hole

If you look at the hinge, there is enough material around the hinge pin material to ream it out a bit. I decided to get a 0.1563″ (3.97mm) cobalt reamer and a 4mm cobalt reamer. My thinking was to first try the smaller reamer and if that proved to be too small, I’d step up to the 4mm (0.1575″). I bought mine from McMaster-Carr but you can get them from any reputable vendor.

Reamers are cool – they make perfectly round holes and you can do them in a hand drill if you are so inclined, which I was. Secure your weapon in a vise so it can’t move, use a drill bit or other pin to align the hinge parts from the other direction. As you ream, this slave pin, or alignment pin, will be pushed out of the way as a reamer’s head is blunt.

Put your reamer in your drill chuck and coat it with cutting oil, then slowly insert the reamer into hole – let it cut – don’t force it. You’re not taking off a ton of material so I reamed the hole out in one go.

The slave pin did it’s job and I had a true hole in the end. Okay, the .1563″ reamer’s hole worked but was too tight – If you don’t intend to pul the pin much, it would work but it was not what I wanted. I then did the same thing by inserting a slave pin but this time used the 4mm reamer and it worked great.

You see, getting the hole size right matters a great deal compared to some weapons such as the M92 and Krinks – they want to cam the cover up so there is tension that locks everything in place. With the KP-9, the fit of the dustcover relative to the rear sight block is so good that there isn’t tension so you need the quick takedown pin to fit snugly and the detent ball to do its job.

Our AK-V pin fits great. This is with the 3/4″ ring installed.
Here’s the full view of the hinge. Note the detent ball on the pin that keeps it from accidentally sliding out of the hole.
The way a quick release pin that has a ball bearing detent works is that a spring is behind the ball bearing pushing it up but it is captured in the hole. By sticking up, the ball bearing limits travel. Having a circular surface if you pull hard enough during extraction then the ball bearing is pushed down, the pin pulls free and then the spring pushes the ball bearing detent back up once it is clear.. Insertion is just the reverse.

In closing

I really like how it turned out. For folks who want to add a quick takedown pin, just order the AK-V pin [click here to open that page in a new tab] and then ream your hinge open. Note, you might want to get the same size reamers and see which you prefer – start with the smaller one first of course.

The pins make removing the dust cover really easy.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

How Magazines Affect Reliability in Rock Island FS A2 9mm Pistols

This post reflects a journey I’ve been on regarding making and selling magazines for the 9mm Rock Island Armory (RIA) FS A2 pistols. These pistols are based on Para Ordnance designs that use a staggered magazine that can accomodate 15+ rounds in a fattened 1911 grip. Think of them as 1911 pistols on steroids with a fat grip the holds more rounds they hold more rounds so sometimes RIA calls them “HC” for high capacity.

These are my two 9mm test platforms. The top pistol is the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC (you can see the checkering on the front strap of the grip) and the bottom is 51679 Tac Ultra FS HC.

For over a year now, I’ve been making magazines for the FS A2 pistols chambered in 10mm and .40 S&W. The interesting thing is that 9mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W and 10mm all use the same frame. You’d think making the 9mm mags would be an easy jump – I did at least — maybe it was just me.

The 10mm round is bigger than 9mm – it is fatter and longer. You don’t think about that a lot until you are trying to get the ejecting case to hit the ejector – the 10mm round is a hell of a lot easier to make hit the ejector than the 9mm. Also, the relatively short 9mm round has a long way to travel before it goes into the chamber. I found myself having to kick out some assumptions I had for magazines in order to get the 9mm round to reliably work.

In general, I now understand why the 1911 community is so fast to cast suspicion on the magazines when feed and ejection problems are happening. John Browning was an absolute genius and the 1911 design shows it but it does need all of the parts to be working together correctly to deliver a reliabile pistol.

Oh yeah, the magazines can make or break reliability. Let me share with you some observations I’ve made so far about the magazine after making a few hundred of the 9mm models either modifying P18 magazines (.38/9mm) or P16 mags (10/.40).

What about feed lip length?

The feed lips are the part of the magazine that hold the top round down and at the right angle. If they are too short, the round tends to be presented at too high of an angle and if they are too long, the front gap may not be adjustable enough to support the feed angle needed.

The blue rounds are A-Zoom Snap Caps. I use them during magazine prototyping and testing rather than live ammo The magazine lips are long pieces of rounded sheet metal that are going up the sides of the cartridge and are both positioning and retaining the round. Note the plastic “shelf” of the follower that is on the left bottom edge of each magazine that is level with the metal body. When the last round is fed from the magazine, the follower rises and that shelf is what engages the slide lock lever to put upwards pressure on it. When the slides travels rearword with the extraction and ejection of the last round, the slide lock level pushes up and locks the slide open ready for the next magazine to be fired.

The original 1911 was designed for .45 ACP but we are feeding a little short round from the back of the magazine towards the chamber a mile away. How can we maintain control? The short answer is have longer feed lips on the magazine. These longer lips are what get the relatively small 9mm round from the back of the magazine all the way into the chamber.

“We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” were the famous words in “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed in the movie classic Smokey and the Bandit. The feed lips need to control the feeding of the cartridge all the way from the back of the magazine to the point the bullet engages the feed ramp and then starts to go into chamber. A 9mm Luger cartrdge is 1.169″ long. In comparison, 10mm Auto is 1.260″ overall. and .45 ACP is 1.275″. You might thing those differences are small but they definitely impact the design and operation of the pistol – they need to be planned for if you want reliability.

The reason I listed this section is that the length of the feed lips can vary depending on the model of pistol so if you are trying to use a magazine from another type of pistol you may find you need to trim the feed lips back. I didn’t have to change the P16 or P18 mags for the 9mm but I did need to modify the P16 Para mags to feed reliability in RIA 10mm and .40 S&W pistols.

What happens if the front feed lip gap is too wide? You tend to get a Failure to Eject (FTE) or the Slide locks open prematurely

The feed lip gap at the front of the magazine controls where the cartridge is going vertically – the angle towards the chamber. Increase the gap and the front of cartridge rises and decrease it and the angle goes down. But wait, there’s more.

If the front of the round pushes up too much, it will cause the extracting case to slide up the breech face and out of position thus missing the ejector bar you can see just above the rear of the cartidge. The tell tale is that you have the new round and the old case in the back of the slide at the same time.

Now here’s the first gotcha: The feed lip gap still controls the rise of the bullet in the front but if it goes too far, the bullet is going to interfere with extraction, pushing the extracted case upwards on the breach face of the slide and out of position to correctly engage the ejector and all of a sudden you have the old case in the slide, a new round trying to feed and you have a jam. If you go for a front feed lips gap of .305-.308″ you will be fine. Depending on your pistol once you get somewhere around .320″, you are going to cause the ejection problem I just mentioned

There’s an interesting design issue with all 1911 breech faces – they are flat. The extractor pushes the case to the right in this photo. The ejector bar is exiting its cut out from the breech face in the lower right but there is nothing to truly limit upwards travel.

I’ve spent a lot of time chasing this dimension because you tend to get better feeding the more the bullet is oriented towards the chamber but with the 9mm you have to be mindful of the impacts on the the ejecting cartridge.

By the way, in addition to interfering with ejection, a feed lip gap that is too wide can allow the follower to travel too far upwards and prematurely lock the slide open with one cartridge remaining in the magazine.

I should point out that the most likely cause of a failure to eject (FTE) is a faulty magazine. The second most likely is a worn or failing extractor. It probably is not the ejector bar.

What happens if the front feed lip gap is too narrow? You tend to get a failure to feed (FTF)

If you move the feed lips to close together, the new round that needs to be fed into the chamber comes in at too flat of an angle and smashes straight into the feed ramp. On one hand the 9mm bullet is rounded abruptly but the feed ramp is quite abrupt. I tend to find that somewhere under .302″ this happens but I haven’t done a lot of testing on this dimension because I have been more focused on wanting the cartridge angled up vs. down.

The round travels up the feed ramp but it needs have enough of an upward angle to ride the ramp up. If it is too shallow it will slam the bullet into the ramp and stop. Note that RIA did polish the ramp – that was an unexpected nice touch. In general, I’d recommend polishing the ramp smooth to aid in feeding. Also, look at the shape of the snap cap – it mimics a classic full metal jacket 115gr bullet. The curvature of the bullet will aid in feeding. Different bullet shapes can affect feeding in some pistols and you may need to tweak certain mags for certain rounds – it’s next to impossible to guess so test your pistol with certain combinations of cartrdiges and magazines to ensure they are reliable. You may find your pistol likes some and hates others. I’d probably just move to another cartridge if it were me and my pistol had issues with a given round.

Yeah, the lips have a memory

So the magazines are made of high carbon steel that is heat treated. The feed lip gap falls within a certain tolerance. If it changed either wider or narrower, the lips are going to move back towards their original positing anywhere from .002-.004″ so plan accordingly.

This is where experience matters with the mags you are working with. Once you have your dimensions figured out, you may find you need to bend further than the nominal dimension so when the sheet metal starts to relax it will stop in the range you want.

You may also find that the metal does most of its movement in some number of minutes after you do the initial tune and need to do it one more time. Some guys will wait overnight to do the final tuning. I wait at least 30 minutes.

What about left and right bends to the feed lips?

The more you bend the feed lips in one direction too much, the round will point that way and either glance the chamber wall or actually slam into the chamber and stop depending on how off you are. Try and get the cartridge to point into the center of the chamber in terms of left to right.

This is an 80% RIA frame that I used during prototyping. I’m not enough of a machinist to actually complete it but it really helps you see what is going on. If the right feed lip is bent too much to the right then the round will go in that directton – same for the left lip. You want to point the round into the center of chamber.

What about the follower?

It’s really interesting how important the follower is. On one hand it is pushing the rounds up againt the feed lips properly and on the other, there is a small “shelf” on the front left edge that pushes the slide stop lever up and locks the slide open on empty (unless you are using competition followers such as the Arredondos that purposefully do not lock the slide open).

The walls at the top of the 9mm mag really need to taper inward to properly channel the staggered round into the single exit position at the top. The follower’s sides need to be appropriately tapered and rounded as well less they drag on the walls. The original Mec-Gar followers have significant drag that you can feel when loading the mgazine so revising them made the most sense.

The Arredondo follower is on the left. It is more angled and rounded on the right side in this photo than the Mec-Gar on the right. The Arredondo was desined for competition is when you look at the bottom right edge of each you will see the Arredondo slopes down fast so it will not raise the slide stop lever. The Mec-Gar has a more elevated edge that will lock the slide open. Our modified Mec-Gar followers improve reliability by having more rounded edges but still can lock the slide open.

By the way, to make life more colorful, when you install the follower the spring tension will spread the feed lips wider by about 0.002-0.004″.

How about the spring?

The Mec-Gar springs are okay. How much spring is enough or to little really depends on how well it can keep constant upwards pressure on the follower to move the rounds up fast enough and keep them in position. With the drag on the follower reduced, the spring can do its job.

There is an exception though – if you add a magazine extension or base plate that adds capacity, the spring really ought to be longer so get a Wolff or Arredondo spring that can supply the pressure over a longer distance.

The top assembly has the a easy to identify blue Arredondo follower and longer spring. The spring is made by Wolff but is bent to properly hold the Arredondo follower. The black follower and shorter spring are the original Mec-Gar units.

Yes, springs can and do wear our so if you feel the follower is being pushed up sufficiently or is sluggish *and* the walls do not appear bent then you probably need a new spring.

What about lubricant?

Mec-Gar mags come with some lubricant all over the insides of the mags, follower, spring, floor plate and base plate. On one hand it protects against corrosion but on the other it can attract dirt.

I would recommend that you use a good dry lubricant film. I used to use Dupont’s Teflon dry lubricant film spray but they discontinued it over environmental and health concerns about Teflon. The company is now producing a dry film using a ceramic technology that I really like and find it does a remarkable job at lubricating magazines.

If you are in a marine environment and you need the corrosion protection the use the oil of your choice – you need to worry about rust, I get it. For me, the Dupont Dry Film Lube aerosol spray does a great job. The new followers and the inside of the magazine tubes coated with this enables remarkably smooth movement of the follower.

Number your magazines

A tip you really ought to consider is to number your magazines so you can keep track of them. I like stickers because you can readily remove them if you put a baseplate on a different magazine tube but there are plenty of guys who use a permanent marker or etcher to uniquely identify each magazine.

The benefit of doing this is that when you are at the range if you find that some magazine is having problems, you can write down or take a photo of the number and know what you need to work on. Face it, if you have a bunch of mags and they all look pretty similar it can be hard to keep track of them otherwise.

By numbering the magazines, I can track dimensions and performance over time.

We do sell the stickers if you are interested – click here.

I’m still learning

I don’t claim to know everything – let me right up front about that. I now know what people mean whey they say “The more I learn, the less I know”. In other words, as I learn more I am increasingly aware that there is a ton of stuff I don’t know.

Hopefully this gives you some insight about why one magazine will work great but then another one doesn’t. The above are things to consider.

My reason for writing this is to give you some idea of what we’ve learned and are building into each 9mm magazine that you buy from us – we aren’t just relabeling mags and selling them at a heck of a mark up.

What are are doing is ensuring the dimesions, doing the necessary modifications and testing teach magazine in one of our 9mm RIA pistols to ensure you get a reliable mag. If you have problems with a magazine from us, we will definitely make it right.

If you’d like to see our magazines, click here to go to our store.

We do have a new post about how to load our v2 9mm magazines to get reliable feeding. Click here for it.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Do I need a drill press for drilling Polymer80 frames?

The question above is asked a lot and I can understand why – drill presses can make accurate holes. Surprisingly though – DO NOT USE A DRILL PRESS WITH YOUR POLYMER80 JIG! How’s that for an emphatic answer – now let me explain why this is so.

The cool jig that Polymer80 came up with is designed to be clamped from the bottom and three holes on each side to be hand drilled. All of the stresses and what not on the jig were planned so the holes would go in the right place. Laying the jig on its side to use a drill press has led to alignment problems and frames that don’t work so don’t use a drill press.

The jig is clamped standing up and a hand drill is used to make the holes. The smaller holes use a 3mm drill bit and the larger hole requires 4mm.

While we are talking about drilling – do a hole at a time and do NOT drill straight through. The reason you do a hole at a time is that you can afford the angle to be slightly wrong on one side but if you go straight through and the angle isn’t perfectly true then the hole on the other side will be way off. Trust me, do a hole at a time. Yes, do take your time and try to drill a hole that is perpendicular to the frame – meaning not at an angle one way or another off the center of where you need the hole.

Any 3/8 or 1/2″ hand drill will work just fine. A cool perk with the old Ryobi drills is that they have a level built into the tool holder.

Use 3 & 4mm Drill Bits

The frame needs 3 and 4mm drill bits and the jig is labeled for what size goes in what hole. If you need the bits, we sell nice drill bits that are perfect for this. Click here to go to our Polymer80 tool page.

I’d definitely recommend you use a vise to clamp the bottom of the jig. That’s what the jig was designed for.

So, you don’t need a drill press but I would recommend a vise to hold it vertically nice and steady. You can get pretty good deal on little 3-4″ removable vises that will work just fine or you can use any woodworking or metalworking vise if you already have one.

In Conclusion

No, you don’t need a drill press and for that matter you should not use a drill press because the jig was not designed for it. However, you do need at least a 3-4″ vise, hand drill and the right size bits to do a good job drilling. From there, you still need to trim your top tabs, remove the barrel block, clean things up and then you can install the parts of your choice.

We have a collection of Polymer80 tools to help you with your build. Please click here if you would like to see them.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.