Homebuild History – Quest for the 1911

Welcome to Homebuild History, the part of 3D Gun Builder’s website where we focus on the history of some of the most iconic homebuilt firearms, their contributions to the world, and most importantly, how YOU AT HOME can get your hands on these classic arms and armaments!

What’s the Story?

We know it. We love it. The 1911, M1911, M1911A1, or whatever you like to call it is a piece of Americana. For many years, anyone who wanted one had to hope and pray they could get their hands on the genuine article. That, or one of the many copies made by countries from China to Spain and Turkey to the Philippines.

homebuild history quest for the 1911

However, times have changed. People are less willing to let the consumer market wholly dictate their ability to get what they want. Nowadays, if you want a 1911, you can make it almost as easily as you can buy it.

A Light Shining in Darkness

80% kits are most commonly associated with the AR-15. When it comes to pistols, the first name that might come to mind would be Polymer80 and their Glock kits. However, 80% 1911s have been around for a surprisingly long time – certainly longer than their 3D printed counterparts.

A completed 80% 1911. From who? Not that important, they’re practically all the same.

The idea is very simple: the frame is unfinished and not completely milled out. Per US law as of this article, this means the frame is not legally considered a firearm. As such, a builder does not need to submit to a background check before buying a frame and parts kit.

While many naysayers in the anti-gun world claim that 80% kits are an easy pathway to crime, statistics differ. In fact, it’s surprisingly rare to find a homemade gun used by criminals at all. Nonetheless, 80% 1911 frames came into renaissance with the creation of tabletop CNC machines like the GhostGunner.

Take the frame, put it in the jig, run the machine to cut for a 1911, and voila! You have a homebuilt firearm ready to be integrated with whatever parts kit you scraped up. Colt? RIA? Not important, as long as it was actually made to spec.

Some people, though, aren’t satisfied with just machining.

Honest Hearts

3D printing a 1911 can either be easy or difficult, depending on your circumstances. The earliest 1911s to be fabricated this way were, surprisingly, heavy metal instead of light plastic.

The gun is entirely printed. What more can one say?

Solid Concepts, an additive manufacturing service company, wanted to make a proof of concept for direct metal laser sintering printing, or DMLS. The result were two guns, the first being pictured above, made in 2013. While completely fabbed to military standards, every part of the Solid Concepts 1911 is made of printed metal.

Yes, even the barrel, which has actual lettering in the rifling.

Seeking to further prove the concept (pun not intended), Solid Concepts went out of spec and printed a 1911 in 10mm Auto. The result, named “Reason,” had the Declaration of Independence inscribed in its barrel. While a remarkable weapon, one last threshold stood to be overcome: could you print a 1911?

I didn’t need a reason to post this picture. (Pun 100% intended)
Between Dreams and Reality

3D printing a 1911 was one of the most challenging things the guncad community was ever faced with. For nearly a decade after the Liberator was made, the focus was on simpler designs, or when pistols came into vogue, on Glocks. Whether the issue was technology-based or interest-based is unclear, but eventually, someone bit the bullet.

IvanTheTroll, the famed designer behind the Plastikov printed AK receiver, showcased working prototypes in 2021 of a design he named the 3011. Not a 1911 in a conventional sense, the design still falls under the criteria as the first printed design of its kind. Similarly to the Mauser C96, the magazine is further forward, making for a bulky gun.

The prototype 3011, built curiously enough as a carbine instead of a pistol.

Ivan was able to “cheat” the 1911 system by replacing the standard hammer with an AR-15 hammer and fire control group. This made for a much more rigid grip that could be bulked up significantly, allowing polymer filament to be used in the design.

That said, “cheating” the system did admittedly give a pistol in concept, not practicality. It would be over another year before the earliest information came out about the “OK Boomer,” a work from Ivan’s peer and machine gun aficionado FreeMan1337 (not to be confused with FreeMenDontAsk, designer of 3D printed Glocks).

You can have it, it’s just experimental right now.

Ordinarily, a gun still under development wouldn’t necessarily fit the criteria, but enough examples of the OK Boomer have been built to say that yes, it works. Unlike the 3011, the OK Boomer is perfectly capable of being stuffed into a holster. While not tested outside .45ACP, the polymer 1911 concept is known to work, and the full release will add another miracle gun to the Gatalog repertoire.

How do I make it?

How you want to make it depends on what you want to build*. Print-wise, your only choice is the 3011 as of right now, located at the Gatalog. If you want to build an 80% 1911, you’ll need a jig and preferably a CNC programmed to machine a frame. 3D printing a metal 1911? If you can do it, hats off to you. Lastly, the OK Boomer is in beta – go talk to the Gatalog reps about getting on board if you want to help out.

As always, tune in next week for more Homebuild History! Stay safe and build on!

*Legally, of course. Laws don’t stop you from building this, but we at 3DGunBuilder encourage readers to follow all legal guidelines. If you can’t make this in your state or country, please don’t try to. Just remember that this is here for educational and research purposes only.

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