About mid-May of last year, I walked into my Friendly Local Gun Shop (Champion Firearms in College Station, at the time) with the last $100 I needed to get a Charles Daly 1911 out of layaway.
I was NOT super pleased at my choice, knowing little about the brand, but being a poor college-type I did not have more than around $400 available for my 1911 purchase (seems kinda funny now that I am saving up for an ACOG). All I really knew was that I wanted a 1911A1 NOW, and could not afford a Colt/Kimber/SA immediately. Upon entering, I scanned the case where the 1911s were, and my eyes fell upon an Auto Ordnance 1911PKZ "WW2 Parkerized" model. I am sure the fact that I had just watched "Band of Brothers" the prior day has NOTHING to do with this , but long story short (too late), I walked out with the similarly-priced AO. This was in the dark days before I learned about FFL transferred firearms. I assumed that I would customize/change the pistol later as funds became available.
I freely admit that I had not researched this purchase well. I had yet to even find this site, and had owned my XM15 for about 2 months already (a horrible sin, I know). I have seen the occasional comments about AO, since I started browsing this site, but have been concentrating on the AR side of things until recently. If I HAD read the remarks here, I would have saved up more, but freely admit this as an impulse-buy. I HAD heard of AO before, and in more favorable light than Charles Daly (only having seen the latter on Wal~Mart shotguns before), so this was the impetus.
This pistol has performed adequately in its (still) stock configuration (I have about 500 rounds through it now). I have had 5 bad FTEs wherein the empty casing got badly jammed in the slightly narrowed section in the top rear of the ejection port. The AO pistol does NOT have a lowered ejection port like the mil-spec SA. One of those 5 jams occurred during my concealed handgun license class, and was the only thing that kept me from a perfect score on the shooting test. This means that a lowered ejection port is NOT an "option" in this case, and will be one of the first gunsmith jobs I will commission for this pistol. The only reason I have put off having the lowering done was because of the parkerizing on the slide, which would have to be replaced after the opening up of the port (extra $$).
Accuracy-wise, I shoot as well or better with this pistol as I do with any of my others (which is to say much better than my 2" barrelled .38 Airweight and slightly worse than my 5.5" barrelled Vaquero). I have no problems keeping in the black at 25yds, and this is good enough for me. This is with the crappy weakest-part-of-the-gun-IMO GI "hump and a bump" sights. The feed ramp is also a problem that will be rectifying soon, although the pistol feeds 230gr ball without a hiccup, this pistol will NOT feed those WinClean 230gr "BEB" semi-wadcutters you get at Wal~Mart well. They hang up on the (parkerized!) feed ramp. It occasionally "hangs" when trying to drop the slide on the 230gr Winchester SXTs I load as defense rounds (although I would grab my Airweight first, currently. Don't need one of those FTEs to ruin my day....) although I have never had an SXT fail to feed when actually firing (I have about 50 SXTs through the pistol).
Altogether, I am pleased with the pistol, but am aware that much is still to be done if this is to be a worthy sidearm.
Before the month is out, I hope to have the feed ramp/chamber throat smoothed out.
I am also purchasing a replacement grip safety. Tentatively this one: www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/Store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=7642
An ambidextrous thumb safety and a flat mainspring housing are on the charts, as well. I actually LIKE the GI spur hammer better than the Commander-style ones, so that STAYS!
Now to the questions:
1. Are there any serious problems I should be aware of with this model? I heard a rumbling once about "soft" steel used in these pistols, but I was not paying attention at the time (silly me), and am unable to find any more data. Is my keeping this pistol AT ALL a good/bad idea?
2. I was considering the Chip McCormick drop-in fixed rear sight (looks kinda like a Novak but it fits into the GI slide cut). Has anyone heard anything positive or negative about these?
3. Any other comments/questions welcome, although it is unnecessary to inform me that AOs suck. I am TRYING to rectify this, after all.
Is there anything else I absolutely NEED to replace on this pistol?
Thank you for reading through my book-sized post.
Edited to heat up one of my links.
For more info, check on www.m1911.org.
If you hand chambered the first round, you may have weakened the extractor, through time.
The first round should be mag fed and the mag topped off.
If thats the case, extractors are relatively inexpensive and not a bad idea to have a spare anyway...I would try a good one in it from one of the well known makes.
The AO, while not known for high quality, should still be quite usable.
Until you get the kinks ironed out, like you said, stick with hardball.
As far as soft steel goes, I think they may be cast...not to worry too much, I put a lot of lead downrange with mine without any problems.
I've actually heard good things about the newer production AO 1911s. Kahr (who owns AO) hired some good smith to shape up the QA.
If you can have the ejection port lowered and flared, it should help with the FTEs. DEFINITELY polish the feed ramp. My Springfield Milspec Parkerized has a nice shiny feed ramp. It feeds anything I put in the mag.
Someday, I might get an AO to give it a try. Hope yours continues to run fine!
Anything you want to do on a parkerized gun can be touched up with a decent cold blue solution such as Brownell's Dicropan. This won't match, but it's dark, and will do fine until you get it where you want it...then you can have it refinished, etc.
You FTE issues should not be caused by not having a lowered port...GI guns work fine as they are. This will, however beat up your brass. You should probably check the tension on the extractor...not difficult to do or adjust, although "name" gunsmiths like to make out like it's some sort of magic. Take the slide off the gun, disassemble it, and slip a loaded cartridge from underneath into the breechface and extractor. You should feel a little tension as you do so, and it should stay there no matter which way you point the slide. If not, take out the extractor and bend it slightly...only a teeny bit...by placing the front end into a padded vice and bending on the back end. I have also done this by wedging an extractor between two 2x4's on a work bench and bending it...actually works pretty well.
For a basic 1911, the feed ramp, sights and trigger are the first things to work on to improve your shooting with it. (My order would be reliability first, then trigger, then sights, etc.) Most everything else is gingerbread...although I personally really, really like a fitted beavertail grip safety. The new AO's are getting a pretty good report I hear.
My cousin had an AO & he had real good luck with it. The few glitches he had were all cosmetic ones, IIRC.
I wouldn't sweat it at all for having an AO. Most 1911 owners end up changing out most of the factory parts anyway.
You said your pistol feeds 230 ball without any problems so I'd keep it and simply be happy shooting ball ammo. The Army used this load from 1911 until the mid-1980's you know. Just because there is a 'better' load around today doesn't mean this load won't get the job done.
As far as modifications I'd add up the cost of the stuff you want done and compare that to the cost of buying a factory pistol from Springfield, Kimber, etc with that work already done....just a thought.
Well, I certainly feel better about my brand choice now.
Thanks for all your replies! Lots of good information. Anybody out there tried that McCormick drop-in rear sight?
I will attempt to repair my extractor as suggested below, and if she doesn't behave after that, I'll replace her with an aftermarket extractor. I will still likely lower and flare the ejection post, though.
As for the brand issue, I would like NOTHING better than to have a Colt/Kimber/SA pistol, so don't think I am knocking them, BUT:
My personal preferences when I think of an M1911A1 are of the older military issue one, and when I look over the product lines of the above three manufacturers, it seems that most models they produce trend toward the "higher-end" of the spectrum, option-wise. Notable exceptions are the "mil-spec-type" pistols that Colt and SA offer, but they are both much more expensive than the AO. What I (total personal opinion) want in the M1911A1 is the basics, modified to as close to 100% reliable as possible, with slight modifications to the ergonomics and sights. It seems that the big three manufacturers have forgotten to offer the "basics" as an option, instead relying on their name to sell these $700-800 super-tuned works of art they sell. Looking over their product lines, it also appears I am the only person left on God's green earth who actually PREFERS the GI spur hammer to the commander-style one. I don't know, maybe I sound like one of those guys at the gun range who cast dark looks at that evil black rifle I also like to shoot. I do know one thing, though. I was comparing my 1911 with a co-worker's Colt Series 80 Combat Commander yesterday, and enumerating the list of things I wanted to have done to mine, and he commented "sounds like you will come in well under the $750 I paid for mine BEFORE gunsmithing", and I can live with that.
Now, that being said, my NEXT pistol purchase will be a commander-type pistol for concealed carry by either Kimber or SA. Oh well, back to the poorhouse for me.
On a lighter note, I can't get over the feeling of POTENTIAL I get every time I look at my 1911. I love the 1911 for many of the same reasons I love the AR, because of how many options, parts and accessories are available for these pistols to make these weapons TRULY individually customized! I feel sorry for those people who denigrate the 1911 as an "out of date" pistol.
They will never know how we feel!
USGI 1911s are made for roundnose ball ammo only. Some hollowpoints will cause trouble. Ball ammo WILL kill.
Sounds like your doin pretty well...I think as a couple other guys have noted that if you refit your current extractor or put in a nice after market ( I like the Wilson Bulletproof ) you should cure what few malfunctions you have had....I wouldn't worry about the ejection port just play around with an extractor or two till you get the feel of it....