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Posted: 4/17/2005 7:38:33 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/17/2005 12:01:53 PM EDT by hobbs5624]
For all of you who are contemplating a build, let me share some thoughts/cautions on Les Baer frames. This is just my experience with one frame, but the problems I encountered are the result of oversized dimensions desgined into the frame, and not because it's a lemon.

I'm in the process of building a custom 1911 for a friend. He loooked for a Caspian frame, but ended up ordering a Les Baer from Brownells.

I've built many customs over the last 12 years, including Colt, Springfield, Kimber, Para, Caspian, Foster, STI/SVI/Inifinity, Auto Ordnance, AMT, and RIA/S.A.M/Charles Daly. Excluding AMT, I've never run across so many problems.

The trigger track, both side to side and top and bottom, is excessively undersized. Very loose GI and stock triggers will not start into the frame. There is an area towards the rear of the trigger bow track that is obviously machined undersized. This will be a PIA to open up, and is, in my opinion, completely unnecessary.

There is excessive machining rollover in several places (which is like casting flash), leading to rolled over edges. The top of the magwell had large burrs around the circumfrence, though that was an easy matter to deal with. What is not easy is trying to get all the excessive metal out of the mag release hole. I've spent three hours so far with a file. That alone has me swearing off these frames.

The slot for the barrel link on the frame had excessive machining rollover, again leading to valuable time wasted in deburring. Also, the barrel bed in the frame had the same problems. I had to deburr the holes for the plunger tube too.

The inside of the frame under the rear frame tangs has the pocket machined oversized. What this amounts to is that there will be small triangular gaps when I blend the Ed Brown beavertail to the frame. Of course, this will not be an issue with a Les Baer, Smith and Alexander, Wilson, clark, or Caspian beavertail.



The bottom line of all this is: if you intend to build a custom project and do not have a lot of experience doing so, stay away from this frame. I expected some oversized areas (like the frame rails, which are WAY oversized, but not a problem), but the other areas are just ridiculous. The burrs from machining are excessive enough that items, like a drop in trigger or mag release, will not go into this gun. I even tried an old GI trigger that was .01" undersized, which is VERY small, and it would not start into the trigger shoe channel near the triggerguard. This frame bites!

On the other hand, I've found that Caspians are machined better, even the cast frames. Their cast frames are properly machined in all areas, and are properly heat treated. They are all Rockwell tested before leaving the factory. I would take one of these hands down over a Les Baer frame, and save quit a bit of money in the meantime.

ETA: I just discovered that the slide stop hole is a bit undersized. I tried a .200" slide stop, went down to a .197", and still no go. I understand that this was done to help get a perfect fit, but it's at least .005" undersized.
Link Posted: 4/17/2005 1:17:44 PM EDT
Link Posted: 4/17/2005 4:02:36 PM EDT
I'm sure you know what I'm going through. Sometimes everything falls together, and sometimes you have this. It's still a high quality frame though.
Link Posted: 4/17/2005 6:09:12 PM EDT

Originally Posted By hobbs5624:
For all of you who are contemplating a build, let me share some thoughts/cautions on Les Baer frames. This is just my experience with one frame, but the problems I encountered are the result of oversized dimensions desgined into the frame, and not because it's a lemon.

I've built many customs over the last 12 years, including Colt, Springfield, Kimber, Para, Caspian, Foster, STI/SVI/Inifinity, Auto Ordnance, AMT, and RIA/S.A.M/Charles Daly. Excluding AMT, I've never run across so many problems.



Thanks for the review. I was thinking about doing this exact project on their frame, but may forego it now, do you have any experience with any of the other frames Brownell sells besides the Baer and Caspian?
Link Posted: 4/18/2005 3:35:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/1/2005 5:32:25 AM EDT by hobbs5624]
I've built on the Essex frame and the McCormick. McCormick was easy, Essex (I've built several) have been out of spec in a few areas. The Essex are fine for plinkers, but the quality is mediocre. The Caspians are awesome, but I don't get the ones at Brownells because I don't like the magwells.
Link Posted: 5/1/2005 5:41:43 AM EDT
Well, it took me just three hours to de-burr the trigger track, the mag catch tunnel, and the barrel lug raceway in the frame. God I hate this frame. Considering the quality of the finished LBC guns, those guys don't get paid enough.

Other observations about this frame:

-The slide stop hole turned out to be .192". That's way undersized, my friends.
-The only holes that were not undersized were the grips screw bushing holes and the safety pin hole.
-The sear and hammer pin holes were tight, but the Ed Brown pins I had fit just barely. This is cool in my opinion.
-The frame is hard. I have no way of knowing, but just filing on it, I can tell the difference.
-The mainspring housing area of the frame is excessively tight. It measured .009" narrower than a Kimber frame I was working on. It took a bit to get an S&A MSH in it.
-Despite all the small holes and machining roll over, this is a high quality frame. Everything is very straight, and it's well machined and finished. I would just opt for a Caspian in the future. It's cheaper, and goes together easier.
Link Posted: 5/7/2005 6:15:07 PM EDT
The gun needs final tweaks, test fire, and finish put on. If I only had the time to list all the problems I've encountered on this gun. The only things on the frame that were not an issue were the grip screws, grip screw bushings, the grips, and the safety. Everything was a royal pain. For instance, the frame is narrow on the inside, and the sear and hammer did not want to fit. Also, the sear and hammer pins were undersized. There's a lot more. I would not recommend this frame to a beginner, and I would much rather just use a Caspian in the future. It turned out nice though.



Link Posted: 5/7/2005 6:19:47 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/7/2005 6:26:40 PM EDT by Lumpy196]
Link Posted: 5/7/2005 7:43:47 PM EDT
Thanks you sir. I'm hoping my friend sees it soon and likes it. I hope to shoot it this next weekend and make sure there are no bugs.
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 5:30:54 AM EDT
Just blued it yesterday:

Link Posted: 5/22/2005 6:13:23 AM EDT
wow! That's blued? How did you get such a dark, matte finish with bluing?


(looks really good--great job!)
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 6:45:35 AM EDT
I’ve been contemplating a 1911 build myself. I can see you definitely don’t recommend the Les Baer for a beginner due to all the extra machining needed, so that’s out. You would rather go with a Caspian. In your opinion, what is a good quality frame that would be practical for a beginner? A Caspian?
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 7:06:54 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/22/2005 7:08:08 AM EDT by Rockdoc]
It looks beautiful Hobbs.


It's mine!
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 9:59:14 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/22/2005 10:26:09 AM EDT by hobbs5624]

Originally Posted By Colt45guy:
wow! That's blued? How did you get such a dark, matte finish with bluing?


(looks really good--great job!)



The matte part comes from bead blasting. It's a combination of the two glass sieves that Brownells sells.

The dark color comes from "shocking" it. When you dip it in the bluing salts, they are roughly 360 degrees. You need to drop it in water and then immediately back into the salts. If you do this a few times, it seems to make it much darker.

Rockdoc, welcome back from Gunsite. I think you'll really enjoy this. I can't wait to see it when you put the Gunners on it.

ETA: I should have clarified, I did not blue this gun. I prepped it at my friend's shop, the Weapon Works in Phoenix, Az. One of his employees, Mike Muleneaux, actually dipped it, and did an awesome job.
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 10:20:09 AM EDT

Originally Posted By sfax39:
I’ve been contemplating a 1911 build myself. I can see you definitely don’t recommend the Les Baer for a beginner due to all the extra machining needed, so that’s out. You would rather go with a Caspian. In your opinion, what is a good quality frame that would be practical for a beginner? A Caspian?



If you were a relative beginner, I would say stay away from this one. Here's what I had to do that was unusual.

-file the inside of the mag catch tunnel (it would not drop in like every other 1911 frame I've ever touched)
-file the inside of the bottom barrel lug channel in the frame
-file the inside of the trigger track
-file the inside of the plunger tube staking holes
-machine the front of the mag well where the magazine lip stops, as this area was machined so low that steel based Wilson mags would not seat (this could be done with a file)
-ream the slide stop tunnel in the frame, as it was WAY undersized
-de-burr the inside of the frame where the sear and hammer pin holes are drilled
-the inside of the frame where the mainspring housing was extrememly tight, even with several different mainspring housings. However, I took material off the mainspring housing instead of the frame.

In all, I spent about 20 hours more just de-burring and reaming things. All this filing is not a usual occurence with most 1911s. Since this was my first Les Baer frame, I cannot say if all the burrs are common. I can definitely say that the frame was well made in respect to parallel holes, and straight, consistent thickness frame rails. The undersized slide stop hole is made that way intentionally, and I think it's ludicrous. The frame rails were more oversized than most, and took a bit of fitting to this slide, which is a Colt G.I. slide with fairly loose rail tolerances. I appreciate an ovesized frame, but this one was overboard.

Caspian, on the other hand, makes a great frame, and it's just slightly oversized in the right places. I've never encountered the burrs, and they are finished quite well. I posted pics on another thread of the Caspian I was working on at the same time as this gun. I just re-blued that one too.

However, I encountered something I never have before. It's a cast frame. Since it's my gun, I didn't really care to take the time checkering it that I normally do. I usually prefer 20 lines per inch, and it usually takes me about 8 hours of work. I did 40 lines per inch on this one, and it took about 50 minutes. While filing, I noticed two dark spots. I thought it was just typical dirt and filing build up. It was actually two small pores in the cast steel of the frame, and they were both at least the size of four diamonds. No biggie, as it will not have an effect on utility, and still looks pretty nice. However, if I were going to build a perfect looking piece, I would opt for a barstock frame instead of cast. The cast ones are great if you do not intend to checker it.

Here's a pic of that gun. I forgot to blue the slide release and mag catch, so that will have to wait for another time.



Link Posted: 5/22/2005 1:44:57 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 3:05:19 PM EDT
Thanks Steve. Check your IM.
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 3:18:08 PM EDT
Hobbs,

Hate to nit pick, but I'm not impressed with the frame (but can guess that your inner fitting is dead on and should be congratulated).

Looks like the LB frame was very rough and the outer surface should have been polished before blasting. Or at the very least, blasted with 200 oxide to even out the surface them bead blasted to sheen it up. Seems that the round/flat at the mag release seems to be uneven, with a long spot/bump to boot. The mag release side of the trigger guard looks very rough. I'm guessing that the back strap safety to the frame has some nasty gaps as well. Also, the ejection side of the slide catch hole seems to have been counter sunk/de-burred way too deep, and even flattening the round end of the catch rod would not clean up the aesthetics of the lock rod to frame.

Pisser about the whole ordeal is with the time you spent on the pistol means that it will tack drive, but still, you can only polish a turd so far (appearances). My guess is that LB meant for this frame to wear their own parts, and was half the battle was using other supplier’s parts. Due to this, the part I find very strange is the price that LB charges for their bare frames. Granted that they need to price compare against there own complete builds, but they need to get the frame closer into a common spec before they can really justify the price gouge for the bare frame. After seeing you work on this LB frame; I now know why LB charges so much for their own complete builds. It's the time they have to spend by hand just getting parts to fit. My guess is that you didn't charge for the build, but if had to, the pistol would have been cheaper built directly by LB. My guess is that you will not rush out to by a LB frame any time in the near future for you own build, or at least if the plan is to use Non-LB parts to complete the build.

To sum it up, one of use had to stick our feet into the muddy waters of building up different frames (the spendy ones that no one really touches), and given the challenge, you did a very decent job of what was on hand in regards to the state of the frame. Also, I have to give you a thumbs up for your patience, since I was have said screw it about 5 minutes in when nothing was even close to fitting. Personally, I would have just shit canned the frame after mic’g, and would have either ordered a known common spec’d frame, or just found a block of forged steel and starting cutting a new frame from scratch.

Note: My friend know if they hand me a drawn out challenge, I often hand it back to them since I only take on my own bastard projects once a year max (that’s about extent of “Pegged fun-meter” projects that I can stand at one time). This one must have looked liked resurrecting an abortion from the start after trying to see how far out the frame was to installing parts (you didn’t even need to break out the gauges to see that).

Again, I enjoyed reading these posts, and the insight on what frame to never consider building on. Keep up the good work.

Dano
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 4:20:52 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Dano523:
Hobbs,

Hate to nit pick, but I'm not impressed with the frame (but can guess that your inner fitting is dead on and should be congratulated).

Looks like the LB frame was very rough and the outer surface should have been polished before blasting. Or at the very least, blasted with 200 oxide to even out the surface them bead blasted to sheen it up. Seems that the round/flat at the mag release seems to be uneven, with a long spot/bump to boot. The mag release side of the trigger guard looks very rough. I'm guessing that the back strap safety to the frame has some nasty gaps as well. Also, the ejection side of the slide catch hole seems to have been counter sunk/de-burred way too deep, and even flattening the round end of the catch rod would not clean up the aesthetics of the lock rod to frame.

Pisser about the whole ordeal is with the time you spent on the pistol means that it will tack drive, but still, you can only polish a turd so far (appearances). My guess is that LB meant for this frame to wear their own parts, and was half the battle was using other supplier’s parts. Due to this, the part I find very strange is the price that LB charges for their bare frames. Granted that they need to price compare against there own complete builds, but they need to get the frame closer into a common spec before they can really justify the price gouge for the bare frame. After seeing you work on this LB frame; I now know why LB charges so much for their own complete builds. It's the time they have to spend by hand just getting parts to fit. My guess is that you didn't charge for the build, but if had to, the pistol would have been cheaper built directly by LB. My guess is that you will not rush out to by a LB frame any time in the near future for you own build, or at least if the plan is to use Non-LB parts to complete the build.

To sum it up, one of use had to stick our feet into the muddy waters of building up different frames (the spendy ones that no one really touches), and given the challenge, you did a very decent job of what was on hand in regards to the state of the frame. Also, I have to give you a thumbs up for your patience, since I was have said screw it about 5 minutes in when nothing was even close to fitting. Personally, I would have just shit canned the frame after mic’g, and would have either ordered a known common spec’d frame, or just found a block of forged steel and starting cutting a new frame from scratch.

Note: My friend know if they hand me a drawn out challenge, I often hand it back to them since I only take on my own bastard projects once a year max (that’s about extent of “Pegged fun-meter” projects that I can stand at one time). This one must have looked liked resurrecting an abortion from the start after trying to see how far out the frame was to installing parts (you didn’t even need to break out the gauges to see that).

Again, I enjoyed reading these posts, and the insight on what frame to never consider building on. Keep up the good work.

Dano



Well, I was not going to comment, but something struck me as odd. You may be much better than I at building 1911s, and then again maybe not. I don't know, nor do I care. There are a ton of people much more talented than I. I've just never seen any pics of your guns here.

One thing is for sure though. I would never "nit pick" another guy's gun on an open forum like this. He hasn't even received the gun yet. Personally, I'm not the least bit insulted. I just wondered what you were trying to accomplish. If it was to give me advice, the classy thing to do would be to e-mail or IM me. Heck, it's Rockdoc's gun. I can only imagine how he feels now. If it was just to insult, I imagine you achieved your goal, though I cannot speak for Rockdoc. I CAN speak for myself. I'm not insulted. I'm actually pretty pleased with how this gun turned out. I'm just a little surprised at your comments.

Now, to address a few other things (bear in mind, I'm not trying to be defensive, as I already mentioned this does not hurt my pride). First, the frame was actually better finished than most anything I've ever seen with regard to exterior flatness and polish.

Second, I countersunk the right side of the slide stop hole about as deep as most smiths performing this mod. As a matter of fact, I took note of some other 1911 smiths' work (namely, Ted Yost, Chuck Rogers, Ned Christiansen, and Richard Heinie), and found that this hole is not as deep as all but Heinie's. No biggie though. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Third, considering all the work I had to do, the price of LBC guns is a bargain. Out of the big five semi-custom makers (LBC, Wilson, Ed Brown, Rock River Arms, and Nighthawk), it's hard to argue you get the best bang for the buck from either LBC or RRA.

If I were to do it over again, the only LBC part I would get would be the grip safety. I had a couple of LBC mainspring housings on hand, and they are oversized themselves. They would have taken much more work than the S&A to go in.

Anyway Dano, don't take any of this as an attack, and don't feel like I'm an enemy now. I'm really not all that thin skinned, and I can take criticism of my work. I just hate to see someone else have their gun put down, and I'll refrain from posting pics like these in the future. I have this bad feeling that Rockdoc, who I think was excited to see pics of his gun, might now be a little disappointed.
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 4:48:03 PM EDT
HOLY SMOKES! I just finished fitting some new triggers--decided to go with short triggers after getting to fondle one on a Nighthawk. (I never knew what I was missing!) I installed them on my Les Baer and and on my Springfield. I did the Springy first, and the Dlask magnesium trig went in with just 3 strokes of the file. I was test firing it within 40 minutes. The LB required the removal of almost 1/16" of material to make it fit....I was using a small jewlers file because I didn't want to take too much per stroke. (BTW, magnesium really clogs up the teeth of a fine file) I should have just used the bench grinder for the majority of it because it took me the better part of 2 hours to complete the project. It's the nicest pistol I own, but I definately see what you're talking about with excessive fitting.
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 5:00:30 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Colt45guy:
HOLY SMOKES! I just finished fitting some new triggers--decided to go with short triggers after getting to fondle one on a Nighthawk. (I never knew what I was missing!) I installed them on my Les Baer and and on my Springfield. I did the Springy first, and the Dlask magnesium trig went in with just 3 strokes of the file. I was test firing it within 40 minutes. The LB required the removal of almost 1/16" of material to make it fit....I was using a small jewlers file because I didn't want to take too much per stroke. (BTW, magnesium really clogs up the teeth of a fine file) I should have just used the bench grinder for the majority of it because it took me the better part of 2 hours to complete the project. It's the nicest pistol I own, but I definately see what you're talking about with excessive fitting.



Les Baer frames have a taper in the trigger cut int the frame. They taper on the top and bottom surfaces where the trigger shoe contacts the frame. My guess is that they are in there intentionally as fitting points, though my contention is that's what the oversized trigger shoe is for. Anyway, if you file down the trigger shoe to fit through these constricted points, you need to take off a lot of material like you said. Amazing, isn't it?
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 5:15:51 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 7:56:10 PM EDT
No guys, you took my post very wrongly. I apologize if it was taken at as an insult in any way. I am very impressed with Hobbs works and this pistol.

Hobbs, as you have pointed out, with all the work you had to do, it seems that the internals of the frame was left raw with way too many area's that need to be taken down. Smith fit parts are made oversize to be fitted to the frame. When it requires that both the parts and the frame have major modifications to make them work together, it just seems way over the top. This you stated in your first post, and are still in shock of the fact. The fact that you stood threw this build and never gave up just proves that you have more talent and patience that I will ever obtain.

As for the areas that I pointed out that seem to be strange to me, it may just be the photos (trigger guard and radius edge at the mag button flat). As for the ejector side catch hole being countersunk, you are totally correct. It just boils down to a thing of taste, and I'm sorry if I over stepped the line viewing/stating it from my point of taste.

To sum it up, we know that the pistol was built correctly, will tack drive, and is a work of art. My viewpoint was not to insult anyone, but to ask about a few areas that hit me as being off with the raw frame it’s self. Hobbs, thanks for taking the time to address them and not take my post as a slam in any way. I am sure that after spending the time to get the pistol fitted correctly regarding parts, outer cosmetic areas were dealt with as well.

As for Rockdoc, nothing that I have said or posted can take away from the beauty of the pistol. Simple put, the pistol is a clean work of art. You have to remember that I am the same guy how would question the engraving style on a $80,000 shotgun, so this should point out what kind of village idiot I can be at times, and it looks like this is one of them now.

Dano
Link Posted: 5/22/2005 10:05:39 PM EDT
No apology needed for me, and I think you are far from a village idiot!
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