How to Refinish a Colt 1911

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The 1911 model pistol, designed by John Moses Browning, is the longest serving service pistol in history. For almost 100 years, it has served Americans at home and abroad, in defense of life and liberty.


The 1911 is also the most tinkered with and modified pistol in history. Almost everyone who owns a 1911 will, at some point, consider modifying it. While most people will leave refinishing their 1911 to a professional gunsmith, thanks to new products, it is actually one of the simplest modifications the owner can make. Duracoat, from Houts Enterprises in Nevada, is one of these products.

Things You'll Need

  • Colt model 1911 pistol
  • TruStrip degreaser
  • Sandpaper (600 grit)
  • Air-hose or compressed air canister
  • Masking tape
  • Duracoat finish and hardener
  • Air-brush paint gun
  • Unload and clear your weapon. Double-check, using your eyes and fingers, to ensure that the weapon is empty.

  • Disassemble your 1911 in accordance with the owner's manual. This will include removing the slide assembly, barrel, and recoil rod and spring. You may also want to remove the grip panels, if you intend to refinish the frame itself, instead of just the slide assembly.

  • Use a degreaser on all parts of the weapon that you will be refinishing. This will generally include the outside of the slide assembly and the frame of the pistol. Houts Enterprises recommends the use of TruStrip degreaser.

  • Prepare the surface parts of your 1911 to accept the Duracoat. This will vary depending on the original finish of your weapon and what parts you are refinishing. According to the Houts Enterprises website, if you are refinishing parkerized steel, as found on the government model 1911s, you can use your Duracoat finish directly over the old Parkerization. If you are refinishing a stainless steel slide and frame, or an aluminum frame, you should lightly sand the parts with 600 grit sandpaper.

  • Use an air-hose or a canister of compressed air to blow off the surface that is going to be refinished. Any debris left on the surface will interfere with the final product.

  • Protect any parts that you do not want refinished with masking tape. This may include parts such as the slide rails and the interior working parts of the pistol like the trigger housing assembly.

  • Mix your Duracoat color with the hardener product in a ratio of 12:1 for most applications. This will provide the best all-around protection and smooth appearance in the finished product.

  • Apply the product to the portions of your 1911 that you want to refinish. This will require the use of a paint air-brush gun. A small modeler's version may be the best due to the amount of detail work it will allow you to accomplish.

  • Allow your refinished weapon to dry overnight or, if you bake it in a 110-degree oven overnight, let it dry for one hour. At this time, you will be able to apply various cleaning solvents without damage to the Duracoat finish on the weapon. The full curing time for the Duracoat finish is approximately three weeks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Duracoat hardens through a chemical process. Its sister product, DuraBake, hardens upon being heated in a conventional kitchen oven. DuraBake is also available in an aerosol spray can. It does not require the use of an air-brush gun for painting.
  • Consider choosing a color of Duracoat that matches the predominant color of your local vegetation in order to acquire a camouflage benefit from the new finish. You can also use colors such as Flat Dark Earth and Coyote Tan to recreate the weapons used in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom by U.S. military forces.
  • Firearms can be dangerous if handled improperly. Please seek competent instruction from a firearms professional before handling your weapon.
  • Due to the inhalation danger of aerosol paints, you should wear appropriate eye and breathing protection when working with Duracoat or any other refinishing product.

References

  • Houts Enterprises Duracoat website
  • "Gun Digest Book of the 1911: A Complete Look at the Use, Care, and Repair of the 1911 Pistol, Volume One;" Patrick Sweeney; 2001
  • "Practical Gunsmithing;" American Gunsmith; 1996
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