A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Would You Trade?

The 1911 is an Argentine Sistema refinished in black duracoat. All springs replaced. New wood grips. TruDot night sights. Extended beavertail and thumb safety. 300-rd count. Includes 3 old Metalform mags, and 3 8-rd Kimber mags. Also includes 50 rounds Remington JHP ammo and 63 rounds American Eagle FMJ ammo. I like it because it exudes old-world charm. It is an old-time 1911!
I use a modified Sistema for CCW. It's a gun that I custom tailored to fit myself. It's a good, reliable gun. I also own a rearsenaled Sistema, and an original finish Sistema.

I enjoy the Pistola Sistema Modelo Argentino 1927 as shootable historic pistol, and I am a bit of a student of it's history. I have modified them, worked on them, and shot them. Please allow me to dispel a few myths.

First, the Colt Model 1927 Sistema was not made from steel from the Admiral Graf Spee, a nazi battleship scuttled in shallow Argentine waters during World War II. They were made from high quality steel from the period to Colt's original specifications.

Yes, the steel of a Sistema is softer in places than modern 1911s. This is because all 1911s from the time the Colt Sistemas were made were tempered only in specific areas of stress after the part was machined. Today's 1911s are CNC machined from tempered steel. Thus, the entire frame and slide is tempered. I have installed custom fitted beavertails on Series 80 Colts and on Sistemas. I can say without equivocation that the frame tangs on the Sistema ground down surprisingly easy.

The thing is, does this matter? Yes and no. One Sistema I worked on had to have the magazine well opened up a bit because it had collaped slightly under the weight of a truck. You could shove a magazine in, but it would not drop free. I don't rotinely drive trucks over my guns, and I advised the owner of that pistol to reserve that kind of treatment for Glocks. Incidentally, I used a small hydraulic C-ram to open up the magwell.

I would not alter the ejection port of a Sistema. That area is one of the hardened areas, and I wouldn't want to get close to the softer steel. The same goes for any part of the front of the slide or the frame around the slide stop pin.

This specific pistol, from the slide import mark, appears to be one of the last shipments of Sistemas, known in collector circles as the Lipsey shipment. These were bottom of the barrel examples imported in 2006, and were probably the last ones out there. Many were sent back to Lipseys for a refund by those collectors who ordered them. A lot of those same collectors now kick themselves.

The Lipsey guns were, in general, excellent candidates for custom 1911s such as this. They were basically in the white, no finish left, but complete with steel small parts, and they were cheap. Many were made into custom 1911s.

That brings us to custom 1911 territory, or really, custom any kind of gun territory. Such a firearm is only as good and reliable as the man who made it. This is why I took a Colt Commander to Jim Clark Jr. for a melt job even though I own a belt sander and a vise. Could I do the job he did? Yeah, maybe, if luck was with me. Could he do the job he did? Definitely. Was it worth it? It was to me. I got to pick exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it done. That is what a custom gun is. A custom gun is not a 1911 that a gunsmith, no matter how talented, put a beavertail on along with some other goodies in hopes that he might find a buyer. A custom gun is a gun that is made to the needs and specifications of a specific buyer, like a custom suit or shirt. Anything else may be nice, but it was not tailored to you.

What this pistol is is a modified Sistema. It appears to be a Lipsey gun, and the modifications appear to be well done. The questions I would ask are:
1. What barrel is in it?
2. Is the sear and disconnect original?
3. I would expect the springs had been swapped out.
4. Why was an arched mainspring housing swapped out for an arched mainspring housing?
5. Why Duracoat?

I would inspect it very carefully in the usual GI M1911 stress areas. Duracoat can cover a lot of things. In fact, since I know a shooter who is a radiologist I would probably place it under a C-arm and look at it under flouro. With a collectible M1911 I wouldn't go to that length, but on a GI gun that would see significant range time in my hands, since I have the ability, why not? Especially if it was Duracoated instead of blued or parkerized.

Finally, I would expect to shoot the gun to establish reliability and to see if I like it. That's a benefit of buying any used gun, along with the reduced price. This pistol is a shooter. I could be a very nice shooter, and a wonderful carry gun.

To answer the question of whether I would make this specific trade....... Yes, as long as there were no cracks in the Sistema's frame or slide. Why? I like 1911s, and I don't care for Glocks. That is the only reason. Glocks are generally reliable, but not infallible. So are 1911s that retain a mil-spec frame/slide/barrel relationship. Both camps have devoted and blind disciples. I am here to say I have had my tail waxed by bearers of Gaston's finest, but I've shown a few plastic fantastics what 1911 supremacy is all about a few times too. I like 1911s because they help me shoot better than I ever thought I could.

I carry a 1911 because I shoot better with them, and I believe in a self defense situation, effective shot placement (including depth) to stop the threat is more important than caliber, action type, brand of gun, scent of aftershave, or any other factor, except perhaps speed. The 1911 gives me the most speed and the most accurate shot placement. The Glock does the same for other folks.

Chances are, the only thing I would do to this gun is swap out the sights for Novaks. From what I can tell from the photographs, the workmanship appears to be competently performed, and wise choices have been made as to where to stop the modifications.

Learn more about Sistemas here.

Learn how to thoroughly check out a used 1911 here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your other post about buying used guns. Right after I bought my 1991A1 I put a full length guide rod and "group gripper" The gun was factory new. If I remove these things now will the gun operate safely? Will it effect accuracy? And would I trade my Colt? No way. KD

8:54 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Damn, Xav. when you write about 1911s, it makes me want to buy one. :-) Too bad .45 ammo is almost double the price of 9mm.

and I'd just get an out-of-the-box 1911 like a Springfield GI-45.

But the %$^ price of 45 ammo, though.

But you tempt me, you really do.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Mark Horning said...

I'd trade any Glock for that gun. Even the beat to death Lipseys guns are going for $450-500 these days.

The hammer has been swapped out, so I presume the ignition parts have as well. Note the thumb safety has been swapped also. Regardless, it's worth the price of a used Glock, and you can easily strip off the Duracote and get it properly parked.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep fighting my urge to buy a 1911 like the one that was as much a part of my life as my pressurized flight suit. With all my other powerful handguns, I really do not need another. But, the battle rages on.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Jonathan - why shouldn't .45 ACP cost twice as much as 9mm? The bullet weight of most .45 cartridges is 230 grains, while 9mm is usually half that at 115...

9:58 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Mark, my point, maybe it wasn't clear, is that cracks can be aeasily covered with Duracoat. It's not a bad finish, it just makes inspection for cracks more difficult.

Yes, the small parts were likely swapped out. However, if they were not, were they properly honed?

11:00 AM  
Blogger Joker23 said...

You are right about kicking myself in the ass for sending mine back to Lipsey's.

I was pretty ticked off when it arrived... They had their sales people posting in several C&R forums. The Sistemas were being advertised as police issue with only minor holster wear. I had just gotten my C&R license and I was stoked about being able to buy a 1911 in that condition for that price.

I was shocked when I saw the condition on arrival. There was no finish, the magazine was rusted into the well, it failed a couple of quick safety checks, and the import mark was ridiculously obtrusive. I had bought mine for the collectible/historical value, which would be negated by refinishing.

Looking back, hindsight being 20/20 and all, I should have kept it. I sent it back for a refund because I felt like I had been cheated. I read what the salespeople were saying on the forums, I emailed with one of their reps, and I spoke with them on the phone. While the gun was no where near what they had advertised, it probably was worth what I had paid (looking back...). I probably could have refinished it and kept it as a shooter.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Mark Horning said...


Let me be clear. Even if it had a cracked frame, it's still an even swap for a used Glock. Cracked frames are unlikely though.

Obviously value is as a mix-master 1911 of unknown provenience.

Or put it another way, would I pay $350-400 (the value of a used Glock) for it without inspecting it first. Yes. And I'd strip the coating, remove all the small parts, parkerise it, drop in a Cylinder and Slide Ignition set,or possibly S&A, and reinstall the night sights. If I can keep the hammer/sear/disconector that's a bonus, but not expected.

Then I'd put a set of decent double diamond grips on it, maybe the white cocobolo that Fusion has.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

As much as a I hate to say it. I would either keep the glock or find a 1911 with a pedigree (a known gunsmith: not necessarily famous, but reputible). Unfortunatly there are too many hacks out there who think they can work on 1911's. The glock if stock is probably dead reliable. He could be trading it for a 1911 that is a gunsmithing time bomb. I have been burned before so I may be biased, but I do not buy 1911's unless any work done was by a reputable smith. That "deal" could end up costing and extra $200-$300 just to make it a relable as the glock.

8:33 AM  
Blogger JAFO said...

Timely post.

I am considering trading my Rock Island Armory GI model 1911 (or perhaps my Systema) for a Springfield XD Tactical, also in .45ACP.

I have 4 1911s. It's a hard decision!

WV: "andsor". As in, "I can haves this one andsor that one....."

1:24 PM  
Blogger Roberta X said...

I'm very happy with my Sistema; found at recent gun show for $350, it had a chipped sear ad a very hard, rough trigger pull as a result. After a C&S drop-in, it turned into a nice shooter and decent Trijicons have made things even better.

It's not as cheap to shoot as a 9mm, but my hand likes it.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Wow... I totally missed when I mentioned the Admiral Graf Spee. Then again, this was second-hand knowledge gained from someone who should probably know better (Liddy, who wrote about the Sistema in the Monkey Wranglers.)

10:01 PM  

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