Fixing a 1 of 3000 Colt Lightweight Commander

by Joseph LaJoy
GCA Member

I spent the day getting everything wrapped up at the shop so I wouldn’t have too much hanging over my head when I got back for the 2016 NRA Show. My wife and I had been looking forward to the show for a few weeks now. We had missed the 2016 SHOT Show and we’re going to use this time to meet up with some friends and talk to some of our vendors.

So as I get into my truck to head home and pack for NRA my cell phone goes off and it is a VERY frantic customer calling me to tell me I need to fix his prized Colt that a Big School Graduate destroyed. Then the Customer perceives to inform me that he has called everyone and no one would touch it with a ten-foot pole and I’m his last resort. Well after a 25 min conversation about his Colt and me leaving in the morning for the NRA show I decided I’d take a look at the Colt and bring it with me to NRA show to show this Colt off as what NOT to do when trying to fix a 1911 and to make sure that what I’m planning to do to fix it is on the right track.

7:00 am the next morning I’m at my shop waiting for the customer to show with his baby so that I can write it up and leave to head out for the NRA show. The customer shows up and hands me the frame and barrel only and states that he took the gun in to have the feed ramp and barrel polished because he was having problems feeding hollow point ammo and this is how he received it back. (This is 1 of 3,000 Colt lightweight commander It’s a ser 70 with an aluminum frame and an officer barrel and slide.) My first thought is now there are only 2,999 left. You see the polish work was more of a grind. In fact, it was so bad on the frame that they filled the frame with JB Weld to try and fix what they did. The barrel was ground so bad that the case was not supported anymore and the barrel is out of round.

After I finally recovered from the disbelief of what was done to this pistol I start to think about the problem at hand. First, we need to get rid of all the JB Weld and see how bad the frame really is. But after looking at it more the concision was to machine out all of the JB Weld, make a steel feed ramp and machine the frame to accept the new steel feed ramp. I opted to buy EGW’s steel feed ramp instead along with EGW’s 1911 frame jig to make light work of this project.

After mounting the Colt to the jig and getting it set up in the mill I went to town milling the frame out to get rid of the JB Weld along with machining a pocket in the frame to frame to accept the new feed ramp. Once I was sure the pocket was correct I drill and tap through the left side of the frame and the steel feed ramp. This will accept a setscrew to lock the feed ramp in place. The hole is drilled so that when you assemble the firearm the slide stop will cover the setscrew and no one will be able to see it. Now I’m ready to install the feed ramp. First I cleaned and degreased the frame and feed ramp. I placed green Vibra-Tite 56750 high temp high strength retaining compound in the pocket and on the feed ramp. Inserted the ramp into the pocket and then installed the setscrew. I let it set 24 hours and the frame is now fixed. All that is left to do the frame is paint it with Brownells black Aluma-Hyde II.

(See ALL attached photos)

Now on to the barrel!

First, the barrel is no good so we need to order a new one. The customer wants a Nowlin barrel so I ordered a Nowlin – Officers model 3.5” 45acp non-ramped barrel and barrel links. Now Nowlin’s Officer model barrels are Gunsmith fit barrels only so now I have to fit the new barrel and finish chamber it in order to finish up the job and get the firearm back running again.

If you are not sure how to fit a 1911 barrel then make sure you sign up for one of the Gunsmithing programs from AGI and you will have not one learn how to a barrel but you will become one of the best gunsmiths in your town.

Never stop learning and growing in the great Art of Gunsmithing. All right I’ll see you out there.


9 Responses to Fixing a 1 of 3000 Colt Lightweight Commander

  1. What a disaster! Thank God for EGW. If someone did this to my Gold Cup I’d club them to death with it before leaving their shop!

  2. Maybe I can’t read, but I am confused.

    How is a “Nowlin – Officers model 3.5” 45acp non-ramped barrel and barrel links.” going to replace a 4.5″ Colt Commander barrel?

    • (This is 1 of 3,000 Colt lightweight commander It’s a ser 70 with an aluminum frame and an officer barrel and slide.)

  3. How could anyone do that to gun??? I have a circa 1950 Colt commander LW and have managed to keep in tip top condition by NEVER doing anything to the frame. It shoots well enough but I restrict it low power loads. I have treated it to a new barrel, hammer, sear, and a general tune up.

  4. Good job Mr. LaJoy. It is horror stories like the one above that have me incredibly leery about letting anyone other than you work on my firearms. You have always provided fast, reliable and quality work at an affordable price. I see no reason to to take my firearms anywhere else. I hope the above customer was able to get some kind of recourse from the “wannabe gunsmith “.

  5. Crazy awful. Can’t believe someone would do such an extensive butcher job and then follow up with such a horrible “fix”. Really hope the culprit doesn’t get a chance to do this to anyone’s possessions again. Hopefully they find there way to AGI’s courses and learn the proper way to do things. We all make mistakes I suppose, but this one is terrible!

    I did not know there are steel frame ramp inserts, really cool!

    Good job with the repair Joseph and thanks for the good article..
    Cheers

    • I have used a few things from EGW as well, and they have impressed me so far. I didn’t know about the feed ramps til now; I will keep it in mind.