The Story behind “The M1911 Complete Assembly Guide”

LVP 011, the cover pistol on “The M1911 Complete Assembly Guide”


When one decides to write a book, the path may be straight and narrow.  Get an idea, do the research, write the words.  Fiction or non-fiction, that’s the way it often goes.  Sometimes, though, the path to a book is not so direct.  That was the case with “The M1911 Complete Assembly Guide.”

Back in 2007, I got the idea to write a book on the Model of 1911 pistol.  As is my usual plan of attack, despite having at that time some forty-seven years of experience with M1911s, I began a deep dive into the history and function of Browning’s masterpiece.  I can recall in 1960, when I acquired my first M1911 (and first firearm of any kind) the wonder I experienced in the subtleties and simplicity of this sophisticated machine.  What kind of mind can conceive such a mechanical masterpiece?  To this day I marvel at the genius behind the M1911. 

As part of my continuing M1911 education I resolved to learn how to build one from scratch.  The opportunity to be taught fell into my lap, as I learned that Larry Vickers, who had learned the craft from Ken Hackathorn, who in turn was a pupil of John Miller (one of the least known and most respective firearm authorities of the age), was offering an M1911 build class in my corner of the state.  I hastily signed up and eagerly acquired the specified tools and parts.  The bare frame and slide were to be ordered from Caspian Arms; the serial number prefix was “LVP,” for Larry Vickers Pistol (Class).  Mine was 011, so presumably I was Larry’s eleventh student; this was, I believe, only the second class he had offered.

The day of the class arrived, and so did I at the appointed site.  My wife had been ill with what we thought was the flu, but she seemed to be recovering.  As we completed the frame, slide and barrel fit, I became concerned because she was not answering the phone.  One of my classmates happened to be a police officer from our small city; he gave me the number of our city’s Rescue Squad and suggested I call them to respond, because we were about an hour’s drive from home.  That suggestion may have saved my wife’s life, because when the paramedics entered our home she was unresponsive and clearly in a bad way.  I won’t go into the details of the week-long battle with septic shock, but of course this crisis caused me to leave the course without finishing.

I did continue with the book though, and eventually “The M!911 Complete Owner’s Guide” was published.  However, the idea of an Assembly Guide was still in my mind.  Soon after the Owner’s Guide hit the street, I received an e-mail from a reader of my “The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide.”  He told me that he and his brother had built a couple of dozen AR-15s with the aid of the Guide, and had given the Guide to a dozen or so friends who then built rifles of their own.  He asked when I was going to publish an Assembly Guide for the M1911; I responded that I had the project in mind.  I noticed from his email sig that his office was about ten minutes from my home, so I suggested that he and his brother meet me for lunch to discuss the idea.

And that, friends, is how the Assembly Guide came to be.  The King brothers, along with Drake Oldham, the police officer and part-time pistolsmith formed a team with me to perfect our M1911 build skills and in the process create a book that documented the build process in extreme detail.  Did I mention that Drake was the police officer at the Vickers class whose timely suggestion likely saved my wife’s life?  He had completed the class and was able to fill in the parts that I had missed.

The result was a pair of pistols; the “main attraction,” the cover gun, is illustrated here.  There’s also a picture from my “Thursday Day at the Range” series on my Facebook page, which shows the proof of the pudding.  While I do shoot with a six o’clock hold, I probably should hit the front sight with a file.  The Assembly Guide has the formula to determine exactly what the front sight height should be, so time to break it out and do some reading.

Next time: “Why I built two pistols for the book”



Seven yards, unsupported standing Weaver, best of five, five-shot groups.

From the “Thursday Day at the Range” series on my Facebook page.