Pistolsmithing: My Name is Greg; I’m Addicted to Jigs


The DMI 1911 fixture plate cutting a precise 31.5-degree feed
ramp in the mill with a 0.50" ball mill cutter.

Jigs are my life. Like many gunsmiths, jigs are a must-have, particularly for repetitive work. They save time and build consistency. Not every process has a jig, but many do.

I use as many jigs or fixtures as possible; in business, “time is money,” so using a jig to set up a milling or a hand process saves time. There are jigs for small things like sight cutting and large-scale jigs for checkering. As you can imagine, the costs can also run from small to large. Some jigs I make; others are available from manufacturers. Let’s talk about both.

A small jig designed to hold a 1911 hammer securely for precise milling.

Everyday Jigs

One small jig or fixture I use is very simple; it’s a sight-holding jig. Sights are tough to clamp properly and this jig makes it simple. Master gunsmith, tool-and-die maker Ned Christiansen offered a two-jig set a few years ago. The set has four dovetails in the most popular sizes. One jig for front sights, the other for rear sights. It’s actually quite simple, but makes working on sights so much easier. Slip in the sight, tighten the set screw and mill or file as needed. It makes installing a gold bead simple.

Another jig I use is Harrison Designs’ grip safety jig. The jig slips into the 1911 trigger bow slot in the frame and allows me to blend the safety to the frame in either the engaged position or the relaxed position. I blend all my grip safeties using this jig. It’s a huge time saver.

Some fixtures have multiple uses; the DMI 1911 fixture plate looks like a large protractor. It allows the smith to secure a 1911 frame indexing on the slide stop pin hole for several cuts. The 1911 blueprints show all the hole locations and measurements based off the STP hole. The protractor grid allows for cutting perfect 31.5-degree feed ramps. It is also used for cutting frames. The frame can be removed and replaced on the plate without zero loss.

The Power Custom sear jig by Ron Power has about 20 different adapters for honing the sear and hammers on many makes and models. Buy one base unit; then adapters are available individually. The unit is well-made and heavy, which makes it stable while working on the bench or table.

Ned Christiansen’s dovetail sight holding jig makes it simple to clamp small sights for either hand or machine work.

DIY Jigs

In some cases, I have to make my own jig. For a one-off project, I recently had to make a fixture to hold a 1911 hammer flat for milling. This was to recreate a John Giles-style hammer for one of his guns that was missing the original. The shape of a 1911 hammer makes it challenging to hold. My jig is a flat aluminum plate with a drilled and tapped hole and a stud that goes through the strut pin hole to prevent the hammer from moving while milling. I might never use the jig again, but I had to have it for this job.

The new Krebs jig by EGW (Evolution Gun Works) to cut standard
1911 frame tangs for a beavertail grip safety on a milling machine.

For Pros and Amateurs

One great jig/fixture I used when I started was a “Kreb’s” 1911 beavertail fitting jig by Marc Krebs. This jig allows me to cut the standard GI grip safety tangs on the 1911 for installation of a “beavertail grip safety.” Level the jig in your mill vise, then install your frame using a provided gage pin through the jig and thumb safety pin hole in the frame. A milling 3/8th cutter removes small amounts from the frame until the new grip safety will fit. This is done by rotating the frame on the axis of the provided gage pin. Material can be removed in large rough cuts and then in smaller increments until the desired fit is achieved. The tang radius can be as small as 0.220″. This is a valuable jig for either the occasional user or the professional. George Smith at EGW has started production of the jig with a few improvements like a frame spacer and a 0.250″ radius gage, which is used as a reference point to make quicker work until the final dimension cuts are made. The jig’s finish is hard anodized. Set up is fast, and the cutting is even faster. With practice, it takes about 20 minutes start to stop.

For more info: EGWGuns.com, PowerCustom.com, HarrisonCustom.com, MichiGuns.com, DOTYMI.com

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