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Thread: Colt Delta Elite customized from a Tokyo Marui 1911A1

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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Colt Delta Elite customized from a Tokyo Marui 1911A1

    This project was the fruit of a ... mistake.

    As I have already mentioned, I have found a good supplier of airsoft guns in UK, namely Elite Shooting Center. The owner, Mike Cripps is a very friendly and honest person, so we always talk about new airsoft ideas and projects. Some time ago, I have expressed my wish to build a Colt Combat Commander, the way this gun is now produced by Colt.



    Of course, being a very demanding customer, I wanted this pistol to have a metal frame and slide, not some cheapy plastic ones. It also had to have a 4.25" barrel, the vertical, rear-only cocking serrations, the high-profile sights used on the Commander shown above, the same grip safety as this pistol etc. At the time we discussed this project with Mike, it appeared that the parts needed for it were not readily available. However, Mike mentioned that I could build a similar Government pistol, if I was interested, based on a frame/slide kit of the Colt Delta Elite.

    The thought was attractive, since it would be the first Government-size model in my collection which would have the basic characteristics that I prefer on a 1911. It would also be based on the Tokyo Marui pistol, which can be had at a very competitive price (compared to the Western Arms equivalent) and which is starting to become the defacto base for customized pistols. Several companies are now coming out with kits to customize the TM 1911A1 to produce various immitations of real 1911 pistols.

    There were still some parts missing, even though the Delta Elite slide/frame kit was available (in stainless and blue form). The round Commander hammer that the Delta Elite uses was not available, neither was a tear-drop thumb safety and of course there was no Commander grip safety. Then, all of a sudden, Mike emailed me with some news. It looked as if Tanyo Koba had just released a small parts kit, which included a flat, checkered main spring housing, an oval hammer, an ambi, Kimber-style thumb safety and a beavertail, it appears that this kit is targeted to those who want to build an MEU-SOC pistol from the TM 1911A1.

    I thought that I could use at least the hammer from this kit and I could possibly modify the standard TM Government grip safety to a Commander scalloped one, and that I could use the ambi safety as a last resort (so eventually the produced Delta won't be totally like the original, but pretty close). As it usually happens, Mike was told to order all the required parts and send them over to me, which he did.

    Pretty soon, a package was delivered to my door, with two boxes in it. The first was the standard TM 1911A1 green box, and the other was a white box from Pro-Win, which contained the frame/slide kit. I've seen the 1911A1 before, so I opened the Pro-Win box first. Surprise-surprise, this kit is really nice. It includes a metallic frame and slide, but it also includes a metallic outer barrel, a recoil spring, a new metallic piston and o-ring, the tall high-profile Colt sights and a set of grip screw bushings. Nice!



    Mike had also included the oval hammer, the ambi safety, the flat, checkered mainspring housing from the Tanyo Koba parts kit (I didn't need the beavertail, so Mike kept it), and thoughtfully a single-side thumb safety as well (which was NOT a tear-drop safety though).

    The goods arrived to me on a Friday afternoon, so they sat patiently in a shelf during the weekend, while the kids were at home (have you ever tried doing some work involving tiny parts, while two 6-years-old kids are jumping all around you? Not good). Monday morning, I cleaned up the kitchen table and I started the conversion. I felt like a surgeon performing a transplant. First, the TM 1911A1 was stripped down to the bare frame and slide. All parts were kept inside a box, so that I won't loose one of the tiny springs or anything else. Then, the more serious work begun.

    I decided to deal with the grip safety first. The standard (albeit a little short) GI grip safety of the 1911A1 had to be transformed to a Commander grip safety. After a few minutes of working with the Dremel and the files, the grip safety had the desired scalloped shape. I used some Birchwood bluing solution (for aluminum) to reblue the safety. So far so good.



    I then transfered the TM frame subassembly in the new frame. If you are not aware of this, the TM 1911A1 comes with a subassembly, which contains all the internal frame parts, hammer, sear, disconnector, etc, but it also has the frame rails for the slide. This makes the transplant easier since you do not have to deal with the small parts, but I wanted to make sure that everything would fit OK. Well, it did, with the exception of the hammer pin, the holes were a bit out of alignment, but by very very little. A single hit with a small hammer convinced the pin to go in.





    After the subassembly was secured in place with the two screws used to mount it in the frame (one is under the slide stop, on the outside of the frame, the other inside the dust cover), it was time to try the slide on the frame.

    The TM slide has part of its rail, on the left side of the slide build in a removable piece. On my previous transplant which used a Guarder frame/slide kit, if that part was installed on the slide, the slide won't go on the frame. This time everything went perfectly (Pro-Win slide and frame are much nicer than the Guarder frame/slide kit I used for the 1943 GI pistol I build) and the slide with the removable part went on the frame just fine.



    It was a relatively tight fit, but no filing or lapping was required. With this test completed, I started to disassemble the subassembly to change the hammer. This is a tricky operation since there are small parts that can easily get lost, I accomplish it inside a small box, so that if something slipped of, it won't be lost. Everything went OK, and I was soon able to test the hammer together with the grip safety I had modified before. The test proved that I had done a good job, the hammer cocked perfectly and everything worked OK.








    The next step was building the slide. And this was the only step that I cursed while doing it. LoRL, the darn rear sight couldn't be fitted in the slide, the way it was supposed to. Typically for a TM pistol, the sight goes in from inside the slide, but not with this slide. So I had to slightly file the sight in order to insert it in its dovetail, in the usual way. With that in place, I then replaced the piston head and the O-ring (the TM piston head is plastic, the one supplied with the Pro-Win kit is metallic) in the blow-back unit, reassemble it and installed it in the frame. I secured it with the small removable slide rail piece mentioned above and the large allen screw on the back of the slide and tested it. Everything seemed to be fine.

    Then I replaced the outer barrel with the metallic one which came with the Pro-Win kit. This change had given troubles in my first TM transplant as well and it gave me the same troubles with this one, but eventually the new outer barrel was installed. I completed the assembly of the slide and then I install it on the frame.


    You can see the outer barrel markings here, saying "-Cal 10MM Auto-".

    One final step remained before test-firing the pistol. I had three choices for the thumb safety, none of which was the one I wanted. As I explained before, I wanted to use a tear-drop shaped thumb safety, but none was available for the TM pistol. So I had to select between either a "custom" single-side safety that Mike had send me, the Kimber-style ambi from the Tanyo Koba kit, or the original TM 1943 GI safety that came with the pistol. I decided to go with the custom single-side safety, which went in and worked just fine.


    Here you can see the safety I used. You can also see the tabs of the rear sight, that had to be slightly filed, to allow it to go in its dovetail, from the other side of the slide.

    A loaded magazine was inserted in the frame and eight BBs were fired. SUCCESS! The pistol worked fine, the slide locked back after the last BB was fired and I was a happy camper. If only I had a set of Delta Elite rubber grips, that would be a very nice copy of the original Colt pistol. Unfortunately I hadn't, so I had to figure out an alternative. Mike had thoughtfully send me a set of rubber Pachmayr grips. Unfortunately (again) these were not the Signature model I prefer, but the Gripper model, which has finger grooves at the front strap, something I hate.

    Now, I have plenty of grips in my parts box, but I couldn't use them, for a very ... interesting reason. The TM grips are hollowed on the back to cover two really heavy weights, which give the TM pistol a relatively decent feel. Without these weights in place, the pistol feels very light and muzzle-heavy. So, I had to use some weights under the grips if I wanted the pistol to have a balanced feel. After searching in my parts box, I discovered a set of hollow Alumagrips that Chris Lynch had send me in the past. This set was hollowed on the inside and it looked as if it could accomodate some weights I had from a WA pistol.



    The grips had a plain, checkered left panel, and the NRA seal on the right side. OK, I could live with the NRA seal even though I would prefer if it was not there. Some dremel work on the weights, and they went in the grips just fine. I installed the grip bushings in the frame (they just slide in, so some blue Loctite was used to secure them in place) and then the grips which looked perfect.

    So with the grips issue resolved, the build-up was completed. Here are some pictures of the final pistol.





    Here is the pistol, with a new round Commander hammer that Mike was able to find for me.



    I still need to remove the lanyard loop from the main spring housing, but I'll have to live with the Pachmayr grips, since I can't find any Delta grips locally.

    The firing session of this pistol, was a joy. The Point of Impact (POI) is exactly at the Point of Aim (POA) and the blow-back is very strong and positive. Grouping was a little better than the standard TM pistol had shown, something in the range of 2". Of course, the original TM pistol had the smallish GI sights, which made aiming the pistol, much more difficult, while this one has the taller, entirely useable sights.

    Overall, I am a satisfied builder!

    Thanks Mike.
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org
    Last edited by John; 13th September 2008 at 03:31.


  2. #2
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    Very nice John. Boy have air guns changed since the days of Daisey and the like. I cant believe how good they look. How long have they been making them like this? I am just starting to check these out and I am impressed for what they are and how much fun they seem like they would be. How long did this build take you? Good luck with it I am sure your boys will have a blast.

  3. #3
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    If I am not mistaken, the airsoft thing started in the late eighties, in Japan, where they are not allowed to have real firearms. They've evolved quite a bit the last five years. It's hard to think of a pistol model and not to be able to find it in an airsoft version, and of course, our 1911s are represented with more models than any other one.

    The boys?? The boys do not touch some of my pistols. This one is included in the list of "out of limits", together with the 1943 Colt, the Para Ordnance P14-45 (this is a gift from Ted Szabo, so I treasure it), the Wilsons, the Nighthawk (a review of it will be published here soon) and the Colt Officers. They can take the Glocks (who cares for them?) they can take the revolvers, they can take the Kimber MARSOC but not the rest of them.

    As for the buildup, it didn't take more than a few hours. The most difficult thing was to trim the GI safety to a Commander shape, the rest of the transplant was quite straight-forward, maybe 3-4 hours in total.
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org

  4. #4
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    John I'm glad to see you finally got to experience the PGC difference. Just so you know, the thumb safety is from a TM Hi Capa 4.3, and that is exactly what I ended up doing with my own Delta build.

    KM used to make a ring hammer that fit and worked well, but for some reason they stopped producing them. I had two, and fit one to my gun, but the one I bought for a client was out of spec. I had to sacrifice my own for his build, you know quality control and all.

    While mine has been further modified to a rather ridiculous length, I chose to go with a PDI Ring Hammer in the end. It was close to a real Delta, but not perfect (mine is the black one on the bottom).

    Last edited by hkssr20det; 22nd March 2008 at 00:33.


  5. #5
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    Hey these look good!

    Here it mine, with the round Commander hammer.



    Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Delta Elite grips locally, so I have to do with the Pachmayrs. And now that I see it, I also need to remove that lanyard loop from the main spring housing. I do not think that Colt ever produced the Delta with a lanyard loop.
    John Caradimas SV1CEC
    The M1911 Pistols Organization
    http://www.m1911.org

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