Thursday, June 30, 2005

What's WRONG with the 1911

Okay so you all should know by now that I'm a BIG fan of the 1911 and it's variants. But I'm not a 1911 zealot. The 1911 certainly has it's problems...

I mean why would my 1911 have all this done to it if there weren't SOME parts of the design that couldn't be improved:
1. Polished integrated ramped, match bull barrel with a fully supported chamber (for .45super)
2. Titanium firing pin
3. Tuned custom hammer and trigger group with a 3.25# pull
4. Ultra short, ultra light, adjustable trigger
5. Tuned extractor
6. Tuned ejector
7. Dual captured recoil system with 22# wolff springs (for .45 super)
8. Tightened and trued frame and slide (but not too tightened)
9. Checkered arched mainspring housing
10. Wraparound hogue finger groove grips
11. Torx head grip screws
12. Lowerd and flared ejection port
13. Lowered, extended, and thinned tool steel ambi-dextrous safety
14. Lowered, extended, and thinned tool steel slide stop
15. Beveled mag well
16. Novak lo-profile combat sights with tritium inserts.
17. Recessed angle cut muzzle crown
18. Wilson mags with steel ultrathin base plates
19. Full wolff sring set
20. Slide flats trued and polished, the rest of the gun bead blasted
Sure, some of those are personal preference items; but a couple of them address serious issues with the original design.

So, what are the problems that I see with the classic 1911:

1. Ejection port
2. Unsupported chamber
3. Frame feed ramp
4. Original plain grip safety
5. Spur hammer
6. Recoil spring plug
7. Barrel bushing (plus and minus on that one)
8. Stock safety
9. Stock slide stop release
10. ANY Grip safety at all (plus and minus on that one)
11. Overly sensitive to mag springs
12. Overly sensitive to all the other springs too
13. Non-existent sights

Actually, most of those aren't really THAT big deal... but there is one thing that is the WORST feature of the 1911...

The internal tension spring extractor

The internal extractor has caused more serious problems for more users than anything other than bad magazines (which I don't blame on the design really, and which are a problem for ALL auto pistols).

Even an otherwise perfect 1911 can become unreliable after a few hundred rounds of "bad" ammo, that can detension the extractor. In fact even an Ed Brown hardcore extractor (about the toughest and highest end you can get) can be detensioned by just 20-50 rounds of ammo thats rim is too thick, too hard, or extracts just a little bit wrong.

You do it to yourself even faster if you drop the slide on a chambered round.

Generally speaking, the strategy in dealing with this HAS been to get a good heavy duty extractor, tension it properly, then tune it up every few thousand rounds.

In the last few years though, Kimber, S&W and others have started producing external extractor 1911's (with varying degrees of success. Kimber mostly unsuccessful, SIG, ParaOrdnance, and S&W successful). That really is the proper solution to this issue; because it doesnt need regular retuning, and it isn't subject to metal fatigue etc...

Actually extraction and ejection issues are probably the most serious issues for ANY auto pistol, but just about every other design has moved to an external extractor. Sometimes "they" are right, and god forbid, John Moses Browning was wrong (actually HE thought the extractor was the weak point too).

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