Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Technical Question for You M1911 Fans

Many years ago, when taking a concealed weapon class from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department (required for a CCW in that county), I was not pleased with the trigger pull on my Colt Government Model.  I took to Mac Scott, a highly regarded gunsmith there.  The trigger went from about 8 pounds to 4 1/4 pounds.  Accuracy was much improved.  It had the three hole trigger in it, which is pretty common on trigger jobbed M1911s,  However, after a few weeks, the hammer would follow the slide down.  Mac explained that the trigger job meant the slide should not be allowed to close on an empty chamber; always have either a loaded magazine to chamber from, or ease the slide closed.  This is part of why it is now a safe queen.  Is this typical of a good trigger job?  Is it possible to have a light trigger M1911 without this finicky behavior?

My, what a lot of comments!  It does not currently follow the slide.  I am just slightly concerned that treating it like I did right out of the Colt box, might bring this problem back.  Cylinder and Slide does trigger jobs on M1911s and they have a good reputation.  I may see if regular use causes a problem.  If so, send it to C&S.  If out of action for a few weeks, no problem.  It's not like I am short of service pistols.  (Take that Everyidiot for Gun Safety.)


  1. Interesting; I have stock and sort of "light" trigger jobs (they're not light for me after shooting thousands of rounds in a really light single state Winchester Model 52 in JROTC, but I've not weighed them), and what I remember reading, can't remember from where, is that the one thing you don't do is manually ease the slide forward, you want to always have it slam forward, round or no round feeding into the chamber. That said, most of the time I release the slide it's to load a round, so I can't say I've personally tested really tested Mac's claim.

  2. Yes. Your gun was not well modified, and essentially a safety feature was disabled.

    Fortunately, it can be fixed (while maintaining a good trigger) by a modern smith....

  3. Had a similar issue with trigger follow, turned out to be the over-travel adjustment. I'm not knowledgable enough to explain it, but that's what it is.

  4. Never had a trigger job done on my 1911. Felt the gun was quite accurate and decent trigger when I first got it. But then again my 1911 came from Springfield Armory and had a few modernized features from day one (like a one piece barrel). Several other club members wanted to buy it from me feeling it was better quality then their 1911.

    One shooter in our group had a trigger job done which involved changes to the Grip safety. On the range after the mod the grip safety failed and no matter how strongly you griped the gun, the trigger would not release. Ever since that I have felt making changes in the trigger system needs to be considered carefully. Like do I want to risk suddenly finding myself with a gun that I can't pull the trigger.

  5. I am NOT AN EXPERT, however I believe strongly that is wrong. Get the Kuhnhousen books on the 1911s. Worth the price. I would think if the hammer follows the slide,your 1911, *could* have a "full auto" moment.The sear should stop the hammer.

  6. It's not a myth.

    There was a time it was good etiquette to hold the trigger back while cycling the slide. This is less common today.

    Then again with today's best parts and the keep your finger off the trigger emphasis trigger pulls in the 4+ range are expected to hold up better than they once were.

    Yes, it is possible to have a light trigger pull without this finicky behavior but just the same don't abuse the trigger and dropping the slide on an empty chamber is abuse.

  7. Let me preface this with the statement that I'm not an Expert on the 1911. I'm knowledgeable on it, primarily on the Officers Model.
    BTW, Mac runs (been a few years since I've been in touch with him) the Lab that tests guns for CA's Approved Handgun List. It's located in OR!
    He closed the Sonoma shop when his business partner died.

    Generally, the slide closing on an empty chamber is not a normal function of the 1911. It should be considered operator error. Without a cartridge being pushed against the bottom of the slide by the mag spring, the slide dust cover slams into the base of the recoil spring plug faster/harder than normal. It's a very hard jarring effect, which seems to bounce the sear and hammer just a little out of normal contact. If you then release the slide without a chambering cartridge to slow it down and cushion it, it again jars the gun, which may let the sear/hammer slip out of contact, but almost certainly is degrading it. That sear/hammer contact surface may only be .020"-.030" wide. Bounce it enough, and the hammering effect can chip away the sharp edges, leading to a somewhat rounded sear surface that slips even easier.

    My suggestion for all 1911's is to install a recoil buffer. There are two versions available. One is a firm surface, designed for a stock dust cover that has a very narrow edge. The softer buffer is generally intended for those guns that have had a reverse spring plug installed. This has a broad edge at the rear, which requires a soft buffer to properly cushion the impact. The stock cover cuts into the soft buffer rather quickly, requiring frequent replacement.

    The buffer seems to control hammer/sear bounce on the rearward slide impact, even though they are not actually in contact at the time of slide/frame impact. I suspect some sort of harmonic vibration is affected. (a high speed camera and a training frame would make a neat study)

    Without a cartridge feeding, the slide still closes too fast/hard, but is less likely to exhibit hammer follow down.

    The statement to "never do it" mostly comes from gunsmiths, while armorers seem to be ambivalent about it to the extent that some do it themselves. They generally don't do trigger jobs, and an untouched sear engagement can be good to horrible, depending on lots of variables. After seeing the working surfaces under magnification, I don't do it, and don't let others do it to my guns. (watch those clowns in gun stores/ranges!)

  8. Full power mainspring will usually fix the issue but yea if you want light and crisp its pretty common

  9. Clayton,

    It sounds like the trigger job had some problems. The most likely culprit is that the parts modified (likely the sear) had an insufficient heat treat applied and the trigger modifications worked down into the softer metal. That would be why after a few weeks you started having problems with the hammer following the slide.

    The hammer following the slide is a *SERIOUS* safety issue. Your gun run away into full auto. Bad juju.

    Take it to a good *1911* gunsmith and have it fixed. I have a great one near me:

    Tom Beliveau
    ESCI Gunsmith
    100 E Fourth St, Wendell, NC 27591
    (919) 365-9009 ‎

    He's local to me so I drop off at his shop. You'll need to talk to him about shipping your gun to him. I don't know anything about that.

    I have a number of 1911s. Some of them are good out of the box. A couple of them I've had tweaked, some extensively. ALL of them are under 5 lbs. of trigger pull and NONE of them have the issues you are describing.

    As far as not letting the slide drop on an empty chamber, I've never heard about that on a trigger job. I've heard that you can wreck your breachface, especially if you've got a hardened extractor. I just stick to stock or the Wilson Combat BulletProof extractor and I do thousands of rounds of dry fire a month which necessitates dropping the slide on an empty chamber.

    A good 1911 trigger job should never impact the usability of the gun. If a gunsmith tells you that, go somewhere else.

  10. No, this is typical of a bad trigger job. I carry a 1911 with a clean, crisp, 4# trigger.

  11. I learned some time ago to never, ever drop the slide on an empty 1911 pistol. Of course, you never drop a round in the chamber and THEN drop the slide, either, as it's very hard on the extractor, unless your particular pistol has an external extractor.

    It would probably be OK to drop the slide on an empty pistol if you held the trigger back, then released it. You'd then have to dry fire it or use your thumb to ease the hammer down.


    DO NOT TRUST THIS TRIGGER!! Do not use this firearm until repair by a competent gunsmith.

    Expect to pay good money from a reputable firm; do not try to do this on the cheap with a shade tree gun plumber.

    Without comment regarding the person who performed the job, that is absolutely not the proper function for a 1911 trigger.

    Yes, it is completely possible to obtain a crisp and clean trigger in the 4.5lb to 5lb range that operates safely and does not follow the slide.

    (Releasing the slide on an empty chamber is ill advised, but should never cause the hammer to follow the slide. The firearm was designed to chamber a round on the slide forward movement: as the slide starts forward, the breech face pushes the top edge of the next cartridge in the magazine, which as it releases from the magazine lips, slides up the breach face and the rim slides behind the extractor claw, said claw holding the cartridge captive. This is a type of "controlled feeding". Because the extractor is not spring tensioned by a spring (it depends upon an applied "bend" in the claw shaft creating spring tension), it can lose "muscle tone and not properly hold the round, or if installed by a plumber, can be over-tensioned. Either way it is a source of malfunctions.)

    I have decades worth of experience with an 1911, operationally and otherwise. They are an excellent firearm but can be difficult for an unskilled person to maintain. They are known as the "King of Feedway Stoppages".

    Ken is old like I am; he is one of the most reputable trainers in the U.S.

    I recommend that you heed his advice:

  13. The function tests of the gun should be the same as before the trigger was worked on. Something is definitely wrong.

  14. My trigger is just under 5 lb. There is NO hammer follow. That is dangerous and wrong. There is a fitting problem and it can be rectified by a good gunsmith. I am not saying Mr. Scott is not a good gunsmith, but maybe he missed something. Just sayin'

  15. Yes, it is possible to have a light rigger without the symptoms you describe.

    Take it to a gunshmith. Should be an easy fix.

    4 1/2 is kinda light for carry though.

    If this is an issue, send it to me and I will see that it is safely fixed (no returns though).

  16. Curious about this myself. I own several 1911 variants, and I've never had this problem - but I've also never gotten a trigger job done for any of them.

  17. A good trigger job on a 1911 should be able to achieve a 4 lb let-off without ever having to worry about the hammer following the slide down.

    I fired a 1911A1 straight out of the armory in a divisional match, about 1984, in Wisconsin, when I was a reservist. It had about a 4 lb trigger, and shot great. I shot the high score in that match.

    Yes, 4 lb triggers are achievable. The hammer following the slide down shows the job was not done correctly.

  18. I am not an expert, but from what little I know, this is not accurate. I have been told that it is not good to release the slide with the slide release on an empty gun, as it could break parts, but that is it.

    I think that if your hammer is following the slide down, then something is not done correctly with the trigger job, and it should be re-done. I do know that when you start changing things on a 1911 trigger, you alter everything else, in connection with the trigger, and have to adjust accordingly. It is not complicated, but you do have to know what you are doing. So my advice is to have that gun looked at by someone else, and get it fixed. Even a competent gunsmith can make a mistake. But they should stand behind it, and fix it if the gun is not functioning correctly, which in your case, it is not. Then again, remember, I said I am not an expert. But my 1911 worked fine right out of the box, and so I guess I was lucky, and got a good, albeit cheap, example. Best of luck, and hopefully, someone who knows more will tell you in detail what to do.