1911 reliability upgrades

1911 reliability upgrades

This is a discussion on 1911 reliability upgrades within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hi all...Been lurking here a few weeks and figured it was time to jump in. A few weeks ago I picked up a bare bones ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array radshooter's Avatar
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    1911 reliability upgrades

    Hi all...Been lurking here a few weeks and figured it was time to jump in.

    A few weeks ago I picked up a bare bones basic .45 ACP Springfield Armory 1911, full size pistol. I plan to transition to carrying this 1911 for CCW instead of my EAA Witness.

    Right now it is in the shop getting night sights installed. Should be back in a week or two. When it gets back, I will be looking do do some upgrades to make it super reliable. Not looking to turn it into a race gun with lots of bells and whistles. I don't need all that fancy stuff. I want a rock-solid, utterly reliable, bet-your-life pistol.

    What would you guys suggest? I thought about polishing the feed ramp, Wilson Combat mags (do you recommend 7 or 8 rounders?) for starters. I would like to be able to do as much of the work myself to get familiar with the pistol. I am fairly mechanical, but have never worked on pistols other than field stripping/cleaning.

    Not interested in turning it into a 100 yard tack driver either. I know that accuracy needs tight tolerances, and that is usually counterproductive to reliability. I do want it to be accurate at self-defense distances though. Am I asking too much??

    Thanks for your ideas.


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array peckman28's Avatar
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    Is your 1911 the GI model or the Mil-Spec? If it's the GI model, I would say you might want to look into getting a throated barrel in there, as it allows JHP ammo to feed better. That being said, I have had no problem with JHP ammo in my GI model, though I don't consider it my primary defensive weapon either. Other than that, sounds to me like you're on the right track with the upgrades you have in mind. Good choice in gun, and good luck!

  3. #3
    Member Array radshooter's Avatar
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    Thanks peckman28. To be honest, I don't know offhand which one it is. What is the difference? I will check it out when I get it back. I had a few 1911s many many many years ago, but am not up on all the new models and clones.

  4. #4
    VIP Member Array peckman28's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by radshooter View Post
    Thanks peckman28. To be honest, I don't know offhand which one it is. What is the difference? I will check it out when I get it back. I had a few 1911s many many many years ago, but am not up on all the new models and clones.
    When you got it, did it have tiny little sights you could barely see or did it have raised sights? Do the handgrips say "U.S." on them or do they have the Springfield Armory logo? Is the ejection port lowered or is it nearly flush with the slide? Did it come with one magazine or two? If it has the former characteristics, it is the GI, and if it has the latter it is the mil-spec.

  5. #5
    Member Array radshooter's Avatar
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    Thanks....I must have the mil-spec. Decent sights, but getting them changed to night sights, and SA logo on the grips. Spare magazine included in molded box. Can't say about the ejection port, don't remember.

    The gun shop is sending it to a machine shop to have the front sight punched out, then a dovetail cut in the front of the slide so I will have a better choice of aftermarket sights down the road. They said Springfield uses their own front sights which are inserted and peened underneath the slide. To get a replacement sight from them would take up to 8 weeks.

    thanks again.

  6. #6
    Member Array 120mm's Avatar
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    Go to The M1911 Pistols Organization and read all the way through their pinned topics.

    Do NOT polish feed ramps on an M1911 style pistol, unless a professional and experienced M1911 'smith says to AND you know precisely what you are doing. If your pistol is well timed and set up, feed ramp smoothness has very little influence on how the bullet gets in the chamber.

    The great majority of M1911 malfunctions are caused by bad magazines, faulty ammunition, mis-tuned extractors and people with dremel tools wanting to polish their feed ramps. While the feed ramp is not as critical to proper operation, you can easily remove material critical to operation by messing with it.

    Do NOT make alterations to your M1911 until you've shot it a bunch. The M1911 pistol is a collection of interconnected systems that are like that little girl, with the golden curls. When it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad, it's horrid.

    The more "enhancements" you get for it, the more "Fail" you are asking for, imo. Better sights are a Good Thing. Extended this, and ambidextrous that, and cool looking the other thing will increase costs exponentially and could introduce new and exciting failure modes into your carry piece.

    Welcome to the disease known as M1911 pistols.... :)
    Last edited by 120mm; April 22nd, 2010 at 09:39 AM.

  7. #7
    Member Array 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by radshooter View Post
    Thanks....I must have the mil-spec. Decent sights, but getting them changed to night sights, and SA logo on the grips. Spare magazine included in molded box. Can't say about the ejection port, don't remember.

    The gun shop is sending it to a machine shop to have the front sight punched out, then a dovetail cut in the front of the slide so I will have a better choice of aftermarket sights down the road. They said Springfield uses their own front sights which are inserted and peened underneath the slide. To get a replacement sight from them would take up to 8 weeks.

    thanks again.
    A note about your gun shop. He tells you the truth about dovetails and better choices of aftermarket sights, but the deal about Springfield front sights is slightly off.

    Tenon sights are not Springfield unique, and there are several on the market. They are "old school" and chances are he didn't want to screw with getting the correct tool to mount them.

    Brownell's has the correct tenon sights that will ship the day he ordered them.

  8. #8
    Member Array gglass's Avatar
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    Maybe you should try adding a liberal amount of muck. It seems to work real well for this guy's SA Mil-Spec 1911. (Warning - language)

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    I tend to agree with the above recommendation not to go overboard. Run a few boxes of various ammo through it and then do whatever it needs to fucntion as you wish. To arbitrarily do "upgrades" may be money wasted that could have been invested elsewhere (like more ammo!).

    If the pistol will handle 8-rd mags and conceal like you want, why not carry the extra round? Some 1911s don't work well with the 8-rounders, so do.
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  10. #10
    OD*
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    Simply put, don't mess with the pistol if you aren't familiar with the 1911 platform, the biggest cause of malfunctions in the 1911 are those people thinking they know better than John Browning did. I agree with 120mm, shoot the pistol A LOT before you decide you need to change anything, you may not, don't be one of those "if it ain't broke, fix it until it is" types.

    Quote Originally Posted by radshooter View Post
    I know that accuracy needs tight tolerances, and that is usually counterproductive to reliability.
    That is pretty much urban legend, as is the statement that John Browning built the 1911 loose so it would function reliability under all conditions. The people that parrot that nonsense have never handled an original M1911 or an early M1911A1. The tolerances on the M1911A1 were not loosened until November of 1943, and it wasn't done to enhance reliability, the tolerances were loosened to improve parts interchangeability between the 5 manufacturers of M1911A1 pistols. Ask any Les Baer owner about the reliability of their pistols under harsh conditions.
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Terrorists: They hated you yesterday, they hate you today, and they will hate you tomorrow. End the cycle of hatred, donít give them a tomorrow."

  11. #11
    Member Array Jessie's Avatar
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    Hi

    All this talk about reliability!

    I have been shooting guns of all types for over forty years and yes I have had a few failures I say few because compared to the number of rds I have fired the failures really are not even worth mentioning.

    From my experience almost all Failures are do to people messing with perfectly good guns. (If it works leave it).

    I have carried guns on a daily basis for about 35 years and I have never I repeat never had the first or second rd fail when I draw my carry and shoot, actually when at the range I have never had the first rd fail in any gun.
    I have been carrying a 1911 of some sort now pretty constant for several years and have had 0 malfunctions.
    I have a GI springer that I know has had 15000 plus rds and I have recorded 14 failures which according to my records are all Ammo or mag problems not the weapon.

    So my suggestion is take care of the gun keep it clean and if you do make changes make only one change at a time that way if you have a problem in the next 3 to 500 rds then it's most likely caused from the change you made.

    Oh 1911's are just as reliable and dependable as the notorious glock or any other brand.

    Take care of your gun and it will take care of you regardless of the name.
    Changes made to 1911's or any gun should be called cosmetic updates instead of reliability updates.

  12. #12
    OD*
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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    A note about your gun shop. He tells you the truth about dovetails and better choices of aftermarket sights, but the deal about Springfield front sights is slightly off.

    Tenon sights are not Springfield unique, and there are several on the market. They are "old school" and chances are he didn't want to screw with getting the correct tool to mount them.

    Brownell's has the correct tenon sights that will ship the day he ordered them.
    Actuatly he was correct when he said "Springfield uses their own front sights which are inserted and peened underneath the slide." S.A. uses a proprietary tenon size, like they do with their firing pins.
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Terrorists: They hated you yesterday, they hate you today, and they will hate you tomorrow. End the cycle of hatred, donít give them a tomorrow."

  13. #13
    Member Array sabre03's Avatar
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    Most 1911 smiths offer a relaibility package. I recommend you buy a package and have them do the work....may want to consider a triiger job too, but that is your choice.

  14. #14
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    Amen Jessie;

    Your experiences mirror mine.


    Shoot it for a while. The 1911 is a reliable design. It was the first gun generally used to play dress-up, long before this current fascination with playing dress-up with the AR 15. A cottage industry was in full swing by 1970 to "improve," "enhance," and just generally monkey with the 1911. While it makes a great toy for accessorizing like a Barbie doll, the 1911 is best left alone if one wants a fighting handgun.

    The 1911s that I either knew as a kid or still own are military contract guns or stock Colt Series 70 Government Models. They all have given a reliable performance that even the vaunted Glock can't surpass and are surprisingly accurate as well.

    I've watched other gun club members and shooting companions take good 1911s and render them hopelessly unreliable through ceaseless compulsive tweaking. A Glock could be rendered just as unreliable with files, Dremel tools, and overrated out of spec. aftermarket accessories.

    A balky 1911 likely either possesses a design/spec deviation or else has been fiddled with by an owner or a gunsmith that didn't know what he was about.

    The guy throwing his 1911 in the muck is amusing and good for entertainment. While I admire the design greatly, his effort is just another inane non-test.

  15. #15
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    Hi OD;

    "That is pretty much urban legend..."

    I admit that I have felt that "tightened" 1911s weren't as reliable but gained that opinion through observation of guys who "tightened" their 1911 through the injudicious use of a vise out in their garages.

    I'm depending on your experiences with the guns originally manufactured to close tolerances which are apparently a different breed of cat.

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