Things aren't always what they seem!

Things aren't always what they seem!

This is a discussion on Things aren't always what they seem! within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I shot one of my club's USPSA matches today, using my usual Springer 1911 Trophy Match. The gun had been gone over by a competent ...

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    Things aren't always what they seem!

    I shot one of my club's USPSA matches today, using my usual Springer 1911 Trophy Match. The gun had been gone over by a competent local gunsmith who knows 1911s, and overall it's been quite reliable. My biggest problem in the matches is that if I shoot to slide lock AND ram a fresh mag home too "enthusisatically," the top round will nosedive and tie the gun up. I shoot 200 gr SWCs but even different bullet styles do the same. Simple solution is not to shoot to slide lock! But that's not always possible.

    One solution which STI suggests is to modify the slide lock lever and the magazines so the slide will not lock back on an empty mag, which is a useful mod for a gun primarily used for games and not defense. So I got a spare slide lock lever and modified it by reducing the length of the nub that engages the magazine follower. I worked slowly to remove just enough material, and polished the resulting surface for good measure. I checked it with several magazines and some dummy rounds - worked as intended.

    So on my first stage this morning, imagine my surprise when the second round on a 32-round stage failed to fire! I jacked the slide and the next round failed to fire as well! Overall, a stage that should have taken maybe 40 seconds tops took 68 seconds, with two extra mag changes and maybe 10 unfired rounds on the deck when I finished. Yikes!

    I swapped the original slide lock lever back into the gun before the next stage, but to no avail. So after two stages of serious malfunctions, I had fellow shooters looking at my unfired rounds and offering all sorts of advice. Good stuff - this is a friendly, encouraging community. The consensus was that I had high primers, meaning the primers were not fully seated. Thus when hit by the firing pin, the primer did not provide the same resistance as if it would if fully seated, resulting in a failure to fire. Looking over my reloads, I could see some rounds had primers clearly not seated as deeply as others, so that made sense. The odd thing was that I had loaded about 800 rounds for a major match in February, and these were from that same lot, and 400 rounds fired in the same gun didn't hiccup once in that match.

    I mentally resolved to commit several hundred rounds to practice. But fortunately the gun was filthy and in the absence of more pressing chores, I tore the gun down, including a detail strip of the slide. Huge surprise - the firing pin spring came out in two pieces! Never, ever had that happen before in nearly 30 years of 1911 usage.

    I can't say with absolute certainty, but it appears that the broken spring pieces meshed together to create a shorter length spring, and I think the firing pin may not have had its striking end held firmly against the FP stop. So when the hammer fell, the FP didn't get the full whack from the hammer. High primers may have been a contributory cause, but trouble-free experience with the same lot of reloads takes ammo out of the primary cause category.

    So maybe there's a good reason Wolff includes a new FP spring with every 1911 recoil spring they sell! This gun has had maybe 12,000 rounds through it and is on perhaps its fourth recoil spring. I think I'll be changing FP springs henceforth when recoil springs are replaced.

    I still need to rule out ammo problems with test firing, but I'm confident at this point I've found the problem.

    Sorry for the scroller here but I wanted to share the revelation.
    Smitty
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    VIP Member Array PhaedrusIV's Avatar
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    No apology needed, Smitty - this is GOOD data, and we 1911 shooters should learn from this and remember it.

    Thank you for passing your experience along, Sir !
    - testing was halted after a brief kinetic episode -

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    Wow, I don't think I would have thought of that. It does make perfect sense, though, in retrospect.
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    Gary, hopefully the test firing goes flawless as expected. Finding and fixing the exact cause should quickly return your confidence in such a fine gun.
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    Nice post! And well explained.
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    Thank you for sharing this. It’s a good reminder to keep up with your springs.....easy to forget about.
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    Gasmitty, how are you seating your primers? Just curious.
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    Thanks for sharing. First I've heard of a firing pin spring failing, but it is something I'll keep in mind should I ever get similar symptoms.
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    I've always used the extra power firing pin springs with standard recoil spring in the 1911's. With that issue, between stages I'd have removed the slide and removed the firing pin and spring first. Either something blocking the firing pin channel, firing pin tip broken/firing pin bent, and looking at the spring for kinks or broken as the OP found it.

    My 1911 comp box from years ago always has extra springs/firing pins/recoil spring guides and a barrel bushing and the tools needed. Two years ago out shooting the no sights 1911, cold as hell in the morning, had a firing pin break which exhibited no primer hits. Back up and running with a replaced firing pin in a few minutes. Only the second firing pin that's broken in 5 decades.
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    Have seen a few FP Springs break over the years. When they break they can overlap and put pressure on the FP and reduce the impact of the FP.

    But a 1911 should never need a slide stop deactivated. 2011's, double stack magazines, benefit due to slides locking back with rounds in the mag.
    What you describe can be several things, the worst case scenario is the barrel/feed ramp is too far forward in battery. This allows the top round to shift forward in recoil and puts it at an odd angle. Usually this is due to improper installation, re-cutting the feed ramp too much (usually trying to fix a feed problem) or broken lugs (which cause more problems than what you are having). It sounds like magazine issues though.

    What mag manufacturer? It sounds like the rounds are jumping forward and tilting down on the insertion. It could be caused by the top round being there from the mag pouch.
    It probably is a result weak mag spring or spread/cracked lips.
    Good mags cmc or wilson are tough and usually don't spread or crack but their springs need changed occasionally. CMC's can also have the follower, which is formed with a spring set, can crack.
    I had some mags at one point that even "popped" a round out when I drew it from a pouch. It was a bad mag.
    Make sure your loads are 1.250" oal for the 200 swc, assuming it is a 45 and the bullet is a H&G68 type which is the type sold by commercial bullet makers.
    Have you numbered your magazines to make sure it's not just a few with issues.
    Weak magazine springs, like all springs, get weak with use and need changed at times.
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    A great learning thread you've started Gary. I've read of folks relating the same malady on other forums without discovering the cause.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pskys2 View Post
    Have seen a few FP Springs break over the years. When they break they can overlap and put pressure on the FP and reduce the impact of the FP.

    But a 1911 should never need a slide stop deactivated. 2011's, double stack magazines, benefit due to slides locking back with rounds in the mag.
    What you describe can be several things, the worst case scenario is the barrel/feed ramp is too far forward in battery. This allows the top round to shift forward in recoil and puts it at an odd angle. Usually this is due to improper installation, re-cutting the feed ramp too much (usually trying to fix a feed problem) or broken lugs (which cause more problems than what you are having). It sounds like magazine issues though.

    What mag manufacturer? It sounds like the rounds are jumping forward and tilting down on the insertion. It could be caused by the top round being there from the mag pouch.
    It probably is a result weak mag spring or spread/cracked lips.
    Good mags cmc or wilson are tough and usually don't spread or crack but their springs need changed occasionally. CMC's can also have the follower, which is formed with a spring set, can crack.
    I had some mags at one point that even "popped" a round out when I drew it from a pouch. It was a bad mag.
    Make sure your loads are 1.250" oal for the 200 swc, assuming it is a 45 and the bullet is a H&G68 type which is the type sold by commercial bullet makers.
    Have you numbered your magazines to make sure it's not just a few with issues.
    Weak magazine springs, like all springs, get weak with use and need changed at times.
    Yep, mags are numbered. Mag springs replaced "on condition," i.e., when reliability seems to suffer - the 1911 parts box has lots of spare mag springs and followers. Mags are Wilson ETM, and this year I've been putting a couple McCormick "RPM" mags into the lineup. Tripp Cobra mags couldn't maintain proper feed lip spacing, so those are all gone. Ammo is all loaded to 1.250".

    Lots of experimentation and measurements with two other .45 1911s here show similar results, whereas the 9mm 1911 never suffered the same. The problem only arose as this shooter started pushing to go faster and started slamming mags in harder during the heat of competition. While I think physics is at the root of the problem, I'm keeping an open mind as to the cause. The modified slide stop is an interim experiment.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Things aren't always what they seem!-area-2-prep-2018r.jpg  

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    My first set of Wolff springs was a calibration kit for my CZ-82 project. I always wondered why the kit included a "free" firing pin spring, but not knowing the history of this particular -82, I replaced the FP spring anyhow. A spring--any spring--can fail.

    As for the high-primer theory, I used to have the old, single-feed Lee hand primer and used it until the little "lollypop arm" wore down and started giving me high primers. Some were so high they'd almost lock up the cylinder in my Ruger Blackhawk. In spite of obvious high primers, not one single primer failed to go off on the first strike. I don't know if that is a testament to the firing pin striking power of my various firearms or proof that a high primer won't fire, but it has never been an issue in any of my firearms of various makes or models.

    As for the Lee hand primer, by the time mine failed, Lee had gone through two upgrades of the tool, both requiring different versions of its proprietary shell holders, so I opted out for an RCBS model that uses standard shall holders.
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    Oh great, now I've got 1911 spring paranoia! I had my Springield out with a new Wilson GI length guide rod and flat wound recoil spring (flawless). But this makes me nervous...
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  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by BentLink View Post
    Oh great, now I've got 1911 spring paranoia! I had my Springield out with a new Wilson GI length guide rod and flat wound recoil spring (flawless). But this makes me nervous...
    Heck no, don't let it. Again, in 30 years of 1911 experience this was a first for me. My "game" gun gets used a lot... 150 rounds minimum each time it's used (typical match), average 4 matches/month. It takes about 2 minutes longer to change a FP spring compared to a recoil spring, so don't let that daunt you. either.

    The standard advice for replacing recoil springs in a 1911 is that if the empties are just about dribbling out of the gun and dropping at your feet, it's probably time for a new one. No need to over-think it!

    My takeaway from this event was simply to change the FP spring whenever I replace a recoil spring. Wolff makes it easy by including a new FP spring with each recoil spring.
    AzQkr, Pete63, msgt/ret and 4 others like this.
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