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Thread: The Art and Science of Keeping Your 1911 Running

  1. #1
    In Lead... RevolverRob's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Somewhere Salishious

    The Art and Science of Keeping Your 1911 Running

    Several threads recently regarding 1911 reliability have prompted me to start this thread.

    The overarching goal is to create a clearinghouse of 1911 reliability "tips, tricks, maintenance, and general information".


    First some References:

    Hilton Yam's extensive 1911 Section: -

    Kuhnhausen's Two Volume Set on 1911s: Volume 1 and Volume 2

    Nicolaus & Associates have a number of extremely useful U.S. Military Diagrams and Manuals for the 1911

    There are also a number of videos out there on customizing and building the 1911 (see Yam's Technical Reference Section).


    For those of you who really want to know, you might want to peruse some of the various Courses:

    Gunsite 1911 Armorer's Course
    Vicker's 1911 Armorer and Gunsmith Courses
    Cylinder and Slide 1911 Style Tactical Pistolsmith Course
    Jim Garthwaite Pistolsmithing Course


    There are a few specific tools that aid one in keeping the 1911 running.

    1911 Specific Tools:

    Brownell's has a mostly complete Basic 1911 Tool Kit

    And a much more extensive, but still "incomplete" 1911 Armorer's Tool Kit

    But individually an owner/operator may wish to simply have the following tools:

    Weigand Extractor Tension Gauge Set which must be used in conjunction with a trigger pull weight gauge, like one of the Timneys

    Weigand Extractor Tensioning Tool

    Brownell's Enhanced Bushing Wrench

    Brownell's Extractor Removal Tool

    Each of the above tools, will provide the basic end user virtually all that they need to maintain a 1911 in good functional condition. More specialized tools may be needed for the inveterate "tinkerer" those who like to or want to change parts, but to simply maintain a functioning 1911, the above individual tools are really all that are necessary, beyond a good gunsmith screwdriver and punch set.


    Now onto the "Art and Science" of maintaining a 1911:

    We will break this up into basic sections - As each individual here offers various tips and tricks, please add "Section 1" "Section 2" "Section All" as appropriate to your advice. That way, a search can recover the relevant sections quickly.

    Sections are:

    Section 1 - Government and Commander Length guns in .45 ACP

    Section 2 - Government and Commander Length guns in 9x19 Luger

    Section 3 - All Others (including Officer's guns in assorted calibers, double-stack guns, and various 1911-like weapons)

    Section All - Tips/Tricks that are general to all 1911-pattern pistols

    ---End Initial Post---
    Last edited by RevolverRob; 05-09-2019 at 12:46 PM.
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  2. #2
    Site Supporter
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Mesa, AZ
    This probably isn't at all what you are looking for but after carrying one model or other of Colt 1911 through out my LEO career (uniform and plain clothes), carrying off duty and CCW as a civilian after retiring, and competing in practical pistol competition for 40 years, I offer the following:

    I cleaned them every time I shot them, and lubricated them generously.

    My guns always worked. Even when alloy framed Commanders cracked (and three of them did from extensive shooting) they still functioned reliably. One lightly customized 1958 Government Model (sights, commander hammer, flat mainspring housing, an Al trigger and trigger job) ran for so long (at least 20,000 rounds before I quite keeping track) I feared I would wear it out before it malfunctioned. When I finally sold it a few years back because arthritis now prevents me from shooting 1911s, I bragged that if the ammo would fit in the magazine, and the magazine would fit in the mag well, the gun would work/function.

    I cleaned them every time I shot them, and lubricated them generously.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    The Garden State
    Revolver Bob, seriously thanks for posting your reference section. It will be a good source for me to come up to speed.
    On a lighter note, someone told me that, "All 1911s work until you start trying to 'improve' them."
    Real guns have hammers.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    The Hills of Tennessee
    Hilton Yam is currently working on a 1911 Duty Tune video with Panteao Productions currently. And since retirement from LEO work has taken the helm of 10-8 Performance again.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Site Supporter JonInWA's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Auburn, WA
    RB, thanks for taking the time to put together and post this; much appreciated, and very timely given our current discussions.

    Mods, strongly recommend making this thread a Sticky.

    Best, Jon
    Last edited by JonInWA; 05-09-2019 at 03:18 PM.

  6. #6
    Member JHC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    North Georgia
    Great idea!

    I just recently got the Weigand extractor tensioning tool and following the instructions, first try tensioned the extractor of my 9mm Operator to perfect functioning. It had gotten sketchy. I think it's ejecting better than when I got it back from Dave Sams.
    "I’ve come to realize manual transmission cars and 1911s have something in common—a person who steals one probably won’t know how to use it." - Hideeho

  7. #7
    Site Supporter farscott's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Dunedin, FL, USA
    My two suggestions, both learned the hard way.

    1) If the plunger tube is staked, there is a chance that it will become "no longer" staked at the worst possible time. If that happens, the pistol is a paperweight as the slide stop and thumb safety have no pressure on the detents. Brownells sells a tool to support the plunger tube during the staking operation. The plunger tube can also be welded or secured with adhesive, but that makes removal of the plunger tube much more difficult.

    2) Be very careful tightening grip screws, especially with alloy frames. I have had to replace a few grip bushings because I did not exercise proper restraint. Once again, Brownells has the correct tools. Remove with and stake with
    Last edited by farscott; 05-09-2019 at 03:59 PM.

  8. #8
    If anyone needs a plunger tube staking tool. I have one that we could use as a pass-around kind of deal.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #9

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by farscott View Post
    My two suggestions, both learned the hard way.

    1) If the plunger tube is staked, there is a chance that it will become "no longer" staked at the worst possible time.
    And avoid using thin grips, or grips that don't support the plunger tube. It's just added security. The rest of the pistol is very durable

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