1911 Reliability Secrets

1911 Reliability Secrets

1911 Reliability Secrets



I was surfing the web and found an interesting 1911 link “1911 Reliability Secrets“. I thought it interesting and informative enough to share.


Below is an excerpt from the site

The Barrel

Most barrels of modern manufacture (since the middle 1980s) come already “throated,” or widened, in the ramp area. This is the best type of barrel to start with. Earlier barrels have a narrow feed ramp which is designed to feed hardball ammo only. These barrels are best throated first by a competent gunsmith who really understands the 1911 design. Although proper throating is not beyond the realm of a competent amateur with a Dremel tool, the possibility of ruining an otherwise good barrel demands that this task be left to the professional. However, once the barrel is properly throated, or if you have one that has come from the factory already throated, there are still some things you can do to the barrel to enhance reliability.

First, note the transition area between the barrel feed ramp and the inside of the chamber. If this area is sharp, it must be lightly curved, or rounded, so that the round will feed smoothly over that “ledge.” This can be accomplished with a file or a Dremel tool. Take it easy here – the object is not to extend the ramp into the chamber area, but simply to lightly round off that sharp edge. Then the filing or grinding marks can be smoothed and polished with successively finer grades of sandpaper, finishing off with crocus cloth and a polishing compound such as “Flitz” on a cleaning patch or a Dremel polishing tip.

Next, note the hood of the barrel. In earlier barrels, the part of the hood that contacts the slide was perfectly flat, perpendicular to the axis of the barrel. Later barrels have a proper 45-degree bevel on the lower half of this hood contact area. The purpose of this bevel is to eliminate a “catch point” for semiwadcutter bullets which would prevent proper chambering. If that bevel exists on your barrel, all you will need to do is polish the bevel, using the same technique mentioned before, using successively finer grades of sandpaper and/or the polishing head of your Dremel tool with a polishing compound. If the bevel does not exist, it is an easy task with a Dremel tool to grind the bevel. Take care to maintain a 45-degree inward angle, following the curve of the barrel hood, and to take off no more than 50% of the surface area of the hood where it contacts the barrel. Then finish by polishing this bevel area.

Now look at the area where the hood mates up with the chamber area of the barrel. There should be no sharp edges here. If there are, take a small rat-tail or half-round file and lightly round those sharp edges. Then polish the filed area.

Now place the barrel into its slot in the frame and push it back and down until the link support legs contact the back of the slot in the frame. The barrel should rest on the curved support surfaces of the frame. Note the gap between the bottom edge of the feed ramp in the barrel and the forward edge of the feed ramp in the frame. This gap should be at least 1/32nd of an inch, and could be as much as 1/16th of an inch. If there is a smaller gap than this, (or no gap at all), the chambering cartridge can and probably will hang up on the lower lip of the barrel’s ramp. That gap is absolutely crucial to smooth chambering. If the gap is not at least 1/32nd of an inch, the solution is to file the bottom of the barrel feed ramp back until that gap is achieved. Then the ramp is re-shaped carefully with files or a Dremel grinder so that the barrel feed ramp is once again close to the bottom of the barrel. Be careful – do not extend the ramp much, if at all, deeper into the chamber, and keep the same upward angle as before. In the 1911 design, the ramped barrel leaves a portion of the case unsupported, and if the ramp is too deep, it increases the possibility of a case blowout. This could have serious consequences for the pistol and for you!

The next step is to bring the ramp area of the barrel to a mirror polish. This can be accomplished by hand, using finer and finer grades of sandpaper, crocus cloth, and then finishing with Flitz. Again, the objective is simply to polish, not deepen the ramp into the chamber area.

When a round is fed into the chamber from the magazine, it comes up the frame and barrel ramps, and then deflects off the roof of the chamber of the barrel, straightening itself out for the final direct push into the chamber. For this reason, it is advantageous that the inside of the chamber be very smooth so as to allow little or no friction as the nose of the bullet deflects downward. Here again, the answer is polishing. You do not want to widen the chamber out of spec, but you do want to take off any roughness. The felt polishing head of the Dremel and some Flitz polishing compound is perfect for this task, or you can do the same thing with a tight-fitting cleaning patch and Flitz, pushing it in and out of the chamber area. Do not ride up over the headspace ledge in the chamber; this should remain clearly defined and relatively sharp. Look at your work with a magnifying glass, and stop when you have a smooth chamber surface.

The locking lugs on the barrel need a bit of attention. The forward edge of each locking lug should be lightly “cut” or chamfered with the edge of a file. Just a little does it. Follow the curve around each lug. Polish these cuts with fine sandpaper. The objective here is to help the locking lugs cam up into their seats in the slide smoothly and easily.

This completes the necessary work on the barrel. The main objective is for the chambering cartridge to have a smooth, glass-like surface to work against wherever it contacts the barrel on its way in.





I received the  MAKE READY WITH DEAN CAPUTO: 1911 ARMORER’S BENCH DVD for Christmas and with all the chaos of the holidays I forgot about it and never sat down and watched it. Fast forward to March 2012 while working on an AR-15 going through a box of new hardware I stumbled accross the DVD and made it a point to stop what I was doing on watch it. at that moment.

MAKE READY WITH DEAN CAPUTO: 1911 ARMORER’S BENCH DVD is nearly 3 hours and very nicely done. I didn’t nod off once. Video is high quality not like those damn AGI VHS transfers.

The start is a bit slow as the narrator discusses 1911 history. He is obviously reading. Once the tech gets underway it flows much smoother. This DVD is NOT about building and gunsmithing a 1911. It truly is an armorers approach to safety, maintenance, reliability and the fitting of drop in parts.

They go through great detail of explaining and displaying part interaction, fits and safety function tests and common mistakes. A ton of practical information for folks not well versed in 1911 function. They also include discussion and use of the proper tools albeit from the  DVD sponsors. Not an infomercial though like many DVD’s

The last few chapters of the DVD covers the installation of drop in parts like ambi safeties, grip safeties, triggers.

All in all a very refreshing approach. Ill put this as a must have in your 1911 media collection along with the JERRY KUHNHAUSEN Heritage Gun books.

From the Panteo Website
The M1911 Pistol Armorer’s Course will give you a detailed understanding of the model 1911 pistol. The course covers design, model variations, disassembly, assembly, lubrication, parts fitting, trigger pull adjustments, maintenance, and troubleshooting. After-market parts and modifications are reviewed. Dean Caputo, a law enforcement officer and factory armorer instructor for the 1911 platform, will teach you how to keep your 1911 running properly and how to do limited custom work on your pistol.

ADDED a NEW PAGE – How To Videos for the 1911 Pistol

While I still find printed material works best as a reference for the most minute details of working on a firearm I think it is also quite useful to have some video references. To that end I have started a page collecting the best 1911 DIY links on the internet. Vist the new page here.

Must Own Colt 1911 Books Videos

Colt 1911 Reference Books, DVDs

In this digital age there is a volume of information on the internet to address just about any firearm or shooting related question you may have, and thats good. However I often find there is always something missing, something incorrect or I just want more details than is generally available. Fortunately there are still many good books and DVD’s being produced to fill in the voids. As always if you have something to add to the list drop me a message.

Colt 1911 Books

If you are going to work on 1911 based handguns. The two Jerry KuhnHausen entries listed below are must owns. There are no other books on the 1911 that compare. There is a companion DVD that I have never actually seen available.

The Colt .45 Automatic. A Shop Manual, Volume 1. Jerry KuhnHausen

A detailed book which is extremely practical for every level of gunsmithing knowledge. This manual covers the 1911 from the lanyard loop to the barrel bushing. Contains useful information on inspection, part selection, part installation, trouble-shooting and function testing. Also shows tricks the pros use to turn stock 1911s into full-blown carry and race guns. Contains instructions and illustrations on assembly and disassembly, pitfalls to avoid and areas to check for the best performance.

This books availabilty comes and goes. Check Amazon.com and Brownells

Colt 1911 Shop Manual Volume 1

The U.S. M1911/M1911A1 Pistols & Commercial type Pistols. A Shop Manual, Volume 2. Jerry KuhnHausen

A great follow-up to Volume 1. This is not a revision of Volume 1 and not a rehash of old military manuals! This book is absolutely loaded with new and updated material, parts dimensions and hardness specifications, and the nuts and bolts tech data required to dimensionally inspect, restore, repair and build super accurate, super reliable, “blueprint” quality carry and competition grade M1911s.

This volume is more readily available but again check Amazon.com and Brownells for pricing.

1911 Shop Manual Volume 2