Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Something I've never really grokked...

...is the amount of pissing and moaning attendant to the field-stripping and re-assembly of the 1911-pattern pistol that goes on in every gun-related corner of the intertubes. To hear people talk about it, you'd think it a task that was, if not Sisyphean, then at least of a difficulty level commensurate with building a nuclear reactor in a bottle while wearing thick wool mittens.

I don't want to sound like I'm making a paean to some imaginary bygone age here, but there was a time when the general assumption of society was that the average adult American male was at least minimally mechanically competent: garages had timing lights in them and drug stores had vacuum tube testers, and patching an inner tube or setting the gap on a spark plug were not lost and arcane arts.

The microchip has freed us of many things and transistorized electronics are amazingly rugged compared to their fragile forebears of bygone days. The idea of "fixing" a radio or TV is foreign to us now, and the underhood areas of modern cars are shrouded in plastic fairings that practically scream "No User Serviceable Parts Inside" (and with the first spark plug change not scheduled for 100,000 miles, why would there be?) and unless you're some kind of weirdo bicycle hobbyist you'll probably never clap eyes on an inner tube, because even your riding mower's gone tubeless. These days one can get a reputation as "handy" for being able to plug a video card into your computer's motherboard.

Granted, modern pistols tend to be very easy to field-strip (although many are a pain to detail strip) but it's not like the 1911 is really all that difficult. Generations of draftees mastered it, after all. Even back before I got my Glock tattoo lasered off, I wondered why all the fuss, and now that I've been toting 1911s for a while, I really think that complaining about it makes one sound like Talking Barbie saying "Math is harrdd."

(Although if you've complicated the process with a 20# recoil spring and a full-length guide rod, you're just buying trouble.)


Blackwing1 said...

I'll confess...my first 1911A1 (a Norinco knock-off; don't give me grief, it was low-budget) has the "idiot marks" where I used to use a thin knife-blade to depress the plunger spring to get the slide-stop back into place. A couple years later I finally learned the knack of pushing the bugger "up-and-in" simultaneously. Compared to the re-assembly of a Beretta 92 it was a shade more difficult, but nothing to get upset about.

Now it seems second nature to take one down, clean, and re-assemble. Maybe it's just the years, or the number of times I've done it. The only time I cuss these days is when I strip out the firing pin and spring, and have to simultaneously slip the pin-retainer into its slot while depressing the rear end of the pin. But that's not a usual field-strip thing, so I say it doesn't count.

bdickens said...

Field stripping a 1911 is easy. I can't understand why anyone would have a hard time with it.

Justin Buist said...

"(Although if you've complicated the process with a ... full-length guide rod"

I fricken hate those things!

Anonymous said...

Why do you assume it's a 1911.

Could be that .380 Pocketlite thing or maybe the Colt 2000 or any other Colt.

I had to put back several Colt .380s so much that we used to show people how to strip them when we sold them. Saved us time later.

Shootin' Buddy

og said...

I find the 1911 relatively simple. There are a few things on it that could have been made a bit easier, and thats why the aftermarket exists. If you want to shoot, you have to deal with the complexities of a firearm. Revolvers are many orders of magnitude more complex than most autos but nobody (normal) takes them apart. Stop whining and develop some finger strength and manual dexterity. Nice post.

Tam said...


"Why do you assume it's a 1911."

Because that's what everybody in the comments section, which is what I linked to, was discussing.

Although maybe when they were typing "1911", they were using it as a code word for "Pony Pocketlite". :p

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm Reno and uh... well I just wanna say I've been gun-forum-free for almost 11 months.

Field stripping a 1911 is hard?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I thought we were talking about the original post thingy that you linked to. I did not read the comments.

*shrugs* Some people learn by seeing it done. If no one shows them, it can be tough for them.

Shootin' Buddy

Joe Allen said...

I like to remind those people that, as originally designed, the 1911 could be completely disassembled using only its own parts as tools.

And, as long as you have slotted grip screws and no FLGR etc, you can incorporate a fair number of modern features and still do that.

Try that with a Glock!

Ed Foster said...

Just taught two 20something Polish immigrant ladies how to not only asseble the 1911, but lap the slide to the frame, and fit up the barrel to the slide(Kart match barrels). Neither had ever held a firearm before.

I'm still doing the triggers and ramps, but given another couple of weeks I suspect the ladies will be doing that too.

Average I.Q. in Poland, 102. Average I.Q. in America,102.

Could it be that maybe we're a tad lazy? Or, to paraphrase Tam, maybe small towns in Poland still have break-point ignition and tube radios.

pdb said...

In my defense, my incident of coffee cup slaughter was the first time I had tried to put the 1911 back together, and it was only the second autopistol and third firearm I'd ever owned.

My other moments of firearms retarditude include: inability to judge the teeny slide movement required to trip the Glock takedown lever but not cock the striker, getting the barrel of a Winchester 1300 Defender cockeyed while trying to put it back on and unable to screw on the mag cap (plaintive whine to wife: "I broke it already!" (we had just brought it home from Walmart)), managing to get the stranded spring of a Romanian SAR-1 AK UNDER the trigger lever thingey and locking it up tight (plaintive whiny IM to the Unix_jedi: "No matter what else I do in life I'm gonna be remembered as the guy who broke an AK."), bending the hammer strut on aforementioned 1911, and probably a few others I've forgotten.

However, after taking the Norinco to gun school, I have had it apart several times without recreating the idiot mark on the nice new paintjob, and local coffee cups have gone unharmed.

I guess my learning curve is a little steeper than others, but I'm not so much complaining about the 1911, but pointing out that there's usually an unintuitive gotcha to trap a virgin no matter what the design (Garand thumb, anyone?).

Unknown said...

I don't see why you think making a nuclear reactor in a bottle is so difficult. Just put on your woolen mittens and then add approximately 13 kg of Pu-239 pellets to a 2 liter bottle filled half way with heavy water. Stop adding pellets when the water reaches a rolling boil.

Easy Peasy. I learned the recipe on Tom and Jerry, although they used moth balls instead of plutonium.

Anonymous said...

I had a hell of a time stripping my Springfield after years of carrying a Sig 228. The problem was the poorly written directions.

The Kimber manual was a bit better but not award winning.

Once someone SHOWED me it was drop dead easy.


Robert McDonald said...

I took an NRA First Steps pistol class this past weekend. I was the only person in the class who could field strip and reassemble my pistol without help. I had a 1911, the other two guys had a Sig and an HK. All of us had years of experience with firearms.

Here's an idea: read the owner's manual. I have little experience with tinkering, but give me instructions and a chance to get my hands dirty and I can do anything.

Dave Markowitz said...

IMO, 1911s are easy to field strip, unless they have a FLGR. Then it can be a PITA.

Caleb said...

Hey, the full length guide rod doesn't complicate stuff that much. Just make sure you have a good bushing wrench.

You want complicated, get a gun that has a bushing and an integral compensator on the barrel.

Jason said...

Even with a full-length guide rod and 20-pound recoil spring it's not terribly difficult to disassemble a 1911. A paperclip makes it worlds easier, though. I'll eventually wind up with one of Springco's guide rods, though. It looks like it'll make things even easier.

Then again, I use a 1911 set up for .40 S&W so it's not like I prefer doing things the easy way every time.

Jeff the Baptist said...

My hipower is easier, but the 1911 really isn't that bad. I field stripped and cleaned my 1911 at the same time my brother was taking care of his Broomhandle once. We had a good chuckle about it.

That said I think half the problem with the 1911 is that people don't know when to stop. I was once told by several people on a 1911 forum that disassembling the slide on a 1911 is part of general field stripping. If that was necessary for reliable function of my 1911, I wouldn't own that gun anymore.

Anonymous said...

I guess 1911's are not the easiest thing in the world, but they are not as difficult as a Ruger MKIII, so I don't see what all the bitching is about.

You can even do it in different ways and still end up with a working 1911. I'm fairly certain the same can't be said for a MKIII.

My wife's EMP is a little pain in the ass with it's funky ass recoil assembly, and yet without the little half pipe thing to hold the recoil springs under tension she has no problem taking it down and putting it back together.

What's the problem here?

Weer'd Beard said...

Heh, I was a bad boy and Haven't cleaned my carry gun in north of 2 weeks (Dare I say "Month"). It was looking linty and disgusting, so I stripped it down, gave it a quick wipe-down with cleaner, dry down with a patch, lube up with oil and grease, and back together and my hands clean inside of 10 mins.

Actually I REALLY like the 1911 design for take-down because it allows you to de-tension the recoil spring BEFORE you start fucking with the slide.

I just find trying to manipulate a slide under spring pressure to be a bitch, and popping out the plug and spring is a quick easy operation.

At least for my guns which are air-tight semi-custom guns.

the pistolero said...

If a guy like me (with a mild case of cerebral palsy which left me with a slightly shorter and weaker right leg and limited use of my right hand) can field-strip a 1911, I see absolutely no excuse for more able-bodied souls not being able to pull it off.
"Field-stripping a 1911: So easy even a gimp can do it."

The Raving Prophet said...

A 5" 1911 is the easiest thing in the world, even with a FLGR. With the FLGR, just remember than humans are tool users- I used a piece of stiff plastic to depress the recoil spring plug until I just swapped them out for the GI style rod and plug.

If you have a bull barrel or reverse plug assembly it gets more difficult, but this isn't rocket science folks. There's one or two more parts than your average Sig or CZ, but it is hardly the end of the world in terms of difficulty.

But then, maybe I just happen to be mechanically gifted. Still, I don't think I'm that special- most folks just haven't bothered trying to learn.

If you can't handle field stripping a 1911, you really ought to stick to revolvers since other semiautos won't be significantly easier.

theirritablearchitect said...

"...garages had timing lights in them..."

What do you mean had?

Moriarty said...

A friend of mine (an inveterate Glock fanboy if there ever was one) constantly hacked on the 1911 as being an "antique" design that was fragile, overly complex, too heavy, etc.

Then he made the mistake of holding forth to me on how the Glock could be entirely disassembled with only one tool. He was speechless when I showed him that a 1911 requires no tools whatsoever. (Doesn't everyone know that?)

Gaston Glock is a brilliant guy, no question about it.

But he's no JMB.

Anonymous said...

The Kahr K9 has a really nifty feature such that if you reverse the 2nd and 3rd-to-last steps you can lock up your gun in an un-uasable state (insert takedown pin 3/4 of the way, then compress recoil spring. Not the other way around).

You then get to drag out the Dremel tool and cut off the slide lock and order a replacement (getting a silver piece for your black gun because you didn't pay attention to the part number). At least the wrong color reminds me DON'T DO THAT!

Hmph, bet the 1911 can't do that!


Steve said...

A Glock Tattoo? Care to elaborate?

LM said...

Wait, the 1911 is hard to disassemble?

I'd always ranked the 1911 right behind the AK in ease of disassembly.

I'd hate to see these guns that are considered "easy," I'd be afraid they would fall apart in my hands if I sneezed too hard.

Dwight Brown said...

In my defense: it was my first handgun, it was the first time I had field-stipped it, and did I mention I'm not terribly bright?

jeff said...

theirritablearchitect said...
"...garages had timing lights in them..."

What do you mean had?

What he said. I still have one or two, but then I also think that "dealer service only" warnings on my cars and trucks constitute a challenge.

Davidwhitewolf said...

Wait, you mean I can't call the roadside service guys to do this? They change my tire for me.

Crucis said...

I don't mind field stripping any of my autoloaders except for my .40 cal BHP. I can get it apart easily. No problem there. By on reassembly, I just cannot get that f_#$%^& recoil spring back in. I need a tool I bought from C&S and even then it's a big struggle! I like the BHP, but I seldom shoot it because of the difficulty reassembling it after cleaning.

1911s are a breeze!

Sigivald said...

Blackwing: My 1911 is also a Norinco 1911A1. No need for shame, they're a fine, functional gun.

Like tomcatshanger said, they're all easy compared to a Ruger 22.

There's a reason I don't clean my Mk. II every time after I shoot it (well, not thoroughly, at least) - and that's because it's not worth the effort of putting the !@#%$% thing back together.

David said...

My Dad taught me to shoot his 1911 about 40 years ago. But he did not teach me how to field strip it.

40 years later after owning mostly revolvers I finally bought an Armscor 1911A1. When I sat down to learn how to field strip it I was worried because I had heard it was hard. Suddenly I had a pile of pieces in my hands. Then after a couple misteps I had a working gun again. I haven't figured out yet what was supposed to be the hard part.

You want hard? Try to explain to your 12 year old son how to replace the starter pull rope on a lawn mower - over the phone.

Jay said...

I replaced the water pump in a '93 Cavaliar, replaced the heads in a 1981 Camaro Z28, but damn if I had to take my Glock to an armorer to figure out how to detail strip it.

alath said...

I've never had much trouble field stripping a 1911, but I have to admit it is almost brain surgery compared to field stripping a SIG.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

I've never disassembled a 1911 (it's still on my "to buy" list), but I'll second (third?) what tomcatshanger said about the Ruger Mark III (and it's predecessors). It's the only pistol I've heard of where the disassembly instructions recommend using a hammer, for Pete's sake!

Even then, it's really not all that complicated, it's just... fiddly. And a bit of a PITA, especially if you take the barrel assembly off the grip (which I usually don't - it's not really necessary for just a routine cleaning). But it's not complicated.

wv: chaeze - Would they like some chaeze with their whine?

Moriarty said...

How to memorize a detailed reassembly of the 1911 in one easy step...

Start this:


Let it run for about 7 seconds.

Then start this:


Anonymous said...

I'm a newbie to 1911's and the only one I own is a STI Spartan. Taking it down with that FLGR was a PITA! It's much easier now that I replaced it with a standard GI unit.

Pity the gun isn't very accurate though. I plan to reinstall the original guide rod just in case it makes a difference.

(Btw, I did have a known "good" 1911 shooter shoot the thing to make sure it wasn't just me. Neither one of use could wring decent accuracy out of it, although we both shot other pistols pretty well that day).

Now, you want hair pulling frustration, I ABHOR stripping and reassembling my Ruger Mk II. I've had the thing at least 10 years now and STILL have to drag out the manual every time I take it down.
Damn hammer strut!

Matt G said...

Word UP.

And Caleb:
"Hey, the full length guide rod doesn't complicate stuff that much. Just make sure you have a good bushing wrench."

Stop trying to bait me, son. ;)

Will said...

I think my Colt Officers models have 24lb recoil springs. With reverse recoil plugs. With and without guide rods. Still much easier to deal with than the Gov't Mod with that loonnggg spring. I think those "pop goes the weasel" type toys might have been designed by a 1911 Gov't owner. Local gun dealer is an unfortunately vivid reminder of why one should wear eye protection when working with that spring assembly!

My 1911 oops: Springfield's lock in the mainspring housing? Don't turn the lock without the hammer spring assembly inside it. It permanently locks up. (Probably have to mill out the lock parts to salvage the housing.) Found the hidden owners manual afterwards, and it warns to not do this. (not mine-aarrgghh!!!) If that lock is designed as I suspect, I would never leave it on a 1911 intended for serious use. Because you might one day decide to use the lock, and it might not unlock due to manufacturing variations. Just because it works now, doesn't mean it always will. YMMV

Tam said...

The SA lock was designed to give people a good reason to swap out the MSH.

Personally, I can't imagine why anyone would ever apply the thing, but that's just me.

T said...

The SA lock was designed to give people a good reason to swap out the MSH.

Then it works like a charm. That's the first thing I do with a Springfield. Anybody in the market for the ILS parts? I've got a bunch in my toolbox.

Tam said...

Actually, the ILS had another good feature: It made Springfield go back to metal mainspring housings, instead of the cheap plastic units like Kimber and Colt use these days.

Anonymous said...

Our game in high school ROTC was competition to see how fast we could field-strip and re-assemble a 1911--blindfolded.

No big deal. Same game with a Garand, as well.

Most of us got down to around a minute or not much more.


Noah D said...

Okay, from a low-end user's POV:

I've owned Glocks (17 and 19), and I currently own two 1911s (GI and Compact RIAs). The Glocks were easier to field-strip, but I don't think (again, from my limited perspective) that the 1911s are 'hard' - at least, not any more. They were at first; 'bushing turns this way, not that way', 'how does that takedown pin go in again?', 'whoops, there goes the firing pin and spring...again...'.

Again, to me - the casual user - the Glock field-strip felt more 'elegant', but I might be confusing that with 'simple'.

wv: 'sumeuser' - the intarwebz equivalent of 'sumdood'?

Hecate said...

Never thought field-stripping a 1911 was difficult or complicated in the least, and my custom Wilson has a 22 lb. spring with a two-piece full-length guide rod.

But then I once pulled the carburetor off my 1966 Dodge Charger and rebuilt it on the folding table while waiting for a load of horse blankets to finish up at the laundromat.

hpcc19 said...

1911 is a fun pistol to field and detail strip..the zen of JMB is with you as you fly through the steps.

The zen of Bill Ruger is also delightful once you master the less intuitive, but beautiful MKII. The Mark III, however is a POS that rejects zen and embraces Eric Holder.

Roberta X said...

The 1911 in pure form is fun to take apart and put back together, though to do have to take care not to lose any of the tiny parts. Most decent centerfire handguns are that way.

But not all of them.

The semiautomatic that annoys me is the Tokarev TT33, kind of a JMB-generic almost-clone. The recoil spring is long and crams up into a wriggly spiral. The whole thing is just unfriendly and awkward to field-strip and reassemble. It isn't that it is difficult, it's just a PITA.

Gewehr98 said...

Still trying to figure out the intense hatred for FLGRs. I have had 'em in all my 1911 variants over the last 18 or so years and thousands of rounds, never gave me a lick of trouble, be it IPSC, USPSA, IDPA, or CCW. My 3.5" Caspian Officer's ACP definitely appreciates the assist to that little overworked recoil spring.

Now, sacrificial Shok Bufs in the 1911 are a different beast...

Tam said...

"Still trying to figure out the intense hatred for FLGRs."

Like hood ornaments or continental kits, they don't actually do anything, and therefore offend my mechanical sensibilities.

Anonymous said...

There's a prayer talking about making departures from JMB's (PBUH) Holy design, and that applies to FLGRs.

I was lucky, I guess, a nice man in a campaign hat explained how to strip an M1911A1 and he assured me that he would forcibly remove my complete head and defecate into the the resultant stump if I failed to learn how.

Since then I have not complained that the 1911 is too complicated, but rather marveled at how SIMPLE other autos are.

Mark said...

I have more trouble field stripping my Tokarev TT33 than I do my 1911A1. My fingers just aren't that small to depress the recoil spring plunger on the Tok. My meaty thumbs can push the plug on my 1991A1 no problemo. Maybe someone was expecting a Walther PP or PPK?