1911: internal vs. external extractor


February 9, 2005, 01:37 AM
I've seen S&W 1911s with external extractors and Kimbers with internal extractors. Which one is better and why??? What is the purpose of changing J. Brownings design???? :confused:

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February 9, 2005, 02:08 AM
General consensus is that, at the end of the day, the external extractor is just another way to extract a casing...not proven to be better or worse...just different...trade off's with different pros and cons..

Internal extractors require adjustment after a while or you will have FTE problems.

Presumably, external extractors with springs avoid this problem, but have more moving parts and are therefore potentially more prone to a different set of problems.

Internal extractors are supposedly less likely to be exposed to dirt/dust/grit, etc. and are easier to manufacture, especially in JMB's time.

External extractors are supposedly less like to keep/retain any dirt/dust/grit, etc. in the channel, are easier to clean and keep clean, and are now possible to manufacture correctly with today's modern CNC machines.

Internal extractors FTE on occasion.
External extractors FTE on occasion.

Internal extractors were selected by FBI's HRT as a "must have".
External extractors were selected by LAPD SWAT as a "must have".

I own both SA's and Kimbers.
Both on occasion have had FTE's.
99.9% of the time, they both operate perfectly.

The debate rages on...

Zak Smith
February 9, 2005, 02:44 AM
I have both, and both extract 100%.
If either is fitted incorrectly, it will malfunction.

February 9, 2005, 06:22 AM
John Moses Browning designed the 1911 with an internal extractor made from a certain type of spring steel.

Through the years as the gun companies were overrun by the accountants interested in minimizing production costs in order to make the maximum the profits for the corporations that have bought out and taken over the gun companies some of the corners they cut was the material used to manufacture the extractor and the labor needed to finish and adjust them.

Many modern internal extractors are junk.
A properly made and adjusted extractor will generally last longer than the person shooting the gun.

I fired a well worn 100% original Colt 1916 vintage 1911 a few years ago that rattled like a can of spray paint when you shook it but it functioned 100% and would put all of it's bullets into a chicken noodle soup can at 50'. Not a speck of bluing remained anywhere but, it extracted and ejected with authority. Even the original two tone magazines worked flawlessly.

Old Fuff
February 9, 2005, 10:58 AM
The selection of an internal extractor in the model 1911 was not accidental. All of Browning's earlier pistols, and the first .45 prototypes had external extractors. I believe the main reason for the choice was because both Browning and the Army wanted a pistol that could be disassembled without using any tools, other then those that the gun's parts provided. Thus broken parts could be replaced in the field without an armorer.

Most of the problems associated with internal extractors have not been caused by the design, but rather the use of defective materials and/or poor fitting by current manufacturers trying to cut costs. This was a factor Browning never had to deal with.

Zach S
February 9, 2005, 11:52 AM
Old Fuff stole my post. Its amazing how many 1911 fans dont know that JMB's earlier designs had external extractors and the Army said no.

Personally, I dont like them, and wont own a new kimber because of them. My gripe with them is that they are non-standardized and you only have one vendor. For example, if the MIM internal extractor fails in one of the three Kimbers I have, I can simply get a Wilson Bullet-Proof or Ed Brown Hardcore extractor to replace it. With a new Kimber, I dont have that luxury, and I have to rely on another MIM part and worry about it breaking. Para has turned me off of their new offerings because of the PXT extractor, not to mention the looks of their new line.

I think both S&W's and Sig's 1911s use the Wilson external extractor, so its closer to standardized, but you still only have one vendor that I know of, however it is a more reputable dealer. Of course, since broken or worn parts on my 1911s normally get replaced with Wilson parts, its obvious that I'm a little more trusting of them, and if Kimber used the wilson external extractor I probably wouldnt hand them back to the clerk at the moment I noticed it.

I know you have heard "if it aint broke, don't fix it." The manufacturers broke it by cutting corners. IMO, they're fixing it adding gimmicks. SS, DD.

February 9, 2005, 12:14 PM
I have an SW1911 with the external extractor and it has been 100% reliable in the time I have owned it. So I am not concerned that this gun does not have an internal extractor. Conversely, a person with a properly tuned internal extractor should not be concerned that his gun does not have an external extractor.

Sergeant Sabre
February 9, 2005, 12:27 PM
For example, if the MIM internal extractor fails in one of the three Kimbers I have,...

Kimber internal extractors are not MIM, they are spring steel.

The external, I'd bet, is MIM

Zach S
February 9, 2005, 12:40 PM
I didnt know that. I read somewhere they were MIM.

Either way, it doesnt bother me. I havent experianced any MIM breakage so I dont dwell on it.

Old Fuff
February 9, 2005, 04:01 PM
I don't know if the core issue is if the MIM extractor will break or not. The fact is that all kind of metal parts can fail sometime. The question then is: What does it take to fix it then? And it is here that the internal extractor has an advantage. If you have a pre-fitted part you can slip it in without even having to disassemble the pistol.

Regardless of what pistol you own, it would be advisable to have a fitted spare on hand "just in case."

February 9, 2005, 07:06 PM
External extractors were selected by LAPD SWAT as a "must have".
The original TLE's purchased by LAPD SWAT were all internal extractors. Kimber hadn't started the switch-over yet. Here is a pic of one:
If other 1911 external extractors are like the Kimber one (the latest generation Kimber one that now works,) they are a cinch to change. You don't even have to take the slide off the gun if you don't want to. Just use a small screwdriver or dental pick and pull back on the plunger right behind the extractor hook. You can pull it back and lift out the hook. A new hook just drops into the little round hole and you let the plunger spring back to hold it in. The only problem is finding spare extractor hooks. Maybe someday soon, someone will make them.

February 9, 2005, 07:58 PM
As an aside...and as far as I know...Kimber never used MIM internal extractors. Also as far as I know, Colt was the only major company to dink around with that material for extractors, and they went back to machined barstock about 2 years ago. Now, whether the extractors are true spring-tempered 1090 steel...I doubt it. Probably heat-treated 4340, which is good steel, but a bit rigid for a proper extractor when heat-treated to the correct hardness. Incorrectly treated, and they either get brittle or they won't hold tension for hard use or carrying continually in condition one, though they can be made "springy" with a little modification, and as long as they're hard enough, will hold up for a long time.

February 10, 2005, 01:39 AM
Yes, Kimbers used MIM internal extractors. So did Colt, for a short while. The proper material for an internal extractor is outlined in Jerry Kuhnhausen's shop manual, which copies the specs from original Department of Ordnance drawings.

February 10, 2005, 04:58 AM
Dana said:

>Yes, Kimbers used MIM internal extractors. So did Colt, for a short while.<

Ahhh! Do you remember about what time frame? A friend of mine bought the first Kimber I'd ever seen up close...a Custom Classic...around '95 I think.
I didn't remember seeing a sprue mark on the extractor. I had him bring it back last year just to make sure that I remembered correctly...and sure enough...it was barstock. I'm guessing production date sometime in early
to mid '95.

Zach S
February 10, 2005, 07:06 AM
Regardless of what pistol you own, it would be advisable to have a fitted spare on hand "just in case." I dont bother with keeping a fitted spare for all of mine, since I have a few 1911s I'd wind up putting the spare for one in another and have to re-fit it.

I do keep an un-fitted spare though.

Old Fuff
February 10, 2005, 09:33 AM
The purpose of the "spare on hand" is so that the pistol can be put back into service as soon as possible and not have to wait until a new part is purchased, shipped and received. This may or may not be important to a gun's owner depending on the circumstances. I personally keep a few fitted (and unfitted) parts on hand for the very few pistols that I'm likely to carry. Others I don't worry about.

February 10, 2005, 01:00 PM
Yes, Kimbers used MIM internal extractors.
I don't think so, but if they did, it was before 1998. I've seen quite a few Kimbers since then and have never seen a MIM extractor in one. Kimber extractors are machined pretty rough so it's easy to see it isn't MIM.

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