1911 Troubleshooting


April 15, 2003, 02:32 PM
I have a 1911 problem that I am sure is easy for you 1911 gunsmiths.
A guy I work with recently inherited a 1911. This is a very nice genuine US Property 1911 (not 1911A1). According to a website, it was manufactured in 1913. His grandfather forgot to give it back at the end of WWII. Anyway, the guy knew nothing about it and asked me to show him how it works and how to take it down for cleaning. I suggested to him that if he was going to shoot it, he should replace the recoil spring and possibly the firing pin spring. At that point he asked me if I would be willing to take it home, chean it, buy and install the appropriate springs...............

I started playing with it in the car on the way home and noticed that if I pulled the trigger without pressing the grip safety, the hammer would fall to a half cock position. A little more playing revealed that if I engaged the thumb safety and pulled the trigger, the thumb safety would disengage and the gun would fire !!!!!!!!!!!!. Obviously not a very safe condition. What is wrong ? I have shot a lot of 1911s and done some very routine parts swapping, but I am far from even a shade tree gunsmith. By the way, the thumb safety goes on with a very clear click and feels solid.

One more thing; what would something like this be worth ? This is one of the nicer GI 1911s that I have seen. It does have finish wear and a few dings on the barrel bushing; it has been carried by a pilot in combat, probably for several years and is far from pristine, but still very nice for a used GI 1911. It is also nice and tight. When you shake it, it doesn't rattle at all. He mentioned that he would like to leave it original. He also mentioned that if someone was willing to give him top dollar, he might sell it. I personally don't understand selling guns, let alone one that my grandfather carried in combat, but it is his gun and not mine. Anyway, if something needs to be replaced like the hammer, I don't know what his feelings about this would be. I was thinking about asking him if he wanted to sell it to me. I own a number of 1911s for shooting and would leave this one as is, as a curio (not replace any parts). I would give him a generous price, I have no desire to low ball him - he is a super nice guy that I enjoy working with. I also considered trading him a NIB 1911 of modern manufacture and some cash. I do know that he was recently asking me about buying a handgun, so he does want one. Telling him that this one is unsafe to use in it's present form might make him not want to keep it. Of course if this problem is simple to fix then it doesn't matter.

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April 15, 2003, 06:34 PM
Sounds like it could be a couple of problems. The thumb safety issue could be a worn thumb safety or a sear that is too short. The grip safety issue could be sear related or just a worn grip safety. It might be best to have a qualified gunsmith look at this pistol.

Value of a 1911 will depend on the originallity of the small parts, the type of finish and the over all condition of the pistol. 1911's were originally blued, but many were rebuilt and parkerized for reissue in World War II and Korea.

April 15, 2003, 07:05 PM
Well, I am no one to grade a gun, so I took it to my local dealer. He graded the gun at about 75%. He also told me that the hammer and trigger were not original, however I believe he is wrong based on the pictures on this website; http://www.coltautos.com/index.htm
This gun appears to me, to have the same grips, trigger and hammer as the 1911s pictured there. They certainly don't have the triggers that he was trying to tell me it should have. According to his blue book, the gun should be worth about $600. I would really appreciate any further info or advice.

Jim K
April 15, 2003, 10:53 PM
The safety going off when the trigger is pulled could be just the small spring that powers the slide stop and the safety catch itself. But if I were the owner, I would take it to a competent gunsmith. Even if some of the parts are not original, the gun is fairly valuable, so I would not do anything to it other than absolutely required to make it safe.

If you buy it, the same suggestions would apply to you.


April 15, 2003, 11:06 PM
Thank you for the replies, I figured that this would be a very simple question to answer; I guess not.

I don't think I am going to buy it, but if I did, I would put it away just as it sits now. I see no reason to fire it.

April 17, 2003, 12:07 AM
444, try asking about the pistol on the CSP 1911 forum. They are Colt collectors and a great source of information.


April 17, 2003, 11:53 AM
If that does not help, try www.1911forum.com

It may take a day or two but I'm sure you will get your answers.

Hope this helps,


Johnny Guest
April 17, 2003, 03:18 PM
- - -is that the parts are truly interchangable.

I believe that, if this nice a historic firearm were mine, I would carry it to a gun show--Or at least the slide - - - and walk around until I found s parts sales person with a good stock of what appeared to be genuine GI parts. Then I would try hard to match exterior finish of a hammer and safety, and also get a sear and disconnector for good measure. I would place a small bet that substitution of thes parts would cure the problems.

First, though, study illustrations of the differences between the 1911 and the 1911A1 pistols. The original grip safety was rather short and pointed at the tang, compared to the A1. The hammer was finely checked and was long and the spur was a good deal wider than the hammer body. The mainspring housing was flat and smooth.

I say the ORIGINAL 1913 parts. A great many pistols were later upgraded at unit or depot level, and of course, if sent to the arsenals for refurbishing. Much depends on whether this pistol was updated before the WWII issue. then you must decide if you want to restore to 1913 form, or to as-issued in WWII.

The original 1913 hammer/grip safety promoted a "bite" at the fleshy part of the hand behind the thumb web, and thus the longer grip safety of the A1. Later hammers--certainly by the time of WWII, had shorter, narrower, spurs, the same width as the hammer body. You variously see both checked and transversely grooved spurs--Either would be okay.

Practically ANY hammer and sear would allow for a drop-in and be workable. For a really good trigger pull, some minor fitting might be required. Same with the safety- - New, commercial safeties are purposely made oversized, so that some fitting is required. Chances are, though, that with a new hammer, almost any new safety would work. No guaranty, of course, but this is the probablilty. It is also probable that a little judicious bending of the grip safety leaf of the sear spring would adjust that particular problem.

Replacement of minor parts of this sort is considered an entirely ethical restoration of a historic firearm, so long as vintage parts of the proper configuration are used.

Hope you are able to acquire the pistol, or, if not, that some really appreciative person gets it.

Best of luck,

April 20, 2003, 12:22 AM
I had a similar problem, which also included the trigger following the slide, when the slide was released.

I bought new internals from Nowlin. Also, when I measured the new disconnector to the old disconnector's length, the new one was 0.012" longer.

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