Series 80 Frame Blank Warning


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1911Tuner
October 30, 2006, 08:44 PM
I've had occasion to mention the frame blank spacer used when removing the Colt Series 80 levers...and the flanging that sometimes develops around the holes...and that it can interfere with sear reset.

Yesterday, I had occasion to see what can happen firsthand on one of mine.
I recently replaced the spacers in all my beaters, since they'd gotten pretty badly catty-wampussed over time and repeated filing to dress the flanges. The new parts had been in place for about a thousand rounds per pistol, and was only about to the halfway point for a detail-strip/cleaning/dressing.

I'd fired about 12 or 15 magazines in this particular gun...and when its turn came, I picked it up off the table, slapped a magazine in, and chambered the first round with an overhand slingshot...and the gun fired when it went to battery. Luckily, I'd only loaded one round into the mag because I intended to fire 8 rounds...or I'd probably have had a full-auto event right there.

The problem was that the flange had kept the sear from resetting correctly, and it barely had the hammer hooks. When the slide went home, it jarred off, and because it didn't reset and catch the half-cock...BANG! Had it gone full-auto, it probably would have moved up and back in an arc and shot my arm off about midway between elbow and wrist, because my arm was still above the slide when it fired.

Ladies and laddies...If you use one of these blanks to replace the levers in a Series 80 pistol...keep a close eye on it, and dress any flanging around the holes...no matter how small. I'd advise a teardown and inspection at 500 rounds on a new part...and less frequently as the holes wallow out and enlarge...but no more than every thousand rounds. I've been dressing the flanges at my usual 2,000-round detail strip and cleaning...but you can bet that I won't let it go that long again.

The spacers were never intended to permanently replace the levers in the Colts. They're too soft and too easily deformed. They were originally designed for triggersmiths who wanted to save time when working on Series 80 equipped pistols.

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BigG
October 31, 2006, 08:41 AM
Wow an ND. Hope you are OK, well except for your laundry, of course. ;)

I always wondered the intelligence of replacing those lil levers in the Series 80. I could never tell the difference between the trigger of mine and the older non firing pin safety models but some would swear the little levers screwed up the trigger pull something awful. :what:

Now we have some data that confirms my suspicions about the smarts of those guys and gals who know more than Colt. :cool:

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 08:49 AM
Yep, BigG...An unexpected bang. Although I'm adamant about keepin' the muzzle downrange even when I shoot alone...this one unnerved me a little, since I had my arm across the top of the slide. If the magazine had been full, I'd be willin' to bet that it would have fired at least 2 rounds. The possibility of the gun crossin' by arm was definitely there. It'll serve to remind me to
hang on tight whenever I drop the slide, and to expect the unexpected.

I'll start tearin' the altered Series 80 Colts down for inspection more often, for sure...and if it happens again, I'll just use the original parts with the arms lopped off the plunger levers.

saltydog452
October 31, 2006, 08:51 AM
Thanks Tuner. I've gone through two sets of levers...neither set allowed for reliable ignition. There was still the occasional slight indentation on the primer. Not enough to ignite the primer, just a small impact mark. Thats when I installed the Series 70 stuff and put the Series 80 levers in a baggie.

Guess I've got to do some more work on the OMFH.

Thanks again,

salty.

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 09:15 AM
Salty...The problem is late release timing of the plunger. Colt may or may not send a #2 plunger lever, but you can call Cindy and ask. Alternate method is to heat and bend the OEM lever arm for a little more lift.

If she will send you the #2 lever, go ahead and have her send #3, too.

45auto
October 31, 2006, 10:02 AM
Cylinder and Slide has a "higher lift" lever for the series 80....just a FYI.

saltydog452
October 31, 2006, 10:31 AM
Got it. Call Cindy, ask for #'s 2 and 3, & say three 'hail Marys'. I guess I'll ask her to send the cup and spring also. Maybe she'll accept plastic $ for the parts.

I guess I shoulda mentioned it in previous post, but an OEM Series 70 hammer was installed as the levers, cup, and spring went into the baggie. Does that make a difference?

Thanks Tuner,

salty.

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 10:47 AM
Saltydog wondered:

>I guess I shoulda mentioned it in previous post, but an OEM Series 70 hammer was installed as the levers, cup, and spring went into the baggie. Does that make a difference?<
*************

Nope. Not a bit.

saltydog452
October 31, 2006, 11:02 AM
Ohhh Happy Day, I get to play with the Officers Model again.

salty.

Old Fuff
October 31, 2006, 11:50 AM
I'll just use the original parts with the arms lopped off the plunger levers.

I thought of doing that if I ever got a series 80 pistol, but so far that hasn't happened.

Now you've given me another reason to make sure that doesn't happen. ;)

XavierBreath
October 31, 2006, 12:04 PM
Glad to hear you are OK Tuner!

I'll just use the original parts with the arms lopped off the plunger levers. I've often wondered why people don't do this if they detest the Series 80 stuff so much. I suppose it is so you can later reverse it all if you sell.

I note that Brownells bills the part (http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=13121&title=1911+AUTO+FRAME+SLOT+BLANK&s=31597#31597) as a replacement for the levers, not a a gunsmithing type thing.

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 12:24 PM
Quote:

>I note that Brownells bills the part as a replacement for the levers, not as a gunsmithing type thing.<
*******************

Yep. Brownells only lists lever #1. For the other ones, you have to go to Colt...and they may want you to send in the gun for fitting and timing.

Fuff said:

>I thought of doing that if I ever got a series 80 pistol, but so far that hasn't happened. Now you've given me another reason to make sure that doesn't happen.<
*********

Make sure that what doesn't happen...Use a frame blank or score a Series 80 Colt?:D

None of my Series 80 pistols are carry guns. All range beaters. I reserve the
pre-80s for carry...including a rebuilt '43 USGI Colt that's been languishin' in the safe a bit too long. Time to call it back up, methinks...:cool:

olyeller
October 31, 2006, 12:31 PM
thanks for the heads up, 1911tuner; I have one of these in my para limited gun.

Old Fuff
October 31, 2006, 12:32 PM
Make sure that what doesn't happen...Use a frame blank or score a Series 80 Colt?

Both... :neener:

In the unlikely event that I find myself needing another 1911 platform gun it is far more likely to be homebuilt on an aftermarket frame then a new or used Series 80.

On the other hand if someone offered me one at a ridiculously low figure... :evil:

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 12:48 PM
Aw, Fuff. The Series 80 Colts are pretty good pistols, if ya discount the minimal number that have timing issues with the firing pin release...which is pretty easy to correct. (Mine have taken a lickin' and still tickin'.) Out of 6 total that I own, there's only been one that gave me a problem...and it's now a blank-equipped beater. The others functioned perfectly. Not sayin' that I completely trusted'em enough to carry'em, though. Unwritten rule states: "The more gadgets it's got, the more Murphy it gets."

Not sayin' that because I didn't have a problem with five examples...nobody else will or that because I had a problem with one that everybody will...Just my own experience. And...Not all the guns that have the spacers will repeat what all of mine did...just a potential problem that bears watchin'.

XavierBreath
October 31, 2006, 03:14 PM
I haven't had a problem with any of my Series 80 guns. In fact, about a year ago, Tuner was nice enough to sent me the Colt Series 80 levers to put back in a pistol that had the spacer plate! Call me nuts. :scrutiny:

I never understood why fellows would order that spacer when a couple of appropriately sized washers would do the same thing. Anybody see any reason why a coupla stainless steel washers would not work?

Old Fuff
October 31, 2006, 05:14 PM
Aw, Fuff. The Series 80 Colts are pretty good pistols...

Sure........ :scrutiny:

But as you say it's one more gadget to go wrong. :uhoh:

The lack of such stuff was part of the reason the pure-Browning guns were so reliable and trouble free. Then came the lawyers... :cuss:

Now other folks are in a different boat, but if I HAVE to have another .45 all I really need too do is find a frame, and it isn't likey to be one from a series 80 Colt...

But who knows...? :evil:

Old Fuff
October 31, 2006, 05:20 PM
Anybody see any reason why a coupla stainless steel washers would not work?

I don't know that you'll be able to find any washers that are thick enough, and fit within the area between the hole spacing.

And besides, I have enough trouble getting the :cuss: levers back in place, let alone some :cuss: :cuss: :cuss: washers. :D

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 06:52 PM
Not to worry, Ol' Fuff...I use the Series 80s to beat on so I can save my pre-lawyered pistols for more serious duties.

And...yes. I tried the washer route, and they're a bit more tedious to install than the levers.

Tunerfish's helpful hint of the day:

An AR-15/M-16 firing pin, ground flat on the end makes a dandy slave pin for the trigger bar lever. :cool:

BigG
October 31, 2006, 07:23 PM
the pure-Browning guns were so reliable and trouble free

Fuff - I dearly respect you but you are really starting to sound senile. I hope I am wrong. :eek:

They all break. I've had any Colt GM, GC, Commander, or Government contractor built pistol and nothing but in the 1911 type. None of them is perfeck. Honest Fuff, and I tout them just as much as you do. But I don't act like I believe it 100%. If it's man-made, it can and will fail. The Series 80 is a big step above the original Series 70 in fit, finish, and overall quality, and you of all people should know it and be willing to say it. :confused:

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 07:45 PM
BigG wrote:

>The Series 80 is a big step above the original Series 70 in fit, finish, and overall quality, and you of all people should know it and be willing to say it.<
***********

Now, if you're speakin' of the dark days of the Colt Series 70 pistols...I'll hafta agree. If you mean the commercial pistols produced from about 1924 until 1967 or '68...you just ain't seen a really nice example yet. The mid-30s, especially...and from the end of WW2 until around 1960 or so were some truly good Colts.

BigG
October 31, 2006, 08:11 PM
No, Tuner, I did not mean the old fashioned commercial Colt (pre Series 70) when I said original Series 70. I meant the guns with the billboard markings and spring bushing. The guys who call them the pinnacle of Colt quality obviously don't know much. I've heard them say that, too, when they disparage a Series 80.

I haven't checked out the re-release Series 70 (recent production) but I assume they are better quality, like the Series 80, also.

1911Tuner
October 31, 2006, 08:48 PM
BigG wrote:

>I did not mean the old fashioned commercial Colt (pre Series 70<
***********

Whew! I thought you'd taken leave of your noodle there, G....:D

FourTeeFive
October 31, 2006, 09:04 PM
I seem to remember a LEO death in Washington state back in the early 80's due to this. Guy was sitting on the locker room bench getting ready for duty, racked back his .45 slide to chamber a cartridge, released the slide and it went full auto. He had a light grip on it and the gun snapped up and a round went into his head.

Ever since hearing that I've had a firm grip on the gun when releasing the slide.

Old Fuff
October 31, 2006, 10:02 PM
Fuff - I dearly respect you but you are really starting to sound senile. I hope I am wrong.

Senile?? Of course I'm going senile... :what: Why shouldn't I...? :D

Now lets look at the full quote...

The lack of such stuff (the series 80 firing pin block) was part of the reason the pure-Browning guns were so reliable and trouble free. Then came the lawyers...

Now... I didn't say that a pre-80 series Colt pistol couldn't fail. What I said was, that the addition of the firing pin block added an additional feature that could fail, sometimes did, and in my opinion wasn't necessary. If we exclude the short-lived Swartz firing pin block that Colt offered in their commercial pistol during the late 1930's and 40-41 you can't name any 1911 pattern pistol made between 1911 and 1980 that did fail becuae of a firing pin block problem. Incidentally both the U.S. Army and Brazil refused to accept the Swartz lock, leaving Colt to produce two different frame/slide sets. One style for Uncle Sam and Brazil, and a second one for their own commercial pistols.

For workmanship, fit and polish, the Colt's made during the 1930's put the ones made after the war to shame, and if you want to see the high point of regular Government Model production look at an original National Match .45 or Super .38 - neither of which have been equalled when it comes to wormanship, fit and polish... :cuss:

Before the War Colt used "selective fitting" to match frames and slides, and these matched frames and slides were at some point polished together as a unit. After the War this went out the window along with wide-spur hammers as the cost of labor increased.

No, they don't make them like the used to... :banghead:

They can't afford to... :uhoh:

BigG
November 1, 2006, 10:16 AM
Fuffy - you didn't address the quality improvement that the Series 80 showed over the execrable Series 70 POSs. At least give credit where credit is due.

Old Fuff
November 1, 2006, 12:06 PM
Fuffy...!...? :D :D

So your point is that it's better to accept the series 80 pistols on the basis of workmanship improvement even though it has a questionable addition to its mechanics? Well it depends on how you look at it. I'm not sure about you, but I'm not limited to Colt products made during the series 70 - 80 years, to present.

Frankly, having owned and experienced Colt's made before the series 70 (some series 70's I’ll admit were dogs) I have scant appreciation for the current crop from mainline makers - both from a workmanship and materials point of view. Fortunately I don't have to get a pistol with added gadgets to get decent workmanship. The gun was in production decades upon decades before the hardly lamented series 70 and 80 arrived. I suppose it is possible that someday I might acquire a series 80 pistol of some sort, but if that happens you won’t recognize it when I get done... :evil:

Since I like the pistol when it’s made from the proper materials and adheres to Browning well-proven design, its more likely I’ll buy a pre-series 70 pistol, or assemble my own using parts I trust. Others of course have the option to do otherwise depending on their own views. I will agree with Tuner that a series 80 is fit to be a range beater but not much else. :uhoh:

Thing is, I don’t need any beaters right now... :)

RogersPrecision
November 1, 2006, 03:19 PM
Here is a dissenting opinion.
I have been supporting my family for 20 years soley by my 1911 work.
I mention this to let those unfamiliar with my work know that I'm no amatuer.
Both of my personal carry guns are Series 80 Colts with the firing pin safetys intact.
The key is 'competent' gunsmithing.
Take a peek at my website. I can own and carry ANY pistol I please. I did not choose these 'inferior' series 80 guns because that is all I had.

BigG
November 1, 2006, 03:33 PM
Fuffy - you ought to be a politician. Wrote several paragraphs and hardly said anything. :D

RogersPrecision - you have no argument from me. I agree with you 100% the Series 80 is a good pistol and I can afford any kind I want. The Series 80 is my favorite.

1911Tuner
November 1, 2006, 03:48 PM
Well...This one's about to drift too far, guys. It was intended to call attention to a potential problem with the blanks, not start a rumble over
the advantages and disadvantages of the Series 80 pistols. I think they're
well-made and the system rarely gives problems...and it's pretty easy to correct when it does. I trust it miles farther than the Swartz system, at any rate.

I can own and carry pretty much anything I want as well. I've even been know to carry a very nice Union Switch & Signal on occasion...and probably will again. (With apologies to Johnny Peppers.) I just choose not to carry Series 80 OR Swartz-equipped pistols. Have carried'em,(Series 80s) but I just don't any more...and it's not because one of mine ever failed to function. A personal matter, understand. Murphy loves gadgets. Ol' Murphy and me...well...we just don't gee-haw, so I try to keep things simple. With my luck, the only time that it would ever malfunction would be when I was up to my Keister in Komodos. For me...and others...it's just one less thing to go wrong.

Anyway...Raja! have you ever seen the flanging on the frame spacers that I've described? Several people report no problems. Several others have reported the same thing that I've noticed. It seems to occur at the rate of about one in five guns, and I haven't really jumped into figuring out why...yet.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

RogersPrecision
November 1, 2006, 11:07 PM
Tuner,
I have not seen this problem. But virtually all of the Series 80 guns I see have the stock parts intact.
Thanks for the heads up. It is something I will be watching for.

1911Tuner
November 2, 2006, 06:50 AM
Thanks. It first came to my attention on one of my range beaters with an occasional hammer follow to half-cock during a reload...and a quick tweak on the sear spring didn't fix it. I went ahead and stripped the gun and saw what was interfering with sear reset...so I got into the habit of dressing the flanges during routine detail-strip cleaning, and didn't have another problem...until I switched out the much-used and ratty blanks for new ones
last month.

FWIW, I discourage using the blanks unless the gun is only intended for range duty AND the owner is willing to detail-strip for inspection and maintenance
on a regular basis...mostly for this very reason. I use'em in my beaters mainly because I have 6 pistols in the rotation and I detail-strip all of'em monthly. I shoot a LOT...and I use mostly cast bullets. Nasty stuff. I also like to be able to strip and reassemble at the range if need be, without havin' to fiddle with the trigger bar lever. I have all the lawyer parts for each gun...matched to the serial number...in case I return the gun to carry duty for some reason. Interestingly...the only one I've had a release timing problem with was the NRM Colt manufactured in '01, and a #2 lever squared it away. All the older pistols...four 91A1s and a Combat Commander worked fine.

So...Now, whenever somebody on a board has a hammer follow problem with a Series 80 pistol, one of the first things I ask is if they've installed a spacer.

grendelbane
November 2, 2006, 07:24 PM
Once upon a time I had a Para-Ordnance. It had the spacer, and it never gave any trouble. (The spacer never gave any trouble, the P-O gave a little).

I reall didn't fire it all that much, several hundred rounds maybe.

This is my only experience with the spacers. My only Series 80 is a Delta Elite, and the '80 parts are about the only trouble free parts of that particuliar blaster.

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