1911 questions...fact or fallacy??


December 5, 2008, 10:33 PM
I have a couple of simple question regarding 1911 style pistols. I'm not new to guns in general, but kind of a newbie on the large auto pistols. I've had my CCW permit for over 20 years, had a few revolvers in the past and Ruger Mk II for quite some time. I'm more of a shotgun guy to be honest with you. I've recently picked up a CZ 85B as well.

So anyway, I go to my local Cabela's store tonight to check out a few .45ACP pistols and request to see a Kimber Custom. Not really the one I want as it's the basic of this model and I'm more interested in the one with night sights. Anyhow, the clerk takes it out of the case, removes the mag, opens and locks the slide and hands me the pistol. So far, so good. I look it over then hit the slide release a nanosecond before he says "you have to ease the slide forward unless you are chambering a round on a 1911". Too late. Next I pick out a deer head up on the wall and squeeze the trigger to see how it feels. CLICK. Clerk is cringing and says, "you can't dry fire any 1911's"

True on both counts? Did I F up, times 2, or is the clerk incorrect?

Ok or not to hit the slide release without chambering a round on a 1911?

Ok or not to dry fire a 1911?


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December 5, 2008, 10:44 PM
Clerk is a twit.


December 5, 2008, 10:51 PM
I wouldn't let the slide slam into battery without it stripping a round from the mag. Clerk was arguably correct on that one.

As for dry firing, I think you'd be fine unless it's something you do all the time, then a snap cap might be in order. Once at the counter won't hurt anything unless a hundred people come in and dry fire that same pistol.


December 5, 2008, 10:57 PM
Clerk is 1/2 a twit. He's right about slamming the slide on an empty chamber. But he's totally wrong about the dry firing.

I've picked up these two facts from the 1911 hounds at my range. Goodness knows there's enough of them.

You can hear the difference too. One owner was showing me something and for some reason didn't quite catch the slide and it slammed home before his grip could tighten enough. It had a "hammer on glass" sound to it. A really sharp and brittle sounding "CLACK!". This is unlike my own CZ or any other autoloader that I've checked out where it seems like there's a lot of internal stuff going on during the forward stroke to ease the action closed. Apparently if this is done often enough it can bend or mushroom some part. Not sure which but they all cringe when they do it so there must be a price to pay.

On the other hand the 1911 owners are always passing them around to anyone that looks at all interested to show off their trigger action to anyone that'll offer the slightest bit of praise for the trigger job they or their adopted gunsmith did..... At times it can sound like a cricket convention.... :D

Johnny Guest
December 5, 2008, 11:10 PM
CERTAIN 1911 types have had problems with "soft" slides, especially long ago. I understand this was particularly true back in the 1911 (not 1911A1) days. You hear the same for the Argentine Sistema 1927 and the Spanish copies. Anyhow, releasing the slide by pressing down on the slide lock is thought to round the rear of the slide notch. This belief is widespread enough that it is only common courtesy to NOT do it with someone else's pistol. It also LOOKS as if slamming the slide shut without the restraining influence of chambering a round from a loaded magazine is unduly harsh. In either case, it is considerate to close the locked-open slide by removing the magazine, then restraining the slide with the other hand and easing it forward.

With regard to dry firing a 1911, it is pretty well agreed that this does no harm whatever. Indeed, dry firing with a good sight picture is considered a necessary practice when live fire on a range is not possible. However, it is considered impolite to dry fire ANY type firearm belonging to another person without permission.

These are practices I follow when handling pistols belonging to others, regardless of the fact that I may handle my own differently.

December 5, 2008, 11:17 PM
Ditto on half twit.

I recall seeing a manual (Wilson?) stating not to drop the slide without a round in mag to cushion the drop. It mentioned specifically something about trigger parts, but I've also read more stress is placed on the 1911's frame from the impact going forward than backwards. Seems odd to me, but regardless, it does appear to be common 1911 advice.

As for dry firing, it seems all the guys on the competition forums I frequent dry fire 1911's a huge amount and only a tiny minority have ever mentioned using snap caps. At this point I would dry fire any gun before I bought it (except rimfire), but would do so as a final sales point.

Went with a buddy to a gunshow when he snatched up a $1,200+ S/W Performance Center revolver and started playing Jerry Miculek, THAT was rude and uncalled for. By the time I looked around the table owner was headed his way with a bright red face. I redirected my tactless A.D.D. buddy to less dangerous pursuits. That however is A LOT different than trying the trigger one time on a 1911.

December 5, 2008, 11:40 PM
As far as the fact or fiction, the others are correct. You don't want to let the slide slam shut unless there is a round being stripped.

You can definitely dry fire safely on all modern 1911's without any problem.

However, I would never do either unless the gun belonged to me or I had gotten permission (to dry-fire for instance).

It wasn't your gun, so whether or not the clerk was a newb is beside the point. I would be easy on everything until the cash is on the table.

Old Fuff
December 6, 2008, 12:10 AM
When you drop the slide on a 1911 style pistol without a cartridge being fed into the chamber what gets battered is the barrel's lower lug, the slide stop pin. and sometimes the link and link pin. The pistol is designed to take it, but smart owners know it's better to gently lower the slide when you can. Of course there are times when you can't. Also the shock of going into battery doesn't help the contact edges on the hammer hooks and sear. You are asking for the hammer to follow down, and that's not good.

Dry firing won't hurt the firing pin, but if you don't have an empty case or a snap cap in the chamber the firing pin spring will be over compressed, and in time take a set. This compromises a safety feature, so again - if you extensively dry fire (which is a good idea, and good practice) do it with something in the chamber.

The Old Fuff will vote for the clerk, who was more right then wrong, but probably has no idea why.

Ah, Johnny G.

Don't tell anyone, but the Argentine Sistema 1927 that were made mostly during the 1950's had better steel in them then Colt was using at the time... :what:

But you are spot on about the Spainish made guns. ;)

December 6, 2008, 12:27 AM
I've always heard that letting the slide go on a empty chamber is no big deal, unless its some type of "race gun".

Old Fuff
December 6, 2008, 12:48 AM
U.S. Army field armorers were issued plug gauges to check the slide stop pin holes in frames. If they were beaten out oblong the pistol was withdrawn from use and sent back as unserviceable. Happened more often then you might think.

Anyone who understands how the pistol functions should be able to “figger out" the “what,” and “why” those holes were oblong or oversized.

December 6, 2008, 01:13 AM
yeah, he slaming of an action shut durring normal cycling of a weapon could not do that... The cycling of a hand gun is a very violent thing.

metallurgy and machining have changed alot in the last 100 years, there was lots of bad parts made( and still are)

Chuck Dye
December 6, 2008, 01:30 AM
Eh, hem...

Treat your own guns as you please.

If it is not your gun, treat it as the owner requests.

Right or wrong about 1911s in general, the clerk was right about the store's guns (if that was store policy.)

December 6, 2008, 04:23 AM
Slamming slide a few times won't do serious damage. Doing it repeatedly will.

Dry firing won't hurt a darn thing.

But when you are in the store no matter if the clerk is wrong you go by their rules.

December 6, 2008, 06:09 AM
I've never heard anyone make a big stink about dry firing a 1911...

However, as far as the slide goes, My Springfield Armory manual states that "The slide should never be released on an empty chamber; especially one which has had an action job. Releasing the slide on an empty chamber causes damage to the breech face on the barrel and undue stress on all action parts, including the hammer and sear. This will ruin the action job performed on your pistol."

That's all I got. :)

December 6, 2008, 08:24 AM
It's never a good idea to let the slide slam shut on an empty chamber and it's kind of like slamming your car door shut. I also always ask if it's ok to dry fire a pistol I'm looking at.

December 6, 2008, 09:01 AM
Yep, only half a twit, but now you know. We all had to be told at some time in our life. :)

Old Fuff
December 6, 2008, 09:53 AM
Dry firing won't hurt a darn thing.

If you own a pre-Series 80 Colt, or an exact duplicate of the 1911 or 1911 pistol, pull the slide back and latch it open.

Now take a small punch and push on the back of the firing pin. Notice that the pin can be pushed to the point where about 1/4" on the front is protruding out the breech face. Obviously this is further then it would go if the slide was in battery and there was a case, cartridge or snap-cap in the chamber.

When you dry fire with nothing in the chamber the firing pin will compress the firing pin spring more then it would otherwise. In time he spring can take a set. This isn't good for a number of reasons, but the worst one is that the firing pin may become stuck and stick out of the front of the breech face. Unless this condition is discovered you have what is in effect an open-bolt machine gun the next time you go out to live-fire.

Dry-firing is fine, but put an empty cartridge case or snap-cap into the chamber first.

A Series 80 Colt or other pistol with a firing pin block or lock will act the same way as soon as the trigger is pulled or the grip safety is depressed.

December 6, 2008, 11:04 AM
1. Letting the slide slam shut on an empty chamber isn't good for the trigger mechanism. You can eventually get hammer follow if you have a decent trigger and you do it enough times.

2. Dry firing an M1911 is no big deal. If you're concerned, use a snap cap.

The Lone Haranguer
December 6, 2008, 11:25 AM
That gun, being in the display case, has likely been handled hundreds of times. Note that they get a new one in the box out of the back room when the sale is made.

December 6, 2008, 11:36 AM
Can tell you that at Gun Shows in Alabama, all dealers and sellers have a sign posted that reads: "Dry fire once, for $50, twice for $75"

They just know that for 1000 people to come by and snap the firing pin on a gun with no round chambered....can't do it any good.

December 6, 2008, 12:23 PM
1/2 Twit, I dry fire mine alot.
Its generaly not a good Idea to finger bang a pistol or rifle thats Not yours, Ask first..

December 6, 2008, 12:58 PM
Thank you all for the constructive advice. I suppose I'll get a snap cap and bring it with me as I continue shopping.......and use it only with the clerk's permission.


December 6, 2008, 01:29 PM
I've never hesitated to do either one to my own. Although I'm not a hardcore shooter, I grew up around several serious match champions and never observed any of them easing the slide forward or using snap caps. Perhap the problems resultant from these activities only came to light in the last few decades or perhaps they have enough spare parts and guns that they don't worry about it. However, most of them seemed to favor a particular pistol for matches and they'd still treat it that way. I certainly trust more knowledgeable people's opinions like Old Fuff, Tuner, and the moderators - so I don't doubt there is damage, I have just never observed it personally.

I never dry fire a pistol without asking for permission from the owner or store employee. I also don't let the slide slam forward on someone else's pistol. Just proper etiquette to treat other people's property gently. I can't remember a salesman or owner refusing to let me dry fire one yet when asked. And I always do with centerfires.

December 6, 2008, 02:02 PM
Dropping the slide on an empty gun is a valid test for hammer follow, and done occasionally...it won't hurt the gun. Making a habit of it...as in sitting around watching TV and doing it over and over can do some damage to the slidestop crosspin holes and the lower barrel lug. It doesn't occur as early as it once did, when the frames were unhardened...but it can still happen over time. In some cases...especially with aluminum alloy frames...it will cause the frame to crack adjacent to the bottom of the slidestop pin hole. In the final analysis, it's best not done. Why abuse your equipment just because you can?

Dry firing? As observed by the Old Fuff...occasionally, to check the trigger action won't hurt a thing. Prolonged dry-fire sessions should be done with a snap cap, just like any other gun that you don't hate.

December 6, 2008, 05:45 PM
i think ramming into battery empty would be tough on the extractor as well as the other reasons mentioned.

i dry fire every trigger job i do quite a bit.

December 6, 2008, 05:49 PM
Many 1911s (such as the Kimbers) are actually made to be dry fired versus creeping the hammer back down. Doing so many damage the sear and really mess with things.

Vern Humphrey
December 6, 2008, 05:56 PM
Next I pick out a deer head up on the wall and squeeze the trigger to see how it feels. CLICK. Clerk is cringing and says, "you can't dry fire any 1911's"

If you check the owner's manual on that Kimber, you will see it tells you to always drop the hammer on an empty chamber by pulling the trigger. Never lower the hammer - you may snag the sear on the half cock notch and damage it.

December 6, 2008, 05:57 PM
Unless this condition is discovered you have what is in effect an open-bolt machine gun the next time you go out to live-fire.I believe a 1911 with a firing pin stuck out the breach-face will not feed one round, let alone go full auto.

The stuck firing pin will stop the loaded round coming put of the magazine from sliding up the breach-face and under the extractor.

It is a fail-safe design feature.

Another John Browning stroke of genius.


December 6, 2008, 06:42 PM
i think ramming into battery empty would be tough on the extractor

Not unless the extractor nose is contacting the barrel face, in which case it won't matter whether the chamber is empty or not.

I have seen a few that did that to the point of damaging the barrel...but that's a whole 'nother set of problems.

December 6, 2008, 08:06 PM
Not unless the extractor nose is contacting the barrel face, in which case it won't matter whether the chamber is empty or not.

you da man!!!!!!!!!

just kidding, seriously, i dont remember where i heard that or in what context it was.

actually, now that i think about it, i believe it was someone telling me not to drop a round into the chamber, then release the slide, and that is what was hard on the extractor.

not being able to remember is making me feel older so im gonna stop trying now, lol.

December 6, 2008, 08:40 PM
It is abusive to drop the slide on the empty chamber of any auto. It is designed to be cushioned by the extractor being full of rim. HAVING SAID THAT, I have no idea how many times you would have to do it before you actually break something. I suppose you could think of it as store etiquette, like if you go to a Chevy dealership, and they DO let you test drive a Corvette, you aren't going to burn rubber and scorch the clutch, just because some other guy thousands of miles down the road is going to get to fix it later.

They asked Todd Jarrett in an interview what the average Joe should do to be a better shooter. He said dry-fire until your finger falls off. Hundreds of thousands of times. They asked him if it would harm the gun, he said; "I've done it literally millions of times and I've never had a problem. If it really gives you the willies, use a snap cap, but on any modern 1911, you're not going to hurt anything." (The idea is to make the feel of squeezing the trigger and feeling it break become sub-conscious.)

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