The installation, adjustment and tuning of the extractor seems to be a hot topic whenever the question of reliability in the 1911 pistol cmes up... and
for good reason. I have developed a method for addressing the potential
problems with the newer, tempered steel barstock extractors that I've had very good results with. I wrote it up and saved it several weeks ago, and
posted it on THR. It's buried somewhere, and thought since we're doing
a gunsmithing clinic, it would be worth a new thread. I've modified a few
extractors for forum members, and have had good reports. Here is the
write-up, for any who would like to give it a try.
Back in the days that Colt was using spring steel extractors, they didn't have the issues that extractors have today. They were made of the right stuff, and were properly adjusted before they left the factory. Along came inflation and reduced profit margins and with them, cast extractors. Just when the limited supply of GI extractors was getting thin, we got barstock parts. Good, but not quite right. The problem was that they
didn't "spring" open. They were rigid, and needed periodic attention to keep them working. Better steels and tempering improved them, but they still weren't quite there yet.
The problem with getting the tension by bending the front of the extractor is that the steel is rigid...not "springy"...and as the case rim cams the hook to the right, the center pad...dog knot...hits the channel and creates a tight spot. Failure to go to battery. Reduce the bend, and the extractor cams open easier, but now we don't have enough tension. Back and forth, back and forth...until we hit just the right amount of bend to make it work right in both directions. 5 or 6 thousand rounds later, we had to repeat the whole process. Eventually, the steel began to work harden, and the hooks broke off, and occasionally, the whole front end would let go.
Removing about .010-.012 inch of material from the outboard pad allows three things. One, the extractor will move farther to the right before the knot hits the channel...eliminating the tight spot that causes failure to go to battery. Two, it allows the bend to be put in the center, so that the tension comes from the entire length of the stem instead of half of it. Leverage. Move the fulcrum closer to the load, and the load is easier to lift. Three, it allows a little more tension to be imposed on the case rim because of the leverage point without issues related to return to battery is reduced due to the increased mechanical advantage that comes from shifting the fulcrum.
Removing about .005 from the inboard dog knot and the front pad gets the hook closer to the centerline of the breechface. This accomplishes two things. One, it allows more of the available tension in the stem to be applied to the case rim. Two, it begins to gain control of the round earlier as it's stripped from the magazine...and it also gets a slightly tighter grip on it. This works to prevent the round getting knocked ahead of the extractor, and forcing the extractor to climb the rim. I typically set the size at the front pad at .125-.130, and have had best results within that range.
Last, the front of the hook has an angle of about 30 degrees. If this angle is formed into a gentle radius and polished, you may find that you can lock the slide, put a round in the chamber, ease the slide down until it stops, and snap the hook over the rim easily by hooking your index finger around the trigger guard and your thumb around the rear of the slide and applying about 10 pounds of pressure. This happens with most pistols, if they are close to spec. It allows the gun to go to battery more reliably in the event of a push-feed, and greatly reduces the amount of impact stress that occurs when this happens. They will ALL do this from time to time, under certain circumstances. The old spring steel extractors would tolerate it
with very little, if any loss of reliability. This is the final reason that Browning specified spring steel for this part. So that the pistol could be emergency single loaded in the event of a failed or lost magazine. Some may consider that a matter of opinion, but logic dictates that it's at least a point of careful consideration.. Would JMB really design a pistol for the U.S. Military that WOULDN'T allow for it? Would the Army accept and adopt such a pistol? The M-1903 Springfield was a controlled-feed design, too...but study the extractor just a little and you can see that it was designed to snap over if the need arose.
Luck to ya'll!
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January 8, 2004, 02:53 PM
You humbled me with that extractor you set up for me last year Tuner.
Before then I thought I knew all there was to know about extractors but your 'mod' is one of the most useful things I've picked up on in regards to 1911s ever!
Thanks bud ;) .
.......maybe NOW I know everything about extractors :D ........
January 8, 2004, 04:08 PM
I wasn't gonna mention any names...:p
Mighty welcome mah fren. That one started out as a mod for Officer's
Models and Defenders, etc...and it worked so well that I started doin'
it to all of'em. Most of'em pile up the brass nice and neat, too.:cool:
January 8, 2004, 08:19 PM
Thanks, Tuner, for splaining it so clearly for everyone. One thing has me a little baffled. It seems you say some are made out of spring steel and some are made out of steel that is turned into a spring? What ezactly is spring steel? Thanks, bud!
January 8, 2004, 08:25 PM
Uhh...would it be possible to post a pic, showing which parts of the extractor you are talking about?
Second, how do you actually remove that portion from the extractor and measure how much you have taken off?
Thx...and once again you have shown me how st00pid I really am!
Ignorance isn't always bliss...:uhoh:
January 8, 2004, 08:58 PM
Spring steel is a closely controlled alloy that is exactingly tempered and
drawn to maximize the "memory" of the steel. All steel has a memory,
and the more precisely controlled the alloy and tempering process, the
better the memory and the higher the elasticity. Simply put, it will bend
farther and return to original shape than untempered steel.
The areas to remove the metal from the extractor are the outboard center
pad (.010-.012) The inboard center pad (.005-.007) and the front pad,
called the "locator" pad by some folks. On this one, the thickness of the
extractor is measured, including the pad...and the pad reduced to give a
measurement of .125-.130 inch. I normally do mine at a slight angle forward, but it's a visual thing, and the angle isn't precise. Not more than
about 3-5 degrees though.
What all this does is:
Allows freer movement of the extractor inside the channel and as a bonus,
it provides a little more space for crud to go without affecting the extractor function, so you can go longer between cleanings.
It allows the bend to be in the center instead of all of it being on the
front, from the pad forward, and still allow free sideways movement,
because the entire length is being used. The stem is more "springy"
than when all the tension is on the front. To demonstrate the theory,
put a flat spring in a vise with half the length sticking up. Bend it with
about 5 pounds of force. Now, move it so that 3/4ths is sticking up, and apply the same force. The spring will move farther and easier.
It allows more tension on the hook without increasing the extractor's resistance to camming open by the rim because the fulcrum has moved farther from the effort and closer to the resistance.
It extends the life of the extractor by reducing the stresses on it, and
it doesn't lose tension as quickly. In short...It makes the extractor behave
more like a spring and less like a rigid length of steel.
N3rd...Sorry. I don't have a digital camera and my scanner is dead in the water. The measuerments are taken with a dial caliper or a micrometer.
The dial caliper is accurate enough for the measurements.
The center pads of the extractor are .205 inch nominal diameter, and the front varies from .135-.145 inch, which may explain why some extractors
from the same vendor drop in and work, while others don't. Reducing
the front pad moves the hook closer to the breechface centerline. Once
in a while, reducing it requires that the hook be moved to the left in order to get the extractor out of the channel. I use a high-tech slot-tip screw
driver for the operation. Go through the port and push left and back at the same time.
Assuming a good barrel throat and feed ramp, when this is done, you can feed the top round from a loaded magazine with your finger on the back of the slide with the recoil spring out...with about 5-6 pounds of force and have more than enough tension on the round to keep it on the breechface.
January 8, 2004, 09:21 PM
Excellent explanation, Tuner.
I might add that spring steel has to be made as such from the beginning with the right amount of carbon; you can't take any old steel and make it spring steel by magic.
Spring steel, like other steel, can be worked when soft, but when hardened and tempered, it becomes a spring. When a 1911 extractor is not made from spring steel, it is not right, as Tuner very well explains, and no amount of tinkering can make it right except temporarily.
January 9, 2004, 05:12 AM
Ya know...I just don't understand it. These people know what the extractor
is supposed to be, yet they won't make it so. Cylinder & Slide is the only
supplier of spring steel extractors in the world as far as I know...and I've
heard that some of those are out of spec on the length, (hook hitting the
front of the extractor groove.) and if there's a file or stone mark on the
extractor anywhere...the warranty is void.
Even at 50 bucks a copy, a really good extractor would be a hot item,
and the world would beat a path to the door to buy'em. Maybe they don't
because they know that it would likely be the last extractor that a guy would ever have to buy for that gun.
The mods that I've come up with give the 4340 barstock extractors a long
extension on the life expectancy, and one test part that I loan out has
logged over 50,000 rounds in various pistols with only the occasional
retensioning needed due to tolerance differences between pistols...and not all of them needed even that. Even MIM extractors fare pretty well when tweaked this way...and those things usually pop like matchsticks at the 1500-2,000 round mark.
Maybe if we scream long and loud...
If you build it, we will come...
Keep warm! Arctic blast headed your way.
January 9, 2004, 08:14 AM
Yeah, I just love it. The extractor is an important part in the proper functioning of the 1911, J.M. Browning designed the extractor with spring steel being the only alloy to be used, yet 1911 manufacturers, in their effort to cut costs, use MIM, cast, or billet (certainly better than MIM or cast) extractors. I wonder if the warranty work replacing broken extractors meets or exceeds the cost of making spring steel extractors? Must not since many manufacturers are embracing the external extractor design.
My spin on the external extractor 1911: Probably works just fine, but it is hard to get used to seeing it on the classic 1911 slab sides.
All right, there's the kitchen table gunsmith's rant on extractors. Want me to tell you what's wrong with the rest of the world?:D
January 9, 2004, 05:53 PM
I don't know, but I would be amazed if the average 1911 sold each year ever sees 15,000 rounds in it's lifetime, and that's probably a high number.
I would guess a "barstock" or (worse) extractor might outlast most 1911's given the above numbers. The manufacturers probably know this. It might be they are not as stupid as I think they are...:)
They run into trouble with people "like us" that shoot quite a bit more, we bring up the average, but they also know we will spend the money for after market parts and replacements. Maybe, we are the stupid ones...:cool:
Regardless, I'm going to try the mods on my 20,000 round extractor and see what happens. I'm prepared to replace it anyway just in case I do one of my expert "file jobs" and the extractor ends up looking like a toothpick.
January 9, 2004, 06:30 PM
I think if the extractor went 15 thousand rounds without a problem, it would be acceptable. But on this and other sites I keep reading about extractors (and other parts) that fail closer to 15 rounds. When critical parts won't go a whole box of ammo without failure, there is something very wrong in the wonderful world of the 1911 type pistol.
January 9, 2004, 06:59 PM
Yeah Jim, it's scary.....
I'd hate to say it but it appears that due to so many not knowing how to adjust an internal extractor that the gun makers will take the easier path....external extractors :eek: , just as the HiPower did :eek:
It reminds me of the old 'breaker points' distributors, they worked fine during their time because mechanics new how to adjust them. Doubt you'll be able to find so many people nowadays that know how :) .
January 9, 2004, 09:07 PM
Yep, I cut my automotive teeth on breaker point ignitions. Electronic ignition is fool proof, until the control box goes belly up, then it is an expensive fix.
January 10, 2004, 09:26 AM
It could be that the external extractor may be the way to go if manufacturers can't/won't install a proper internal extractor.
I've had great use and ease with the internal, both Colt and Wilson; meaning they worked great, no fitting, etc. But, what I read doesn't sound good either. So, I don't really know what to expect since I don't have the chance to try enough new 1911's to see what really happens.
Regardless, for the 1911 manufacturers that are left with the internal, they should make sure the extractor is well done or they may be left out in the cold. They could always raise their price a bit if needed. Most people will forget the "extra" $50 they spent a year from now, but they won't forget the "brand name" 1911 that choked.
I think I could still put "points" in a chevy Vega in less than than 20 minutes :cool: . Those were the days you could open the hood and look down and see the road underneath the car. :) Of course, unlike the newer cars today, you had to open the hood a lot. ;)
January 15, 2004, 10:58 PM
Generally in years gone by "spring steel" was 1065-1090. This makes pretty good springs. Today some extractors are made of 4340 or 416 stainless. If the geometry is correct and heat treat is good then as TUNER has said, almost all of these will/can last quite a while.
I remember as few years ago that one of the last firearms manufactures (S&W or Colt or Ruger or ???) said that they figure that most guns will see less than 5,000 rounds through them in their "life". Don't know what 'life' used like this means but that what I heard.
January 15, 2004, 11:50 PM
Kudos again Tuner and thx also ..... more great info to peruse (and archive!) ... appreciated as always.:) - even more relevant now I have a Sistema to play with.
January 16, 2004, 05:50 AM
firearms manufactures (S&W or Colt or Ruger or ???) said that they figure that most guns will see less than 5,000 rounds through them in their "life".
Bingo! I'd say that their estimate was a little high, actually. It's not
likely that the average gun buyer will shoot half that many through any
one weapon if they have three or more to in the safe...or closet, and
many won't shoot it at all, beyond a "few rounds to make sure it works".
(Heard that one many times)
January 16, 2004, 03:39 PM
I just wanted to mention that Tuner helped me a lot diagnosing the problem on my pistol. It turned out that my extractor was not tensioned properly. I did have to replace it afterwards after noticing a "cut" on the extractor 's claw , front knockle.
January 17, 2004, 06:22 AM
Tuner, What about Aftec extractor, have you used one of these?
January 17, 2004, 08:16 AM
You were counting that cold beer as a part of changing points in a Chevy in 20 minutes I hope-either that, or you weren't using the Delco uniset which had the points and condenser all mounted up and two screws to hold it on the breaker plate?? Not to mention that you didn't need a dwell meter or feeler gauge-just open the distributor window with it running, turn the allen screw left until it stumbled, turn it right until it stumbled, and split the difference! It's Miller Time!!!!
Well, it sure is a shame that we can't get a good spring steel extractor with a new pistol anymore.
My oldest 1911 is an early Series 80 I bought used back in 1990. Have no idea what the Born on date is-Ser FG821XX, and I have over 100K rounds through it on the issue parts, exceptions being the recoil spring, barel bushing and slide stop. I have never touched the extractor during this time, it "clocks" a bit but it has never failed to pull out a fired case. Occasionally, I'll catch one in the head with an empty, but I put up with that as part of the mystique
:D It has the dreaded MIM "mark of death" square sprue mark on the bottom rear, and I was tempted to change it when I got a rare burst of common sense which told me-" you have already run this into 6 figures worth of ammo, and if it were going to break, it would have done so long ago." So, I have a brand new spring steel extractor from C&S which I put in my parts bag for the day it goes.......
I'm sure there are those here who remember all the whining when the Series 70 came out-now, many of the same whiners are singing its praises. Kinda like Edsels and 1959 bat wing Chevys-if you wait long enough, somebody will call it good.
January 18, 2004, 01:34 AM
IMHO you are making a mistake using the C&S extrator as your backup. The ones I have attempted to use are .020-.030 too long and hit the front of the extractor groove on the cartridge. I think you would be better served to get your money back from C&S and keep a Wilson "Bullet Proof" or an Ed Brown "Hardcore" extractor as your spare. I am not the only one who has had problems with some C&S parts.
January 18, 2004, 09:03 AM
12-34 hom asked:
Tuner, What about Aftec extractor, have you used one of these?
Never used one personally, but have seen several in use. They seem to
do very well as long as the springs are good. The downside is that when
the let go, they do it without warning that something's wrong. One minute
the gun is strokin' and the next minute it's dead in the water.
I've got a standin' invitation at the range that I belong to whenever they have a plate match or and IDPA/IPSC shoot...not to compete, but to
be on hand for a quick troubleshoot, and hopefully...a quick fix. I've taken
several AFTEC extractors out and replaced them with standard internal parts to get a shooter back in the game. The smart ones have their own
extractors at the ready, and the really sharp ones have them pre-tuned and ready to go. The others may or may not have one. To date, I've got
7 extractors out there on loan while the owners wait for a spring kit for their AFTECs.
I don't get paid, but they guys always pop for my lunch down at Stamey's
barbecue...You may remember it as the little Ma and Pa operation that was
sued by Hard Rock cafe for their "Hog Rock Cafe" marque and a few dozen
Hog Rock T-shirts that they gave away for laughs. :rolleyes: I haven't
spent a dime in a Hard Rock Cafe since.
IMHO you are making a mistake using the C&S extrator as your backup. The ones I have attempted to use are .020-.030 too long and hit the front of the extractor groove on the cartridge.
DBR, I've heard those reports, too...from some reliable sources. I've
seen one C&S extractor that was long/out-of-spec, so I have to assume that it's a fact. I have to believe that it was a certain lot from their vendor that slipped through QC, because there are too many around that are flawless. If you should happen to get one that is too long, don't try to modify it to work. Send it back and they'll replace it...Lifetime warranty, as long as it hasn't been filed on. When the C&S spring steel extractors are right, they're very good. Hopefully, they've identified the bad lot and have
gotten this issue resolved.
January 18, 2004, 11:42 AM
Thanks Tuner, good thread. I replaced the extractor on my Colt 1991 with a WC barstock extractor and tuned it myself following the instructions that came with it -- seemed simple enough. Later I read about C&S using spring steel and invested in a couple, one S70 and S80 just to have on hand. Your comment about them possibly being "long" is interesting.
I may install the C&S S80 now in the Colt 1991 and see if there are any issues. If it fits/works (or if I can make it fit/work), I'll leave the C&S installed and keep the WC as a spare. In general how much trimming do the C&S extractors require? Right now the Colt is running great (7 rnd mags fixed the lock-back issue) and I'd like to get this taken care of while it is running.
January 18, 2004, 11:48 AM
In general how much trimming do the C&S extractors require?
If the extractor is in-spec, it won't need any trimming. If it's wrong, you
probably won't be able to trim enough to make it work. The one that I
saw would have had to ne about .035 shorter, and it would have all come off the front of the hook. The hook would have been so weakened that it
would have broken shortly. If your C&S is too long, send it back. C&S will
send you another one unless yours has been trimmed or otherwise filed
or stoned. If it has, it's yours.
Take care and shoot straight!
January 18, 2004, 12:13 PM
Okay, I'll leave my files in the drawer :)
Thanks again, something to do this afternoon.
January 18, 2004, 03:26 PM
Okay-if my C&S extractors are too long/short, where is the measurement taken-overall length?
January 18, 2004, 04:11 PM
Nominal length from the rear face of the hook to the front edge of the firing pin stop slot is 2.262 inches, but there will always be some tolerance on this...usually +/- .003 inch. It also depends on how much curvature or
lack thereof in the extractor stem. The simplest way to measure it is to
use the caliper jaws to measure between the hook and the REAR face of
the stop slot, and subtract the width of the slot.
I don't rely too heavily on nominal lengths, and just check to see that there is enough clearance between the front of the hook and the extractor groove as installed...The front of the hook and the barrel...and that there's
enough space between the rear of the hook and the breechface to let the
rim get under it without getting in a bind as it comes in at the feeding
angle. Beyond that, the blueprint length is mainly a quick reference to
eliminate an extractor that is badly out of spec and to determine whether
the breechblock itself is in-spec. An extractor that is slightly long...say
.015 inch, mated to a breechblock that is also slightly long...say .012 or so, may be just what the doctor ordered in certain cases. It's rare for a slide to
be that far out, but it has been known to happen.
Luck to ya!
January 18, 2004, 04:34 PM
Thank you Tuner-calipers, fall out and fall in on the extractor!
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