1911 tight chamber. Tuner? Anyone?


December 16, 2012, 12:38 AM
So I am venturing out into reloading, having cranked through a couple of thousand rounds of .45 acp. Normal hiccups and learning curve have worked themselves out, except for one barrel.

I would like to be able to work up one load that runs well in all of my guns and my friends' guns. So far the only one that I just can't please 100% is my Para-Ordnance. (I'm not sure of the exact model, it's a commemorative they refer to as the SF-45A.) It is on a wide-frame, single-action 1911, and it has a ramped barrel. No matter how much I crimp, or how deep I seat, I still get the odd round or to that is just too tight to chamber. I am actually crinkling cases.

Now, obviously, this is a reloading problem, because it always cycles factory loads just fine. And I can't predict which slight waves or imperfections will make it choke, it isn't consistent. I would just hate if I had to relegate it to being; "The gun I shoot all of the factory ammo with to get brass to reload for the others."

I'm beginning to wonder, is it possible to have the chamber reamed or....vigorously polished, to make it more forgiving? Or is this just how it is?

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December 16, 2012, 03:43 AM
Do sized, empty cases chamber okay?

December 16, 2012, 09:19 AM
If your shooting lead which is sized 0.001" larger like it should be it could be a tight chamber. Remove the barrel and do a plunk test will ALL the rounds you plan on shooting. If they all pass shoot them and see if the problem is still there. If no problem it tells me you may be getting a bullet that is oversize, and may have missed the sizer. On tight chambers it does not take much to cause a problem.

Iron Sight
December 16, 2012, 09:35 AM
If you are using lead bullets you may need one of these, I did.


Jim Watson
December 16, 2012, 10:20 AM
First, do a chamber check aka "plunk test."
See if your loads will chamber freely in the barrel clean and out of the gun.
If not, compare with another barrel.

If they will all chamber freely in the other but not the PO then you have an undersize chamber which should be reamed with a SAAMI specification reamer being careful not to deepen the chamber beyond headspace limits.
That much enlargement by polishing would be at risk of distorting the chamber and you do not need an oval chamber.

A Lee Carbide Factory Crimp Die might iron out your reloads enough to get by, but in a case like this it is kind of a bandaid.

PO ought to recut the chamber on warranty. I am fortunate enough to have a nearby gunsmith knowledgeable on 1911s and I have taken such things to him. A few bucks for a few minutes is simpler and faster than dealing with FedUps and a warranty clerk.

If they will chamber freely in the PO barrel, then you have a magazine/feedramp/bullet shape mismatch.

December 16, 2012, 10:47 AM
I plunk test the setup, and I have made them better, but I have just reduced the odds. I still have several out of a hundred that won't chamber, when they all chamber in my other guns. Today's loads were Berry's plated lead, but it's the same with Hornady JHP.

I thought of taking it to a smith, but I would need to find one who REALLY knows 1911s. I thought of calling Para, but I figured I would be told that I am out of luck, because I'm using reloads.

December 16, 2012, 10:47 AM
Perhaps the use of a taper crimp die would help the problem.
I have two pistols with Bar-Sto match barrels installed. By design, they have tight chambers for accuracy. I have found that unless I use a properly set taper crimp die, some of my reloads are tight enough for the slide to not fully lock up. Once I began using a taper crimp die, the problem ceased permanently.
Consider, if factory ammo chambers with no problem, clearly the problem is with the size of your reloads, probably right at the mouth of the case. The taper crimp die solves that problem.
No need to ream your chamber out, just make your ammo the right size.


December 16, 2012, 11:13 AM
I've been using a taper crimp. So tight it's getting silly.

December 16, 2012, 11:31 AM
The Lee Factory Crimp Die should solve most if not all of your problems. You could also use a dial caliper and measure factory rounds that do feed and function and load your ammo to the same specs.

Just my .02,

December 16, 2012, 12:16 PM
I might look at that. Because I don't like having to split up my loads for what works for what gun. It would be worth it to me to run them through another die if it means I don't have to worry about it anymore. So, I just seat with the regular seating/crimping die, and then crimp with the other?

December 16, 2012, 12:50 PM
Ok, I'm reading the reviews on Midway for the Lee factory crimp die, that sounds like what I need. I will freeze this batch until I get one.

December 16, 2012, 01:45 PM
First thing to do is measure your taper crimp.

If you crimp too much, you are squishing the bullets too, and may wrinkle the case.

A proper taper crimp should measure .469" to .471" at the case mouth.

Berry bullets & cast bullets are .452".
Jacketed bullets are .451".

So try for .471" with .452" bullets and .470" with conventional .451" bullets.

All the taper crimp should be doing is straighten out the case mouth bell.
It should not be tight enough to mark the bullets.


December 16, 2012, 02:33 PM
If you use a FCD on the Berry's or lead you will swedge the bullet too small. This will cause you to loose your neck tension. Best not to use the FCD, at all in my book.

December 16, 2012, 03:44 PM
The lead probably isn't helping, I am getting shaving and squishing. I want to support berry's, because they are in my hometown, but it might not be with . 45s in the long run. And like I say, it's just THIS gun. Regular seating with slight crimp if any works for all my other guns. (my current crimp is @ about .471, I am crinkling cases.

The customer reviews on Midway seem to point to it solving this problem.

Red Cent
December 20, 2012, 01:50 PM
In your plunk test, how far do they go in the barrel or gauge?

Jim K
December 21, 2012, 10:22 PM
It sounds like they made that barrel just before they tossed the reamer. I agree with Jim Watson that a reamer may be the best answer. Polishing runs the risk of both distorting the chamber and rounding off the chamber shoulder.


December 22, 2012, 08:02 AM
^^^ This would not be the first time that the factory made something that had a problem.:) I would ask for a chamber ream job or a replacement barrel and they should do it. OR purchase a replacement barrel and keep your custom match barrel for when you want some precision.:D

Jim K
December 22, 2012, 06:15 PM
I got an e-mail asking what I meant about the reamer and about tossing it, so I will reply for the benefit of all.

Every cartridge has specifications in a plus/minus range. So every tool used to cut a chamber, to make case forming dies, to make loading dies, etc. has to be made to those specs. When a factory chambers barrels, it will make the reamer to the outside of the spec, in other words, the largest size the spec will allow. Then the reamer will be used until it gets dull, at which point it will be sharpened. This will continue until the reamer reaches the smallest size the spec will allow. It can't be sharpened any more, so once it gets dull it will be scrapped (or maybe ground for some other cartridge if that is possible.

But the smallest chamber size must be large enough to accept the largest case size. So if a chamber is on the small end of the spec (as this one is, since factory ammo fits OK), some cartridges, usually handloads, that are a bit bigger than the maximum case size won't fit.


Jim Watson
December 23, 2012, 11:19 AM
Well, that's the nice way to put it, a reground minimum reamer and a swolen reload.

There is also the reamer reground one time too many and delivering a chamber undersize for anything.

There is also the "minimum match chamber" which is really manufactured undersize so they can advertise a bit smaller group with perfect ammunition. The problem is, it can be unreliable with some ordinary ammunition and completely unusable with the run of the mill reload.

All of them need a little help from Mssrs Clymer, Manson, or Kiff.

Jim K
December 24, 2012, 01:52 AM
There are also the folks who don't like using gauges, so they use factory ammo for a gauge under the illusion that it is just right and the gun should be made to fit. In fact, it is the reverse. If every round of ammo were perfect, there would be no need for any +/- specs in chambers. It is the need to make guns work with varying ammo that gets into the chamber dimensions business.


January 17, 2013, 10:40 PM
Well I got the factory crimp die, based on the online reviews, and I had a chance to try it. I put it in my Lee Hand Press and cranked 14 rounds through it. I'm not setting the crimp tight, it barely touches the mouth at all. But the resizing sleeve GREATLY smooths out the rings and bumps. I loaded and cycled the magazine with them, FLAWLESS. I'm thinking that even if this barrel is a bit tight, I will probably just use this process anyway for now. The goal is rounds that chamber in any gun, and I think I've met it. I like the idea of making sure they will run in any .45 I come across.

Now I just need to get this cast off and get a thaw to go shoot. Both will be a few weeks, minimum. :)

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