1911 issue: anybody ever use a brownells kit to crimp a plunger tube?


April 26, 2004, 02:45 PM
While running my new-to-me Springfield loaded at a Louis Awerbuck class, the plunger tube fell off the frame. It appears the rivets worked loose because of a clearance issue from the already-installed aftermarket thumb safety. The safety was hitting the plunger tube in two places. After a thousand or so manipulations, the tube rivets gave up the ghost. We found the parts, and discovered the problem.

I ordered the crimp kit from Brownells and am wondering if any DIY types have used it, and what the feedback was.

I will probably dremel the safety for clearance once the new tube is on.


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April 26, 2004, 03:33 PM
Not sure which kit you are refering to but I ordered and used the Gun Runners PlungerTube Staking Tool from Brownells which was pretty much cut and dry- did a great job for me . Instructions I had recommended slightly flaring the inside of the frame holes to allow for the "flow" from the staking tool. This was accomplished with the aid of the dremel- very carefully though as this can be over done.

April 26, 2004, 07:22 PM
Thanks! Not sure who made the kit. And I'm not sure I'm cleared for dremel work on those holes. Seems like a quick way to do some expensive damage to the frame...

Anyone else try a kit like this?

Old Fuff
April 26, 2004, 07:35 PM
In my experience the most common cause of plunger tube’s coming loose is because the manufacturer did not properly countersink the plunger tube holes on the inside of the frame. See to this first, and then install a NEW tube, not the original one. After the new tube is staked be sure no burrs are left inside the magazine well.

The left-hand grip should have a small lip at the top that wraps around part of the tube. If you glass bed it so that it fits the tube exactly the tube will not come off unless the grip is loosened first.

Like too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup, too many gadgets on a pistol can be counterproductive - and in some cases hazardous to your health.

Jim K
April 26, 2004, 08:05 PM
I know why Old Fuff is saying to install a new tube, but replacement parts are so iffy these days that I would check the old one out first. Make sure that the little tits on the tube are not broken off and protrude into the chamfered area in the frame. If all looks OK, then stake them so they stay. I do urge that you dish that area with a Dremel. Use the round (ball like) rotary file. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, then a trip to the gunsmith might be a good idea. You can also use Loctite on that tube, but stake it first.


April 26, 2004, 09:07 PM
Ol' Fuff, whaddaya mean by gadgets? If you're talking about the safety being aftermarket, and not fit correctly, I agree so far as to say it should have been slightly modified and tested for fit.

I ordered a new plunger tube, because the old one, though in okay shape looks rough, like cast metal, and the springs feel like they are encountering rough resistance on the inside of the tube...

When folks are saying "stake", do you mean "flare"? Even the "crimp" that Brownells describes as the appropriate action means "to make smaller and tighter by denting". The action necessary here is to flare the ends of those teats or rivet ends. To "stake" is to peen adjacent joints of metal with a punch, so that they won't move in relation to each other. Right?

Old Fuff
April 26, 2004, 11:56 PM

I am an elderly, cranky, mean-tempered old reprobate … but only on my good days. I came in at the beginning and by the grace of God I’m still around. I see by your first post that your pistol fell apart while you were at one of Awerbuck’s classes, and that puts you in with some very good company. I presume therefore that you’re serious about your pistol in the role of a weapon.

Now get ready for a lesson …

Take that new plunger tube and look at the ends of the little posts. They should be hollow on the end. This is so they can be flared out in the manner of a rivet. The holes in the frame should be countersunk as previously explained so that the post(s) have a place to spread out in. Cast parts are sometimes brittle, and crack rather then flare. I suspect that the first tube is indeed cast (cheaper to make) and that’s part of the reason it came off.

You may, or may not know it, but that little tube is a critical part. If it comes loose the spring-loaded pin that pushes against the manual safety can slip under the thumb-piece (sometimes called a “paddle”) and lock the safety in the “on” position in a way you can’t get it off. Not good at all.

Jeff Cooper went so far as to advocate that the tube be silver soldered to the frame, and for years I did exactly that. And while this might be seen as overkill none of them ever loosened or came off. And for still more insurance I glass-bedded the left grip panel as I described before. You might say I’m a “belt & suspender’s man,” but my sidearms have always worked as expected.

I have owned a fair number of .45 pistols, and not one of them had a manual safety that was so far out of tolerance that it rubbed against, or otherwise touched the plunder tube. And certainly not to the degree that it could cause the tube to loosen and come off!! I am absolutely delighted that all of this happened while you were in a class because I can think of some less fortunate circumstances. On the other hand I am somewhere between disgusted and outraged at what passes for a serious weapon these days. The difference between “a pistol” and “a serious pistol” is that in the latter a competent builder pays attention to the critical small details as well as the obvious ones.

In over a half century of shooting M-1911 pistols I have never had a part “fall off” except for one front sight. And when I put it back it darn well never moved again. Front sights and firing pin stops are two other critical parts that are overlooked also.

Finely … it is obvious that you intend to do your own work, and have gone to the trouble and expense of buying the necessary tool(s). But before you start I respectfully suggest that you get a little education first. Go to (www.gunbooks.com) and buy one of Mr. Kuhnhausen’s shop manuals on the Government Model .45 – which is well illustrated and equally well written. When you are done reading it you will know substantially more about the subject then you do now, and many mysteries that confuse you will become crystal clear.

Lesson over …..

The Old Fuff will now go back into his cage.

April 27, 2004, 12:41 AM
"cone" shape onto one jaw, dremel grind a groove to match in the other jaw. Have the plungers in the tube when you use this tool to flare the plunger rivets, or you will collapse the tube in on itself.

April 27, 2004, 01:19 AM
Thank you sir for a real education. Awerbuck is a fine teacher, and has probably launched a few projectiles over the years. He didn't like the braze on tube as he said the rivets have been working fine for over 100 years. One man's opinion.

My experience after this part fell off, is it allowed the slide stop to move, which caused the pistol to not go into battery. So when the flag flew, I went through three mags doing TAP_RAP_BANG! after just about every round while advancing. When Louis held me up, and said let me see that thing, we both saw the glaring deficiency simultaneously.

Upon inspection of the piece, the spring and posts were still in place, the rivets weren't cast, they looked like separate roll pin type pieces, but not much flared.

I agree with you about serious pistols. Everybody's got a favorite 1911, but to me the point should be "spend money on what works, or make it work before you spend any more money on it". Something like that...

I do need to add Kuhnhausen's work to my bench.

I don't need to piss around with pawn shop vise grips and a welder, WADR of course...

April 27, 2004, 06:58 AM
I have seen sane people pay good money and not get as good of an education as Old Fuff gives away for free here.

In some ways I am reminded of Mammy Yokam in the old Lil Abner comic strip, She'd expound, "I Has Spoken!" and nothing else could be said.
Likewise when Fuff rears back on his hind legs and preaches, by the time he has finished, pretty much all there is to say has been said.

I know I for one am grateful.

April 27, 2004, 11:37 AM
...pass the ammo.

Old Fuff
April 27, 2004, 02:58 PM
Well a new day has dawned and the Old Fuff has emerged from his cage. He wishes to reassure his (probably few) readers that his bark is worse then his bite, and the only thing that's bigger then his ego is his sense of humor ….

However in following this thread I see things that are enough to make a preacher cry. At the risk of being accused of hijacking the thread I will proceed to say some things that I think need to be said. Readers are warned that they may need their most heavy flame suits …

Have I got it in for “Buckskinner,” who simply wants some advise on how to stake a plunger tube? No, not at all. My real concern is for his safety and for the safety of others like him. But the issues that relate to his modest request are far more important then they may seem at first.

The term “combat pistol” has been much abused, and is more often applied to something appropriate for sporting contests then a practical weapon. However during this tirade any references to anything “combat” should be taken to mean something associated with a weapon and not a toy.

Many years ago, during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Jeff Cooper developed a concept for something he called a “Gunsite Service Pistol,” or “GSP” for short. I had met him before that and followed the development of the GSP with great interest. Consequently my perspectives and comments come from this perspective.

At the time Cooper’s Gunsite training facility had processed literally thousands of students. Most of them had used some variant of Colt’s Government Model .45, and in those days such pistols either started life as a Colt or a U.S.G.I. model 1911 or 1911-A1. The day of investment castings was just starting to dawn and MIM technology was unheard of. Still, there were problems, and with the number of guns going through his classes Jeff and his “Smithy” staff developed a mental database over time concerning what worked, what didn’t, and some seemingly minor things that might appear minor, but weren’t. The bottom line was that within the context they were working a mechanical failure could, under the worst circumstances get someone killed. Therefore in building a “combat pistol” all known potential failures should be addressed as best as possible. No mechanical device is absolutely perfect and reliable, but every viable means would be used to come as close as could humanly be done.

It was also noticed that the more aftermarket accessories that were piled on a gun the more likely something might fail. The true consequences of these parts were sometimes not well thought out. A mechanical solution to a problem might lead to another unforeseen one, and in fact the matter might be better addressed by changing a technique or through training. A “loaded” gun (meaning one heavily accessorized rather then filled with cartridges) could be a catastrophe waiting to happen. For example, a “match grade barrel” with a too-tight chamber might develop FTF issues with as few as 50 rounds fired. The solution was to either use a service barrel or ream a match barrel’s chamber to service size. A small point perhaps, but a potentially important one.

Large front sights had a habit of blowing off because the tiny pin or “stem” cracked when they were staked, or they were incorrectly staked. Therefore on a true combat pistol this part was silver soldered. A better solution is to use a dovetailed sight, but at the time they weren’t available.

Some, apparently Louis Awerbuck is one, sees soldering the plunger tube as overkill. The staking method after all has worked for the past 100 years. Well sometimes. When plunger tubes were made from forgings or machined from tool-steel bar stock, and frames were properly countersunk where they should be, and workman were careful to do their work properly, and grips were made with a lip to support and protect the tube, this observation was essentially correct. But that was then and this is now. We live in an age when bean-counters run the gun factories. Most of them know nothing about firearms and can’t see beyond a spreadsheet. Cooper’s (and my) advocacy to use silver solder is based on true concerns for the gun user (who just might be me). Perhaps we went too far on this issue, but I don’t think so. My readers can make their own judgments.

Another often overlooked point is the firing pin stop (or “plate”). It should fit tightly in the slide, because if it doesn’t it may be able to drop down and tie up the gun. This doesn’t happen very often, but it has happened and therefore is something that should be attended too.

A true combat pistol isn’t always especially attractive to the eye because the important features are not always visible. Unlike magazine cover or centerfold specials, filled with cosmetic adaptations they may not attract attention from friends or shooting range buddies. Some of the best that I’ve seen and used were painfully plain, unpretentious and definitely not “loaded” with accessories. But they worked, and over many years they kept working. They were reliable and dependable at all times, and I could not have reasonably ask for anything more.

Flame over …

April 27, 2004, 03:24 PM
I'm in a learning mode here, so I'm not taking any of this as a flame. I want to hear what y'all have to say.

Especially you fuff. Ya might ought want to make a list of what constitutes a combat pistol. I have a feeling I'd probably agree, not that that matters a whit...

Unfortunately Coopers race is nearly run. His knowledge and experience carries forward through men like you.

And as far as Louis Awerbuck, HOLY MOLY, far be it from me to put words in his mouth. Mostly because I am a lowly student. And mostly cuz I'd hate to see him leaning against my bumper some evening wanting to speak to me about putting words in his mouth...

But you're right about this thread: "anyone have any experience using the Brownell's plunger tube crimp kit?"

That is all...

Denny Hansen
April 27, 2004, 05:10 PM
Nice thread. Thank you, gentlemen.


April 27, 2004, 07:46 PM
Agree with Mr. Hansen.

Anyway we can put this informative thread in with the other 1911 information? Provide a link to ?

We need a "1911 Folder ".

Don't mind doing searches, just having a folder might be useful for not only the new folks, but folks in general. Yes I am spoiled with the knowledge and talent of the folks here.

Bill Z
April 28, 2004, 08:54 AM
Here are a few illustrations that may help



When staked properly, a plunger tube will not come loose, although after market safeties contribute to the loosening. The engagement surfacethat is supposed to ride on the tip of the plunger is so narrow that in most cases they actually ride to the inside of the round and in time pry the plunger tube loose.

Caspian has overcome this problem by recessing the plunger tube area to create a channel that sinks the tube in a couple of thousands giving it more support and lining up the plunger with the safety.


April 28, 2004, 10:07 AM
Excellent commentary, Fuff...and absolutely true.

The problem with recent production 1911s is that relatively few will
actually go into harm's way, and the manufacturers know that the people
who are savvy enough to carry one for a real purpose will tend to the
little details that need to be tended to. So...they are actually building a toy
to sell to the masses. They take short cuts on the little things...like
countersunk holes to effect a solid stake on the plunger...The cut in the
recoil spring plug to keep it from launching into orbit...or your eye socket...
if your thumb slips while feild-stripping the piece. These short cuts increase
profit margins on the guns, but serve to make the gun less reliable.
Reliability goes beyond simply going bang when the trigger is pulled.

The other problem is that there are fewer people who remember the
"real" 1911s...and even fewer who study the design and ask: "What is
this for? Why was this done? " The present pistols have been they way
that they are for so long, that most people think that it's the way it's always been...but it's not so.

The pistol was designed to function under the worst of conditions, and to be easily serviced without the aid of an armorer. Ordnance-spec 1911s
can be completely disassembled without tools other than what is on and in the gun...excluding the plunger tube, ejector, and grip screw bushings.
It's designed so that, in the event of a broken part, another can be dropped in with better than a 95% chance of working. It may not
be perfect...but the gun will function well enough to see you through.

Ya done good, Fuff! Maybe one day, they'll listen to the people who
really understand, and start building real working guns again, instead
of toys for gamers and armchair warriors. They may not get much attention
in the gun rags, and they probably won't win any bullseye competitions...
but they'll take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.



April 28, 2004, 10:58 AM
Great thread.

I've replaced both plunger tubes on two Colts with "barstock" replacements. Finally bought a tool to do it myself although it sounds as if silver soldering would be the way to go.

Question for Old Fuff and Tuner:

Have you had to replace plunger tubs because of damage, dropping etc?
Or, to put it another way, if the plunger tube were "part" of the frame, would that be a "bad" thing? Para does it, but Caspian decided to modify the frame to make the current part work better...who's smarter? :)

April 28, 2004, 11:10 AM
Howdy 45Auto,

I've replaced a few, but most during a rebuild that required removing the old tube. A few that were damaged, and a few because of shoddy materials.

Caspian is smarter. The tube is thin and easy to damage if the gun is dropped or abused. If the tube is integral with the frame, you replace the frame for what should have been a 2-dollar part and 15 minutes work.

Para is trying to cash in on what is percieved to be a design flaw...when it's
actually the mounting procedure that's flawed. If the tube is correctly staked, it will probably last for the life of the gun...just like front sights.



April 28, 2004, 11:16 AM
So this "armchair warrior" and "gamer" will ask again of the mighty braintrust on how to fix his "toy".

Brownell's Plunger Tube Crimp Kit!

Have you used it?!

What should I know about it?!

I appreciate the collective experience the posters show. BUT NOBODY'S ANSWERED THE QUESTION! 'Cept Kimbernut. Thanks...

And Fuff had valuable input, which I thanked him for.

'11Tuner...what can I say....

Awesome pics BillZ..thanks.

I'm not gonna hang my head in shame cuz somebody thinks I'm a dilletante with a toy.

I"m trying to make my tool run better. :rolleyes:

Old Fuff
April 28, 2004, 11:28 AM

I'd like to think you're right, but I have serious doubts. Most of today's firearms companies are run by MBA's that know nothing about the product(s) and can't see beyond a spreadsheet. Their God is "a penny saved," and that's where the drive for cost savings no matter what, is coming from. You are right about guns being made for everyone except the serious user, and you are right about too many of them not knowing or understanding about what's what, and what's going on.

I have noticed that while there are (in relative numbers) many complaints about 1911/1911-A1 style guns and reliability issues the discussions seldom involve older guns - in particular Series 70 or earlier Colts. It would also seem that recent Colt's have earned a better reputation, but the marketplace isn't exactly filled with them.

You and I have a simple solution, called "build your own gun," but this doesn't work for most people. I am at a loss to offer advise on some of the newer guns, such as an over $1,000.00 piece from a supposedly good name-brand maker (not Colt) that busts it MIM slide stop after a few hundred rounds and the company responds by sending the owner a replacement part that's identical to the first one. A lemon, is a lemon, is a lemon ...

Then we have this case, involving another "name maker" where the plunger tube falls off, and apparently there is a mis-match in the way the safety fits in relationship to the tube. Where, pray tell, is the company's quality control inspector(s)?? Or maybe the bean-counters did away with them too. Our older Colt's have little letter stampings - mostly in hidden places - when an inspector left his mark after checking whatever he was supposed too. Out of literally hundreds of guns I have never seen a case where the manual safety touched the plunger tube in any way on an original Colt or USGI 1911/1911-A1. Such a thing simply didn't happen.

Browning's ORIGINAL design is moving towards its 100th birthday and is still aknowledged to be one of the best, if not "the best" combat handgun - but I think our present day manufacturers may kill it.

April 28, 2004, 11:28 AM
Well, sorry Buckskinner. Didn't mean for you to take it personally. I was
actually responding to Fuff's commentary and I thought Bill had answered your question. (I don't read every post in the thread unless I see evidence of a rule violation.) No. I've never used Brownells tool. Mine is homemade, but it works the same way.

There! Now we can be friends again.:cool:

Luck to ya!


April 28, 2004, 11:48 AM
Woke a tad touchy this morning...

I usually automatically have my "who me? He must mean the other guy!" suit on...

April 28, 2004, 12:05 PM
Okay, friends it is..
Woke a tad touchy this morning...

I usually automatically have my "who me? He must mean the other guy!" suit on...

:D It's cool. I figgered that might be it. Happens to me if I don't get
my prerequisite half-gallon of turbocoffee.

Honestly, I didn't even open the thread until I saw Bill Z's reply
and went to see the pictures that he never fails to post. Worth a
thousand words, so they say. Then I saw Fuff's, and he and I bein'
kindred spirits and all...I backed him up. Just hope that if the factory
reps that monitor these forums see enough rants about what they build,
they'll respond with real steel and attention to detail. So far, only Sig
has seen the "If you build it, they will come" logic...but they still didn't
use my internal extractor...:rolleyes: And THAT's where my rant was aimed.

Colt? Springfield? Kimber? Anybody out hear us???

If you build it, they will come...



Old Fuff
April 28, 2004, 12:12 PM

Sorry to have evaded the core question, and for that I apologize.

Brownells’ makes a point of trying the tools they sell, and I’ve never bought one from them that didn’t work as it should. One reason that I recommended Kuhnhausen’s manual is because he goes into finite detail (including excellent illustrations) on how to properly stake a plunger tube.

The trick isn’t so much about the particular tool because they all work. The important thing that makes the difference between a good and bad job is (1) the quality of the part itself, and (2) the preparatory work that’s done before the tube is staked. To summarize: Buy a part that’s machined not cast, and be sure the holes inside the magazine well are countersunk. They may be already. Your eyeballs and strong lighting will tell you this. All you are doing (or the tool is doing) is support the plunger tube on one side while a tapered pin flares the hollow part of the post on the other side in the same way as a common rivet.

One point that hasn’t been mentioned is that an arbor (a long punch-like tool that fits inside the plunger tube’s hole) should be inserted inside the hole to prevent the tube from being bent or collapsed during the staking operation. If you don’t have one you’ll find it listed inside Brownell’s catalog along with the other tools.

When you’re done be sure that there aren’t any burrs left in the magazine well that interfere with the magazine falling free. This condition is highly unlikely, but check anyway.

Last but not least, if you can’t get the worthless hotheaded dingbats (meaning me) to address the questions you need answers too, make a telephone call to Brownell’s Technical Staff. They’ll put an experienced and qualified person on the line who won’t go off-subject.

I apologize again for hijacking the thread and ignoring the question(s) you really needed answered. I will now leave you in peace.

April 28, 2004, 12:31 PM
*sigh* Fuff...We're just gettin' old and grouchy, and when we see parts
that oughta last 70 or 80 years break before the guns get 2 boxes of ammo through'em, we :cuss: and:fire: and:banghead: and
hijack threads on gun forums...

FWIW, when I stake one in, I add a dab of J&B weld to the legs
and a smear between the backside of the tube and the frame.
That puppy is gonna be there when the Iceball Theory comes to

Iceball Theory:

In about 7.8 billion years, the sun will burn out and die. When that
happens, the Earth will be nothing but a tiny ball of ice hurtling through a dark, empty space...and nobody's gonna give a rip whether that tube stayed put or not.:p



silent one
April 28, 2004, 12:58 PM

You just gotta know when you get 1911Tuner and Old Fuff to latch on to a thread, you're in for the ride of your life.:D You not only get the best possible answer to your question, you get a few belly laughs thrown in for good measure.:D That's one of the reasons THR is such a great forum.

good luck, and be safe.


April 28, 2004, 01:26 PM
Just let those good times keep on rollin' in. Amen to the great forum!

Buckskinner, don't hesitate to call Brownells. They have a very knowlegable customer service staff and are really straight-shooters.

phone: 800-741-0015 www.brownells.com

Bill Z
April 28, 2004, 04:39 PM
I use this tool which is a rmake of a military armorors tool. It works well, but you need to insure you don't crush the tube, even with the tube support and reinforcing block. Retail on it is about 58.00 from Brownell's. It does work well if used properly.


Now this tool by Gun Runners, also available at Brownell's, is probably a better tool for the casual user. Dave can give you more insight on this tool as he was provided one for evaluation and used it to stake a few of the new Caspian/Sig style frames with plunger tubes. It considerably less money and is 'safer' to use for a first timer. Yes, sometimes you can re-invent the wheel. You would need a plunger tube support with this still, but you can use a properly sized drill bit for that.


In the event you slightly crimp the tube or end up with one that is out of spec, you can purchase a plunger tube reamer set for 15.00 and this will clean them up inside. There are two sizes for the diffeent sized holes.


Now, here is the super duper secret no one want to admit too, so don't tell anyone. Be very careful not to install the plunger tube backwards, believe me, if your not paying attention or not thinking about it, it's not to hard to do. :eek:

Let me add, it's not a bad idea, in fact I highly reccomend you cleaning the surfaces and using either Devcon 2609 or loctite 609 anerobic adhesive, which are both sleeve retaining compounds designed for cylindrical adhesion, to aid in the staking process. Some manufacturers, like Springfield, use this in place of pinning ejectors in the frames. I don't agree with that usage myself, but it does work.

April 28, 2004, 05:38 PM
I went with the vise grip tool.

And you answered my questions re: cleaning and adhesives.

Muchas Gracias Amigos!

Dave Sample
April 29, 2004, 03:26 PM
Interesting. I have never had one come off that I have installed. I use acetone first and Green Loc-tite 640 and they are there for the duration. The Raod Runner is about $30.00 from Brownell's and is the best tool I have ever used. The tool I use for the inside bevel of the plunger tube holes is very expensive for such a small bit, but a carbide 1/8th inch bit in my dremel served me well for 20 years. I love all of the conversation you guys have over such a simple problem. I never apply heat to 1911's anywhere. Soder is a very crude solution.

Dave Sample
April 29, 2004, 03:43 PM


http://pic11.picturetrail.com/VOL368/953404/1760448/21195573.jpg Some pictures from one of our Online 1911 Lessons on how to do things MY WAY.

May 8, 2004, 08:03 PM
Just an FYI on how the crimp jig worked.

I cleaned it all up, and applied a coat of J&B Weld to the tube and to the frame.

I crimped the tube (be careful the crimper is centered in rivet!) no problem.

I tooled the J&B (which is a pleasant steel gray color) to a nice fillet. Turned out fantastic.

I think I'll change my name to Ol' 1911 Tuner-Smith-Guru:D

Thanks for all your input and help.

Dave Sample
May 8, 2004, 09:32 PM
It sounds to me like you did a great job! I am glad you had a good result. I have been hooked on 640 Green Loc-Tite for a long time but realize there are probably better ways to do most things. As long as it works, it's the Way! Keep up the good work!

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