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1911 Barrel Bushing and Thumb Safety

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by macavada, May 17, 2004.

  1. macavada

    macavada Well-Known Member

    Just got my 1911 back from service. Two problems are now worse.

    When I got it, it wouldn't go fully into battery with or without a round in the mag. I thought it was a little tight and needed breaking in to get the barrel and bushing to wear in. However, with all the problems the gun had (slide stop, extractor, thumb safety) I sent it in to Dan Wesson for warranty work.

    They addressed everything in the repairs but the matter of the slide going fully into battery.

    I got it back and took it out today. I experienced three or four failures to go into battery. The slide stayed stuck with the round partially chambered. I shot about 50 rounds today before the gun seized up. At one point, the slide was stuck and took some real work to get loose.

    I got the bushing off, and the little retaining tab on the bushing and the bushing groove inside the slide are all chewed to hell. Anybody (Tuner?) able to explain to me what happened? The metal looks like it was kind of soft for both the slide and the bushing. I think the slide is forged. Is the slide salvageable?

    Also, they did some fitting to the ambi thumb safety because the left side wouldn't disengage smoothly. It was binding up.

    Now the thumb safety shifts while firing so that it is slightly engaged and the next shot can't be fired without deliberately manipulating the safety down. What happend here? Does the safety need fitting to keep the plunger from slipping while firing?

    Any insight would be appreciated.

  2. duckfoot

    duckfoot member

    Wow, could you post any pictures? Sound like some one mucked, the fitting of that bushing, or the parts are bad.
    Some light file work could fix that up, but all and all. DW didn't do you right. I'd give them one last chance to make good and then failing that start working on it yourself.

    Just my two bit and worth as much.
  3. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus


    Wow....I'd say that the slide is toast. Sounds like recoil spring bind, with the spring stacking solid and causing the bushing to take the impact in
    recoil. Check the bushing at the bottom of the flange for a crack...
    Possible that the bushing was too long and impacting the front barrel lug before the slide hit the guide rod head. If the slide is Commander length or shorter, it could be either one, but most likely the former. Check the
    barrel lug for damage at the front.

    I have personally seen a Colt Commander straight out of the box with a
    Government Model bushing. Luckily, we caught it before the owner fired the gun. He brought if by to show it off on the way home from the gun shop, and we noticed that the slide didn't have full travel.

    On the thumb safety issue...check to see if the plunger tube is loose.

    Best advice is to send that puppy back. Dan Wesson owns this one.

    Sorry for the crappy luck with the pistol...

  4. stans

    stans Well-Known Member

    Yep, sounds like DW screwed the pooch with this one. I have long been a supporter of DW Firearms, they can make some gems, but they also turn out some real turds. I think your gun now qualifies as a poorly polished turd. This is sad news. Time to send it back, either get a new gun that works or a refund.
  5. macavada

    macavada Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the responses. I figured it was bad.

    By the way, it is a commander length slide. What are the dimensions of a commander length bushing as opposed to a gov't length?

    Edited to add: I checked out the bottom of the bushing, and it was definitely making contact with the underlug of the barrel. You can see exactly where it was making contact. The contact was creating a lip on the bottom inside of the bushing that was grabbing the barrel and keeping it from going into battery.

    I looked in my brownell's catalog, and the length for a commander bushing shows a little over a half inch, and for a gov't model bushing at .810 of an inch. This bushing is the smaller one, about 9/16 of an inch.

    Could it be that it had the wrong recoil spring? Too light possibly?

    Thanks again.
    Last edited: May 18, 2004
  6. stans

    stans Well-Known Member

    If it is the correct bushing and is still contacting the barrel, then something is way out of spec. Possibly the barrel is not really a Commander length, but was cut down from Government model length?
  7. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    Lower Lug Contact

    I'm more inclined to think that the spring was a little too long. Whoever
    put it in the gun didn't check for coil bind before they packed it up. The
    contact with the lower lug was probably from the recoil guide rod head
    when the spring went solid about a16th of an inch before the slide hit

    stans said:

    If it is the correct bushing and is still contacting the barrel, then something is way out of spec. Possibly the barrel is not really a Commander length, but was cut down from Government model length?

    Very possible. A GM-length barrel's lower lug has a ramp at the front, while the Commander's lug is perpendicular. The Commander's upper
    front lug also doesn't have and extended portion like a Government Model barrel. Even with the right bushing, if the barrel was cut down and
    didn't have the lower lug ramp set back...OR the extension was still
    forward of the front of the locking lug, the bushing would have impacted either or both of these two areas, with the lug taking most of the impact.

    If this had been the case, I'm inclined to think that the slide would have
    broken at the weakest point, which would have been in the bushing lug's
    recess. The right front portion of the slide would have busted like a piece
    of cheap plastic. Seen it happen.

    I vote recoil spring. ALWAYS check for coil bind when changing springs....
    ESPECIALLY in a gun with a shorter slide than Government Model length.
    I've seen a new Wolff spring that was labeled for a Commander produce
    coil bind a full .075 inch before the slide hit the guide rod head. Luckily,
    only the bushing failed.


  8. macavada

    macavada Well-Known Member

    I think this may be GM barrel cut down to commander length. The lower lug is ramped almost even with the barrel surface, but not quite. Also, the upper lug does extend further beyond the front locking lug. It is a Target Match barrel that DW uses. I don't have the spring in front of me, but I do seem to remember that the spring seemed long and that the coils looked really close together with the guide rod was installed.

    I think that is what almost happened. The recess' surface where it makes contact with the bushing's tab is all chewed out. I'm glad I didn't get hurt.

    I'll see if I can get some pictures up tomorrow. I'm borrowing a digital camera.

    Great responses! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
  9. macavada

    macavada Well-Known Member

    Question Tuner

    I got my Dan Wesson (Commander) back from warranty service. I printed out this thread and sent it along ;) . Probably an insult, but I thought Tuner's insight may have been helpful to the guy who serviced the pistol. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

    Anyway, all they said they did was tune the safety and fit a new barrel bushing.

    I still don't know if I have a spring bind problem. How can I check this?

    Also, I'm thinking about odering a replacement spring from Wolff. Maybe a claibration pack? What should I get? This gun has DW's "Match" barrel. It looks heavier than a standard barrel, but it doesn't have the bull shape of some other barrels. Also, it has an oblong lug around the front of the chamber. Should a standard commander spring work? What is the standard spring strenght for a commander 45 acp? Any insight Tuner?

  10. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus


    Howdy macavada,

    Hmmm...Wasn't yours the one with the damaged slide? They didn't replace it???

    The Commander-length pistols' "standard" spring rate is 18 pounds, but
    I've never found a new Colt Commander with a recoil spring that tested more than about 16.5 pounds. I've had springs that were labeled "Commander" produce coil bind, and don't trust any of'em to drop
    in. My standard practice for years has been to take a Wolff GM-length 16-pound spring...32 coils...and cut it to 25 coils and start fine-tuning it. You'll
    usually wind up with somewhere between 24 and 25 coils.

    A quick check for coil bind is to rack the slide briskly and listen. If you hear the sharp sound of metal to metal, you're probably okay. If the sound that you hear is more of a dull thud or even a "crunch"...you've got coil bind.

    To be more sure, put a piece of masking tape on the dust cover and remove
    the spring plug to free the spring. Pull the slide fully rearward and hold it.
    make a witness mark on the tape that lines up with the end of the slide,
    as exactly as you can.

    Replace the spring plug, and pull the slide all the way back again, and see if the end of the slide aligns with the mark. If it does, you're good to go.
    If the front of the slide is forward of the mark, you need to trim the spring
    from the open end. Clip a half-coil at a time until the slide lines up with the mark...and then take another half-coil off, just to be sure.

    Let us know how the gun does after the fix...


  11. macavada

    macavada Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the quick response!

    They did not replace the slide. They did clean up the bushing recess that was somewhat chewed out. I guess it is still within spec. We'll see how it functions.

    I checked for spring bind. I guess that's o.k. I did the mark with the masking tape idea. I didn't notice any thuds or crunches. By the way, this spring has 22 coils on it.

    I'm still worried about the battering that was going on between the lug and the bushing. Where is the battering supposed to take place. Say you had too weak a recoil spring for the ammo that was being shot. What surfaces within the gun are making the contact?

    Thanks again.
  12. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus


    They cleaned up the recess???:rolleyes: Check to see if there's more than about .005 inch of fore/aft play in the slide to bushing fit.

    If the bushing and front lug are making contact, it will be at the front of the front lug and at the back of the bushing. Pull the slide fully rearward
    with the barrel in and bushing out to see how far it travels...the masking tape trick will work for this one too...then install the bushing and check again. It should be the same. You'll have to support the barrel when the
    bushing is out, or it'll get in a bind and give you a false travel read.

    The recoil spring only controls the slide speed back and forth, and doesn't have anything to do with where contact is made. Too light, and the slide/frame/spring guide head get hit harder. Heavier softens the impact, but doesn't change anything else in the slide to frame impact.

    22 coils sounds like maybe an 18 pound spring is in the gun. That's about standard...22-23 coils...for an 18-pound Commander spring.



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