1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Is it easy to make a 1911's manual thumb safety more "snicky?"

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by The Real Hawkeye, Nov 10, 2006.

  1. Have a Springfield TRP with a thumb safety that I have never been happy with. Not "snicky" enough for me, i.e., the "snick snack" going up and down is not positive enough for me. Seems to be hardly any resistance whatsoever, and there is hardly a perceptible snick into its two positions. Is there an easy fix, or will the whole part need replacing? Is this a reasonable request if I send it back to Springfield Armory for this, or will they laugh in my face, figuratively speaking? Thanks.
  2. CDH

    CDH Well-Known Member

    That's a good question and I know what you're talking about. However, this is interesting because between us, it's happening on cross-platforms. That is, my Colt XSE does the same thing.

    First of all, I have both a Colt XSE and the SS Commander which is a "standard" pistol. The significance of that is that my SS Commander has a left-side only safety while my XSE has an ambi-safety like your TRP.

    The standard safety on the SS Commander snicks quite well coming OFF or going ON, but what I noticed about the XSE ambi-safety is that it does feel like a "two step" action while putting the safety ON. However, it DOES snick very nicely in just one nicely resistive and positive snick (I love that word :) ) when I pull it down to take it OFF safe.

    Also, my Springfield EMP 9mm which also has an ambi-safety does the same thing (two felt steps while going on but just one nice resistant snick while coming down).

    My take is that it's the nature of the amb-safeties, but as long as it takes a nice positive single snick to pull them down, I'm fine with it.
    If you can't live with what you have, then you should probably look at the spring loaded snick inducer (plunger) and see if it needs tweaking or replacing.

    Happy snicking.

  3. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Well-Known Member

    There are fixes, including deepening the detent hole in the safety, and reshaping the section just below that regulates the amount of "snap" when putting it OFF safe.

    Since this is "ticklish" work, I recommend sending it back to the manufacturer who know exactly what to do, and won't ruin the part.
    Try it yourself and botch it, and you'll have to buy a new safety.
  4. So the plunger is all that causes the "snick" and tension on the thumb safety? I am pretty ignorant on the technical side of 1911s, as you can see.
  5. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Well-Known Member

    No, it's the plunger and spring in conjunction with the detent hole in the safety and the square area just below the detent hole.
  6. Bwana John

    Bwana John Well-Known Member

    I have found that changing out the plunger spring will change the feel of the saftey a lot.

    Reradiusing the nose of the plunger can make a world of differance also.

    I would change the depth or diameter of the plunger detent only as a last resort.
  7. XavierBreath

    XavierBreath Well-Known Member

    I am very particular about the snicking quality of my 1911 thumb safeties. I want just enough "snick", but not too much resistance. I do not like having the safety go below the plunger when depressed, and I do not want it wiggling around in either position. I want only on and off, like a light switch, not a range of positions in between. I fit my own safeties.

    If the safety is not fitted to the sear properly there is no way you will ever get the positive snick, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the safety may allow sear movement when engaged*. Neither is good. The sear/safety lug engagement must be crisp, precise and close in it's tolerances. Thus, that portion of the safety fit must be correct first.

    Assuming your hammer does not move when the safety is engaged (not enough clearance) or the sear does not move when the safety is engaged and the trigger pressed (too much clearance), then you are ready to consider the plunger detents.

    Dfaris is correct. A nice snick, given a properly fitted sear/safety lug, is the result of the plunger detent and the recesses in the thumb safety it rides in. Most thumb safeties have a simple round depression for the plunger, often in the wrong place. I have found that a depression in the thumb safety shaped like an upside down teardrop with the pointy portion being a ramp for the plunger gives me what I want. I cut this into the thumb safety using a small ball cutting bit on a Dremel. I cut the wider portion of the "teardrop" shape with a slight sharp dropoff into a recess that exactly fits the plunger. Then I chuck the plunger into the Dremel and polish it on a piece of cotton with some rouge. The result is a nice, positive snick on and off, with a safety that is easy to move, but which reliably stays in place.

    Now, whether you would consider this "easy" is up to you. For some folks, rebuilding a 1942 De Soto is "easy". For others, it is a chore to hook up a monitor to a computer. You will have to decide for yourself if you have the mechanical aptitude to improve the "snick" of a 1911 safety. Saying it is easy or difficult is not what you need to hear.

    *The thumb safety should snick on and off without resistance in either direction with the hammer cocked. The hammer should not move when engaging the thumb safety. Once engaged, press on the trigger a couple of times with the grip safety depressed. Then raise the rear of the pistol up to your ear and slowly pull back on the hammer. Listen for a little tink sound. If you hear this sound, the thumb safety is allowing the sear to move on the hammer hooks while engaged. Replacement of the thumb safety or sear will be in order.
  8. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus


    Sometimes letting the safety move higher into the "V" in the slide can make a big difference. If it feels mushy going on safe, it may be that the lug is bearing too hard against the sear. Test by pulling the hammer just a wee bit past full cock, and engaging the safety. Feel less mushy/more positive? There's yer bug.

    Also possible that the paddle of the safety is slightly oversized or there's a tolerance stack at work with the engagement notch that prevents the safety from moving high enough. Maybe the slide is a bit too far forward, and the rear angle of the notch is preventing full travel. For these issues, I normally use a smooth mill file to remove a few thousandths from the rear angle of the safety paddle to get it higher into engagement. Once in a while, you'll have to scrape a thousandth or so off the lug where it blocks the sear because when the safety moves higher, it creates harder contact against the sear, and you're back to the mushy feeling. Sometimes you have to deepen the detent notch...which, if you take it just a little too far, can result in the safety making a positive engagement, but makes it nearly impossible to move it off-safe without overstressing the plunger tube's mount. Many times, it turns into one of those trial-and-error exercises that can be frustrating at best...and kill a thumb safety at worst.

    Bottom line...The safety should completely block sear movement without actually pressing on the sear. This is especially important if the hammer hooks are shortened and squared during a trigger job. .027 undersquare/captive hooks are more forgiving of a tiny bit of sear rotation.
    .020 inch, squared hooks...mush less so. Sears with a breakaway angle...typical with trigger jobs...makes preventing sear movement all the more critical. How critical depends on how heavy the breakaway angle is.
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Xavierbreath and 1911tuner are right. I have done all my 1911 safties this way and I've only ruined one. Its a matter of spring strentgh, pin shape, safety detent (teardrop hole) depth/shape and shape of safety just under the detent and roughness or smoothness of said parts.
  10. 51Cards

    51Cards Well-Known Member

    I have a Springfield Armory GI Stainless that had a safety that required waaay too much "grab" to put it in firing position. I discussed it with one of the local guys and he said, what the heck, try it --- but don't take too much out that it goes off safe too easily. Took a few finger twirls with a D____el cylinder on the bottom angle to smooth it a tiny bit --- miniscule removal on each trial.

    The safety took a little nerve. Not a part I want to feel iffy about. Took everything apart, watched everything move, realized it was more of a "finishing" shortcoming than a "tolerance" one. I have an old 1911 I was able to use as a model. 64 years old, and still --- Snick!

    Now, they all snick. XB is right --- like a light switch. No wiggle.

Share This Page