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S&W 3rd gen LE trade - fail to extract

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Shrinkmd, Aug 5, 2008.

  1. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    I was trying out my LE trade in 5906TSW the other day, and I had several FTE shooting ball ammo, Magtech 124gr FMJ, which I have used plenty of before with no problems in another pistol. Although I cleaned the pistol thoroughly ahead of time, I didn't have the chance to change the magazine spring and recoil spring (it came in the mail after I got home from the range)

    I compared the spring in the gun to the new Wolff 14 lb standard, it was way shorter! Like a couple of coils shorter. I replaced the recoil spring, the firing pin spring (thank you AGI video), and the magazine spring.

    I noticed that the fired cases appeared sooty and sticky, and the feed ramp and chamber/barrel looked dirtier than usual. I also had one or two fail to feed from a full magazine.

    Does this sound like a too weak recoil spring? Why on earth would a LE have such a weak spring in his gun? Could it be something more complex, like the extractor/spring assembly?

    Cosmetically the pistol looks almost perfect, and the insides looked fine. I'm assuming this was shot little, and not even carried a lot.

    Any ideas besides the spring replacements? I'm hoping the next trip to the range is a flawless one, given the obviously weak recoil spring.
  2. Storm

    Storm Well-Known Member

    One recommendation that I got from a very knowledgable member of this group was to strongly consider changing recoil springs as a matter of course with the LE trade-in guns. You never know how much they were shot and with what. In the case of malfs I'd also be looking at mag springs which you have already done.

    Why a LEO would put in a reduced power recoil spring is beyond me, but, based upon what you have done with the gun it sounds like you should be okay. I suppose if there are continued problems you might look at the extractor itself. I have been warned that using the aerosol cleaners can blow grunge back into tight areas, so maybe a look into the extractor is in order.

    Finally, and this might seem obvious, except that it happened to me, it's always good to make sure that the gun was lubricated after cleaning. I forgot to do this once with a CS9 and all hell broke loose. Smiths like to be run on the wet side.
  3. Shear_stress

    Shear_stress Well-Known Member

    My money would be on a weak extractor spring. Pretty easy to replace.
  4. wally

    wally Well-Known Member

    Or crud building up to the same effect.

    Remove the extractor and clean it and its channel well. If problem persists afterwards I'd replace the extractor spring, followed by the extractor if not cured by cleaning or spring.

  5. fastbolt

    fastbolt Well-Known Member

    If it's failures-to-extract, then the extractor, extractor spring or a weakened recoil spring may be involved (as well as cleanliness of the chamber, especially if using 'dirty' ammunition).

    If you take it to a gunsmith familiar with S&W pistols, or send it to the factory, they can check the strength of the extractor spring with their force dial gauge. There's a recommended range of tension for S&W extractor spring tension, and different springs available to enable the gunsmith, technician or armorer to achieve the proper tension in a specific slide if there's a tolerance variation encountered.

    S&W extractors are fitted parts. A Go-No Go bar gauge is used to fit extractors in slides. A properly calibrated force dial gauge is used to check the tension once the extractor is fitted.

    Bench checks with the appropriate gauges are good, but the final 'test' is how the pistol functions with good quality ammunition in a shooter's hands out on the firing line.

    Factory trained LE armorers are taught to avoid removing extractors unless actual repair is needed. The pins are set rather firmly in the slide and are often hard to get moving. They're removed downward & installed upward from the bottom. Using the wrong tools & techniques can damage slides. Over-size roll pins are NOT used, nor available (factory pins are solid).

    A chipped/damaged extractor can result in failures-to-extract, as can dirty chambers (using 'dirty' ammunition) and weakened extractor springs.

    I've seen extractor springs start to exhibit signs of weakness after 10-15 years of service in our 9mm pistols, and extractors can start to become a bit brittle and work-hardened after 10+ years of service and start to chip.

    Replacing a S&W pivoting extractor is not a kitchen table project, but should be done by a licensed gunsmith familiar with S&W pistols, a factory technician or certified LE armorer.

    You can't really compare different types of recoil springs (from different manufacturers) and make a determination based on length. Different materials & dimensions can make for different length springs even when both are new.

    There was a barrel (chamber dimension) change in the 5906TSW model a while back. If I remember right, a slight angle change of the chamber walls was involved. The 'newer' barrel, according to what I heard, was identified by the caliber marking on the barrel hood being in larger format (instead of the previous smaller alpha/numeric markings). I seem to recall hearing the change was to help with extraction when 'dirty' ammunition was being used, to phrase it politely.

    LE pistols can take a lot of abuse. I've seen (and had to repair) pistols which suffered from user neglect and abuse (often seemingly related to the casual indifference of "It's not my gun", but more often from lack of knowledge of proper maintenance and treatment).

    Just my thoughts. Don't know what's happening with your particular pistol.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2008
  6. fastbolt

    fastbolt Well-Known Member

    I've also seen a fair number of ordinary LE users expose their pistols to excessive solvents, lubricants and CLP's during the course of what they think are good cleaning practices. :uhoh:

    If excessive gunk builds up under the extractor it can potentially cause problems in either feeding or extraction. Probably better to avoid introducing excessive crap into the extractor recess.

    In the S&W 9mm & .40 S&W slides there's a machined slot under the extractor recess, visible in the bottom of the slide, directly under where the extractor is located. It can be seen in the slot to the right side of the slide's stripper rail (or pick-up rail, as some folks call it).

    Not a good idea to introduce excessive liquids into the slot, where they can gather and congeal with fouling into a thick goo around the extractor and its spring. I've sometimes used an air compressor to blow solvent out from under the extractor, directing the air line nose up under & into the machined slot ... and shown the user just how much black liquid is blown out around the extractor in the side of the slide. :eek:

    Bear in mind that the use of some aerosol cleaning products may allow quick condensation of moisture from the air to occur on metal surfaces. Probably not a good idea to introduce moisture into the extractor slot, where it might permit oxidation to form around the extractor, and especially the extractor spring. An air compressor with a moisture trap is probably a good idea, too.

    Come to think of it, I've seen a number of folks create problems for themselves with their well-meaning, but improper, 'cleaning practices'. ;)
  7. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the info fastbolt! After putting the new recoil spring in, the slide is considerably harder to pull back, so there is some difference there.

    I really hope that this is the fix it needed. I will also inspect the area around the extractor more carefully. Last time I looked, it appeared intact, but I will look more carefully at that recess under the extractor.

    I guess if the new recoil spring doesn't do the job I can always call the factory and send it in. That was one of the reasons I felt comfortable buying a S&W trade in, knowing that they stand behind their product.

    I really don't think it was the ammo. Unless I got unlucky with the worst two boxes ever, I haven't had problems with the Magtech 124gr FMJ. I've shot quite a bit out of it with my M&P9c and no problems at all. Didn't even seem particularly dirty.
  8. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    How many rounds of FMJ would people feel comfortable with to feel confident that this pistol is in proper working order? 100? 200? 300?

    I also need to get some more gold dots and test fire those as well, but next trip to the range is just about the basics!
  9. isp2605

    isp2605 Well-Known Member

    fastbolt is correct. Probably the extractor. They get chipped and damaged when people load them by sticking a rd in the chamber and letting the slide go. They should always be loaded from the mag.
    Swapping out the extractor is fairly easy - if you have the tools and know what you're doing. Otherwise, send it back to S&W. They'll fix it up and also go over it while it's there to fix any other problems.
  10. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    Bad news from the range...the springs did not fix the problem. After about 30 rounds it had another sticky FTE.

    I think I will call S&W tomorrow and send it back.

    Thanks for all your advice everyone, and I will let you know when its running nicely again!
  11. Spartacus451

    Spartacus451 Well-Known Member

    Removing and reinserting a S&W external extractor is not easy but it can be done with the right tools. You need a bench block, a steel punch, and a drill rod similar in diameter as the pin to use to keep things lined up. You will need to hammer the pin in over the edge of the table so the drill rod can fall out the bottom when you are reinstalling. They are in their TIGHT.
  12. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    I feel really dumb, but I just finished cleaning the pistol and I looked more carefully at the extractor. Then I compared it to a different 3rd gen S&W. Lo and behold, the extractor looks like someone took a nasty bite out of it. It is totally chipped. I guess before when I looked at it I thought it was supposed to be that way. No, no it is not.

    Thanks for all the great advice. Somehow I didn't quite put it all together at first, but I guess gunsmithing is like medicine. You need to see lots of normals so that way when you come across something not quite right it jumps out at you. Sort of like learning to use the otoscope or opthalmoscope. I still remember the first time I saw a big blood spot on someone's retina...

    Off to S&W for the new extractor!
  13. fastbolt

    fastbolt Well-Known Member

    You're right. Like so many other things in life it's easy to miss seeing something that's not as it should be when looking at it with 'new' eyes. ;)

    The good news is that even though you need a new extractor fitted, since it's a 5906TSW that means the newest ejector is probably already in it. The ejectors been revised over the years to have longer tips (for faster ejection) and a sharply angled cut was eliminated at the bottom/rear of the tip to reduce the likelihood of a stress-riser. As older ejectors aged they could eventually break off at the sharp angle at the rear of the tip.

    Yep, the ejector pins are normally really tight. They should be, too.

    Armorers are taught to use a 'starter' pin punch to break the pin loose and start it moving, and then once it's been slightly 'loosened' a straight shank pin punch of the appropriate size is used to finish removal of the pin. Done incorrectly a pin punch can be bent (or even snapped) as the extractor spring tension presses on the extractor. (That's how more than a few armorers have ending up 'making' their own 'starter' pin punches, when the pin shank snaps off ... meaning they now have a 1/16" pin punch without the 1/16" pin. :uhoh: )

    A larger diameter pin punch, which fits within the larger circular notch/recess surrounding the bottom of the slide's pin area, is used to re-install the pin (while carefully aligning the extractor in the slide's extractor recess so the holes in the extractor and the slide match). The larger punch then fully seats the extractor pin so it doesn't protrude at all from the bottom. In older slides lacking the slightly recessed bevel around the bottom of the pin hole, an off-set file was used to carefully dress any burrs raised in the slide. That prevented such burrs from marring the aluminum frames when the slide cycled. :eek:

    Inattentive armorers sometimes risked having their punch slip off the pin during installation, and down onto the angled surface toward the center of the slide, sometimes marring the dickens out of the slide. Oops ... :uhoh:

  14. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Well-Known Member

    That is the vision I had of even thinking about attempting this myself. Its one thing to have an oops or two when ripping apart your Mosin (I had a try at putting in a mojo sight, I dinged the pin, needed another person plus a better vise to align it and get it in) I think with the right tools, and experience it wouldn't be a problem.

    I think after I win the lottery I will add LE armorer school or gunsmith school to my law school and PhD in History or Anthropology plans... That and getting to the range a whole lot more!

    If you wanted to be prepared to handle this yourself, what tools would you need? Is there a proprietary gauge, or is it all tools you could end up using for other projects? I don't need much excuse to buy new tools.

    I could imagine getting the dirtiest, nastiest old worn out LE trade in and taking it apart and back together a couple times to gain the experience on how to do it well. I wouldn't want to wreck a new one.

    That's why you stay out of the hospitals on July 1st, since that's sort of how internship is!:eek:
  15. Spartacus451

    Spartacus451 Well-Known Member

    You can turn a regular pin punch into a start punch by cutting it down with a dremel when it bends. This is how I got all of my starter punches.

    [EDIT]Oops, I see fastbolt beat me to it[/EDIT]

    Fastbolt when I remove or insert pins I don't do it from the bottom of the slide because it won't lay flat. It is easier for me to do it from the top and a S&W 1911 has a similar relief on the top of the slide for using a larger punch to install. What are armorers taught to do?
  16. fastbolt

    fastbolt Well-Known Member

    The pins are removed by driving them downward (top-to-bottom).

    They're installed by driving them upward (bottom-to-top).

    The gauges and punches are available from S&W (who buys them from vendors, of course). The extractor gauge is just a force dial gauge made by a major company, calibrated in the lighter weight needed to check tension on the extractor spring once the extractor is fitted. The bar gauge (to check fitting of extractor) is just a Go/No-Go gauge S&W has made to their specs. Anther flag gauge used to be used to check another dimension when fitting the extractor, but they don't teach its use anymore. (I've been told by more than one person that they no longer feel it's necessary.)

    The relief machining around the top of the pin allows room to position and use the 'starter' punch to break the pin loose so it can be driven downward and out. Not all slides have a generous space on the top, though. Take a look at the older CS series slides.

    Also, you don't really want to be hammering on the pin, driving it from the bottom out toward the top, as this can risk the punch widening the bottom of the slide's extractor pin hole. It's important the bottom hole remain its tight hold on the pin. You don't want the pin drifting out of the hole, especially downward, during shooting.

    One thing to keep in mind when using the armorer's block is to position the slide so the extractor pin is over one of the holes in the block. Driving the pin downward into the block qualifies as one of the less successful ways to remove it from the slide. :scrutiny:

    I've seen a slide one of our folks mangled beyond salvage, apparently by trying to remove the extractor themselves. ("Cleaning", maybe? Someone told them it was a good idea? :confused: ) The bottom of the slide around the pin hole was chewed, enlarged and generally mangled beyond belief. The bottom hole was so gouged out and enlarged that I could never get it to hold an extractor pin secure again. :cuss: It was toast.

    Yes, the slide can roll over on you when you're resting it upside down on the bench, especially if you're just resting it on the (upside down) sights. I generally use a nylon armorer's block and rest the flat part of the top of the slide (slide upside down on the block) on the block, and then use a 'flattened' 1-handed grip to keep the slide still AND hold the pin punch in position to complete seating the pin, while using the ballpeen hammer in my strong hand. Takes practice. ;) I start the pin during installation with a plastic mallet while holding the extractor tensioned and still until the pin has reached the 'top' of the slide's extractor pin hole, at which time I switch over to the larger diameter punch and seat the pin the rest of the way. Sometimes a tight pin/hole fit will require I start the pin gently with the ballpeen hammer, but I'm careful to avoid peening or otherwise damaging the pin. Depends on how tight the pin remains in the slide's 2 holes (below and above extractor).

    Some armorer's use a padded 4" vice to hold the slide, but this means you can't minutely adjust the extractor while installing the pin. It does allow you to have 2 hands for holding and whacking the pin, though. I used the vice method until I became able to do it just sitting it on the bench (or nylon armorer's block, as I prefer) and holding it still (from rolling over to one side or the other) and installing the old pin.

    It's possible to peen and damage the pin during this process, at which time a new pin will be needed. ;)

    Gotta run.

    Last edited: Aug 14, 2008

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