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1911 Half Cock Question

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by el Godfather, Feb 18, 2012.

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  1. el Godfather

    el Godfather Member

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    Dear THR
    I have been told arguments on the both side of harms of half cocking the 1911. Some have alleged that it put undue pressure on the sear which may break after a while, whereas some have suggested that it is not a valid concern.

    Kindly share your arguments.

    Thanks.
     
  2. tangomike706

    tangomike706 Member

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    I've always been taught hammer down on an empty chamber , or hammer back , safety on , if there is one in the pipe . I believe, if you read the manual for most 1911's it will tell you the gun is not meant to be carried in half cock at all.

    As far as it placing undue pressure on the sear ? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure, someone will be along shortly with a better answer .
     
  3. HKGuns

    HKGuns Member

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    Half cock is a valid safety feature of the 1911. If it were an issue the gun wouldn't have been designed with the feature. - Recent MFG's recommendations may differ or vary from model to model, Colt GI 1911's is what I am referencing. I am sure someone will find some other MFG that recommends differently. I am also not advocating carrying it at half cock.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
  4. xXxplosive

    xXxplosive Member

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    Here we go...............
     
  5. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

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  6. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    The half-cock is not a safety, it is an intercept notch to catch the hammer if your thumb slips off while cocking or lowering the hammer.

    From a impact or drop safety standpoint?
    It is not as safe from impact as:
    1. Loaded, hammer down resting against the slide.
    2. Loaded, cocked & locked, with the hammer spur protected against impact by the grip safety spur.

    In either of those two positions the sear & sear pin is pretty safe.
    Not so much resting in the intercept notch.

    rc
     
  7. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    In the 1910 patents...before the manual safety was added...Browning not only referred to it as a "safety position" he gave instruction on lowering the hammer to half-cock with one hand, neatly dispelling with two popular misconceptions in one paragraph.

    But, don't take my word for it. Go look it up and read it.

    When the original, captive half-cock notch is used, the sear and hammer are interlocked, completely disabling the whole fire control group. That fits the criteria for a safety. On the Model 92/94 Winchester rifles and the Model 97 shotgun...also Browning designs...the (also) captive half-cock notch is the only safety, as were all of Browning's previous exposed hammer guns.

    If the only intended function of the half cock notch was as a hammer intercept, it would have been much easier, faster, and cheaper to machine a simple shelf, as we now see on Series 80 Colts and others.
    That would serve the same purpose without the need to machine the more complex, expensive, and time-consuming captive notch.

    It's a safety, by design and intent.
     
  8. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Be that as it may, and I don't disagree with the original intent..

    But you can't bend a sear pin if you drop it on the hammer with it down against the slide, or cocked, locked, and protected by the grip safety spur.

    rc
     
  9. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    Only use for half cock in a 1911: to catch the hammer if the thumb slips while cocking the gun.

    (Well, my only use. Either hammer down on empty chamber or loaded, cocked and locked, are the only safe options with small hands.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
  10. HKGuns

    HKGuns Member

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    Additionally, the military trained you that it was a safety when the pistol was still the primary issued sidearm. If you couldn't ID all of the safeties on the pistol you did not qualify with the weapon and half cock was one you had to ID.

    Case closed.

    Click Here
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
  11. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    In the beginning... :)

    Browning's first exposed-hammer pistols had neither a grip or manual safety (called a safety lock). They did have an inertia firing pin system that permitted the pistols to be carried safely when the chamber was loaded, and the hammer fully down. The piece was also carried with the hammer at the half-cock position, especially by men that were used to exposed-hammer rifles where this was a regular mode of carry during the 19th century and beyond.

    Browning also intended that the half-cock notch would catch the hammer is it accidentally followed down, so that in such an event the pistol wouldn't fire. His designs (and in particular, the 1911 pistol) are filled with instances where one part handles several tasks.

    Today, over a century later it is generally held that the half-cock notch (or ledge as the case may be) is not considered to be a good carry position, and that cocked & locked or hammer-fully-down are safer options. But Tuner's observation that the half-cock has been used, and sometimes still is - and that Browning advocated it as such is correct.
     
  12. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    The notion that Browning designed the pistol specifically to be carried cocked and locked isn't based in fact. Incidentally, the "Locked" part of cocked and locked refers to the slide...not the hammer or sear.

    Nor does the manual safety block the hammer. If the sear instantaneously disintegrates into powder, the hammer will fall and it'll wipe the safety off on its way down quicker than you can do it with your thumb.
     
  13. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    The Torakev is supposed to be true to Browning's original design intent: no manual safety, halfcock position on the hammer only.

    My 1911 is just too big for my hand to handle that way: thumb cock, thumb decock. I can apply the thumb safety easy enough though. And I periodically check my gun to assure that the manual safety postively blocks the sear before relying on it.
     
  14. hceptj

    hceptj Member

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    I've been of the opinion that if I carry it I want it ready, so I carry cocked/safety on. I've never used the halfcock position for anything.
     
  15. Onmilo

    Onmilo Member

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    I was in the Army, trained as a Small Arms Repairman, qualified on the 1911A1 among other weapons and was taught the half cock notch was a safety feature of the weapon, not an actual safety though I have no argument that was the original intent John Browning had envisioned.

    The purpose of the half cock notch after the grip safety and manual thumb safety were added was to prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin should the shooters thumb slip during manual cocking of the weapon or should the hammer be drawn back inadvertently by some manner of outside influence causing the hammer to fall without being actuated my manipulation of the trigger.

    I believe Skeeter Skelton was the author who wrote of an old Texas Ranger who had a habit of carrying his 1911 pistol jammed into his waistband, chamber loaded, hammer back, no manual safeties engaged on the firearm.
    Someone once asked the Ranger if that wasn't dangerous pointing at the cocked pistol.

    "Damn right it is, it's a pistol ain't it?" was the Rangers reply.
     
  16. Greg528iT

    Greg528iT Member

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    I haven't tested it yet. It looks like, and I've assemblled a 1911 without the sear to see how much interferance the thumb safety has on the hammer. The thumb safety is going to absorb a lot of the hammer's energy as it if forced down. Enough to prevent the firing pin from successfully striking the primer??? My guess is.. YES.. unless you have the plunger out out the tube. Either way.. I wouldn't say, if the sear disintegrated the hammer is going to freely fall to home.
     
  17. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    Yes, it's a safety position. It facilitates the safe lowering of the hammer. Did JMB also instruct users to CARRY the gun on half-cock?

    Even if he did, what was originally intended doesn't always mean it's correct. People make mistakes even with the best of intentions, and designs and procedures are improved or otherwise changed from the original intent.

    JMB's original intent was that the gun shouldn't go off when dropped from 3 feet, but he failed there, too.

    There's no reason to carry a 1911 on the halfcock notch, except for the fact that there is some small additional inherent risk when lowering the hammer from halfcock to fully down. Now, if on some 1911's, the trigger is totally disconnected, and you CAN'T lower the hammer from half-cock, and it locks there, I'd say you're better off leaving it there then trying to lower the hammer all the way down with the trigger pulled the entire way.* My series 80 CAN be lowered from the half cock with the trigger (not that it's ever been done on a loaded chamber), but apparently this model might be different from the rest?

    *FTR, Beretta 92FS, Stoegar Cougar, and Bersa thunder decockers lower the hammer all the way down, past the half cock notch. The FNX decocker stops at the halfcock notch. It's still safe because of the firing pin safety, but it's arguably a bit less so than the full decocker mechanism of many other handguns.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  18. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Calm down. I haven't advised, nor even suggested that anyone use it as a safe carry mode...even though you can if you want to. You can carry it in any one of several ways. I only said what it is. It's a safety as surely as the captive half-cock on the original Model 94 is.

    Again...

    If the only intent was to arrest the hammer, a simple shelf would have been much simpler, faster, and cheaper to machine. But with the captive notch, that's not all it does. The sear and hammer are solidly interlocked. The sear can't move if the trigger is pulled, and the hammer can't fall. That meets the requirements for a safety. No?
     
  19. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Peoples idea of "safety" was a heck of a lot different in 1900 then it is now too.
    Even John Brownings and the U.S. Armys idea.

    One could argue that the safety notch on a Colt Single-Action was designed and intended as a safety.
    We could even argue that the U.S. Cavalry manual and Colt said it was a safety too.

    And so did the crusty old drill sargent that used to carry a 1860 Colt with the hammer setting between two caps before they took it away and issued him a new-fangled 1873 Colt SAA.

    But we all know carrying a loaded Colt SAA on the "safety notch" a real bad idea today.

    rc
     
  20. Onmilo

    Onmilo Member

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    Single Action Army, first 'click' and all that.
    Resting hammer between two cartridges is a bad idea, if by chance the cylinder does revolver it will usually chip or break the firing pin tip.
    Then you get pierced primers or worse yet, if the tip breaks, no bang at all.
     
  21. HisSoldier

    HisSoldier Member

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    One main reason I read this forum is in the hope that I'll get to read something by Tuner, a guy who really should write a book about the 1911, that's a no brainer, not a risky venture at all. Just make sure you add something in the title about "By 1911Tuner" and you'll sell many tens of thousands of them, maybe hundreds of thousands, and we'll all be richer for it.

    I agree that genius that he was JMB couldn't have imagined the best carry option, a cavalry soldier would doubtless have time to haul the slide back, or the hammer, but carrying in civilian society with no known requirement for a weapon, and getting a shot or two off with no notice, in life saving time, that might be a different scenario than what he had in mind (?).

    Anyway, those who have carried a weapon and have had to use it are the ultimate authority for how they should carry it. JMB may have heard such men talk and come to the conclusion that condition one made the most sense, and we may not know of it. If he expressed an opinion later in life that might be interesting reading.

    Many people who have carried the guns daily and have had to use it may advise one way or the other, someone may have to do a count of their opinions on the matter to get a consensus.
     
  22. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Yeah, but we're not talkin' about the '73 Colt. But, I'll play.

    If a bunch of cowpunchers noticed a Commanche raiding party on yonder hill...do you think they slipped a 6th round into their revolvers and reholstered with the hammers on the quarter-cock notch...or not? :)

    Tactical/fast-draw aside...Why is it such a bad idea to carry a holstered 1911 on half cock? The notch is stronger by far than the hammer hooks. You can pull the trigger until the stirrup bends and not be able to fire the gun, and no gun is as "safe" if it's dropped as it is if it's not dropped. We can "What if" until we talk ourselves out of even loading one.

    The pistol wasn't designed to be carried in any one specific way. It was designed to provide a choice, dictated by the situation.

    It has an inertial, spring-loaded firing pin that's shorter than its channel...so it can be carried with the hammer down on a loaded chamber.

    It was designed with a captive half-cock that disables the trigger/fire control group.

    It was designed with a manual safety that blocks the sear and a passive grip safety that blocks the trigger, so it can be carried at full cock.

    It can even be carried at full cock with the manual safety disengaged...aka "Condition Zero"... if so desired. The grip safety still blocks the trigger and the half cock will still arrest the hammer.

    Your choice.

    Again...I'm not advising or suggesting anything. The bottom line is that it's a gun. It's not safe.
     
  23. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    During the first and second world wars some GIs occasionally carried the 1911 on the half cock. The purpose of this was to make it easier, surer and faster to either rack the slide or cock the hammer once the gun was drawn, usually from a full flap holster. This option was a part of the guns design.

    This method of carrying a gun, or having it ready, may not be what a fella would choose for carry today. But it was done. Condition one carry was not as common back then as it is today. It was considered more of a situational mode than a standard carry mode.

    I'm not aware of a good many 1911s going off when dropped from 3 feet. Gloob may though. The U.S. Navy did ask S&W to alter the design of it's revolvers during WWII to prevent them from discharging when dropped on the steel decks of a ship. The did not ask for any changes in the design of the 1911 which they considered safe for carry aboard ship. They did not go off when dropped on steel decks.

    tipoc
     
  24. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Bingo. Most people who carried the big Colt did so in Condition 2 or on half cock. A good many carried them in Condition 3. A select few...men who often found themselves in situations that dictated the fastest response possible...carried them in Condition 1. "When action is imminent."

    If you place the gun on half cock and hand-cycle the slide, you may find that it's a little harder than starting with the hammer full down...especially so if the firing pin stop has a small radius. This applies to hammers with a captive half-cock. I'd wager that many of them carried with a chambered round at half-cock...or full down to give the appearance of complying with Army doctrine of maintaining the pistol with empty chamber until it was time to hoist Baker.
     
  25. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    Not first hand, just something I read. Something to the effect that the firing pin was lightened and the FP spring weight increased early on due to inertial discharges from as little as 3 feet. That may have been before it was even called the 1911, if even true.
     
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