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Colt Defender woes

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by 51Cards, Nov 19, 2006.

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  1. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    I had originally posted this incorrectly under the top "sticky," so I'm going to try to make some sense here. (An effort, I assure you.)

    My Defender has been having problems. Bought new (seal still on case), it appears to be one of those Monday Morning jobs:

    a) Magazine catch - mags needed to be "heeled" in. Removed catch, stoned off casting/machine marks. Now fine.

    b) Usual break-in woes.

    c) Extraction/ejection problems. (Had range members spot while I fired to see if I was limping it. No. Two others had same problems. Back to store, extractor tweak. I did a tiny bit of radius filing. Extraction/ejection now perfect.

    d) Completely gagging on JHPs. Five or six types. Stem or stovepipe. Tried four types of mags. Not mag problem. Functions PERFECTLY, even under stress, with FMJs.

    After babbling about this (as above), I looked up 1911Tuner's encyclopedic archive (!!!!) and learned more than I knew about anything to begin with.

    I also checked the blueprints for the 1911, and found numbers that the Colt in my hand didn't agree with. Specifically, there was nowhere near 1/32" between the ramp and the barrel throat. I checked the numbers between two other 1911s I have (a 1943 Colt, and a SA 1911A1), and found that the 1943 and the SA agreed, but the Defender did not. The easiest dimension for me to take was the distance from the rear of the link ears to the edge of the throat.

    The Defender even had a nice little throat "belly" polished into the bottom of the barrel --- but it was practically right on top of the ramp.

    After picking at atoms and molecules on the throat (files, 400-grit on a dowel, and, finally, the D-word), it now looks like the original (mostly), but with a shallower "belly," a more even contour --- and set back several thousandths. The inside lip of the throat is just past the case bevel by a couple of thousandths. It would have to be, to make the minimum 1/32" from the ramp.

    Before this, with the barrel assembled to the frame (without slide) and a magazine inserted, ball could be thumb-fed smoothly; JHPs consistently jammed at the ramp/throat juncture. Now, the JHPs actually feed. (Of course, I have gouges in my thumb from the ejector, but, so what?)

    I'm looking at this thing and wondering. It's amazing how much a few thousandths of an inch can make you crazed. I'm also wondering if I'm going to blow my hand off with the danged thing. There's a fingernail's thickness of case visible, and I'm hoping this thing won't bite.

    If it does, I'll have my fiancee type in the results, if I can't.
     
  2. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Of Defenders

    And other sub 4-inch 1911 variants..

    "A little girl, who had a curl, in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good she was VERY good,
    but when she was bad...she was horrid."
     
  3. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    I have to admit --- my father-in-laws 1911, from WWII, is about as flawless as they come. My SA GI, also. Don't know what got me so revved up over a micro 1911, but there we go ...

    Funny thing is, this Defender is great shooter. It's like weight-lifting. A half-session with it, and the others find the bull by themselves.:D

    If this works out, I will never, ever, ever touch it again, other than to clean it.

    Thanks for not yelling at me "up top!"
     
  4. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    re:

    51 said:

    >Thanks for not yelling at me "up top!"<
    ***********

    Nah. Sounds like ya did good with the tweak.:cool:
     
  5. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    After reading more and more and more, the entire situation becomes clearer (I think) to me.

    JMB designed these pistols to fire ball ammo. They do it very, very well.
    Looking back at my Defender's record, I have little doubt that it passed Colt's final QC --- everything worked.

    The rough mag catch is not big issue. The barrel throat, well, that might have been a "correction" to fix some poor testing behavior. I do not know Colt's procedure. It woud appear that the barrel was throated to get the feed "to spec" --- which did not include JHP firing.

    From what I can see/feel, things should work now, but there's no way of knowing until it's fired. Thumb-feeding rounds to find hangups isn't exactly as fast as what happens when firing occurs. I have hopes, though.

    Test-fire probably tomorrow --- with everything it hated to begin with.

    One thing that still has me peeved, is the smacks on the bottom of the ramp from the original followers. The impact points match the follower's bottom lip exactly. Again, going back to the slideless assembly, empty mag in place, it is easy to push the follower forward to make the match-up. I figure, if a 230gr slug is going out one end at around 850 - 900 fps, the immediate recoil of the frame has to be pretty brisk; the follower, being an independent object (more or less) would tend to slap the ramp pretty hard. I have no idea if this is common on alloy frame 1911s, but until I discover the True Meaning of the Dimple I'm going to try sticking to the Wilson (or other) followers.

    Nothing like obsessing about this stuff ...
     
  6. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Sounds like the barrel ramp (I refuse to call it "throat" the throat is the part of the chamber the bullet goes through between cartridge and rifling) is the Colt "dimpled" design intended to improve feeding. Sounds like it didn't work well with production line assembly and the steep locking angle of the stubby barrel. Glad you got it to where it worked.
     
  7. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Throaty

    Concur with Mr. Watson. It's the barrel ramp...not the throat.

    Colt's new "Dimple Throat" was supposed to be a marked improvement over the second generation "Wadcutter" throat modification, which also happened to help feed reliability with hollowpoint ammo. Actually, the old ramp design appeared on the scene decades before .45 ACP hollowpoints did, and has pretty much been the factory standard since about 1983 or so. Prior to that, the modification was a custom order, or was included with aftermarket, match grade barrels. The problem was that it gave away a little case head support.

    Enter the new and improved "Dimple Throat" pioneered and patented by Colt.
    It has the wide entry with a narrower floor in order to provide feed reliability and maintain the original head support of the old "Hardball" ramp. When it works, it works very well. When it doesn't work...it's pretty bad. It all depends on the gun's other specs. A proper 1911 will eat pretty much what you throw at it with the hardball ramp, assuming good magazines.

    I've found problems with the new ramp design with about one pistol in five, and it's basically just a matter of the ramp angle being too steep, and/or the lower edge of the ramp not having the prerequisite 1/32nd gap. The cure is to simply recut the ramp to the older wadcutter contour, which may also include cutting and reshaping the lower edge to obtain the gap.

    The problems have surfaced in all lengths, and don't seem to be specific to any one, though the shorter the top end, the more persnickety they are to
    fine-tweak...but that's true no matter what type of ramp they have.

    Feed ramp angle in the frame is also a player, and if the angle is too shallow, the pistol generally responds to exceeding the gap at the lower edge of the barrel and frame ramps. This is tricky territory, and easy to lose too much head support in guns with more than mid-spec headspace if the re-cut ramp is smoothly and correctly recontoured...so proceed with all due caution.

    I never do barrel ramp work with power tools such as the Dremel, except for the initial roughing of the Dimple ramp...and never more than just the sides...stopping well before getting close to the final contour. I much prefer to hand scrape the final shape than to hurry-up with any 30,000 rpm moto tools. Those let you screw up at warp speed.

    Mirror polishing is pretty much a matter of taste, but isn't necessary beyond reasonable smoothing with 400-600 grit paper on a fingertip. I never polish a feed ramp (frame) with a Dremel...not even lightly. In some guns, it can even be detrimental to reliable feed. In the guns that are well within correct specs, many smiths do it more because it's expected than out of necessity.
    If mirror polishing corrects a feed or return to battery issue, there's still a problem with the gun, and it'll likely show up sooner or later.
     
  8. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    I deeply appreciate the input.

    I am amazed at the difference between ball and HP feed --- and I'm using Rangers as a baseline, since they seem to replicate the ball contours better than most.

    I am not "Dremel-crazy." I rarely touch anything without 2x or 4x "goggles" on, and I'm very sensitive to finish surfaces.

    I have a feeling I'm asking this particular Colt example to do more than I can properly expect. If so, so be it. A hardballer it will remain.

    I know the ramp is part of the problem, but with the Defender's alloy/anodized frame, I figure there's waaaay too much of a limit for modification there --- like maybe .001 or so, not enough to help.

    I thought, awhile ago, that I would part with this pistol --- but, no. It really is something like no other I have shot with. The weight, responsiveness, trigger --- jeez, is it slick! --- (I installed a short trigger --- stubby fingers), accuracy and power of this jewel cannot be denied. So, it may not wind up being everything --- but it is a lot of what it is.

    So --- next question:
    Is it worth doing a reset-angle steel ramp insert (setscrew/JB Weld) to diddle with it? (We're probably talking about less than a degree of angle here, but that's already alot.) I'm already annoyed with the ramp's reaction to the original followers, etc. As much as this gun cost, it would be worth some more to "slick it up." I think (NOT sure) that the resultant value (to me, and, eventually, to someone else) might be worth the "devaluation" of the frame cut and insert. Is it possible to re-cut the ramp, and re-anodize the frame? Is it remotely worth it?

    I'm floundering here. I generally regard most of my guns as engineering exercises --- a small collection of purpose-built and - fulfilling tools. A Kel-Tec, a Sig, a couple of Springfields, a Ruger, a High Standard, another Colt --- but there is something about this particular gun that is seducing me into keeping it, even when I could sell and re-buy another.

    I could sell my 229, and buy another a year later. I could do the same with my XD-9. My Mk III is exactly where I want it to be, but it could be replaced. (The WWII 1911 goes only when I do.) On and on. Cold, hard-metal preferences, and cold, hard-metal "feelings."

    This one is different. Can't explain it completely. There are a few suggestions on this site for ramp jobs. Any help with this is, again appreciated.

    I have gone from head-banging back to being a teenager trying to salvage a love. Sort of. Well, 1911-lust, at least.
     
  9. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    51,
    If you can provide us with nice, clear pictures and some measurements, we can get this thing licked!
    There is no reason at all that this little beast can't be totally reliable with aggressively contoured hollowpoints.
    :)
     
  10. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    Gonna try it again tomorrow, most likely. See if my tinkering has helped. I know the barrel work has helped, but, as mentioned, I'm afraid the ramp is a hair steep. It's "sticky" with HP, slick as a mirror with ball. If manana has me tearing my few remaining hairs out, I'll de-gunk, photo, and plead! :D
     
  11. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    OK.

    Now, I'm beginning to wonder if there's ever been a case study correlating insanity with micro-1911 ownership. (No smiley available for this one.)

    3AM. I can't figure out how to do this any better. I have:
    1) removed the slide;
    2) removed the firing pin and extractor;
    3) loaded a magazine with Rangers;
    4) replaced the slide (withOUT the pin, thankya verra mush);
    5) inserted the magazine;
    6) manually cycled the HPs over the ramp and out the schnoz.

    Without a single hitch.

    I figured that the down-pressure from the lug against the rounds and up-pressure of the magazine spring might have something interesting to show me. It showed me even more of how a 1911 works. I mean, I can close my eyes and see the exploded views (I actually DO exploded views, etc.), so this was a sort of mystical exercise in "what am I missing?"

    Well --- sleep, mostly.

    So I guess this just leaves dat ol' debil "stem lock."

    And there's only one way I'm going to find that out.

    If there is such a thing as the hereafter, I really do hope that JMB is getting a major chuckle out of this. I am, sort of. (If my fiancee weren't visiting her son tonight, she'd probably be packing and leaving me a note.)

    This is sick. Stainless and aluminum seduction, that's what it is.

    Or obsession.

    I can't really tell, anymore ...
     
  12. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    Ahhhh --- Alloy Frame Repair.

    Very, very nice.

    I have perhaps 250 rounds of Ranger and Federal that I've squeezed through. As in the other thread, my follower had pecked the lower part of the ramp, and I changed the followers early on. Which leaves me wondering if those little chips and fractures can spread?

    The other guy (sorry, forgot the name) had a good point --- Colt should've molded the frame to take an insert to begin with.

    Oops. Forgot. I'm asleep ...
     
  13. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    re:

    Before you make any more modifications...have you tried a diferent magazine? Sometimes that's all there is to it. Wish I had a nickel for every
    problem chile that I've turned into a productive honor roll grad with nothing more than that.

    If you can induce the stoppage by hand-cycling it at full speed...remove the extractor and see if it helps. It may be there whence the stinkbug crawled.

    Chuck is right. There's no reason that the gun can't be made to use hollowpoints. If stock 1918 and 1919 USGI Colts will, yours will.
     
  14. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    I've tried Colt, Wilson, Springfield --- as of a few days ago, all produced the same level of wretchedness.:barf: I spent part of my evening miking up the differences between mags --- nothing that would seem to me to be weird, especially given the abuse these weapons were designed to withstand. (With one exception --- the Colt mag followers act like woodpeckers --- the others do not.)

    It was after finding NO differences that I did my little pin-less slide-cycle of the live stuff. I could swear it's not the ramp. at this point --- but I've been in a few circles, here. It seems to me that live-firing is only vaguely reproduced by empty-slide cycling. My hands are reasonably quick for my age, but not ACP quick.

    I don't mind going a step at a time, and I really do appreciate the level of knowledge and sympathy/empathy for my difficulties.

    On the other hand, each "experiment" costs a bundle in live ammo. When I figure that when it can go through an entire box of HPs (a small test, but I can't afford 400 rds) --- it's like quitting smoking: you go for a year, have one, start over. Like that. Get it to fire 3, gag, start over. Fiddle, fiddle, get it to fire 4, gag, start over.

    It was like this with the Kel-Tec (.380) at first. Patience, and, ultimately saying, "This is wrong" and having KT fix it (slide replacement --- no wonder the thing near took my wrist off. It was barely coming out of battery.

    The extractor works like a champ. On anything that makes it through. That's on the extraction end of things. I could see where it might interfere with proper feeding, but I think I've gotten that devil out of the way. (Small radiusing replacing chamfer on bottom of inside of hook (easier cartridge rise), very slight undercut on hook (to make grip more positive). Probably unnecessary, but I can see why you wouldn't want to play with a few hundred thousand of these during a war or two. The extractor grabs the ball ammo cases and shoots hoops with em.

    After reading and re-reading 1911Tuner's details on stem-binding, that would seem to be the culprit, now maybe cornered.

    Wonder if I could get a grant for Stem Binding Research?:D
     
  15. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    A couple of hours. Gonna try 230gr ball first (just to check everything out), then 230gr Rangers, then 165gr FedEMJ, then 165gr FedHydro.

    I will be bringing my heavy buckskin gloves ...
     
  16. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    Defender Woes-Begone (hopefully!!!!!)

    YEEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!:) :) :) :)

    By George, I think I've got it! This place is incredible. After picking through the local "encyclopedia," a lot of inner workings became clearer. And not necessarily intuitive things, either (like those shots of ramps and throats ground down together).

    I think my Defender Woes may be over. (I am sure there is still a steel ramp in its future, though.)

    After filing and sanding and cleaning and testing and (go back to start again), I got out to the local FFL and spent enough on ammo to buy a used KT. The order went something like this:
    14 rds ball, slow --- to make sure that everything worked (without KBs!!);
    14 rds Ranger, slow; (it had completely choked on even these);
    14 rds Ranger rapid;
    14 rds Federal Hydro, rapid;
    14 rds Federal EMJ, rapid;
    14 rds Cor Bon DPX, rapid;
    14 rds 230gr ball extremely rapid;
    21 rds Ranger, extremely rapid.

    NOT - A - SINGLE - TWITCH!

    This gun has gone from "safe queen" to junkyard dog." It now eats everything.

    Unbelievable. I've replaced parts and upgraded parts and cleaned rough parts up, but I've never tackled something like this.

    I'm hoping it stays that way.

    That way, you nice folks won't have to hold my hand. Thank you.

    (Meanwhile, in the background, I can hear 1911Tuner saying, "Hmmm ... we'll see, we'll see ...)
     
  17. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Yeehaa

    Yeehaa??? Where'd a NY Yankee learn to speak Reb Bonics?:scrutiny:

    :D

    Outstanding! It's usually somethin' simple. :cool:
     
  18. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    I thought that had become Universal Intergalactic Terminology?

    At least here :D .

    Trust me on this one: I am extremely eager to move to a more "hardware-friendly" environment. You wind up developing into such a small sub-community that you feel like a, uh --- furriner, is that the word? ;)

    On the other hand, with a few burglaries within a a couple of blocks, and a brand-new home invasion two blocks away, I'm willing to bet that I sleep better than most of my neighbors.

    I'd say that I'm entitled to at least a "Yeee." I've worked hard at it, honest ;)!
     
  19. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Reb Bonics

    Yee it is then! Ya get the "Haa" when ya move south and learn how to eat grits...:D
     
  20. mrmeval

    mrmeval Member

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    You can use Alodine chromate solution to duplicate the protection of anodizing. It's only drawback is it leaves a golden color. Many marine applications use Alodine prior to painting because it dramatically improves corrosion resistance and the resultant conversion coating allows paint to adhere far better than even a mechanical treatment of the surface. I would not recommend it for the ramp and assume those are not coated or anodized. This is a good touch up for a damaged aluminum surface that's exposed to a harsh environment and is good prior to painting.

    http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/cspages/alodine1201.php
     
  21. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Tip

    Get a standard 7-round magazine follower and a Wolff 11-pound spring to replace the split Devel-type follower, and it'll stop dingin' the feed ramp on the last round. (Yep. The Officer's Model/Defender mags take the standard-length innards) It'll turn it into a 6-round magazine...as intended...but life's fulla little tradeoffs.;)
     
  22. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    The guy who showed me the Defender --- I won't say "sold," since all he did was put it in my hand :rolleyes: ; I did the selling --- told me about mag capacity. Actually, a couple of folks thought the Defender was a 6+1. The fellow at the store said that those orange followers had been modified from the original to allow some compression for the seventh round.

    The springs that come with the Wilson followers are elongated and have slightly higher force. The setup allows 7+1, and works (so far :D ) without a hitch. The Wilsons don't have any metal near the ramp. I am, however, considering a set of Tripp followers, since steel reinforcement/slidelock contacts are appealing, as well as their general solidity.

    My guns are not subjected to harsh conditiona (other than me :evil: ), and I inspect everthing carefully every disassembly/cleaning. A chipped or cracked follower would get yanked, pronto.

    I don't know if this is too harsh, but --- I would never think of using a steel follower in an alloy frame again. Or, it seems to me that a formed steel skirt could have been devised, to prevent a surface, as opposed to an edge slapping into the frame. (Then again, the original didn't envision alloy frames, did it?)

    If I find the ramp degrading from those first couple of hundred "woodpecker" folowr shots, at least I know I can get some rational, sane steel pinned in there.

    Meanwhile, the gun is now the predictable, slick thing that it was supposed to be!:cool: I emphasize "now" because something else may react to any changes made --- like pulling a back muscle, then having the other side go out. I suspect that the extractor will be the next candidate --- if for no other reason than that it has been "tweaked" a couple of times. But everything is humming perfectly --- finally.

    I've had an interesting side effect, though.

    My shoulders and neck are killing me!
    All the rapid-fire torture testing.
    Opposite/equal reaction.
    Approximately 410 ft-lbs/round, x 119 rounds = 48,790 ft-lbs., or 24+ tons.
    I realize that a good part of the recoil is dampened, but, still ...
    I remember an archery teacher a looong time ago, who explained that when you pulled a 50-lb bow 100 times, you've still pulled 5000 lbs. Your body is only marginally interested in how it was divvied up.

    Short of finding(?)/buying(!!!!!) a Ransom rest with an auto-fire feature, I figured the best way to see if all was well was to make it as un-well, and as accurate, as possible. So, multiple strings of rapid-fire.

    I've done this before ... but not with all .45, and this one hurt!

    Worth it.
     
  23. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    When Browning designed the gun he had only one goal in mind - a military service pistol. When correctly manufactured using the right materials they run like a champ, even under the worst of environmental circumstances.

    But when you knock off 2 or so inches at the front end a number of not-so-good things happen. The lightened slide runs at a much higher speed. You have less run-up (the distance between the side at its rearmost position and the back of the magazine). The recoil spring tunnel is shortened so a single spring won't work, and a more complicated multi-spring system becomes necessary. When feeding the barrel is at a sharper angle.

    All of this doesn't mean that a gun won't run, or can't be made to. But it does make reliability a lot more of an "ify" sort of thing.

    Your magazines become much more important, especially the springs. when you get down to the last rounds the spring is at its most relaxed position, yet it still has to get the cartridge into the correct position to be picked up by the breechface, and remember that breechface is moving faster over a shorter distance.

    The original gun was not designed - at least in the way most people might think - but rather evolved over a 10-year period, with prototypes being built, tested, and until 1910, rejected. After a rejection a new prototype was submitted with improvements to address the shortcomings found in the last one, and so on.

    The 7-round magazine carefully balanced the spring tension to match the slide's velocity, and 90 years plus of use has shown that it worked - at least most of the time. The follower's design also reflected the evolution process, and it was tweeked until it was right.

    But some folks, who presume they know more then Mr. Browning, are determined to put 8-rounds in a box designed for 7, or 7 in a box that has been shortened and should hold no more then 6. Now sometimes this works, at least for a time, and sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't and you carry the gun as a weapon you may wish you'd stuck to a snubby revolver...

    Anyway, your gun seems to be running, at least for the time being. But I wouldn't push my luck.... :scrutiny:
     
  24. 51Cards

    51Cards Member

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    I've seen a few whacko hi-cap single-stack mags. Some were Colt; some were not. I don't think I've seen any 10+ 1911 mags that really worked properly. I've never had a problem with 7's. An old 'smith recommended that only 6 be kept in the mags for the 1943-model 1911.

    I have a pretty good appreciation for the physics and compromises, I think. One of those compromises is the follower. After only 200 - 300 rounds, it looked like the original was trying to eat the ramp. So, another compromise.

    Likewise the design for ball ammo. None of our contemporary defensive rounds were available; nor would they have been "legal" for military use; nor are they still. So, no specific design accomodation.

    I have no doubt whatever that, if I'd sent this gun back to Colt, it would've tested out fine, or close to it --- with 230gr ball ammo. And that is pretty much the limit of their responsibility, as I see it.

    It was actually when this Defender began choking on ball occasionally that I started to wonder. When it absolutely gagged on HP, I figured it was time for intervention.

    Is is not, for me, a preferred carry weapon. (Uh-oh. Rumbles in the distance!) I have (what I believe) things that are better suited, at least for me. But I am not comfortable with any equipment that is a "sometimes" thing. This gun had been "sometimes" from the box. It got better; then worse. Now, it's better than it was.

    I have little disillusionment regarding the recoil spring(s). I also think that a spare extractor might be handy. And an ejector.

    I think the grips will hold up, though :D .
     
  25. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Mags

    Cards wrote:

    >I don't think I've seen any 10+ 1911 mags that really worked properly.<

    The quick cure for those is to stick a standard 7-round follower and a Wolff extra-length/Extra-Power spring. I think they come with a couple extra turns to allow a trim to length operation. Might be three extra. I forget...but even standard length will do. It reduces the capacity by one round...but 9+1 is still pretty good.
    **************

    And:

    An old 'smith recommended that only 6 be kept in the mags for the 1943-model 1911.

    I still do it. The reason is simple. The two most likely places to have a misfeed is on the top round and the last. Maximum drag on the slide.(Top round) Minimum tension to time the round into position. (Last round) By carrying the gun as a 6+1, you're eliminating half of that...the most important half. More likely that you'll need the second round than the last round....and if you can't solve your problem with 7 rounds of .45 ACP, you'll not likely be able to handle it with 8 either.
     
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