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1911 intermittent light/nonexistent primer strike

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by patrolman, Mar 22, 2008.

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  1. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    hi y'all

    took my 1911 to the range today and fired the first hundred rounds through it. out of 100 rounds, I had 19 failures to ignite the primer. most of the failures to ignite were mid-magazine, around the 4th through 6th round of an 8-round mag. I inspected the rounds that failed to ignite and noticed either very light or nonexistent contact with the firing pin. manually recocking the hammer and pulling the trigger after a failure to ignite did not produce ignition. the only way I could get the rounds to fire was to replace the round in the magazine and recharge the pistol. I inspected all the ammo and the firing pin strikes were more or less dead-center on the primer.

    Here's what I have for ignition parts that concern firing pin travel:
    ed brown steel firing pin 9mm/38 super
    wilson combat extra power firing pin spring
    svi/infinity low-mass hammer
    cylinder and slide hammer strut
    standard power mainspring

    I suspect that the hammer may not be striking the firing pin with enough energy to overcome the firing pin spring, but I'm not sure. any thoughts to troubleshoot this issue?

    thanks in advance for any help.
     
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Sounds about right.

    Put a standard FP spring in it and see what it does.

    They (XP FP springs) are at about the lower limit of reliability with a standard hammer and hard primers. By the time the inertia FP has overcome the XP spring, it is about out of inertia to set off the primer.

    If that doesn't fix it try different ammo.

    rcmodel
     
  3. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    Colt Series 80?
    Kimber Series II?
    Taurus?
    ParaOrdnance?
    Anyone replace the trigger lately?
    US brand factory ammo?

    Good info begets good answers.

    ;)
     
  4. BBBBill

    BBBBill Member

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    When Chuck (RogersPrecision) speaks, wise men listen. He will not steer you wrong.
     
  5. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    Amen, BBBBill... have learned immeasurably from Chuck's previous posts.

    It's a Fusion Firearms pistol, 45 acp. Internal parts, including trigger, were owner-installed (me). It does not have a firing pin safety or a Schwartz-type safety. The ammo used was Winchester white box 230 FMJ. Ammo from the same lot has been 100% in my other pistol, so I'm not inclined to blame the ammo.

    rcmodel and chuck, hope this is the extra information y'all were looking for.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2008
  6. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    I still think the first thing to rule out is the extra-power FP spring.

    Put a standard Colt FP spring in it and see if it works.

    Measure the firing pin and see if it is between 2.290" and 2.296" long.

    Series 80 pins are usually .030" shorter, and may not work with a low mass hammer and/or a EP FP spring.

    If not that, I'd probably try a Colt hammer strut next.

    rcmodel
     
  7. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    Clew!
     
  8. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    +1 on the Clew!
    I was figuring if he's gonna use it, he's gonna have to work around it by getting rid of the XP FP spring, and what might possibly be a weird hammer strut slowing things down.

    rcmodel
     
  9. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Member

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    I wonder about the difference between thumb cocking and cycling?

    I wonder about the difference between thumb cocking and cycling? I'd be very interested to hear from one of the real experts in this thread.

    One possible explanation is that the cartridge is headspacing loosely on the extractor and the firing pin is driving the cartridge deeper into the chamber rather than firing the primer - somewhat after the manner of seating a high primer which produces similar failures but once seated will often fire normally on a restrike.

    Some difference in feeding might be related to the mid-magazine failures which I suppose might be purely coincidental just as likely.

    Easy enough to fit a cartridge into the chamber with the barrel out of the pistol for some indication. How does the pistol pencil test? Equally easy to check firing pin protrusion and for a peened firing pin - more commonly seen with titanium of course I don't know of a case with steel - that might be dragging.

    Are the original stock parts on hand as shipped by Fusion and unmodified on hand? I gather but it's not really said that the hammer only was replaced with the original sear rather than a hammer and sear combination? If possible replacing with all stock parts and if that combination works then proceeding one change at a time so far as possible works.

    But again there are some world class experts on this thread who've done some issue spotting and I'm not one of them.

    With that high a failure rate I'd expect improvements to be pretty obvious pretty quickly.
     
  10. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    hi clark,

    before i fired the pistol, i pencil-tested ~25 times and the pencil ejected every time. i suspect, however, that the energy required to propel a pencil by the relatively springy eraser is less than that required to detonate a primer, but I don't know for sure. unfortunately, there are no original parts with which to test against the ones installed... all the original parts were owner-installed (me). it appears that everyone who has posted are pretty much in agreement that the low-mass hammer (clew!- thanks tuner) may be the prime suspect. paid a pretty penny for that darn hammer, mainly because it had already been "prepped" (sorta). compared the hammer strut I'm using (cylinder and slide) against Kuhnhausen's drawings and it doesn't appear to be "weird" or out of spec. I am using a 23 lb. mainspring to propel a steel hammer strut and the low-mass hammer. I've heard elsewhere that titanium hammer struts, due to their lighter weight, may drop the hammer a touch faster, thus delivering more energy to the firing pin. y'all think a titanium hammer strut coupled with a standard firing pin spring (as opposed to an extra-power) may help, or should I replace the hammer with a heavier model and chalk up the lost money on the lightweight hammer to learning experience?
     
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Again, take out the Extra-Power FP Spring and try it with a standard spring.

    That's what I suggested you do in the first place yesterday.

    rcmodel
     
  12. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I'm not sure I blame your hammer. Frankly I have no use for that sort of thing, but the fact is years ago at Camp Perry some competitors lightened their conventional hammers by cutting off the spur and making the back flush with the slide. I don't know that they gained anything, but their guns did go off when they pulled the trigger.

    Since there isn't a lawyer-lock blocking the firing pin I would tend to suspect the firing pin itself, or the firing pin spring. You might try a heavier hammer spring just for grins...

    This is improbable, but one time an individual brought me his pistol with complaints about light hits. I looked high and low without finding anything until I finely disassembled the mainspring housing. It was at this point I discovered that the mainspring housing pin retainer was missing (!). A long shot, but check anyway.
     
  13. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Member

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    Before I started buying titanium parts - as opposed to using parts on hand - I'd go with the firing pin spring by itself - is the "other pistol" a 1911? then try some of the other tests suggested. Perhaps a detail strip will reveal something? Inquiring minds want to know.

    emphasis added

    Some people calibrate their pencil test often by shooting the pencil straight up against a known good. Depends if anybody will object to marks on the ceiling but for sure if the pencil misses the ceiling by a mile then the pistol fails the pencil test in my book.

    The world is full of truly oddball possibilities - zebras vs. horses - including a cracked firing pin stop that can both absorb energy from the hammer and again bind the firing pin.

    I've always thought brisance was the thing with primers and a light quick hit to be as good as a Mauser 98 firing pin - except when the firing pin has to move things around and then fire the primer. Neither energy nor momentum neither foot pounds nor pounds feet really but how it is applied.
     
  14. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    rcmodel,
    will retain all current parts and swap out for a standard FP spring and retest with 100 rounds next weekend.

    fuff,
    mainspring retainer pin is in place and functional. great tip, never would have thought of that...

    clark,
    my other pistol is a Kimber Custom Classic bought in 1999, pre-Series II. has shot the ammo I am currently using flawlessly.

    all,
    thanks for the troubleshooting information. I'm learning alot from ya. will see if the standard FP spring will correct the failure to ignite issues. if I experience the same problem, can I holler back at y'all?
     
  15. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Member

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    Could weight the hammer with solder?

    Could even wrap some solder around the hammer - or pack with pure lead round ball and pound on it or anything handy - to bring the mass up -

    have you considered the Cylinder and Slide Warp Speed Hammer as something pricey to try next? :D
     
  16. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I have always thought the 1911 was remarkably tolerant of non-standard springs throughout. I have had zero misfires in a gun with a 17 lb mainspring and a Wolff extra power firing pin spring.

    I would check for a "dead" hammer. Can you start the hammer back even a little with no resistance; indicating a short strut or a deep mainspring cap?

    Is there a mark in the groove down the middle of the grip safety; indicating that the strut is striking there and sapping power from the hammer fall?

    Is the Fusion slide drilled for a .38 firing pin even though in .45 caliber?

    Does the head of the firing pin protrude a bit from the firing pin stop so as to get whacked? Every time? Is the firing pin stop loose in its track, depending on the firing pin spring to hold it up? Does the firing pin protrude a lot when pushed forward?

    I'll let you know if I think of anything else to check for. If the ammo fires in another gun, then it is the gun at fault.
     
  17. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    Clark,
    My recent building/rebuilding experience is starting to convince me that expensive equates to unreliable… just for fun looked at the C&S warp speed hammer and noticed that it is even lighter than the Infinity that I’m dealing with right now. I suspect that the warp speed hammer will likely cause “warp speed” misfires. “warp speed” is probably the wrong speed for me at this juncture.;)

    Jim,
    The hammer starts back with resistance comparable to my Kimber. No marks on the grip safety relief for the hammer strut. The slide is drilled for a .38 firing pin, so that’s what I’m using. I do have firing pin protrusion through the firing pin stop. The stop itself is fairly tight in the groove, so it doesn’t fall out when the firing pin is not installed. How much firing pin protrusion out of the breechface would be considered excessive, so I know what to gauge against?

    Thanks again, y’all, for all the troubleshooting tips.
     
  18. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Trick question, the firing pin protrusion on a 1911 is uncontrolled, it goes forward until stopped by the primer or by the firing pin spring. I have seen a S80 firing pin stuck protruding a good quarter inch as the firing pin obstruction dragged when dryfired.
     
  19. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Not necessarily, but departure from the original design and specifications can be. This is not to say you can’t change the shape of a part, such as the currently popular “duck-butt” grip safety’s horn, but changing springs or the weight of the hammer can lead to grief. So can a tapered or shallow firing pin hole, or a firing pin that doesn’t properly protrude because the spring is fully compressed before the pin has gone far enough to fully impact the primer.

    Part of the problem is that 1911 platform pistols are no longer made to anyone’s standard blueprints, and that includes the ones the military services used. This situation is aggravated by the fact that most makers don’t make anything – they buy the parts for outside vendors, and neither may have a viable inspection system. Given this every-man-for-himself manufacturing environment it becomes especially difficult to trouble shoot over the Internet unless the cause of a problem is obvious, and in this case it isn’t. :uhoh:

    Lock the slide back, and push on the back end of the firing pin with a small punch to make sure it is moving freely, and the front end should stick out about 3/16” to ¼”. The exact distance doesn’t matter so long as it does stick out.

    Look at the sides of the hammer for scuff marks, indicating that the hammer if floating off center enough to hit the slide, and in so doing not striking the firing pin a full blow.

    Remove the mainspring assembly from the mainspring housing to be sure the hole in the housing isn’t too tight for the spring. This is nit picking, but I’m getting desperate… ;)
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2008
  20. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

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    The issue is usually straying too far from original design specs on a part within a group or sub-assembly...which the "Warp Speed" hammer qualifies for...without changing other related parts that can be affected by the suspect part.

    Light hammers...less mass...generally require lighter firing pin springs and firing pins.

    When you start reducing mainspring strength as well...you're also sailing into uncharted waters.

    The original hammers had wide spurs, and were heavy enough to insure reliable ignition even with a badly worn mainspring. The switch to narrow hammers still provided enough mass, but didn't leave quite as much wiggle room for the mainspring.

    An old engineering dictum states:

    "When you change one thing, you normally have to change three other things to compensate for the first."

    I've found this to be pretty much spot on in the largest majority of examples.

    Bottom line:

    If you want a racegun...build a racegun from the ground up instead of trying to use racegun parts in a stocker. There's more to it than just the looks.
     
  21. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Jim Watson said:
    See if you have at least .030" - .040" FP protrusion out the back of the firing pin stop.
    If it's less, it isn't getting smacked hard & long enough before the hammer impacts the FP stop.

    This whole thing is a real puzzlement to me.
    We used to build a ton of wad-cutter match guns with very light hammers while I was with 5th. Army AMU.

    As much as 25% of the spur width ground off on each side, and then drilled what was left full of lightening holes.
    And we never had a hint of a mis-fire problem.

    It just seems it has to be something else, in conjunction with the speed-hammer causing this.

    rcmodel
     
  22. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Member

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    Proceeding on my path of try the cheap thing first even it's not the most likely

    I'd mount the hammer and sear on the outside of the frame - with the actual pins loose or the Brownell pin set or punches as convenient, though I might weight the results according to which pin set I used; and I suppose this was done in the first place in the original assembly? - and look critically at how things line up - thinking that the frame holes might not be straight across - see above for wear signs of a cocked hammer - or if straight across might be in the wrong place - or the hammer might be misshapen in the pin hole or in the face - so the arc and the hammer face don't match up for a square blow. A wobble someplace might be related to the difference between a hand cocked restrike and a slide cycled restrike but the parts under tension should position themselves consistently.

    Firing pin, spring and tunnel all looking good and square to the hammer face as well?

    It hasn't been said but I take it that out of 100 cartridges 19 were light to very light strikes - anything specific? very light eyeball comparable to an AR float that hits the primer and that does not fire frex - and 81 that fired were normal depth and well centered with no particular firing pin drag.

    Be nice to have a theory that accounts for all the evidence including the mid magazine nature of the failures and the failure to fire on a restrike - or an experimental confirmation that those symptoms don't hold up on a retest.

    While I hold no brief for modifications from Browning's thoughts, at least for a carry gun - though I have to my eternal shame used a rounded follower with no dimple :) in 5 shot wadcutter magazines for a wadcutter gun; a purely youthful indiscretion of 40 years ago - just the same I find a 20% failure rate flat astounding without something drastic - if not obvious - to account for it.
     
  23. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    may be onto something here...

    ok folks,

    just procured a standard power firing pin spring and, necessarily, had to take the pistol apart to install it. then I noticed something I hadn't seen before. it appears that the face of the hammer is wearing principally on one side. I realize these wear marks are due to the firing pin stop sliding across the hammer face during recoil, but some reverse logic may apply here, maybe? please refer to the pics below and I apologize for the sketchy image quality. i highlighted in red the wear marks on the second pic. i'm surmising that this would indicate that the hammer face and the firing pin stop are not making even contact across their facing surfaces. would this be a cause for the light primer strikes?
     

    Attached Files:

  24. ClarkEMyers

    ClarkEMyers Member

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    Pictures are nothing but pixelated for me even zoomed to full screen.

    I currently understand the pistol has only the 100 cartridges since new with possibly some dryfiring?

    Is there a nice clear full circle mark from the firing pin on the hammer?

    Dykem or layout blue of your choice, or inletting black, or lipstick on the hammer or on the firing pin should give a nice clear full circle mark on the hammer and/or on the firing pin. Then reverse the process

    How's the wear on the bottom of the slide - disconnector rail?

    See also the many and varied discussions of chamfering the bottom of the firing pin stop for some discussion of how the firing pin stop moves the hammer back.
     
  25. patrolman

    patrolman Member

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    clark,

    yes. pistol has 100 rounds through it along with dryfire. the hammer face does have a full mark from the firing pin. there is even wear on the disconnector rail, but i also noticed that a very slight burr has kicked up at the very end of the disconnector rail where it first impacts the hammer face.
     
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