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Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:30 pm
Posts: 615
Location: Alabama

Post Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:50 pm 
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This is a compilation of information I learned from others, including Bob Rodgers, Pistolwrench, and log man.

It’s amazing how regularly we see threads started across the web asking, “Can I replace my trigger [or insert name of other firing-mechanism part], and if so, how?” If the poster is even asking this question, it's a pretty good clue that he knows very little about the inner workings of his pistol. When it comes to safety we're all in this together. We'd caution and correct any new shooter we saw doing something unsafe at the range. Even so, it's also amazing how often the originators of such threads take offense when cautioned not to try to learn to do trigger jobs without hands-on instruction. This board's about teaching and learning to safely work on our own guns. Sometimes, though, a poster's apparent knowledge level suggests that the appropriate advice to give him is, "Take your pistol to a smith." If he automatically takes offense when so cautioned, it only proves that he isn't equipped to work on his pistol's firing-mechanism and the choice of advice was therefore correct. Hopefully, the following will help folks who post here asking whether they can just drop in a new trigger with little understanding of the inner workings of their guns, and keep them and those around them a bit safer.

So, can you replace your trigger? If you can learn, then sure you can. Realize, though, that there are two, not just one, big steps to the process: you have to fit the trigger into the frame, and then you must make sure the gun still works correctly and safely. Installing the trigger into the frame is a pretty simple process, but making sure the pistol still works safely and reliably after the swap, though, requires a high degree of knowledge.

Here are some of the variables that that support this caution:

- All frames don't have the trigger track cut to the same depth (front to back)
- All receivers don't have sear and hammer holes cut in exactly the same place
- All hammers don't have their hooks located in the same place
- Sears don't all come in the same length
- Some sears come with uncut tips
- Sears that come with tips already cut aren't all cut the same way
- Springs must be prepped and precisely tensioned

With all that, and considering how the parts must interact and how little actual contact there is between the business areas of the sear tip and hammer hooks when the gun is cocked, you can see (hopefully) that there is no such thing as a firing-control component that can be dropped into any and every 1911 and safely function automatically. At least, that's how I see it.

Now, though, let's take it to the next level: trying to teach yourself to do a trigger job. I believe the only way that beginners can safely learn to do trigger jobs is by being taught by a competent instructor in the room with the student and the gun. That's because doing a trigger job requires that you not only deal with the dimensional variables I set out above, but also go further and modify the parts by hand. That is work of the most exacting sort in both knowledge and application, and it can't be taught with a quick forum post. For example, consider these instructions I heard during the Bob Rodgers class as we students worked on the firing mechanisms of our pistols (6 students under the constant supervision of one chief instructor and two assistant instructors, all three of whom were experienced pistolsmiths):

"No, you're not holding the stone in correct orientation with the part. Hold it like this. That way, you'll have the control you need."

"Okay, the smoke shows that you need to gain more contact on this area of sear and this area of this hammer hook. To start bringing that in, you'll need to apply a little English as you stone the sear, like this...."


My purpose is not to try to convince newbies that they can't learn enough to do a competent, safe trigger replacement but to get them to understand that doing so safely and competently is far from a drop-in job. To try to get that point across, I'm not going to try to describe each and every effect a new trigger might have inside the gun. That would take a book, a book I'm not qualified to write, and it's not necessary for my purpose, which is just to get folks to just think - to get newbies to see that they can’t just grab a different trigger, get it stuffed into the frame and assume that the gun is safe and reliable, AND to get others to realize that when we suggest to a newby that can jump right on in and do a trigger swap without our first inquiring further as to what kind of 1911 he has, and without giving him some important cautions, we are doing him and those around him a disservice at the very least. What follows should be plenty to get that point across. To do that, I'll focus on just one fact: Trigger-bows are not all the same length.

Image

Why does it matter that all triggers don't have the same length bows? Find the trigger stirrup in the graphic immediately above, and then in the one immediately below ...

Image

The back of the trigger stirrup is what "actuates" the fire-control system; when the gun is cocked, the disco leaf (center leaf) of the sear spring is holding the disco pad against the back of the trigger stirrup. When you start to take up the trigger slack, the stirrup moves back, taking the disco pad along with it, and you feel it stop when the disco pad reaches the sear feet (the end of primary takeup on the two-stage trigger). When you then pull the trigger further, the hammer drops. The hammer drops because by pulling the trigger further, the stirrup has pushed the disco pad back far enough for the disco pad to rotate the sear on its pin, pushing its nose forward and out from under the hammer hooks. All this is actuated by the trigger stirrup, and a trigger with a shorter or longer bow than the original trigger will put the trigger stirrup in a different place inside the gun than the original trigger did, which means that you have to check pretravel and overtravel after the swap, and if necessary adjust to get them correct. Failing to do so is very bad news - the gun may be unreliable, unsafe or both.

Pistolwrench has cautioned folks before that insufficient pre-travel and excessive over-travel can result in uncontrolled, full-auto fire! "The most common causes of this potentially deadly phenomena are excessive trigger overtravel and/or insufficient trigger pre-travel. ... It's not funny. It's potentially deadly. Not only to the shooter but to the innocents within range. Unexpected full auto fire is not controllable. The last few rounds might end up anywhere. Use your imagination as to the least desirable 'where'."

AND ... not only do you have to understand WHAT pre-travel and over-travel you should have, you must also know HOW TO ADJUST AND SET them, and the pre-travel and over-travel adjustment features are not the same on all triggers!

Image

Want even more? Okay. Let's say you know how to fit the trigger into the frame, how to set pretravel with the particular trigger you have, and how to set overtravel with the trigger you have. Good to go, right? Not in all cases. There's always a finite distance in which you have to have enough room for pretravel, for the fire-control parts to set, reset and work properly, and enough room for overtravel. What might you have to do if your trigger bow is so long that in your particular pistol it simply doesn't leave enough room for you to get enough pretravel?

Image

Again, this is not intended to cover every possible effect changing a trigger might have inside the gun. It's also not intended to suggest that folks can't learn to replace their triggers in a competent and safe manner. Rather, I hope this will just get first-timers to think - to realize that altering the fire-control system on a 1911 is advanced work, not a drop-in, and that includes changing triggers.

The entirety of this post on another forum explains this even better: http://forums.1911forum.com/showpost.php?p=2722908&postcount=53

So does the following additional caution by Pistolwrench: "Be careful! Understand the 1911 trigger system BEFORE trying your hand at a trigger job. If you are not completely familiar with the system and the ramifications of what you are about to do, then don't do it. I'm not attempting to discourage anyone from learning. But this is one area where 'learning from mistakes' can hurt others. If the danger was limited to the tinkerer, then we might allow Darwin to work his magic. We have seen recent posts where someone new to the 1911, and without the ability to even detail strip the pistol, are modifying the fire control components. Scary stuff!"

Best,
Jon

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Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:09 am
Posts: 140

Post Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:14 pm 
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Great post Jon!

I can't agree more with working under the eye of not just a 'smith, but a 1911 'smith.

Over the years I have come to know that there is a difference.

Like the old saying; Be careful of a man who owns one gun, he knows how to use it.
There's nothing like a 'smith who's heart and soul is in the 1911.

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Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:11 am
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Post Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:49 pm 
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Excellent tutorial. I have seen very little info posted on how you should safety check after performing trigger work. Dropping the slide to check for follow and how many times minimum before the next step, firing live ammo. How many rounds in the mag? How many mags fired before you can be satisfied it's safe to load a fully loaded 7,8, or 10 round mag? Since this is the most dangerous and final step it should be stressed more often than it is. Just my .02.........

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Joined: Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:09 am
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Post Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 1:45 am 
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Jon, something else you might want to add is the use of Quality parts. I can illustrate this with a story. Back when I first modified my Rock Island GI, I replaced the trigger with a Cylinder&Slide Videki type. Carefully checked bow-length and stirrup angle against the original, fitted the shoe, and set the trigger stop by turning in just til the hammer wouldn't drop, then backing out 1/2 turn and locking with Loctite. I then performed all the safety checks and the gun passed them all. I also installed a new Hammer(WC Value-Line, I know but it was a RIA), checked the fit with the sear, got equal contact on both sides. Did the safety checks, all went well. Put the gun together and went to the range. Started with one round in the mag, fired five times and went to two,same thing, then to four,same thing. Finally I was running full seven round magazines with no problems. Pull was a crisp 4 pounds, with a clean break and no overtravel. Oh, Pre-travel was .045.
I was happy for 150 rounds, on round 152 the gun went Full-Auto on me. Darned near lost my right index finger-tip(The saluting tip) when I slapped my right hand on my left wrist to control the gun, slide got it. While I was putting an emergency bandage on my finger my friend made sure the gun was cleared and cased and off we went to the Hospital. Next day, I called Arnel at Advanced Tactical and the gun went back. The problem? Believe it or not, the center leaf of the searspring lost tension. This caused the disconnect to stay up. Arnel replaced the searspring. When it got back I immediately replaced the RIA searspring with a new Colt spring.

Addendum; Arnel checked the work done while he had the gun, there was nothing amiss.

The gun now has over 15,000 trouble-free rounds through it with the same searspring. Quality parts can make a huge difference.

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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:14 am
Posts: 608
Location: Colorado

Post Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:26 am 
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I'm not understanding how the disco stayed up without tension on the center leaf spring. I thought the tension pushed it up, and losing tension would make it stay down.

??

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Post Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:34 pm 
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According to Arnel, the disconnect would not reset, it stayed up.

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Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:59 pm
Posts: 696

Post Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:53 pm 
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Dave Waits wrote:
According to Arnel, the disconnect would not reset, it stayed up.

Loss of tension would cause the disco to stay down, and not re-set. When up it is re-set. The slide forces the disco down effectively causing a disconnect. The sear spring pushes it up when the slide is in battery, and the cut in the slide gives room for it to rise.

LOG

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Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:38 am
Posts: 1982
Location: New Mexico

Post Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:07 am 
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Dave, Glad you survived it. As Log said, it would drop without tension. It would also stay down, precluding ammo dump. Based on what you said, I suspect inadvertant trigger bounce. The trigger and disco can ONLY cause the gun to ammo dump if working properly, yet improperly so.

1) If the sear breaks, It will only fire one round. If at all.The sear would Miss the fullcock and be captured by the halfcock. If it missed the halfcock, the hammer would follow the slide, not gaining enough momentum to impart the necessary energy to fire. If the sear broke at the trigger end, it would not be able to fire again because of lack of contact with the trigger even if it reset.

2) If the disco stuck up, (short middle finger of spring catching bottom edge of the disco) The gun would lock up or not re set. It would fire once and usually the spring would get under the disco, eliminating reset.

3) firing pin stuck. One shot only. protrusion from the breachface eliminates second round from feeding.

4) Trigger stuck. Can't happen. Needs movement to reset. If it resets, its "bouncing" and resetting. Maybe imperceptively so, but moving nonetheless.

I have chased "full auto" 1911 stories down for 25 years. Every single one came down to Improper trigger adjustment or bad sear hammer hook interface.

I saw one gun that had been so butchered in the name of competition, that merely flexing the trigger and magcatch fired it. I have seen many that the sear would catch the hammer hooks just enough to delay the hammer fall, bounce out, and fire again.Most ever was two shots. Sear and hammer hooks were toast. Could never get it to fire a third round...

I have yet to find a way to truly make the gun fire many shots with one pull of the trigger. May seem like it, but examination has always shown the system to be firing with a pull of the trigger for each shot. Maybe not the way intended, but always, reset and then another shot. Never seen a truly full auto 1911.
Piss poor work, Yes, Dangerous? you betcha.........Full auto? never seen it.

I think you received a placating answer, and true concern that you weren't hurt worse.

Glad it turned out ok.

CW

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Post Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:44 am 
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I may have misunderstood Arnel, anybody who's talked to him will tell you how easy it is. One heck of an Accent. However, the only thing that was changed was the spring. I do know he said reset was the problem. The part I probably misunderstood was the hanging up part. Again, I didn't touch the sear except to put it in my Armorers' Block to check the Hammer hooks and they were good. Both sides of the sear had equal wear on the check I made recently when I detail-stripped it and there is no sign of any fitting of the sear or the Hammer by Arnel. No other parts were changed Chuck. I don't think it was trigger-bounce because it's an Aluminum trigger. The method I used to test the trigger came from one of the Smiths on the 1911 forum and a post that you made. That's how I knew how much pre-travel it had. I also did the test where you pull the slide back with the trigger pulled back to halfcock, bring the slide back forward. Let the trigger go and listen for the click, passed that one too. Passed all the safety tests. I explained earlier how I did the trigger-stop. I do remember when I pulled the shot that went full-auto the trigger went light and it was off to the races.

Honestly, I don't see how the trigger could have come forward to bounce,when it went I pretty-much death-gripped the gun because I was scared and concerned. I wanted to control it. That's how my finger got sliced.

Don't know if you remember but, I posted the entire episode in the forum. I was looking for answers too. I got a few possibles, a lot of derision also. All I know is that, except for the Colt Searspring, it has the same internals now as it did when this occured. Counting the 150 I fired today, it's passed 16,000 rounds according to my shotbook without a problem.

Truthfully, I expected to be accused again of bad work when I posted on this thread and wasn't disappointed. No hard feelings though. I was only trying to make a point about the quality of parts. My skin is thick bud, 23-1/2 years in the military does that.

Here ya go! The cut goes from the pad all the way to the opposite upper corner of my finger,nail was torn off but regrew.
Image

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Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:38 am
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Location: New Mexico

Post Posted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 1:01 am 
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Dave, I hope you didn't take my post as doubting your word, Not the case. I believe every word. I just don't think the answer was correct.Not you.

The most I have ever seen a gun do was double. Every other circumstance was perceived as one thing, while turning out to be another. Every thing I've seen of you online has left no question in my mind as to your understanding and ability. I just think the RIGHT answer was different than what you were told. No slam to Arnel either.
Sometimes....shit happens, and we don't always get to the right answer.

Thats a nasty booger hook.....The other works good though, right? :shock: :shock: :lol:

CW

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