Sep 3, 2014

Issues Concerning the M1911 Firing Pin Stop, Firing Pin and Safeties

The firing pin stop is something that gun owners frequently fail to check in the M1911 pistols, especially important for those collector pieces from WWII. It is also tied in to the firing pin, extractor and safety mechanisms.
A tight fit is best. The firing pin stop may have minor wobble and still work okay as well as the extractor will clock a bit and still work. The extractor spring is also factored in because it must be solid, but not too solid. A weak firing pin spring makes a bounce in the slide. 
Brass or lead shavings can affect the firing pin travel as well, the importance of keeping your firearm clean – whether it be an M1911 or not. With strong firing pin spring and tight (but not too tight) firing pin stop, it makes a fine firing weapon thousands of rounds later.
One innovative firing stop available is made by Evolution Gun Works Inc. [EGW]. It is simple to fit and with little effort a tight fit. Make sure you order the correct firing pin stop for your make of pistol. Traditionally, the firing pin stop is radius, but some are beveled. When purchasing a new one you will most likely require a good file at least as wide as the stop, just breaking the edges in the fitting process. Too much and you will be ordering another part.
What makes the EGW so great is that it reduces recoil because of the way in which the hammer and slide operate combined with the way the firing pin stop uses the “mechanical advantage”. The mechanical process shifts from the slide to the mainspring, which results in reduced recoil. Once in a while a M1911 will swipe the primer and leave a drag mark instead of a round strike. The EGW firing pin stop reduces the chance of that happening because of its mechanical process. The firing pin stop is oversized in width, but not thickness, so the fit is truly custom when only a few passes of a file makes good fitting.
Extractor, Firing Pin, Firing Pin Spring, Firing Pin Stop - Springfield
The firing pin stop holds the extractor, so if the pistol fires erratically or has wide ejection, it most likely is the extractor or the firing pin stop. Sometimes the firing pin stop causes the clocking of the extractor as well.
The firing pin block reduces the chance of losing the firing pin because the block butts into the firing pin when the trigger is released. Thus the makers incorporate the firing pin block into the design of the firing pin stop.
There are several types, the most common being the Colt Series 80, used by Colt, SIG, and others. The firing pin block fits into a notch in the firing pin body and prevents the firing pin from running forward if the pistol is dropped on its muzzle. In the early period of 1911s, this was one of the complaints that caused a serious safety issue. Thus, it is advised to never remove the drop safety from a pistol.
S&W 1911SC - E Series
The Swartz block is used on the Kimber II series and Smith & Wesson 1911 handguns. The Swartz block does not connect to the trigger and activated by the grip safety. The problem with the design is depressing the grip safety prevents removing the slide. With the grip safety depressed the firing pin block pin contacts the firing pin. Too much force against the slide while holding the handle and the pin will shear. In effect, grip safety timing and the Swartz block has created issues, where the hammer falls but it does not fire. This problem is not prevalent, but must be kept in mind if you plan on a trigger job or work with the grip safety on this type of pistol.
Springfield M1911s use a lightweight .38 Super style of firing pin, but the firing pin spring is powerful; which is a means to address the drop safety issue. However, a lightweight firing pin has less inertia than a standard weight firing pin. The lightweight firing pin is less likely to run forward, especially with a strong firing pin spring. Caspian and Ed Brown 825s use this system. Keep in mind that not every Springfield uses the smaller 0.069-inch diameter firing pin, so if changing it out make sure you have the correct pin.
A loose firing pin stop and firing pin (usually the combination of the two) will possibly cause accidental discharge. Reason is the firing pin stop moves up rather than down and the firing pin gets stuck up and in a bind, unable to return to the hole in the firing pin stop. The result is the firing pin is protruding from the firing pin channel. This is also a testament concerning firearm handling safety – always pointing it in a safe direction in case of unexpected discharge. This scenario is not a common cause of accidental discharge – most often it is because of shooter negligence; but you can see the importance of proper firing pin stop and firing pin fitting.
When checking your firearm, make sure the firing pin is locked when necessary and releases when it is suppose to. First, remove the magazine and be certain the pistol is unloaded by racking the slide, clearing the chamber, and locking the slide to the rear. Lower the slide and leave the hammer cocked. Take a punch [or pen] and press on the firing pin to make sure that it is locked as it should be. Be certain the punch is in solid contact with the firing pin, not the firing pin stop. There is movement but not enough to allow the firing pin to protrude from the firing pin channel. To check for proper unlock when the trigger is pressed, retain the hammer in the full cock position and press the trigger while depressing the grip safety. Once the trigger is pressed to the rear, release the grip safety but not the hammer. Press the firing pin forward.
The firing pin should move freely and protrude from the firing pin channel. If the firing pin does not move or there is a click or binding as it goes over the grip safety see your local gunsmith.
An adjustable trigger or a trigger stop may also retard the trigger travel so the firing pin block will not release. The firing pin may even strike the firing pin stop, but that situation is problematic. This could happen with botched, improper trigger jobs – most often with DIY jobs. 
Departing Tip: Whenever you clean and/or do maintenance on your firearms – always perform a functions check; usually described in detail in your firearm manual.
M1911s do not deserve the bad rap they have received, mostly from Glock fans. The only real drawback of a M1911 is that it is single action and this deters people from wanting it as a conceal carry firearm because in order for quick draw use, the hammer must be cocked full after sliding a round in the chamber and then rely on the safety to prevent hammer fall. However, it has two safeties – one engaged with the thumb and the other in the grip, making it non-firing without depressing the grip. This is the major difference between the double action and single action.

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