1911 Firing Pin Stops And Safeties

Critical components to getting any 1911 pistol right.

by RK Campbell

Recently I ran across a problem that hadn’t come into the shop in some time. A customer brought in a Philippine-produced 1911 with a firing pin stop that had fallen, ditching the firing pin and spring. This was a problem that must have came up pretty often with GI 1911 handguns. From Cooper on Handguns, Jeff Cooper noted that it was standard operating procedure to peen the firing pin stop of the 1911 before trusting the piece for service. He saw many more worn GI .45s than most of us ever will and the advice was well taken, though today such problems aren’t common.

An easy check isn’t always easy. The firing pin stop may be a bit wobbly and still work fine, just as an extractor can clock a bit and still work fine. This check is done by coming beneath the firing pin stop and attempting to move the stop just where the hammer moves against it. The extractor should also have some spring but not too much. If the parts were solidly in place it would be the devil to remove them for routine cleaning.

A tight fit is generally best. The firing pin doesn’t always launch when the firing pin stop drops, it simply is blocked by the firing pin stop and the stop doesn’t always fall completely out. Much depends on which part of the cycle the pistol is in when the firing pin stop falls away. A weak firing pin spring allows the dreaded bounce, the firing pin doesn’t return to its tunnel in the firing pin stop and the bounce in the slide allows a loose fitting stop to take flight. I believe debris such as brass or lead shavings working into the firing pin channel can also affect the firing pin’s travel and lead to the firing pin stop taking flight. A solid recommendation is to always maintain a strong firing pin spring. Firing pin blocks make the loss of the firing pin less likely.

Read more in our September 2014 issue. Back issues are available.

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