For a while now, my STI has been running pretty rough. Failures to feed and eject have been turning range sessions with it into a lesson in how to say lots of bad words in very creative different ways. Being a 1911 guy, you have to accept that you may have to work on your pistol, or have a smith work on it from time to time. So let's tear this piece of shit apart, and see what we can do!
step 1: have an assistant
For moral support, I like to enlist my extraordinarily large cat Dachande to accompany me whenever I do projects. Other than help to lower my blood pressure, he has turned out to be pretty handy to have around when small parts go flying. He flies to them like a beacon and helps me find where they fly off to. Other times though, he just lays there sleeping.
step 2: disassembly
Remove your slide from the frame. Remove the barrel and recoil spring assembly. Before you do this, make sure that the pistol is empty, if not you may end up putting a .451 hole somewhere that you did not want one.
step 3: measure extractor tension
Per the excellent 1911 Shop Manual Volume 1, extractor tension should be between 3.5-4 pounds. You measure it by using a 1911 Extractor Tension Gage, along with a trigger pull gauge. Now, some of you (like me), may not have an Extractor Tension Gage. Being from Elko County, give me some bailing wire, duct tape, and a hammer and I will either fix it, make it better, or knock it up. So let's make an Extractor Tension Gage!
Step 4: Make an extractor tension gage
Now, if you have an ETG, by all means, use it. But, if like me you don't, you can get creative. Essentially you just need something that slides between the breachface and extractor, so that you can attach your trigger pull gauge and measure the force it takes to remove it from the extractor. So let's use some simple things to make one! You will need:
- Empty casing
- Fishing Line
- Drill with small drill bit
First, drill two small holes in the casing so that you may pass the fishing line through. It should end up like this:
Now, let's tie the fishing line to a keyring, and seat a projectile. Your finished product should come out something like this. And it only cost about a dime.
Step 3/5: measure extractor tension
Slide your ETG between the breachface and the extractor, with the fishing line facing down. Using your trigger pull gauge, measure your extractor tension.
Annnnnnd, that looks to be a problem. Too little extractor tension and the round will not be under control during chambering, and the extractor will not have sufficient tension to reliably extract the spent casing.
Step 6: Adjust extractor tension
They do make a tool to do this, but common practice is to just bend the extractor by hand, forward of the extractor mid alignment guide. So to do this, we need to remove the extractor. To do this, you will use a punch to press the firing pin in, and slide the firing pin stop down. Be careful while doing so, as the firing pin is under tension and it could fly out. This is where your cat assistant could come in very handy!
Once you have the Firing Pin Stop and firing pin out, use the edge of your punch to pull out your extractor. Now set it aside.
Now, lightly bend the extractor to achieve proper tension, Bend it towards the extractor hook is you need more tension, or away if you need less. To do so I use a vise, just like this.
This is high grade spring steel, so it is pretty hard to bend. Even so, go slowly, reassemble, and take measurement again.
Step 7: retest tension
After the first tweaking it had increased by a pound, but still needed a bit more tension. So go ahead and repeat Step 6 until you achieve the desired result.
After a few more tries, I had it right at nearly 4 pounds, which was good enough for me. Go ahead and take a live round and slide it between the breachface and extractor. You can feel how much more secure the round is held. In my case, when I started my extractor was holding a live round about as well as a 93 year old man holds an erection. Now it holds the round tightly to the breachface, without any wobble.
Step 8: ????? profit!
Now you are ready for a range test to make sure your tweaking worked for you. Unfortunately I cannot fire a mag out my front or rear door, so I cycled a magazine of live rounds through it, and it fed and extracted very consistently. Soon enough I will have it to the range to make sure all is well.