Cocked and Locked?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by pokute, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    There's a little controversy over whether it's safe to carry a 1911 style pistol "Cocked and Locked".

    First of all, what is "Cocked and Locked"? Well, it's how the 1911 was designed to be carried - A round in the chamber, hammer at full cock, and the thumb safety engaged - Ready to fire at the drop of the thumb safety.

    However, a lot of folks RIGHTLY believe that this is unsafe. It is totally unsafe 99% of the time. Why? Because it assumes a PROPERLY FITTED thumb safety, hammer, and sear. A properly fitted thumb safety prevents even the slightest motion of the hammer and sear. And it is fitted so that it engages properly, not at a single point (how MOST are found to be fitted on inspection). The thumb safety must disengage without jarring the hammer and sear. The hammer and sear engagement must be correct, so that wear does not produce an unsafe condition. Only then is "Cocked and Locked" safe!

    A properly fitted 1911 is 100% reliable and safe in the hands of a trained operator. It will function properly with parts missing and parts replaced with pieces of wire, wood, whatever... But PROPERLY FITTED is the necessary starting point.

    Be safe!

    Here's a great pic showing the thumb safety engagement (not my pic):
     

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  2. Balota

    Balota Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Are there any pictures showing an IMPROPERLY fitted safety? Seems like a little wear and tear on the little ledge on the hammer would allow the hammer to slip past the safety. Are the two materials the same or are they different metallurgy (one softer than the other)?
     

  3. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    I'll get the metallurgy out of the way first, since it's not germane, and is easily described. Hammers and sears were formerly case hardened (if hardened at all), and are nowadays through-hardened. Relying on them to "wear in" is not safe practice. A smith will "boost the hammer" when fitting a hammer and sear, but this is not a practice that should be engaged in by the shooter in an attempt to modify the trigger feel. The thumb safety is relatively soft by design.

    What you see in the picture is the camming surface of the safety (the toe of the little baby-bootie in the pic) bearing on the bottom rear flat of the sear, forcing the engagement surface of the sear firmly into the hammer notch, preventing all movement.

    When things are not right, the camming surface of the safety and the rear surface of the sear do not meet squarely and/or snugly because the thumb safety was not correctly fitted (or has worn because it was fitted at an angle and only contacted the sear at a single point which has worn away), or the hammer and/or sear are not well fitted.

    It is difficult to show these small errors in a photo. It is however very easy to detect them:


    • Cock the hammer, apply the safety, and with the grip safety compressed, pull the trigger smartly a few times. The hammer should not move AT ALL. Release the thumb safety - The hammer should not fall.
    • Do the same, and then thumb the hammer spur firmly back and forth and side to side. Release the thumb safety - The hammer should not fall.
    • Cock the hammer, depress the grip safety and without engaging the thumb safety, thumb the hammer back and forth and side to side - The hammer should not fall.

    If the hammer falls to half-cock when any of these things are done, the gun is not safe, and requires service.


    By the way, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DROP-IN THUMB SAFETY. Because none of the parts that must be immobilized has significant compliance ("give", or flex), the thumb safety must be fitted with due care.



    Note that a match target pistol tuned for use by an experienced operator may not meet the safe criteria - Beware when handling any gun you are not familiar with!


    Properly fitted, a hammer, sear, and safety will last a hundred years. I'm not exaggerating. I've fired several 1911's over a hundred years old with all original internals (including springs, which I do NOT recommend!). Ditto for Lugers, by the way. A fine revolver has no defined life expectancy, 200 years being possible.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
  4. Balota

    Balota Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Good info, thanks. I think you're saying that if there is any wear it would tend to be on the softer part which is the safety (the part that fits under the ledge on the hammer.) Your descriptions of diagnostics are very clear. Wouldn't take a gunsmith to perform those tests. Very helpful.
     
  5. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    Yes, on a modern gun, the most likely thing to wear would be the safety. I have seen newly fitted safeties with a divot in them because they were filed at an angle and ran against the edge of the sear - A condition that only requires slight wear to become dangerous.

    Just to be clear about the safety - The thumb safety is the backwards comma shaped (or baby bootie shaped - toe facing right) thing in the center of the pic, and it bears on (cams against) the flat of the sear immediately to the right, forcing the sear nose into the hammer notch.

    Thanks for "vetting" the diagnostics. That was the really important part of the post, and I re-wrote them a couple times before I was mostly satisfied that they were usable.
     
  6. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    By the way, I have seen revolver hammers fall when they were pushed from the side with the thumb. And I can't say I've ever seen a shooter do that check.
     
  7. Balota

    Balota Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    OK, I feel stupid. I was thinking the part that fit under the ledge on the hammer was the safety. It isn't. The sear fits under the hammer. The safety obstructs the sear from being able to move out of the way of the hammer. Should have seen it from the big red letters on the photo, duh!

    Anyway, I will be checking my S&W 686 to see if side to side pressure on the hammer will release it.
     
  8. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    Don't feel stupid! It took me a ridiculous long time to figure out how it all worked. Even looking at the pictures with a 1911 on the table in front of you takes some major orienteering. I read Kuhnhausen over and over for two years before the whole mess *started* to become clear to me. The crazy complexity of two of the parts, the thumb safety and the disconnector, still make me wonder.

    The disco:
     

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  9. 45_acp_nut

    45_acp_nut Junior Member: Senior in years

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    Gives me a whole new respect for the genius of JM Browning.
     
  10. Geezer

    Geezer New Member

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    Anyone that owns a 1911 should learn to disassemble and reassemble it...without tools. Granted, some tools make it easier but the 1911 was designed to be worked on without tools. This is the first thing that I think of when someone shows their 1911 with those pretty allen head grip screws. I get it, they're most likely not going to be in a combat/field situation where they will need to remove the grips, but the slotted screws were originally put on there for a reason.
     
  11. Vin63

    Vin63 CH3NO2

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    Yep, the 1911 and BHP were designed to be carried in condition 1. I know some agencies (particularly the Israelis) prefer condition 3, and I understand their reasoning, but the pistols were designed to be carried in condition 1.
     
  12. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    Wellll, I agree in principle, but I draw the line at expecting folks to operate the magazine catch release with the left leg of the sear spring... Too much opportunity for disaster.
     
  13. Deadeye

    Deadeye New Member

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    Pokute, I just read your post on condition 1 carry. Thanks for the information! Is this an issues with Mil-Spec SA's?
     
  14. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    It's not an "issue", it's just a fact of life with the 1911. You need to check the ability of the thumb safety to prevent any motion of the hammer when pulling the trigger - every time you clean the gun. You also need to decide for yourself whether the thumb safety engages positively enough to prevent accidental disengagement.

    Hammer fall on slide release is a safety issue for the shooter. The gun will not fire with the hammer at half cock. You don't want to reload, drop the slide, pull the trigger... and have nothing happen.

    The 1911 is different from most guns (I am making an assumption here - In fact I know very little about the tupperguns that are made these days) because it is held together by the recoil spring. It requires good understanding of how the gun functions to be able to rely on it to save your life. I believe that Jeff Cooper made a point of it being a gun for experts. If you understand how it works, you can shoot a 1911 effectively with half the parts missing!
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2015
  15. Deadeye

    Deadeye New Member

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    Thanks for the quick response! I'm going to run my gun through the steps that you listed. I must admit that I also own, and like, a Glock 17. The 1911 has always been my first love, though.
     
  16. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    A 1911 with properly regulated sights and a properly tuned trigger is always going to be the yardstick that other pistols are measured against. After folks at the range shoot one of my 1911's, they look like they've shaken hands with Jesus.
     
  17. Deadeye

    Deadeye New Member

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    Wow. A religious experience. Does that make the 1911 the true Holy Grail?
     
  18. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    Certainly more likely to be than some dorky looking prop goblet.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Deadeye

    Deadeye New Member

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    And Mr. Browning, St. John the Designer? Or is that pushing it?
     
  20. pokute

    pokute Sincere as a $5 funeral

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    But, all kidding aside, when you start tossing around technical terms like "Holy Grail", well, I start thinking about my Freedom Arms Packer...