Picture This: 1911 Malfunctions Primer

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Love them or hate them, the prolific 1911 has garnered (an often undeserved) reputation for poor reliability. For those who may be new to the platform or an experienced shooter brushing up on their platform knowledge, Modern Service Weapons has posted a detailed overview of 1911 failure methods.

Failure to Extract, commonly known as "The Double Feed"

Failure to Extract, commonly known as “The Double Feed”

Hilton Yam covers the full gamut of malfunctions including failure to eject, failure to extract in pictured detail. On top of the great photos, MSW offers the likely cause of each malfunction so the shooter can troubleshoot. For a visual person such as myself, this is a great primer to better understand the platform and build a base to ensure I can pull the most out of it.

"High Angle" malfunction, or the "Bolt over Base"

“High Angle” malfunction, or the “Bolt over Base”

 

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Nathan S.

TFB’s newest resident Jarhead, Nathan is currently working in the Defense industry in international sales. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, bull-pups, and high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries in the last three years working with US DoD & foreign MoDs. You will likely find him either in an international airport or on the local range in NE Indiana.

Nathan can be reached at [email protected]



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  • usmcmailman

    The best way to prevent jamming is to buy a Colt to begin with, not a Kimber !

    • Ryan

      except that the first picture is of a Sig Sauer…

      • Matt

        And an old one at that. They redid the ejection port geometry on the newer ones.

        • 1911a145acp

          Yes, the scallop relief cut on the ejection port on my Stainless Rail is MUCH SHARPER than my old Tac Ops

          • Matt

            My Scorpion came from the factory with an ejection port like that one. Sent it in to replace a loose ejector, got it back with a new ejector, a redone ejection port and a re-Ceracoted slide, no charge to me.

          • 1911a145acp

            Glad to hear they took care of the issue. One of the reasons I went with Stainless on this one. I have been cutting and grinding and bead blasting …a lot!

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Because brand loyalty is something to be proud of… :/

    • Sulaco

      I don’t know I had an alloy Colt LW Commander that would not feed HP to save its life and as it was an alloy modifiying the throat was out.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        I carry a Colt LW Commander and to the best of my memory it’s never malfunctioned..
        I shoot several times a week except this time of year. It’s had thousands of rounds through it.
        I clean it on the weekend after shooting several times during the week,

        • Sulaco

          Well since there is no difference, I will trade you guns sight unseen….

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            LOL—nah don’t think so. I have mine just like I like em:-)

          • Sulaco

            Finally gave up and got a Browning HP in .40, never a bobble and far more accurate then the Colt ever was….Sigh. There is just something about the name Colt though…

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            That there is. The Colt name carries a lot of history behind it. I really enjoy the Hi Power as well.
            At least I know my Colt doesn’t have any MIM or other cheap parts! Of course neither does the HP.

          • FourString

            I want a 1911 and HP one day. Nothing wrong with poly vunder nines like the USP but man do steel guns have an unmistakable aura to them. :D

    • n0truscotsman

      The best way to “minimize” jamming is to take a 1911s armorers course, buy the respective tools for repairing/modifying it, and learn the ins and outs of the entire platform before you spend your money on one.

    • supergun

      At one time Kimbers were made by a company called BUL out of Israel. Those were some fine 1911s. Kimber and BUL had a falling out. Kimbers not so good anymore. Magnum Research hooked up with BUL and they make the 1911 Desert Eagle 45acp. Looks like a Kimber. Looks better than a Kimber. Out shoots a Kimber. Very nice 1911 for $700 -$800. Tack driver.

  • Icer

    I plan on getting rid of my Springfield sometime soon in order to upgrade to a Sig or a Para. At that the only issues I’ve had with my Springfield are feeding issues that stem from an aftermarket magazine.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      “I hear the only issues are with magazines”

      Said by SOMEONE about literally every 1911 from every mfg that’s ever turned one out. I’ve seen two $3500 nighthawks used by two different big name instructors both fail to feed, the excuse is always magazines.

      For arguments sake… What is so amazing about X or Y gun if there seems to be no magazine that allows for excellent reliability?

      1911 is a classic design and of massive historical significance. But that’s about all. Anyone carrying it over 100 years later has their head stuck in the sand compared to more modern designs. The M&P45, HK45, Glock 21SF, etc, they’re just better guns.

      Soon to chime in is the “expert” that claims that the USMC wouldn’t have recently picked the 1911 if it wasn’t the bestest. I’ll just stub that argument off with A. COLT B. The mil doesn’t pick the “best” it’s highly political. C. The 1911′s history absolutely played into that pick, if the 1911 was debuted today along side the other options it wouldn’t be given a scone glance.

      IMO, the 1911 either makes the statement that you appreciate history, you want to look cool, or that you’re a tool that belives everything you read online. It’s hard to tell at first with some people.

      • Icer

        That’s not hearsay with my Springfield. My aftermarket mag, when it has a failure-to-feed, does it on the 7th round. My factory magazine does not have these issues.

        So yes, in this case I do believe that it is a magazine issue and not a gun issue.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Way to miss the point and just be another voice saying “Oh, but X mag “totally” works in my Y gun”.

          “Oh Wilson mags are great in my gun”… “Oh well, Wilson works well if it’s their new design”… “Oh well I only get failure to feed when I load 8 rounds in on a closed slide”… “Oh well the Wilson works well loaded at seven rounds but not with Z brand ammo”… “Oh well, Z brand ammo works well with the Wilson mag if loaded to 6 rounds but not when it’s really hot out”… “Oh well, Wilson makes a good mag, but I only keep half of the ones I buy because my gun likes them better, I put 200 rounds down each mag to make sure it’s going to work, then sell the rest”…

          Yea… Sounds like a winner! Seriously, the real-world 1911 (not the fantasy design people think they are getting) actually makes a case for a revolver!

          Remind me, how many sites are there that show the multiple failures and reasons specifically for the M&P45? How many people talk about M&P45 and HK45 being less reliable designs than the 1911?

          This is such a non-argument it’s not even close to funny. I’m going to expose a little secret… The 1911 is popular because it’s was a turning point design, it’s got history, it’s a good looking firearm esp compared to other turn of the century designs… But the REAL reason it’s popular esp right now… Any asshole with a CNC can make one. It’s a money maker. They’re simple designs, they’re royalty free, there are 100 years of tweaks that are freely available. You can make race guns or expensive custom fashion pieces from them, you can market to the high-class snob, or to jimmy bob, they can be serious looking military themed or dehorned carry guns. They’re unique in that they are so common…. But they don’t run like a gun that’s 100 years newer and never will.

          It’s a cash crop, not an end-all-be-all firearm.

          • JohnW

            I love my Hi-Point 45. Big and ugly but shoots straight, is totally reliable and costs $140 brand new. I own plenty of glocks and sigs and class 3, so I’m no gun snob. Hi-point 45 are terrific for the money.

          • 1911a145acp

            I’m sorry, how many times has an M&P 45acp or HK USP 45acp -
            won the IPSC World Cup? USPSA Nationals? Camp Perry? Cause I missed that. Guess the manufacturers are keeping that quiet.

          • Dolly

            I’m sorry, how many of those competition have rules and divisions specifically set up just to cater to the 1911? All of them you say? Well, how about that.

          • 1911a145acp

            IPSC International Practical Shooting Confederation in Europe is dominated by CZ-75 type guns because that is who the sponsors are.The are no 1911 manufactures in Europe that I am aware of. IDPA- International Defensive Pistol Assc has divisions to limit shooters to a type of gun or capacity of rounds to keep equipment costs down and prevent what happened in IPSC- which was an expensive equipment and cost race dominated for the last 30 years by 1911 platforms in the Open Class.The STI 2011 still dominates nearly all classes in IPSC, USPSA,Steel Challenge etc. the 1911 platform still dominates Camp Perry and the Bianchi Cup. How about that…..

          • FourString

            There are some nice CZ’s. IPSC is often shot with Sphinx pistols because they’re some sweet pistols. http://youtu.be/mvSfYpT1DBg

            Since the slide rides within the frame, that helps with accuracy and reliability, since you can get some tight tolerances without affecting the reliability, at least, that’s what I’m guessing

          • Nathan

            Every competition Eric Grauffel enters is won with a Tanfoglio CZ 75 clone, so how about that.

          • 1911a145acp

            Absolutely not true as I have seen him win several with a stock GLOCK. Eric Grauffel is one of the most talented shooters in the world. If he shoots a GLOCK well- he will shoot a CZ type gun better. If he shoots a CZ well he will likely shoot a 1911 type better still. Tell me all about it after you have had 25 years experience with all three platforms.

          • FourString

            “Any asshole with a CNC” I lol’ed

      • Christopher

        You forgot D. Bid Rigging.

      • ColaBox

        The USMC switched to the 1911 because it has a nearly flawless service record and 9mm sucks compared to .45. Not that im a fan of the gun, I think it needs a major internal update, but over 100 years of kick ass says something.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Well thanks for playing your part.

        • Marc

          They didn’t switch anything, they just replaced other 1911s that were still in service. The M9 remains the standard sidearm of the USMC.

      • J.T.

        I think one of the big problems with modern 1911s is that so much has changed when compared to the old military ones from the first half of the 20th century. They are building them to much tighter tolerances and trying to feed hollow points in a gun that was only designed to use ball ammo. The modern ones that seem to work best usually are the ones that are closest to the original design and aren’t built to insanely tight tolerances.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Agreed. It’s been my experience you can get utterly reliable, or utterly accurate 1911s. Not both.

          • 1911a145acp

            How utterly accurate do you need it to be Jump? In your….. experience, I mean….

          • JumpIf NotZero

            I don’t pretend to confuse the mechanical accuracy of a gun with my personal practical accuracy (or worse yet, the practical accuracy of the yahoos I see in classes or at ranges shooting 1911s). The 1911 is easy to shoot, no doubt. Because of the mass and of the trigger, it’s a natural gun to customize for competition, when you do so you lose the famed military reliability.

            People look at the 1911A1 and think that’s a fine reliable gun, and it is. But it’s not all that accurate. It’s a trade off with reliability. By tightening the tolerances of the 1911A1 to get better accuracy, it’s just going to be more picky on magazines, ammo, dirt, grip, mating parts, lube, etc.

            How accurate do I personally need a gun to be? About 1911A1 accurate, about any factory polymer striker fired gun accurate, so if both of those meet my needs, I think the ones that are lighter, smaller, absolutely more reliable, cheaper, easier to manipulate and hold more rounds for about similar width is the direction I’d lean.

          • 1911a145acp

            From the original 1911 U.S. ARMY CORPS “Torture tests”-Browning was determined to prove the superiority of his handgun, so he went to Hartford to personally supervise the production of the gun. There he met Fred Moore, a young Colt employee with whom he worked in close cooperation trying to make sure that each part that was produced for the test guns was simply the best possible. The guns produced were submitted again for evaluation, to the committee. A torture test was conducted, on March 3rd, 1911. The test consisted of having each gun fire 6000 rounds. One hundred shots would be fired and the pistol would be allowed to cool for 5 minutes. After every 1000 rounds, the pistol would be cleaned and oiled. After firing those 6000 rounds, the pistol would be tested with deformed cartridges, some seated too deeply, some not seated enough, etc. The gun would then be rusted in acid or submerged in sand and mud and some more tests would then be conducted.
            Browning’s pistols passed the whole test series with flying colors. It was the first firearm to undergo such a test, firing continuously 6000 cartridges, a record broken only in 1917 when Browning’s recoil-operated machine gun fired a 40000 rounds test.
            The report of the evaluation committee (taken from ‘The .45 Automatic, An American Rifleman Reprint’, published by the National Rifle Association of America) released on the 20th of March 1911 stated :
            “Of the two pistols, the board was of the opinion
            that the Colt is superior, because it is more
            reliable, more enduring, more easily disassembled
            when there are broken parts to be replaced, and
            more accurate.” ** Original targets from this test in the NRA Museum indicate that some of the COLT 1911s were grouping SUB 2 inch groups at 25 yards** It seems SOME 1911s can have both… at least 102 years ago…

          • Patrick Henry,The2nd

            And yet mine is both. Odd.

      • n0truscotsman

        I would agree with you 100%.

        The 1911 is a piece of art and, undoubtedly, for its era in 1911, it was the finest repeating handgun ever to be fielded. It is still a relevant self-defense firearm, although a lot of considerations have to be made when you own one versus owning a modern design.

        For a modern sidearm in a combat situation, I prefer a Glock, Beretta, or Smith’s own M&P chambered in 9mm. This is coming from a picky 1911 owner too.

      • Patrick Henry,The2nd

        Those other guns arent better overall, they are just different. The 1911 is accurate, reliable, and has a great grip angle and single stack style.

        • FourString

          heh. the hk45 & m&p 45 model themselves in grip angle and grip slimness after the 1911 anyway.

          • 1911a145acp

            Actually the M&P is very close to the CZ-75

      • FourString

        A scone glance, does that usually come with tea? Mmmmm. Tea and scones. – F.S. from the UK

  • gunslinger

    great
    thanks!

  • Justin

    Have had a Colt Government 1911 and have never had issues. I do clean it and oil it like you are supposed to. 9mm is a good round if you can use ammo the Geneva convention won’t let you use. The .45 ACP ball ammo though is superior. Shoot someone with a 9mm with a bullet proof vest and plate and you won’t notice it. Shoot them with a .45 and it’s like getting hit with a 90mph baseball to the chest.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      …. You think 45 ball ammo is superior to modern hollow point 9mm huh? Ok, that tells me all I need to know.

      I love the people that right “I have one and it’s never had issues”. Take a 2-3 day handgun class with it and get back to me. I’ve NEVER seen a 1911 go without issues. If you are like 98% of all gun owners, take your 1911 to the range, put 100 rounds down it twice a year then immediately go home and clean it, yea, I’m not going to be surprised when you don’t have any issues. Is that the standard for how we should rate firearms?

      Or… Should we rate them by thousands of rounds between no maintenance other than adding some lube, with various brands of ammo, and after intentionally inducing malfunctions like stovepipes and doublefeeds? I think I’m pretty clear on the answer there.

      • greeneggsnhammsanwich

        I believe he was comparing 9mm ball to .45 ball, not teh best gee-wiz 9mm hollowpoint of death to “old” forty-fudd. And as to general discussion, the logistics of modern designs is superior to 1911s and BHPs, as msw has already concluded.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          “9mm is a good round if you can use ammo the Geneva convention won’t let you use. The .45 ACP ball ammo though is superior.”

          Not sure how you are reading that for ball vs ball.

          “Shoot someone with a 9mm with a bullet proof vest and plate and you
          won’t notice it. Shoot them with a .45 and it’s like getting hit with a
          90mph baseball to the chest.”

          … Seriously…

          • greeneggsnhammsanwich

            Seriously, if one can not use jhp for asinine legal reasons, a bigger, heavier bullet might be preferable. I am not disputing a fistful of MODERN hps is not great to have, however a glock 21 Gen4 full of HSTs or Ranger-T is quite something, especially if you have defend yourself from someone around or in a car. Choice is good.

          • 1911a145acp

            Well, those facts just settle the issue…..

        • Core

          I’m not convinced in the slightest that modern handguns are “better” than the 1911. You will notice a gap between the slide and barrel of “modern” handguns. If you blade the slide back, you will notice a shift in the barrel’s muzzle position within the slide. You can also feel the play in the barrel and slide: usually in one direction or more depending on the model. I’m sure there is a technical explanation for why modern manufacturer’s adopted this design principle; it probably involves increasing reliability and reduction in maintenance while creating an inherently less accurate handgun. The models with tight barrel to slide fit will wear and become sloppy. Colt has evolved the 1911 significantly since it’s release, and modern material and manufacturing will make it a better handgun across the board. But like I said I’m not convinced what is available now in duty pistols is an overall improvement. Fixed barrel handguns are a step in the right direction, but determining the best operating system, and recoil mitigation technologies require a good deal of engineering. The “modern” handguns are using 100+ year old engineering with sloppy tolerances, and relying on new materials to keep them together is not by any means an improvement.

      • Core

        Shooting thousands of rounds without cleaning a pistol is foolish. Who the hell shoots thousands of rounds from a pistol in a gunfight? I keep hearing comments like this and it makes me wonder.. I wouldn’t shoot thousands of rounds through a machine gun without some maintenance.

        • guest

          You can easily shoot a 1000 rounds of even the worst (like Tulammo) ammo trough a Glock and it will not jam. Even shoot it dry for 1000 rounds it will still work. But that is because a Glock is a gun – and 1911 just like revolvers is an unpractical toy.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            Wow now that’s a stretch

          • FourString

            yep. dissing 1911′s and revolvers(the most reliable of the lot) in one go *many facepalm*

          • Core

            Like I said go brag about how your Glock can run dry for 1000 rounds.. That’s not relevant to gunfights. And if one thing should be obvious quantity is not a substitute for quality. The Marine Corps are using 1911, and I personally know veteran cops and contractors who carry 1911, these are highly experienced professionals who train others and kill bad guys. I don’t blame you for not wanting to spend big money on a 1911, and most folks probably don’t need the added precision of a 1911. That’s why most security and police use them because they are cheap, require minimal training, and maintenance. The day the Navy or Marine Corps adopts Glocks, If that ever happens, I’ll still be carrying a 1911.

          • Joan Lawson

            Yeah….so impractical that 100 years it still wins more matches and is preferred by more combat vets than your new age plastic mattel toy.
            You must be a democrap.

    • Sulaco

      Not really have seen both 9mm and 45 impact vests and the wearers could not really tell the difference….

      • Jason

        ssshhhh, don’t confuse him with facts.

  • John

    “Love them or hate them, the prolific 1911 has garnered (an often undeserved) reputation for poor reliability.”

    Too true, I picked up my first 1911 for the sake of collecting one and expected it to be the most finicky of all my pistols (as they are the most complained about pistols online) but it has been chugging along flawlessly.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      How many thousands of rounds do you have down it between cleanings and how many mags was that with?

  • Lance

    BIG point use good ammo not cheap crap if you have a finicky 1911.

    • AK™

      I’ve fired both in my Rock Island Armory 1911 before I had to sell it because Sandy Hook.(There was no pistol ammo on the shelves in any caliber except .32S&W)
      .45ACP is finally staying on the shelves here. I didn’t have any FTFs or FTEs..and the only mags I used were CMCs.

      • Beaumont

        Why didn’t you just wait until ammo became available again? If I had sold every gun I couldn’t find ammo for during the shortage, I’d be down to none. Instead I waited, & in the meantime shot air guns.

        • AK™

          I have plenty of guns. I sold my 1911 and picked up a Remington 870. 12 gauge is a little more useful against large predators like bears and moose,especially in my part of Alaska.

          • FourString

            can you ship in bulk ammo into alaska? i personally haven’t had the chance to ship ammo to my place since i’m in england now but when i get back i plan to order a big palate of surplus 9mm

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            I don’t know any reason why you couldn’t

          • Giant Sloar

            Large predators like moose?

    • taylorcraftbc65

      I have several hundred rounds per caliber for my pistols, and about a thousand per caliber for my rifles, WHAT problem are you talking about?? Store enough ammo to get you through a public panic.

  • schizuki

    Google “Caracal recall”, “XD recall”, “M&P recall”, “SR9 recall” and “Glock recall” and tell me again how unreliable the 1911 is.

  • Nathan Means

    The only gun that never jams is a gun that is never fired.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      All guns are machines—
      All machines fail at some point no matter the design or name—
      Choose the machine you use well, have confidence in and works well—
      Just pick one and fill in the blank with whatever gun type you want====

    • 1911a145acp

      Oh if only that were true…..

    • Nicks87

      What are you talking about? I shoot my glocks all the time.

    • FourString

      whaa. i’d love to see a revolver stovepipe lol

      • supergun

        Carry both.

        • FourString

          True. Snubbies for backup. Revolvers are pret-ty damn reliable……. I’d like to see whoever downvoted me try to get a revolver to jam -.-

    • FourString

      I do agree though. I’ve heard of the linkages failing in a Chiappa Rhino–tho that *is* a complex revolver design

  • NukeItFromOrbit

    Lots of people seem awfully critical of this 100 year old design All I know is that when a good friend of mine served in Vietnam his M1911A1 served him well. He wasn’t expecting extreme accuracy or using all sorts of different ammunition types, but there is still something to be said for a solid military design that will do the job when the odds look grim.

  • Core

    I have taken M9 and SIG to 5 days, and used them extensively in various theaters. They all malfunction and have stoppages eventually. I have been shooting an XD for a long time, and Springfield 1911. The accuracy is good on the modern striker pistols. The 1911 is the most accurate of the lot, and my Springfield loaded is tested over 200+ rounds reliable between cleaning. A tight 1911 is probably a bad choice for a combat handgun, unless you can break it in. I have been told by 1911 die hards that 1500 rounds is needed for a full break in on older models. Many manufacturers make 1911s for hard use, make sure you get one if you want a defensive handgun. I believe a properly manufactured 1911 is superior to striker fired pistols, in accuracy and reliability. I have never had a stoppage or malfunction with factory mags and Chip McCormick 10 rd mags. If you want a $600 defensive pistol buy a Glock or XD. If you want the best get a $900 1911 buy good mags and expect to invest some money into breaking it in. Springfield, Colt, Les Baer, etc. etc make combat models for $2000+ Yeah an XD and Glock can run for 2000 rounds without cleaning, but who the hell shoots that much in a gunfight? I own an XD Tactical and never owned a Glock, but having used a Glock I believe the Glock may be more user friendly and reliable of the two striker fired pistols out of the box.

  • guest

    This article is a bit misleading, and generally the myths about 1911 too. The jamming mostly occurs at this stage: when the potential buyer (perhaps unwittingly) mistakes a 1911 for a good gun and actually buys this overpriced dinosaur designed at the last turn of the century.

  • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

    You know I never understood the hate for 1911′s. Still don’t honestly. If it works for you and you’re willing to spend the time to get very familiar with it then go for it. The same goes for a S&W M&P or whatever you might choose.
    This doesn’t mean other guns are terrible 1911 or otherwise. A lot of knowledgable people carry 1911′s and do just fine with them.

    • FourString

      Yep. 1911 mag’s are also pretty cheap and widespread. Single stacks are nice 4 behind-enemy-lines states. I want a 1911 in 9mm. Gah

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        I really like my Kimber Aegis 1911 full size in 9mm.

    • supergun

      1911s are the most beautiful guns.

  • 101nomad

    We used them sparingly. Nobody wanted to run out of .45 ammo before the 5.56 NATO. (Long ago, and far away, where you could not even trust the rabbits).

  • popseal

    Glocks and oiled 1911s are a bore, they just keep working and working and working.

  • Alfred E Newman

    I’ve had my 1911 for over 50 years and granted I do not fire it that much it has never let me down..It’s a Colt Model 1911 NOT the A1 so it’s pretty old..Love that old gun…