TFB Review: Rack easier with the Cammer Hammer

Improper technique and trigger discipline aside, I couldn't resist...

Improper technique and trigger discipline aside, I couldn't resist...

The advantages of semiautomatic pistols are many, however there is one particular shortfall that may force potential users to select revolvers instead: The fact that for some individuals, racking the slide can be difficult.  I’ve worked behind the counter and instructed enough new shooters to know that there’s two main reasons:

  1.  Using bad techniques which put them at a mechanical disadvantage
  2. Being physically unable to do so even with proper technique, usually due to arthritis or ligament damage

Race-gun style slide racking tabs/wings can help ameliorate this issue, but are not practical for EDC or most other uses.  Reducing the mainspring or recoil spring tension can reduce force, but introduce reliability issues.  Determined to provide a solution without shortcomings, Cammer Technologies have come up with a hammer for the 1911 platform that reduces the force to rack the slide by up to 31%.  Reccently, Cammer Technologies sent me their new hammer and sear combo kit to try out.  The Hammer is CNC machined from 4140 or 17-4 Stainless (mine was 4140) by Mantis Precision Manufacturing and the “properly mated” sear is machined by Evolution Gun Works.  Both parts are 100% US-made.  With apologies to 1911 fans around the world, the Cammer Hammer is not for export.

How it works:

According to Cammer Technologies:

At long last a solution to difficult racking of the slide is available to every 1911 shooter who may have hand strength issues or may face tactical conditions in which reliable racking can be compromised. Unlike hammers with a conventional flat face, the CAMMER provides the longest possible moment arm and thus the greatest mechanical advantage available. The lowering of initial force required to rack the slide is remarkable and must be experienced to appreciate.

Regular 1911 hammer on the left, Cammer Hammer on the right

Regular 1911 hammer on the left, Cammer Hammer on the right

P8172621

As one can see above, the regular 1911 hammer on the left has a flat face, requiring all the force to be applied over a very short distance.  The Cammer Hammer reduces the force required by spreading it out over a further distance as well as on a slightly different angle.  The hammer is also designed to resolve reliability issues in 9mm, .38 super, or .22 conversions.

Installation/Initial testing:

Disclaimer:  Cammer Hammer recommends gunsmith installation of the Cammer Hammer.  This author has experience in installing and adjusting sears and triggers in the 1911 platform.

I decided to test the hammer in a compact 1911, as racking the slide in one can be more difficult than in a full-size pistol.  The Cammer Hammer and provided sear fit perfectly with all pins and pin holes in my beater “project gun”, an old Kimber CDP II. When I went to perform safety checks after reassembly, however, I hit a snag.  I pulled the trigger and depressed the grip safety with the manual safety on, and felt and heard the sear move slightly. When I took my finger off the trigger and deactivated the manual safety immediately thereafter, the hammer fell to the half-cock notch.  This was not normal, and I would not feel comfortable carrying the firearm with such an issue.  I then replaced the provided sear with my old, hand-stoned sear, and encountered no further issues.  I had to conclude that the sear may have worked fine in Cammer Hammer’s test rig, but did not fit the dimensions of the Kimber properly.  This came as no surprise, as I have found that certain other aftermarket parts do not fit properly in Kimbers.

Cammer Hammer at half-cock

Cammer Hammer at half-cock

Moving past that one issue, I encountered no further malfunctions, and the hammer passed all the safety checks.  Speaking to the main goal of the Cammer Hammer, the slide was noticeably easier to rack right away.  So far, everything pertaining to the hammer seemed to be working as advertised.  It was time to take it to the range.

Range testing:

I tested the hammer in a 200-round course of fire during a combat handgun course at Hughston Shooting School.  Using Black Hills remanufactured 230gr FMJ, I encountered zero malfunctions.  The slide remained very easy to rack.  One-handed reload drills were accomplished by using the smoothly sloped sights on the Kimber to rack off of my belt.  Normally, I would not be successful with such a maneuver with the Kimber.  The Cammer Hammer rendered it a possibility.  I had a few other shooters, males and females of all ages, try racking the slide.  They all noticed it was easier than normal.P8172618

Conclusions:

While the Cammer Hammer was 100% reliable and performed as advertised, the pre-fit sear did not work out well in my test platform.  Be aware that your original sear may work better with the hammer, depending on the dimensions of your pistol.  I can wholeheartedly recommend the Cammer Hammer for all shooters, not just those who need a little more mechanical advantage to rack their slide.  At $98.00 (plus gunsmithing charges if one doesn’t have experience in replacing 1911 internals), it provides a significant improvement in function for a good value.  At this time, I cannot recommend the “Hammer-Sear Combo” at $128.00 unless you speak with Cammer Technologies first and find out if the dimensions of their test rig match your pistol.  In short, the hammer itself performed exactly as advertised and didn’t have any trade-offs.  If you’re looking for a new hammer for your 1911, the Cammer Hammer would be a good candidate.P8172620

Pros:

  • Reasonable price
  • Well-made
  • Reduces force required to rack the slide as advertised, can make a 1911 a viable option for those who previously could not succeed in racking the slide.
  • Quick installation

Cons:

  • Pre-fit sear did not work well in my test platform

For more information, please visit Cammer Technologies.

Thanks to Hughston Shooting School for class time and technical assistance



Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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  • Marco Antonio Gonzalez

    Isn´t it cheaper to just pull the hammer and then rack the slide?

    • AK

      Shut the f*ck up Donny!

    • QuadGMoto

      It is. But the more you have to do to make a pistol function, the more likely you are to fail to do everything necessary under stress. Valor Ridge even just put out a video slamming manual safeties for that very reason.

      • Budogunner

        I guess I get to be the guy to claim the 1911 was designed to be carried cocked and locked, making that a null argument.

        • QuadGMoto

          You’re right, and that’s what I carry for a number of reasons.

          He argues that newer designs, especially striker fired pistols, make that design obsolete. His main point is that “point-and-click” is simpler than “hit safety-point-and-click” thus less likely to go wrong under stress, which does have a lot of merit to it. That’s especially true in a case like this where the extra step of “pull the hammer” can be avoided simply by modifying the pistol or choosing a different one.

    • SP mclaughlin

      That’s just, like, your opinion, maaaaan.

  • SidViscous

    Alternative headline. “How to pay money to increase muzzle flip.”

    I modify my 1911’s to decrease. not increase, the lever point on my hammer, thereby reducing felt recoil and muzzle flip. As John Moses Browning originally intended.

    Of course I run 1911s in 10mm as well.

    • AK

      And the rest of the world has already moved on from a pre-WW1 pistol design and a failed FBI cartridge. So would have JMB, if he were alive.

      • Marc

        10 mm had a life before and has a life after the FBI picked it for the wrong reasons. The only failed FBI cartridge is .40 S&W.

        • AK

          It’s a legacy cartridge, just like the .40 is becoming. I can’t think of a very practical use for it. 9mm for self defence and sport, big bore revolvers for hunting. The rest you can shoot for fun, but they’re not gonna add any net performance.

      • Klaus Von Schmitto

        Some of of are quite happy with a pre-WW1 pistol and a 90 year old cartridge for it. The 38 Super will still put holes where needed.

        • AK

          I’m not arguing that. I quite enjoy some antique firearms. What I’m not doing, is upgrading them with aftermarket tuning parts, which is just silly. You’re free to scope up your trapdoor all you want…

          The 1911 design has been largely superceded, so it would be refreshing for people to come up with functional enhancements for the state of the art guns instead of beating a dead horse. And the racking on an Sti is already nice.

    • Rusty S.

      I didn’t notice any increase in muzzle flip at all. It’d be interesting to see data from sophisticated sensors attached to the firearm for force needed to rack the slide and muzzle flip, etc, I just don’t have access to such equipment. And I do love my 10mm as well.

  • Eric Mutchler

    I may not know much on 1911’s but This is actually a cool idea and I feel would help mitigate stovepipes because the initial inertia used to overcome the hammer during the initial breach unlocking can now be used to drive the slide back full force.

    • Ken

      If the slide is too fast, it can also cause feeding issues, especially if the mag can’t keep up with the cyclic rate. Not to mention the accelerated wear from the slide unlocking quicker.

  • Major Tom

    Or you could be like “Bro do you even lift?” and just do some workouts to get the strength to do it proper.

    But that would be patronising and insulting to older folks and/or those with injuries/disabilities. Therefore this seems like a good compromise solution.

    • Rusty S.

      Yeah exactly. This provides a solution to octogenarians or people who have been cursed with rheumatoid arthritis early on.

      • QuadGMoto

        Or people like my wife who simply do not have strong hands.

        • Swarf

          You mean people who should perhaps be shooting a different gun suited to their specific needs and limitations?

          • QuadGMoto

            That is what we’ve done. 9mm recoil was too much for her, but she can handle .380. Even in that caliber we had to disqualify some pistols because she couldn’t manipulate the slide. For example, the Kimber Micro requires more force than the Sig P238.

            The nice thing about a modification like this is that it can increase the viable choices.

          • Swarf

            Great! My comment wasn’t meant as a dig at you, it just ended up after yours.

            Nothing wrong with many of the modern .380 loads.

          • QuadGMoto

            Your comment brought up a good point, and I thought it was worth further discussion. I was even considering doing a little teasing about such a practical comment putting an end to the fun of having an internet argument. 😇

      • Zachary marrs

        And they are just lining up to buy these to put in their 1911’s?

  • PK

    It seems that no one else is mentioning this, but this isn’t a good idea from an engineering standpoint. The delay produced by the hammer having to be overridden by the slide is quite intentional, and while annoying for some when loading the gun, it’s important during the firing cycle.

    I’d absolutely love to see what happens on the same 1911 with this hammer vs. the ordinary hammer when filmed in 1000+ frames/sec., both with the original barrel and with a threaded barrel and using a LID-equipped silencer. The results would prove quite interesting.

    • John Yossarian

      That’s what I was thinking too – Wasn’t there a reason for flatter firing pin stops? “Oh yeah – So that the action would have its unlock delayed by mechanical disadvantage rather than just by recoil spring tension.”

      The last thing you want is for the slide to go back into battery with too much force. Unfortunately, the US Calvary demanded an easier racking 1911, which caused the rounded firing pin stop design to become standard.

      • PK

        The unlocking is delayed by the locking system and (slightly) by the camming of the hammer, not the recoil spring. The recoil spring only returns the slide to battery.

        Still, it’s something that people don’t tend to consider.

  • Cammer Technologies should have never been granted a utility patent for this given all of the prior art. It is an extremely old modification used by Bullseye pistolsmiths on their “softball” pistols. The 1971 Guns & Ammo Annual shows a pistol modified by Bob Day with this modification. In addition, the modification is illustrated in the 1980-vintage “Hallock’s .45 Auto Handbook.” Cammer isn’t even the first to introduce the hammers to the aftermarket. Austin Behlert’s Practical Tools featured hammers with this modification as early as July 1989. Just a couple of years ago, Chuck Warner at Elite Warrior Armament introduced his ‘Optimized’ line of hammers.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Yeah, seems like a serious goof-up by Cammer’s patent attorney.

    • If their patent is less than a year old you can challenge it.

    • PK

      Having a patent means very little unless the holder of said patent feels like defending it. Patents which shouldn’t be issued are issued regularly. The USPTO is staffed with ordinary people, and we all make mistakes.

      Sadly, this is a problem which will only worsen as the sheer magnitude of prior art continues to grow.

    • Archie Montgomery

      I was going to mention the same thing. I’ve seen this on wadcutter .45 pistols in the past – usually not the full charge ‘hardball’ guns. I’ve even done the modification to a couple pistols of my own; not for ease of charging, but for better reliability in the extraction and ejection phase.

      Beat the drum and sound the flugelhorn! Another idea from sixty to seventy years ago revived and presented as ‘new’.

  • Bill

    I can’t think of too many 1911 shooters who need help racking the slide.

  • stephen

    So where are the testimonies from people who could not rack an OEM 1911 but could with the Cammer Hammer installed?

    I can’t find any on the website…

    (drops mic)

    😉

  • hami

    I wonder how much it would cost had Strike Industries thought it up…

  • roguetechie

    Speaking as someone who doesn’t even “like” the 1911 all that much (it’s worlds above other 100 year old pistols for sure, but it looks sorta pale against the 30-50 year old pistol bracket) I’m still amazed by just how right JMB got his pistol.

    When so many attempts to improve it wind up compromising what he did and why he did it in some way.

  • jmf552

    I am a 1911 fan. I competed with one on a Navy team and still own one. But if you have physical problems that cause you slide racking problems, it is the last gun I would recommend for you. There are a lot of better choices.

    Even though I think JMB was the greatest gun designer of all time and the 1911 stands as the greatest historical gun design of all time, it now needs a complete mod makeover to make it even barely competitive with out-of-the-box modern designs.

  • jerry young

    I have a couple of problems here the 1st being the guy in the picture has his finger on the trigger while racking the gun thank god it’s not a glock with the safety on the trigger that just eliminated the glock safety, 2nd I carried a 1911 throughout my time in the Army and never have I had such a problem if your having that much trouble you might want to rethink your choice of guns, 3rd the guy in the picture looks as if he’s going to soil his pants to put it nicely such a big guy having such issues with a 1911 looks like an act to me! this is why you try things like racking the gun before you buy it, my mother had a stroke and we were able to find a gun she could rack and shoot without modification if a 70 year old invalid woman can find a gun the she can use so can you!

    • QuadGMoto

      FYI, that’s actor John Goodman in the movie The Big Lebowski. I haven’t seen the movie, but I think the idea is that he’s supposed to be stupid and unsafe.

      • jerry young

        Now that I look at the picture again you’re right it’s John Goodman and he still looks like he’s ready to soil himself trying to rack the slide, such a big guy such a little gun to have so much trouble working, looks like he needs a smaller gun!

        • squareWave

          His expression isn’t because he’s having trouble racking the slide — his expression is righteous anger because Smokey had just stepped over the line.

  • Blake

    “F’ing dog’s got f’ing papers!”

    Love the pic.

  • QuadGMoto

    For the record, I have a 1911 that does not have the extended slide release. Even though I have very large hands with long fingers, I cannot reach the slide stop with my thumb without releasing my grip. As with most engineering, there are tradeoffs. Just because you prefer a certain tradeoff doesn’t always mean that it’s the best choice.

    • Spencerhut

      It’s a slide “Stop”, not a slide “Release”. I would advise most shooters to Slingshot the slide, don’t try to be all Hollywood’ish and use the “Stop” for a “Release”

      • QuadGMoto

        Both terms are used by professionals and are equally valid. When you push it down, it releases the slide to move forward. This isn’t like terms like “magazine” vs. “clip” where there is a real difference.

        I’ve recently seen a video by a trainer where he explains that using the slide release can get you back into the fight slightly quicker than using the slingshot method. The reason is because (if your thumb can reach it) it is faster to simply push it as your non-dominant hand moves from the magwell to its support position than for you to move your hand from the bottom to the top then to support. I’m not personally going to use that technique for the reason I’ve already stated, but it is demonstrably faster for those times when it’s a viable option.

  • nekkidtuber

    I think possibly the most helpful place for this item was mentioned in the article but not really delved into: .22 conversions (or regular 1911-22 models)…..especially ammo-finicky ones. Would like to see it tested on some models that don’t do well with anything other than HV.

  • Blake

    Tom Hardy demonstrates bad-ass racking the slide with one hand in Mad Max Fury Road. I can’t find a clip of the scene…

  • iksnilol

    Nothing stopping you from carrying cocked and locked, y’know, like the specific model was meant to in the first place.

    • QuadGMoto

      I’ve written this before in this thread, but for the record:

      A) I have no problem with my own hand strength. I can manipulate all my pistols just fine.

      B) Some people (such as my wife) do have problems with hand strength. Our solution was to find her a pistol that she can manipulate. That way there is no problem if…

      C) Stuff happens. Rounds sometimes fail to fire. You can have a jam, stovepipe, etc. There may be times when you have to manipulate the slide. And if that time is when you are fighting for your life, you need to be able to manipulate the slide using gross motor skills because (according to those who have been in such a fight) your fine motor skills are gone.

      Therefore, as I said, the smart move is to make sure you can do what is necessary if—Murphy says “when”—stuff happens before you are in the middle of a fight.

  • Leigh Rich

    I am old howeer can still rack my Desert Eagle. Not ready for the old folks home yet.

  • Markius Fox

    I wonder if that area could also aid in moving dirt/mud/sand away from the firing pin in adverse conditions.

  • SemperFlyBoy

    I would ask for half of my money back.

  • Woody

    Excellent idea. Strengthen the grip. And automatics is not the only place where that can be a problem. A program I was involved in regarding learning and becoming able to qualify with a Smith and Wesson Model 10 revolver was having problems with some being unable to qualify do to a lack of enough strength in the trigger finger. The solution was a trigger pull test in which the applicant was required to pull the trigger on a smith revolver a prescribed number of times in sixty seconds, I believe it was fifty. Those who failed were given strengthening exercises and were not allowed to go forward until they passed that test. Interestingly, in a years time I never had a person who could not strengthen his or her grip enough to pass the test. That very simple program solved the training problem.

  • Woody

    Being a person who has had and carried 1911s for several decades, but nevertheless not a mechanical expert on the pistol, I have a question regarding wear and tear on the pistol when you decrease the amount of energy required for the slide to be pushed back. Does it increase wear and tear on the pistol? And if so, I suppose the answer would be to install a heavier recoil spring, ie from 17 to 18 pounds, or whatever. But that would take away the advantage of this ‘invention’.

  • Charles West

    Fool… See. Recoil operation of 1911 and many more semi auto, the hammer play critical role together with recoil spring. Taking away original hammer cause reduced total spring rate poundage applied to slide for that first short travel where it unlock this result in higher velocity slide rearward travel causing gun to beat itself harder. Recoil spring need to be stepped up alleviating this problem but also lose the ez rack benefit. With cammer hammer the recoil impulse will be noticeable more further verifying statement I just made for those who arent as well versed in 1911. The brass wil also eject farther if your extractor is in good state.

    For those who shoot high round count cammer hammer’s no go. But for those with defensive pistol that will have low round count for years its fine but ensure your extractor tension is stiff due to higher slide velocity add difficulty to extractor’s job. Not only its tension, ensure the claw have good angle on rim.

    If cammer hammer baggage arent addressed for high round count gun the frame and slide will crack much earlier.