1911 Malfunctions

At the request of fellow MSW contributor Doug, I am updating an old 10-8 Forums thread regarding malfunctions in 1911s.  If you are a 1911 shooter, it is absolutely critical that you understand the types of malfunctions that you will get, as none of them will go away with hope, good intentions, more cleaning, or more lube.  Remember that we are discussing malfunctions or stoppages, and the more specific one can be, the more intelligent the analysis that can follow. Merely indicating that “the gun had a jam” offers no information at all. 

Vertical stovepipe.

Vertical stovepipe:  Typically due to insufficient extractor tension. Can occasionally be caused by a burred case mouth on the next round in the magazine, but 99.9% of the time it is the extractor.

Horizontal stovepipe.

Horizontal Stovepipe:  Same cause as above, but much harder to clear. These are the reason that I do not teach or recommend the “sweep and clear” method, as a trip to see the medic is surely to follow any repetition of the technique.

Feedway stoppage.

Feedway Stoppage:  As my friend and mentor, Ken Hackathorn, likes to say, the 1911 is the “King of Feedway Stoppages.”  If you shoot one and say you have never had one of these, you are either lying or need to shoot more.  A host of causes may be responsible, to include a rough breech face, burred firing pin hole, excessive extractor tension, inappropriate extractor geometry, barrel lower lug/link geometry, and of course issues with the geometry and surface finish of the feed ramp and barrel throat.  Trying to blindly fix these issues is also the number one way in which kitchen table gunsmiths absolutely destroy their guns using a Dremel in the absence of skill or knowledge.

High angle malfunction.

High Angle: This is also known as the “bolt over base” malfunction, and is the result of a mismatch between the rate of slide travel and magazine feed rate. In other words, the slide is moving faster than the magazine will present rounds up for feeding, and the result is that the front of the breech face has moved forward past the rear of the cartridge before picking it up. As in this photo, you will see the breech face pick up the cartridge in the middle of the case or at the extractor groove. Generally look to replacing the magazine first, as the spring rate may be of issue. Next look to the slide stroke of the gun and see that it is at its maximum. Take out the recoil buffer if one is present. These are very common malfunctions in 1911s shorter than the 5″ format, and are why we do not recommend them for duty use.

High Angle, view #2: Note the angle at which the round is presented, causing it to nose up into the chamber.


Double Feed, or Failure To Extract

Double Feed or Failure to Extract: This is technically a failure to extract, but is also commonly referred to as a double feed due to the feeding of a second round where one is already in place. This is indicative of the most profound of extractor failures, either the absence of the hook or loss of tension. Many casual shooters will dismiss this as “just a jam” in their string of 50 flawless rounds, but this is a showstopper. Once the extractor is capable of yielding this malfunction, it’ll do it again. Throw the extractor away and get a new one unless you like failure.

Failure to extract in conjunction with magazine failure. Photo courtesy Mike Novack.

Failure to extract in conjunction with magazine failure. Photo courtesy Mike Novack.

Failure to extract in conjunction with magazine failure:  I don’t have a shorter name for this malfunction, but it is frighteningly common. The partially extracted case is dragged through the empty magazine’s feed lips, wedging the case firmly in place and damaging the magazine. Clearance requires tools or at least a lengthy application of brute force and profanity. For this malfunction to occur, two factors must be at play together: insufficient extractor tension, and magazine feed lips that are too wide. A very detailed analysis of the magazine component of the problem is available in this article on the 10-8 website.

When you get a malfunction with your 1911, do not shrug it off as “break in” or “limp wristing.”  Your gun is telling you something, and you need to listen.  Fix and and drive on, or ignore it and pay the price later.


This entry was posted in 1911, Training by Hilton Yam. Bookmark the permalink.

About Hilton Yam

Hilton Yam is the founder of 10-8 Performance, LLC. He is a full time law enforcement officer in Florida with extensive experience working robbery and violent fugitives. He is currently assigned to firearms training and SWAT. He is a team leader as well as the lead instructor for his team, responsible for providing training in firearms, CQB, rappelling, defensive tactics, and team tactics. Hilton is also responsible for RDT&E of equipment. He has carried a 1911 extensively on duty, and has spent a great deal of time examining what makes the guns succeed and fail.

63 thoughts on “1911 Malfunctions

  1. Thank you for your post. The only thing I’ve experienced that you didn’t mention was inertial feeding issues caused by worn out main springs and insufficient friction in the magazine (caused by weak springs or design) to retain the cartridges under recoil.

    What happens is the round pops up out of the magazine early when the slide slams fully to the rear with excessive force due to the weak main spring. If it happens on the last round you may end up with the slide locked back with a loose round sitting on top of the follower outside of the magazine.

    I’ve seen the problem manifest in rental 1911s that didn’t have their springs replaced appropriately, on lightly sprung guns where the user tried to shoot +p ammo, and in conjunction with either very weak magazine springs or magazines designed with insufficient contact surface on their lips.

    If a gun continues inertial feeding, if no other malfunctions accompany that, the round feeding into the chamber causes the extractor hook to have to pop over the cartridge rim rather than having the rim feed under the hook from the magazine. Therefore, very shortly the extractor looses tension or breaks and starts causing other malfunctions you mentioned.

    • P.S., this is another reason that it is important that we always thoroughly test or defensive ammunition in our handguns. Some manufacturers put springs in their 1911s that are tailored for shooting 230gr standard ball loads and lighter loads only. They don’t always anticipate the end user using hotter ammo for duty or defense even though the firearm is perfectly capable of handling hotter ammo with the right springs. A failure to understand factory 1911 spring rates combined with untested defensive ammo can lead to a malfunction in a life and death situation regardless of how reliable that gun is on the range with practice ammo.

    • Colby, I’m very interested in your inertial feeding experience. I’ve been wrestling with that on the last round in a particular 5″ gun. It doesn’t show up with ball ammo–just RA45T and 230g Golden Saber. I’ve tried a variety of new CMC PowerMags (8 rd) and Wilson ETM, to no avail. What specifically do you use to remedy it (ammo brands, mag brands, spring specs, etc.)? Thanks, much.

    • Colby, I’m very interested in your inertial feeding experience. I’ve been wrestling with that on the last round in a particular 5″ gun. It doesn’t show up with ball ammo–just RA45T and 230g Golden Saber. I’ve tried a variety of new CMC PowerMags (8 rd) and Wilson ETM, to no avail. What specifically do you use to remedy it (ammo brands, mag brands, spring specs, etc.)? Thanks, much.

      • Look at a reply to another poster below where I discussed a specific instance I experienced I had with inertial feeding earlier this year.

        In general, the way that I avoid inertial feeding is by keeping fresh recoil springs specifically tailored to the load I’m shooting (see my earlier reply below where I talked more about the effects of recoil spring tension), and by sticking with 7 round rather than 8 round magazines.

        Next time you are in a gun shop, if they will let you take any 1911 mags our of their wrapper, take any 8 round magazine and depress the follower with your thumb. Then take a similar corresponding 7 round magazine and do the same thing. Almost invariably, you will very distinctly notice how much more pressure you have to apply to depress a 7 round magazine’s follower. The extra tension placed on the loaded cartridges by a 7 round magazine (especially on the last round) means that there is more friction holding them in place to overcome the effects of inertia acting upon the cartridge under recoil. 1911s were not designed originally to hold 8 rounds but 7. In order to accommodate 8 rounds in the same space in modern magazines, manufacturers had to reduce the hight of their followers, which meant that the springs had to be compressed further and had to return to a longer overall length when uncompressed. However, while under compression, there still had to be enough room left in the magazine to accommodate the entire spring, the extra 8th round, and all the other internals. But, in general terms, for the sake of brevity, the effect of the work-arounds were that 8 round magazines almost always exert less tension on the last round than 7 round magazines.

        8 round magazines can be perfectly serviceable, but the springs need to be replaced much more often than 7 rounders simply by virtue of the fact that 8 round magazine springs have to do more work. I have actually found from my use that 8 rounders just don’t hold their tension long enough to satisfy my requirements before I start noticing issues with how well they’re retaining the last round. Technology is always improving though, so that may change soon with new designs like Wilson’s new flat-wire magazine spring.

        Also, most 8 round magazines omit a curious feature found on the most common 7 round magazines, the dimpled follower. John Browning was aware of the possibility of inertial feeding (particularly with the last loaded round) and the possibility that spring pressure would degrade over time. His solution was to put a small raised dimple or speed-bump in the middle of the follower which would catch the rim of the last cartridge under recoil and keep it from popping up out of the magazine. To date, I have found no method for alleviating inertial feeding on 1911s more effective than that simple little dimple. Unfortunately, almost no manufacturer of 8 round magazines incorporates a dimpled follower into their design. Instead they all use slick polymer followers that only seem to make the issue more likely to occur.

        A newly manufactured GI style 7 round magazine with a dimpled follower is the best insurance against inertial feeding I have found. Yes that limits the useful capacity of the 1911, so I either have to decide to use something else if I need more ammo, or just deal with the 7+1 limitation. In my experience, one of the best 7 round magazines on the market for stopping inertial feeding is the often maligned Springfield Armory 7 rounder which incorporates the dimpled follower. I also like Kimber’s 7 round magazines because they have very strong spring, even though they lack the dimpled follower.

        If you are going to stick with 8 rounder’s I’d suggest you get a bunch of extra power springs from Wolf and change them the very moment you notice any possible inertial feeding issues.

        • P.S. I shot IDPA for a couple years during college. I used Wilson 47Ds mostly since I had to use an 8 round magazine to stay competitive in the CDP division. I got so tired of having malfunctions in the middle of a stage, usually due to a round popping out of the magazine prematurely due to inertia, that I eventually started changing out my magazine springs every time I changed recoil springs. That seemed to do away with most malfunctions, but I never got to where I truly trusted any 8 round magazine design. So I started using 8 rounders for competition and target shooting only, and came to the conclusion that if I am going to carry a 1911, I am going to to use a 7 round magazine until the technology on 8 round magazines improved to the point where they are equally reliable.

          If I anticipate encountering situation where I am not willing to accept a 7+1 limitation before a reload, I just strap on a different pistol originally designed to carry more ammo instead of a 1911 trying to shoe-horn extra ammo into which it was not originally designed to hold. Now that I live in a major city, 1911s tend to only go with me to the range, or when I am bumping about the ranch or hunting.

          • Thanks. I went back to CMC PowerMags (8 rd) with the Tripp follower and spring replacement. That reduces the capacity to 7 rd. The Tripp follower has a dimple, but it is doesn’t catch the last round the way the Colt dimple follower catches. Interestingly it seems to be working well, but I have more tests to do.
            I did notice this: using a single dummy round (lighter that real rounds), if I load a variety of mags (CMC PowerMag, Wilson ETM, Wilson ETM+P, Colt hybrid with dimple, Colt tapered with dimple, Tripp Research Super 8, CMC PowerMag with Tripp follower and spring) and firmly rap the front of the magazine into my palm, all of the magazines, except the one with the Tripp follower will release the round. The Tripp follower seems to hold the final round with significantly better. All the mags hold the rounds well with three or more dummy rounds in my little unscientific test.

    • I most certainly would NOT accept that one must use a 7 round mag with a 1911 in order to make it successful. The platform already has numerous limitations in the modern age, and losing 13% of the magazine capacity does not help things. I have around a quarter million rounds of collected experience with various JHP duty loads, and while I have absolutely seen the top round pop out of the mag, I would not hinge my entire existence on the theoretical prevention of it. Honestly, it was not listed here as it is really something that is completely preventable with proper setup of the pistol. Any time I have seen it pop up, I have also been able to make it go away – permanently.

      If your gun is consistently allowing rounds to pop out of the mag, 1) do not drop the slide to chamber this last round, and 2) there is something likely wrong with the particular pistol. Keep in mind that the recoil spring does not affect the slide velocity sufficiently to fix timing problems, and the real factors at play include barrel unlocking and hammer cocking. There may also be issues with the slide stop as well. Most certainly isolate and eliminate any magazine that allows this to happen, but other factors are at play. If you are not issued a particular service round that causes these problems, then use something different. Do not assume that your 1911 simply will function with any modern JHP load, as it is not a modern service pistol and you must accept that it has limitations with functioning with the excessive slide velocity generated by certain loads.

      While the follower dimple is conceptually nice to have, they do not exist on most designs as it really is not that necessary. I would rather have a high quality tube like the CMC Power Mag or Wilson ETM with the included follower rather than chase a superfluous design feature that accompanies a far inferior tube.

      • Hilton, what JHP loads have you found to be most friendly to 5″ 1911s? Thanks for posting this article. I was looking for the old version it last month.

        • The Remington Golden Saber, 230gr standard velocity, is a very round nosed easy feeding cartridge. I would shy away from most loads of under 230 gr weight, since they often have weird bullet nose profiles and generate excessive slide velocity since they also tend to be loaded to higher velocity. The one exception is the Black Hills Barnes 185 copper solid JHP.

          • Standard pressure Ranger T-series and Winchester PDX also have a very ball-like profile. However, with proper gunsmith attention, the gun can properly be made to feed any available loads.

    • I own two Colt 1911s, one is a Mark IV Series 70 Government Model, and the other is a Series 80 Colt Mark IV Gold Cup National Match. I am by no means a gun expert, and my knowledge, comes from years, of shooting both of these fine weapons. General George S. Patton once said the M1 Garand was the finest battle implement ever devised, well the Colt 1911 is the second finest battle implement ever devised. My first experience, with the 1911 came in 1976 in the United States Army, and I must say, it was love at first sight, and I’ve owned one every since. I have fired, thousands, upon thousands of rounds through both 1911s, and I can count the number of malfunctions on one hand, which were due to ammunition, not the gun. Just about everyone manufactures 1911s now days, Sig Sauer, Remington, Springfield Armory, Fulton Armory, and a ton of others, and they always compare them to a Colt, you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t own a Sig Sauer if you gave it to me, Remington, Springfield Armory, are known for rifles not handguns. I swear, I mean no disrespect, to anyone, but people over think stuff way to much. The 1911 is by far, the simplest handgun to assemble, and disassemble that I own, and if kept clean, well oiled, and with good ammunition, it will give a life time of shooting pleasure. I bought both my Colts, because the .45 cal is a combat proven man stopper, specifically designed to blow a man off his feet. Every gun regardless of make, model, caliber, has the possibly of malfunction, with automatics being more so, and if your not confident in the weapon you use to protect your life, home, family, you need to get something else.

  2. My favorite subject!
    *Sits in front of class and taking detailed notes*

  3. Great post, and thanks for following up the earlier one.

    Interestingly, the one malefaction I have never had, or seen at the range with someone’s gun, was the traditional vertical stovepipe. I have seen a lot of horizontal stovepipes, but never vertical.

  4. Thanks for this Hilton! Bookmarked along with all your other 1911 resources!

  5. Nice write up – I am having one particularly troubling 1911 right now I am trying to figure out – the first out of more than a dozen that has given me this problem. Gun runs great except for the last round in mag seven rounders sights doesn’t matter. Some look like the high angle above others it seems the round jumps in front of the extractor rather than the appropriate controlled feed. Has happened with all varieties of mags I have on hand ( metal form colt wilson kimber) all these mags run in my other guns just fine. It has improved but not disappeared with change in recoil spring ( Wilson flat wire) and according to what I have researched extractor is properly tensioned I would love some input on what the issue might be

    • Insufficient magazine spring tension or not enough feedlip friction. Make sure magazines don’t have any oil or grease present and that the magazine springs have sufficient power. If in doubt, buy a Wolff +10% magazine spring, install, load to max capacity, and let sit overnight. Letting the magazine sit loaded overnight allows the magazine spring to take its initial set. Unloading and loading the newly-sprung magazine and one of the older mags will show a large difference in spring power.

    • The ones that jump in front of the extractor sound like they are feeding out of the magazine prematurely, before being acted upon by the breech face, as a consequence of the inertial forces at play. It usually appears for me on the last or second to last round also, since there is less spring pressure holding the last two rounds against the magazine lips than than is present when more rounds are in the magazine.

      Of course I might not be telling you anything you already know.

      Some details might help diagnose your issue.
      What ammo do you see the issues with most often?
      What weight recoil spring are you using?
      What brand of magazine are you using?
      Does the brand of magazine you are using incorporate a “dimpled” follower, which was designed to interrupt the last cartridge from feeding prematurely under recoil?

      The last time I had the same issue crop up was shooting a Springfield Range Officer with the factory spring that had about 2K rounds through it. I was shooting Hornady Critical Duty 220gr +P (which has a slick nickel plated case) through stainless KimPro 7 round magazines (these feature a very slick polished finish, very heavy springs, and a smooth un-dimpled follower). Shooting standard ball ammo through the KimPro magazines produced no malfunctions. Switching to the dimpled-follower standard Springfield 7rd magazine while shooting the 220gr Hornaday +Ps also stopped the inertial feeding on the last round. I ended up letting someone talk me out of the pistol before I replaced the recoil spring, but I was planning on switching to a 21 pound spring for shooting heavy +Ps. I told him it needed a new spring before running anything other than target loads.

      If all you are shooting is standard pressure 230gr rounds, then such a heavy spring is probably inappropriate. Have a look at the recoil spring replacement guide over at Wilson to see if a heavier recoil spring than the one you are using might be appropriate for your application.


      Also don’t rule out the possibility that your mags might need heavier springs just because they work fine in your other pistols, there may be differences in weight or recoil spring tension in your other pistols that keep the issue from arising. The extractors might also already be out of correct tension in your other pistols, thereby allowing their extractors to slip over the rim in the case of an inertial feed. In the latter case, you may be having the same malfunction you’re experiencing with your “troubled pistol” in all of your 1911’s but just haven’t noticed it because your extractors might already be damaged on the others.

      I emphasize that I am not telling you what IS the case, only what might be the case, and I am not a professional 1911 smith…..yet anyway. As always, check your extractor tension on your other pistols to make sure they are within spec. Then I’d try replacing springs in the magazines you’re using and maybe switching to a bit heavier recoil spring, depending on your ammo choice. As always, if none of that works or if you aren’t familiar enough with your 1911s to troubleshoot them as mentioned, seek the help of a qualified 1911 smith like Mr. Yam.

      • If you are getting past needing an 18.5 lb spring on a 1911, then you need to stop using whatever ammo it is that you are selecting. The various mags that you try may mask some issues, but the problems you attribute to inertia are in reality slide velocity problems which you cannot solve simply with the magazine. Further, I could never in good conscience suggest that anyone use most of the OEM magazines, as they are manufactured to a standard to merely allow them to fill the slot in the foam next to the pistol in the factory box.

        Bottom line: if you are not issued the +P velocity ammo and accompanying 1911, DO NOT put them together, as +P ammo and 1911s makes for a level of gunsmithing work that is essentially a futile effort in the long run. You will be chasing timing issues for the lifespan of the gun.

        • It’s interesting that you say that. I’ve never had a 5″ 1911 with +P ammo that had timing issues. Could you elaborate on this bit and explain what you see and how to check?

    • Dan:
      Is this a 5″ gun? Springs – whether they be mag springs or recoil/main springs – only affect the cycle timing so much. Keeping mag springs fresh helps, but is not the be all end all. Allowing that you have fresh mag springs and in spec mag tubes, it really sounds more like your gun has a profound timing issue. Changing the springs inside the gun aren’t going to do much to change that. Without cracking the gun open after watching it fail in test fire, it is hard to get much farther. Keep in mind that even in our classes, there’d be guns which I had to chase for the better part of both days in class to get them to work 100%, so gunsmithing via internet is awful hard.

      • For last round only malfunctions ( high angle or last round loose in chamber), with numerous CMC PowerMags as well as new Wilson ETMs and ETM+P, with Golden Saber 230gr and RA45T, how likely is it to be a grip problem? A barrel unlocking or hammer cocking problem?

        • Grip does not have as much affect as people seem to think it does. Your gun has some serious setup issues if it won’t feed standard velocity JHP like GS and RA45T. Asking me to diagnose it via the internet is like asking your doctor to diagnose you over the internet. Send it to a 1911 specialist and get it some help.

      • Hilton,

        Thanks for following up on both of my posts. I certainly defer to your superior wisdom, especially since my comparative experience is anecdotal and probably not statistically significant.

        My decision to use the Hornady 220gr +P critical duty was due to the fact that it became just about the only defensive load that I could find locally during the current ammo shortage and my other .45s seemed to like it well enough, so I thought I’d try it with the 1911 too. That’s when the inertial feeding issues started cropping up, where I had no issues with standard pressure loads. But, I will certainly take you at your word that +P ammo and 1911s don’t play well together in the long run, since I am sure you have had plenty of experience chasing issues caused by that combination, rather than trying to make it work by using heavier springs, which I am guessing would reduce reliability with standard pressure ammo.

    • You are having magazine issues. while it is possible to reform the lips, after a large number of rounds fired through them simply leads to lip wear and eventually they need to be replaced. The giveaway is the last round acting popping out. while altering the follower and the angle of the last coil of the spring can change this, eventual magazine replacement will be needed. I have had people argue this with me time and again, only to have the problem return, until the magazines that this issue is happening with are removed from use and replaced with fresh mags. The bottom line that so many people neglect, is the magazine is a wear part just as the recoil spring and magazine springs are.

  6. Another one not mentioned is failing to return to battery. I recently got a 38 Super from Colt that over 90% of the time the slide will not fully return forward. I assume it could the recoil spring or slide/frame fit, but regardless it’s been sent back to Colt so they can pay for it not me.

    • Sure, there are a few other common malfunctions that I left out, as they are easy to identify. No one has pointed out that I did not include unseated magazines, so there’s another one.

      Out of battery failures can be attributed to poor quality ammo, or chamber dimension issues, both of which are fairly straightforward to address. Neither the recoil spring nor slide/frame fit affect returning to battery.

  7. Mr. Yam, How many rounds do a typical quality (CMC power mag, WC ETM, TRIPP) 8 round mag see before needing the springs replaced?
    Do they tend to be taken out of service due to feedlip spread before spring and follower replacement? (12-24months according to your 1911 mag article on 10-8)
    I have 2 CMC power mags and 1 WC 7 rounder w/ polymer follower (not sure on model) with about 3,000 standard pressure rounds through them as a whole. The mags are used together.

    During the last 300 round (230gr Speer factory)range trip, the weapon and mag combos started to exhibit high angle / feed way stoppages when the first round would be overhand slung shot w/ mag fully jammed. When shooting strings of 5 rounds in the mag, the 2round would high angle / feed way stop.
    Feedlips are measuring .390 &.384
    Iam trying to figure out if its the feedlips, mag spring, or extractor.
    The stoppages happend about 15 times in a 300round training session

    The weapon is a 5″DW VAlor with a WC Flatwire recoil spring. 3,500 rounds total on the gun and extractor. 1,000 on the recoil spring.

    I appreciate your time and input.

    • For decades, music wire was the wire of choice (well, actually the only suitable wire available) for magazine springs. Unfortunately, music wire was prone to taking a “set” if the magazine was left loaded for an extended period of time (30 days was a long time back before the ’80s). A magazine left loaded was near always prone to failing to feed the last round due to weak spring tension.

      One of the many great products to come from the Space Shuttle program was wire that did not take a set; the new wire was often call memory wire. One of the first professions to pick up and use the wire for non-celestial use was orthodontists. The wire is so resistant to taking “set” that weekly/biweekly trips to replace arch wire on your child’s teeth went from 7 days to 30 days or longer. And the 30 day visit isn’t due to wire “set” but for altering specific arch wire tension based on tooth/teeth movement.

      It wasn’t long before some smart person (probably a orthodontist and bullseye shooter) started bending this new memory wire into the shape of a magazine spring. And like all good things, it wasn’t long before Wolff, ISMI and others migrated to the space age memory wire for gun springs.

      And, Virgil (along with Bill Laughridge and other old timers) have been saying for many, many years you can trick a 1911 running a 8 round mag only so long before it will bite you in the A$$!

      • Does a 7 round mag suffer the same feed lip spread from constant use of being used, dropped from reloads etcetera Or is feed lip spread more a specific problem for 8 round mags?

        In Hilton’s 1911 “magazine” article he discusses using 8 rounders for duty…

        Billy, can you help w/ a diagnosis for my issue described above? It’s the first or second round from “used” mags – not the last round hanging out in a compressed mag.

        Thanks for any input. KT

        • Since you have read my magazine article, you probably also saw that I note that the day of the 7 round 1911 magazine is over. The gun is 39oz empty, and with only 7+1 rounds on board, makes a really marginal choice for a service pistol in this day and age. At the very least, you need to cram in as many rounds as possible – indicating 8 round mags. All 1911 magazine tubes are prone to some feed lip spread, just to differing degrees. How much depends largely on the use pattern, as slide lock reloads and leaving the magazines loaded will cause the greatest tube deformation.

          • I have to state that with a functional knowledge of metallurgy 45 years of shooting 1911s and more “modern” pistols, this 8 round myth needs to be dismissed here and now, an 8 round body with an 8 round spring has no issues, retaining set. As for feed lip set, explain how high capacity magazines are not adversely affected when filled to capacity. It is simply an old situation that happened with the old war time magazines, not current manufacture properly made mags. It is both sad and pathetic that so many of the proclaimed experts on the 1911 perpetrate these dated issues that are no longer a problem, one of which is the statement that a 1911 shorter than 5 inches should not be used for duty use. That ignorant statement by the law of physics, would mean NO pistol under 5 inches would be reliable. The fact is it is simply a matter of the correct recoil spring. Again it is simply ignorant to promote such myths when technology has left such nonsense in the past.

          • As far as magazine springs, please run some Wilson 47D 8rd magazines – which have thinner diameter spring wire and only a marginally longer tube than a GI 7rd – and let me know what you find out about feed lip spread and spring set. Don’t compare other magazine designs from other pistols, their tubes are designed differently.

            As far as sub 5″ 1911s, again please get a few of them in hand and compare the relative slide travel on each one and let me know how your laws of physics explain away the significant loss in rearward movement of Commander and Officer’s length slides. As a simple landmark, look where the breech face ends up relative to the disconnector head on each gun.

            Experience is accumulated both by time and volume. I have over a million rounds and many years worth of first hand research, piles of broken parts, and worn guns to show for what I have learned. I stand by all of what I write.

          • Hilton…

            I concur with everything you wrote.

            I have been carrying and shooting a Colt 1911 Series 70 since 1971. I was even bequeath S/N 454545 in a particular Colt model.

            I can not begin to tell you how many rounds of 45 I have expended 43 years! Couldn’t even hazard a guess! And I have shot every pill imaginable!

            I was merely trying to state that “memory wire”, a by-product of the Space Shuttle program, has enabled the 7 round tube to accept and function rather reliably with 8 rounds. This was not a possibility before the space age wire.

            There are at least 2 American Pistolsmith Guild, “gunsmith of the year” recipients, who advocate rather strongly running a 7 round tube. Their arguments for the 7 round mag are as valid as those you present in favor of 8 rounds.

            Likewise, I do occasionally run Power Mags and Wilson 8 rounders. I also run Wilson tubes with Tripp’s follower and spring kit. And, I also have some C&S 7 rounders.

            Based on my experience (in various environs), the magazine least prone to problems and inducing a failure is a Tripp kit modified tube or Tripp’s complete mags. For years, my EDC is a Tripp 8R-45-RG (reduced printing) in the weapon and 10R-45-RG in a mag pouch. I have not had a single failure attributed to either magazine in many years and thousands of rounds.

            And I have no connection to Tripp. I purchase off his web site like anyone else.

            Like Mac, I am a huge fan of the 10 rounder in a 1911!

          • Yes, the “Rocket Wire” used in CMC Power Mags allows for performance beyond normal music wire. I actually wasn’t addressing your post, I have no idea where WordPress attaches replies, so I had no issues with your posts. I used to espouse the 7rd mag as well for functional reasons, but for service pistol reasons I can no longer recommend losing the capacity.

            The Tripp followers do work well, I have used many of them.

          • No REPLY button for ScottS so I will post here.

            Scott are you saying that the engineering concept of MTBF for magazine associated problems, regardless of capacity, nonexistent?

            I do agree, modern technology, specifically manufacturing and materials, has greatly enhanced reliability and allowed 1911 manufacturers and full house custom ‘smiths to produce product and entire pistols in ways not dreamed of a mere 40 years ago.

            But, I would submit technology has merely increased the number of cycles; MTBF is still a real and valid variable. Everything produced from raw materials (for the most part anyway) will have a useful life cycle.

            I would not call problems associated with an 8 round mag in a unaltered SA GI or Mil-Spec model a myth. The issues are very real. I do agree with Hilton that they are pistol related for the most part. But then again, we are discussing the complete package, pistol, magazines and ammunition.

    • I do not go by round count, as a person who only does slide forward reloads and leaves the mags empty will get a much longer service cycle than someone who does all slide lock reloads (thus allowing the column of rounds to accelerate and stop against the feed lips rather than the disconnector rail of the slide) and leaves them loaded.

      Based only on the information that you have provided, it sounds more like you are having some barrel setup issues. Try a new set of mags and/or different ammo first to isolate the issues. Every DW we have had in our classes has worked very well, so I would look first at ammo and mags just to eliminate them.

  8. I own and use my 1911 for target shooting as much as possible. When my gun jams, I usually get the horizontal stovepipe jamming, and with PMC brand bullets. What is the best way to clear this? The majority of the methods I have seen and one of my old-school instructors cleared it with the ‘sweep and clear’ method.

    • First of all, it is a malfunction, not a jam. In this case, as you noted, a horizontal stovepipe, which is sufficiently descriptive. Per the article, your gun’s extractor needs work. Sweep and clear is a self limiting method, as you then need a different technique for a horizontal vs a vertical stovepipe. Tap/rack will clear both of them.

  9. It may be hard to believe, but I’ve dragged my WC Supergrade through classes with Vogel, Vickers, Awerbuck and Hackathorn with the only issues being a cracked firing pin stop (which didn’t affect function) and the rear sight coming loose. It was fed whatever bulk pack was available at Wal-Mart by Metalform, 47D, ETM, CMC and Tripp. I guess sometimes you just get lucky.

    • Not necessarily hard to believe, but to be fair, the WC Supergrade is also not the $1500 out of the box 1911 either.

      • Oh, no doubt. I’d never attempt any of that with any 1911 under $2k. Last class a Springer Loaded 9mm died halfway through the day.

    • I think the question is less about the price point of the gun and more about what’s been done to the gun.

      A 1911 is really a hobby gun, it’s a class of designs which is copied and recopied and tweaked by engineers, and suffers the same problems as any design taken and reinvented without the benefit of stringent specs and requirements. This means that the gun is built by people that don’t understand it, to standards that in a mass manufacturing process is difficult to achieve at a cheap price.

      Any 1911 can be made to run right and reliably, and be made to be acceptable and useful for most cases short of running into harm’s way in an offensive situation. The key there is what Hilton has spent a long time espousing that people don’t really get: You have to verify functionality and you have to be willing to address correctly the pain points which the factory may or may not deal with for you. That means range time, learning the ins and outs of the gun, and getting it dirty. it means spending effort and money on ensuring the function and having the necessary work done to fix anything that’s going to be a show-stopper. You don’t just take it out of the box, shove it in the holster, and expect it to run.

      Bottom line: The 1911 is a great gun, and it’s worth the time and effort put into it. But it has its limitations. Meanwhile there are plenty of great alternatives that work just as well in the field and aren’t going to take as much work or effort to keep going. I love my 1911, but I gladly accept that my Hk45, Glock 17, glock 21, and Sig P226 are all guns that do things better. Gotta let go of the emotional tether to a beautiful pistol and go with what gets the job done.

  10. You know, someone should invent a 1911 that looks like a 1911 on the outside, but internally is more simple, like an M&P or a glock. That way, we can have consistently reliable 1911 that won’t require me to mortgage my first born son.

  11. I have had very good results with Mec-Gar 8 round mags with the metal follower and Wolff mag springs. Pistol is a Colt Gov’t SS, with 18.5 pound Wolff recoil spring.
    As stated in the article, proper extractor tension is critical. I did warranty work for Colt and S&W when they had warranty stations. Another necessary item to address is the FP hole with the standard (large diameter) pin. I always cut a slight chamfer from
    9 o’clock to 3 o’clock.

  12. Wow, that last one was ugly. I feel bad for the poor schmuck that had that happen. ; ) Hopefully he was smart and tossed the mag and the extractor in the trash, then fit a new Wilson Bulletproof based on what he learned in a 10-8 class from people with a lot more experience than him.

  13. Hilton, et al,
    A malfunction issue that’s been plaguing me of the feed-stoppage sort is what I believe is excessive fouling of the chamber. I’ve shot both hand loads and factory loads (from a variety of manufacturers) and continue to have the problem. The gun will fire upwards of 3 to 4 seven-round clips of ammo before the ‘next round up’ will fail to fully seat itself into the chamber. At the point, the gun will function fine if I strip it and clean the chamber.

    The gun is a locally-built Caspian frame/slide with various Wilson Combat, etc., parts – that said, I do not know the maker of the barrel.

    Your thoughts on this would be appreciated. To give you an idea of my experience, I’ve been an avid shooter for the last 30 years with rounds downrange into the six figures. I’m not an expert, but I wasn’t hatched yesterday.

    Thank you for this valuable resource.

  14. Hilton,

    I have two Colt Government Models, a Combat Elite and Lightweight. I experienced an issue the other day and I am not sure how to diagnose or fix the issue. While firing both 1911’s with my Winchester T-Series 230 grain, the 1911’s did a full slide lock on the last round that was in the magazine. This round was then loose inside of the chamber of the 1911’s. Now this only occurred once on each pistol and I was using brand new Wilson Combat Mags, ETMs and 47 Ds, during these range sessions.Can you please explain to me what the issue(s) may be? If you can identify an issue, what can I do to solve the problem? Thanks and I would appreciate any advise that you may offer on my current issues.

  15. My particular problem is with the manufacturing process of Springfield Armory. My loaded operator has a rough hand engraved disconnector rail on the bottom of the slide. Its engraved with three numbers of the serno that was illegible then a line was put through it. Next to that.they tried it again with the same three numbers. My concern is that the finish is rough at the engraving. Will this affect the life of the sear disconnector by “sanding it as it fires”?

  16. So according to this article, as I have never had a feedway stopage on my 1911 series 80 Officer’s Model, even after 20,000+ rounds, I must be a liar? Well I bought the gun new in 1986, I DO have 20,000+ rounds through it and I have never had this issue…..and I do NOT lie. In fact, I had had only two malfunctions on it at all and both times my extractor needed to be replaced. And the rounds shot have either been Federal 185 JHP, Speer Gold Dot, or good old 230 grain ball.

  17. When I had a 9mm 1911, it had a very unusual malfunction that occurred occasionally. It was like a “failure to extract/double feed” above, except that I would often find the case was still held by the extractor, but also still in the chamber. My guess was that it was extracting, failing to eject, and then trying to chamber a fresh round while also rechambering the spent case.

    Anyone ever heard of such a malfunction?

  18. Thanks for this! But I’ve got a question about feedway stoppage.

    I’ve got a Springfield GI (Not the best example of a 1911, I know.) And I’ll usually have around 1 feedway stoppage per range trip. The strange thing about it is that it only happens with one of my magazines, a cheap aftermarket. I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s just because it’s a newer magazine, or if it’s a gun issue. anyone have thoughts?

  19. A bit of a side-trip into the wide-body: My son has a Para Ordnance 15-40 from the Clinton ban era that runs just fine with 165-180 gr. bullets regardless of brand, but anything lighter gets nose-up malfs. My thought is that the geometry of the 1911 was based on a full-length .45 ACP round, and the 9 mm and .40’s are too short to begin with and worse still with lighter bullets. Am I on the right track? Simply avoid the lightweights and go with what works?

  20. Thanks for all the input- I have a hard time buying my issues are mag related if I can take five brand new wilson mags out of the wrap and still have issues- the concept I would have to “fix” one of the most expensive 1911 mags out there prior to trusting it to work is insane.

    • Dan, your suspicions are correct. If you are getting malfunctions of any type with a brand new, out of the wrap, in-spec CMC PowerMag or Wilson ETM or even 47D, there something wrong with the gun.

  21. Hi.

    At the end of 2011 I purchased a new Colt O1991. In my haste to try it out, I took it directly from a gun show to an indoor range, swabbed out the bore with a dry patch to make sure there was no oil present in it, and began shooting. Upon later disassembly I found the gun had shipped dry of any detectable trace of lubricant.

    Ammo was Winchester White Box 230gr ball, and the magazine I was using was an 8-round Wilson ETM. The third round from the first mag resulted in a double-feed stoppage. I cleared the malfunction and continued shooting. A couple thousand rounds later–some with factory ball, some with factory hollowpoints of several brands and types, and some with my own cast lead SWC reloads, with a few different brands of 7-round and 8-round magazines–it has not recurred, and no other malfunctions have taken place, but it’s only been about two thousand rounds. I wonder whether the extractor, as installed at the factory, had a burr that wore off in the first few mags.

    I did not buy the gun for hard use, and have other firearms I intend to use for self-defense should the need arise, but I do enjoy shooting it and I figure that it’s not wholly inconceivable that, should an unfortunate incident occur, it might end up being what was closest to my hand. As such, should I replace the extractor? The fact that a malfunction occurred at all is a matter of some concern to me.

    Do you have recommendations for an appropriate replacement? Another Colt extractor? Wilson Combat Bulletproof? Ed Brown? Aftec?


    • A good start would be to tune the Colt factory one. They are pretty good. As for aftermarket ones, the Wilson BP has good geometry to start with and holds tension well. I use them almost exclusively.

      • Regardless of the extractor you choose, checking for or establishing proper “tension’ing” of the extractor is critical to eliminating fail to extract malfunctions.

        As Tim mentioned, Wilson does a good job of contouring the hook on the extractor, eliminating a procedure many folks overlook when installing a new extractor.

  22. i am a italian colt’ lovers, i shoot at range with my colt 1911 more than five thousand rounds, flat point jacket and flat point cast swc, and it always work fine without jams or failure !!! the gun is customized with a retro-fit work on the frame feed ramp is installed a long feed ramp, a patent dispositive to improved feeding with every shape of flat point bullets, after this work-shop the gun always work fine without jams! so long , bad guys!

  23. Hilton,

    Last week I experienced the last malfunction listed above (last round extracted into mag feed lips) on my service pistol. I would like to get your thoughts on this. Here’s some facts of the incident:

    1. The gun is a Springfield pro with approx 8,000 rounds through it, 0 malfunctions to date. Springs have been replaced at regular intervals and it was just PM’d, which included new springs, a new firing pin stop installed (not sure why, i just saw that note from the gunsmith), and inspection (extractor, ejector, etc).

    2. The mag was a cmc power mag. Mag feed lips measured .380. This was one of several service mags that stay loaded and i shoot approx 3-4x per year and do not abuse them. They have not had a spring change yet (2 yrs old), but I have a new set of springs to install in them. I use older “worn out” mags for training and high volume shooting.

    3. I was bench resting the gun at the time, so there was upward pressure on the bottom of the mag from the table when the shot was fired.

    4. I fired approx 250 malfunction free rounds after this, through this mag and several others from that group of service mags. A lot of these were reload drills on mags with 1-2 rounds in them, so there was a lot of opportunity for this last round in the mag malfunction. I also fired approx 10 rounds, one at a time, bench rested on the table through this same mag and could not replicate this issue.

    My questions are: how concerned should I be about this considering I couldn’t replicate it after that? Could it have been caused by that upward pressure on the mag, which would have forced the top of the mag higher into the gun and possibly in the way of the ejecting casing? Thanks!

    • The victim mag should be discarded. I also would not get into the habit of using “old” mags for training, as malfunctions caused by those would erode your confidence in the pistol. Having sets of mags for training and duty are fine, but get rid of ANY mag that is worn or out of spec.

      Sounds like you have analyzed this somewhat, and it is otherwise impossible to troubleshoot your gun via the web. This problem, as explained in the article, is a byproduct of an extractor failure plus magazine dimensions. Even though your mag was in spec, the extractor still had to fail to allow the casing to fall that low and get dragged through the feed lips.

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