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American Handgunner March/April 2010 - Page 30
PISTOLSMITHING Alex Hamilton THE INSIDE SCOOP ON PISTOLSMITHING TECHNIQUES A neatly fitted grip safety can be a thing of beauty and highly functional. DROP-IN PARTS Myth Or Magic? R ight up front I have to tell you, as a custom pistolsmith, I have no love for drop-in parts for either pistols or revolvers, with the exception of a spring kit or two. However, even spring kits can get the novice in dangerous trouble if he does not understand the mechanics and geometry of the internal works. One excellent attribute of drop-ins is they allow you to save a little money and help you sorta personalize your pistol with some minor gunsmithing. But always be sure there is a real life gunsmith close by who can get you out of trouble. Just guessing here, but I would speculate the dropin 1911 pistol grip safety is one of the top selling drop-in parts for any handgun. I am a huge fan of a properly installed, graceful, functional Brown high rise grip safety. There are others, but I find them big and bulky. Drop-in grip safeties like the one shown will cut down on hammer bite from a long spur hammer, but as many of you have found out they are not exactly drop-ins. The grip safety, when at rest, has an arm blocking the rear of the 1911 trigger bow keeping it from contacting and disconnecting the sear from the hammer. When the safety is squeezed, the trigger block arm moves up and away from the trigger bow allowing the trigger to push the sear off the hammer. If the trigger block arm is too long it will have to be precisely fitted for safety, but if it’s too short the safety will not work and will have to be welded and re-cut for proper fit. To test proper operation of your grip safety, pull the trigger without pushing the grip safety in and watch the hammer. If the hammer moves even the slightest the grip safety is not doing its job and will have to be properly fitted by a competent gunsmith. The “money saving” drop-in will end up burning up all the money you believe you initially saved. Match Or NOt? rop-in match barrels for the 1911 are a very popular item, but you must understand what a true match barrel is before spending those Ben Franklins. A true match barrel internally is nothing more than a quality standard “run of the mill” barrel with internal dimensions cut to SAAMI specs. The bore is not tighter nor is the chamber any different than a regular barrel. It’s the outside dimensions that need to be fit, in order to create match grade performance. And it needs to be perfectly fitted to eliminate all barrel movement when your pistol is in battery. A drop-in match barrel will have only slightly oversize external dimensions and will make the barrel lock up only “somewhat” tighter in battery. A drop-in must be loose enough to drop into all or most of the 1911s out there, so it will never be able to give you the true match-grade accuracy shooters demand. The same facts apply to drop-in “match” bushings. If the bushing is so loose you can turn it with your fingers, the loose tolerance translates to vertical stringing and misses on the target. A drop-in thumb safety is where you will really get into trouble, so be very careful when installing this important part. After installation push the safety into the safe position and pull the trigger. If you see the hammer move or after the safety is pushed off the trigger feels lighter you have a serious safety problem and will have to take your gat to a competent gunsmith for fixing. D Use Your Brain A definite “danger zone” when it comes to drop-in bits. If you “install” a drop-in safety, conduct a check to make sure it’s working. Read Alex’s article to find out what that test is. D rop-in trigger jobs are sold by a number of companies and normally include a lighter sear spring, disconnector, hammer and sear. You will pay around $160 for the parts and will more than likely end up taking your pistol to a quality gunsmith to get the creep out and sharpen the pull. To fine-tune the pull will cost another $85 to $150, but the gunsmiths will really appreciate working with those new, high quality parts. If you are simply looking for a ten- or 20-percent better trigger the drop-in kits could be your cookie, but always be careful in this area if you flunked geometry. There are many drop-in parts you can install without creating a safety problem or extra expense. Items such as some models of laser sights, scope mounts, rings and scopes, magazine wells, etc. are usually a safe bet. But even the mag wells need to be blended and fitted to the edges of the magazine opening so just be careful how you spend your money on anything with the prefix “drop-in.” Be careful out there, don’t hurt yourself and know when the job is beyond your skill level. * 30 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2010