Monthly Archives: July 2015

Internal Extractor vs. External Extractor?

When debating internal vs. external extractors, many proponents of the internal extractor point to the fact that the first production 1911s were equipped with internal extractors. This, however, seems to be by request from the U.S. Military during the 1906-1911 Army Pistol Trials, which called for -among other things- ease of disassembly to facilitate servicing the pistol in the field.

It’s worth noting that early prototypes of the 1911 featured an external extractor and many of John Moses Browning’s pistol designs before the 1911 featured external extractors, including the FN M1900, FN Model 1903, Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless, FN M1905, Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket, Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless and the FN Model 1910. The Colt M1900, Colt M1902 and Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer featured internal extractors. I believe that this is evidence that JMB wasn’t religious on the subject.

So which is better?

Internal extractors are simpler. An internal extractor is a single piece of tensile steel with a good degree of “springiness” that must be properly tuned and shaped when installed. By contrast, an external extractor is made up of multiple parts but doesn’t need to be as highly tuned or specialized. An external extractor doesn’t require as much tuning as an internal extractor when first installed.

Internal extractors are more or less interchangeable. That is, an internal extractor from one Series 70 1911 may be dropped into another Series 70 without fuss and a Series 80 internal extractor may be used in another Series 80 1911 or in a Series 70 (note: a Series 70 internal extractor will not fit a Series 80 as the internal extractor in a Series 80 has a cut out to make room for the firing pin block).

Springfield 1911 with Internal Extractor

Springfield 1911 with Internal Extractor

External extractors, however, are not standardized across manufacturers. Therefore an external extractor from one manufacturer will very likely not fit another manufacturer’s 1911. External extractors are simpler and cheaper to manufacture.

Sig Sauer 1911 with External Extractor

Sig Sauer 1911 with External Extractor

TL;DR;

If you believe that you might find yourself doing a detail strip in the great outdoors or extractor maintenance in a fox hole, having the simpler internal extractor would likely be to your advantage. If you can see yourself in a situation where you may need to replace your extractor from a limited selection of random 1911 parts, an internal extractor will be to your advantage. Internal extractors are more common.

Functionally they behave the same and though early external extractors in 1911s earned a bad reputation, by most accounts external extractors of recent manufacture can be just as reliable as those with internal extractors. There are exceptions to every rule of course, and there are no doubt countless tales of issues with both.

 

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Full Length Guide Rod or Standard G.I. Length?

What is the purpose of a full-length guide rod on a 1911? What is the difference between a full-length guide rod and a shorter standard length one? FLGR vs GI?

First things first: the guide rod on a 1911 keeps the recoil spring compression tidy during the rearward travel of the slide during operation.

1911 with standard guide rod

1911 with standard guide rod

The original issue 1911 had a short “G.I. style” guide rod (approximately 1.75″ Government, 1.25″ Commander). The full-length guide rod (FLGR, approximately 4″) was introduced in the 1960’s and was purported to “prevent kinking of the recoil spring and insure a smooth recoil action” and “add some weight to the muzzle end of the weapon” to “steady the gun during firing and reduce recoil upon firing.”

There have been several articles, experiments, anecdotes and opinions published online and in print discussing the merits of a full-length guide rod on a 1911. The overwhelming consensus is that a full-length guide rod does little to actually improve the recoiling action or prevent kinking of the recoil spring during recoil. Most if not all shooters would be unable to tell the different between the standard short guide rod and a full-length.

1911 with full-length guide rod

1911 with full-length guide rod

There is some truth to the notion that a full-length guide rod adds some weight to the muzzle end of the pistol; however, the weight difference on average is relatively minor and therefore the effect is relatively minor. A standard short guide rod in 416 stainless steel weighs around .75 oz. A full-length guide rod weighs twice as much (~1.5 oz.) while a tungsten FLGR weighs in around 3-3.2 oz.

By itself, an additional ounce or two will not noticeably reduce muzzle flip, but a tungsten guide rod in combination with a bull barrel and/or full-length dustcover may together add enough weight to provide a noticeable difference.

In truth, a full-length guide rod is usually there for looks. That may be the only benefit provided by a FLGR.

Most opponents of the full-length guide rod will tell you:

  1. A full-length guide rod complicates field stripping and usually requiring a take down tool.
  2. A full-length guide rod inhibits one-handed racking of the slide on a table edge or other surface in an emergency.
  3. The venerable John Moses Browning did not design the original 1911 with a full-length guide rod.

While all of these are technically true, most of us aren’t field stripping our pistols “in a field” or in a fox hole, and requiring a take down tool and a few extra seconds during cleaning isn’t a major inconvenience. In a pinch, a paperclip, pin or piece of wire can be used in place of a take down tool. There are many who find field stripping with a FLGR much easier since there’s no need to fight with the recoil spring or plug when reassembling.

One-handing racking of the slide by pressing the bottom half of the muzzle against a table edge or similar may prove useful in a home or self defense scenario but, while a common refrain, I’m not sure how often this has been the difference between life and death for anyone. If your 1911 is for HD or SD and you can imagine a situation where your second hand may be otherwise occupied, a FLGR may not be for you.

As for it not being a JMB original, there are a lot of things on our 1911s that weren’t in JMB’s original design. Tactical rails, beavertails, magwells, ramped barrels, target sights, lowered ejection ports and numerous other additions all come standard on production models today and were added post-JMB. The purist may shun such additions, but that’s one of the greatest things about a 1911: they can be customized, personalized and made completely unique to your needs.

If your particular style calls for a FLGR, wear it with pride.

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