Another in our continuing series on firearms maintenance.




Before cleaning any firearm adhere to proper safety protocols


Visually and physically check that your weapon is empty


Remove all ammo from the room


Because several parts require removal under spring tension eye protection is recommended


Field strip – verb – to take apart a weapon to the extent authorized for cleaning, lubrication and inspection for wear.


Semi automatic firearms are machines that operate under high pressure and at high velocity. For safety and reliability they should be treated with respect and properly maintained. After each range session we field strip our firearms to clean them. Once you have the firearm disassembled take a look at the parts that are subjected to stress. If your firearm is used solely for plinking, it would be cost effective to replace parts as they break or wear out, but in a self defense gun it would be enormously beneficial to find a part and replace it before it fails.


Once they are cleaned we lube the essential parts. Machines operating under pressure and velocity will last longer if properly lubricated. If you don’t remember which parts need lubrication look at the parts that show wear. A bright shiny spot is caused by another part rubbing against it. Chances are good that lubrication on this part as well as the mating part is a good idea. The final step would be to perform a function check to ensure the weapon is ready to go bang the next time you pull the trigger.


There are two major methods of field stripping the 1911. One method causes unnecessary wear on the barrel and bushing interface. We will go over our preferred method on taking the weapon apart.


With your eye protection in place and an empty weapon with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction


Whole Slide Method Our Preferred Method


This method removes the whole slide as the first step


Advantage is less wear on the bushing


Disadvantage is recoil guide rod could go flying and the recoil spring may be bent




Position the slide take down notch over the slide stop




Press the stem of the slide stop from the right side of the frame




Continue to hold the slide to the rear as you remove the slide stop


Remove the slide from the frame by sliding it forward. Nota Bene: Take care when removing and reinstalling the slide stop. If you drag the slide stop against the frame you will place a semi circular scratch from the slide to the trigger. This scratch is colloquially known as an “idiot mark.”




As you approach the end of the frame, capture the recoil spring and guide rod with your thumb


Set the frame aside.




Remove the recoil spring and guide rod and set them aside. The recoil spring can be removed from the guide rod with a slight twist.




Unlock the barrel by moving it down and an inch forward. Doing this will save some wear and tear on the bushing to barrel interface. Rotate the bushing clockwise and remove the plug. Set the plug aside.




Rotate the bushing counter clockwise to align the bushing tab with the slide.




Turn the slide upside down and push the barrel link forward.




Pull the barrel and bushing out from the front of the slide and set the slide aside. This may be a tight fit. Pulling the barrel out in small increments helps to “tap” the bushing free. Remove the bushing and set the bushing and barrel aside.


For some this would be the end of a field strip. We occasionally like to go one step further and remove the firing pin and extractor which will allow for a more thorough cleaning and better inspection of the firing pin and extractor.




To finish disassembly of the top end, use a punch (or the hammer strut if no tools are available) to depress the firing pin and slide the firing pin stop downward,




taking care to control the firing pin which is under pressure




Remove and set aside the firing pin, firing pin spring and firing pin stop. Remove firing pin spring from firing pin with a slight twist. Note that spring is captive, one end is tighter than the other.




With a dental pick or small screw driver carefully pry the extractor from the extractor tunnel.


Remove and set aside the extractor.




This completes the field strip. The remainder of parts in the frame are only removed with a complete detail strip.




Check the firing pin and extractor for any pitting, breakage or extensive wear.


Extractor tension will be tested during reassembly


Check recoil spring for deformation by rolling it on a hard level surface. The spring should roll smoothly. Check the length of the recoil spring to a brand new spring of the same brand and weight, it should be within 1/2 inch of the new one. Replace it if it is not.


Check the firing pin stop for cracks. You will generally see the cracks when they start to fail at the 7:30 position in line with the 90 degree bend on the left. The firing pin stop should be replaced when a crack is visible, however in an emergency situation the gun will still function with a single crack. Once the second crack begins at the 4:30 position, it is definitely time to replace!




If you look closely in this photo you will see the start of a crack inside the yellow circle.


Replacement Schedule


We generally recommend the following replacement schedule for a self defense gun:


Every 5,000 rounds replace the recoil spring and the firing pin spring


Every 10,000 rounds replace the recoil spring, firing pin spring, sear spring and main spring


Every 15,000 rounds replace the recoil and firing pin springs, as well as your firing pin stop, extractor and slide stop.


If all of the parts look still serviceable it is time for lubrication. For a carry gun we prefer to use a lubricant heavier than oil that will stay in place. One of the best that we have found is Slide-Glide ( it comes in three viscosities, lite, standard and heavy. Since it can get chilly in the Pacific North West we use the lite version and have had no problems with the slide slowing down.


On the 1911 we lubricate the following points (note we lube a surface and the interfacing surface as well):




Mating Surface


Frame rails


Slide rails


Barrel lugs


Slide lugs


Muzzle end of barrel


Bushing (inside)


Feet of lower lugs


Slide stop




Disconnector rail






Place the firing pin spring onto the firing pin. Note that the spring has a tight and a loose end. Insert the firing pin into the tight end of the spring. It should take a little pressure to fully seat the pin, and it should be held captive once installed.




Insert the extractor into extractor tunnel, use punch to correctly align. Test fit the FPS plate prior to installing the firing pin to ensure that the extractor is clocked correctly. Partially remove FPS plate and insert firing pin and spring.




Depress the firing pin as you slide the FPS plate in position




At this point we will check the tension of the extractor. With the barrel still removed, but the extractor and firing pin reinstalled, place a live round on the breech face with the rim under the extractor, in the position where the round would sit when in full battery. There should be a small amount of friction as you insert the round. Gently shake the slide. The extractor should hold the round against the breech face. Vigorously shake the slide and the round should fall clear.




Replace the bushing on the barrel




Move the link forward




Hold slide upside down and insert the barrel into the slide…




aligning the tab on the bushing with the slide




Fully seat the bushing into the slide. Ensure that the barrel is out of battery by an inch and then rotate the bushing fully clockwise.




Move the link upright. If you removed the recoil spring from the recoil guide rod replace it on the guide rod so the spring stays captive. Place the recoil spring and guide rod into the slide from the rear.




Keep the slide upside down, hold the frame upside down, and place the slide onto the frame, and turn the whole unit right side up. Align the link with the slide stop hole, sometimes it helps to use a punch in the hole to align correctly.




Insert the slide stop. Move the slide forward to ensure the link was captured




Move the slide back to align the take down notch with the slide stop. Carefully position the slide stop against the plunger. In one smooth motion push in with the left thumb and up with the right thumb to fully seat the slide stop into the frame.




With the muzzle pointed away from your face, place the plug on the end of the recoil spring. Some plugs have an indent which allows the plug to screw on slightly and hold the plug to the spring. If yours does make a slight clockwise turn of the plug




Keeping the slide out of battery depress the plug into the frame and rotate the bushing to capture the plug. With the slide out of battery, this can usually be accomplished without having to use a bushing wrench.


The weapon is now fully assembled. To ensure that nothing was broken during the range session and that we have put all of the parts correctly back in place we will perform a function check.


The Function Check




While pointing the muzzle in a safe direction, visually and physically inspect the chamber to ensure that it is empty.




Ensure that the thumb safety is disengaged and make sure that you are not depressing the grip safety, press the trigger. The hammer must not fall. If the hammer falls there is a problem with the grip safety and the gun must be fixed by a qualified gunsmith.




Grip the gun with a good combat grip to ensure that the grip safety is now fully depressed. Move the thumb safety up to engage the thumb safety. Pull the trigger. Once again the hammer must not fall. If the hammer falls, there is a problem with the weapon and the weapon must be fixed by a qualified gunsmith.




With the grip safety depressed, remove the thumb safety and pull the trigger. The hammer should fall. Keep the trigger fully depressed for the final check. With the trigger fully to the rear, cycle the action and then allow the trigger to move forward to reset. You should hear an audible “click” that signifies that the disconnector has reset. Test by pull the trigger again and the hammer should fall a final time.


You are now good to go! Cleaning (which is so important that we will cover it in a separate article), inspection and lubrication are important parts of firearms maintenance, that are well worth the small amount of time required to keep your firearm in top condition.


Design Trivia


The genius behind the 1911 as well as many other firearms was John Moses Browning. Some of the thought that he put into the design of the 1911 becomes apparent when you learn that the gun was designed to be able to be completely detail stripped (completely taking the weapon apart, upper and lower) using only an empty shell casing and the internal parts as the tool kit! The heads on the grip screws are rounded to allow the mouth of an empty case to be used as a screw driver. The end of the hammer strut can be used as a punch to drive out pins in the weapon.




Interesting factoid: If you were to lose the plug in the field the gun was designed to allow a spent .45 ACP shell casing to be used as a field expedient plug!