1911 Detailed Disassembly

Thanks to the fine folks at Springfield Armory who donated four pistols to be given away at the Oregon Single Stack Championship, I have a new project gun.  I encourage you to support Springfield because they make a good product and support the shooting sports, something not every manufacturer does.
This is a basic “G.I. 1911-A1” – as close to the original model of 1911 as Springfield makes.  As such, it doesn’t have many of the features found on higher end 1911’s.  It’s time to add those features…

The Springfield GI 1911

I don’t recommend this as approach – it won’t save you money.  If you want a modern 1911, you should buy one as close to what you want as possible, then modify it.  But, if you happen to have a 1911 already and want to modify it, this should serve as an example of many of the operations you might perform.

I haven’t completely decided what I want the final pistol to be.  It could be a carry gun, an IPSC/USPSA pistol, or a speed steel pistol.  This decision can wait, as there are plenty of changes that would be common to all three end results.

I have put 50 rounds through the pistol. Accuracy was exceptional – much better than I expected.  As such, I will use the factory barrel and bushing, rather than replacing them.

I will detail complete disassembly here.  I am going to skip the basic breakdown that is detailed in every 1911 user’s manual and only detail ‘advanced’ disassembly.

With the pistol field-stripped, the next step is to remove the stocks.  The stocks on this pistol are held on with slotted screws.  Nothing screams amateur like a chewed up slotted screw.  Use a hollow ground screwdriver of the appropriate size to remove them.  A ‘standard’ screwdriver is a wedge – this makes it fit a broad variety of slots, but it also mauls them.  Note the difference between a wedge-type screwdriver and a hollow ground screwdriver in the photo.

The top screw driver bears evenly on the walls of a screw slot. The lower screwdriver only bears where the widest part meets the slot - so it digs in and mars the screw head.

An appropriately sized screwdriver bears on the full slot from the bottom of its depth to the top, and for the full length.  Using such a screwdriver, I remove the stock screws and pop the stocks off.  (You can reach inside the magazine well and push on the back of the stock to pop it out, if necessary).  Occasionally when you do this the stock screw bushing (the part the screw screws into) will unscrew from the frame, rather than the screw coming out.  If this happens, just screw it back in, snug and try again.  The thread pitch is such that you should be able to tighten the bushing by turning the screw and then remove the screw as you would expect.  In this case the bushings all remained as they should.

Stocks removed from the pistol

Next, remove the mainspring housing.  In most 1911’s this is as easy as putting the hammer in the fired position and driving out the mainspring pin. (Do not let the hammer drop when the slide is off – there’s a rather thin part of the frame that will be battered by doing so.  If it happens once or twice it’s not the end of the world, but don’t make a habit of it).  The Springfield, however, incorporates a lock in the mainspring housing, so it’s a bit different.  To remove the Springfield mainspring housing we rubber band the grip safety down…

Holding the grip safety down with a rubberband in preparation for removing the mainspring. This is completely unnecessary for a complete teardown.

Cock the hammer, and insert a takedown pin.

Takedown pin inserted in the mainspring housing (Springfield ILS only)

Hold the hammer, and pull the trigger, easing the hammer down.  Now, we can drive out the mainspring pin with a punch, just like a ‘normal’ 1911.

The mainspring housing pin is concave on the left, drive it out left to right.

Then just slide the mainspring housing out of the pistol.

The removed mainspring housing

At this point it became obvious to me that the rubber band wasn’t really necessary for our purposes.  It’s there to hold the 3-fingered spring in place if you just want to swap mainspring housings (like trading a flat style for the arched one).

Remove the rubber band.  The 3-fingered spring may fall out – that’s fine.

Remove the thumb safety.  This is probably the hardest part.  With the hammer in the cocked position, wiggle the thumb safety around the position between on and off, while pushing on its pivot pin.  Once you find the right spot, it should move.  Be aware that the safety spring plunger (the ‘button’ that provides the ‘click’ when the safety is moved) may fly out as the thumb safety is withdrawn.  Don’t lose it!

Removing the thumb safety

With the thumb safety removed, you can pull off the grip safety and the 3-fingered spring.

Thumb safety removed, allowing removal of grip safety and 3-fingered spring

Push out the hammer pin and remove the hammer.  The hammer pin is loose and will not require a hammer to drive out.  Push it out from the side of the pistol that would be to the left if you were firing.  The other end of the pin is flared and will not drive out.  With the pin removed, pull the hammer and stirrup assembly out of the frame.

Push out the hammer pin from right to left

Push out the sear pin and remove the sear and disconnector.  The remaining pin holds the sear and disconnector in place, push it out the same way as the hammer pin.

Push out the sear pin

With the sear pin removed, hold the frame vertically and tap it against your palm, if necessary, to get the disconnector and sear to drop out.

sear pin, disconnector, and sear removed

At this point, there is a screw head apparent on the right side of the magazine release.  This is not a screw!  It is actually connected to a tab that rides in a slot in the frame.  With a properly fitted screwdriver, apply gentle clockwise tension while slowly depressing the magazine release.  Somewhere after the release is slightly, but not fully, depressed, the tab will turn 1/4 turn and the magazine release assembly will come out.

Magazine release removed from the frame

Just for educational purposes, with the release out of the pistol, turn the tab clockwise 1/4 turn and the magazine release will be disassembled.  You will have the button, a spring, and the tab.  At this point you should be able to see how it works.

Disassembled magazine release.

Push the trigger out.  With the magazine release out of the way, the trigger can be pushed out the back of the frame, in the same direction as if you were pulling it.

Trigger removed

To finish off the frame disassembly, push the safety/slide stop plunger spring out.  Using a small (1/16″) punch, push from the slide-stop end and push out the thumb safety plunger, spring and slide-stop plunger.  This completes disassembly of the frame.  (There are a few parts that we have not touched – the stock bushings, the plunger tube, and the ejector.  These are parts you won’t normally have cause to remove.

Removing the slide stop and thumb safety spring plungers

Slide stop and thumb safety plungers removed from plunger tube

On to the slide.

At the rear of the slide, insert a punch and pull down on the firing pin stop.  It is a good idea to wear eye protection for this step – if the firing pin is released it can fly readily.

Removing the firing pin stop

Thumb in position to catch the firing pin as it is released

The released firing pin



As the firing pin stop is removed, it frees the firing pin and spring, I like to keep a thumb over the area to contain them.  Remove the firing pin and firing pin spring after the firing pin stop is out.

Removed firing pin stop and firing pin

Remove the extractor.  With a punch, push the tip of the extractor back.  If it hangs, it may be necessary to gently push the extractor hook back to get it to slide into the extractor tunnel.  The extractor is a spring, with a slight bend in it that sets tension.  Once the hook is past the breechface, the extractor should withdraw easily from the rear of the slide.  The punch is shown for photographic purposes to indicate where to push, but it will generally be easier to put the punch through the ejection port to do this.

Pushing the extractor out

Extractor removed

That’s it!  That completes basic detailed assembly.  Eventually we’ll replace the sights, but we’ll remove them when we get that far.

Here’s the disassembled pistol.  The parts on the left will be kept.  The parts on the right will be replaced as we continue.  But first, a reassembly tutorial for those that just wanted to take their pistol apart.

Disassembled pistol




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