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Extractor problem??

3724 Views 19 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Jorah Lavin
I have a Colt Combat Commander. I put a dummy cartridge in a magazine, insert the magazine and release the slide. Then I draw the slide back slowly to watch the action. The dummy cartridge is withdrawn from the barrel, but it sags as soon as it is clear of the barrel. I think the extractor should be holding the dummy cartridge firmly against the breech plate to allow proper ejection, but it does not. Does this sound like an extractor problem and, if so, what is the remedy?
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Yes, sounds like not enough extractor tension.

Remove the slide. Remove the extractor about 1/2 way out of the slide. Carefully and slowly, bend the rear of the extractor (that's sticking half way out) in towards the firing pin. Don't bend it much at all. Re-insert extractor. Slip a round up the breech face under the extractor, and position the case rim halfway up, under the extractor hook. You should be able to rotate the slide 360 degrees without the round falling out. It should take about 4 lbs. of pressure to insert the round under the extractor. If it's harder than 4 lbs., you've bent the extractor too much.
I'm going to have to disagree with Shane here a bit., The extractor cannot hold the round firmly against the bolt face during manual functioning. The extractor hook notch is far too oversize to allow it, and the round is supposed to sag a bit as it exits the chamber. But don't worry, the ejector will kick it clear of the slide if the ejector port isn't too high.
And, be very careful of bending the extractor too much because too much tension will really mess up your feeding. The extractor will put too much pressure on the case, forcing it against the opposite wall, and the round cannot slide up the bolt face to get lined up with the chamber. It'll then jam about halfway into the chamber and put a big dent in the case.
Too litle pressure from the extractor is bad, but too much is worse.
If the ejection is good when the pistol fires, chances are your extractor tension is fine.
I'm sorry to be interfering here guys, but I've had a lot of experience with extractor problems and I felt compelled to give you the benefit of my findings.
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Right Bob - I should have indicated what you were quick to pick up on...That manually cycling the slide will show a "sloppy" fit of the case to breachface. You are absolutely correct.

Bottom line is - fire the gun to check for reliablility. Manually cycling the slide does not give a true indication of how things will function once you add gun powder into the equation.

(Thanks Bob)
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You can check your extractor tension by disassembling the slide from the barrel and frame. Take a case and from the bottom (where the magazine would be sitting usually) slide the case up the breech face and into the extractor. It should slide up with only a small amount of force. Once up there, it should stay in place after you remove your hand. Then slide the case up and down several times to see that the tension and slide-ability does not change. The other factor to watch for is that the extractor hook does not contact the case "tube" forward of the rim. If that were happening, you would see a mark on all your spent cases.
That's about it. If this test fails, you will need to have your extractor adjusted.

Oh...I forgot to add, that if it's ejecting OK now, you have no problems.

Really interesting....Don't ya think??

[This message has been edited by Newton (edited 08-22-2001).]
BTW...you didn't describe any ejection problems...What is it you are trying to correct?


I Like The Shade Too!
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...Thought I would put my 2 cents in...Like gyp_c said "what are you trying to correct?"...
Why don't we presume that you are having problems and you want to troubleshoot them.If you are having "stovepipe jams" the extractor tension is too little and if it won't cycle the next round and go into battery you have too much
tension...both are the extremes.
First check your firing pin stop and make sure it is not allowing the extractor to rotate. If it is just a little loose it will probably work okay, but it would be better to have no movement. If it allows too much movement(rotation) it will eject erratically. If it is too loose replace it. Once you know your FP stop fit is okay then set your tension. The 4 to 4.5lb.milspec for hardball was for military pistols using 7 round magazines. With todays 8 and ten rounders,and high caps.,etc, and with the different uses of the 1911( eg IPSC and IDPA ...38 super, 9mm, 9x23,40 and 10mm)you would be better off dropping the tension to 24 to 28 ounces...maybe up to 30) and then modify the ejection with different poundage recoil springs to "fit the gun". The tuning of the extractor and where to polish and how to check for proper clearance between the cartridge and the extractor have been touched upon in the previous posts.
Mr. Weigand manufactures an extractor tensioning jig and shims to calibrate extractors if you really want to be fastidious about this procedure and they are in the Brownells Catalog...well, I guess that's my 2 cents worth(LOL)
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Hey all!
I just thought I would post the link to the Extractor Adjusting Tool. http://www.jackweigand.com/eat.html
I will say it is not necessary to own the tool but it sure makes it easy to adjust an extractor for the novice and professional.
Oh yea, thanks for the plug.
God Bless
Jack Weigand
You've all been very helpful and I thank you. I'm not sure I'm having a problem. I was just examining the pistol when I noticed the sagging dummy when I drew the slide back. I'll be firing it tomorrow evening and then I'll know whether or not there is a problem. In any case your comments have been very helpful for me to better understand the function of the extractor.
Fired the Combat Commander last evening. No extraction or ejection problems, but there were 3 failure-to-feed events in 50 rounds. I think it may be a magazine problem rather than a problem with the gun. Thanks again for all your advice.
Jack, I've always been a big advocate of your extractor adjustment/tension measuring tools. I learned how important that proper clearance and tension is. It seems that mass produced handguns such as the 1911. This is always, if not often overlooked. One factory armorers school I had attended $400.00 in tools was necessary to set up the line of autopistols. Your well thought out tools make the job much easier to get the gun adjusted properly. That is to say without the crude techniques being employed that lack precision. About the only other test I perform is the test that Wilson suggests in his "Bullet Proof" extractor directions. I always make sure that the brass does not climb the bevel of the extractor.

The Right Of The People To Keep And Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed
Would your dummys happen to be snap caps? Or perhaps dummys that are max OAL? I've noticed on my LWT commander that snap caps (which in my case are at RIGHT at max OAL will hang up in the ejection port due to the extended ejector. Is this the hang up you are talking about? My wifes compact model (same as an officers) actually has a cut out on the front of the ejection port to allow clearing a loaded round without a hang up.
From your discription I'm unclear how the cartridge was hanging up so the above might not apply.

Tony G.

Tony G.
I'm really curious about this. I was just visiting the Reliability site; http://www.sightm1911.com/lib/tech/reliability_secrets.htm and found the description of testing the tension on the extractor as described earlier in this thread. I've always had ejected shells from my Ultra Carry fly every which way... front, back, up, 20 to the right, and so on. It is almost a joke, watching me at the range wandering around looking for shells.

So, anyway, I stripped the gun, put a round against the breach face... man, you could drive a truck around the extractor. I'm going to try drawing a picture of the situation and seeing what ya'll say about it.

May be the reason my ejected shells don't go where I expect they should.

Okay, I've drawn up a simple diagram of the offending extractor's failure to hold onto the rim of my .45acp shells... comments?

The way you have the diagram drawn you can't see the full "claw " of the extractor.
The case should be 1)receiving pressure from the side of the extractor claw pushing it against the opposing side of the breechface,2) the nose relationship of the extractor would be right, i.e. no contact with the case, if #(1) is correct, 3) if there is no contact with the case rim and the cartridge is loose you need to adjust the radius bearing area behind the "claw" to adjust it to contact the rim!4) then set the tension correctly,5)and THEN adjust the ejector and ejection port if necessary.Also, smooth or "break the edges of the breech face so as not to bite into the brass as it comes up out of the magazine.,

That is exactly as much extractor as is actually showing in actuality. Looks to me as if the whole extractor unit is too long by a fraction of an inch, or in some other way, the milling of it wasn't done right. I'm just wondering... should I even bother trying to adjust this thing, or just replace it with a Wilson or something.



...known to be cranky, grumpy, opinionated, argumentative...
The "key" to your problem is knowing how much tension you have on the cartridge... take the slide off the gun and remove the barrel and recoil assemblies and then take a cartridge and from below push upward with the case face against the breech face. If you can push up with no tension or resistance on the case then you have to modify the bearing surface behind the claw to let the extractor "tension " on the brass case.In other words, there is not enough clearance for the extractor to bend toward the case ...it is being bent backwards by the extractor hole in the slide so it cannot exert any force and/ or not enough force on the case. Does this make anymore sense to you now?
You should be able to push down on the cartridge with your thumb from the top, and your forefinger underneath, and feel the the cartridge release from the extractor with a gentle downward movement. And, if you reverse the movement you get a gentle increasing pressure till the force is equalized between the extractor and the side of the breechface as you push the cartridge up with your forefinger. Once you know that you either have tension or don't have tension on the extractor you can correct the problem. If you don't understand how to do this have a gunsmith show you so you will know how to handle this problem in the future. This will unravel some of the "mystery" in how the extractor works and if you ever have to ever replace an extractor in the future you can do it yourself. There might not be a 'smith around when you need him if your extractor breaks
at an inconvenient time. A spare extractor, slide stop, firing pin stop , and firing pin are nice to keep in your bag as backups.
Sincerely yours-Barry
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Barry, thanks for taking the time to reply.

I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear the first time...

What started all this off was my trying exactly what you just suggested:
take the slide off the gun and remove the barrel and recoil assemblies and then take a cartridge and from below push upward with the case face against the breech face. If you can push up with no tension or resistance on the case then you have to modify the bearing surface behind the claw to let the extractor "tension " on the brass case.
The shellcase and the extracter DO NOT TOUCH at all!

Now, when you write of the bearing surface behind the claw, are you talking about the inner wall of the "tube" where the extractor lives, or are you talking about removing metal from the back of the extractor?

I've taken the extractor out several times today, and it looks dead straight to my eye, no arch to it at all! I've gotten the idea from reading threads here that there should be a slight arch to the extractor, as in the illustration on Jack Weigand's site (and I understand that the example there is actually under stress in the jig and it would straighten a lot when removed.)
Okay, I just took the extractor out again and tried bending it slightly. Now, when you look into the slide from below, the "body" of the extractor is showing, below the claw portion... am I getting anywhere?


PS: I'll try to modify the image to show the change I just made.

PPS: I just checked the slide really carefully, and the wall of the extractor below the claw is now pressing against the side of the cartridge rim, and I can feel tension against the shell as I slide it up from below, and I can delicately rotate the slide without the shell falling out. I suspect that I am now getting somewhere... time for a quick trip to the range to test function...

Thanks, Barry, and everyone else who posted on this thread. I'll let you know how it turns out.
(new image online:http://www.madstone.net/extractor.html )

[This message has been edited by Jorah Lavin (edited 08-25-2001).]
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Good for you Jorah...you jumped in there with both feet. Now that you know you can get tension on the extractor see how it functions.If you need more tension and can't get it then you will have to reduce the radius of the curved bearing surface behind the "claw"...you can use an abrasive rubber wheel to reduce the radius...do a little at a time because a little goes a long way. Reduce the extractor surface rather than the
slide ...Work on the least expensive part first!
...the extractor not the slide!!!
...of course if your range trip is fruitful and the problem is corrected -Great! If everything is extracting properly then the only thing remaining is tuning the ejector to send the
brass where you want them to go...Good luck.
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Barry, I just got back from the range. I ran 6 mags of my homeloaded lead 230 gr through the gun... everything is fine. No, I'm not anymore accurate with the gun, and brass still goes everywhere, but at least nothing is broken!

Thanks for your help.

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