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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is my understanding that if a cocked and unlocked 1911 is dropped to the ground, its hammer may potentially fall and cause a discharge. However, it has been brought to my attention that the half-cocked position of a 1911 will catch the hammer preventing it from striking the firing pin.

I function check my guns when I clean them. I know how to check for proper function of a 1911, when the hammer is already placed in the half-cocked position. However, is there a specific test that can verify that a fully cocked hammer will definitely stop at the half-cocked position, if the gun is accidentally dropped cocked and unlocked? Or is this something that we simply hope will happen?
 

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For pistols without a firing pin safety, if dropped on the muzzle from about 3 feet, inertia could cause the firing pin to strike the primer - regardless of the thumb safety and/or hammer being involved.

For pistols with a firing pin safety, inertia cannot discharge the pistol because the firing pin cannot move forward until the trigger is pressed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
For pistols without a firing pin safety, if dropped on the muzzle from about 3 feet, inertia could cause the firing pin to strike the primer - regardless of the thumb safety and/or hammer being involved.
Let’s assume that an extra power firing pin spring prevents a discharge from the COCKED AND UNLOCKED pistol. However, the hammer drops upon the pistol’s impact on the ground. We now hope that the hammer will stop at the half-cocked position, otherwise the gun will discharge. Is there a function test that will show that the hammer will reliably go into half-cock in the event that it is necessary?

For pistols with a firing pin safety, inertia cannot discharge the pistol because the firing pin cannot move forward until the trigger is pressed.
I agree 100%. Even if the hammer drops on the firing pin upon the pistol impacting the ground, a Series 80 or Swartz safety will prevent the gun from discharging.
 

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A simple measure to reduce/prevent this risk is the installation of a HD firing pin spring. This spring is stronger than the inertia generated by a drop, yet light enough to allow the firing pin to fully strike the primer. I install them in all series 70's and happily carry Cocked and locked.

John
 

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The firing pin in a pre-89 Series floats. If the hammer is full down, the firing pin is full forward and still short of the breech face. If the hammer is at half or full cock the firing ping is fully retracted and supported by the firing pin spring.
If the gun is dropped and there is no firing pin lock, the pin is falling at 1 G along with everything else in the world. If it is stopped instantaneously the firing pin continues to move forward against the spring tension. A heavy firing pin will carry more inertia and may strike a sensitive primer.

The question is at what angle does the gun strike the ground and was the gun dropped or thrown?
The impact forces must be acting along the axis of the firing pin and the fall has to come from a height that reaches a velocity high enough so that te firing pin has sufficient energy to detonate a primer.

Any math majors want to do the math?
 

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I've been told that installing a titanium firing pin will eliminate the risk. The logic was that it is so lightweight it won't develop enough force from a normal drop.

Can anyone verify (or dispute) this? I don't know the answer.
 
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Gunfu45 ask about a hammer hitting the fp when half cocked and every body is answering with the fp and spring and nothing on how to test the hammer at half cock. This will be something good to know (taking notes).
 

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I've been told that installing a titanium firing pin will eliminate the risk. The logic was that it is so lightweight it won't develop enough force from a normal drop.

Can anyone verify (or dispute) this? I don't know the answer.
I heard that was the idea of titanium v. steel. Laws of physics suggest lighter items will have less force, thereby allowing the spring to hold back a titanium pin better than a steel pin. F= mass x acceleration, so less mass will result in less force against the spring. A safer combination is a tight spring and titanium pin. However, spring tightness may effect reliability due to lighter primer strikes. Important to mention, titanium pins will NOT make your pistol 100% safe. If you are worried about drops, I would suggest not keeping a round in the chamber (much safer) of going to a safety system like in the 80 series.
 

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Wow, all these replies, and still NOBODY has even TRIED to answer gunfu45's question. . .

The question is:

Is there a way to perform a function check that will ensure that the half-cock hammer notch will catch the hammer in the event that a cocked and unlocked 1911's hammer is released in a hard fall?
 

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Gunfu45 ask about a hammer hitting the fp when half cocked and every body is answering with the fp and spring and nothing on how to test the hammer at half cock. This will be something good to know (taking notes).
Not sure if there are ways to test 1/2 cock. Being that all guns are presumed loaded and dangerous, I would not count 1/2 cock as undeniably safe. Mechanical malfunctions do happen and to suggest any gun is safe at any stage is unreasonable. I would not be content with a gun being "safe" until it is unloaded with the slide back and out of the operators hand. I do know some carry at 1/2 cock and not too sure how often that turned into an accidental discharge.
 

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Can't say that it is a genuine function test, but. I unloaded my Series 70 Colt. I cocked it, leaving the thumb safety off. I pulled the trigger while slightly riding the hammer forward, just past full cocked, then took my finger off the trigger while still holding the hammer. With my finger off the trigger and fully releasing the hammer, the hammer stopped at the half cock notch each of several times I did it.

I don't know if it works the same on a Series 80 type or not. I know that on a Series 80 pistol if you pull the trigger while at the half cock notch it will fall forward, whereas it won't on the Series 70 guns.

Btw, thank you Orfeo and Rockycat for catching what was frustrating me. No one was addressing the actual question.

Added: brickeyee made a good point about the sear just below this post. I would say that I wouldn't care to try that test too often as it probably isn't good for the lock work. However, it does good to know what does and doesn't happen.
 

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Wow, all these replies, and still NOBODY has even TRIED to answer gunfu45's question. . .

The question is:

Is there a way to perform a function check that will ensure that the half-cock hammer notch will catch the hammer in the event that a cocked and unlocked 1911's hammer is released in a hard fall?

There are at least two versions of hammers out there.

Some have a half cock notch that is captive.

Others have just a flat shelf.

The flat shelf will drop the hammer if the trigger is pulled when the hammer is at half cock.

The captive notch hammers will not fall from half cock since the sear is trapped in the notch.

It can damage the sear nose, but that probably beats having the gun fire.

Machining the captive notch add steps to manufacture, and the small and tight dimensions are not very conducive to high speed mass production.
 

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(deleted, type too slow)
 

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Is there a function test that will show that the hammer will reliably go into half-cock in the event that it is necessary?
I don't know if there is a set-in-stone procedure, but I have noticed this on both by 1979 Gov't Models: If I rack the slide and allow it to sling-shot forward, the hammer falls to half cock about half the time (it stays at full cock the other half). Neither have followed the slide all the way up - half cock stops them both.

I don't do this on purpose and have yet to figure out why it happens, but that's the best I've got. You might try posting your question in the Gunsmithing section.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Can't say that it is a genuine function test, but. I unloaded my Series 70 Colt. I cocked it, leaving the thumb safety off. I pulled the trigger while slightly riding the hammer forward, just past full cocked, then took my finger off the trigger while still holding the hammer. With my finger off the trigger and fully releasing the hammer, the hammer stopped at the half cock notch each of several times I did it.

I don't know if it works the same on a Series 80 type or not. I know that on a Series 80 pistol if you pull the trigger while at the half cock notch it will fall forward, whereas it won't on the Series 70 guns.

Btw, thank you Orfeo and Rockycat for catching what was frustrating me. No one was addressing the actual question.

Added: brickeyee made a good point about the sear just below this post. I would say that I wouldn't care to try that test too often as it probably isn't good for the lock work. However, it does good to know what does and doesn't happen.
I was puzzling over the issue myself. I think what you described might be a good solution, if someone wanted to test if their 1911 will go to half-cock as the last fail safe. However, I also agree that we should not do the test too often. As you say, it doesn’t feel like it would be good for the lock work.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread. My instructors have always ingrained in me that the ultimate safety is in my head between my ears. I never rely on safeties built into a gun. This is especially true, if I cannot test its proper function appropriately. I certainly learned something new today. The 1911 is possibly one of the safest handguns available. However, try to never drop a loaded cocked and unlocked 1911, particularly one without a firing pin safety even if it has an extra power firing pin spring installed. Unfortunately, we are only human and also anything can happen in a gunfight.
 

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Okay, a test that I have shared several times will prove whether the sear is fully registering in the half cock notch which would be important if it was needed. This check is to also check for enough pretravel so the half cock can be fully engaged. Whie holding the trigger back retract the slide just enough for the half cock to engage. Return to battey and release the trigger, it should reset. If it does then the half cock is fully engaging if it doesn't the sear may be only partially engaging the hammer and under duress may fail. Solution would be to increase pretravel.

This doesn't action test the half cock, but does let you know that it is functioning correctly so that it could. It could be tested in this way, however I would not recommend it as damage can occur to the sear and sear pin which we don't care if it is acting at a time of malfunction. Holding the hammer back and release the sear, ease the hammer forward just past the sear and release the trigger and then release the hammer and it should catch. Please don't do this and believe why there isn't an action test for the half cock in general use.

LOG
 

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first of all thanks again for this very good piece of info from logman, everytime this 1911 function questions comes up logman answers give me peace of mind.
going back to the topic, i particularly interested in half cock not due to the unit dropping (i believe dropping my gun means there's very basic flaw in my own gun handling or holster then i should stop carrying a gun) but incase the sear breaks while in condition one.


Okay, a test that I have shared several times will prove whether the sear is fully registering in the half cock notch which would be important if it was needed. This check is to also check for enough pretravel so the half cock can be fully engaged. Whie holding the trigger back retract the slide just enough for the half cock to engage. Return to battey and release the trigger, it should reset. If it does then the half cock is fully engaging if it doesn't the sear may be only partially engaging the hammer and under duress may fail. Solution would be to increase pretravel.

This doesn't action test the half cock, but does let you know that it is functioning correctly so that it could. It could be tested in this way, however I would not recommend it as damage can occur to the sear and sear pin which we don't care if it is acting at a time of malfunction. Holding the hammer back and release the sear, ease the hammer forward just past the sear and release the trigger and then release the hammer and it should catch. <----- i do this test once a week as a sear test for myself but i added the trigger pulling lightly in the test. do you think once a week is too often even though i help the hammer go down the half cock notch slow?
Please don't do this and believe why there isn't an action test for the half cock in general use.

LOG
 

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first of all thanks again for this very good piece of info from logman, everytime this 1911 function questions comes up logman answers give me peace of mind.
going back to the topic, i particularly interested in half cock not due to the unit dropping (i believe dropping my gun means there's very basic flaw in my own gun handling or holster then i should stop carrying a gun) but incase the sear breaks while in condition one.
...in case the sear breaks while in condition one....

This is in the same category as the cartridges spontaneously setting themselves off all at the same time.

To your question in red, it's probably okay, but seems overly compulsive. If it was fine before what changed?

LOG
 

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The sear is the only thing that engages the hammer and keeps it in the cocked position. If the sear breaks to the point it can't hold the hammer in full cock, how is it supposed to hold it in half cock?
 

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The sear is the only thing that engages the hammer and keeps it in the cocked position. If the sear breaks to the point it can't hold the hammer in full cock, how is it supposed to hold it in half cock?
If the hammer has a half-cock notch it is much larger than the less than 0.020 inch full cock shelf.
 
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