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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Because of Photbucket's new policy of not allowing common folks like me to link our pictures on their site into discussion forums unless we gave them $400 all of my pictures here have been blocked.

So at the request of several members I've spent time over the course of the past couple of weeks gathering all of my photos from Photobucket so I can re-post them here. Hopefully, these will be of help.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I want and need to learn what I think would be basic in being able to tune an extractor.
This is a common question that everyone has asked at some point in their quest for 1911 knowledge. Nobody is born knowing this stuff. Even the highly esteemed 1911 ‘smiths on this forum had to learn it through diligent study and experience.

The extractor is a deceptively simple, nondescript, unremarkable looking piece of metal that is one of the keys to a proper functioning 1911. It can cause feeding, extraction, or ejection problems if not properly fit.

There are three basic areas that need to be addressed when fitting an extractor:
  • Geometry
  • Deflection
  • Tension
Geometry refers to the various bevels on or about the hook, distance from the inside edge of the hook to the breech face, depth of hook engagement, interference of the hook with the case or barrel, rotation of the extractor in the extractor tunnel (clocking), and probably a couple of other things I can't think of right now.

Deflection is simply how much the extractor moves laterally when a case slides up under it.

Tension is how much pressure is applied to the case rim by the extractor's tensioning wall.

Within reason, the more tension applied against the case rim the more consistent the ejection will be.

There is a simple extractor diagnostic test I learned while taking a class with Hilton Yam. I call it the Hilton Yam Ultimate Extractor Test although he doesn't have such a grandiose name for it.

Step 1 - fill a magazine with cartridges
Step 2 - insert the magazine into the pistol
Step 3 - load a round into the chamber
Step 4 - remove the magazine from the pistol
Step 5 - fire the loaded round while observing the case as it ejects

Repeat Steps 1 through 5 until all the cartridges in the magazine are expended.

If any of the ejected cases drop through the magazine well, this is proof that the extractor needs serious attention. If any of the ejected cases fly off in different directions, the extractor needs less serious attention. Either way the extractor needs attention.

What this test does is eliminate the magazine as a factor influencing ejection. Often times a less than optimally fit extractor will lose control of a fired case and it's the sudden upward movement of the magazine follower that pushes the fired case out of the ejection port instead of the ejector.

Here's a link to Hilton's test with more detail: http://modernserviceweapons.com/?p=131

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More extractor goodness.


To allow the case to slide freely up under the extractor, areas "D", "G", and "F" in the picture below must be gently rounded. Just a little bit of rounding should work. If area "D" extends too far up the tensioning wall "C" the case rim may not be in solid contact with the extractor as it moves down the tensioning wall during cycling.

The whole idea with rounding these areas is to allow the case to move into position without encountering a sharp corner that could dig into it and prevent it from sliding into place.

A side benefit of rounding area "F" is that it allows the empty case to more easily rotate up as it encounters the extractor thus insuring ejection.

In the next picture you can see that the edge of the claw "B" does not touch the case anywhere. This is a perfectly fit extractor. Remove only enough material from "B" to just clear the case. Take off too much and you'll have extraction problems. If a case can be pushed back flush against the breech face, that means the nose of the extractor is not contacting the case bevel and that's a good thing. But that's all it means.

Deflection is how much the extractor is forced outward as the case rim slides into place. Ideally, deflection should be 0.010". Some will set deflection as low as 0.005" or as much as 0.015". The amount of deflection is controlled by how close to the firing pin hole the tensioning wall is when it is not holding onto a case. This is determined by the locating pad "E". The more material you remove from the locating pad the closer to the firing pin hole the tensioning wall will be.

With this small amount of deflection the extractor tension can be set quite high and it will function fine. Tension is simply bending the extractor so that it holds onto the case rim tightly enough to withstand the cycling forces without losing control of the case. Too much tension will impede the feeding process. Too little tension and you'll end up with the condition you're experiencing now. If you bend it too much, you can unbend it.

The front of the extractor should not contact the barrel.


If you can get the extractor beveled and fit as described above, you should be in good shape in terms of extraction/ejection.

The firing pin stop should not allow the extractor to move fore and aft or to rotate. An extractor that can rotate within its slide tunnel is known as a “clocking” extractor. A clocking extractor is not your friend as it can allow the extractor to lose control of the case as it moves down the face of the extractor’s tensioning wall as the barrel drops out of lock up.

So, these are the basics. There are other nuances and everyone seems to have their own favorite methods but if you can get the basics figured out, you should be able to solve your problem.

The OEM extractor below looks like it has been well worked over from the factory. Shows a fair amount of polished angles.

Well, it may be polished but I don't see a correct bevel on the lower edge of the tensioning wall nor do I see what I would consider to be a correct bevel on the bottom edge of the hook. Honestly, it looks like a half-assed effort. I magnified the image as much as possible and the bevel on the bottom of the tensioning wall looks like it extends way too far up the side. This could be the root cause of the pistol's problem. Once the contact point with the case rim goes below the brass smear I see, the amount of force exerted on the case rim by the extractor drops significantly. Not good.

By the way, don't use a Dremel on an extractor and you don't necessarily need to mirror polish anything on an extractor. The actual inside edge of the claw that grabs the case rim to pull the case out of the chamber should not be rounded at all.

The bottom bevel sure looks excessive to me.

During the functioning of the pistol the barrel moves up and down.

As the slide moves rearward under recoil and the barrel links down, the rim of the case moves down the tensioning wall.

There is only a single point on the rim that is in contact with the tensioning wall at any time. It's been a long time since high school geometry but I believe this contact point is called the tangent.

If the bottom bevel is cut too high, this tangent point is lost. There is no longer solid contact between the case rim and the extractor. That's when bad things happen like the extractor losing control of the now empty case.

One more thing I noticed about that extractor. The bevel on the bottom of the claw is actually supposed to be a compound curve i.e. it curves vertically and horizontally as shown in the drawing at area "F". Your OEM extractor looks like this area only curves vertically. The horizontal curve allows the empty case to more easily rotate up when it contacts the extractor thus enhancing the ejection process.

Here's a brand new, unmodified Wilson extractor below.

Now that's a good looking extractor.

First, fit the firing pin stop to the extractor. Modify the firing pin stop not the slide. If need be, you can modify the extractor a little to help fit the slide stop. If the slide stop is wider than its mating groove in the extractor, remove metal from the forward edge of the extractor groove not the rear edge. This will move the extractor claw closer to the breech face which is almost always a good thing.

Next, check that it's applying necessary pressure against the case rim. If it won't hold a loaded cartridge as you gently shake the slide then you'll have to bend it a little until it will. Then go shoot the pistol. If there are no issues during the shooting, you're finished.

I don't remember if anyone described the "shake test" in a previous post. It's basically this. Remove the slide, slide a loaded round under the extractor, gently shake the slide. If the round stays put, you're good. If you give the slide a good, solid shake, the round should fall out.

While you're in the process of checking the tension observe whether or not the case rim is actually contacting the tensioning wall. Sometimes on some pistols and with some extractors you'll have to slowly file the locating pad down until the tensioning wall contacts the case rim. Remember what I said about deflection if you have to file on the locating pad.

If it were mine, I'd gently bevel the bottom edge of the claw as in "F" in the previous drawing and I'd carefully break the edges of the bevel at the bottom of the tensioning wall. Breaking the edges means a minimum radius rounding. If I were you, I'd use a small piece of 500 grit sandpaper wrapped around something flat like a wooden popsicle stick to get after these edges.

The inside edge of it should be sharp to enable a better grip on the case rim.

Most extractors are too long for most pistols. I wish the various companies would publish the distance from the hook to the rear edge of the firing pin stop slot. The EGW heavy duty is the shortest by far.

The result of a too long extractor can be the nose of the extractor contacting the barrel. This is bad and can eventually break the hook off the extractor.

Another result of a too long extractor can be the claw contacting the case bevel. This can negatively affect feeding as well as extraction.

Another result of a too long extractor can be a less than optimal space between the breech face and the inside edge of the claw. The optimal distance is shown in the illustration below. This distance can be as much as 0.085" but no more.

Since most extractors are too long you can bring the claw closer to the breech face by removing metal from the front edge of the groove into which the firing pin stop fits. The firing pin stop still needs to fit the extractor snugly so you can't remove much from the front edge of the groove but what you can remove may be just enough to eliminate issues on the front end of the extractor.

I've found that measuring the breechface to hook dimension is most easily accomplished by using two pin gages that act as go / no go gages. You can see in the picture the 0.075" minimum and 0.085" maximum pin gages. If the 0.075" will fit between the extractor claw and the breech face and if the 0.085" won't fit, I'm happy.

The reason the pins are black on one end is because I put them in a vise, heated the ends with a butane torch, and then bent the ends 90 degrees. This makes it easier to do the measuring. You can find these pin gages at MSC <https://www.mscdirect.com/browse/tn/?searchAheadTerm=pin+gag&searchAhead=true&hdrsrh=true&typahddsp=Class+Zz+Plus+Plug+%26+Pin+Gages&navid=12107889>.


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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
When running the RIA through the <10-8> test, it failed routinely, stove piping, dropping rounds through the magwell etc . . . The gun has had a few malfunctions while fully loaded as well, usually the last round is left loose in the chamber . . . The extractor itself passes all tests of tension with the Weigand extractor tension gauge and holds a loaded round against the breechface.
The results of this test indicate your extractor needs attention. Personally, I would throw the RIA OEM extractor in the trash and fit a new EGW or Wilson.

Below is what a perfectly fit extractor looks like at the business end. Note that the hook does not touch the case anywhere.

Here’s a simple way to check and set extractor deflection.

Below are three images showing what happens to the extractor as a cartridge slides up the breech face during the feeding cycle. The perspective is from the muzzle. The dashed vertical line inside the extractor represents the tensioning wall.

The first image shows the case rim before it engages the extractor. More precisely, the rim has not contacted the tensioning wall yet. Here the extractor's locating pad is in contact with the inside left of the slide tunnel (not shown).

The second image shows that when the rim contacts the tensioning wall the extractor is pushed away from the pistol's centerline.

The last image shows the case rim fully engaged with the tensioning wall. It is at this point that extractor deflection is at its maximum.

Deflection, also referred to as cam out, is very important. A minimal amount of deflection will allow good functioning with more tension than what is generally considered prudent. But an extractor with lots of deflection can cause malfunctions even if the extractor has very little tension.

So that's the theory. How do you set extractor deflection without taking all those measurements and doing the math like I posted previously? Simple. Make a gauge and slide it between the left guide block and the installed extractor. The tensioning wall should touch the gauge. If it doesn't, remove metal from the locating pad until it does. That's it.

I make my gauges from a piece of flat stock steel from MSC Direct https://www.mscdirect.com/product/details/06104053. Here's a picture of one:

More theory. How much deflection is needed? I think Jerry Keefer said he runs somewhere around 0.006" of deflection. I try to hit 0.010". The confounding factor is case rim diameter. SAMMI spec is .480" but I don't think I've ever seen rims that wide in real life. A sampling of the brass I have on hand shows most diameters right around 0.475" or a tad bigger. Because of this I prefer my .466" gauge. You can see in the table below that my .466" gauge gives .010" deflection with .476" rims, a tiny bit less for .475" rims, and a tiny bit more for .477" rims.

So, if you discover that most of your rims are .480", you can use a .470" gauge to achieve perfect 0.010" deflection and that should work with rims a little bit bigger and a little bit smaller. Note that if your gauge is .470" and your rims are .470", the extractor will have zero deflection.

All of this talk about specific deflection amounts is open for debate. I imagine the real 1911 'smiths here have their own preferred measurements based on their experience. All of the preceding is based on my own experience and experimentation. Experimentation means George at EGW will be able to retire early thanks to all the extractors I've bought from him as I screwed up one after another in my quest for extractor perfection.

Here's a simple animation of the case sliding up the breech face and pushing the extractor aside.


2,916 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Extractors and Ejectors

One last post in this series.

The extractor and ejector work together to get the empty cases out of the pistol. In shorter than 5" 1911s the ejector becomes even more critical to this operation.

Rob (Alchemy Custom) who is now the head guy at Cabot responded to a discussion about problems one fellow was having with a stubby 1911.

It's a short gun. That's how they eject. Very few people know how to actually fix it, and extractor profile or tension will do very little to help. Working on the extractor ain't nothin' but gun forum fairy dust and unicorns.

The length of the ejector is the answer.

If your ejector is the proper length, you can get away with a whole plethora of extractor tensions, shapes, and surface abnormalities.

On a Commander, if a customer wants it to eject consistently, we start with the EGW long ejector. We cut it until we get the gun to eject 3 o'clock, and then tune slightly to bring it back to 4 o'clock. Of course, your ejection port needs to be opened to the max. Most are these days.

As long as the extractor allows the gun to feed and pulls the spent case out of the chamber, that long ejector will see to it that the brass goes where you want it. Just make sure you clearance the inside bottom corner so that the top round isn't affected by it.

It's definitely all about tuning the ejector length and profile to the gun, ammo, recoil spring and shooter. Some people have an extremely firm hand hold. They allow the slide to cycle all the way to the rear. Others soak up the inertia, and the slide doesn't travel as far rearward. You have to give the shorter guns resistance to cycle against...(gun poem).

2,916 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Extractor Fitting Pad - how to

Steve, I'm confused about getting the needed deflection. I've had to file A LOT of the locator pad off to the point where it is almost gone. Now I am getting a tiny bit of deflection.
Being able to file down the extractor's locating pad to achieve the correct deflection is a critical skill. The idea is to file a little off the pad then install the extractor and firing pin stop. Then slide your homemade gauge up the breechface to see if the the extractor's tensioning wall just touches the gauge.

The locating pad MUST be in contact with the inboard surface of the extractor tunnel in order to accurately determine its deflection. That means you have to bend the extractor each time you remove material from the pad so that it will maintain this crucial metal-to-metal contact.

My original method

I'm not good enough with a file to be able to evenly reduce the diameter of the extractor locating pad all the way around. So, to simplify and speed up the process of filing down the locating pad and since I couldn't evenly file the half round locating pad I simply whacked off the top and bottom of the pad leaving a narrow point that became the contact surface with the extractor tunnel.

Here's what the locating pad looks like as it comes from the manufacturer. This view is looking straight on the extractor from the front.

What I did was to file the top and bottom of the pad down to the dotted lines with a pillar file to create a pointed shape as shown below. Filing a flat is way easier for me than trying to follow a curve.

Once that was done all I had to do was file the point itself down bit by bit until I achieved a .010" deflection.

My newest method

Here's a link that shows off Jerry Keefer's unmatched machining skills in shaping an extractor fitting pad: https://forums.1911forum.com/showpost.php?p=10526009&postcount=20.

Using Jerry's example as a guide, I first I hog out the sides of the pad using a Dremel grinding bit. Not very exotic but it's all I have that'll do the job.

Then I smooth the concave cut-outs by hand using sandpaper wrapped around a short piece of steel rod. Getting the area smooth is not just about cosmetics. It's also about removing the stress risers. By the time I finish up the pad looks like this:

This is all just prep work for the real work of setting the deflection by filing down the now reshaped fitting pad.

As I file down the pad, I may reach a point where the tip of the pad is too wide in my judgement and I will hog out the sides again and smooth them in order to avoid the edges of the now flat and too wide area making contact with the tunnel wall instead of what used to be the peak of the "mountain".

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Deflection gauges

As described in a previous post I made a feeler gauge out of a piece of steel stock. As I file down the extractor locating pad I will install the extractor along with the firing pin stop then slide this gauge up along the breechface between the left guide block and the extractor's tensioning wall. When the sides of the gauge just touch the guide block and tensioning wall at the same time, I know I've reached the correct amount of deflection and don't need to remove any more material from the locating pad.

Many kinds of material can be used to make these gauges. They can be made of plastic, wood, aluminum, and probably many other materials. Since they don't wear they don't need to be made from steel. I floated the idea of making sets of these gauges using a 3D printer to George (EGW).

Another member here, NoExpert, shared that he makes these gauges out of old sear leaf springs. As he wrote: "I make them from old sear springs. Just break off the two outer legs and thin down the remaining "paddle" width to .465".


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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
9mm 9x23 10mm .38 Super extractor fitting

Correctly fitting a 9mm extractor follows the same basic steps as fitting a .45 extractor. All internal (except the Aftec) 1911 extractors have the same design features as shown in the picture below.

The major difference between a 9mm extractor and a .45 extractor is how the extractor applies pressure against the cartridge case. The .45 extractor applies pressure through contact between the case rim and the tensioning wall while the 9mm extractor most commonly applies pressure through contact between the case extractor groove and the edge of the claw.

The extractor fitting pad is responsible for setting the extractor’s deflection which is vital to correct functioning. During the process of fitting it is important that the fitting pad always be in solid contact with the inboard side the slide’s extractor tunnel. If it isn’t, it will be impossible to accurately measure or set deflection. The image below shows the wrong position and the right position of the extractor.

Also, the firing pin stop must be holding the extractor in place during the fitting process. If it isn’t, the extractor can rotate (clock) within the tunnel resulting in incorrect deflection measurements; also the extractor can move forward and backward resulting in incorrect hook-to-breechface measurements.

A comparison of basic SAAMI case specs among commonly chambered 1911 cartridges is shown below. These measurements represent the midpoint between the maximum and minimum dimensions shown in the 2015 version of the SAAMI Voluntary Performance Standards for Centerfire Pistol and Revolver publication.

These dimensions allow for calculating correct extractor deflection for each caliber as well as the amount of the rim available for the extractor hook to engage during extraction. Note how little of the rim is available with 9mm cartridges.

Another important dimension to be aware of when fitting an extractor is the hook-to-breechface distance which is unique to each caliber. If this distance is too small, feeding malfunctions may result. If the distance is too great, the extractor may come into contact with the case extractor bevel and other malfunctions may occur.

Due to different extractor and slide dimensions among manufacturers not all extractors will simply drop into all slides and have the correct hook-to-breechface distance. Fitting is often required. This fitting can be as simple as filing the firing pin stop notch or as involved as silver soldering a shim in the notch. As noted above in general comments about setting extractor deflection, the hook-to-breechface distance cannot be accurately measured unless the firing pin stop is holding the extractor in the slide.

The minimum hook-to-breechface distance by caliber is shown below.

There are three different ways to fit smaller than .45 extractors to establish contact with a case.

  1. The most common is to make the edge of the extractor claw contact the flat bottom of the case extractor groove (B). The case rim does not touch the extractor tensioning wall (A). See the left image in the picture below. This is the easiest and fastest method but results in the extractor force being applied at an angle to the left guide block instead of being perfectly perpendicular to it.

  2. A less common method is to make the extractor tensioning wall contact the case rim (A). The edge of the extractor claw does not touch the flat bottom of the case extractor groove (B). See the right image in the picture below. This method is how .45 extractors are fit and results in the extractor force being applied perpendicular to the left guide block.

  3. The least common method is to make the extractor contact the case at both the flat bottom of the case extractor groove (B) and at the case rim (A). This requires more time and effort than the other two methods.

The picture below is another way of looking at the two extractor contact points. Extractor deflection is measured from either the claw edge or the tensioning wall to the left guide block.

The image below explains the math behind setting the correct extractor deflection in order to achieve the generally accepted perfect deflection of .010” for other than .45 extractors.

The dimensions shown are SAAMI midpoints.

Once the distance from the groove to the guide block is determined, .010” is subtracted from the result. In this example .363” minus .010” equals .353” which would be the width of a gauge to be used to verify the extractor has been properly set for the correct deflection.

With the extractor installed, its fitting pad in firm contact with the inboard side of the extractor tunnel, and being held in place by the firing pin stop simply slide your .353” wide gauge up the breechface and in contact with the left guide block to see if the extractor claw lightly touches the gauge.

If you can feel the claw pushing against the gauge, there is too much deflection. The fix can be as radical is buying and fitting a new extractor or as mundane as filing down the edge of the claw to reduce the amount of deflection.

If there is a gap between the claw and the gauge, there is not enough deflection. The fix is to simply file down the locating pad bit by bit until the edge of the claw just kisses the gauge. This is the preferred method.

The images below all deal with the width of extractor gauges needed for various cartridges based on an ideal extractor deflection of .010”.

This image is another way of looking at the two possible contact points between the extractor and the case.

Rather than going through the math to figure out the correct width for an extractor deflection gauge, the table below simply lists the correct widths to use for each caliber based upon the location of the extractor contact point with the case.

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