1911Forum banner
Not open for further replies.
1 - 15 of 15 Posts

3,252 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Because of Photobucket'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.

3,252 Posts
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

3,252 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
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 battery.

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 but it still needs to be correctly fit to the individual pistol.

First, fit the firing pin stop to the slide. Modify the firing pin stop not the slide. Next, fit the extractor to the firing pin stop. This time modify the extractor not the firing pin stop. 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+&+Pin+Gages&navid=12107889>.


3,252 Posts
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.


3,252 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).

3,252 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".

3,252 Posts
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".


3,252 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
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.


3,252 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Fitting extractor to slide - details
Part 1 - firing pin stop

This thread has covered a lot of ground concerning the fitting of 1911 internal extractors. It has referenced the importance of not allowing the extractor to clock and correcting the hook-to-breechface distance (HTBD) but has not described in detail how to actually do these things. We'll go into the details of fitting the firing pin stop (FPS) to the slide here.

It's common when fitting a new extractor to fit a new firing pin stop (FPS) at the same time to insure the two parts fit together perfectly. The job of the FPS as it relates to the extractor is to prevent the extractor from clocking (rotating in the slide) and to prevent it from moving fore and aft. This requires a snug fit of the FPS to the slide and of the extractor to the FPS. No matter what style of FPS you are fitting the process is the same.
The first thing to do is to slightly round over the sharp outer edges of the FPS that you see in the picture below. The reason for the rounding is that the slot in the slide and the slot in the extractor into which the FPS goes have rounded corners and the square cut edges of the FPS can prevent it from seating properly in the slots. You can see how sharp the edges are on the left FPS. The red lines on the right FPS indicate which edges need to be rounded. As you proceed with the fitting, filing to reduce the FPS width and thickness will most likely be required. This will result in the edges losing their roundness so you will have to restore that roundness accordingly.

The degree of rounding is minimal as shown in the picture below. It's the rounding of the edges indicated by the arrows that we're looking at not the rounding of the the bottom of the FPS that bears against the hammer. Note that the right edge of the FPS is flush against the extractor's FPS slot. This is what you're looking for in both the slide slot and the extractor slot.

Keep in mind that once the FPS is fit correctly to the slide you never touch it again.

Next is measuring the width and the thickness of the FPS as well as the corresponding surfaces in the FPS slide slot to determine how much material needs to be removed from the FPS so it will fit snugly in the slide.

The illustration below shows the areas (green) on the rear face of the FPS to be filed to reduce the thickness of the FPS.

The side-to-side width is reduced by filing the left and right edges of the FPS. You may have to apply the file to the rounded portions at the top left and right of the FPS as well. Constant test fitting and the use of Dykem or blue Sharpie are a necessity to check your progress.

Care must taken when filing to insure the firing pin lines up with the hole in the FPS. The top edge of the FPS might have to be filed or one side of the FPS filed more than the other to achieve this. The image below shows that the hole in the forward facing surface of the FPS is chamfered and the rear of the firing pin is angled (green). This will allow some room for lining up error but not much.

Putting the firing pin into its slide channel during the fitting process should help you determine which FPS surface needs to be filed to achieve the centering of the hole relative to the firing pin as well as achieving a snug fit of the FPS to the slide. This can be a time consuming process that demands lots of patience. Remember that at the end of this process the FPS must be a snug fit in the slide slot.

You will be test fitting the FPS many, many times. This is where a very handy tool will make the fitting of the FPS a little easier. These are available through Thunder Mountain.

Once the FPS is fit nice and snug to its slot in the slide and the hole is lined up with the firing pin it's time to flip the slide over to see if the bottom of the FPS is flush with the surface of the stripper /disconnector rail. It should not extend above it nor should it be below it. If it extends above it, use files to reduce its height until it is flush. If it is below that surface, you've got a problem the easiest solution for which is to fit another FPS. FWIW, I use EGW FPS exclusively and have never had a problem with them not being tall enough. Most often they extend above the surface which allows me to make them perfectly flush. I may have had one or two that were flush with the surface. It really depends on the manufacturing tolerance stacking of the slide and the FPS.

Next is part 2 in which the fitting of the extractor to the FPS to achieve the correct hook-to-breechface distance and to prevent clocking will be addressed.

958 Posts
Fitting extractor to slide - details
Part 2 - shims

A well fit extractor will not move fore and aft. If it does, the critical hook-to-breechface distance will change during firing which can result in feeding malfunctions. A well fit extractor will not rotate in its tunnel. If it does, the angle of the tensioning wall will change relative to the horizontal plane of the pistol as the case moves down the breechface when the barrel unlocks and drops after firing a round. This can result in erratic ejection, empty case stovepipes, hot brass to the face, etc.

The previous post covered fitting the firing pin stop to the slide. Here we will explore how to prevent the extractor from clocking as well as preventing it from moving fore and aft. A few years ago parts manufacturers (EGW, Harrison) began offering extractors that had no FPS slot in them. This allowed professional 1911 'smiths to cut the slot to the exact size and location they wanted to lock the extractor in place. However, many of the top professional 1911 'smiths prefer using shims to accomplish the same result.


Preliminary information

HTBD = Hook-To-Breechface Distance
FPS = Firing Pin Stop

The following dimensions and details are based on fitting a .45 extractor. Dimensions for other calibers can be found in previous posts.

The HTBD of the extractor must be no less than .075" and no more than .085". Most extractors will be too long for a specific slide (HTBD greater than ..085") but occasionally you will run across one that is too short (HTBD less than .075"). The closer the hook is to .075" the less likely it will be to contact the case bevel and the less material will need to be removed from the nose to clear the case bevel.

If the FPS extractor slot cannot be relieved enough by filing to correct the HTBD, a shim can be used. Before we make a shim, we need to know how thick it needs to be and where to put it. That is detailed in Steve's extractor tuning article above and is directly related to the HTBD.

Where does the shim go and how thick should it be

Example #1 - If your extractor's HTBD is .090" (too long), you would place a .015" thick shim on the back wall and file the front wall to move the extractor rearward to get an HTBD of .075"

Example #2 - if your extractor's HTBD is .065" (too short), you would place a .010" thick shim on the front wall and file the back wall to move the extractor forward to get the minimum HTBD of .075".

Remember, the FPS must fit the extractor slot snugly no matter what thickness of shim you use.

Shim material

You can use steel or brass shim stock of the correct thickness or get a set of feeler gauges. Brass stock works easier than steel, it is easier to cut, file, and sand. Plus you can use scissors to cut it out which is easier than using snips on steel.

Making a shim

Method #1

Cut a piece of shim material out, hold it against the part of the extractor where you need the shim to go, and use a marker to get the rough outline. You may need three hands so get a pal to help, use a small pair of needle nose locking pliers to hold the edge of the material, or you can literally superglue it in place and then mark it. It doesn't have to be perfectly sized, just close so you can file/sand it to fit.

Method #2

I used an old extractor and super glued the new shim to the back wall so I could shape the shim. I used emery cloth and a small flat file to carefully shape the overhanging edge of the new shim until it matched the contour of the extractor. That way you don't scratch up a new extractor with files and emery paper. You CAN use the new extractor to do this of course and use some 1000 grit to smooth everything. Either way will work.

I used a small bench grinder to rough shape a steel one. No need for that if you use brass. But if you use steel shims and can gently work it against a grinder you can indeed make it work. Use those same locking pliers to hold onto an edge and then finish it off with snips. The resulting shim before shaping is still pretty small and if you need to flatten it out/straighten it, you can use the flat large end of a brass punch to press it onto a flat surface. Do not beat it with a hammer as that will make it thinner and ruin your measured thickness. The flatness is needed to match up to the extractor wall when you glue it.

Method #2 . . . continued

Rough shaping the shim that was glued to the extractor was done using a a flat file. It is easy to feel the difference between the brass and the steel as you file. Go easy, you don't want to mar the steel extractor, just match the shape of the shim to the profile of the extractor wall. You don't want the shim to overhang the extractor or it will interfere when inserting it into the tunnel.

This is the shim ready to go. Now pry it off carefully with a thin edge, a pocket knife perhaps, and glue it to your extractor that you will be installing in the pistol.

Filing the front or back wall of the extractor's firing pin stop slot

Time to fit your newly shimmed extractor to the FPS. If you added a .010" shim, you'll need to remove about the same from the opposite wall of the FPS extractor slot. In this case I shimmed the rear wall and will reduce the front wall because I am pulling the extractor back to reduce the HTBD. My original HTBD was in excess of .085" so a .010" shim will result in a tad more than a .075" HTBD but well within the min/max parameters.

You'll need to use a flat file with a safe edge. Position the flat edge down against the bottom wall of the extractor. Keep the file square as you remove material. Check your progress frequently using the FPS! You can use a black marker to mark every cycle so you can see that you are evenly removing material. I also used my calipers to check how much I was removing. In my case the width of the extractor FPS slot measured .083" and the FPS thickness measured .096" so I needed to remove ~.013". Do not go purely by this number though . . . check the fit of the FPS as you go.

One tip is to watch the bottom wall as you file. As covered in the previous post, make sure the edges of the FPS are rounded so that it will not be prevented from sitting flush against the all three slot walls.

Don't over file the vertical part of the wall. By the time you get the FPS to fit into the extractor while it is in the tunnel, you may create a bit of slop front to back if you get too aggressive. You don't want any slop as this will allow the extractor to move slightly fore and aft which defeats the whole purpose of fitting the new FPS.

You check this by installing the extractor in the tunnel and making sure that the front and back wall of the extractor FPS slot lines up with the walls of the slide with the extractor in the tunnel. They should match basically perfect. Test this also by making sure the FPS, once it will fit into the extractor slot, sits flat to the bottom wall.

There is no way I can justify the expense of a TIG just to diddle with extractors. So a way to deal with extractor [hook-to-breechface distance] and clocking without welding is a god-send.
Once the extractor with its newly glued shim is installed, it will be captive and cannot fall out. The extractor tunnel, FPS, and FPS slot will hold the shim in place if the glue loosens. You will need to be careful taking the extractor out and re-glue it if needed. @Oldpistol has spoken to me about silver brazing the shim permanently in place and provided me with some parts and education, but that may take me a bit and I will address it in a future article or add on.

Checking the final fit

Once you have the FPS where it is snug and able to be installed by hand, measure the HTBD. It should now be reduced by the amount of the shim you created way back at the beginning. I measured using my home made gauges and I got the .075" gauge to slide just under the hook without forcing it. Perfect! My .466" gauge also slides between the extractor tensioning wall and the opposite guide block with a tiny bit of touching. Perfect! Now it is time to go shoot and test!


A less likely to be needed shim, particularly if you're fitting an oversized FPS such as one from EGW that has been snugly fit to the slide, is a shim to eliminate clocking. Since I have not yet figured out how to measure the gap between the installed FPS and the back wall of the extractor FPS slot, it is a trial and error process in which shims of various thicknesses are cut then test fit with the shim, extractor, and FPS assembled together in the slide.


In the remaining pictures you can see my homemade gauges made from a stack of feeler gauges. I used the cutout four to use for measuring HTBD. The first three measure .075" and if I use the last three that is .085". Just take the four sizes you need to add up to whatever specific dimension you want to measure and put them in order. I cut them out thinner so they would slide under the hook without hitting the left guide block.

The single big one is shaved down to measure .466" wide and is used to measure deflection by sliding it between the tensioning wall of the extractor and the left guide block.

Here are the tools I used:
  • 6pc gunsmith file set
  • small locking needle nose pliers
  • small snips/cutters
  • emery cloth
  • 800gr and 1000gr paper
  • krazy glue
  • digital calipers
  • my homemade gauges

I’d like to thank everyone involved in the forum that offered advice and personal experience. Steve helped co-author this post on shimming and fitting as I conversed with him and many others including @cavelamb @log man @Oldpistol . From expert gunsmiths to lowly first timers that take the chance to try! Here are the resources I found that inspired me and got me to start working on 1911’s. I have only traveled inches and I have miles and miles to go.

Steve in Allentown Extractor fitting

Log Man's post on fitting an oversized FPS
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Not open for further replies.