Fine Tuning .45 ACP

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Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
6,878
162
A while back I posted a few targets I had shot out of my Custom 1911 .45 ACP and said I wasn't happy with them though the groups looked good. I shot a few matches and the 50yd targets were very disappointing, so I started looking to see what was going on and the first thing I did was to look at the handgun and see if anything had changed.
I completely disassembled the pistol and checked the hammer and sear surfaces under a powerful magnifier I have to see if there was excessive wear on the hammer and sear surfaces and then lightly polished the contact points with an ultra-fine stone.
I had injured my shooting hand while I was still working before retirement and found I couldn't reach the trigger shoe like I use to so I went into the 1911 spare parts bag and found a new short trigger for it which had to be hand fitted to the frame which is just what the Doctor ordered so I could hold the tolerances close and create a smooth trigger pull.
For those that don't know the sear, trigger disconnect spring was three leaf's and each needs to be tuned to get a great three-and-a-half-pound trigger pull which what the NRA rules call for in a .45 ACP 1911.
Lubed everything up With Microlon assembly grease and put it all back together and weighted the trigger. It would pick up the NRA test weight without dropping the hammer, so it was good to go.
Back to the range to test fire and see how she was shooting. The groups got better at 50yds but still not good enough for what I need it to do. I was using some older powder I had on hand and though it was still good since I shot 10 over a chrony to get an average and it was right on at 735fps with a 185gr bullet, but I noticed the load wasn't working the action hard and the ejected brass was just rolling out of the chamber and over my hand, the recoil was way too soft, so I changed recoil springs for a 12 1/2 lb spring and still got the same light recoil.
Left the range and emptied the powder hopper on the Dillon reloader and examined the powder. I found a lot of dust and small grains of powder which didn't look right to me, it also explained the inconsistent powder charges I was seeing when I would weigh every 5th powder charge. WST pistol powder is a small flake powder, so I opened a fresh bottle and checked the scales to make sure it was still dropping 4.2grs of powder. Satisfied that everything was working right with the press and powder measure I loaded up ten loads with three different brands of bullets, one of which was a 185gr JWC target bullet, I had to increase the powder charge for this one since the other brands were lead.
Here's a 50yd target with the best combo of powder and bullet. The bullet is no longer being manufactured since Star bullet company closed its doors several years ago, but I had bought several thousand bullets before they did. I have a replacement for it, but they don't shoot as good since QC isn't the same and you get some irregular bullet weights in the large batches I buy.
Target on the right is with the new powder, notice the clean-cut holes where the one on the left has rough edges. The bullet on the left wasn't fully stabile when it reached the target.
I think I solved my problem and I'm good to go with a quality load and tuned pistol to shoot at the Nationals.
 

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Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
16,538
1,023
Interesting. You did a fine job of eliminating possible causes and I think you may well have found the root.

Regards, Guy
 

DrMike

Ballistician
Nov 8, 2006
34,987
1,365
Fascinating to walk through the diagnosis with us, Rodger. Thanks. Glad you have things worked out to permit you to compete up to your standard again.
 

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Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
6,878
162
Interesting. You did a fine job of eliminating possible causes and I think you may well have found the root.

Regards, Guy
Thanks Guy, the pistol is almost original except for the sear and hammer which I had to replace a few years ago probably around 2009 and had a great guild pistol smith do that work. The hammer hooks were still sharp and clean, but the sear needed attention Jerry Keffer (RIP) did a great job fitting them.
 

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Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
6,878
162
Fascinating to walk through the diagnosis with us, Rodger. Thanks. Glad you have things worked out to permit you to compete up to your standard again.
DrMike your welcome, I'm happy you liked the process. A custom competition pistol is like a race car engine and needs to be maintained regularly. Working things out can be a pain but very satisfying when everything comes together, unfortunately I'll probably never reach the level I once shot at due to age and injuries but I'm just happy to still be able to compete.
 

JD338

Range Officer
Staff member
Nov 4, 2004
21,721
986
That's one heck of a tune up Roger.
Nicely done.

JD338
 

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Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
6,878
162
That's one heck of a tune up Roger.
Nicely done.

JD338
Thanks JD, I learned my lessons well from the old master pistol smiths and know my pistols inside and out along with what ammo they like best, trouble is finding components, I'm using bullets and primers that are 13yrs old. The bullet manufacture is no longer in business, I do have a backup for bullets but not quite as accurate as these.
 
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