View Full Version : Tips and Advise for Avoiding Gun Repair

July 12, 2005, 04:01 PM
I would greatly appreciate it if those of you who repair guns and/or who have had your guns repaired would provide your tips/advise about what a gun owner can do, or should avoid, so that he or she doesn't end up having to take a firearm to the Gunsmith for repair.

Your comments can include just about anything, such as common mistakes or things that someone might do (or fail to do!), etc. -- just about anything that would cause someone to have to take a gun to a Gunsmith for repair.

I think we could learn a lot from this Thread, and really gain a lot of knowledge from your experiences. Thanks!

Bill Z
July 12, 2005, 05:08 PM
The two biggest things I can see that an owner can control to some extent are abuse and neglect.

Some pistols and rifles will stand up to hard use better than others, but none can function satisfactorily if they are abused. Damaged crowns, broken sights, etc... happen and I don't think anyone really does it on purpose, stuff just happens. You are limited as to what you can control.

Now, neglect is another story. I hate to say it, but sometimes I don't follow my own advice on some of this.
Cleaning and lubing your firearm will greatly reduce wear and damage, it will also give you the tell-tale signs that something may be wrong, especially if you do clean your firearm after shooting it and all of a sudden begin to notice a difference in the wear pattern or maybe a cracked or broken part before it causes any real damage. I have had my pistols go many hundred, probably nearing a thousand rounds between cleaning, and still run fine, but it certainly cannot be good for a pistol. I'm a bad example, I'm just normally too busy with other people's pistols.
Another form of neglect is not changing springs on a regular basis and just waiting for problems to arise or damage to occur. This will really depend on how much you shoot. I normally replace mine once or twice a year, whether they need it or not, spring kits are cheap insurance.

As an afterthought, and it should really be one of the first things to consider, use quality ammunition and magazines.

James K
July 12, 2005, 08:26 PM
IME, the main reason for needing repair is taking the gun apart all the time and playing with changing parts when there is no need to do so. This is the best way to break or lose parts. Then, installing parts when you don't know what you are doing is another biggie. When "drop-in" parts don't, and the gun owner gets a big bastard file and a five pound hammer, trouble is on the way.

As you might gather, I disagree with Bill Z on changing springs whether they need it or not. That, IMHO, simply wasting money and pointless. It is easy to tell if a spring needs replacement; if it doesn't, there is no point in changing it. (An example would be the valve springs in you car's engine - do you change those every 1000 miles whether they need it or not? I doubt it, and they take a lot more beating in a mile than any pistol spring ever will.)


Smokey Joe
July 12, 2005, 09:09 PM

1. Keep it clean.

2. Keep it lubricated.


Bill Z
July 12, 2005, 09:14 PM
I won't argue with you on that Jim, but I do run about 5000 rounds a year through my primary pistol and a thousand though my AR, so I should have qualified the statement I guess, and it would certainly be bad business for me if one of my firearms barfed over me being to cheap to replace a 7.00 spring, knowwhatImean?
Now, I only wish my mechanic could change the valve springs in my cars for 12.00 a set. Now, I once had a car I rebuilt the entire engine every 30 to 50 miles, springs and all, it happened to be as high performance as I was once though. ;)


Now, maybe your definition of 'easy to tell if a spring needs replacing' would be in order for the original poster. I usually get them after someone's gun starts barfing and have an inventory to compare them too and can determine if that might be a contributing factor, but most people don't have this curse, I mean, luxury.

Dave Haven
July 12, 2005, 11:38 PM
If you're not familiar with the disassembly/assembly of a gun, take it to a gunsmith. I've reassembled a number of Remington Nylon 66's that were disassembled "by the owner's brother-in-law". :D

James K
July 13, 2005, 07:17 PM
Hi, Bill Z,

On recoil springs for a 1911, I can tell just by working the slide if the spring is OK. Of course if the owner wants to put in some weird weight of spring, then it is his problem. I have never quite understood why GI guns would go tens of thousands of rounds with the original springs, yet folks today have to swap springs out all the time. One guy says he changes all his springs every 200 rounds, which, IMHO, keeps the spring makers happy but serves no other purpose. 5000 rounds a year is not a lot of shooting, and any good spring should last many times that, but I agree that a spring swap every year might be a good idea.

FWIW, I have a Norinco that has gone over 8500 rounds with the original springs (with no failures whatsoever) and a couple of GI guns that I have put that much through (not counting whatever the army did) with the (AFAIK) original springs and no problems. Either modern American spring makers just don't know what they are doing or there is a lot of unnecessary spring swapping going on. Now, I will say that I don't shoot ++P loads or try to duplicate .460 Weatherby power in a .45 pistol. I just settle for GI or GI equivalent loads and pressures, with maybe a bit lighter for target handloads.


July 13, 2005, 07:33 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Keenan on this. Folks come in all the time and ask me to order them a set of Wolf or some other spring to replace the factory spring on a new gun. I ask them and they say, "From what I have read, I need to do this to get a light trigger pull" or "the factory springs won't hold the rounds I plan to put through this Baby". Folks, the factory springs are as good as they get. They designed the springs to begin with. Don't you think that Colt or S&W would put a different spring in it if it needed it. Do you really think that they would build a military weapon and not put in the springs that will help the gun fire as many rounds as possible before it wears out. Well, believe me, the average person with a revolver or pistol will never, and I repeat never, shoot enough to wear out the original springs. Sure, now and then one will fatigue or break, but this isn't a situation that normally presents itself. Nine out of ten times when the gun burps or whatever you want to call it, it is dirt that causes the failure.

This isn't the same situation as a man who uses his pistol as a race gun. It's a good idea to replace the spring each year when you run 100,000 rounds through one. Although I have seen some that had over 200,000 rounds through them that didn't even begin to look or feel fatigued.

James K
July 13, 2005, 07:44 PM
Hi, Cntryboy,

Now Wolff will put a hex on both of us.


July 13, 2005, 08:35 PM
Yep, now when I call them to order one, they will ask me, "Aint' you the one who said we weren't necessary." I have only ordered 2 through the years when a customer wouldn't listen to me. I learned from a man who was a Airforce pistol armorer. He worked on all of the pistols of the men that shot at Camp Perry each year. He taught me that just because it looks all shiny and new doesn't make it worth a plug nickel. He got lucky and bought parts from the factories years ago and was given untold numerous parts for working on pistols. He has a shop full of national match stuff that he has been using for 50 years now. Whenever I need something, I usually get it from him. The stuff they make now is no comparison to what they used to by any means.

Dave Sample
July 13, 2005, 08:50 PM
I shipped an old 38 Super Comp gun back today, sans compensator. We heated up the comp with my very expensive electric heat gun (about $10.00 retail) and unscrewed that baby. Then I took it out to Chino Valley and had Don cut the end of the barrel off and crown it 11 degrees. Before I shipped it I made Walt Wolff a happy camper by installing a new 14 lb recoil spring and a new heavy duty firing pin spring.Why? Because the old spring was adjusted for the compensated system. It was too light weight for hot super loads in a 5 " configuation. The firing pin spring? It is my drop in firing pin safety system that costs about a buck.

When I tune a 1911, I install new Wolff Springs in it all the way through. When I tune a SA 1873 Type six gun I do the same thing. Why? Because I am not smart like Jim and I don't know how long those springs have been in there or how many rounds have been fired with them in the gun. For $15.00 I can guarantee they are new and will work just fine.

Here is the Big Answer to the Question! It is like I told both of my chlildren on their 16th birthday about owning automobiles.
You buy a brand new one, put it up on blocks in the garage, and once a month you uncover it, look at it and cover it back up. It will last your whole lifetime. If you drive it, it will break.

Buy a very expensive gun, oil it up, put it in a rust proof sleeve, and stick it in the safe and never play with it. Then you will never need the services of a "Gunsmith" or "Pistolsmith" like me. If you use it, shoot it, play with it, it will break, sooner or later and unless you are naturally very highly skilled in working with metal, you are going to need some help from us. Sorry, but that is the truth as I see it.

July 13, 2005, 09:09 PM
Or, you could "settle" for a Glock. ;)

July 14, 2005, 12:35 AM
They may be good to look at and shoot, but if you shoot it enough, it will start to break just like any other firearm. The thing about this is that there aren't many Glock smiths around so it can get expensive to keep one up.

Bill Z
July 14, 2005, 07:31 AM
Jim, Countryboy,

You guys want me to send you all the old springs I take out of pistols to use in you and your customers guns? I'll be happy to start collecting them and when I fill up a Priority mailer I'll ship them out straight away, I have no problems with that at all, I hate to think I'm throwing away perfectly good springs. I just cannot bring myself to guaranteeing my work on parts unknown to me.


Bill Z
July 14, 2005, 07:33 AM
Zeke, I agree with you wholeheartedly, shooting a Glock is settling. :D

July 14, 2005, 02:34 PM
I have a pretty good supply of fresh factory springs that do just fine. I am not faulting anyone who wants to use Wolff or any of the other spring makers. I will say that Wolff nor any of the other makers will never better the quality of the springs that Colt and S&W originally designed for there guns. Yes, you can lighten a trigger pull or shoot lighter or heavier loads using different springs, but you haven't bettered the gun in it's original intent. Most of the time you end up with damage to the gun. Mr. Sample like to use a shok buff, which I was taught to never put one in a gun because if you build it right and use the right ammo in it, it isn't necessary. I don't fault him for using them if he gets good results and likes it, more power to him. If you want to remove an original spring and replace it with a Wolff, you haven't necessarily put in a better spring, just a new spring. I was taught by a man that worked daily on military pistols. He learned from them what really worked and what didn't in the line of battle. Now, he also customized some pistols for target shooting, which his pistols have won at Camp Perry before and it is in print. His name is Forrest Davis. He taught me that to win with a pistol, you built it right to begin with. You tighten up tolerances. If you find a bad spring, then replace it, but not just so you can say that I use such and such springs in my guns and they perform better because of it. Make the gun tight and anchor the barrel to a specific spot each time and the gun will generally shoot better. He uses National Match parts to rebuild a pistol. Are they any better than Wilson or the others, in my humble opinion, yes, but that is only my opinion. He taught me that you don't necessarily have to change every part on a gun to make it shoot nor put a bunch of pretty parts on it either. He usually started with GI frames and slides and mated them together with good parts and his hand work to make the pistol shoot right. I am just old fashion I guess, in that I like to keep things simple. The simpler they are, the easier they are to fix when things go wrong. The other part of that is that if you keep good parts that are up to specs in a gun and shoot the ammo in it that it was intended to shoot, things last a whole lot longer than when you use aftermarket parts that are shiny and pretty but generally under specs, then you get things that happen like the guy who has the 45 with the frame battered. To each his own. I'll just take mine, thanks.

Dave Sample
July 14, 2005, 03:44 PM
The KISS Program is a great one!

Who do you think makes the springs for the factory guns? And what makes you think that a spring priced to be the lowest bidder is going to be better than a New Wolff Spring? I don't think that the factories by the best of anything. They buy the cheapest parts they can so they can show a profit to the Stockholders every year. I also realize that they have what we do not have and that is called "Buying Power."

You like your way and I like mine. I think that's neat and I like your style!

Bill Z
July 14, 2005, 07:40 PM
I'll echo Dave here in that Wolff does make a lot of springs for the factories, but not all of them. I just know I can trust them, even though I never did identify who's springs I used in this post until now, I guess it was just assumed that I do.

Now, I would like to clarify something else here that some people might take as an implication on me or any other smith that uses Wolff or any other springs that CB has eluded too in a couple of posts. I do not use springs to lighten trigger pulls. I do match springs to the pistols and the parts that are in them and don't just arbitrarily change spring wieghts. Wolff sells a myriad of springs in different weights as well as service pac's for the entire pistol in many cases, and they normally list what factory standard is for those consumers that don't know.

Now, what do I do with these couple of mag springs I changed out today? I guess it's in the garbage they go. :(

July 14, 2005, 08:09 PM
I hope no one thinks I meant anything bad toward anyone here. I have had folks come in because of smiths around here that sell them a spring or worse yet, they ordered it themselves without any information about the gun, and the spring cause damage to the gun. I have nothing against Wolff springs either. I just use what I have that come from the factory. I am aware that Wolff makes some springs for the factories. I have just recently repaired a pistol that a guy put in a recoil spring that was way too light and the gun was almost ruined by it. His response to my question about the spring was that he was told by his buddies that Wolff was the only way to go when you shoot a pistol. He called them and ordered the spring and got the wrong one and put it in. He had a 14lb spring in it. His buddies he said told him this was what he needed. The only problem was that his buddies shot 185 grain loads with their spring and he was shooting a 235gr ball. Beat it up fairly well. He wanted to blame the spring on Wollf, but I informed him that wasn't their fault he ordered the wrong spring. Another part of my gripe with aftermarket springs is the folks that order a spring that was meant to be used in a target gun and they end up with unfired rounds due to the spring being too light. It seems that they put a very light spring into a defense gun and then bring it to me to fix the problem. I know you can get the right spring from them, but it seems to me that they push the other springs all too much on folks. It's all good here Mr. Z.

Dave Sample
July 15, 2005, 01:49 PM
I do not even wish to remember the 1911's and 1873 types that came here that were ruined by wannabe's. The Forums have created the idea that this is easy stuff and nayone can do it. I used to do the "wannabe prayer" every morning until I got sick and tired of patching up those kind of guns.