View Full Version : 1911 Trigger change

June 11, 1999, 10:45 PM
This is probably a dumb question but I gotta ask. I'm going to replace the trigger on my 1911. I would like to do this myself if it's not too terribly difficult. I have a teardown schematic & lots of tools but no experience with 1911's. Is this something an amature can be successful at or should I leave it to a trained gunsmith? Any advise jokes or insults would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

June 11, 1999, 11:08 PM
Though I've been shooting some time, I never really got into the workings of my guns till a few years ago. I found that the AGI ( American Gunsmithing Institute ) series of Armorers video tapes are a great place to start. You can buy them directly from AGI http://www.americangunsmith.com/ or from Brownells http://www.brownells.com for about $30 a tape. They show details of the disassembly, assembly and operation, of each gun, they also cover cleaning and special considerations.

Hope this helps,


[This message has been edited by chucko (edited June 12, 1999).]

4V50 Gary
June 11, 1999, 11:21 PM
Fitting a new trigger on a 1911 isn't really hard. Olympic Shooter turned gunsmith Bob Chow once observed that an advantage of the 1911 is that a semiskilled GI could replace the parts himself and have some assurances that it would function. The same could not be said of the Beretta 92 which required specialized training and more tools.

Jerry Kuhnhausen's book is about the best you're going to get when it comes to working on the 1911.

Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt

4V50 Gary
June 11, 1999, 11:28 PM
Oh yes, if you're going to try it yourself, get a large cardboard box will tall sides. Cut off the top and one of the longer sides such that you'll be left with a bottom and three sides left. Tape the bottom from the inside such that nothing can slip between the cardboard or out. Tape the schematic on the inside such that it faces you.

When you work on your gun, it'll catch any small parts or will control the flight of small pins and springs which may launch out from the gun while you're working on it. Also, this will prevent parts from walking or rolling away on your bench and onto the floor. About half of my training was spent on cleaning floors looking for springs and such.

Take your time and be patient, and have fun.

Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt

June 11, 1999, 11:44 PM
The 1911 is the perfect pistol for a beginer to tinker with. They are simple to take apart and put back together, don't have alot of parts and can be very forgiving of minor mistakes.
But I've got to warn you that tinkering with a 1911 can be addictive. First it's just a trigger change, but then you'll want a beavertail grip saftey and before you know it your looking thru catalogs trying to decide what's next. Go for it and have fun!

June 12, 1999, 03:20 AM
Thanks all for the good advise. I'll order the parts on monday. I think I'll probably also order a spare spring kit "just in case." I'm going to try to find that book, if not, I'll definately get the video. It's probably not a good idea to just dive in and start punching pins without some proper instruction (I don't read the directions on my kids toys either

The cardboard box idea is brilliant! I can think of a dozen other times I could have used that besides working on guns. Thanks!

I'll let you know how it works out. Worst case is I have to take a box of parts to my gunsmith and let him laugh at me for a while.

Thanks again!

June 12, 1999, 06:18 AM
No, the worst case is after doing a so so job on your pistol it goes full auto for you!
Get Kuhnhausen's shop manual! You can find it at Fulton Armory's website or adds in SGN.
Have fun but be safe, Hank

James K
June 12, 1999, 09:13 PM
The shop manuals are great but you can get at almost any gun show and a lot of gun shops cheaper books that will show how to disassemble and reassemble the M1911/Ai and its clones. Replacing the trigger (why, by the way?) is a simple job and doesn't require a lot of techincal knowledge.


Jim V
June 13, 1999, 07:53 PM
JJR, are you planning on installing a different factory trigger or an after market one with a stop screw installed?

I have replaced a lot of 1911 triggers and it is easy.

I remove the slide and all it's parts, set them aside.

Lower the hammer carefully. Drift out the mainspring housing pin, remove the mainspring housing, cock the hammer, remove the thumb safety, remove the grip safety, remove the hammer and sear pins and then the hammer and sear and disconnector. The next to last thing to remove is the magazine release. The old trigger should then slide out of the frame.

Try the new trigger, it should not fit (if after market), remove it and set the frame aside. Take a new 10" bastard mill file (medium cut)--it really doesn't matter what size file you use but a 10" one works best for me--and lay it on a flat surface. Holding the trigger so the bottom of the finger pad is flat on the file, draw it toward yourself. Draw the trigger 3 or 4 times and then do the same for the top flat of the pad. Then try to fit the trigger into the frame, It will start to slide in a little, continue drawing the trigger on the file until it will fit the frame with a little pressure and needing the same pressure to remove it. Set the file aside and take some fine garnet paper and continue the draw and try procedure until the trigger slides in the frame as if it were on bearings. You can polish the flats to a shine but it is not needed. I do like to take the edge of the file and file a small groove the length of the flats to provide room for lube but again they are not really needed.

Clean the garnet grit that may be still on the trigger, reassemble and away you go. Get to the range and adjust the stop screw, which I throw away.

Good luck

Additional: The flats I refer to are those that are on the top/bottom of the finger pad.
Once in a while you may need to polish the sides of the trigger bow that fits around the magazine. Inside and out.

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum

[This message has been edited by Jim V (edited June 14, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Jim V (edited June 14, 1999).]

June 13, 1999, 09:17 PM
Thanks Jim,

I'll make sure I have the tools you mentioned ready before I start. I ordered Kuhnhausen's book and hopefully it will get here before the parts do.

The gun in question is actually a 1991A1... the poor man's 1911. I actually like the gun quite a bit but the cheap plastic trigger really bothers me (works fine, just looks bad). Also, since I wanted to try my hand at gunsmithing, I figured I'd rather start with an inexpensive gun rather than take a risk with one of my nicer pieces.

I'm hoping to replace the plastic trigger with a metal "factory" trigger but the reputation the 1991 has for poor finish and fitting work makes me think that I'm still going to need to do some filing. Good or bad it will certainly be an experiance. The above mentioned problem with "full-auto" possibilities was something I had not previously thought about. Yikes! I'm glad I talked to you guys first.

Thanks again, John

George Stringer
June 13, 1999, 09:47 PM
JJR, JimV gave you a pretty good technique. Mine differs slightly. After the frame is completely disassembled, I polish the ways that the trigger bow rides in with 400 grit emery cloth wrapped around a small file. When they appear smooth I coat the trigger bow sides, top and bottom with Dykem Blue. Then I insert the new trigger and the magazine catch. I point the frame at the floor and then at the ceiling. If it does not fall freely, I pull and push 50 times and disassemble. Then I polish the shiny spots on the trigger bow with a medium India stone. Recoat with Dykem Blue and repeat until the trigger will fall forward and back freely. As long as you don't attempt to stone the hammer and sear I don't think you have too much to worry about as far as hammer follow goes. One more thing. Sometimes the top and bottom of the trigger shoe itself will need a little attention. I just put one in a Defender Wednesday that had to be relieved about .010" on both bottom and top. It isn't at all unusual. If the trigger refuses to go all the way in when you first attempt it, that is probably the reason. George

Jim V
June 21, 1999, 04:07 PM
JJR: How are you doing on changing the trigger on your Colt? Keep us posted.

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum

James K
June 21, 1999, 04:32 PM
You didn't say it was a 1991. From what I hear, just fire a shot and the gun disassembles itself.


July 2, 1999, 02:34 AM
The caveat about full auto is a good one. If you don't get the Kuhnhousen (spelling?) book or miss his instructions about testing a new trigger, you put one round into the mag and test fire, then try it with 2 and then try again. A 1911 in full auto is not bad with only 1-2 rounds in the mag, with a full mag it is really scary. Good luck. BTW, I am starting to put together some 1911's that I obtained most of the parts for almost 10 years ago. It has been that long since I really worked on any. I have been doing a lot of reading to refresh my failing memory and eliminate those senior momemts. So far my 'start' has been mainly going into high gear procrastination although the 45 is coming together however slowly. The others are each finally into seperate boxes and I am checking parts, locating tooling, etc.. Have fun, Jim

Jim V
July 27, 1999, 08:55 PM
WE, or at least I, want a trigger replacement update. You should have received the parts and tools by now. What's happening?

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum
"If there be treachery, let there be jehad!"

July 27, 1999, 09:50 PM
Sorry, I should've updated sooner as you'll all love this! I'm so mad at that gun that I've been trying to erase all memory of it.

Yes, I got all the parts in and everything. I went out to my shop and proceeded to change the trigger. With Kuhnhausen's book and the suggestions I got here it went off without a hitch. The trigger only needed a little bit of polishing to fit perfectly. I reassembled it and everything seemed to function just fine. So I went to the range...

I started off with just one round in the mag. No problems. Then I put three rounds in the mag (worrying about the full auto thing). Again, no problems. Needless to say, I was very proud of myself.

About 30 rounds later the front sight flew off.

I went to break the gun down to see if I could find out what happened from underneath. When I pulled out the slide stop, the plunger tube fell out (for the second time since I've owned it). Plungers and springs all over the floor.

I was not amused.

So I took the whole mess (what I could find) to my gunsmith and he put it back together in about 15 minutes. "Your problem" he said, "is that you're not supposed to actually shoot a 1991". Ahhhhh!!
(he did say that my new trigger seemed fine).

Anyway, to make a long story short (shorter), I went to a gun show the next morning and traded the damn thing in on a new Kimber Classic Stainless. I'm very happy now and its' trigger is just fine as it is! :)

Thanks again everyone for all the Help. I accomplished the goal anyway and I learned how to do something new. Some other poor guy is going to buy a used piece of junk 1991 with a beautifully installed brand new trigger. Sigh.

Jim V
July 28, 1999, 06:38 AM
JJR: At times I think Colt WANTS to go out of business. They have no pride in what the build, in many cases.

Interesting story, good luck with the Kimber.

July 28, 1999, 06:39 PM
JJR. That's amazing. My experience has been just the opposite. I've owned a couple dozen 1911's over the years. Some good...some dogs. I got a new stainless 1991, in trade a couple years ago. It has got to be one of the BEST fitted 1911 pattern guns I have ever owned. At least for a "stock" gun. Now my Kimber is tighter and shoots better, but that 1991 has no rattles after 3000+ rnd. The barrel hood fit is perfect. The bushing is typical drop in fit. The extractor was tuned properly. The sights and tube were swedged on properly. The trigger was crap but easily corrected. I had planned to use it for a "builder", but it runs so good that I left it pretty much stock. I did put MMC's on it and put a black bake lacquer finish on it. (I hate fixed sights and white guns.) I use it to demonstrate to students that they need not feel handicapped just because they don't have every wiz-bang doo dad bolted on their gun. I guess it goes to show: Even a blind hog gets an acorn every now and then! :)

Regards, Sharps.

July 28, 1999, 07:26 PM
Yeah, I think I got a lemon.

Mine rattled like a length of chain after the first 50 rounds or so. I'm very new to 1911's so everything's a surprise to me. Some old timers told me they were supposed to rattle like that so I ignored it.

I bought it on a whim and I'm glad I did. I've always avoided 1911's because of the single action. I just can't get comfortable with "cocked & locked" carry. But because of the 1991 I bought, (or despite it) I've really come to appreciate the design. From now on there will always be at least one in my safe.

I'm kinda quircky about guns. Once they start to go south I can never feel like I can trust them again. Once I get that way, they're just no fun anymore. I know the repairs my gunsmith made will probably last for a hundred years, but I'll always be wondering "what's next?". I've only put about 200 rounds through my new kimber but I've been thrilled so far. Much more accurate, not one single failure to feed, and no flying parts (so far). Maybe someday I'll be able to trust myself with it enough to carry it. :)

Now that I've got a book, I think I'd like to try to build one myself one of these days. I'm sure I'll be pestering everyone here for some advise. (By the way, I bought the 1991 new for $300... I sold it used for $450. Go figure.)

James K
July 28, 1999, 07:30 PM
Hi, Sharpsrifle,

The key words in your post are "a couple of years ago." Nuff sed.


July 29, 1999, 10:46 AM
I haven't paid that much attention to any Colt product since picking up that 1991. It is truly a shame that they have declined that much. I'll have to stop reccomending them for entry level buyers. On the other hand, my Kimber Stainless Classic Target has been terrific. I did have to polish the breech face after the first outing with it. I thought that Kimber should have done that before shipping it. It would start choking after about a hundred rounds. Fortunatly, I didn't have the dreaded "slide release syndrome", that has plagued some other posters.

Regards, Sharps.

James K
July 30, 1999, 11:56 AM

Look at the bright side. You have now qualified for entry level membership in the PTL (Pistol Tinkerers League).