View Full Version : SW1911 external extractor adjustment

November 26, 2009, 04:29 PM

My SW1911 seems to have some feeding problems. It jams around once every 20 rounds. I've noticed that the cartridge fails to hook under the extractor when I inspect the jam.

I proceeded to remove the slide to try the extractor test described here:

To me, it seems like my extractor is too tight. When I hook a cartridge under the extractor, I can shake the thing VIOLENTLY, and not have the cartridge fall out. Also, the bottom of the cartridge doesn't sit flush with the pad because it just seems like everything is way too tight in there.

Should I consider this a candidate for extractor adjustment? If so, any tips? Also, it seems like there aren't any instructions out there on how to remove an external extractor (I figure I have to press in on those pins, but I want to be sure of what I'm doing before I try anything)

Any thoughts?

November 26, 2009, 04:39 PM
Reading further, perhaps I jumped the gun.

I think i need to look at my magazines first.

Any comments on how to check a magazine?

Jim Watson
November 26, 2009, 05:33 PM
The SW1911 external extractor is not user adjustable and they won't even sell you a spare.

The only thing I know of on magazines is to try a different brand. Do you have any friends with 1911s to borrow from? Trial and error can get expensive.

Harry Bonar
November 26, 2009, 08:50 PM
Correct, the S&W extractor cannot be adjusted - but - remove it from the pistol carefully and on the very bottom behind the hook take a needle file and cut a very small angle (just break the sharp edge) and then gently polish it with some very fine grit.
This will let the case rim slip up under the extractor hook easier.
Harry B.

November 26, 2009, 10:24 PM
+1 for Harry Bonar. Reduce any surface imperfections that could cause drag on the rim as it slides under the extractor and polish smooth. Just a little bit and don't change any angles.

November 29, 2009, 06:34 PM
The SW1911 extractor is fitted in the same manner as in their traditional metal-framed pistols, meaning the spec for fit is checked with a bar gauge (Go/No-Go) and any adjustment is done by filing an adjustment pad located behind the extractor hook.

Last time I checked there's two extractor springs available for the SW1911, the standard one and an optional (heavier) extractor spring. The extractor tension is measured using a force dial gauge, as is done with other S&W pistols. The recommended tension range for the SW1911 in the armorer manual is 4-7 lbs. @ .010" deflection. (Meaning if you don't own the $150 force dial gauge and aren't familiar with how to check the spring tension using it, you probably shouldn't be trying to determine if the tension is "good" or fiddling with the extractor and extractor spring. ;) )

This type of external pivoting extractor doesn't need filing or polishing at the hook as a regular internal 1911 extractor hook might need, although it's always possible a new part (extractor) had a defect which went unnoticed during production. (Nor, as mentioned above, is the tension checked in the same manner as is done with an internal 1911 extractor, meaning that slipping a dummy round under the hook and shaking the slide is not a relevant test).

Many feeding issues encountered in 1911 guns can be traced to magazines (meaning quality tolerance & production, feed lips and spring tension, etc), or else an ammunition tolerance issue. I remember when some functioning issues which surfaced in another gun design (being used by some LE agencies) resulted in learning that the case rim dimensions of one major manufacturer's cases were so large that the cases weren't easily slipping under the extractors of some guns.

If it is something involving gun, though, why not simply call S&W and ask for a prepaid shipping label so they can examine it and address any issues under their lifetime warranty? Call them and discuss it with them.

Their pinned extractors aren't meant to be removed and replaced frequently, nor removal/fitting/installation done by inexperienced persons.

The factory usually closes down for about 3 weeks starting in the middle of Dec, though.

November 2, 2011, 03:02 PM
Hello Fastbolt:

After a Google search led me to this thread (as I was curious if an internal extractor tension was checked different than external one) I put this gizmo together using 1/16 X 3/4 inch brass strip:


The piece against the breechface and under the extractor was made the same width as a mid-spec SAAMI 45 Auto case rim, or 0.475". I measure tension at the instant the edge of the strip opposite the extractor begins to move away from the breechface guide block - detected with the help of a magnifier.

Is this about how S&W does it?


November 2, 2011, 05:25 PM
Interesting that this is your first post as a member of this forum. (I'm not implying or inferring anything, just making an observation.) Coincidence can be a funny thing at times. ;)

The GO/NO-GO extractor bar block used for the standard SW1911 ... (meaning I haven't yet asked about the Oversize extractors on the Enhanced models) ... is a machined steel bar. The GO end lists a measurement of .4175 and the NO-GO end lists .4225.

The dimension checked by the factory provided bar gauge is from the hook's "outside" edge, or tip, to the opposite side of the slide, with the bar gauge being inserted from the bottom of the breech face. (NOT from behind, or from inside, the hook to the other side.)

The NO-GO end of the bar gauge should not fit between the hook and opposite side of the slide. If it does, then material is filed from the extractor's adjustment pad and the parts reassembled and checked until the NO-GO gauge does not fit. The GO gauge should fit.

S&W stopped selling extractor Flag gauges to 3rd gen pistol armorers some years ago because they determined it was no longer a necessary inspection due to improvements in manufacturing tolerances (what we were told).

The flag gauges had GO/NO-GO ends used to check the dimension from the inside/back of the hook to the breech face behind the hook, meaning clearance for the case rim tolerance. My earlier 3rd gen extractor gauge sets for different calibers included flag gauges (new ones don't), but my SW1911 and M&P gauges don't have them (again, not available or considered necessary).

The extractor spring tension is checked using a Wagner Force Dial FDK.FDN Series Push Pull Force Gage (FDK 20). A "pull" hook attachment that comes with that gage is placed over the extractor hook, when the slide is positioned in a vise so the extractor is free to pivot, and the tension is checked at the point when movement of the extractor tail is detected as the hook end is being pulled with the gage. This takes a bit of practice, and some hooked extensions which have come with some of the gages have exhibited a better cut on the tip, which could more easily be held stationary on the extractor hooks while pulling on them. ;)

That image you posted doesn't show how the dimensional checks are made with either the current bar gauge or the older flag gauge. Are you just using it to pull against the inside of the hook?

What sort of gage are you using to measure the tension? The first movement of the extractor tail (hence the manual listing of only .010" deflection) is the moment when the tension is checked using the normal gage. (Otherwise you risk getting a heavier reading.) The tail's movement is easier to see than when looking at the front of the extractor, believe it or not.

If I didn't list it earlier in this particular thread, the standard SW1911 extractor is that from the 3rd gen .40 pistols (last time I ordered them, anyway). They are not the same as the Oversize extractors which come on the 3" Pro Series or the Enhanced models.

The .40 extractor on the standard SW1911's has a nicely beveled hook (it's a revision previously designed to optimize feeding on their 3rd gen .40's with the increased slide velocities produced by that cartridge). Here's an image of the standard SW1911 extractor showing the nice machined cuts behind the hook, and the beveled hook edge.

Interestingly enough, while I bought the SW1911 extractor gauge just to add it to my armorer tool collection, I've been told by one of their armorer instructors that the tolerances on the newer guns being made are such that more often than not the extractors are dropping into the slides of the SW1911's without having to be fitted. I'd still check using the bar gauge and the force dial tension gage, just to make sure, of course.

BTW, I realize I've been using the 2 different spellings of "gauge" & "gage" throughout my post, but I've done so deliberately, following the spelling used in both the S&W armorer manual and by the force dial manufacturer. Confusing, perhaps, but a way to practice some small bit of discipline in the weird world of words and their spellings. :D

If you lived close enough, and we got to "know each other" a bit better through the forum, I'd probably offer to let you see the tools purchased from S&W for armorer use, and demonstrate how they're used. (This is NOT an open invitation to all the forum members who might live in Northern CA, BTW. :eek: ) :D

November 5, 2011, 10:20 AM
Hello Fastbolt:

Thank your for the detailed response. From your dimensions for the go/nogo gauge (0.4175" and 0.4225"), it's apparent the S&W1911's are significantly different from the Government Model M1911A1. That dimension on the average mid-spec GM in 45 Auto (based on the Army Ordnance drawings) is 0.448" 0.4335" as shown here...


My tension reading method is similar to the one you describe except I take the reading when the 0.475" wide (average SAAMI 45 Auto case rim diameter) part of the adapter in the photo just begins to get pulled off the opposite guide block - seen with a magnifier. The readings I get are thus independent of the extractor tip geometry. My force gauges are an old set of four Chatillon spring push-pull models from the early 1960's having ½, 2, 4 & 15 pound ranges.

And thanks for the invitation to look at your S&W tools, but I'm a bit far for a quick trip, being located just South of Lake Superior. Since retirement some time is spent over at M1911.org under the same username, and here's the pertinent thread: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=96474

Best Regards

P.S.: [Edit] Corrected the dimensional error on the drawing in Photobucket but it may take some time for the system to respond to the change. The 0.448" was corrected to 0.4335". Sorry for any confusion

November 5, 2011, 10:42 AM
Interesting that this is your first post as a member of this forum. (I'm not implying or inferring anything, just making an observation.) Coincidence can be a funny thing at times. It should occur to most that the number of posts a person has made on a gun forum is not an indication of knowledge or experience, etc. It is just an indication that someone (who may have impeccable credentials in the subject matter), may have only recently acquired the interest in posting on gun boards. All too frequently the poster's post count is mentioned as a indicator of knowledge.

November 5, 2011, 01:12 PM
Hi niemi24s. Thanks for the link.

Yeah, I remember when I was becoming an armorer for the S&W 3rd gen guns, asking why I couldn't use the informal "shake test" for them when checking extractor tension (especially the .45's). The answer was more or less because the engineers used a more reliable method for checking their pivoting external extractors, or at least one more easily performed by simple armorers. Okay, fine, I thought. I'll spend the money myself, since I wanted to keep the tools upon retirement (and we bought them for the agency, as well).

Thanks for the link to the other forum thread. I don't think I've ever posted on that one.

I always found it interesting that the SW1911 was designed and built by the Performance Center, and then the first of the series was produced there before finally moving the production over to the main plant. (The SW1911's are presently built in the Maine plant.) The PC's 1911's, however, use a larger "Oversize" extractor than that adopted in the SW1911 line. I guess they originally had their reasons for adopting the 3rd gen .40 extractor.

Now, of course, the regular production SW1911 line includes a 3" Pro Series and the new Enhanced line which use the oversize extractor. I haven't asked about the use of the same bar gauge in the little Pro gun or the Enhanced guns, although I do have a list of the parts numbers for the different extractor pin and springs for the Enhanced series (different than the SW1911's). I guess once I either get one of the Enhanced models, or at least get one in my hands to examine, I can try my bar gauge for the standard models.

I'm guessing that one of the differences between the short (height) and tall extractors in the S&W 1911's is how high or low the extractor hook clocks on the rim. You'll notice on the guns with the oversize extractors that the bottom of the extractor cut appears to ride a little lower behind the bottom of the ejector port cut. It'd be my guess that having the extractor sit a little lower against the case offers a little more grab on it and might be a bit more robust in extraction under tougher conditions. Just a guess, though.

Oh yeah, dahermit, I understand your comment. I've often enjoyed seeing someone jumping into a thread for a specific reason, having to register on a new forum, because it just might mean they were interested and knowledgeable enough to find the thread topic of enough worth to add yet another forum to their activities. ;)

November 5, 2011, 07:54 PM
Thanx for the additional information. Guess its time to sniff around and find somebody who has a S&W 1911. Somebody dumb generous enough to let me try out my little adapters on it. :p


James K
November 5, 2011, 09:36 PM

November 6, 2011, 09:43 AM
One (hopefully) last question if you don't mind.

From the dimensions on the drawing in Post #9, the "depth" of the average Ordnance 45 Auto extractor hook is 0.4655 - 0.4335 = 0.032". Because the average SAAMI 45 Auto case extraction groove is 0.040" deep, this extractor is designed to apply pressure to edge of the case rim - not the bottom of the groove.

Q: What is the average "depth" of the S&W 45 Auto extractor hook (or, stated another way, is it designed to apply pressure to the edge of the case rim or to the bottom of the 0.040" deep groove)?

Best Regards

November 12, 2011, 01:05 PM

I've never measured the hook's dimension, in either the 3rd gen or SW1911 guns, nor is it considered a necessary check as taught in the armorer classes.

I just recertified on the 3rd gen guns for the 4th time last year, and it was mentioned that newer manufacturing methods have resulted in even closer, more consistent tolerances. One extractor for a 5906TSW class gun actually dropped-in the gun and spec'd out without any fitting/filing. :eek:

The instructor said he'd seen that happen once or twice in other classes with some of the newest parts being used in the classes. (Having the extractor drop-in one gun in a class of 20-35 students certainly doesn't mean that the extractors are "drop-in" parts, but it speaks well to the increasingly tighter tolerances the guns and parts are exhibiting. ;) )

It typically holds against the case rim, reaching far enough to grab the rim.

November 13, 2011, 01:43 PM
Thanks again. With the S&W go/nogo gauge designed to check the distance from the tip - and not from the area behind the tip - I thought perhaps the designed contact point was the tip (contacting the groove bottom) instead of the area behind the tip (contacting the edge of the rim as a Gov't Model 1911 is designed to do). The average Gov't Model hook is 0.008" less deep than a 45 Auto case groove as shown in this:


But if S&W contact is at the edge of the rim it works the same as a Gov't Model. They're just checked differently.

Best Regards

November 17, 2011, 02:49 PM
In the earlier image of the .40 extractor (SW1911) you can see on one them how the forward shoulder of the hook is really beveled down to the hook's edge to clear the case web.

These images if a 3rd gen 9 & .45 extractor also show, somewhat, how they bevel their extractors to provide clearance. (I didn't take these images to show that perspective, but for something else for another thread a while back.)

Unlike when dealing with 1911's, the potential for extractor hook bevel interference with the 3rd gen type extractors has never been something discussed as a potential problem which might have to be addressed by an armorer. They have pretty decent clearance due to their design.

Electric Head
November 18, 2011, 04:46 PM
I'm bumping this thread because:

1. I got a SW1911 9mm Pro about four months ago

2. And it has a failure to extract once every time I go to the range, 50, 200, 300 rounds / visit. Strangely it sometimes happens early / after 20 or so, sometimes it happens after 250...

3. I got the gun based on S&W's reputation for their external 1911 extractor, which unfortunately so far has given me more failures than my KIMBER 1911 .22 rimfire's EXTERNAL extractor (which is pretty much flawless).

4. I also can stick a live round under the extractor with the slide off, and the round centered on the firing pin / brass marks and shake the crap out of it and have it stay there nice and happy.

The radius on the bottom of the extractor looks quite big, the Pro series has the large width extractor, but the radius is about 1/3 of the width of it... There is no broken off piece, I can see the tool marks on the radius and the radius is still black like the rest of the extractor.

I'm reluctant to send it back as I'm in Australia and it's no doubt going to be a hassle and take a long time.

November 18, 2011, 06:23 PM
I can empathize with the difficulties involved in having a product service by a company in another country.

However, the company lists 2 warranty stations in Australia on their website. Have you called either of them to see if they can service the SW1911 Pro model you own?


Phone: 61-2-698-8725
Fax: 61-2-319-0732


Phone: 61-7-3252-8212
Fax: 61-7-3252-1515

I'd consider the possibility that you might be experiencing a symptom of another problem, meaning not necessarily an extractor issue. Maybe the barrel chamber? Breech face? Extractor spring? Something else, machining-wise, which momentarily causes the barrel's unlocking & movement to adversely affect extraction?

You might be better off having the pistol examined by a warranty station before you start trying to fix something, but end up unintentionally creating a different, or worse, problem.

Why not call and ask one of those warranty stations?

November 18, 2011, 07:02 PM
Hello Electric Head:

Don't forget that when the shake test is done with the case head centered on the firing pin, that is the position it is in when in battery and prior to firing. But after firing the barrel links down and extraction begins with the now empty case about 0.10 inch (2.5mm) lower on the breechface.

Best Regards

Electric Head
November 26, 2011, 05:47 PM
Hi Guys, thanks for the reply, I just stumbled on this thread again through doing another variation on the search for my issue.

I have emailed S&W, I did not know whether they did have someone here, thank you for that information! I'm going to have to look a bit harder at their website, I missed it. I will definitely follow up Grycol directly or the dealer I bought it from if they won't deal direct. (I know they don't deal direct with sales.)

Thank you for the suggestion of testing where the brass actually is most likely to be let go. I have actually tested this by putting an dummy I have made in the action with the recoil spring out, racking the slide back (not too far to hit the extractor) and dis-assembling. I even was able to move it further down with it seeming like it would never let go.

It is bizarre - any scenario I can think of that would cause it has at least one flaw that seems to make it an impossibility.

Hey just one strange thing - on the S&W site I (just now) found ONE of the Grycol listings that you kindly replied with here, the Alexandria one, but not the other one - were they on the same page? - http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_750001_750051_757827_-1_757814_757812_image#Pacific

Again, thank you for your replies!

November 26, 2011, 06:18 PM
Well, that's just weird. I only saw the one listing in Australia in the page in your link, but when I used your link to go back to the main website page and then try customer service/warranty stations again, I found both of them.

Try this link (cross your fingers, maybe? ;) )

Electric Head
November 28, 2011, 03:31 AM
LOL ok that works, thanks - I was looking at int'l contacts, a nearly identical page....

Electric Head
December 6, 2011, 05:32 AM
If anyone is wondering / interested - Grycol's armorer was out of town last week, I will be calling back this week.

The guy I spoke to did raise a good point, I only shoot reloads, shot a half box of factory stuff I had left over when I got it, and from then on (1500 rounds or so) have been reloads.

I have noticed on a couple of the failed-extraction cases that they were squeaky clean on the outside whereas the rest of them are sooty. This has me thinking maybe they have too much pressure when the barrel is unlocked and the extractor is trying to pull it out. There is a noticeable dent on the INSIDE of the rim, where the extractor pulls on the case, dented it, and slipped off.

I just am a little in awe that the slide is getting enough momentum from the small amount of movement whilst the barrel is still locked together, for the extractor to dent the case, slip off, and for the slide to go back far enough to fully cock the hammer and (try to) feed the next round!

I will be starting to test that theory this weekend with some reduced loads.