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Old April 15, 2018, 11:52 AM   #1
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Dropping a 1911: Ever seen one go bang?

Have you ever seen, personally experienced, or known someone firsthand that dropped a 1911, in any condition and it went bang?

Specifically, a 1911 with a grip safety, the hammer in any position, and safety in any position.
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Old April 15, 2018, 12:32 PM   #2
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No, but I have read one account from a GI that sounded legit. The pistol was in condition 2 (round chambered, hammer down) and holstered. The holstered pistol and pistol belt was tossed into a jeep and the pistol went off. This was obviously a GI model without firing pin block.
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Old April 15, 2018, 12:40 PM   #3
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I personally dropped a freshly loaded, thumb safety not yet set, 1970's Colt Combat Commander to the kitchen floor. Gun didnt discharge.

I wish I had a video of the little dance I did while it was going down though.

As much as people lie to go on about how safe the 1911's are with all their different safeties, I still look at them as I do anything else. Proper gun handling is the key, no matter whats in your holster.

Ive owned about 40 of them in the course of my life, and carried one daily for over 25 years, Ive had brand new guns come with grip safeties that didnt work, some thumb safeties so stiff you about needed a hammer to knock them off. A couple I carried, I would regularly find the thumb safety off at the end of the day and the gun was never removed from the holster.

Dont think just because they are there, they will always be working. Treat everything like it doesnt have any safeties and youll be a lot better off.
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Old April 15, 2018, 01:43 PM   #4
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I wouldn't believe any first-person account.
"It hit the floor and went off" is about as believable as, "I was cleaning it and it went off".
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Old April 15, 2018, 02:00 PM   #5
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U.S Army. Have seen a 1911 dropped in just about every condition and circumstance and I have not seen it go bang without a finger on the trigger. I even saw a moron pound in tent stakes with a weapon he later "remembered" was in condition 2, and he's still breathing as far as I know.

If there was ever a weapon which has been used and abused and which has stood the test of time it's the 1911.
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Old April 15, 2018, 09:52 PM   #6
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My 70's mod 70 Combat Commander slid out from under a seat in my old 72 Dodge van, cocked and locked and landed on the hammer on the asphalt and didn't go off.
Just like above I was a dancing fool until it stopped bouncing.
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Old April 15, 2018, 11:04 PM   #7
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I INTENTIONALLY dropped a real USGI 1911 with a primed case in the chamber, repeatedly in various "conditions" and orientations. From head height on vinyl over plank. The primer was faintly marked, less than what you see on a round ejected from an AR.

I have read of drop tests on concrete firing the gun. Had to be muzzle down so inertia overcame the firing pin Spring. I would like to see one done with a full charge load to see what it would do to the floor and surroundings.
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Old April 16, 2018, 12:19 PM   #8
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I have beat on a 1911 hammer in Condition 2 (with primed case) with a rawhide mallet almost hard enough to break the hammer. No marks on primer.
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Old April 16, 2018, 02:30 PM   #9
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Happened to a buddy of mine. He didn't do the dropping, just supplied the foot which was next to the impact point. And yes, the 1911 struck on the muzzle and fired. Nobody hurt.

This is the event which the firing pin spring is supposed to prevent. But springs get tired.

My buddy then and there became a believer in the firing pin block on 1911s. Which that particular one obviously did not have.

OBTW, when you buy a Wolff 1911 recoil spring you get a bonus new firing pin spring. And it gets trickier putting the firing pin back in a slide with a firing pin block. Sort of one of those "with your 3rd hand" actions.

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Old April 16, 2018, 03:11 PM   #10
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We know that there's no firing pin block on a 1911 model 70 (also known as the 1911 as God and John Moses Browning designed it.) One would need to do the following to find out if it were possible to fire on a drop:
  1. Determine how much weight is needed to press the firing pin down enough to protrude from the breech face enough to activate a primer (there would be a reasonable range for different springs)
  2. Divide this weight by the weight of a typical firing pin to determine the force, in G's, required to move this distance
  3. Figure out at what height this G force would be acheived in a free-fall drop
I don't know how to do the G-force math, but I suspect it would be relatively easy for an entry-level engineer. I further suspect that the gun manufacturers have a bunch of said engineers on the payroll. If dropping from a reasonable distance could reasonably cause this. I'm sure the model 70 would have gone the way of the Dodo.

Someone did some of this work here. He calculated that the force required is 506g or 115 G's with a 4.4g firing pin and some unknown spring. If you drop a mass from 6 meters, it will be going 10.84 m/sec when it strikes. This is roughly equivalent to 111 G's assuming it takes 0.01 seconds to stop. Given these numbers, something over a 20 foot drop would be needed to theoretically activate a primer. This is more than an accidental drop.

This is all based on what's probably really bad math - so someone with a better grasp of the subject should absolutely feel free to challenge and/or correct me.
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Old April 16, 2018, 04:41 PM   #11
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This thread was from the old 10-8 forums and the results were widely reported on various model 1911 forums. Take it for what it is worth, but it certainly seems that Series 70 type model 1911 pistols with steel firing pins can be made to drop fire from modest heights when they impact muzzle down:

http://dave2.freeshell.org/1911/drop1/drop1.htm
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Old April 16, 2018, 04:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill DeShivs View Post
I have beat on a 1911 hammer in Condition 2 (with primed case) with a rawhide mallet almost hard enough to break the hammer. No marks on primer.
Series 80 or Series 70? I'd think a series 70 would at least have some marks on the primer. Series 80 should be fine.
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Old April 16, 2018, 05:43 PM   #13
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After owning/being in the same house as several 1911s, all series 70 except one, for nearly 50 years: nope. Never seen nor heard of it happening. I don't doubt that it could happen, or even that it has happened to someone at some time. But never in my experience.
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Old April 16, 2018, 05:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
I have beat on a 1911 hammer in Condition 2 (with primed case) with a rawhide mallet almost hard enough to break the hammer. No marks on primer.
Beat on hammer or muzzle?
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Old April 16, 2018, 05:53 PM   #15
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Old April 16, 2018, 06:08 PM   #16
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As I said- beat on the hammer.
Properly made inertial firing pins are not moved by hammer impact.
The gun was a 1911-A1 or possibly a pre-70s Commander.
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Old April 16, 2018, 07:08 PM   #17
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Testing the length of the firing pin?
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Old April 16, 2018, 11:01 PM   #18
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Bill makes firing pins for a variety of pistols and I would trust that anything he put into my pistol would work forever without issue. My first 1911a1 came from DCM in 1963, since then there has always been a half dozen or more 1911’s in my possession, none has had springs replaced and all operate as JB intended them to. That original DCM $15 pistol remains close by to this day.
I have never tried to drop or pound on one so cannot relate a war story other than one GI in Korea said “ it just went off” and hit another soldier, he was never seen in the unit again.
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Old April 17, 2018, 12:29 AM   #19
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Trying to make an inertial firing pin ignite a primer with the hammer fully down.
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Old April 17, 2018, 09:43 AM   #20
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I am no expert, but my understanding of the issue, which is also backed by some posts in this thread, is the discharges occur when the firearm is dropped on a hard surface and hits muzzle first. Hitting the hammer with a rawhide mallet would not simulate this event.
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Old April 17, 2018, 09:53 AM   #21
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Quote:
No, but I have read one account from a GI that sounded legit. The pistol was in condition 2 (round chambered, hammer down) and holstered. The holstered pistol and pistol belt was tossed into a jeep and the pistol went off. This was obviously a GI model without firing pin block.
That does not "sound" legit to me at all. It would have had to land vertically on the muzzle with enough momentum to have the firing pin over-come the firing spring and the grip safety despite the holster cushioning the fall. I would give no more credence to anecdotal "evidence" than anything else I have heard in a bar.
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Old April 17, 2018, 10:02 AM   #22
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The concept of a 1911 sans firing pin block can fire if dropped from x number of feet directly on its muzzle on a hard surface may be a scientific possibility. However, how often have the stars aligned so perfectly that all the exact conditions required for that possible discharge have actually happened by chance? Consider how long, how many times one would have to sit outside during a thunderstorm to be actually struck by lightning. Certainly, the chances are so small that I would not choose a series 80 over a series 70. That concept needs to be evaluated relative to its real threat, let alone that the gun firing straight down most likely would not kill/seriously injure bystanders.
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Old April 17, 2018, 10:56 AM   #23
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I'd also like to see a gun with a full-length guide rod, and the same gun with a G.I. guide rod tested; the former would be landing solid object against solid object, while the latter would "recoil" from the impact, absorbing some of the blow.
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Old April 17, 2018, 12:16 PM   #24
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Quote:
Have you ever seen, personally experienced, or known someone firsthand that dropped a 1911, in any condition and it went bang?
Nope.

Quote:
It would have had to land vertically on the muzzle with enough momentum to have the firing pin over-come the firing spring and the grip safety despite the holster cushioning the fall.
Nope. Or, at least, not exactly the way you describe it.

First, it doesn't have to land vertically on the muzzle. All that is needed is the gun has to be moving in a direction roughly parallel with the bore, moving fast enough, and come to a stop hard enough to overcome the inertia of the firing pin, and the compression of the firing pin spring, with enough force to fire the primer.

Vertical or horizontal orientation doesn't matter what matters is the pistol has to be moving in line with the muzzle when it gets stopped hard.

"Thrown into a jeep..." The pistol could me moving at a much higher velocity than what an ordinary drop would produce, and "into a jeep" means it very likely could be very suddenly stopped by hitting the steel of the jeep.

"thrown into a jeep, in the holster, and it went bang" Possible. Not plausible, but not impossible. Implausible things happen all the time, to someone, somewhere...

Second, the grip safety of the 1911/1911A1 has no contact or interaction of any kind with the firing pin. None. Ever.

The firing pin spring's primary function is to ensure the firing pin returns to its at rest position, so it can be struck by the hammer again to fire the next shot. The fact that is ALSO adds to the energy requirement needed for the firing pin to strike the primer (without being driven by the hammer blow) is a plus, but it is not designed to be a positive fail safe prevention method preventing accidental discharge.

Not perfect, but deemed good enough, an opinion that held for well over half a century.
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Old April 17, 2018, 08:49 PM   #25
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Who knows the condition on some of those GI 1911s.
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