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Old 02-05-2012, 02:20 PM   #1
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Somewhat Unique Recoil Spring Question... 16 vs 18.5 Pounds

Hi Folks,

I am posting this on the three best 1911/BHP boards I know of on the internet as I would really like diverse opinions on the subject of springing the 1911. I have read all the posts I can find on the subject but donít feel any of them really address my needs.

My 1911 is currently set up thus: 18.5 pound recoil spring, 21 pound mainspring, shallow radius firing pin retainer, and extra power magazine springs that came with the Tripp conversions.

Now, Iíve never really liked running the 18.5 pound spring. I donít do it for reliability; reliability was there with the 16 pound spring. I do it for one reason alone: speed in returning to battery. I have this pistol sitting so low in my hand that cast reloads donít start flipping the muzzle up until, say, a 200 grain load is backed with 5.6 grains of W231 and crimped fairly hard. Even then itís right back on target very quickly.

I run the 18.5 pound spring to make it return to battery faster, as with the 16 pound I was waiting on it at times. (Though granted the 16 pound spring is stock and may not be true 16 pounds; it feels pretty light.)

I do not want to batter the feet and slide stop pin. I donít think I will round out the frame given the modern hardening techniques (werenít original frames soft? or were those the slides? I donít remember!) Because of this, I would like to go back to a lighter spring.

Here are my goals:

ē Absorb recoil to keep the frame from being bashed. The warmish loads I use now, both factory and handloads, do impact the frame with a 16 pound spring but not with an 18.5 pound spring.
ē Keep the slide return soft, but soften right before it hits the forward-most point in its travel. I want to keep the speed of the 18.5 pound spring.
ē Keep the 21 pound mainspring. I like it, the way itís balanced and all. The 23 pound mainspring feels almost as good, but just almost.
I think I could do this one of two ways: Get a fully squared, non-radiused EGW firing pin retainer and go to a fresh 16 pound spring from Wolff

or

keep the current setup and use a variable power spring from Wolff. Early unlocking is not and never has been a problem in this particular pistol.

So, in summary, I want the frame protection and speed of slide return that an 18.5 pound spring gives me, but want the lower lugs to have the protection from battering that a 16 pound spring gives me.

A distinct slowing of the slideís forward momentum after it strips the round from the mag would be ideal. Say, 18.5 pounds for firing and for half the return, then a magical transformation to 16 (or even 14!) pounds for the last half of its forward travel.

What am I looking for? One of these variable-powered springs? A compromise spring like a 17 pound spring? Or are my hopes in this area unrealistic?

The pistol in question is a Rock Island Armory government-sized frame, slide and barrel with new everything else. I was going to replace the barrel with a NM, but the stock barrel was surprisingly precise so I didnít mess with it as it worked.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

Josh
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Old 02-05-2012, 02:57 PM   #2
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Josh,

I think what your leaning toward is a variable rate spring that allows easy unlocking and the rate increases as the spring compresses. We usually see these in compensated pistols because of the extra barrel weight. They are not recommended for standard applications, to the best of my knowledge.

Springing the 1911 is the subject of much debate. Most changes are made to meet certain parameters of gun/load/etc. in competition.

Since 16 lb. springs are standard weight for the government model and ball ammo it's a starting point...and a darn good one. You won't batter anything enought to worry about as long as you change springs when they shorten about a coil and one-half. The 16 lb. spring also has the proper feed speed when stripping a round and chambering it.

The 18.5 lb. spring returns faster and strips/chambers harder. How much so, I don't know. What I can tell you is that overspringing can be just as bad as underspringing. There's no free lunch. Remember, extra power trying to FORCE feed can lead to trouble. With polished and throated guns it should be no problem, but if your guns is out of spec it can be the nail in reliabilities coffin.

My advice is to start with a new 16 lb. spring, replace the firing pin spring, check length on the firing pin, and possibly put in a new fitted firing pin stop and see what that does for you.

This said, I run 18.5 lb springs and buffer's in both my government models and have never had an issue with reliability. I use 20 lb. springs in my Commanders.

Bob and some other 1911 guys may have some ideas, too. Since I'm not a gamesman I can't comment much on what they do for springing.

Wes
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Old 02-05-2012, 03:41 PM   #3
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I always use the best quality available factory weight recoil spring at 16 lbs myself. I have tried the Wolfs, the Wilsons, the Colts and the others without noticing any performance difference. I have used some variable but they were always at the factory weight.

I also do not hot rod my loadings or use +P ammo. I try to duplicate ball ammo.

I know a lot of folks who tinker with spring and loads. They seem to get much joy from it.
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:41 PM   #4
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Hi Folks,

These two springs are both 18.5lbs.

The top is a Wolff and the bottom is from a well-known 1911 manufacturer.



The bottom one is shorter. It appears that only a couple coils are closer together.

Both have been used about the same amount. The one on the bottom always did exactly what I wanted; the one on the top just seems stronger though it's rated the same 18.5lbs.

What is happening here?

Thanks,

Josh
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:22 AM   #5
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I've never felt comfortable using a variable power spring in a service weapon, so I have no experience with them. For years I've used 18.5# springs in my 1911s, for years before that I used 16# springs. I've never experienced any battering issues with either one. I honestly can't remember my reason for switching. I think I read something by someone who seemed like they should know, Bill Wilson perhaps, wherein the 18.5# spring was recommended for increased durability and more spring life between replacement. Sounded good at the time so I switched, but I could switch back to the 16# spring without much thought. I put more rounds through my pistols than the avergage recreational shooter, but not as many as some competitors. If there were any real issues involving battering with either spring weight I would have seen it long ago. Once again, all my shooting over the last twentyfive years has been with full power ammunition. My current carry 1911 has, conservatively, around fifty thousand rounds through it. That's all been with the original 16# spring and proceeding 18.5# replacements with no battering evident anywhere. The pistol it replaced had a far higher round count without any signs of abuse.

If one reads many of the things posted on the errornet one might get the impression the 1911 is made of glass, rather than being the tough service weapon it was designed to be. Things seem to be taken to extremes in cyberspace and this spring issue seems to be no different. I honestly don't think either of these spring weights will make a difference in durability, there simply isn't a huge amount of difference between them. Rather, your choice may depend on how you want the weapon to handle. The heavier wieght does seem to bring the weapon back in line a bit quicker and I prefer that, so this is probably my primary reason for sticking with it. I don't think you need to concern yourself with battering your gun with either one.
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:02 PM   #6
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Josh,

I've noted different OAL of springs from different makers. As long as your springs have the proper rating you should be OK. The length difference probably is due to different material/specs/heat treating, etc.

If the longer spring seems to work better stick with that and keep using it.

Wes
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Old 02-07-2012, 04:27 PM   #7
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I watched a video about 1911 springs on youtube, that was shot at 600 frames per second to show the effects of different weight springs. The heavy 18# spring barely let the slide stay back long enough for the magazine to push the next cartridge up for feeding, and it made the muzzle nose dive. A 14# spring was better, gave a slight delay at full rearward movement and improved feeding, but still nose dived a bit. The shooter went to a 7# spring according to his claim, and got very good rearward delay, full load and lockup and almost no muzzle dive. This testing was done with mild target loads and the lighter spring gave him better sight recovery, snappier ejection instead of dribbling the cases out and while slower during the recoil impulse, by eliminating the muzzle dive his target acquisition and shooting speed improved.

Now I would not advocate a 7# spring for 230gr jacketed loads but seem to work in a similar situation to yours. Check it out.

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Old 02-08-2012, 01:01 PM   #8
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Hey Guys,

Been reading, and one respected feller is of the opinion that the recoil spring is actually an action spring, sort of like is found in a gas-operated rifle.

Says its sole purpose is to chamber the next round. He trims 16lb springs to 24 coils.

I can see that -- sorta'. I'd think the spring would still have an effect on when the pistol unlocks and then controls slide movement to the rear, in conjunction with the mainspring.

This is really the question I've been dancing around. I know that a lighter recoil spring lets the slide stay at the rear longer -- you have dwell time while in battery and dwell time at the rear.

How much is needed is the subject of my personal debate and the reason for this whole thread. If I didn't like to think, I'd just throw the poundage in that works and be done with it. I just have to think, somehow, that one weight will work better than another, even if it's so marginal as to be unnoticed.

What do you folks think?

Thanks,

Josh
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Old 02-08-2012, 01:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joe b. View Post
A 14# spring was better, gave a slight delay at full rearward movement and improved feeding, but still nose dived a bit.
That's nearly what the original spring weight was (14.2) in the M1911 with the smaller radius on the firing pin stop (pre-1918) I run a 15# spring and the small radius FPS and have had no problems of any kind with mine. I reckon John Moses Browning did know a thing or two about his pistol.

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Old 02-08-2012, 01:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OD* View Post
That's nearly what the original spring weight was (14.2) in the M1911 with the smaller radius on the firing pin stop (pre-1918) I run a 15# spring and the small radius FPS and have had no problems of any kind with mine. I reckon John Moses Browning did know a thing are two about his pistol.

Hi OD*!

Good to see you.

I too run a small radius. It's soon to be a no-radius for experimentation purposes.

You know me well enough by now, I think, to know how much I love tinkering!

I would love to have a 14lb recoil spring with two or three coils near the very end of rearward slide travel. I figure that would slow the slide and give an even more effective pause.

When I was young, I used to make rubberband guns and roll up socks for "grenades". My little brother and I would lay in the hall for hours on end shooting at each other and throwing "grenades" made out of rolled-up socks.

It was fun.

I noticed that when I really wound up and pitched against my parents' door at the end of the hall, the "grenade" wouldn't bounce right off if it were wrapped loosely. Rather, it would hang suspended against the door for a split second while its momentum was overcome by gravity.

If it were wrapped tightly it had more spring to it and hang time wasn't near as long. However, the door didn't absorb so much of the impact, either: The energy was expended by the tightly rolled sock coming back at me!

That's how I picture the 1911.

Problem is, I want both hang time at the rear of the slide but don't want it to absorb so much recoil!

A 16lb spring and a buffer seem to be the obvious answer -- except I don't trust the buffer not to be chewed up!

I've thought about making one from some brass stock I have laying around. It would work harden... eventually.

I think I'll have to play with that idea, though, and see how it works out. I want to try to keep it as thin as possible. The softer metal should help dwell time at the end of the stroke, as well.

I think.

This is my hypothesis. Now I need a high-speed camera!

Thanks!

Josh
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