B.B. works it out - Part 5
The Taurus PT 1911
by B.B. Pelletier
B.B. is testing a firearm?
I bet many of you had forgotten this report existed. I changed the title from B.B. gets disappointed to B.B. works it out, because I'm now on the upswing with this gun. This is a report on a firearm: a Taurus PT 1911. I'm doing this as an analog of a new airgunner encountering a gun that fails to live up to its advertising. The .45 ACP Taurus PT 1911 sells for under $700 and is supposed to have the same features as a $2,100 1911 pistol. Well, the one I bought had a lot of feeding problems from the start, so I've reported how I dealt with them to show new airgunners how to deal with their problems.
Ammo is important
Many things have happened since my last report back in January. I discovered, for example, that some of my reloads do not work reliably even in a Wilson CQB pistol, a .45 automatic that really does cost $2,300 and is considered the gold standard for pistol reliability. So, if they don't work in that gun - which is the TX200 of sidearms - they're hardly going to work in a cheaper pistol with known faults. The analogy here is that pellets are very important to the operation of your gun. Never overlook that! Don't limit what you shoot to whatever is available at the discount store or sporting goods dealer. Buy the best pellets, which are generally available only from online sources.
The principal fault of the Taurus has been feeding the ammunition. It has a failure to feed that is symptomatic of a faulty extractor. A qualified 1911 gunsmith would have known this pretty quick, but it took me about 400 rounds to narrow it down. That's my analogy to a new airgunner who would encounter the same difficulty finding out what is wrong with his airgun.
After pinning the fault on the extractor, I went to work on it. I got the reliability up from 8 failures to feed in 84 rounds to less than one failure per 100 rounds. That's certainly moving in the right direction, but for a defensive pistol, it's still unacceptable. I want less than one failure per 1,000 rounds, a level that can easily be reached with top custom guns like the Wilson CQB.
Another problem I thought I had was with the two Taurus magazines that came with the gun. They continued to cause failures to feed, while the Wilson Combat magazines seemed to work perfectly after the extractor had been reworked. I was ready to toss the Taurus mags, but then I read several reports that said they work just fine in other PT 1911s. Apparently, the corrections I'd made to my pistol were good, but not good enough. If I use just the Wilson Combat mags in it, the feeding problem seems to be fixed, but I think the Taurus mags reveal a latent tendency for feeding problems. I'll feel more comfortable fixing those problems, because this gun is meant for self defense.
I cooked up another handload with a bullet that has a great reputation for feeding well in a 1911, and I switched gunpowder to a type that has a splendid reputation for accuracy. I went back to the range several more times. I've now run about 1,200 rounds through the Taurus. That counts the 100 rounds I shot this past weekend. There were only two failures to feed in those 100, and I was using only the Taurus magazines. I think I've narrowed the problem to just one faulty part - the extractor. The failure is even less than ever before, with just a quarter-inch of the slide out of battery instead of the three-quarters of an inch I had before I adjusted the extractor.
That brings me to a decision point. I can continue to work on the Taurus extractor or I can buy a new one from a reputable third party vendor. Wilson Combat sells one that is a drop-in, and up to this point everything I've tried from them works as advertised. That's the way I've decided to go.
The pistol is now completely reliable with Wilson magazines and somewhat reliable with Taurus magazines. My goal is to make it completely reliable with the Taurus mags, as well.
Don't forget accuracy
Reliability is just one component of a defense pistol. Accuracy is another. The Wilson CQB can shoot tighter groups than the Taurus, but the Taurus has sights that are quicker and easier to align. At 25 yards, I am shooting an 8" group at the aimpoint for 35 shots, shooting one-handed timed fire. Timed fire means about three shots every ten seconds. That is center-of-bad-guy accuracy, so I've decided to keep the Taurus and continue to work on it.
What lessons have been learned?
When I started this report with a brand-new gun, I faced a decision to either send it back to Taurus for warranty repairs or to fix it myself. I decided to do the latter, and I got a 1911 gunsmithing course on DVD. From that course, I was able to narrow the fault down to the extractor, which I then adjusted to near-perfect operation. However, I feel I've taken the factory extractor about as far as it can go reliably. It is made from a metal injection molding (MIM) process, and gunsmiths everywhere, including the one in the video course, warn that certain parts made by MIM - like extractors - cannot ever be considered 100 percent reliable because they lack the ability to hold the correct spring tension.
The replacement extractor I'm buying is machined from bar stock steel, because Wilson Combat believes that is the only way to make a reliable extractor. Wilson Combat makes the gold standard of reliable 1911s like my CQB, so I think I'll trust them on this point.
Like any new airgunner having a gun with which they are not familiar, I don't know if my decision is right or not, but my research shows that Wilson Combat parts have been reliable up to this point. I'll take the risk. This report is not over.