B.B. works it out - Part 6
The Taurus PT 1911
by B.B. Pelletier
It's been four months since I reported on this project, but today I have an update. For those not familiar with why I'm writing about a firearm in an airgun blog, I'm using my experience with a gun that started out as a lemon to illustrate what you can sometimes do when you have to make lemonade. This lesson pertains to airguns, cars, houses and even life.
I bought this .45 ACP pistol because of the advertising. The claims were, and still are, that you could buy a gun with $2,100 worth of custom features and factory-tuned adjustments for about $500 (at the time). It seemed too good to be true, but having held one at a SHOT Show for a couple minutes and dry-firing it a little, I convinced myself it was true.
I bought the gun and found out the hard way that it was not true--at least not for the particular gun I bought. My gun jammed an inordinate amount of the time, causing me to lose confidence in what was supposed to be a defense handgun. Not a good thing! It jammed 8 times in the first 84 shots with factory hardball ammo, which has the reputation as the most reliable ammo available.
The first report was titled B.B. gets disappointed, and I wrote it partly as a catharsis and partly for all of you who have similar experiences with new airguns. At that point, I faced a fork in the road. I could send it back to the manufacturer who promised to fix it for free or I could do the work myself. There are advantages and disadvantages to doing it either way.
I chose to do the work myself, so I could report to you exactly how far off the advertised mark this gun happened to be. I also wanted to learn what it took to make this 1911, or any one for that matter, reliable. I am still involved in that process, though today's report is probably close to the end of the series. And I've learned a lot about this one particular handgun. At this point, I feel like Vince, who puts in the time on one airgun to get to know all its quirks and odd behavior.
Things did get better as I worked on the gun. At one point, I had it down to two feeding failures in about 100 rounds. Still too many for a defense gun, but much better than before.
I'm not ready to summarize this report just yet, but I'm getting close. I'll bring you all up to date with what's happened since the last time. Since then, I've run another 500 rounds through the gun, bringing the total to 1,700 rounds. My wife and I go to an indoor range about once a month to keep current with our chosen defense guns. I'd given her the Wilson Combat CQB Light Rail pistol that she had given to me so she would have an ultra-reliable defense sidearm while I worked with the Taurus. My military training and experience with firearms makes me better able to handle operational problems in a crisis, so if the Taurus jammed at a bad time I knew immediately what to do. However, fate intervened and I didn't have to go there.
Just after the last installment, I was fortunate enough to acquire a Colt National Match .45. It's a target pistol made by the Colt factory in the late 1950s and early 1960s. What they did was copy most of the modifications military armorers had been applying for decades to standard military .45s for use at the national matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. The airgun analog of this might be when Air Arms copied the Rekord trigger for their TX200 and added some aftermarket tricks custom airgunsmiths had been putting on the Rekord for field target shooters.
The handgun that resulted was called the Colt National Match. In later years, it became the National Match Gold Cup, but at the early date this particular pistol was made it was just the National Match. The operating spring it came with was weak to function best with reduced target loads, but I swapped it for a 18.5-lb. standard power operating spring. The gun was now ready for factory hardball ammunition.
When she tried it for the first time, Edith found that she liked the grip on this new pistol much better than the Wilson, which had been modified to sit lower in the hand. She also liked the 6-lb. Colt trigger better than the Wilson's trigger, which breaks at 3.5 lbs. I put a set of custom wood grips on the gun, and in after session it became Edith's new defense pistol. We've tested it with my now-reliable handloads, and it functions perfectly. The Wilson will come back to me, and Edith will now shoot the National Match. Dollar-wise it's a wash, but examination shows the Colt to be a crude ancestor of the Wilson. Still, it's reliable and accurate, which is all we want.
However, while all this was happening, I had also installed the new Wilson extractor in the Taurus and its behavior improved a thousand percent--meaning it's now reliable! As I suspected (after lengthy research and reading dozens of reports about extractor problems on the internet), the Metal Injection Molded (MIM) extractor in the Taurus was the cause of 90 percent of the gun's problems. I replaced it with a Wilson Combat extractor machined from a solid steel bar, and it functions without a problem, thus far (that being about 400 rounds).
During cleaning a few sessions back, I cleaned the Taurus firing pin and lost the tiny spring that powers the Series 80 firing-pin safety. Since this safety isn't needed to make the gun any safer in real-world operation (it was a marketing ploy by Colt and has been tried and dropped by other manufacturers), I left those parts out of the gun. The result is now a 100 percent creep-free second stage on the trigger. It's about one-half pound heavier than the Wilson and now just as crisp. Although I've purchased the spring that was lost, the performance is so much better that I'm leaving it as it is.
The final dubious parts in the pistol were the magazines. They have the weakest follower springs I've ever seen, and they made even the Wilson suffer feeding failures occasionally. However, they now seem to be able to function with the Taurus 100 percent. I've run 400 rounds without a failure of any kind. When that passes 500 rounds, I'll start trusting the Taurus for the first time since buying it one year ago.
The thing to carry away from this is that not everything works as advertised. I read dozens of reports from Taurus PT 1911 owners before I bought the gun, and they all praised it to the heavens. Then, after I knew better, I found out there's a smaller group that had the same problems as I had. But their voice has been muffled. Obviously, they're not going to find a friend in the gun press.
The other thing to know is that at its heart, the PT 1911 really is a good gun. In fact, it's just as good as they advertise. The problem seems to be one of spotty QC at the factory. I guess they reason that their warranty can fix any problems, but I didn't take that approach. I didn't, because I wanted to know more about the gun itself, and immersing myself in fixing the problem was a better teacher. That's a decision each person must make for himself.