Broken Extractor on a Taurus PT1911

Here's the long story of the broken extractor on our (at the time) newly purchased Taurus PT1911 Pistol:

Whooda thunk a new pistol would have a broken extractor?

Several years ago, my wife & I were in the market for a house gun.

We happened upon this Taurus PT-1911, and we were intrigued. We decided to check it out a bit further, and ultimately purchased the gun.

Most of the details are covered in the accompanying video, but for those of you who prefer the written word, here's the story:

Initial Impressions of the PT-1911

Handling the gun was pleasant, it had a nice balance and its overall weight (about 38 oz.) was comfortable in my wife's smallish hands. The three-dot sights were quick and easy to acquire a sight picture, and the trigger was surprisingly crisp and clean. The beavertail grip safety and the ambidextrous thumb safety were added bonuses. The front serrations are hokey, but they're already there so what can you do, eh?

The pricetage was appealing, so we opted to go for it.

Heed the warnings in the nuances

Upon leaving the store, the Sales Guy said to be sure to clean it well before shooting: apparently Taurus really packs their guns well with cosmoline.

So I field-stripped the gun, as I normally would, and did a good cleaning. The Sales Guy was right: there was a lot of cosmoline on the gun, so I cleaned it thoroughly. I then did a light oiling and off to the range we went.

Quick Range Report

I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy and consistency of this gun. I was getting ragged holes at 7 yards and nice tight groups at 15 yards. My wife, who's a relatively new shooter, also found it comfortable to shoot. Its balance was such that coming out of recoil she'd hit second and third shots in rapid succession, keeping nice groups even at the 15 yard mark.

Taurus PT 1911 Broken Extractor

I'd say we shot about 50 rounds or so, when it jammed: gun went bang, but the slide didn't go into battery. Aha, failure to eject. So I dropped the mag, racked the slide, and the case fell out through the mag well. Insert the mag, fire: another FTE. So again I did the same drill, and for the third time it failed to extract/eject.

Well, that's that for this gun for the day.

But let's take a look: well, lo & behold, the extractor claw had broken – it just sheared right off. In the image, the broken extractor is on the bottom. Look closely and you'll see it has no claw on the end (left side).

Disassembing the PT-1911

We took it home, and I began to disassemble it ... getting the extractor out took bit of research, and a little persistence on my part.

First of all, this 1911 style pistol happens to be a Series-80; it is equipped with a firing-pin safety mechanism that prevents the gun from discharging if it's dropped on its muzzle with sufficient force to cause the "floating" or "inertia" firing pin to ignite the primer of a loaded round. This well may be another politically inspired safety design; successfully solving a problem that never really existed in the first place. But I digress. Back to the disassembly of the gun:

To remove the extractor, we first need to remove the firing pin stop, the firing pin, and the firing pin plunger.

To remove the firing pin stop, first push in the firing pin plunger (ie, 'silver button' on the bottom of the slide) and keep it depressed while pushing in the firing pin. Release the plunger and the firing pin should remain retracted.

Now you can remove the firing pin stop. The video I saw online showed the firing pin block simply slide out. This gun, however, was a bit more tightly fitted! ('Fitted' may not be the word ... more like 'jammed in there tight enough to defy tolerances!' Hence my use of the word 'persistence' above, and my willingness to scratch the gun a bit if necessary.)

I used a punch and light taps from a hammer; then a punch and harder taps from a hammer; finally a pretty good whack on the punch moved the stop enough so I could finish prying it out. And no scratches either! Yeah!

So with the Firing Pin Stop & Firing Pin (& spring) removed, I inverted the slide & tapped it against my palm and the Firing Pin Plunger (& its Teeny Tiny Spring) fell out.

Now I could remove the extractor. It slid out no problem.

Heed the Nuances ... Listen Closely

Remember the Sales Guy said to clean the gun really well? Well, when I initially cleaned the gun, I just field-strip cleaned it, so I had not broken it down this far. Now with the extractor removed, I could see that its channel was pretty gooped up with cosmoline.

I can't say if there's any relation between it being goopy & the extractor breaking, but in the future I'll always clean the extractor channel (and the firing pin channel) before firing any new gun.

Let's git 'er fix'd!

Now that we know what the problem was, there's a few possible courses of action.

One, return the gun to the store. They'll then ship it back to Taurus, who will replace the extractor and return the gun. Free of charge, and two weeks or so to accomplish the task.

Or, second, I could send the gun to Taurus myself, with the same results. Or, third, I could send the broken extractor back to Taurus, who'd send me a brand new one.

All of these options, though free, take time, and worse, I'd wind up with the same extractor, or similar, that's apt to break again. That is not a confidence-inspiring solution. I'm unwilling to stake my life on a piece of metal that I know has failed in the past.

The option we chose was to order a better quality replacement extractor. We ordered through Brownells online, and got a Wilson Combat Series 80 Extractor. And in fact, we ordered two series 80 extractors: one to put in the gun, and one to keep in my kit in case this or another Series 80 gun breaks.

While online at Brownells, I also ordered a new Wilson Combat Firing Pin for this gun (I'll keep the original in the kit). Of course, this item was also a Series 80 (like the extractor, it has the detente cutout to allow the FP plunger to be depressed, which allows the gun to fire.)

Just Like Christmas ...

A few days later, our package from Brownells arrived.

The difference between the original extractor and the Wilson Combat is noticeable: the Wilson is significantly stronger, and in my opinion, has a better claw. Since the Taurus claw had broken off, I can only go by pictures I've seen, but it seems that the Taurus extractor is slightly cocked, or askew. My thoughts are they tried to make it more reliable, by angling the claw. In my particular case, it didn't work. Either the design is flawed, or the metal was flawed, or perhaps the accumulated cosmoline got hot and gummy and created too much resistance for the extractor and it simply sheared off.

In any event, I am pleased with and confident in the Wilson Combat replacement extractor. In the future, I will inspect any new gun's extractor, (and of course clean the channel), and if it appears less than strong, replace with a WC.

For what it's worth, I believe I spent about $30 or so for each extractor, and about the same for the firing pins. I wound up buying several of each for various guns I have on hand; some series 80 some series 70. Next time, I will also buy some replacement springs ... especially the teeny tiny spring that fits under the plunger. Lose that little guy, and, well, you've lost it! It's really small!

Although the parts aren't exactly cheap, my confidence in the gun's reliability is worth far more than the money spent to upgrade the components.

Clean & Reassemble the Gun

I then cleaned the gun, including the Firing Pin & Extractor channels, and reassembled it. Reassembly is similar to disassembly in that you insert the extractor (it fits very tightly, but can be clocked enough so its grove will align with the FP stop), then insert the plunger (with its teeny tiny spring); there's a cutout on one side of the plunger: that side goes 'down' to fit over the spring. Then insert the firing pin with its spring. Let the FP sit loosely in its tunnel. Press the plunger in and simultaneously push the FP all the way in. Release the plunger ... it should catch the FP and hold it in a retracted position. This may take a couple tries, but you'll get it.

With the firing pin held inside the slide, you can now insert the FP Stop. In most cases, it should slide easily into place. In my case, it needed a little 'persuasion.'

Once the FP stop is installed, push the FP in a bit further while depressing the plunger. Then release the plunger, then release the firing pin. It should protrude through the hole in the FP stop.

You may need to 'wiggle' the plunger up and down, and 'wiggle' the FP in and out till they mesh, but again, you'll get it.

When finished, the firing pin should protrude about an eighth of an inch through the FP stop, and the plunger should be easily depressed, and spring back when released. Push the firing pin while the plunger is UN-depressed: the firing pin should not move into its channel. Depress the plunger, push the firing pin, and the firing pin SHOULD move through its channel. Bingo, you've done it!

Now, go clean the rest of your gun, and reassemble. 

Then VISIT OUR PAGE ON FUNCTION & SAFETY CHECKS for your reassembled 1911 Pistol.

Function and Safety Checks are explained in detail on that page, with an accompanying video. I will briefly outlin them below.  If you are unsure of a procedure below, please visit the page linked to above.

With your gun UNLOADED (you do NOT keep ammo near by when you clean or disassemble your guns, right? RIGHT? Right.), and with the gun pointed in a safe direction, perform the following tests:

Thumb Safety Check – Rack the slide, engage the thumb safety (safety up or in locked position), grip the gun firmly (grip safety depressed) and pull the trigger (pointed in a safe direction, right?). The hammer should NOT fall.

Grip Safety Check – Rack the slide, disengage the thumb safety (safety in down or in off position), grip the gun so that the grip safety is not depressed (ie, no pressure on the backstrap). Pull the trigger. The hammer should NOT fall. Keep pressure on the trigger and put some pressure on the grip safety. The hammer should fall when the grip safety is close to fully depressed.

Trigger Group Check – Next, grip the gun with a firing grip (ie, disengage the grip safety). Disengage the thumb safety, and pull the trigger. The hammer should fall.

Trigger Reset – Grip the gun in a firing grip (ie, grip safety disengaged). Disengage the thumb safety. Pull the trigger (the hammer should fall).

Do not release the trigger; rack the slide. The hammer should cock on the first racking, and stay cocked. If it falls at any time, you have an unsafe gun that could go full-auto on you! Take it to a competent gunsmith.

If the hammer stayed cocked while racking the slide, slowly release the trigger until it resets: you'll hear/feel it 'click.' (It should be about half way to its normal disengaged position). Then pull the trigger again. The hammer should fall.

Slide Stop / Slide Release with no Hammer Follow – Insert an empty magazine, and rack the slide.  The slide stop should lock the slide into the 'slidelock' position.

Now insert a snap-cap or dummy round into a magazine and insert the mag into the gun. Grip the gun and release the slide lock lever. The slide should fall forward into battery, and the hammer should stay cocked.  If the hammer falls, your gun is unsafe and could go into full auto mode when firing live rounds. See a competent gunsmith before using the weapon.

Firing Pin Check, Using an Unsharpened Pencil ̶ Because we've tampered with the extractor, and therefore the firing pin & stop, let's ensure that the firing mechanisms are functioning correctly, and that the firing pin will have the force necessary to ignite a primer.

To do this, grip the gun in a combat grip, rack the slide (thumb safety disengaged), and while pointing the gun in a safe direction, insert a glue stick or unsharpened pencil with an eraser in the barrel (insert eraser side in toward the breech). Ensure that whatever object you use for this test slides easily within the diameter of the barrel. If it just fits or you need to jam it, find a narrower object!

Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and pull the trigger. The pencil or glue stick should be thrust from the gun (with quite a bit of force by the way, so choose your direction carefully!) by the impact of the firing pin.

Congratulations

Those tests should be performed after any disassembly or cleaning of your weapon, or when checking out a gun as a prospective purchase.

If your gun has passed these tests, congratulations, you have a safe, operational firearm.

If not, something has been damaged, or the gun was reassembled incorrectly. Take your gun apart and find the problem ... or seek out a competent gunsmith.

Or if that's starting to sound like too much effort, you can just send your gun to me and I'll be happy take it off your hands at no extra charge!

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