1911 Troubleshooting: Feed Failures
Fully 95% of all feed-related failures are can be traced straight back to the magazine. The remaining few causes are due to the extractor and/or the ammunition, with only about 1% attributable to the gun. We’re assuming that the gun hasn’t been “tuned” by Dremel Dan and his ugly, stupid first cousin Bubba.
Whenever you experience a failure to feed or return to battery, look for horses instead of Zebras. It’s usually somethin’ simple. And if you have a Dremel, take it out in the driveway and hit it with a big hammer five or six times so you won’t be tempted to become a protege’ of Dan and Bubba.
Failure to feed and failure to go to or return to battery are related, but they’re not exactly the same. If the cartridge enters the chamber…even a little…the malfunction is a failure to go to battery. It’s a common malfunction. Outright failures to feed are much less so.
In this segment, we’ll concentrate on magazine-related failures. 95% of all magazine-related misfeeds are attributable to the spring and/or the follower.
The classic Bolt Over Base misfeed…sometimes referred to as the “Live Round Stovepipe.”
Here, the cartridge doesn’t get into feeding position in time to meet the slide. The lower edge of the breechface catches the case in the extractor groove. The butt-end of the round is pushed down, and the nose goes up. The case is caught between the slide and the barrel hood…and is standing more or less straight up, mocking you and laughing defiantly.
This is a magazine spring problem, pure and simple. Often made worse by overspringing the slide. Simple explanation…The slide literally outruns the magazine. More likely to happen near or on the last round when spring load is at a minimum.
The BOB misfeed is closely related to the “Rideover” misfeed, and is caused by the same issues. In this one, the slide catches the case further forward, and actually rids over the top of it. In extreme cases, the slide goes to battery on an empty chamber. Most often, though…it pushes the bullet nose hard into the lower part of the feed ramp, and gouges the case…often tying the gun up solidly. Here is a true jam.
Most stoppages aren’t jams, even though most people refer to a stoppage as. “My gun is jamming.”
The round enters the chamber ahead of the extractor and fails to go to battery.
Here is another common complaint, and it’s also straight up a magazine problem. A soft spring is often at the root of it, but it can also be caused by the follower if it happens on the last round only. I see this one a lot with smooth magazine followers…usually the 8-round sticks. The original design had a small bump on the top of the follower, and that bump was there to keep the round from riding too far forward when the gun is in recoil, and to prevent it from jumping the magazine. Literally leaving the magazine as the slide hits the impact abutment. A variant of this one is having the slide lock open with the last round lying loose in the port.
Many years ago, a group of very sharp people, led by the premier firearms designer of the last two centuries, decided that little bump was necessary for proper function. Removing it is offered as an indication that these people think they’re smarter than John Moses and the Dream Team.
A common side-effect of the push feed is a broken extractor. Its less offensive cousin is an extractor that needs frequent retensioning should the claw climb the rim and snap over. This one is sneaky. The gun functions…seemingly perfectly…until one day, it stops extracting. We often get a subtle warning that the tension is about to go sideways when we notice erratic ejection in a gun that usually flings the brass into a 3-foot circle. The hook that is about to snap gives no warning. It just breaks.
The nose dive into the feed ramp:
Magazine. Usually the spring, but sometimes the follower is involved when the angle isn’t correct. Shortened steel followers aren’t kept as stable in the tubes as the standard 7-round followers, and accomplish the same thing as the incorrect angle when they rock to and fro in the tubes. The shorter, usually softer springs typical in these magazines are no help. Occasionally this particular issue is due to a too-steep feed ramp, or one that is too shallow from the top of the frame to the bottom of the ramp cut. It can also be caused by the ramp being positioned too close to the rear wall of the magwell. These instances are fairly rare, though.
The 1911 gives a lot of leeway in this area as long as proper magazines are used.
Sometimes the push-feed malfunction is caused by a too-early cartridge release. This is getting a little long, so I’ll let it be part of the explanation of magazine function in a later thread.
Also, failures to go to or return to battery differ a little. A few are caused by too much extractor tension or too much extractor deflection…claw positioned too close to breechface centerline…or claw too long from the tip to the tensioning wall, and bearing in the bottom of extractor groove…or the distance between the breechface guide blocks is too narrow…but that will be addressed on an extractor discussion.
Other times, the failure to go to battery is gun-related, and is known as the “Three Point Jam.” I’ll also defer this one to a this article on feed ramps and barrel ramps…or “throats” as they’re commonly known.