Extractors: Innie vs Outie
The question of internal vs External extractors comes up from time to time, and it mainly centers around which is best or more reliable. Since all modern auto pistol producers have pretty much gone to the external type, we’ll have to use Johnny Browning’s pistols to represent those with the internal type.
I’ll go ahead and make a flat statement here. Assuming sound design and execution of the design, neither is superior to the other in terms of function and reliability. They both do exactly the same things in exactly the same way.
During Browning’s road toward the 1911, he used both types. The Model 1900 used an internal extractor.
The 1902 and 1905…essentially the same gun with a few minor changes to the 1905…and the Model 1907 used the external extractor. These pistols functioned and there were no particular issues noted with their respective extractors. The problems that led to the Model 1909 were simply that the previous pistols weren’t robust enough to withstand the pounding generated by the new .45 cartridge. The problems centered around the impact abutments, the vertical impact surfaces and lower barrel lugs, and the upper lugs.
Enter the completely redesigned Model 1909 with its single link tilting barrel, beefed-up upper and lower lugs, and slide to frame impact abutments, and…a return to the internal extractor.
Browning would have been fine with the external type but for one directive from the US Army Ordnance Board.
One of the criteria for the fine, new pistol was that it be easily serviced in the field, preferably without the need for specialty tools, with a minimum of small, easily lost parts. In those days, there were field armorers that were issued small parts kits for expedient field repairs and/or replacement. Because the external extractor pivoted on a tiny pin that required a punch to remove…and because it was powered by a tiny spring, both of which were easy to lose and hard to recover…the external extractor had to go.
So, Browning…taking a page from the German Mauser brothers…fashioned an extractor that acted as its own spring, held in place by tension, and locked by an easily removable plate that was in turn secured by the firing pin and spring.
Basically, it was a leaf spring with a claw on the front end and a means for securing it on the rear…and it worked…and Browning set about proving it by firing 6,000 rounds without a single failure to do its job, its been doing fine ever since.
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