Old 1911s and old springs

In the spring of 1991, when I lived in Rural Hall, NC I got a call from my stepfather. His aunt had died at the ripe, old age of 96, and her children had discovered one of his uncle’s pistols in her attic, wrapped in a diaper and stashed in a hat box. He said that it was an old 1911, and it appeared to be loaded. It was cocked and the manual safety was engaged. The safety appeared to be stuck, and he wanted me to come have a look and clear the gun, hopefully without damaging the safety.

When I arrived, he handed a commercial Government Model to me in Condition 1. The safety was a little tight, but it disengaged with a snap…and the chamber was indeed loaded and there were six rounds of Remington UMC in the magazine. Aside from a little age discoloration, they all appeared to be good. I slipped the chambered round back into the magazine and turned my attention to the pistol while “Jim” related the story of his uncle, Will.

Uncle Will had been a town constable in Courtney, NC in Yadkin County and served part time as a railroad detective. He’d died in his sleep, and Aunt Emma had found the gun in the nightstand. Knowing little about guns, Aunt Emma’s children advised her to wrap it up and store it…which she did…and it laid in the attic ever since, forgotten until it was discovered shortly after her death.

Her daughters…knowing that my stepfather was a gun collector, and having no interest in the gun themselves…called him to come and get it out of the house.

After a cursory examination, I reloaded the gun…chambered a round…stepped outside…and fired it to slidelock.

The kicker here is that Uncle Will died a relatively young man in 1929 of a massive stroke. The pistol had laid in that attic loaded…cocked and locked for nearly 62 years…and it functioned perfectly. I then detail stripped it for a full examination and thorough cleaning…oiled it…and handed it back. He wrapped it in the same diaper and put it away. With a slight smile, he said that he was only seven years old when his uncle died, and he could barely remember him…but he did remember that pistol. There was also a 1903 Pocket Colt and a 16 gauge Lefever double shotgun that Aunt Emma had given to her only son some years before, and they had passed on to his son when he died.

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2 Responses to Old 1911s and old springs

  1. Rich D'Auria January 8, 2019 at 2:06 am #

    Interesting that the 1911 was “cocked and locked for nearly 62 Years” yet still functioned flawlessly!

  2. Huggy February 17, 2019 at 11:36 am #

    Not to take away from this story but it is interesting the idea of the springs. I refer to the discussions of late about leaving magazines loaded/topped off and/or the mechanisms for the firearms “cocked and locked” as the saying goes.
    I bought a NIB Series 70, Colt M1911A1 while serving in the U.S. Army in what was then West Germany, back in 1980, then brought it home, of course (unloaded per regulations and such) and carried the gun daily and, eventually, as my duty pistol when I became an LEO.
    Long story short, not long ago I happened upon the original box with the original magazine and it was loaded with “real and Honest to God” ‘pilfered’ government ball ammo I had shipped home with the gun.
    So the magazine had sat, fully loaded with 7 rounds of 230 grain FMJ ball ammo for right about 36 years.
    Fearing the spring in the magazine had taken a “set” like all the magazine articles of the day were professing as being a concern, I took the gun, magazine and ammo to the range to see what would happen.
    Lo and behold, every round fired and the gun/magazine functioned as if there had never been any rounds left stacked to begin with.
    Moral of rhe story is that if your equipment is made from inferior metals or components, it IS “possible” you could face an issue, but with QUALITY materials I don’t honestly think spring set is nearly the problem it was made out to be.
    In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it wouldn’t surprise me if some less-than-scrupulous magazine and gun parts manufacturers and sellers didn’t concoct the stories as a means to sell more goodies to the unwitting and unknowing buying public.
    Do I recommend folks leave their pistol magazines fully loaded for long periods?
    No, I do not.
    In fact, I rotate MY Self Defense ammo through a number of magazines over rhe course of 6 months or so until i shoot it and replace it with fresh ammo. There is no sense in tempting Mr. Murphy to pay a visit when the chips are down and you are betting YOUR LIFE on your gear and ammo, is there?!?
    And, of course, rotating your ammo in a wheelgun is smart, too, but the issue of compressed magazine springs isn’t a worry anyway.
    Lastly, a word about ammo. (Yeeaaah, probably not “lastly” after all).
    Most (all??) gun scribes that write about all things shooting and Self Defense related as it pertains to firearms, recommend cycling out (meaning to shoot) your “Duty” or “Carry” ammo on a regular basis and I (generally) concur but I don’t subscribe to the absolute necessity of doing so because of the immense (!) cost of the quality ammo out there. Especially Self Defense ammo.
    The rationale is that environmental issues as well as body oils, etc., could creep into the ammo in a variety of ways and render it inert or less than acceptable for its intended purpose.
    On those points I cannot disagree.
    However, I have personally fired ammo that (when fired) was in excess of 50 YEARS old and had been stored in less than ideal conditions and it NEVER failed to go BANG!
    That ammo was government ammo, stored in cold and/or hot moisture laden air in bunkers then tossed out periodically for troops to practice with then the remaining ammo packed back into those bunkers for who knows how long until they came for the next training cycle again.
    Truth be told, in my 50-odd years of being exposed to and shooting many different calibers and types of weapons that run the gamut from heavy machineguns to pipsqueak centerfire .25ACP pellets, I have NOT ONCE had a cartridge fail to fire.
    NOT ONCE!!
    And, folks, I’m here to tell you that I have fired HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of rounds of ammo during my military, LEO career, competition, hunting and just plain plinking.
    And I’d dare to say that with few exceptions, I’ve fired ammo from the vast majority of the ammo manufacturers in the USA and many from overseas as well.
    Now were we talking about .22LR ammo, well THAT would be a different story altogether.
    But I digress and it appears I have hijacked the thread completely. For that I apologize.

    My point in all this is buy QUALITY gear and equipment (remember, Buy Once, CRY Once) as well as the BEST Self Defense ammo your budget can afford.
    Just remember that ammo is a Holy Grail to some so YOU need to do YOUR due diligence to determine what YOU feel is THE BEST ammo YOU can afford for YOUR needs, then try a sampling of brand XYZ to ensure it works FLAWLESSLY out of YOUR gun.
    Once you have that nailed down, buy a BUNCH of it so you have enough to become proficient, load your gun(s) and magazines and have some remaining with which to Fam Fire (Familiarization Fire = Practice) with periodically.
    SD ammo is NOT cheap as you’ll learn PDQ so buy a substantial amount of similar but less expensive ammo to practice with on a REGULAR basis, since shooting skills are perishable.
    Good Luck and God Bless.

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