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Question about Colt Officers ACP

2352 Views 11 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  dfariswheel
Hello everyone, to get right to it, I purchased a Colt Officers a few months back, having had the chance to shoot it just a couple times so far. It seems to be accurate and work well, except for one issue, which is the slide not locking back after the last round. I would suspect the magazine and it's possible that's the issue (though it is a colt mag). However, the safety is very hard to engage and disengage, and if I manually pull the slide back, the slide stop lever also takes quite a bit of force to push up into the slide. Not being a gunsmith in any sense of the word, I can only guess that either the parts are not fitted well, or perhaps the spring between the safety and slide stop is producing far more pressure than is needed.
Any ideas on what it might be?
----I can post a picture later if needed
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Is this a new pistol or used? If new, try field stripping it and giving it a through cleaning and lubrication. My first thought on the problem you describe would be with the magazine or the ammunition. Try a different magazine and see how it works. The slide stop lever and thumb safety may simply require shooting in and allowing all the parts to properly mesh.

Has someone installed a synthetic buffer on the guide rod? If so, that might be part of the problem.

Not every new gun runs perfect right outta the box. That's why a break-in period is needed. Most of the time problems work their way out after a couple of hundred rounds and never occur again.
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Thanks for the response. I can't say how much the gun has been fired- it is in good condition but it I believe it was made in the late 1980's so it definitely has use and age. It does have some replacement parts like a beavertail grip safety and aftermarket trigger. I'll include a picture of it here
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Since it was pre-owned there's a number a things a previous could have done to the pistol in an attempt to better what the factory did. It's kinda like hot rodders who add a bunch of performance parts to their cars to make it perform better. It takes more than a mixture of matter who makes them or how high the takes an intelligent mix of parts designed to work in unison to accomplish a goal. Sometimes mixing parts makes for worse performance if not properly matched up.

The easiest thing is to try a different magazine or ammunition as I mentioned previously. If the problem goes're golden. If it persists, you have to figure out what's wrong. It could be a previous owner installed a too-strong a recoil spring beyond the ability of the ammunition power level to overcome it. I've always understood that shorter barrel pistols are more sensitive to recoil spring pressure and reliability than full-size pistols...regardless of maker. With short slide pistols it seems that mass/momentum/slide velocity treads a much finer line between reliability and frame bashing than full-size pistols and the mechanical relationships is more critical.

I'm no gunsmith but I do try and learn from others should I have similar I also come from a car hobbyist background. Work with the most basic and easiest (thus cheapest) diagnostics first and work your way up. Don't start throwing money at and replacing parts might fix the problem but won't know what cause the problem.

It doesn't sound like your issue is receiver related but magazine, slide or ammunition related. There's also no way of knowing whether "Bubba's Basement and Ham-Handed Gunsmithing" has had a hand in the pistol, either.

I would do it this way...

A field stripping and complete cleaning and lubrication...
Try another magazine...
Try different ammunition...
Try a different recoil spring.

If something there doesn't take care of the problem, then it's time to dig in further.
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With a used gun god only knows what may have been done to it by a previous owner.

Here's a few things to look at.

As above, field strip and give it a good clean and fresh lubricant.

Check to see if the factory recoil spring system has been changed and remove any polymer buffer washers from the system.
Polymer recoil buffers are well known to cause failures of the slide to lock open because they limit slide movement. Since the Officer's slide has much less movement then the bigger 1911's a buffer often won't allow proper function.
The factory system was a short mainspring guide with two recoil springs.
The double springs can be replaced with a single spring that equals the strength of the double spring factory.
The factory double spring equaled 22 pounds. You can use a single 22 pound spring from Wolff Gun Springs, and up to a 24 pound spring if you shoot hot loads over 860 fps.
If the factory recoil spring system has been replaced with any kind or guide rod or replacement recoil spring plug system check to full length movement of the slide.

Check the magazine to insure it's in factory original condition.
Often follower and spring kits were installed to allow changing the 6 shot magazine to 7 shots. These may cause slide lock failures.

Remove the slide and barrel from the frame.
Check the plunger tube to insure it's seated flush against the frame, and that the tube is not loose.
Tubes that are loose or not flush on the frame will usually cause slide stop and safety problems.

Check the back side of the slide stop for a letter or number stamped on the back. Colt factory stops usually have stamps.
Insert the stop into the stripped frame and check for free movement.
Make sure the rear face of the stop has not had a dimple ground in it. These are often added to prevent the stop from prematurely engaging and often this is over done and the stop fails to operate correctly.

If you feel good with it, fully disassemble the frame.
This is not terribly difficult task, and a 1911 series owner should know how to do it. John Browning designed the 1911 to be easily and fully disassembled. The Officer's Model and guns with the Series 80 firing pin lock are only slightly more difficult.
The only "watch out" with the Series 80 firing pin lock system is to MAKE SURE the levers in the frame are properly positioned. If they aren't the firing pin will not unlock and dry firing will seriously damage the firing pin and the lock.
Full instructions for total disassembly are in the Jerry Kuhnhausen Shop Manual Volume One on the Colt .45 Automatic.
This is a training manual for new gunsmiths and shows full disassembly and gunsmithing on all the Colt 1911 pistols.
It's the best money a Colt owner can spend.

With the frame fully disassembled you can remove and inspect the plunger and spring assembly. Check for rust or fouling of the parts and inside the tube.
Check the tube for dents that can limit free movement. The spring SHOULD have a "kink" in it. This is to prevent the spring and plungers from popping out and getting lost.

With all other parts out install the safety and check for free movement with a positive "snap" but not too difficult.

Install the trigger, sear, disconnecter, Series 80 levers, hammer, and the sear spring. Slide the mainspring housing up on the frame until it puts pressure on the sear spring. Then install the safety.
Looking through the frame openings check for proper engagement with the rear face of the sear.
The safety MUST seat firmly against the sear to prevent any movement when the trigger is GENTLY pulled with the safety "on".
However it shouldn't prevent free safety movement.
A replaced safety is very often mis-fit and can be to tight, or so loose the sear can move with the safety on.
Try putting a dab of grease in the hole in the safety where the plunger seats. This may reduce the stiff operation.

Since the trigger was replaced look for an over-length trigger that may push the sear and disconnecter too far to the rear causing safety problems.
If the trigger has a trigger stop, BACK IT OUT or better yet REMOVE IT.
Trigger stops are notorious for causing problems.
If you want it, backing it out will eliminate it as a problem. You can properly re-adjust it later.
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Thank you for all the information and the suggestions! I have stripped the gun, cleaned it, and lubed it ( this was the first thing I did after getting it). Everything seemed to be as it should, with a good fit but not overly tight. There is a single spring instead of the dual setup, but it clearly has plenty of tension as racking the slide requires quite a bit of force. There are no buffer washers. My thought is that the issue is still with the slide stop/ slide safety since both are just so difficult to engage. one thing i've done is rack the slide with an empty mag inserted. The slide stop should engage but wont, and to make it engage, I have to move the "notch" in the slide right over the stop and then force it up. Hopefully that makes sense. Again, it's possible it's the magazine, but that doesn't explain why the safety is so hard to engage:/
Any other ideas on this one? Or would the best course be to take it to a gunsmith?
One possibility is an incorrect recoil spring.
If the spring is too long it may prevent the slide from moving back far enough to allow the slide stop to engage.
If someone installed an incorrectly long spring the coils may be compressing against each other and causing a hard stop of the slide.

Also check to see if the factory recoil spring guide is in the frame. The factory Officer's recoil spring guide looks like a very shortened standard guide.
If an incorrect guide in in it it may be contacting the recoil spring plug and stopping the slide.
Sounds unlikely, but check to see if the correct barrel bushing is in it. The bushing could have been replaced and a too long bushing installed.

Take a strong grip on the frame and slide and pull the slide back as far as it will go.
Check to see if the slide stop notch in the slide is far enough back to allow the slide stop to engage.
Whether the stop will engage or not check to see if it it could enter the slide notch.

Again, remove the slide and install the slide stop. Check it to see if it moves freely.
If it does, remove the barrel from the slide and put the slide on the frame, and check the stop again.
With the slide off, insert a magazine and check to see if the magazine follower is engaging the slide stop.
Incorrect or defective followers may either not engage the slide stop correctly, or can even override or bypass the stop entirely.

With all that checked and okay, we're back to the most likely cause of these problems and that's the plunger tube and plunger spring assembly.
It sounds like something is off or incorrect with the plunger tube or spring assembly that's putting too much force on the slide stop and safety.

Totally strip the frame and remove all parts down the the bare frame.
Inspect the plunger tube for looseness, dents, sitting high, etc. as in the other post.
Inspect the plungers and spring for correct parts and free movement in the plunger tube. Again, it has a "kink" in the spring, but you should be able to slide it out without force.
Remove the plunger and spring assembly from the plunger tube.
Install the slide stop and safety in the frame and check for easy movement.
Make sure the plunger tube itself is not touching the slide stop or safety.
Install the plungers and spring assembly and again check for free movement of the slide stop and safety.
This should narrow down what the problem is.

If they won't move freely and the plunger tube is okay, you might try installing a new spring and plunger assembly.

Other than this, I'd recommend a good pistolsmith. Be careful who you use to insure you don't get a butchered pistol back.
If you'd like to be certain, send it in to Colt. They will probably replace all non-standard parts like the trigger.

Another excellent option is Frank Glenn who's a master pistolsmith and is faster then Colt. He most likely would only replace any parts that are an issue.

Frank Glenn-Glenn Custom Complete Gunsmithing Service Glendale AZ
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I recently picked up a Combat Commander (with orig mag) that had a "lock open" failure, as in it would not lock open. One night while piddling, I removed the mag follower and put it next to another Colt mag follower, and sure enough, the profiles were slightly off from each other. For whatever reason the defective CC follower had yielded or been forcibly bent "down" and was not actively engaging the slide stop.

Using the "good" follower as a template, I simply bent the CC's follower to match. All is good now. Of course, if the follower has a weak material issue, it may yield again.

As to the tight safety...I can't comment on that.
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Thank you very much for the knowledge and the suggestions! I will attempt to strip everything down and see what I can find out. Hoping I can put it all back together again;)
It sounds like a bad magazine spring or maybe someone took the magazine apart and turned
the spring around when replacing it. Maybe a previous owner did not want the slide to hold
open on the final round and bent the part on the magazine follower downward a bit.
Who knows why some owners do what they do to guns.
Again, when reassembling make certain the two Series 80 firing pin safety lock levers are properly installed.

A simple test is to hold the hammer back and pull the trigger. The top safety lever should move upward.
If it doesn't the firing pin will not unlock, the gun cannot fire, and the dropping hammer will seriously damage the lock plunger and firing pin.

Other than that you'll find that John Browning really was a genius. The 1911 pistols are easy and intuitive in how they are disassembled and reassembled.
He designed it so a 1912 era uneducated soldier could do it.
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