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Power Factor vs Recoil Spring

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My wife enjoys shooting a 1911, Kimber Custom 2, 5 inch barrel, but doesn't have the strength to rack the slide.  Understand many mature women may have this problem.


Also understand that I just can't put a lighter spring as recoil with a spring that is too light may damage the frame.


Is anyone aware of a chart that could be used to match the Power Factor of a reload with the minimum recoil spring strength.


Or has anyone found a way to safely reduce the effort to rack the slide of a 1911?


WB would be a good way for her to gain proficiency with the 1911.  She does CAS, which she really enjoys, and is quite confortable using guns.


Appreciate anyone who can share their knowledge, or offer advice.

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There are 2 springs that resist the slide in recoil - the recoil spring and the mainspring.     Recoil spring you see up at the muzzle every time you take the gun down for cleaning.   The mainspring is down in the mainspring housing at the back of the grip, right behind the magazine well opening.     Both contribute to difficulty in racking the slide.  The mainspring does not bear directly on the slide, of course, it is the spring that drives the hammer, but the slide starts cocking the hammer almost immediately during recoil, so "both springs are being compressed during recoil."  And, be careful to keep the two springs "in balance," as they work together.  Drastically changing one without considering the other can lead to some strange behavior.


For a 165 power factor load, I can drop to a 15 pound recoil spring without much difference in function.  The factory spring is 16 pounds.   I get nice ejection, about 5 feet to 10 feet from where I stand, so that is also a good indication that the spring setup is not "too light".


To balance the little-bit-lighter recoil spring, I also have a lighter mainspring in my gun, at 19 pounds.   This gives you less resistance when you cock the hammer.   If the gun is easy for her to rack with the hammer already cocked, but difficult when the hammer is down, the mainspring is responsible for the extra force required.  The factory mainspring is a 23 pound spring.  When putting in a lighter mainspring, it is worth it to have the mainspring housing bore where the spring sits honed out - typically that area is very rough and needs to be smoothed to still drive the hammer to fall fast enough to get good primer strikes with a lighter mainspring.


So, loading to the lower end of the PF range, smoothing the gun, and dropping a little spring weight to match the lighter loads will help quite a bit.


Second is just the physical motion she uses to rack the slide.  It is easier for folks without much upper body strength to rack with the gun close to the chest.  Push the grip forward with the strong hand and resist the slide with the other hand - that will let the shooter rack easier.    Trying to rack conventionally, with the gun out away from the body and the strong arm almost fully extended, means you are only using muscles from the weak arm.  


One fairly accurate way to monitor if the 1911 is sprung incorrectly, so as to lead to either damage to the gun or to failure to fully eject is to watch how far the empties get thrown.  If dribbling out of the ejection port and falling at your feet, too much spring resistance for your load.   If throwing 15 feet or more, not enough spring resistance for the load.  


Bullseye target shooter firing loads with about 130 PF can drop down closer to 12 pound recoil springs.   "Heavy hardball" shooters are well served with 18 pound recoil springs.   Folks shooting heavier loads than that ought to get a Desert Eagle or something built for that kind of service.


Good luck, GJ

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Age and infirmity have reduced my arm and upper body strength. So nowadays I slingshot cock and load the first round.


Grasp the top of the slide over the top with the palm and fingertips of the weak hand. Shove the grip and frame away from the body whilst keeping the slide in place with the weak hand grasp. This is done with the gun held close to the chest. When you reach the end of the action movement let go of the slide and it returns to battery.


It is amazing how much easier it is to slingshot load than it is to try to pull the slide back normally with the pinching of the slide at the rear serrations with the thumb and index finger.


I think if she practices it, it should soon become easy peazy and second nature.


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The method I use to teach women to rack a slide is the same as GJ has said.  Most people try to rack the slide away from the body.  The farther out you hold the pistol the less strength you have.  So for a right handed shooter I have her brace the support arm across the body.  When the pistol is drawn this will bring it up into the support hand.  Grasp the slide by placing all four fingers on the serrations on the right side of the slide and the heel of the hand on serrations on the left side.  Holding the support arm against the body with the right hand push the pistol out of the left hand.  It will be cocked!


Most people try to move the slide rearward with the support hand.  This method allows the support hand to have one function holding on to the slide.  The action is the same as the one handed cock where you hook the rear sight on a fixed object (table, counter, holster etc) and push the pistol forward until it is cocked.


It also stops the bad habit of riding the slide down. 

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Unfortunately I have bad arthritis compounded by permanent muscle damage in both hands,

which leaves me with grip strength about equal to a whimpy 11 yr old.....

I had a heck of a time finding a legal WB load and getting my Ruger SR1911 tuned to the point where I could handle it.


What I ended up with that works well for me is a 200 gr bullet with just enough WST to get thru the chronograph.

A 13 lb recoil spring with a 19 lb hammer spring, both Wilson Combat.

Its still pretty much a handful charging the pistol for the 1st shot, but its manageable.



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I don't know if this is a legal procedure, but...could the shooter thumb-cock the hammer and then rack the slide?  Certainly this adds a little to your time though not much if you use the off-hand and for some folks it might help.


Great suggestion.  I would guess that since the rules don't prohibit it, it would be acceptable as an accommodation to weaker-muscled shooters.  You certainly would not be doing it to shave a few milliseconds off your time.  :D


Good luck, GJ

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  • 1 month later...


I can assure you, it ain't gym equipment! Or power bars. Because of lots or personal experience with folks not being able to rack a slide, I have been doing lots of research to find ways to help. I have found two products that used separately help greatly and combined, well, its like a different gun.

I also think it will help a faster shooter with better split times.........


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  • 5 months later...


The items are coming. I have production models for Modern category guns but Traditional ones are taking longer due to limited demand. The ones I have been using are very promising but requires more than just dropping them in. Springs, smoothing, etc all need to be done. 

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