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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I guess I've been damn lucky. Each and every firearm I've ever bought has been trouble-free. And I've only bought a "new" firearm maybe twice, or three times in my life - the rest were used, or military surplus. That is, until now ...

I bought a used (but not abused) Charles Daly Superior EMS 1911 a few weeks ago. For those who may not know, this is the model that CD discontinued a couple of years ago, I presume due to slow sales (the other models are more popular, I guess). It's all stainless, but has a "black oxide" slide, extractor, sights, thumb & grip safeties, mainspring housing, and slide stop. The trigger and hammer are of a two-tone finish, half stainless, half black oxide. The rest of the pistol is a bright, matte stainless. The EMS model is the "commander" sized one, only it's more like the Kimber's and Springfield's, with a 4' barrel. The two-tone look is pleasing to me, especially since I know it's all stainless under there. Mine is a bit different than current production models, as the thumb safety, grip safety, and other small details are different. Actually, in this regard I like the new models better - but those who get good deals cannot be picky!

Of course, I couldn't fieldstrip (let alone detail strip) the pistol before I bought it - I don't know of a single dealer that will let you do so - so I couldn't be sure of the condition of certain parts before I plunked down my cash. But, it looked good, with little wear, and it passed the safety and function checks, so I bought it. As I have a CWP for my home state of Florida, I took her home the same day. Now, here's where the story really begins...

Of course, the pistol was filthy. Story of my life - each and every used pistol I've ever bought has been filthy. Don't people EVER clean their guns? Anyway, I had to detail strip it and give her a thorough cleaning and lube job. As I do with every new acquisition, I took it completely apart, scrubbed her with acetone & gun scrubber, rinsed her, and began inspecting prior to reassembly and lube. There were the usual marks from use, parts moving against each other. No problem. I turned to the extractor: HORROR! It looked as if a 5 year old had taken a rat-tail file and a Dremel with a saw bit in it to the extractor's claw! Why is it that people with no earthly business or knowledge about firearms insist on "tweaking" them?!? GRRRR!

It was a wreck. The extractor wouldn't hold a case against the breechface to save it's life, no matter how much "tuning" and tension was applied. The claw was just too big now. So, I had to whip out the Mastercard and pay a visit to the Brownell's website. A few minutes later a new stainless extractor was on its way to me. I also placed a call to Wolff's and had a new factory strength recoil spring (w/ the usual XP firing pin spring) sent to me, along with a reduced power mag catch pak - the factory spring was WAY too stiff for me, as I needed two thumbs to push it in enough to release a loaded mag. No problem - I routinely replace certain springs in just about every pistol I buy, so this is nothing new.

While waiting for the parts to arrive, I went to the range just to see if the thing would fire (I also had two other pistols that needed function firing, as one had it's springs replaced and the other I had done a fluff n' buff to). It jammed on each and every round of the one 8 round Mec-Gar factory mag I had for it. Each malf was a failure to fully eject - the cases would either smokestack, or lay flat in the ejection port and jam against the barrel/ejection port edge, and split the case mouths. The extractor held the cases so loosely (or not at all) that the empties would slide off to the left, out from under the extractor, and pretty much lay there. Well, I knew it wasn't perfect now. After function firing my other two pistols, I collected my brass and my 92 rounds of UMC 230gr. FMJ .45 Auto, and went home.

I looked and looked, but I couldn't find any evidence of a date of manufacture on the inside of outside of the CD's factory plastic case. Ditto on the paperwork inside. I know that CD only started the "lifetime warranty" around 2000, so I couldn't be sure if it was under warranty still, or not. Besides, I doubt the factory would honor the warranty for something a previous owner screwed up.

Something else odd about this pistol: It has evidence of, what I suspect is, gunmithing. It has a polished feed ramp, a throated barrel, dimpled slide stop and thumb safety. Now this is stuff the previous owner could've done, but I doubt it, as the throat job is TOO well done for that hack job artist. The polishing isn't very well done, but that's easily fixed (many smiths polish too little rather than remove too much metal - a good thing in most cases). As I got it locally, I suspect it was probably worked on locally, too. However, I don't know who could've done it...

OK. I had a problem pistol, and for the first time in my life. What to do? I needed it to WORK, and work well, as I wanted to use it for a CCW pistol. I didn't want to attempt it myself, as tuning an extractor on a 1911 can be tricky if not done just right. To make matters worse, I didn't know a gunsmith! The only one I knew of locally, had retired a few months earlier, and had closed his shop.

On a hunch, I decided to take the pistol and the new extractor (it has arrived the day I went to the range, of course AFTER I got back to the house) back to the dealer I got it from. If all else failed, maybe they could refer me to a shop, I figured.

After the long drive (it's a 34 mile drive, each way, to this shop), I brought it in and asked them if they could help.I got lucky! They had just hired a gunsmith on a part-time basis - one that works at Accurate Plating and Weaponry, no less! The new 'smith told me that since I bought the pistol there, and supplied the new parts, he would do the work for me ASAP, and at no charge. He said that he'd take it to APW the next day, test fire it (they have their own indoor range over there), and go over the enitire pistol, to make SURE it worked - after he did the extractor work. I couldn't believe my luck! He's a pretty nice guy, to boot. After a little research (I wanted to know how good the guy working on the weapon that might be called upon to save my life someday), I found out that this guy is one of the best 1911 smiths in the area, if not THE best.

Not bad for a bargain 1911... !

I didn't get crap for buying a Charles Daly, either - he said they're a very good deal, and he likes them. He prefers Springfields, of course, but for the money, you get a lot. I know that many gunsmiths won't even work on a CD/Armscor/Rock Island, so it was refreshing to have a respected gunsmith tell me this.

I don't have the pistol back yet, though. As I only took it in on Monday (it's Thursday as I write this), I don't expect to hear from him until tomorrow, at the earliest (from what he told me). For a busy guy that works two jobs (or more, from what I hear), that's pretty fast - if I get it even some time next week. And, I didn't have to pay for shipping it off to CD or some other 'smith, and the return shipping, FFL receiving fees, and the like.

I got very lucky - I highly doubt anyone else would be as lucky as I did, especially with my first trip to the gunsmith. However, even considering that I got a jamming pistol straight out-of-the-box (even though it was used), I'm very happy with my pistol, and especially the service from my dealer. Considering that I first met them and put the deposit down on the pistol at a gun show, that's great!

If you're ever in the Central Florida area, I highly recommend you pay a visit to AAA Firearms of Pinellas County. They're usually at most of the central Florida gun shows, too. They have what I'd call a "interesting" inventory of pistols and revolvers, with no junk at all.Of course, if you're not a FL resident, you can't buy a firearm from them (unless you follow the loopholes in Federal Law), but it's they're still worth a visit if you're in the area - say on vacation down here or something - and they have a good selection of holsters, and other accessories. They're also the only shop I've seen around here that carries FP-10, the best gun lube around, in my opinion.

Sorry for the long post, but I just wanted to relate my experience with an excellent dealer and gunsmith. I hope the rest of you can find a dealer with as great customer service! In this day and age, it's a rare thing, to be highly prized. Thanks for reading!
 

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Hope everything works out ok for you. You illustrate exactly why I do not deal in "used" firearms on a regular basis. To many "closet" gunsmiths out there for me, and I don't want to accept the liability associated with it.
My first experience with a gunsmith when I was a "neophyte" did not go to well. Dean nicknamed him "Bruno the Butcher" for the job he did on a Norinco 1911A1 pistol. It may have bordered on being a "Rooney" and not the prettiest gun in the world, but with S&B 200gr. ammo it would shoot one hole groups. Since then I have had all my work done by Mike LaRocca -- not the quickest gun smith in the world, but he is one of the best.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh, yes... the Norinco 1911 is probably one of the most underrated 1911's ever made. I'd love to get one (or several) when I can afford to. For some reason, I've been seeing several of them around lately, and for fair prices, and they're all in good shape - if not "like new".

I understand the 'Rinco is still made. Our Canadian brothers to the north can get them (when they can get handguns), and they seem popular up there. From what I understand, the steel in the 'Rinco is VERY tough - some 'smiths have reported ruining cutting bits just milling out the ejection port or dovetailing the slide for sights! That tells me that they'll last...

I certainly understand your position. I've been very, very lucky with my used gun purchases - as I've said, this is the first one I've ever had that needed work, and I'd say that 90% or more of the guns I've ever bought have been used. This is due to a combination of things: I have limited funds (I'm on Social Security disability, due to a service-related injury in the Air Force), I'm a sucker for a lower price, and I have specific tastes in firearms - most of which are no longer made, or imported - or were made for only a short time.

But, like I said, I got lucky. I'm not complaining, though!
 

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Under the circumstances you describe, you did the right thing in taking the gun to a smith. Tuning a 1911 extractor can be done by the home gunsmith fairly easily with the right tools. As long as you're familiar with Brownell's, check out the Weigand Combat extractor tension gauge and tension tool. Those two, plus a good trigger pull gauge, are pretty much all you need to tune an extractor properly. It also helps to start with an extractor made of good steel and properly shaped. In that regard, I like the Wilson Combat Bulletproof extractors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
LIProgun, thanks for the feedback. I know I didn't explain everything, so I'll expound here: When I stated the 'smith said the extractor needed "tuning", what he meant was the extractor needed modification (read: removing metal) from certain areas, to make it fit properly so it could do its intended job. As CD/Armscor/RIA slides tend to be ever so slightly out-of-spec (for example: a normal extractor will "poke" out of the back of it's channel in the slide on a CD/Armscor/RIA by as much as 1/8" in some cases), it's not surprising that it would have to be "fitted" somewhat. As almost everything else on a 1911 needs to be "fitted", it's not a big deal. However, since this is such a super-critical part on this design, I felt it should be done by an expert in such matters. Where parts are not critical to function, I have no problem adjusting them myself, as I feel that I do a better job with fit and finishing on MY property than others might. This is because I have no problem taking my good 'ol sweet time and make SURE it's right - many 'smiths just don't have the time to do it as I would, as they have other customers waiting for their guns, too (and most of 'em want them done last week!).

I should state, though: I do NOT modify valuable or potential collector's items. NEVER. I do not even think about modifying a safety device myself. If it is absolutely necessary, I'll have a smith do it - for something like, say a mag disconnect "safety" - this is so I have a record that it was done by a professional, should the need arise - it's also because I don't want the responsibility of messing with something that, if done wrong, could hurt or kill. I'll leave that for others, thanks. IF, and I say again, IF I find it necessary to work on fire control parts (trigger, sear, hammer, disconnector, barrel, firing pin, etc), I restrict my efforts to polishing and refinishing ONLY. If it involves the removal of metal, it'll go to the smith. It's just common sense to me - if it's IMPORTANT, have someone who knows what they're REALLY doing do it, or don't do it at all. If the modifications will cost nearly as much or more than the gun's worth, it gets traded for something that'll fit the job better. Common sense to me... But again, this is my first trip to the 'smith, so everything I've done so far have fallen within these self-imposed guidelines.

I know all about Mr. Weigand's excellent tools, BTW. Thanks, though! If I were to attempt it myself, I'd certainly obtain them. And yes, Brownell's is one of the greatest stores on Earth! While prices may not always be the cheapest, they are fair for the most part, and they certainly do have a nice selection of stuff! I got the new catalog a week ago, and I still haven't gotten very far into it... :)

You know something? I just realized that this is the first time in 9 months that I don't have a firearm on order, or layaway! I'm slippin'! Looks as if I'm gonna have to break out my "very much wanted" list and do some shopping! Hopefully I can find something on there that I've been wanting for a long time, and get a good deal on it, too. I've wanted a real Luger for over 15 years, but every time I've come across one, it's either been overpriced, in bad shape, or both. I've also been on the lookout for a Bren-Ten, a C.O.P, a "broomhandle" Mauser, a semi-auto Sterling, as well as a few other things, but I've yet to even see most of them in-the-flesh. Looks like I need to start looking harder! The longer I wait the less "serviceable" ones there are.

Thanks for the info, guys.
 

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Charlie Petty said:
Trigger pull gauge? Extractor?
The Weigand doo-dad is double ended; each side represents a different caliber's casehead width. The appropriate side is slipped up the breechface. You insert the scale's hook in a hole in the opposite end. You then pull the doo-dad out from under the extractor using the scale. The extractor tension is effectively measured as the weight recorded on the scale. Simple as pie.
 

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neisse said:
I turned to the extractor: HORROR! It looked as if a 5 year old had taken a rat-tail file and a Dremel with a saw bit in it to the extractor's claw! Why is it that people with no earthly business or knowledge about firearms insist on "tweaking" them?!? GRRRR!!
Judging from a pair of the early CDs which I had the oppportunity to detail strip, your extractor could just as well have left the factory in that condition. QC was non-existant for the pair I examined, and neither functioned well as a result, even with standard FMJ.
 

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Daniel, thanks for explaining the Weigand gauge. I only wish the instructions that came with the tool were as clear as your explanation! It took me a fair bit of headscratching and a visit to the 1911Forum board to figure out how to use it correctly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Daniel,

I've heard that about CD's - but this was OBVIOUS that someone without any idea of what they were doing messed with it - and the 'smith agreed with me, and he has experience with early CD's as well as the new ones.

I found out Friday that she's all ready to be picked up, and was function-fired & all works just fine. I'll test it for myself, of course. I just wish the shop had called me when it was done, as by the time I called to ask about it, they were closing in 35 minutes (I was not aware they closed so early on Fridays), and the shop is 30+ miles away from my house. Oh, well... it's not like I could've used it this week-end, anyway. However, I can't wait to pick her up tomorrow, and finally get to fire her enough to be able to see how well she shoots.

I'm still considering trading her in on a new one, though. At least her next owner will be able to fire it after buying it! I know I'm not going to get anywhere near what I paid, and put into it. We'll see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I picked her up on Monday. However, I guess the extractor wasn't the only problem.

He also replaced the ejector, as he said the cases were riding right up over the ejector's "finger", and would get lodged in the port. I do not know what brand of part he used, but the new one is just SLIGHTLY shorter (esp. for an "extended ejector"), but it's certainly taller, thicker, and wider.

According to the 'Smith, it functions flawlessly now (he DID fire it, as it was returned with a dirty bore and with of the 20 UMC 230gr. FMJ rounds I supplied him, 7 were left). I will test it myself, soon. I gotta wait until I get paid again, though - the bill, supposedly "free", did cost me money. I can't blame him, though - I don't expect people to give me free parts.

It does cycle MUCH better than before (hand cycling). There was an interesting omission, though - he forgot to drill a notch in the new ejector for the pin, which I found after I had gotten home and found the pin in the pistol's case. Hey, everyone forgets things at times, and it's no big deal. I drilled it out myself tonight with my trusty Dremel (broke a drill bit, though. DAMN!) and pin the pin back in. It took me less time to drill it and cost me less than it would've to take it back to him - gas ain't cheap these days!

Even with that forgetful misstep, I am very, very pleased with his work. The cost, while more than I was originally told, was not excessive in the least. This gentleman is now my "personal" gunsmith, and I have told him as much. We even spent almost an hour talking about possible upcoming projects I'd like to do. When I have the money, of course!

Here's hoping that all of you who may need the services of a gunsmith in the future (and who won't that owns firearms?) have as positive an experience as I have.

One thing I've learned, though: Strip the weapon BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE SHOP! No matter how pressed for time you may be, it's worth it. Once it is YOURS (as in the money has changed hands), do it right there, right in the presence of the seller or gunsmith. It'll certainly save you more time and money in the near future for repeated trips back to the shop to fix things that should be right in the first place.

Good luck, and stay safe out there
 
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