The 1911: Replacing Plunger Tubes

The 1911: Replacing Plunger Tubes

Anyone who knows me will tell you there is no greater advocate of the 1911 pistol than Gus Norcross. However, the 1911 is a machine, and any machine can fail if not properly maintained. In this article we consider one of the weak points of John Browning's design and how to repair it.

The plunger tube resides on the left side of the frame between the top of the grip panel and the slide. It contains what Colt parts lists refer to as the "plunger spring assembly."

The small plunger in the front of the tube rests on the slide stop with just enough pressure to keep the slide from locking open before the magazine is empty. The larger rear plunger rests on the thumb safety. It keeps the safety on until the operator applies enough pressure downward to move it to the off position. The plunger tube is simply a steel tunnel attached by two posts that are swaged into holes from the inside of the frame.

Plunger tubes come loose. Every time a shooter operates the thumb safety a slight amount of upward or downward pressure is applied to the plunger tube through the safety plunger. Over time, the thin swaged legs that hold the assembly to the frame may start working loose.


If the plunger tube begins pulling out of the frame, the safety plunger may end up on the outside of the thumb safety, locking it in the safe position. Inconvenient in a match, deadly in a gunfight.


Over 25 years of working on 1911 pistols I have seen my share of loose plunger tubes. Most owners never notice them. The top of the left grip panel provides additional support and a properly fitted grip may keep the assembly in place for a time even if it is loose.

The loose tube is usually easily removed with a pair of pliers and the mounting surface is cleaned to remove oil and dried gunk. Check the holes on the inside of the frame to make sure the edges are slightly chamfered so the legs of the new tube will have more surface area to grip when they are staked.

If chamfering is needed, a 1/8" ball cutter in a hand grinder will take care of it. I apply a drop of red Loc-Tite to each leg of the new assembly before positioning it on the frame. The Loc-Tite is simply extra insurance and fills small gaps or loose mounting holes.

For swaging the ends of the plunger tube legs in the frame mounting holes I have used a modified pair of Vise Grips (Brownell's 080-806-500) for many years with great success. The plunger tube is filled with a 7/64" drill bit or the Brownell's Plunger Tube Support (080-707-000) to prevent crushing it. A reinforcing block provided with the pliers fits over the tube to prevent damage to it from the steel Vise Grip jaws.


Whenever you clean your 1911, remove the left grip panel and check the plunger tube for movement. It could save your life.

The modified Vise Grip

The modified Vise Grip tool sold by Brownell\'s is shown with the plunger tube support and reinforcing block. Below the pliers is another tool made by Gun Runners and sold by Brownell\'s (634-000-001).

Crimping Jaw

Here\'s the crimping jaw of the pliers, showing the hardened tip that swages the tube legs. This is a lot more convenient than using a punch for the job.

Prepare the holes

Prepare the holes by chamfering them with a 1/8" ball cutter. The wider hole gives more room for the leg to expand when swaged. This holds the tube better.

Loctite

Apply red Loctite to the plunger tube legs before inserting them into the frame. This will help keep the tube stationary during thumb safety operation.

Plunger Tube

Insert the plunger tube support, position the reinforcing block and place the crimper tip over one of the plunger tube leg holes. Then just clamp down.

The Reinforcing Block

The reinforcing block prevents marring of the tube by the crimper jaw. The thin tube can easily be crushed if you don\'t use the block over it.

Crimping

Make sure the crimper tip is centered on the end of the plunger tube leg before crimping. You want the plunger tube leg to expand evenly around the frame hole.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Shooting the 20mm Lahti

Shooting the 20mm Lahti

David Fortier had the chance to fire the Lahti L-39 while filming the 2018 season of Guns&AmmoTV while on location at DriveTanks.com.

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

From Smith & Wesson, the M&P Shield M2.0 is a great option for a carry gun with optics option.

Hornady

Hornady's New A-Tip Line of Match Bullets

Hornady Manufacturing, has developed a new line of match bullets. The A-Tip is designed for precision and long-range shooting.

New Bushnell Prime 1700 and Nitro 1800 Rangefinders

New Bushnell Prime 1700 and Nitro 1800 Rangefinders

Jake Edson of Bushnell Optics tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead about the brand new Prime 1700 and Nitro 1800 rangefinders.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The last of Germany's infamous Elefant tank destroyers. Historical

World War II German Elefant Tank Destroyers

Neal S Shera - July 12, 2019

The last of Germany's infamous Elefant tank destroyers.

If you want to keep the peace, keep and bear arms. Don't give up your guns. Any other choice would be ridiculous. 2nd Amendment

Is Red Dawn Really Just Ridiculous? If Not, Who Would Citizen Disarmament Help?

David Codrea - May 29, 2019

If you want to keep the peace, keep and bear arms. Don't give up your guns. Any other choice...

Rhode Islanders are setting brushfires for freedom once again as they advance a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town movement. 2nd Amendment

SPECIAL REPORT: BIG 2A HISTORY BEING MADE IN LITTLE RHODE ISLAND

John Peterson - May 22, 2019

Rhode Islanders are setting brushfires for freedom once again as they advance a Second...

A $50 Ring Loc-Kit gives AirForce Condor airgunners unparalleled power and accuracy. Air Guns

AirForce Airguns Condor Ring-Loc Kit Review

Tom Gaylord - May 29, 2019

A $50 Ring Loc-Kit gives AirForce Condor airgunners unparalleled power and accuracy.

See More Trending Articles

More Handguns

Colt announces the release of the much-anticipated Colt King Cobra Target revolver. Handguns

Colt Announces King Cobra Target Revolver

Colt's Manufacturing Company LLC - August 21, 2019

Colt announces the release of the much-anticipated Colt King Cobra Target revolver.

Due to the popularity of the SAINT Victor and SAINT Edge pistols, Springfield Armory has announced the new SAINT Pistol chambered in 5.56mm NATO. Handguns

Springfield SAINT 5.56 Pistol Announced

Firearms News Digital Staff - October 14, 2019

Due to the popularity of the SAINT Victor and SAINT Edge pistols, Springfield Armory has...

Wilson Combat EXPERIOR series 1911 pistols are a unique blend of a classic design with modern reliability and ergonomic enhancements that optimize shooting performance and handling. Handguns

First Look: Wilson Combat EXPERIOR 1911 Series

Firearms News Digital Staff - December 11, 2019

Wilson Combat EXPERIOR series 1911 pistols are a unique blend of a classic design with modern...

The new Springfield XD-M Elite 9mm pistol series is made up of four models that are designed to fit practically any role you might have for them. Handguns

Springfield XD-M Elite 9mm Pistols – New for 2020

Firearms News Digital Staff - January 15, 2020

The new Springfield XD-M Elite 9mm pistol series is made up of four models that are designed...

See More Handguns

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW OUR CURRENT ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.