In the comments to the recent cleaning post, Sabrina Chase asked what parts to keep on hand for her 1911. Anybody who’s shot 1911 a lot (or maintained ’em) knows the answer: if it’s a GI gun, your potential mission stoppers are springs (especially the recoil spring), extractor, and firing pin. If it’s a custom or accurized gun it would be really nice to keep a spare fitted barrel bushing.
A budget 1911 may have issues with staking of the safety detent plunger tube, or with the slide stop. (If the tube is staked right, it will still be staked when your grandkids’ grandkids inherit the .45).
One reason some people keep slide stops, recoil spring plungers, and barrel bushings as well as a spring kit is: they fear they will have to break down the pistol in the field, in the dark, or on the move. (It’s never a good idea to do that, if you can avoid it). You notice that all those parts are the smallest parts the come loose when your 1911 has been shaken down into field-stripped condition. The old Ranger trick is to put your hat on the ground in front of you, then put each part in your Ranger cap as you take it off the sidearm. This way, you can assemble and disassemble in pitch darkness while maintaining control of all the fiddly bits.
Finally, a pair or two of grip screws belong in your spares kit. They don’t cost much or cube out much of your space, and they have a bad habit of backing out just when you want to impress people with your pistol, your skill, and your sang-froid.
And that got us thinking. While there is no substitute for learning what a given gun’s Achilles’s Heel is, and the proliferation of brand- and model-specific forums makes us wonder:
Is there a basic, a fundamental checklist of needed spare parts that can be applied to anything?
If you look across all firearms types, what are the parts you mght need most?
- Firing pins. Crucial to ignition, and by definition they have to have at least one small, cylindrical section.
- Any small parts that come out in normal disassembly. It is very embarrassing to lose such a small part. It is less embarrassing if you have a spare on hand. (Be aware that on some firearms, hand fitting is required for these parts. Apparently Eli Whitney is not followed quite as assiduously as he should be in the global arms industry).
During disassembly, you can minimize parts loss and time wasted recovering them by adaping your environment to firearms disassembly:
- Use a nice, fluffy towel as a disassembly mat, not a slick, smooth table. A small part in motion tends to remain in motion, if there’s nothing to arrest its movement.
- Do not disassemble firearms in a room with lots of low-slung furniture, stacks of equipment, toolboxes, etc.
- Keep a magnetic parts wand on hand. You can get it at any tool supply place: Harbor Freight, Lowe’s or Home Depot, Menards for you Canuckistanis. This is a tool where a cheap one is about 95% as good as the best one there is, so it’s OK to skimp here. The mag wand — some of them have a trick LED light, which means it’s a handy place to keep a dead AAA or watch battery — fishes those parts out from under the refrigerator/dog bed/workbench.
For TEOTWAWKI, ability to fix bigger things, and remanufacture ammunition, is desirable. One complicated and scary thing that gets easy once you’ve done it a few times is manufacturing springs. It’s part of every gunsmith’s education. (And let this be a lesson to you: having learned how, most smiths buy the springs they need as they go, or lay in a supply if they have repetitive work, for instance, if they do primarily 1911s). You can make any coil spring with the right wire, a suitable diameter mandrel (in this case, a simple rod usually works) and the right size lathe, and in a pinch you can improvise the lathe with another tool. There are plenty of instructions online and YouTube videos… to be watched before TEOTWAWKI, naturally.