Extractor Tip Takes a Hike

Old / New
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Last Sunday and on the last target of the day, the working end of my wad gun’s extractor decided to leave the gun. Amazingly, it landed on the table right in front of me in plain sight. (Why can’t little springs do that when accidentally released in the workshop?)

In the picture at the right, the old extractor missing its tip is seen, with the replacement on the right. (The angle at the end of the new tip is a photographic artifact due to lens distortion. It is, in reality, quite square.)

After a quick conference with Don and Bill, I not only had a replacement and a spare extractor, I also had way more information on exactly how to fit it than my brain could remember.

So I nodded politely but knew I’d need a refresher from the web. That’s what Google is for, of course.

And although I knew that Bullseye 1911 wad guns are different from stock 1911s, I had assumed the differences were mostly in the area of better quality parts. But, as I was to learn, the parts are only the beginning.

Case in point, the amount of tension by which the shell is held by the extractor is often quite a bit less in a wad gun. I discovered this on the net after reading several otherwise good articles on replacing the extractor, only one of which described a lower force for lesser powered ammunition (e.g., in a wad gun).

Indeed, if you look at the old and new extractors — click the image on the right to view a much larger version — there are some fine points to notice.

First, the “bump” nearest the tip is shinier on the old extractor. This is not due to wear, however. Notice in particular how sharp the left and right edges are in that shiny area. That’s because that bump has been machined down slightly during the fitting process.

The new extractor (on the right) hasn’t had this area fitted and, if installed in the gun “as is”, it doesn’t quite press sufficiently on the brass. The reason is that the “bump” functions as a stop against the inside of the extractor tunnel and, when a round is loaded, it’s supposed to slide up into the notch and the extractor is supposed to be pushed away from the stop.

But the “bump” is too large in the replacement extractor and when a round is loaded, it touches the slot in the extractor but doesn’t push it away from the stop. As a result, the new extractor exerts almost no pressure on the shell.

Not good.

The standard fix is to bend the extractor between the middle and end “bumps” but, in this case, the end “bump” is already pressing against the side of the tunnel. More bend won’t move it farther out to contact the shell.

What’s needed instead, is to remove a small amount of that final “bump”.

And that’s the shiny area you can see on that “bump” in the broken extractor.

But notice again the new extractor — it is slightly wider than the old. That means it fits into the round extractor tunnel a little more snugly and, if I take away metal only from the contact spot on the “bump”, the area of contact will just move to the sides.

What’s needed is a slight reshaping into more of a “U” shape than circular as well as a slight reduction in the height of the “bump”.


In the process of figuring this out, and as I studied what I had at first assumed to be a rather simple part, little by little I slowly began to understand the purpose of each little bump, cut, angle and ridge. And while I certainly don’t claim to understand all of his design, for what I now know of its intricate functions, I can see, in probably in my own and still very ignorant and small way, that John Browning was a genius.


Closer Look
(Click to magnify)

As of late yesterday, I have a replacement extractor finished, installed and working reliably. It’s not perfect and I pity any spectator standing 10′ behind and to the right of me where the brass is going, but the gun functions 100% again.

Much remains to be done.

The “bump” nearest the tip needs to be reshaped and ever so slightly reduced as already described.

Then, the slot needs to be polished and the angled step along its left-hand edge smoothed into a graceful ramp.

And the top of the slot needs some more work — I didn’t understand how to cut the top of the slot entry area and this probably accounts for the interesting path my brass now takes when it leaves the gun.

Perhaps the best advice I received from fellow shooters and Bullseye gunsmiths was to buy several extractors, plan on throwing at least one away while I learn, and before stopping make sure I have two that work well, one in the gun and the second with an appropriate label stored in the spare parts bin.

Another piece of advice I received but (also) failed to appreciate is to plan on doing the work at the range. My two new extractors both need followup work and with my meager set of tools at home, that means more trips to the range.

Better would be a portable tool chest and tools to do it all at the range.

At the recent Desert Midwinter Competition, Dan Norwood made use of several tools from his portable box when he put a roll trigger on this same gun.

And his tool box as well as its contents caught my attention. My best guess is that it was a Kennedy 8-Drawer Journeyman #526.

That’s a beautiful box but, for my needs, maybe a little over the top.

But even with something from Home Depot, I’m gonna need lots of specialty items. I need files and stones, feeler gauges, some magnifying goggles, probably some dykem marking fluid and … …

Where’s my Brownells catalog?

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