Part of the reason is that you can completely dis-assemble and reassemble the pistol using no tools other than the parts contained within.
Have you heard that legend?
Do you believe it?
Are you sure?
I mean ... are you really sure?
I'm curious how reasonable this proposition might be, so I contacted a local gunsmith (and USPSA Grand Master, whose name will not be mentioned at this time) with the proposition that he make the attempt to prove this legend.
I'll think about that. I have heard the same thing, but have never tried it....I don't blame him, not a bit.
I'm not sure it can be done, but I also think it's worth the effort to try.
So here's the challenge, which may be known as "The Process" (see below):
- Completely dis-assemble, and then re-assemble a Genuine 1911 (military surplus) Colt Pistol, SN. 31312** ca. 1918. No tools will be used, but parts of the pistol, ammunition and magazine (the stuff which one can reasonably expect to be available in the same time and space as the pistol) may be used as tools when and where seems appropriate. The pistol must be equally as functional after reassembly as it was before the process began.
- Perform the same process with a Kimber Custom pistol, which includes a full-length guide rod. This is perhaps the greater challenge because the manufacturer will assume that a "Geek Tool" will be constructed by the owner to remove the Guide Rod Assembly. The Geek Tool would normally be used to retain the recooil spring on the guide rod.
Both pistols are in my immediate possession, and I would/will make them available for the experiment.
Both pistols feature 'fixed sights'. Removal of the sights is not part of the problem, so both the front and rear sights will not be moved in the process. I'm confident that the barrel can be used as an adjustment tool, and the frame as a hammer, but sighting the pistol back to the current zero would be beyond the scope of this exercise. This will not be attempted during "The Process".
In addition, the Ejector is often 'peened' into the frame. It will not be necessary, nor advisable, to remove the Ejector.
The Plunger Tube as well need not be removed.
We're not trying to make this process beyond the means of a primary arsenal maintenance effort.
Whatever techniques are used for this project must leave the parts un-damaged. If this is shown to be not possible, that will be valuable information. The criteria is that the pistol must function as perfectly after the process as it was before the process. Obviously, this implies that the pistol(s) must be test-fired both before and after the process.
I've given this some thought, and I can see how certain parts may serve a particular purpose.
For example, the dis-assembly of the 1911 may be performed at two levels. The parts may be referenced in the 1911 Schematic, and the process of reassembly is demonstrated in this animated video.
The first level is to Field-Strip the pistol.
The barrel bushing is rotated counter-clockwise to remove the Recoil Spring Plug. The slide stop is removed, allowing the slide to be detached from the frame. The Recoil Spring assembly (Recoil Spring, Guide Rod) can be removed and dis-assembled. The barrel is removed.
The second level is to Field Strip the Slide Assembly.
the firing pin is depressed to allow the Firing Pin Stop to be removed. This allows (in turn) the firing pin, firing pin spring, and extractor to be removed.
The third level is to Detail Strip the Frame Assembly.
This specifically includes the mainspring housing assembly, the hammer and sear assembly, the trigger assembly the magazine assembly, the safety assembly and the grips.
Have I left anything out? Fine, except for the exceptions listed below ... that goes, too.
Essentially, after the completion of of the Third Level of dis-assembly (and reassembly), there should be nothing left connected to the slide except for the sights. There should be nothing left connected to the frame except for the stock screw bushings and the ejector.
What parts can be used as tools?
It's axiomatic that removal of the firing pin allows that part to be used as a tool to remove all of the pins which keep the major assemblies (including the mainspring housing
But how do you remove the firing pin block to get at the firing pin?
The first assumption is that the the Slide Stop will serve to depress the firing pin sufficiently to remove the firing pin block.
If this is feasible, most other problems are resolved. Just looking at it (I am deliberately not testing these hypotheses), it appears that the diameter of the Slide Stop is too large. Let us assume that this is possible.
The firing pin can be used as a Pin Punch to remove all of the pins retaining the trigger assembly, the hammer assembly, and the mainspring housing (and connecting pins within each assembly).
How about the screws?
The three-finger spring ("Sear Spring") might be used as an awkward screwdriver. But how do we break loosen the screws which have been torqued? Can we use the rim of a .45 acp cartridge? How about the tang on the front of the magazine? Is it too thick?
Let's assume that these can be used to break loose the major screws, such as the Grip Screws.
The final hurdle is the Magazine Catch Lock, A#21 on the Brownell's Schematic.
I'm not sure whether the Sear Spring is sufficiently robust to start this screw without suffering damage. In fact, I'm not sure whether the width of the fingers is sufficiently small to fit within the limited circumference of the hole within which the screw dwells.
If these three obstacles -- the firing pin, the grip screws, and the Magazine Catch Lock -- can be resolved, then I see no reason why the 1911 cannot be disassembled using no tools except the parts of the pistol.
How about the 1911 with an Extended Guide Rod, as is typically found on the Kimber and STI pistols?
I don't know about this. The School Solution is to un-twist a paper clip to serve as a Recoil Spring Retainer during dis-asembly.
The only parts I can consider acceptable resources for this purpose are coil springs. This includes the Recoil Spring, the Main Spring, and the coil spring in the Magazine Catch Assembly.
The first is unavailable, as the tool is used to retain this spring.
The second and third are so small and designed to fit into the narrow channels of the Mainspring Housing and the Magazine Catch Assemblies. It seems likely that the gunsmith would have to partially uncoil the spring to function as a Mainspring Retainer Tool.
At this point, I'm stuck.
If you have any suggestions to resolve the various questions which I have raised (small-diameter pin-remover other than the Slide Stop to remove the Firing Pin; and some kind of tool to retain the Recoil Spring on the Kimber Extended Guide Rod), I would appreciate your contribution.
When we have the answers to these two questions, perhaps we can continue with a video demostration of How To Dis-Assemble and Reassemble the 1911 Without Tools.