Curing Hammer Bite Circa 1985

Back in the mid 80’s I was a young, broke guy who wanted to get into shooting competition. I had a friend who introduced me to the world of IPSC. Back then the sport was in its fledgling years; but I had the opportunity to meet a lot of guys that today are considered household names. I’m not one of them.

Close up of hammer.

Basically, I had an old Colt 1911A1 Commercial Model and a crappy leather holster and the will to compete.
So, I shot a couple of matches in the novice class and did quite poorly; but that’s to be expected. The guys were great and they gave me pointers that made me a better shooter, but that’s not what this is about.

Comparison between both hammer profiles.

The other day I was rooting thru some bins and I found the original wide spur hammer that I had on my old Colt. This was before you had all the modern, hot-shit manufacturers and any part you wanted at the ease of a key stroke. You had to either modify the gun yourself or send it to a gunsmith to do the work for you.

Notice how bobbed section is refinished.

This hammer was the first modification that I did to the Colt. The wide spur hammer had a tendency to turn the webbing between your thumb and finger into hamburger by the end of the day. It was quite common to see bobbed hammers on the firing line and one of the first pieces of advice I received was to, “cut that hammer back”

Freeze’s competition Colt 1911 he used heavily in the 1980’s.

So out came the hacksaw. I removed the hammer, cut it back, and reinstalled it. Life was good at that point. I still pretty much sucked but my hands didn’t bleed by the end of the day….that was a win/win for me.

Over the years, this old Colt has gone thru many changes. Barrels, sights, internal parts, grips, etc. Other than the frame and slide, not much is original. But for some reason I held on to the hammer.

Hammer after being cut by hacksaw.

Some may look at the pics and say that was a damn shame, but what you need to keep in mind is this: Back then, 1911’s were cheap. There were not a lot of aftermarket parts available and all the big names like Brown, Willson and Baer were in their infancy. In truth, these guys were just regular competitors, shooting in the same matches. It wasn’t until much later they developed into the booming custom and semi-custom market we see today.


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Freezer Meat

Freezer Meat

Staff Writer at
Writer at Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast.

Freeze is our resident All-American hunter, shooter, gunsmith and military surplus collector. When he is not processing his own game or running the smoker, he focuses on Com-Bloc weapons and Black Powder Shooting.
Freezer Meat

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  • While the wide spur hammer is a notorious nipper, sometimes it isn’t so much hammer bite as it is grip safety bite. You really need to dehorn all of the edges and corners on the GI style grip safety.

    • Freeze

      Daniel, what you said is 100% true but back in 1985 “dehorning” wasn’t a thing and everyone was scrambling to make their gear better and trying new things. For example. Look at a Factory Colt Series 70 Gold Cup National Match. In my opinion the most accurate factory 1911 of its time. Not much dehorning on it. The good news is, as time moved forward; things got much better for the shooter and competitor. The days of playing with the old Colt are over. I have better and more modern 1911’s that I carry and shoot that work out better for me, but a couple of times a year I break it out and run a few mags thru it. Just because I can.

      • Jeff Cooper had been preaching the need for removing sharp edges for many years by that point. That said, few listened for far too long. Too many collectors and gunsmiths had long condemned rounded edges as the mark of poor craftsmanship. However, some ‘smiths were willing to look the other way when it came to carry guns. Bullseye champion and pistolsmith Bob Chow had a reputation for dehorning carry pistols. Another example from the 1970s would be the ASP conversions of the S&W Model 39.

        I think the tide began to turn when the practical gunsmith Ikey Starks came up with the catchy slogan that a properly dehorned carry gun should feel like a melted bar of soap. He even introduced an endorsed conversion, the Chuck Taylor Commando Special, starting around 1981.

        • Uh huh. I was there. I bought a Colt XS (not XSE) when it was touted
          as the…get ready for it…”Kimber Killer”. Still Sharp as fuck that pistol was.

          Bottom line, Kimber had far more influence over Colt than Jeff Cooper ever, ever, ever did. The gun nerds don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.

          Citing the ASP, Clark, feathered-haired-70’s guru guns is akin to saying the Puckle Gun has direct lineage to Stoner and the AR.

          Again, I was there. You wanted a 1911? You bought a Colt. If you were lucky, it worked for you. Mostly likely it was a shit show. So dozens and dozens of nobody guys with names like Wilson, Brown, et. All chased function and comfort for you.

          At a price.

          Or if you didn’t know a guy, you self rescued. Kimber made the 1911 market we see today. Not Cooper. Not Libenburg. Not Swenson. Not Brown. Not Wilson. Not Springfield. Not Clark. Not Garthwaite.

          Let’s not rewrite market history in the name of idol worship.


          • I agree that the factories were slow to respond, especially Colt. Even when Colt briefly tried to bevel the edges, the collectors and purists howled.