Should you buy (or modify) a Series 80 or Series 70 1911 pistol?

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Should you buy (or modify) a Series 80 or Series 70 1911 pistol?
Should you buy (or modify) a Series 80 or Series 70 1911 pistol?

Over many years, the evolution of the 1911 pistol has seen a number of transformations. In about 1924, significant changes began to be introduced to Government Issued (GI) and commercial 1911 pistols, and today some are still made. Colt In the early 1970s introduced a new variation of the 1911A1 pistol called the SERIES 70 Model, which incorporated a major change designed to improve accuracy. This change was a collet-style barrel bushing with four flexible fingers. Originally, only 1911 Government frames had the Series 70 collet bushing.

Series 70 Collet Barrel Bushing
Series 70 Collet Barrel Bushing

Series 70 Collet Barrel Bushing

The primary purpose of the collet barrel bushing was to align and center the barrel precisely in relation to the slide. Initially, this change worked well, but the powerful ammo developed then stressed the bushing’s fingers and some broke, causing warranty problems. Colt eventually changed the collet bushing, and the Series 70 pistol became the iconic M1911A1. Incidentally, in the mid-1980s, some Colt 1911s still had the collet bushing, and even today there are Colt Series 70 1911s with collet bushings.

Series 80 1911s Use the Standard, Solid Barrel Bushing.
Series 80 1911s Use the Standard, Solid Barrel Bushing.
The Firing Pin Safety Plunger Can Be Seen At The Rear Underside Of The 1911 Series 80 Slide
The Firing Pin Safety Plunger Can Be Seen At The Rear Underside Of The 1911 Series 80 Slide

Firing-Pin Safety

In about 1983, the Series 80 1911 was introduced with a key feature of a trigger-activated firing pin safety. This firing pin safety block had a safety plunger and was a spring-loaded pin operated by the trigger, and its purpose was to prevent dropped-gun negligent and accidental discharges. Colt’s firing pin safety was designed to relieve some of the trigger pressure by adding this firing pin plunger in the slide to allow the forward movement of the firing pin. Series 70 1911s have no safety plunger in the slide. The shooter must press the trigger to unblock the firing pin for Series 80 1911s. Also, the collet bushing was replaced with the solid bushing in about 1988.

Key Questions

  1. Does this firing pin safety system of the Series 80 1911 have a negative effect on the classic trigger press and is it really needed for Drop Safety?
  2. Given the many 1911 benefits, should you buy a Series 80 or Series 70 1911 pistol?
  3. If you have (or buy) a Series 70 1911, is it (will it be) safe and reliable?
  4. If you buy a Series 80 1911, should you remove certain parts?

Most of the contemporary 1911 pistol brands have some version or form of the firing pin safety system. Others do not. Some 1911 shooters seriously dislike and strongly criticize the firing pin safety system additions on the Series 80, while others say they can tell no real difference in the trigger presses, performance, and drop safety concerns between a Series 70 and Series 80 1911. While I have very little gunsmith knowledge and certainly am not one, some say the difference is not that significant at all and that a competent gunsmith can take just a few minutes and modify the trigger, change to a lighter firing pin, and substitute a slightly stronger firing pin spring. I agree. This seems to help the pistol not to fire even if dropped from a significant height.

Recognize that not all manufacturers of Series 80 1911s use the trigger to release the firing pin block. Some use the grip safety and then it is often called the “Swartz Safety.” Smith and Wesson and Kimber use the Swartz Safety. I believe Para Ordnance uses the Colt Series 80 system with the trigger releasing the firing pin block. Colt no longer manufactures 1911s with the Swartz Safety.

Some earnestly look specifically only for a Series 70 1911 and want to avoid the Series 80 firing pin safety system and modifications at all costs. It seems mostly to boil down to “whatever floats your boat” trial and error and specific brand and model hands-on trials and preferences. I have several of both series, appreciate the differences, and all work fine for me for safety and for trigger press (without modifications.) However, I do prefer the solid Series 80 bushing to the collet barrel bushing of the original Series 70. Colt currently offers both Series 70 and Series 80 pistols.

Half-Cock Hammer

Half-Cock Hammer

Both the Series 70 and Series 80 designs have the “Half-Cock” hammer feature, but there are two different configurations. Briefly, half cock means the position of the hammer is partially, but not completely, cocked. The purpose of the half cock position has been for loading a 1911, as a safety mechanism, or for both reasons. Several say the half cock should not be relied upon for the safety feature. The idea was that the hammer would fall to a half-cock position if the shooter’s thumb slipped from the hammer while trying to cock it. Colt changed the hammer, so it had a half cock shelf, rather than a half-cock hook, as earlier versions of pistols did. It seems the hook was prone to breaking sometimes and not being reliable. See the above images.

1911 Series 80 Parts

Four Key Series 80 Parts Added

The Series 80 1911 added four parts to the Series 70, and that is what some folks complain about, adding four unnecessary (according to some) parts. More places for dirt to accumulate, grease to impinge operation, parts to go wrong, general malfunctions and stoppages to occur, and parts to break or affect reliability. It seems most earlier failures of Series 80 systems occurred because someone had a mediocre or inferior trigger job done, installed an entirely new trigger with a close tolerance overtravel stop or added a new trigger incorrectly, or reinstalled the used or damaged Series 80 component parts, perhaps not optimally, appropriately, or correctly. So, perhaps the trigger’s effective stroke was shortened, or the spring-loaded plunger was not installed to properly lift enough to clear the pin’s path.

My Conclusions

For the record, I have had zero, nada, no problems with any of my Series 80 1911 pistols. I do not think that is a fluke. I have not modified any of my Series 80 pistols. Recent technological advancements and professional attention to detail by most modern, quality 1911 manufacturers and well-trained gunsmiths handled any possible Series 80 reliability, accuracy, and performance concerns. I hope some of my information here has helped you. I know my answer to the questions, but the questions remain for your very personal analysis and answer. So…

Should you buy (or modify) a Series 80 or Series 70 1911 pistol?

Continued Success My Friends!

Photos by Author.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only, and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2018 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].