Not much has been written about grip escutcheons (bushings) and screws on the 1911 and other pistols, but they can be a source of considerable irritation. If you want to change out the grips and the bushings get chewed-up, it can be the start of a real headache. The following is a short primer on how to show those little, fine-threaded bushings and screws who’s is boss.
To get started repairing and removing grip bushings I want you to buy a grip escutcheon removal tool from Brownells. This is a really cool little screwdriver-style utensil with only one purpose in life — to remove grip screw bushings from a 1911 without damage. The Brownells tool is also sold as a “bit” for the Magna-Tip screwdriver, which, by the way, every professional and tinkerer gunsmith should have in his tool bag. The tip alone sells for $13 and will pay for itself the first time you need it. There are two tips, one for the standard bushing and one for the thin bushing used with slim grips. You can get by with the standard tip for 95 perent of your jobs, but pros should have both.
A tap wrench and good quality screwdriver handle
to take the special bushing screw bit are both must-haves.
If you attempt to remove the bushings from the receiver using a screw driver, if the bushing is the “staked-in” variety, it’ll be be ruined and will have to be destroyed by the pair of vise grips needed to get it unscrewed. I’m not even going to tell you about the ghost of J. Browning, who will cast evil upon your life for messing up his stuff.
Other tools for working on grip screws should be a proper fitting screw driver for slotted grip screws and a hex or Torx head socket wrench for those style grip screws. The hex socket wrench most commonly used is the 3/32″ and for the Torx you will use either a T-10 or T-15.
A few more items you will want to buy will be special taps to refresh the screw threads inside the grip, a set of oversize grip bushings and an oversize bushing tap. All of the items mentioned are available from Brownells, of course. Make sure you pad your vise jaws too and don’t squeeze too tightly or you’ll tweak the frame and then you’ll be in a real fix.
Use a pair of cutters like this to hold a bushing that unscrewed with the grip. Then carefully
back-out the screw. The bushing will likely be ruined though so keep spares on-hand.
Have you ever unscrewed a grip screw and had the bushing unscrew right out of the frame along with the screw? Most of us have had that unpleasant experience and I’m here to save you. As soon as you notice the bushing pulling up out of the frame, unscrew the other grip screw. If you unscrew the screw with the bushing stuck to it without loosening the other, the grip will be placed in a bind and possibly break. Always alternate between each grip screw if one bushing is pulling out until both are completely out.
Now you have the problem of the screw stuck in the bushing with the grip trapped between them. This is a sticky situation if you don’t know the trick to separate the three. With a pair of dikes, as shown in the photo, lightly grab the escutcheon between the threads and shoulder directly under the inside of the grip. With a screwdriver or socket wrench unscrew the grip screw while squeezing the dikes on the bushing just enough to keep it from turning. The grip screw will screw right out and you will feel like a professional. Reward yourself with a beer.
The next frustrating problem is when you go to unscrewing a grip bushing and it just will not break loose, so you apply heavy pressure to unscrew it and it strips the threads right out of the frame. This creates one of those, “Oh shucks” (or words to that effect) moments we gunsmiths know so well. The neophyte will have a big problem when this occurs, but the solution is simple if you have Frank Brownells’ handy, dandy oversize grip escutcheon tap. In most cases all you have to do is run the oversize bushing tap into the stripped-out frame hole, install an oversize bushing (which comes with the Brownells oversize tap kit) and “voila,” you are now a pro when it comes to fixing screwed-up grip bushings. Treat yourself to another beer, but sober up before you go shooting that fixed-up 1911!
By Alex Hamilton
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/brownells, (800) 741-0015