‘Hacks’ Are Good Things?

| Pistolsmithing |

By Ted Yost

For as long as I can remember, the word “hack” was used to describe either an amateur or professional who did crappy work. Some were just not very smart, some had very limited skills and the truly memorable ones fit nicely into both categories!

Leave it to the Millennials to repurpose the word to mean something entirely different. According to the younger, smarter generation, a hack is a procedure or a way of doing something that demonstrates cleverness or ingenuity, solves a meaningful problem, is not a common or well-known solution to the problem or may not be the most straightforward or appropriate solution.

From my perspective, the term could also be used for a tool or accessory helping us accomplish the “hack.” Okay, I’ll play along. Of late, I’ve been discovering things throughout the trade falling neatly into the category of “hacks.”

Working a lot with 1911’s I can attest in the quest for the perfect set of modifications — done perfectly — few problems scream for solutions like the grip safety. Frames vary in so many ways “one size fits all” usually means it fits nothing perfectly. Some frames have too much space between the tangs, allowing side-to-side play, some have irregular outside widths which make blending the outside flats and achieving the desired “no-gap” look extremely difficult.


The Bushing Extractor from Brian Challis can get out
those pesky grip screw bushings when all else fails.


John Harrison of Harrison Design is a guy who pays attention. He actually talks to the guys in the trenches and uses the collective insight gained to improve things for us. His new grip safety is fully machined, and incorporates several critical features aiding anyone attempting the task of fitting a beavertail grip safety.

The portion of the part riding between the frame tangs is slightly widened, to eliminate that side play. The outer edges are left intentionally wide to allow for final blending and a flat juncture on any frame. Probably the most innovative change in design is the radius is tightened up from 0.250″ to 0.240″. This means there is now a solution for all those frames having 0.250″ radius grip safeties which weren’t quite perfect in the radius area. It’s a well thought-out second chance for those who think better is, well — better.

Small differences sometimes add up to huge improvements. With so many Colts and other makes delivered with a so-so fit from their 0.250″ radius beavertail grip safeties, this Harrison part makes sense for those who don’t settle for “almost.”

The stock bushings (commonly referred to as grip screw escutcheons) on 1911’s have been problematic for as many years as there have been 1911’s. It took a good many years, but we’ve figured out through good quality staking tools and modern thread locking adhesives, we can keep stock bushings securely mounted. The only problem we still encounter is occasionally a real difficulty in removing the bushings from the frame, or installing them tightly without damaging either the bushing or the frame. Enter Brian Challis, 1911 grip maker extraordinaire.

Brian has devised a tool making the installation and removal of stock bushings simple and safe. Brian’s new tool is called the Bushing Extractor, oddly enough. It’s literally mounted to the bushing, allowing no slippage to occur. I tried it on some stock bushings which were so tight they were going to be relegated to destructive removal by an EZ-Out. The Challis tool removed the bushings handily, without any risk of damage to the frame. One of these tools belongs in every hobbyist’s tool kit. The tool is also made in a version working with slim stock bushings.

Harrison design parts as well as the Bushing Extractor is available from the makers or from Brownells.


Harrison Designs’ new oversized beavertail grip safety allows
closer fitting to many 1911 frames.


XS Sights has their AR Upper Receiver Armorer’s Block (silver aluminum block
holding receiver in pic) allowing repair and maintenance without stressing the
fragile receiver.

AR Solution

Certainly of interest as a hack for those working on their AR’s (pistols and rifles) is the new AR Upper Receiver Armorer’s Block from XS Sight Systems. It’s a well thought-out tool securely holding the upper receiver assembly to facilitate changing hand guards and barrels without stressing and potentially damaging the receiver.
The block uses an ingenious method of holding virtually all commonly encountered AR receivers, as well as AR-10 or SR-25 types. Precision machined from an aluminum billet, this tool is accurate and durable. Like all XS products, well written instructions are included. It’s available through Brownells and from the maker.

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