How To Field Strip a 1911 (Beginner’s Guide)

How To Field Strip a 1911
Alfred Mendoza

As a new gun owner, you might overlook how to field strip a 1911 safely. However, we couldn’t stress enough how it’s essential to disassemble the gun’s major components for cleaning and lubrication after each use.

We’re going to teach you how to field strip the M1911 pistol with these easy procedures.

1. Gather Your Tools & Equipment

Make sure you have all these materials ready before field stripping your gun:

  • A firearm mat or towel 
  • A non-marring hammer 
  • A magnetic-tipped set of screwdrivers 
  • An Allen key (if needed)
  • An auto bushing wrench 
  • A disassembly pin or use a paper clip (used for bull barrel)
  • Safety glasses 
  • A lubricant 
  • Cleaning rod, jags, and patches 
  • Rag (you may use paper towels)
  • Q-Tips

2. Unlock the Barrel

You unlock the barrel by rotating the locking piece. The direction can be right or left. It depends on the model. To make things easier, use a barrel bushing wrench or similar tools. 

While it’s possible to do it without a tool, we recommend investing in one to make the procedure easier.

Use the tool to press down on the spring retainer, located beneath the locking piece, then twist it in one direction. 

Make sure to be extra cautious when doing this as the recoil spring plug clutches the recoil spring back firmly. 

If you do not pay attention, the recoil spring will plunge into the dark, going into a tight corner in your place. 

As soon as the spring has loosened up, you can remove the recoil spring plug from the end of the spring, and have it set aside with other parts. The spring remains inside the slide.

3. Unlock the Slide Assembly

To unlock the slide assembly:

  • Place your pistol right-side down.
  • Hook your thumb across the forefront of the trigger guard, but do not touch the trigger.
  • Wrap your fingers using the same hand on top of the slide. 

After which, you plunge the slide back and have it aligned to the rearward. It’s the raised area of the takedown lever together with the disassembly notch inside the slide. 

For your reference, the first one is called the slide stop notch. Meanwhile, the smaller of the two is the disassembly notch.

While you’re holding the slide in that position, please make use of the fingers of your non-dominant hand to start pressing the unit’s takedown lever pin to free it from the receiver. Do not release the slide until you have removed the lever.

For owners who require a visual aid, you have to hold onto the slide back, turn the pistol to view its right-hand side. You’re going to see a circular, elevated point in the center, just over the trigger guard of your firearm. 

When the takedown lever is partially free, you can entirely remove it from the left-hand side of the gun’s receiver. Put the takedown lever away and gradually free the slide. 

Just remember, you are unable to remove the slide lock if the slide lock takedown notch is not in the proper place.

4. Remove the Recoil Spring

Detach the recoil spring as well as the recoil spring guide rod out from the gun’s slide.

You can do this more manageable by dragging the recoil spring away from the forefront of the slide. 

As soon as the spring has been released, lift the guide rod apart from the barrel. Pull the guide rod to the rear of the weapon’s slide. Finally, put them on the side.

recoil spring

Tip for recoil spring guide removal: You should have the guide rod replaced first, so it fits the curved edge adjacent to the barrel, and then slide the spring back toward it coming from the front end of the slide. You have to be careful of the spring pressure.

Replace the receiver together with the takedown lever before replacing the recoil spring plug. Do not forget to detach the barrel from the slide. 

You won’t need to remove the mainspring housing for this process.

5. Rotate the Barrel Bushing

Turn the barrel bushing in the opposite direction. You may have to wiggle it a little bit. But at this point, you can remove the bushing with no effort. After doing that, you have to set the barrel bushing aside.

6. Remove the Barrel & Set it Aside

You have to push the barrel link down off your firearm and lift up the barrel. By doing so, it frees it from the locking notches that are within the slide. 

The next step is to budge the barrel forward and remove the slide. And then, you put the barrel aside. 

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7. Clean & Lubricate Your Gun

For people who are looking to remove dirt and debris below the grip panels, you may do so by removing the panels through the use of an Allen key. 

You just have to follow the steps, but this time, in reverse, starting from unlocking the slide assembly. 

There won’t be a need to take apart the pistols’ frame as this is meant for quick cleaning. The frame, for the most part, stays in place.

Quick Tips & Warnings

Before you get started, it’s immensely important to follow the golden rules of gun safety by Col. Jeff Cooper to avoid accidents from occurring:

  • Assume that guns are always loaded (1).
  • Make sure the chamber and magazine are empty.
  • Don’t enable the muzzle to cover anything you do not wish to destroy even when the magazine and chamber are empty.
  • Your finger should be off the trigger unless your sights are locked on target. 
  • Be aware of what your target is and what’s beyond your target.

Make sure to remember these points when you’re field stripping:

  • Only use cleaning solvents that do not damage the natural bluing of the gun’s slide.
  • Wear safety glasses when doing the procedure. Some pistol parts are under compression, which may bounce out at any given time. 
  • Visually inspect your gun’s chamber to ensure that it is empty. 
  • You can be resourceful and use a paper clip for bull barrel 1911s.

How Do You Field Strip a 1911? Let’s Sum It Up

Following the procedures above, field stripping your m1911 is easy even for a first-timer as there is no need to take apart the lower frame and upper frame of the gun.

However, you have to do these steps cautiously. Double-check to ensure the chamber and magazine of your pistols are empty.

When taking things apart, slowly remove the slide, double-check if the barrel link is sitting upright, carefully pull the slide assembly, and use proper gear to rotate the barrel bushing and other parts.

Doing these things ensures the parts and components are properly disassembled from your m1911 pistol. 

You may refer to the manual of the m1911 pistol as well for safety measures.


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