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The 1911: Adjusting Overtravel

by Gus Norcross   |  November 5th, 2012 3

Gus Norcross, originally trained on National Match rifles and pistols by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Unit specializes in Garands, M14s and 1911s at his small shop on the coast of Maine. His website is He will be offering gunsmithing tips and tricks on Fridays.

Overtravel” is movement of the trigger beyond what is actually necessary to release the sear. Many aftermarket triggers and an increasing number of factory pistols are supplied with a small stop screw located in the lower half of the trigger which contacts the magazine catch to limit trigger movement. Incorrect adjustment of this screw allows the hammer safety notch to hit the sear nose when the pistol is fired, possibly damaging the engagement surface of the sear.

Checking the adjustment is simple. I usually remove the slide assembly for better control of the hammer. Hold the trigger to the rear and grasp the hammer with your non-firing hand. Rotate the hammer through its normal arc of movement, feeling for any interference with the sear. If you feel the hammer bump the sear, back out the screw a quarter turn at a time until no contact is felt. If you don’t feel contact, turn the screw in until you do and then back out the screw a quarter- to a half-turn for clearance.

On Colt Series 80 pistols, extra overtravel is necessary to raise the firing pin block high enough to allow free movement of the firing pin. Once the adjustment is set you might want to stake or Loctite the screw to prevent it from backing out.

  • Joe Reeser

    I just took mine out and threw it in the parts bin. Just one less thing to worry about. Perhaps it was never adjusted properly at the factory, I don't know, but I couldn't tell the difference in the trigger with it gone. The 1911 is one sweet platform.

  • Heretic

    Thanks. I realized after reading this that my trigger screw was turned in a little too far. You may have saved my sear.

  • 1Rooster

    Great article. Incorrect adjustments… They can get you killed!

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