What might be an appropriate recoil spring for a Les Baer 1911 Premiere II, shooting light bullseye rounds?

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Post by mikemyers on 8/15/2019, 4:16 pm

Before I knew anything about this forum and Bullseye shooting, my 1911 handgun was a Colt Combat Commander.  After spending forever trying to get that gun to shoot well, or for that matter, find anyone else who could shoot it well, I gave up and it was sent off to Colt.  About a year and a half later, it came back with a beautiful test target, and I felt it was capable of being used for Bullseye Shooting.  A lot of parts were replaced, and a better rear sight was installed.  By then, I had joined the shooting club at my range, and started shooting "real" bullseye, at 15 yards, two-handed.

In the meantime the treasurer at my club found me a Les Baer Premiere II that had just been repaired (the previous owner created a bulged barrel).  He got the gun back, and I bought it.  I could go through the whole story of this gun, but let me jump ahead to my question.

I now am shooting 1911's ONLY for Bullseye - I've got my Salyer Caspian, and my Salyer Springfield.  Both now shoot my reloads, 3.8 grains of WST over a Magnus #801 bullet.  They shoot very "lightly", minimal recoil, and both guns are now enjoyable for me to shoot, nothing at all like shooting Winchester White Box 230 grain ammo.  (I can still shoot that ammo in my Colt if I wish to.)


The gun originally came with a 18# recoil spring.  I got permission from the lady at Baer who seems to know everything about Baer guns, to replace the 18# spring with 16# spring.  Nowadays, the gun is mostly sitting.  I used it with a Nelson kit for a while, but I see no reason not to put in an appropriate recoil spring and shoot the same ammo I'm currently reloading for my other guns.

This leads to my question - I'm constantly hearing about a 10# spring being good for a wad gun shooting light loads.  Is there any reason why this wouldn't be an appropriate spring for me to install?  Obviously, if I shoot heavier loads, I'll change the spring.  

One of the things I'm considering is that this gun has the stock steel sights.  My other two 1911 guns have optics.  The Caspian has a very heavy slide, and the Springfield has a more "normal" slide.  

Is it safe to install the 10# spring, see how the gun works, and if there are any issues, to consider a different spring?  
I would need to verify that the slide locks back on the last round.  
It would be interesting to see how many feet from me the gun throws the empty cases.
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Post by jglenn21 on 8/15/2019, 4:26 pm

10# is pretty typical for a wad gun using a slide mount dot.. I'd proabaly go with a 12-13 for normal lead loads with iron sights.. I run a 14 in my EIC 45 where I use lighter jacketed loads.  YMMV
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Post by Olde Pilot on 8/15/2019, 4:37 pm

16# in my Kimber EIC gun. Shoots anything from 200 LSWC/3.5BE to 185JHP/4.5BE. Don't arbitrarily lower recoil spring # or you may batter the gun (and yourself!).

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Post by lablover on 8/15/2019, 4:51 pm

jglenn21 wrote:10# is pretty typical for a wad gun using a slide mount dot.. I'd proabaly go with a 12-13 for normal lead loads with iron sights.. I run a 14 in my EIC 45 where I use lighter jacketed loads.  YMMV
I’d be curious on your lighted jacketed loads.  I’m running 4.3 N310 and a nosler 185 jhp in my ball gun with whatever spring came stock in it.  I think it’s 16??
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Post by Wobbley on 8/15/2019, 5:18 pm

Mike: I’d go with a 14 pound for Wadcutters loads. If that was too heavy try a 12. But I wouldn’t go lower.
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Post by jglenn21 on 8/15/2019, 6:26 pm

Joe, I run 4.2 of BE for the LL in my EIC gun. and 3.8 at the short line.. both are 10 ring or  better with way less recoil. may not be the most accurate load but plenty good enough and softer...
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Post by mikemyers on 8/15/2019, 7:45 pm

I can easily follow the above advice, but I'm confused about something.

My Springfield Armory 1911 has a lightweight rail and a Ultradot L/T which weighs only 37 grams.  That gun now has a 10# recoil spring.
The Baer slide seems similar to the slide on the Springfield, and the steel sights probably are about the same weight as my Ultradot L/T.
I would expect that both guns would use a similar weight recoil spring.

Let's say I use a 10, or an 11, or 12, or 13, or 14 pound spring.
I know how to tell the spring is too stiff - the slide won't lock back.
How do I know that the spring is too soft?  Is it just by "feel"?

Presumably, if I take ten shots with the 10# spring, then change to the 14# spring, using the same rounds each time, what is it that I might "feel"?
The force of the recoil would be the same.
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Post by lablover on 8/15/2019, 7:53 pm

jglenn21 wrote:Joe, I run 4.2 of BE for the LL in my EIC gun. and 3.8 at the short line.. both are 10 ring or  better with way less recoil. may not be the most accurate load but plenty good enough and softer...
Thanks buddy...
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Post by james r chapman on 8/15/2019, 8:34 pm

too soft, it won't chamber a round, or, it will hammer the hell out of the frame.
Your Baer barrel is installed differently than your SA. 

What works, is what works, don't muck it up by mucking around..
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Post by mikemyers on 8/15/2019, 9:07 pm

james r chapman wrote:too soft, it won't chamber a round, or, it will hammer the hell out of the frame.
Your Baer barrel is installed differently than your SA. 

What works, is what works, don't muck it up by mucking around..
That's what I'm trying to learn, and understand.  
What do you mean by a barrel being installed differently?

From 'wobbley':  Mike: I’d go with a 14 pound for Wadcutters loads. If that was too heavy try a 12. But I wouldn’t go lower.


 If that was too heavy, how would I know it?  What might the gun do with a spring that's too heavy, such that I would want to go for a lighter spring?  

My reasoning so far has been that the Baer Premiere II is designed to deal with a full load, such as 230 gr Winchester White Box ammo.
I don't enjoy shooting that ammo, because of the recoil.
All the parts of the gun need to be beefed up enough to deal with that load.
Therefore, it seemed reasonable to me that with a lighter load, the slide might not even have enough force to go all the way to the rear when the gun fires.
Therefore, if I want to shoot my wadcutter ammo, I need to reduce the strength of the recoil spring.
That leaves me wondering how much.  

Until I understand this, I'll just let the gun sit.  I was starting to re-assemble the gun for 45, as I had taken the upper end off so I could use the gun with my Nelson.
So much to learn.............       Thank you.
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Post by Wobbley on 8/15/2019, 9:47 pm

If the spring is too heavy the gun might not lock back. If it’s too light the secondary recoil from the slid hitting the frame will hurt.
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Post by Dr.Don on 8/15/2019, 10:19 pm

Mike, for a given load you know that a particular spring is not too light by knowing (by testing) that the next heavier spring doesn’t function correctly and lock back.  That’s the way we do it.
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Post by javaduke on 8/15/2019, 10:37 pm

Mike, every single gun is different. If you take two guns from the same manufacturer, even with consecutive serial numbers, they may require different springs to function reliably. You have to tune YOUR gun to YOUR load. Here's how I do it (I'm not saying this is the right way, I'm saying this process works for me). I pick a spring to start with, say, 10#. If it cycles the gun, I try 11#, then 12# and so on, until I start getting malfunctions, failures to eject, failures to feed, slide not locking on an empty mag, etc. Then I go back one. This way I ensure I have the stiffest spring that still allows the gun to cycle reliably while absorbing as much recoil energy as possible. The downside of this is that you end up with a lot of unused springs. Well, you can sell them to me - or use them as a starting point for a new build, just add all other parts Smile)))

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Post by mikemyers on 8/15/2019, 11:10 pm

javaduke wrote:Mike, every single gun is different. If you take two guns from the same manufacturer, even with consecutive serial numbers, they may require different springs to function reliably. You have to tune YOUR gun to YOUR load. Here's how I do it (I'm not saying this is the right way, I'm saying this process works for me).


  • I pick a spring to start with, say, 10#. If it cycles the gun, I try 11#, then 12# and so on, until I start getting malfunctions, 
  • failures to eject, failures to feed, slide not locking on an empty mag, etc. 
  • Then I go back one. 
  • This way I ensure I have the stiffest spring that still allows the gun to cycle reliably while absorbing as much recoil energy as possible. 


The downside of this is that you end up with a lot of unused springs. Well, you can sell them to me - or use them as a starting point for a new build, just add all other parts Smile)))

I never thought of it that way....    Now that you've posted it, it makes perfect sense to me.

I have springs for 10, 11, 13, 16, and 18#.
I guess I should add 12, 14, 15, and 17 if I'm going to follow you.
I also bought one of the spring testers that was discussed in this forum, but haven't used it yet.

People tell me "I think too much".  I guess they're right, but that's just the way I am.

Thanks to all of you!
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Post by inthebeech on 8/16/2019, 5:38 am

Did you just say you bought a spring tester?
Isn't it kind of obvious if it is broken?  They are usually way shorter.
Did you mean that you have a spring rate gauge?  That might be useful for verifying brand new springs assuming the gun industry truly uses the engineering definition of "rate" but I wouldn't trust it with any spring that has had any amount of use.
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Post by mikemyers on 8/16/2019, 8:15 am

I'm getting even more confused....

This is what I bought:
What might be an appropriate recoil spring for a Les Baer 1911 Premiere II, shooting light bullseye rounds? Screen67


My understanding is that I can measure the strength of any spring intended to be used in a standard 5" 1911 handgun.
I haven't used it yet - I wanted to learn more about springs before doing so.

I don't get what you mean - what is "broken"?  
Also, while it might be "obvious" to you, I don't know enough yet to make anything obvious.
Eventually, I hope a lot of these things will be "obvious" to me, but I've got a long ways to go.
Thanks to all of you, I'm learning.

Why did I get the tester?  I thought it might be useful to actually measure any of my springs, and know the actual strength, rather than relying on what I think it's supposed to be.
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Post by javaduke on 8/16/2019, 8:19 am

I have one of these and it is not very accurate, usually it is about a pound off. I buy calibrated spring packs from Wolff and keep them organized and labeled, this way I know which spring is installed in which gun.

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Post by james r chapman on 8/16/2019, 8:45 am

Generally, overall length, outside diameter # coils , diameter of wire. Can be used to compare springs from known manufacturers. Thus the calibration spring kit.
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Post by DA/SA on 8/16/2019, 8:58 am

I use the color coded springs, as it makes it dead simple to keep track of them.


Mike, 

As to the tester, it doesn't make any difference what the actual tested spring weight is, the gun either functions or it doesn't.

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Post by STEVE SAMELAK on 8/16/2019, 9:17 am

To me the spring tester is only used as a base line reference.
In the beginning I take a new spring and check to make sure it works.
If it works, then I use the tester to measure & record what it "weighed" an sore for future reference.
If it doesn't work then I play musical chairs with until it does....& record.

Just because it says so on the package it doesn't make it true or valid until you test.
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Post by mikemyers on 8/16/2019, 9:46 am

I just had a long discussion with Cary Tate at Wilson Combat.  A few interesting things he told me:

First, a 5" Wilson 1911 comes with two springs, 18.5# for full loads, and 12# for light loads.

He sent me to this paragraph on the Wilson Combat web page  https://shopwilsoncombat.com/Recoil-Spring-5-Full-Size-18-1_2-Lb/productinfo/10G18/
"HOW TO TEST TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE CORRECT RECOIL SPRING WEIGHT FOR YOUR AMMUNITION:  Go to the range with your pistol and a magazine that will positively lock your slide to the rear when you slowly retract the slide with the pistol empty. Load one round of the desired ammunition in the proven magazine, load the pistol and fire the single shot holding the pistol in your strong hand, but grip the pistol fairly loose. If the pistol consistently (5 to 10 shots is adequate) locks the slide to the rear, the recoil spring is not too heavy for your ammunition. A recoil spring that is 1-2# below the weight where you begin to have failures to lock open is ideal for your ammunition."

Cary told me that there is a formula for this.  Multiply bullet speed in fps x bullet weight, to get the "power factor".
He looked this up, and found that the speed of a bullet from using 4.2 grains of WST over a 185 grain bullet = 750 fps.
Therefore 750 fps x 185 = 138,000 power factor.
He said that since I'm using only 3.8 grains of WST, not 4.2, my power factor would be even lower.
According to Cary, Wilson's 10# recoil spring is appropriate for 125,000 to 135,000 power factor.
He then told me that according to these numbers, I should be able to even use the 10# spring.

Or, I could use a 12# spring, which Wilson provides with a new 45 1911 "for use with light loads".

-------------------------------

I'm not going to do anything until I understand this better.  Maybe the next thing for me to do, is verify with Terry at Magnus Bullets what the power factor would be using 3.8 grains WST over his #801 bullets.  Need to find an appropriate spring weight that you guys (with all. your experience) approve.  Maybe a 14# spring would be a good starting point, as was already recommended in this discussion?
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Post by Wobbley on 8/16/2019, 10:06 am

If you really want to understand springs and such, good luck.

In my 30+ years of Mechanical Engineering design, I learned a few things. We used to get all wound up about spring rate, but in reality what we were after was a force at one length and a different force at another. Add tolerances and the rates get to be all over. So we quit specifying rates and specified forces.

EG: if we specify 12 lb +/-.5 at compressed and 4 lb +/- .5 at extended, (with a difference of 1.5 inches in working lengths) , gives a spring rate tolerance of just over 20%, which is normal for a spring.
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Post by STEVE SAMELAK on 8/16/2019, 10:14 am

Constants aren't & variables won't

The aspirin that you take has not been tested
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Post by mikemyers on 8/16/2019, 10:45 am

Wobbley wrote:Mike: I’d go with a 14 pound for Wadcutters loads.  If that was too heavy try a 12.  But I wouldn’t go lower.  
Dave, I'd like two things.

For now, I'd like to know what spring to put in my Baer Premiere II with steel sights, and your suggestion of 14# seems to be a good one.

I'd also like to "really understand springs and such".  I realize I'm nowhere even close to fully understanding, but as I understand it now, the strength of the spring as noted on the package (Wolff, Baer, Wilson, whatever) is very likely to be the proper value for the spring that I am buying.

I may still be somewhat confused for now, but I also know that if I had bought a Wilson, not a Baer, and followed the instructions with the gun, if I were shooting my light Bullseye load, I would be removing the 18.5# spring that came with the gun, and replacing it with the 12# spring that was also included.



Then too, Cary is telling me information he has read in the documentation and what products Wilson sells.  Your recommendation comes from a Bullseye shooter who I've learned to pay attention to, which leave me feeling more comfortable following your advice regardless of what it says in that documentation.
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Post by mikemyers on 8/16/2019, 11:01 am

Just for the record, I called Les Baer (and he answered himself), and asked two questions.

a) What spring comes on the Baer Wad gun with the attached mount for a sight - answer 13#

b) What spring should I put on my Premiere II - answer 3.8 WST might not be enough, he suggested 4.0 grains WST, and for the spring, a Wolff spring between 13 and 15 pounds.  He told me to get a "variable" spring.  When I asked why, he said because it unlocks easier.  I don't understand this, need to do more reading.  

So Dave, your suggestion is right in the middle of what Les is telling me.


Also, looking up Variable Rate Springs, I found this from Brownells:
https://www.brownells.com/handgun-parts/recoil-parts/recoil-springs/government-model-variable-power-recoil-spring-prod24868.aspx
"Variable rate springs function correctly with a wider range of loads than fixed rate springs can. Rate increases as spring is compressed; gives greater protection against frame battering, more consistent lockup and improved feeding, while allowing eas­ier manual cycling of the action. Recoil Calibration Pakcontains 1 each of seven different springs; 16½ lb., 15 lb., 14 lb., 13 lb., 11 lb., 10 lb. and 9 lb., plus three extra power firing pin springs. Individual Spring Pak ­contains one variable power recoil spring and one extra power firing pin spring. Factory weight is 16 lb."


Is a variable rate spring better for Bullseye shooting?


Last edited by mikemyers on 8/16/2019, 11:10 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : oops, corrected a typo)
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