5th October 2011, 05:43
EGW Ignition Kit review
EGW Ignition Kit
Sweetness in a baggie
Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis
Evolution Gun Works (EGW, for short) is a small shop that has developed a large reputation among people who know 1911 pistols. Among other offerings not available anywhere else, EGW offers custom-made barrel bushings, to turn any existing barrel and slide into a match fit configuration. Recently, EGW entered the market with a “trigger job in a box” or, in this case, in a baggie.
If one peruses the 1911 pages in Brownells’ full catalog, or the 1911-specific mini catalog, it can be seen that several vendors offer matched sets of ignition parts that are intended and calibrated to create crisp, low-weight trigger pulls simply by dropping the parts into your pistol.There are any number of posts in the “Gunsmithing” discussion area of the M1911.ORG forum asking how well these kits work … or if they work at all.
George Smith, the owner of EGW, was willing to stand behind his EGW Ignition Kit, so he sent us one to try out. The kit arrived in a small plastic, zip-lock bag, with a product ID card inside. There were no instructions, but we don’t regard this as a negative. Candidly, if you need a set of written instructions to remove the original ignition parts and drop in a set of finely machined parts such as contained in the EGW kit, you probably should not consider attempting it at all.
The EGW Ignition Kit, as received
Inside the baggie, we found a lightweight hammer, a sear, a disconnector, a sear spring, and a mainspring. It is worth noting that the mainspring is for a Government model or Commander. The Officers ACP and Defender size pistols typically have a shorter mainspring housing that requires a shorter and larger diameter main spring. EGW's web site does not at the present time show a similar kit for the Officers ACP and Defender size pistols.
The goodies inside the kit
The hammer and sear are both machined extremely nicely. Although the flats do not appear to have been polished, they are very smooth and uniform. The mating surfaces are likewise clean and smooth, both to visual inspection and when dragging a fingernail across the surface to feel for roughness that the eye can’t see.
The sear spring is a more or less conventional unit with three leaves, as designed by John Browning. Other vendors have tried out four-leaf sear springs as a way to obtain light triggers, but EGW didn’t go that route. The sides of the left and center leaves (the sear and disconnector leaves) are coped, narrowing the central portion of each leaf. This is a departure from Browning’s original design for the sear spring, but it works. This configuration makes it easier to tune the trigger in the three to five-pound range typically favored today. Browing’s design was for a military pistol and for a specified range of trigger pull weight that most of us would find intolerable. In fact, the new sear spring looked a lot like a Colt sear spring – and, according to EGW’s web site, it is a Colt sear spring. In this writer’s opinion, there is no better sear spring available for the 1911, anywhere, at any price.
Since there was no documentation, there was no indication of what the rating was for the new mainspring. The product description on EGW’s web site, however, tells us that the new mainspring is an ISMI spring rated at 19 pounds. I debated even using it, because I didn’t want to disassemble the mainspring housing, but that would not have been a test of the entire kit. I gave in to journalistic integrity and installed the new mainspring.
The new disconnector was finished overall with a deep blue/black. The “paddle” and “wedge” surfaces were very smooth and didn’t show any stray machining marks, but I was a bit surprised to see that both surfaces were blued rather than polished.
Having dissected the kit, it was time to install the parts in a pistol and see how well the kit did (or didn’t) clean up a poor trigger. Thinking about it, I realized that I am very happy with the triggers in my small “arsenal” of 1911s, and all my triggers have been tuned (by me). It didn’t seem that putting a drop-in kit up against a pistol with a trigger that has already been worked on was quite fair.
Dilemma – what to do?
I am fortunate to shoot with (or against) a number of competitors who shoot and accumulate (like me, most of them aren’t really “collectors,” just “accumulators”) 1911s. If I need something other than what I have as a prop or test bed for a review, I can usually come up with something in short order. This was no exception. I couldn’t find an old Colt, but I was able to lay my grubby paws on an Argentinean Sistema. For those who aren’t familiar with the Sistema, they were manufactured in Argentina for the Argentinean military and police, under license from Colt and using tooling purchased from Colt. They are generally considered to be excellent clones of the M1911A1, and about as close as can be to a Colt without having a rampant pony on the slide.
The pistol I came up with had been refinished somewhere along the line, but except for the magazine all the numbers matched. The owner told me he had not done anything to it and that as far as he knew it was as manufactured inside. After trying the trigger a few times, I was inclined to agree. The trigger was a horribly heavy, creepy, gritty piece of work that broke at approximately 7-1/2 pounds. Ugh! This was, indeed, going to be the acid test for the EGW Ignition Kit.
The test pistol – before
Installing the kit
Without further ado, having procured a suitable guinea pig, we set out to do the dirty deed. The aging Sistema offered a few complaints at being disturbed after so long, but with minimal hassles we had the frame stripped and the ignition parts removed. Time to start installing the EGW parts.
And we immediately encountered a problem. After laying the disconnector in place, we popped the sear into the frame and tried to insert a tiny drift punch through the frame from the right side to get everything aligned before inserting the sear pin. But … it wasn’t working. Finally, we removed the sear and discovered that the head of the disconnector would not pop up through the hole in the top of the frame.
My immediate reaction was to grab a round file and enlarge the opening, but this wasn’t going to be a permanent installation and I didn’t think it was appropriate to start modifying an old pistol that was going to be put back to original configuration after our experiment. I did put a small rattail file down through the disconnector hole, but only enough to ensure that there were no burrs or caked-on gunk getting in the way. A second try with the new disconnector was still unsuccessful.
I then examined the EGW disconnector, the Sistema disconnector, and a new disconnector from my parts drawer. The original disconnector head had a diameter of 0.153 inches. The new one from Brownells measured 0.154 inches. A close inspection of the head of the EGW disconnector revealed that it has an enlarged bulge, or collar, at the base of the head. The diameter at this bulge was 0.165 inches. The dimension for the disconnector hole as shown on the 1911 blueprints available on the M1011.ORG Home page site indicates that the hole should be 0.164” +.003”. The blueprint dimension for the disconnector head is 0.155" - .004".
I had no way of accurately measuring the inside diameter of the bore, but clearly the shoulder or collar on the EGW disconnector is intended to be a very close fit ... closer than as designed, and larger than "mil-spec." In this instance, it was a bit too close. Finally, in keeping with the age-old advice to “Always whack on the cheaper part,” I took the disconnector and a small sheet of fine emery cloth, pinched the disconnector head into a fold of the emery cloth, and rotated it manually. After a couple of minutes I had removed enough material to achieve a light press fit. A few more rotations and the disconnector head slid cleanly through the hole.
Back to the hunt.
I now had the disconnector and sear installed in the receiver. Next up was the hammer. The kit does not include a hammer strut, so I grabbed one out of the parts bin, along with a new hammer strut pin. I dug out the bench block in anticipation of having to hammer the strut pin into the hammer. Silly me – it fell right in. And, of course, when I picked up the hammer the pin immediately fell out. The pin hole in the hammer was just a hair oversized, perhaps assuming that anyone buying this kit would be using pins made to maximum sizes (or larger). My spare pins are all standard. What would have worked on this hammer is an alternate type of hammer pin that’s actually a tiny roll pin. However, a 1911 can function with a loose hammer strut pin, so I left it loose and assembled the hammer into the receiver, then I laid the new sear spring in place.
Next up was to install the new mainspring. Getting the mainspring housing apart wasn’t difficult, but removing the mainspring cap and retainer from the old mainspring was difficult. In fact, removing the retainer (the wedge-shaped piece that goes in the bottom end of the spring) proved to be impossible. Fortunately, the spare parts drawer yielded a new retainer, so we could proceed.
With all the (minor) problems overcome, the pistol was reassembled and I put it through a quick safety check. The thump safety clicked on and did not allow the hammer to fall. The grip safety still stopped the trigger from moving to the rear (as it should, since neither the trigger itself nor the grip safety was changed). The trigger pull felt very clean and crisp, and it was perceptibly lighter than before.
The test pistol – after
In running through the safety checks, however, we were a bit taken aback to find that the thumb safety could be applied with the hammer in the half cock position. This is NOT typical for a 1911, but the same thing has been reported with a few other “performance” hammers; material has been removed from the bottom of the hammer, near the strut pin hole. That material in a hammer of the original design is what block the thumb safety lug doesn’t allow the thumb safety to be set in the half cock position. On reflection, we can’t see that this in any way makes the pistol less safe than the original design. It’s just different ... and sometimes it’s difficult for old hands to deal with “different.” Ultimately, I believe that each prospective buyer will have to decide for him or herself whether or not this is a sticking point.
Detail of the EGW hammer / Detail of a conventional 1911 hammer for comparison
And, at last, we get to the point of all this: How was the trigger with the EGW Ignition Kit installed?
In a word – “Fantastic.” To be honest, I could not believe the results. Nothing was tweaked. All the EGW parts were installed exactly as they came out of the baggie (except for reducing the diameter of the disconnector head – which doesn’t affect trigger pull). There was NO creep and NO grittiness. The trigger broke exceptionally cleanly, and the pull weight measured 3-1/2 pounds, exactly, consistently, using an RCBS analog trigger scale.
To borrow a word from one of my favorite authors, I was gobsmacked.
The EGW Ignition Kit delivers what it promises: A clean, light trigger pull. For those who hold that as the highest priority, this kit is tailor made.
The drawbacks I see are:
- The disconnector head is oversized. It seems in trying for an optimally tight fit EGW went just a hair too far. By making the head several tousandths of an inch larger than the largest mil-spec dimension, they created the possibility of an interference fit in the disconnector bore.
- The hole for the hammer strut pin is too large. This pin should be a press fit. With the hammer installed in the received the pin is effectively held captive by the sides of the frame, but the pin should not be loose enough to fall out. It makes it too easy to lose the pin when cleaning the pistol. Using the roll pin type of strut pin would alleviate this issue, but not everyone has access to that type of hammer strut pin.
- Operation of the thumb safety is changed. As noted, being able to engage the thumb safety at half cock doesn’t make the pistol unsafe, but it is a change in the manual of arms. For some people that’s not an issue, but for those who own and regularly shoot more than one 1911, having one pistol that operates differently from the others may not be an optimum solution.
One other factor to consider is the aesthetics. The EGW hammer looked somewhat comical installed in a matte black, military configuration pistol. In this writer’s opinion, the EGW hammer would look far more appropriate in a more modern pistol in stainless steel.
At this point, those who have been paying attention may be saying, "Wait a minute! This is an elongated loop hammer, and those don't work with the GI grip safety. What's going on here?"
What's going on is that it is, indeed, an elongated loop style hammer, but the loop is smaller than the typical version. Most elongated loop ("combat" style) hammers have the exact same outer profile as the original Colt Commander "rowel" style hammer, but with the hole enlarged and elongated. Those, indeed, will not work with a GI grip safety. They need a bite carved out of the upper surface in order to allow the hammer to be cocked, as shown in this photo of a 1991 Combat Commander:
Compare that to this view of the EGW hammer cocked over a GI grip safety:
The following two photos show the EGW hammer overlaid on a standard Commander "rowel" style hammer, and then a standard, elongated loop hammer. Note how the EGW hammer's loop is both narrower and shorter than the traditional hammers:
Finally, the following photo is a direct, side-by-side comparison of the EGW hammer against a standard, elongated loop hammer:
Overall, I was very impressed with the EGW Ignition Kit. It is obvious that a lot of care has gone into what appears to be just a bag of replacement parts. For example, those who shoot finely tuned 1911s in competition often worry that if the hammer falls from full cock to half cock, the impact of the hammer may damage the finely honed tip of the sear. EGW has anticipated this. The outer edges of the half cock notch on the hammer have been ground away, leaving only the center portion. If the hammer drops to half cock, only the center of the sear tip would be damaged. And there is no metal there at the full cock position of the hammer, so the hammer/sear interface would be unaffected by a hammer crash. Nice touch.
Sides of half cock notch removed to protect sear nose
By the way ... after reassembling the pistol with all its original parts I checked the trigger pull again. It felt a bit less gritty than it had before (perhaps some dry firing had helped clean up the mating surfaces), but the trigger pull was now more than eight pounds -- and my RCBS analog scale only measures to eight pounds. So there is no question that the EGW Ignition Kit accomplishes what it intends to accomplish, very effectively. Remember, although it is axiomatic that with 1911s there is no such critter as a truly "drop-in" part ... I did nothing to the parts in this kit other than fit the disconnector to the bore. Everything else was dropped in as received.
The EGW Ignition Kit is available with either a solid hammer or a lightened hammer. Unfortunately, at this time there is no image of the solid hammer available on their web site so we can’t show or tell you what it looks like.
You can use this thread in our Forums Site to discuss the items in this review.
Evolution Gun Works, Inc.
48 Belmont Avenue
Quakertown, PA 18951
Last edited by Harwood Loomis; 24th September 2011 at 18:25.