Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Hi Power and Hammer Bite

The Hi Power's hammer biting the hand that holds it is not an uncommon problem for many of us. Usually, it is not all that difficult to cure.

This affliction usually occurs when the tip of the hammer spur hits the shooting hand behind the pistol's abbreviated tang. Folks who are bitten by the spur hammer will usually get the same if using the factory ring hammer which is the hammer almost always seen on the Practical out of the box.

Looking carefully, you can see that this Hi Power sports an unaltered spur hammer. This combination bites many folks during shooting, including me.

This Mk III hammer has been bobbed at the second later serration as described later on in the text.

Folks bitten by the Hi Power usually fall into three categories:

1.Those who get hit by the rear of the hammer spur or the lower rear of the factory ring hammer.

2.Those who get the web of the hand pinched by the rear of the hammer shank and tang.

3.Those who get bit for the reasons cited in both #1 and #2!

I fall in with the first group and have found that the easiest way to rid myself of this problem is to bob the hammer spur off at about the second lateral serration from the rear of the spur. This is a small amount, but it makes a huge difference for me.

I use a cutting wheel to carefully cut the spur at the second lateral serration. Smooth and contour the edges to your own liking and then cold blue. Actually, I put a small amount of the cold blue into the plastic lid and then microwave for a very few seconds (3 to 6, depending upon the microwave) to get it hot. I immediately apply with a Q-tip. FWIW, it seems to "take" better that way. Be sure to apply oil as soon as the color from the "hot" blue is where you like it. This will stop the chemical action and prevent rusting.

Usually taking the steps mentioned above will solve hammer bite from the Hi Power for most people. Another option is to use a C&S Type I rowell (ring) hammer. This hammer is very similar to the old "Commander" hammer seen on 1911 pistols with the ring being more circular than the FN factory ring hammer. The C&S hammer does not extend as far rearward as the factory hammer. You can see pictures of it here:

Look under "Parts".

I use the CS198 Type I hammer but their relieved CS197 might be a better choice for folks getting the webs of their shooting hand pinched. The hammer shank has been relieved and is less likely to pinch the web of the hand between it and the pistol tang. I do not recommend the Type II hammer if hammer bite is a problem. Stick with the Type I.

This Hi Power served with me in police service for years. It has the Type I ring hammer from C&S.

If you pistol has a spur hammer and a good trigger pull, I'd simply bob it. If you go with the C&S ring hammer, you really need to go with their sear as well. It's harder than the factory sear and using their hammer with the factory sear does not result in a stable trigger pull for more than about 2K rounds in my experience. If you get the hammer and the sear, you will probably have to have a trigger job as well. This is considerably more expensive than just bobbing the spur or bobbing and having a trigger job done.

Taking one of the approaches described above usually solves hammer bite problems for folks in groups 1 & 2. A gunsmith can also remove the lower portion of the factory ring hammer should this be desired. This is harder than it looks, especially in reshaping, and I suggest one hire a gunsmith for it. Some gunsmiths can make your existing spur or ring hammer into a "no bite" hammer like the C&S. If your pistol already has a great trigger pull, but you get pinched all of the time, this is an option that will save you the cost of a trigger job and C&S parts. The relief cut on the shank of a factory spur hammer as well as bobbing it should solve the problem for almost all the folks bitten by their Hi Powers. Ditto using the C&S parts.

FWIW, replacing the factory spur hammer with the older factory FN ring hammer usually does not help. Most folks find that the factory ring hammer is more prone to hammer bite than the spur hammer.

If you are "lucky" enough to be one who finds no relief, several of the name Hi Power gunsmiths like Novak's, Bill Laughridge, Ted Yost, or Gartwaite (and others) can weld an extended tang onto your Hi Power. This is expensive and requires that the frame be refinished, but this will solve the problem.