How to Tune Your Pistol With a New Set of Springs

When it comes to buying used guns, there is nothing more frustrating than dealing with some of the creative choices of the previous owner(s). When I picked up a used SIG SAUER P225 A1 the other day, I was expecting a walk in the park, just like I do when I unbox a brand new SIG pistol for review. But that was not to be. Today we’re going to look at tuning a pistol with new Wolff springs and what you can expect to achieve as a result.

I have been buying guns and fixing them up for years, from Mausers to J-Frames, and I’m always surprised when I see the lengths to which some people go to “improve” their firearms. There are many things I consider borderline criminal when it comes to the cosmetic features of guns, such as cheap and gawdy accessories and vomitous paint schemes, but nothing compares to the unforgivable sacrilege of…sporterization.

Some people are more subtle in their chosen improvements, such as filing and tweaking the internals to run better with a given type of ammo or polishing surfaces to reduce friction. It can take a trained eye to spot these things, but even a seasoned dumpster diver like me can be misled on occasion.

I recently picked up a SIG SAUER P225 A1 pistol in good condition. This is a very nice gun that’s an update to one of the original SIG carry guns. The A1 designation brings modern features to the old gun and makes it arguably one of the most comfortable guns made. If you haven’t wrapped your mitts around one, I very much recommend you do.

The gun is a relatively simple compact single-stack version of the full size 9mm P229. This is not really a review of this pistol, but its design is important here. The P225 A1 is compact, about the same overall size as a GLOCK 19, but isn’t chunky or bulky. It’s a double/single action with a decocker, the same as most SIG pistols.

The only serious complaint about the gun is its capacity. They only hold eight rounds with one in the chamber. The magazine body is basically the same as that used in the P239, which is a smaller gun. I would love it if SIG came out with a dedicated nine round or slightly extended ten round mag for this otherwise excellent pistol. It wouldn’t take much effort to do and would remove any perceived handicap of carrying a midsize 9mm with comparatively low capacity. SIG managed to fit 10 rounds into the miniscule P365 so it seems possible in the P225.

When I took this gun to the range after I picked it up, I was deeply saddened. The thing wouldn’t cycle at all. I thought it was because I was using cheap target ammo, but the problem persisted with every single load I tried. I experienced just about every failure known to man that frustrating afternoon.

Many people would simply give up on the gun and sell it at that point, but I decided to see if I could make it cycle.

My first task was to clean it and go back to the range. I wiped about a tablespoon of gunk out of it and removed some mysterious burrs on the slide rails with a fine stone. Confident in my results, I fired it again with everything from 115gr plated rounds to some Buffalo Bore +P+.

The gun cycled a bit better, if you consider a malfunction every other shot better. At that point I knew something was wrong inside the gun. The trigger was admittedly heavy, but I was right in the middle of doing a bunch of .44 Magnum articles with double action revolvers and thought nothing of it.

I was troubleshooting the gun in my workroom and noticed that there appeared to be a great deal of upwards pressure being applied to the slide by the hammer as the slide moved to the rear. That’s when I decided to take a new route and get her some new springs.

My first mistake was assuming that the gun was all original when I bought it. SIG wouldn’t send out a gun that wouldn’t cycle with their own brand of ammo at the very least. I made note that the hammer spring was unusually heavy at this stage and the recoil spring weight was curiously light.

I did some reading and discovered that many people erroneously install a new hammer spring to increase the power of hammer strikes. It’s likely that the previous owner bought a case of ammo with hard primers and thought a new spring was the key to getting reliable ignition. Many people don’t consider that or don’t want to deal with getting rid of their ammo and will alter the gun instead. Weird, but it happens.

My next clue was the recoil spring. It was very light…so much so that it didn’t have sufficient forward momentum to strip a fresh round off the magazine. While easy to rack, the weak spring caused the slide to lose momentum during its rearward travel due to the increased power of the hammer spring. In a sense, the hammer was dragging and slowing the slide down enough to cause the gun to malfunction.

I called Wolff Gunsprings, the premier maker of all things spring-related, and discussed it with them. After I finished the conversation, I received two packs of springs to tune the gun. Each pack consisted of three different springs of different poundage ratings. I now had three firing pin springs, three recoil springs (21#, 19#, 17#), and three hammer springs (19#, 18#, 17#).

I took the gun, the springs, and a variety of ammo types to the range and set about testing them. I fired the clean gun with the springs it came with and instantly had malfunctions with each ammo type. Then I removed the hammer spring and replaced it with the lightest one at 17 pounds. What a difference it made. While I had an issue with light strikes, the trigger pull was dramatically reduced. The slide was now able to come back at full velocity with nothing to slow it down.

But a light recoil spring coupled with a light hammer spring wasn’t a great combination. The slide moved so quickly under recoil that it was slamming into the frame and again caused malfunctions. Not good.

I slipped the 21 pound version on the guide rod and the 17 pound hammer spring with the 18 pound one. It worked as far as eliminating the light strikes, but it slowed the slide down too much to where most ammo wouldn’t allow it to lock back empty or even cycle all the way. My recoil spring was now too strong.

Next, I replaced the 21 pound recoil spring with the 19 pound version. This worked for the most part, but the gun still didn’t feel right. The firing pin marks were still too light for comfort and the slide was still a bit too stiff. The recoil felt jarring, not smooth, although it was now cycling 100% with all ammo.

My last combination was to install the 17 pound recoil spring and the 19 pound hammer spring…and it was as if the lights all suddenly turned green. The slide velocity was smooth and it locked back on an empty mag with all types of ammo. The primer marks were deep and the trigger pull in both double and single action was far, far lighter and smoother than what I started with. The gun was like a whole new animal and it just wanted to shoot anything I put in it.

So this story had a happy ending, but that’s not always the case with many unfortunate guns out there. If you’re having difficulties with your pistol, I’d suggest you start by changing out the springs. There’s no guarantee that your gun will be more accurate and reliable, but it’s worth a shot before you sell or consider major alterations.

In my talk with Wolff, they told me that many people are under the impression that certain spring kits will enhance accuracy, slide unlock timing, and a variety of other things. While this can be true, it all depends on the individual gun.

My results here may not be your results, even with the same model of pistol. The previous owner clearly thought that changing the springs would enhance the gun, but that was obviously not the case. I would absolutely recommend trying out several springs like I did here to get the best results.

 

comments

  1. avatar Freebird says:

    Step # 1 …. ask trump and ATF for permission and check to see if ‘ springs ‘ have been declared a machine gun yet.
    Step # 2 …. pay fee.

  2. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    Don’t forget Rob Pincus. Because he might not want us to have those ?

  3. avatar LickedButt says:

    @Freebird

    Lol, classic.

  4. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    Good article and I hate to change topic BUT has Mr. Pincus responded to a simple question? Would he turn his magazines in ?

  5. avatar D says:

    Please explain the Pincus comments. What did he say or do?

  6. avatar possum says:

    I was having fits with the 1911 I have, I didn’t know much about them and still don’t. It just wasn’t ejecting right and kept ftf. I tried everything I thought, polish, tune extractor, piddle with ejector, more polish, slide needs tightened, can’t be barrel bushing, am I limp writing? Lo and behold the recoil spring was weak, simple things first they say. New springs from Wolff’s and wow it’s like new again. Now anytime someone has trouble with an older semi- auto pistol my question to them is ” did you change springs” . Wolff gave me good service and I am more then happy with their stuff. And if you notice most of my post are negative on just about everything( that’s just me having fun ragging on company’s) I give Wolff’s a big thumbs up…… Now I’m heading out the door and shoot that 1911 dontch kno, gotta hear that click clack.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Limp writing is kinda like limp wristing only u can’t spell. Lol

  7. avatar Hoyden says:

    Had the same problems with a post W German police P6. Wolff springs FTFW.

  8. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    Mr. Pincus thinks New Jersey residents should turn in their magazines, Because “its the law”

    1. avatar Mad Max says:

      Please don’t turn them in; send them to us in Pennsylvania. We’ll use ’em.

    2. avatar Mad Max says:

      Better yet, donate them to the poor.

      http://reason.com/blog/2018/12/19/baltimores-gun-buyback-program-is-insane

      See the last few paragraphs.

  9. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    A while back I purchased a new Glock Model 22 Gen 3 (.40 S&W). It would exhibit a failure about once every 10 shots. (Unfortunately, I do not remember if the failures were stove-pipes or failure to feed — I want to say they were stove-pipes.) I stopped shooting it after about 50 rounds of ammunition and it has rested on a shelf ever since.

    Any guesses if that was a recoil spring problem? Perhaps the recoil spring was too stiff from being new and simply needed to break-in?

    For reference I am pretty sure that the failures were NOT because of limp-wristing: I shoot other handguns in .40 S&W and .45 ACP with ZERO failures. And I even made it a point to shoot a full magazine with a “gorilla grip” to ensure that limp-wristing was not the problem and failures still occurred.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Golly I don’t know much about Glocks, but if it’s new, brand new, I’m guessing it’s probably not a recoil spring problem. With no more then the cost of a spring though that’s probably what I would change first. That and put a dummy round in it( mine wouldn’t be) cycle the action real slow and watch what the bullet does. …… I’m starting to like break open shotguns more and more. Tee hee

    2. avatar Widdler says:

      If the guns new then springs should be ok, but things happen sometimes so it’s worth a look. Maybe check your ammo too, I got stove pipes back in the day from under charged handloads. (My fault) Bumped it up a tad and problem solved.

  10. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    And if my spelling or punctuation is off, Sorry I’m texting while driving, smoking a cigarette, eating a high in fat cheeseburger and washing it down with a beer on my way to the range with my 30 round mags before Lord Pincus tells me how to bitch up.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Natty lite $20 a 30 Pak, , more money for bullets….. 30rnd mags? Dude, if it ain’t 100 your just not operating. I like the grease dripping off my cheeseburger just like the grease dripping off my greasy possum girlfiend.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Natty Light. Blech, straight up piss water. Just save the $20 for ammo.

  11. avatar Vinny Boombotts says:

    I picked up a used Ruger SP 101 in 22LR and was very impressed by the trigger. I read Robert’s review complaining about how unnecessarily heavy the trigger was for a 22. I thought he must have had too many Lattes that day. Then I noticed in the box that the previous owner did change out the springs to lighten the trigger. I took it to the range and got absolutely horrible results. Every other round was a dud. I tried different ammo and same results. I checked with the local smithy and sure enough, the spring change was the culprit. Oh well, Robert was right, the revolver does have an ungodly heavy trigger pull but I guess it is necessary.

  12. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Two items:

    First, a rule of thumb I use with coil springs:

    If you lay the old spring and a new spring side-by-side, and the old spring is less than 90% of the length of the new spring, I generally replace the spring. I always keep the old spring with the gun, in case an owner needs it for an “all original” issue with the collectability of the gun.

    Second, Wolff certainly makes lots of springs, but they don’t make all springs. They don’t make Colt V-springs for Colt double-action revolvers, they don’t make some of the springs you need in older single action revolvers, they don’t have springs for old revolvers like Merwin & Hulberts (as an example), they don’t make mainsprings for older shotguns like LC Smiths, etc. There are still plenty of gun situations where a gunsmith has to know how to make springs from scratch, either from flatstock or from music wire.

    For folks who want new springs custom-made, there are outfits that do nothing but make coil compression/extension/torsion springs from your choice of material. They’re easily found if you noodle around a ‘bit on the ‘net.

  13. avatar Mike H inWA says:

    This is why, generally, I keep all the original parts to a gun when I replace them… if/when I sell it, I either reinstall the OEM parts (if I want to hold onto the aftermarket parts), or give the new owner the OEM parts in a bag.

    Just because I liked a mod doesn’t mean the next shooter will.

  14. avatar Alan says:

    Unfortunately Wolff, in-so-far as I could determine does not produce recoil springs for the Star Model 30, these days out of production. Additionally, they were not, as I recall, able to suggest an alternative. Of course, there might not be one, who knows. Should anyone know better, please advise. Thanks.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      I don’t know of any company having even a regular run of them. Which is odd, because I’d bet they’d sell a decent run like hotcakes. Cripes, everything I’ve ever seen for the Star Model 30 aftermarket goes in a few months – or less. Even when it’s junk- (mags that I had to machine the flanks off)…

      The only other folks I know with Model 30s, covet every part they can find. $60 mags disappear at shows in hours, spare parts? Minutes.

      30Ms tend to last high round counts (30K+) before any failure at all. My suggestion is just buy another gun whenever you come across it. That’s the plan I have. YMMV

  15. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    The best $10 you could spend on a GP100 is a set of either Wolff or Wilson Combat springs. Go with the 8# trigger return spring and 10# hammer spring. You’ll take about a pound off both SA and DA pulls. Takes maybe an hour for the first time do it yourselfer. Plenty of vids on You Tube to see how it;s done. And the 10# is enough you’ll probably never fail to light a primer (I’ve heard the 9# will sometimes do that).

    1. avatar Porridgeweasel says:

      I’m gonna second the Gov.’s statement.
      I did that with my first GP100 and was so very pleased. In fact, I just made the switch to a stainless GP100 and put the Wolff springs in that one too. Sooo much better.

    2. avatar M1Lou says:

      Thanks for the heads up. I think I might do that to My GP100.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Trickiest part of the install is compressing the hammer springs. I used a fork which worked OK. Also the trigger assemblies were a little stubborn to pop out. If you don’t feel up to the task, a gunsmith could probably do it in 15-20 minutes.

  16. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Wolff makes great springs. When I put one of their light hammer springs in my Ruger .357 single actions it worked great until I started getting faster than the hammer could fall. Once I stepped up to the next weight that problem disappeared for me.

  17. avatar Proud SIG P320 Owner says:

    I was having all sorts of failures with an Agency Arms modified Glock 19 Gen5. The main issue was light primer strikes every box of ammunition. Luckily I was given the original recoil spring (and other original parts) and when customer service at Agency Arms suggested using the original spring, things got better. He admitted that Agency Arms had shipped some Glock 19’s a wrong spring which was too light and immediately shipped me the correct spring.

  18. avatar jakee308 says:

    People sometimes think they are mechanics when they are not. They believe they can fiddle with the springs and make things faster but they’re wrong.

    And while they do that they sometimes make mistakes and ruin the spring.

    This has happened to me buying used firearms. The lock back on one I bought when empty was iffy sometimes would sometimes would not. Took things apart and apparently some one tried to ‘modify’ the spring. I guess they thought is was too strong so they stretched the spring a bit. Now it was too loose. (the reason for the sale probably).

    Down to ye olde Ace Hardware and purchased a similar sized and strength spring.

    Installed and works fine. Sometimes it’s easier to buy generic springs than try to get a genuine replacement. You have to be careful and prepared to experiment like the guy in this story.

  19. avatar PeterK says:

    Huh.

    I loved the story. Thanks for sharing, and glad it worked out.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email