How to Install an Ambidextrous Safety on a Colt 1911

by Jacob Buckenmeyer ; Updated October 25, 2017

Modifications to the M1911 can be performed easily at your kitchen table.

pistol image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com

M1911 pistols are among the most frequently customized handguns on the planet. They have been produced by more than a dozen manufacturers. Colt was the original company to design the M1911, and most current model parts are interchangeable with the orignial Colt. The factory thumb safety on most M1911 handguns is fitted on the left side for right-handed shooters. Ambidextrous thumb safeties are available to add onto your factory pistol, and installation is quite easy.

Pistol Disassembly

Press down on the recoil spring cap. With the slide pushed back 1/4-inch, use your index finger to push the spring cap down. The cap is located just under the front of the barrel.

Rotate the barrel bushing to the left. Depressing the spring cap will allow you to turn the barrel bushing to the left with your other hand. Use caution as you release pressure on the cap, as the spring will now expand, pushing the cap out from the barrel. Remove the cap, spring and bushing and set them aside.

Remove the slide release catch. Move the slide back along the frame until the small notch on the slide (see References) is aligned with the far tip of the slide release. Push the slide release pin in from the other side and pull the piece out of the gun.

Remove the slide and the thumb safety. Slide the slide forward and off the gun's frame. With the hammer cocked back, slowly pull the thumb safety out of the gun as you move the safety from the "off" position to the "on" position.

Installation of the Ambidextrous Safety

Identify the left and right sides of the safety. The left side (as viewed from the rear) will have two bolts protruding from its side into the gun. The right side will only have one.

Insert the left side of the safety. Using the butter knife, depress the rear portion of the spring-loaded pin above the left grip. This pin must be depressed before the new safety will slide in. Insert the left safety piece in the same fashion as you removed the original safety.

Insert the right side of the safety. The single bolt on the side of this piece is inserted where the rear bolt of your original safety exited the right side of the gun. The two safety parts will click together when you press them inside the gun.

Reassemble your weapon. Reassemble your firearm by reversing the steps in the first section. The new safety can be engaged by moving either side up to the "on" position when the hammer is cocked.

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About the Author

Jacob Buckenmeyer began writing professionally in 2005. His work has been published in "The Western Front," "Klipsun" magazine, "The Planet" magazine, "Catholic News Service" and various other websites and newspapers. Buckenmeyer has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Western Washington University.