Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reworked: Springfield "Long Beach" Operator

Springfield Armory "Long Beach" Model Ready for Duty
Recently, a K-9 officer I had worked with when I was a Gang Detective purchased a Springfield "Long Beach" Operator model 1911. This model is was made at the request of Long Beach (CA) PD officers who essentially wanted an MC Operator but in an all black package. It is built with higher grade parts (and workmanship) than the typical "Loaded" model pistols, and is pretty close to being ready for duty. However, it still needed some intervention by skilled hands before it was ready for duty.

At a recent 10-8 Duty 1911 (Transition) course, this pistol could not pass the 10-8 Function Test Protocol. The factory extractor would not hold tension, and had to be replaced with a Wilson Bulletproof unit. Once the new extractor was fitted, it was good to go until the gun got hot and dry. Then it would hang up in the feed cycle. The owner asked me to look it over and I agreed.

The first thing I did was check headspace, which was in spec. Then I ran a Manson Finishing Reamer, which will recut the chamber to SAAMI spec. I have yet to drop this reamer in a factory barrel and not have it remove metal. In my opinion, this is cheap insurance to help the gun chamber and lock up when hot, dry and dirty. I looked at the barrel throat and saw it could use a little reprofiling. While I gave it a pretty high polish, this is not necessary. It is critical to have correct geometry as no amount of polishing will fix poor feed ramp or barrel throat geometry.

Here is what the throat looked like prior to reprofiling.

Here it is after:

One look at the feed ramp and it was obvious it was out of spec. The bottom of the ramp should be around .400" below the top of the frame rails. An easy way to eyeball this is to see if the bottom edge feed ramp is about even with the window for the slide stop lobe. As seen in the photo below, this one wasn't even close. You can get away with this if all you shoot is ball ammo, or non-aggressive hollow points, but if you want to shoot a variety of aggressive bullet profiles, this is a recipe for a feed way stoppage.

Here is the same frame after the feed ramp is recut and polished. Again, the polishing is really a feel good measure, and not important. Much more critical is the proper angle. Since I lack machines, this feed ramp was recut by hand with a Dremel. Polishing was carefully done by hand with paper and then a felt wheel.

Other mods include changing out the torn head grip screws with flat head ones (I don't carry torx drivers with me on the range) and relieving the grip panels to exposed the MSH pin. This particular pistol did not have enough trigger travel rearward to clear the sear for the safety shelf. Without going into a long treatise, this is a dangerous situation that could result in a broken sear nose. In this case, I had to clearance the grip safety arm as the trigger bow was running into it. 

A couple hours of work and the pistol was ready for test fire. It passed the 10-8 1911 Function Test Protocol with flying colors. I am confident that with the proper preventative maintenance cycle, and good magazines, this pistol should serve its new owner well for many years to come.

Tim L
10-8 Consulting, LLC 


  1. Tim,
    Thank you for the informative review. I really appreciate it as I have been considering a Long Beach Operator for my duty/SWAT handgun now that my department has authorized 1911’s. For those of us that don't personally know a master pistolsmith, what modifications would you recommend to get the LB Operator fit for duty?

    I was considering sending it to the Springfield Custom Shop for the 1911 Reliability Package, which includes: Deburr pistol internally, Tune extractor and ejector, Recut barrel throat and polish feed ramp, Check headspace, Polish breechface and Inspect and test fire for function. Is there anything else you would recommend?

    If you don’t feel comfortable making specific comments on the Springfield Custom Shop on an open website, I would greatly appreciate an e-mail. I can be reached at

    Thank you,

    Detective Burke Baldwin
    Durango Police Dept.

  2. Burke,

    Glad you found the post useful. Here are some common issues I see with the LB Operator models:

    1. Shallow feed ramp (ok for ball, but may not be tolerant with aggressive hollow point bullets)
    2. Insufficient trigger overtravel to allow sear to properly clear half cock notch/safety shelf. Sometimes it is the overtravel screw, other times the grip safety arm needs to be clearances.
    3. Improperly tensioned extractor. Sometimes it will not hold tension. Others come tuned correctly right out of the box.
    4. Rear sight sometimes shoot loose or other times so tight it won't come out of gun at all. Recommend replace with machined Novak rear or better yet, 10-8 Performance Rear Sight

    Some other changes I make are purely personal preference (such as swapping out the hex head grip screws and relieving grips to expose the MSH pin.) I feel these are important for a duty gun as it allows field expedient options for tightening the grips down or taking the gun apart.

    The SA Custom Shop does really good work and is my go-to recommendation for a 1911 shop that does good work at a reasonable price and turnaround time. Talk to them about the reliability package and send them ammunition that you intend on using in the pistol.

    How many 1911 shooters at your department? If there is enough demand (12 paid shooters), we could come out to your neck of the woods and put on a 1911 Diagnostics and Operation Course for the guys..