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Turning The 1911 Into A Double Action Pistol

Liberty


A novel piece of firearms engineering that turned the 1911 into a double-action/single-action pistol.

Over the years, the debate between those favoring the single-action and single-action/double-action semiautos has taken predictable paths when it came to firing the first shot. The single-action shooter tended to be tactical-minded while the double-action first-shot fans liked the handling and perceived safety of the DA/SA pistol.

There wasn’t a lot of choice in the 1970s and early 1980s. I began carrying a cocked-and-locked 1911 in about 1978, and over the years I have seen shooters carrying 1911s with the hammer down, which is less than ideal, and chamber empty, which defies the need for simple readiness. Some feared or did not trust cocked-and-locked carry or genuinely preferred the double-action system, but they respected the handling and power of the 1911 handgun just the same. One unique solution in trying to please everyone was the Louis Seecamp double-action conversion.

Seecamp was a noted designer, retiring from O.F. Mossberg after years of service, and while he did many custom 1911s and was a respected gunsmith, the double-action conversion of the 1911 is what he is best remembered for.

The work began with cutting out a section of the right-hand side of the frame, and the conversion required a new hammer with a hook. This hook mated up with a drawbar that connected to the hammer hook and incorporated a return spring fastened to both the drawbar and the frame.

The new trigger was secured to a pivot in the frame and swung in an arc similar to a conventional double action to both cock and drop the hammer. The trigger guard was elongated and welded in order to accommodate the trigger’s arc, giving the pistols a superficial resemblance to the Smith & Wesson 645. The resulting action was heavy at about 16 pounds, pressing as it did against the original 23-pound 1911 hammer spring. Attempts to use a lighter hammer spring may be met with misfires, so if you have an original Seecamp conversion, leave the original as it is if you intend to fire the handgun in double action.

he Seecamp conversion required making a relief cut in the frame and a crossbar that linked the Seecamp trigger to the hammer.

The Seecamp conversion required making a relief cut in the frame and a crossbar that linked the Seecamp trigger to the hammer.

The Seecamp trigger cocks and drops the hammer, but the original trigger is retained for single-action fire. After the first shot is fired, the slide recoils and cocks the hammer; when pressed again, the Seecamp trigger pushes against the single-action trigger, firing the pistol.

The grip safety does not prevent the Seecamp action from firing in the double-action mode but still locks the single-action trigger. The hammer must be safely lowered manually to carry the handgun with the hammer down and ready for a double-action first shot.

My Seecamp gun is from Omega Defensive Industries, which licensed the Seecamp conversion and was one of the first companies to produce stainless steel 1911s. Its Viking Combat was a Commander-length pistol with a 4.25-inch barrel, full-length guide rod and beavertail grip safety. It was manufactured with the Seecamp relief cut in the frame, and since the trigger guard shows no signs of being cut and rewelded, it was apparently built that way as well.

It once had a broken trigger that had been repaired by welding, but I replaced the welded trigger with one from Gun Parts Corporation. The frame covering the Seecamp relief cut is decently fitted.

I was most interested to see how the double-action trigger pull worked, and I got a pleasant surprise. With a conventional double action, the trigger finger comes from above and sweeps to the rear, but the Seecamp conversion demands a trigger press straight to the rear—the trigger finger moving forward and then back rather than sweeping down and back. Leverage is good, and the wide trigger really helps.

But the design retained the single-action trigger, and after the first shot, the Seecamp operates like a standard 1911.

But the design retained the single-action trigger, and after the first shot, the Seecamp operates like a standard 1911.

I fired two full magazines, lowering the hammer for double-action fire each time. Coupled with a grip frame that fits the hand well and the typical 1911 low bore axis, I was able to center my hits time after time firing double action, even at a long 10 yards. I also found I could draw quickly and have a high probability of getting a first-round hit.

In addition to that work, I did a number of drills in which I fired the first shot double action and then fired a follow-up shot or two single action. Results were excellent.

I sometimes carry a SIG P227 .45 caliber compact, and I think the Seecamp/ODI pistol is at least comparable in fast double-action fire—although the SIG is much smoother. The 1911 fits my hand better, but the SIG is more accurate in single-action fire. However, the Seecamp conversion works better than I would have guessed. It was certainly a viable answer to the double-action or single-action first-shot question. It is an interesting piece of history we will not see again.

That’s not to say Seecamp no longer exists. With the advent of better double-action .45s, the company moved away from gunsmithing efforts and into the manufacture of small-caliber double-action semiautos. Today it offers pistols in .25, .32 and .380 that sell in the $500 range.



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8 Comments

  1. I saw on the internet a 7 shot revolver that shoots 38,357,and another I think 257 but can’t find it anywhere

  2. I also have a Safe conversion that he did for me in 1976. I sent him a worn out 1911 that I paid $35 for in a pawn shop. About 9 months later I got back an almost brand new 1911. The pistol had been shortened, new Barstow barrel, light gathering front sight with micro adjustable rear sight, one piece guide rod with double springs, Seecamp marked extended trigger guard, slotted finger bushing and nickel plated. Several years back I added a Crimson Trace grip laser. I currently carry it in a Crossbreed Super Tuck IWB holster adusted for maximum cant. I have carried my Seecamp almost every day since I received it back from Mr. Seecamp. Between the new sights and the Barstow barrel I find it to be the most accurate pistol I have ever had the pleasure of fireing. The recoil is lighter than many of my friends 9mm and they can’t believe it’s a 45. Most of the parts he added have matching numbers.

    Thanks again for the great article on the Seecamp conversions and the licensed clones.
    Mr Ed

  3. Please look at Para Ordance 1911 LDA, I own 5 and they are unbelievable accurate and have the lightest Light Double Action on the market. They have a grip safety and also thumb safety, Novak or adjustable sights, single stack or hi-cap, barrel length from 3 to 6 inches.
    Remington bought them out and are phasing them out (competion ) I guess. You still can find them in some stores and on line and most are reasonable. I can tell you mine are not for sale, check them out…m.w.

  4. most of my pistols are DA/SA but my Colt 1911 will never be changed because of what it is a series 80 COLT MK IV Gold Cup National Match in SS only thing I have changed scien I have had it was get rid of those ugly hoge grey grips and put a pair the original cocobolo grips with the gold horse on them makes it look a lot better and fits my small hand better but it shoots great and straight 10 yards are tight later I might get a D/A 45 if my wife dont know yall know they are you don,t need no more guns LOL

  5. I love the 1911 just as John Browning designed it. It differs from the lot of modern pistols and is very quick to fire from a safe condition firing single action in the manner in which it was intended to be utilized.

    I believe that proper way to carry it is cocked and locked. My belief, and I believe it was JB’s intent, that the safety should be on at all times when the pistol is required to be ready to fire …with the finger inside the trigger guard. Then all that is required to fire the pistol is to flick off the thumb safety and when you are no longer in active shooting mode flick the safety on again; I find it to be very natural. The pistol has a thumb safety, a grip safety, and my version has a magazine safety as well which actually makes sense in this implementation as the pistol may still be fired by pressing the the magazine release in and activating the trigger while holding the mag release in. It will then fire provided a round was in the chamber.

    If one chooses to utilize the 1911 using this technique it should be practiced until it is a muscle memory and should only be used on the 1911 or those which work as JB intended and not on some of the modified 1911 style pistols as some have no grip safety and use a different trigger mechanism.

  6. I bought my first 1911 pistol in 198I, A Colt Combat Commander Series 70 .45 ACP. Then I used the pistol for multi caliber conversions in .38 Super, 9 mm and .22 LR with Bar-Sto barrels and bushings, genuine Colt slides and parts and a shortened Colt ACE conversion unit and barrel. I enjoyed shooting the various calibers but when going out to the range, caliber changes got to be too cumbersome, not to mention misplaced parts and recoil spring plugs ejected downrange. So I decided to build complete pistols out of the three additional calibers. A local distributor here in Los Angeles advertised ODI VIKING DA .45 Pistol kits with full size receivers and 4.25 inch slides/barrels, and so I was able to purchase just the receiver and all parts, which came with handsome smooth teak wood grip panels. For a while, that lone ODI/Seacamp frame was home to .38 Super and 9 mm Commander top halves. The .22 LR unit went a separate path with a Fed Ord Commander receiver and Arminex MSH/backstrap/tang and sear spring. In a few months I obtained another ODI Viking Seacamp DA lower half kit and thus my .38 Super and 9 mm DA 1911s were fully independent of each other. Other pistol projects followed: a .40 S&W on Colt Delta Elite slide and Springfield Armory National match frame, and the latest, just the previous month, a 10 mm barrel added to the package. I am proud of my ODI/Seacamp 1911s; my own pistol projects from my limited gunsmithing knowledge and skills.

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