Q: I have read here that dropping the slide on an empty chamber with a 1911 style pistol can damage a quality trigger job, and therefore the slide should be eased forward. Two questions: (A) Why does it do that? (Or maybe HOW does it do that?) and, (B) Why doesn’t it do it if there is a round in the chamber?
A: It does it because when the slide slams home on an empty chamber it jolts the entire gun, bouncing the sear engagement point on the hammer face, which is the area that you just paid to have polished to a mirror surface. When the gun is picking up a cartridge (loading from the magazine) the slide is slowed considerably and this reduces the impact and thus reduces the jarring effect on the hammer/sear interface. Add to this that the proper way to do all this (on this type gun – good target trigger) is with the thumb holding the hammer down and the trigger pulled back to the full engagement position (which locks up the action and stops any jarring effect). Since this is what happens when you fire the gun (minus the thumb on the hammer of course) a properly working gun is safe. The thumb on the hammer is just “insurance”.
Bob C. NRA Endowment USN (Ret)