I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Removing the slide release on a 1911A1 handgun is part of the field-stripping process and pretty much a no-brainer for most owners. Upgrading the slide release on a 1911A1 is simply a matter of installing the new one during reassembly.

Before you complain, read on and you might be surprised at the companies harnessing the same approach. They even invest thousands to brag about it on TV, radio, websites and print publications — and it’s a message that could be profitable for some tactical retailers.

Free Installation

Major national car-parts retailers now offer free installation of windshield wiper blades — despite the fact that today’s versions are easier to affix than Legos. Free battery installation is also being offered, and board of directors’ approval makes a little more sense because of the weight. Profitable firms are shy about sacrificing manpower hours, though, especially to dark parking lots on rainy nights.

Large companies have staff to monitor trends and marketing departments to tap into those mother lodes. Both are also there to ensure any expensive lapse in judgement is temporary, but this trend is thriving and shows no sign of retreat.

Why?

Service is often cited, but the smart money is guessing it’s an effective means to recover at least some market share claimed by the growth of e-commerce. Yes, you can save a buck or two by ordering online, but there’s the wait, and if it’s the wrong size, it has to be returned — which means even more waiting, downtime and frustration.

Evolving Gun Marketplace

There’s no denying the “new norm” in gun sales isn’t ideal, but a study by Southwick Associates found participation in target shooting is up 28 percent from 2001 — more than 50 million people now enjoy the sport at least once a year, and trigger time with a handgun has the biggest following. The NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits were just named the fastest-growing association show in the United States, the SHOT Show is expanding and the number of concealed carry permit holders has jumped up to 17.25 million.

The record-setting gun sales pace of 2016 may not return for a while, but a lot of those new owners are active, getting permits and, despite not yet shopping for another firearm, accessorizing and improving what they own. Many of them have yet to become intimately familiar with 1911A1 field stripping.

After removing the slide, barrel and recoil spring guide, inspect them for undue wear or approaching problems. Clean and lube if necessary before continuing. (Photo: Guy Sagi)

There’s plenty of debate about the wisdom of allowing the slide to go forward on a fresh and stocked magazine using the release, after running a handgun dry. Sometimes opinions vary by gun, situation and lunar phase and are almost always punctuated with, “Do a tactical reload before you get into that situation.”

Regardless, added purchase area on the mechanism is a common upgrade, and whether it’s a customer silver-screen dream setup or they were told at a match it was something to consider, here are the simple steps involved.

One and Two—Don safety glasses (springs are involved, after all), drop the magazine, rack back the slide and check to ensure the chamber is empty and clear. Safety first and foremost.

Three—At the muzzle, depress the recoil spring plug and rotate the barrel bushing until it reaches one side of the former. Adjust your finger position to allow completion of the bushing rotation, but hold pressure. Once it’s turned out of the way, slowly allow the spring to push up the plug, then remove the spring and bushing.

Four— Push the slide back until its rearward most notch aligns with the back of the existing slide release.

Five and Six—On the other side of the gun, apply pressure to the rounded knob that is part of the slide release, which will push it partially out the other side where it can be fully removed.

Seven—Remove slide, barrel and recoil spring guide, inspecting for undue wear or approaching problems. Clean and lube if necessary.

Eight—Replace barrel, spring guide and slide indexing back to the same rearward notch. Insert new slide release.

Nine—Reinstall recoil spring, plug and barrel bushing and then dry function test to ensure any contact with grips doesn’t inhibit the new slide release function.

Ten—Ask the customer to ensure the new, wider version still works in his or her holster and recommend taking it for a test drive at the range.

The approach may not make the cash register 2016 flush, but there’s certainly some wisdom in the car parts “free installation” approach — even if it is only to neutralize some of e-commerce’s virtual muscle.