June 08, 2018
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.
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.
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.