January 24, 2012

Working Colt’s All American 2000

Except for a few minor similarities to the M1911, this excellent pistol design was a radical departure from Colt’s usual fare.

Designed by Reed Knight, the Colt All American 2000 utilizes a recoil-operated, rotating-barrel breech-locking system. Unlocking is delayed by the bullet’s inertia; the barrel is rotated with a cam operated by a slot in the trigger group in a manner similar to the AR-15/M16. It was introduced in 1991 and marketed primarily as a police sidearm. Although it was not especially popular with police or the public and was discontinued in 1993, there are enough in circulation that one will eventually come across your bench.

A recall was issued shortly after the AA 2000’s introduction, replacing the original solid trigger with an articulated unit designed to reduce accidental discharges associated with a foreign object in the trigger guard when re-holstering the pistol. The pistol has a long-stroke double-action-only (DAO) trigger mechanism, unusual in that the trigger moves linearly in the guard instead of pivoting on a pin. Bearing surfaces of the trigger assembly have rollers on them to smooth the draw. Firing the pistol is very similar to firing a revolver in the double-action mode.

Since the AA 2000 does not use a pre-tensioned striker, it allows repeated attempts to fire a chambered cartridge with multiple pulls of the trigger. The striker is blocked from unwanted movement by a plunger arrangement (similar to the 1911’s Series-80 firing-pin block) unless the slide assembly is in battery and the trigger is fully drawn.

Field Stripping
At no time should you use any force to field-strip, disassemble, or reassemble this pistol, unless specifically outlined in the text. If it doesn’t come apart or replace easily, you’re doing something wrong.

Depress the magazine catch (#13) and remove magazine assembly. Retract the slide (#37) to its rearmost position and engage the slide stop (#51) into its notch in the slide. Inspect the chamber end of the barrel (#1) to ensure there is no cartridge in the pistol. Push the takedown pin (#21) out from right to left (facing the rear of the pistol) until it reaches the end of its travel. Note that this pin will not come completely out; it’s held captive in the cam block (#4). Move the slide stop out of its notch in the slide, control the slide, and allow it to return to its in-battery position. The slide can now be removed by simply continuing its forward movement off the receiver (#25). Grasp the takedown pin and lift the cam block and trigger assembly (#52) out of the receiver. Separate the trigger assembly from the cam block and turn your attention to the slide.

The Colt All American 2000 is shown here field stripped into its major subassemblies. Unless the pistol is malfunctioning or parts need to be replaced, this is all the takedown necessary.

Pull the recoil-spring assembly (#26) out of the slide. Holding the slide firmly in one hand, turn the barrel bushing (#2) 45 degrees either direction. The barrel bushing will separate from the slide and can now be removed. Next, rotate the barrel just a bit and it will come out of the slide. The barrel can be turned in only one direction, and it can be removed in only one position—when its locking lugs are aligned with the corresponding clearance cuts in the slide. This constitutes field stripping and is all the disassembly needed for routine cleaning.

Detailed Disassembly
For a more thorough cleaning, the various assemblies are broken down as follows:

Slide. Using a small punch, depress the plunger protruding through the firing-pin spring retainer (#29) and simultaneously slide the retainer down toward the open side of the slide, just as if you’re removing the firing pin and stop from a 1911. Once clear, the firing-pin spring assembly (#38), firing-pin assembly (#9, 31, and 32), and firing-pin return spring (#42) can be removed. Be very careful with the return spring. It’s a relatively weak compression-type spring and is easily stretched to the point of uselessness. The best tool I’ve found for damage-free removal is a long pick with a small 90-degree tail, similar to the tool one uses when checking bottle-necked rifle cases for incipient head separations. The tail end is run through the center of the spring and hooks the spring by its embedded end, allowing you to pull the spring out without stretching it. If desired, the firing-pin roller (#32) can be removed by driving its roll pin (#31) out.

Next, the firing-pin block plunger pin (#18) is driven into the firing-pin tunnel. Dump out the pin, pull the punch out, and the firing-pin block (#22) and spring (#41) can be removed. Should removal be necessary, the rear sight is pushed out from left to right.

This photo identifies the various element of the slide’s underside

Now, we’re at the party item: the extractor. The Colt owner’s manual describes how easily the extractor can be moved into a “cleaning position,” while other documents tell you that the extractor is “effortlessly removed for service.” Unfortunately, no one seems to have informed the extractors. I’ve owned and worked on several of these pistols, both pre- and post-recall, and I’ve not seen one with the extractor depicted in the exploded diagram. Rather, the extractors have been the type shown in the photo below. This style of extractor is removed by using miniature long-nosed pliers to rotate the retainer (#28) 90 degrees in either direction. This disengages the spring boss on the bottom of the extractor retainer from the extractor spring (#40). The retainer is now pushed rearward into the slide, using the pliers. Keep your thumb over the extractor to prevent the spring from enjoying its liberty when the retainer is clear. Dump out the spring and extractor, then shake the retainer free of its hole in the slide. The “other” extractor is removed by drawing the retainer back from the extractor, lifting the extractor out, and controlling the retainer/spring during their removal.

The barrel-bushing detent (#5) and its associated spring (#39) are staked into the barrel bushing, much like the magazine-cap detent on older Remington shotguns. Should it be necessary to remove the detent and/or spring, you’ll have to remove the staking around the detent’s hole. You can use a prick punch or (if you have one) a staking punch for the Remington detent plunger to secure the parts after reassembly. The front sight is an integral part of the barrel bushing and can’t be removed.

Receiver. Remove the stock screws (#50) using a suitably sized hex wrench. The magazine catch is removed by pushing the magazine-catch lock (#14) in from outside the receiver with a punch or pick. Don’t poke it completely out—just far enough that the magazine catch pops loose. The mag catch can now be removed in either direction.

Work the slide stop out away from the receiver, and use a small screwdriver to gently pry the slide-stop spring (#46) out with the slide stop. You might want to keep a finger or thumb over the slide detent (#6) as you remove the slide stop. Once the slide stop is clear, the slide detent, slide-detent spring (#45), and ejector (#7) are free and can be removed. Lay the receiver on its left-hand side (the side that the slide stop was on) and locate the sear roller pin (#19). It’s about 1 inch from the rear of the receiver and should be approximately flush with the receiver’s right-hand side. You want to drive this pin gently in until it’s about flush with the receiver’s left-hand side. At that point, it should be deep enough to have released the sear spring (#44). If not, continue to gently move the pin over until the spring is loose. The spring is pulled straight forward with miniature pliers to remove it from the receiver. The sear spring has a tab with two bumps on its aft section; this tab fits tightly into a corresponding slot in the receiver.

The takedown pin is retained in the cam block by a piece of plastic tubing (#53). It should not need removal unless the cam block will be subjected to conditions which will destroy plastics (like, say, a bluing tank). The lift plunger (#11) is retained in the cam block by a roll pin (#17). If it’s necessary to remove the lift plunger, the roll pin is driven in, a small amount at a time, until the plunger can be lifted out of its hole. When replacing the pin, drive it in only until it’s flush with the cam block.

The firing-pin spring assembly can be broken down by compressing the spring completely onto the plastic part of the guide and rotating the steel part of the guide to allow its removal.

Magazine. The magazine disassembles in a fairly conventional fashion. Use a punch or other small tool to reach through the hole in the magazine base plate (#3). Depress the base-plate retainer (#27) and slide the base plate forward off the magazine. Note the attitude of the magazine spring (#43); the magazine will not function properly if the spring is replaced improperly.

While It’s Apart...
The owner’s manual says nothing about the use of chlorinated solvents. However, I’d keep any such chemicals off the plastic parts; they should clean up easily enough with conventional nitro powder solvent or mineral spirits.

Examine the firing pin with a loupe or magnifying glass for cracks, especially around the point where the “tail” branches off to form the sear-engagement surface/firing-pin roller boss. The trigger/sear assembly should be left alone unless it actually needs replacement or repair. Check the sear for rough or ragged areas inside the slot. These can be carefully stoned away. The sear is as delicate as glass if mishandled. It will not tolerate any twisting or bending; it’s tempered as hard as Colt could get it to reduce wear. Don’t attempt any “adjustments.” The trigger rollers (#34 and 35) are retained on headed pins (#16 and 20) by small spring clips (#30), which are easily destroyed if you are ham-handed in attempting removal. The trigger-return plunger (#23) and trigger-return spring (#47) are retained in the trigger by the front trigger pin.

The magazine-catch lock looks like a small white dot under the rear of the trigger guard. Push the catch lock inward gently until the magazine catch is free to move without spring tension.

Reassembly Tips
Fortunately, this gun goes back together pretty much the reverse of its takedown. There are only a few “buts.”

Put all the tiny pieces back together to recreate the field-stripped subassemblies. If you removed the sear-roller pin from the receiver, make absolutely sure that you replace it from the receiver’s left, with the splined part going in last.

The magazine catch is reversible. It can be installed from either side, to operate from either side. When reinstalling the mag catch, locate the flat side about flush with the receiver and push the mag-catch lock back into its hole with a screwdriver. The lock only needs to be pressed in until it’s flush with the mag catch.

Bits and Pieces
Don’t get carried away when replacing the stock screws. The plastic receiver does not rattle and vibrate like a metal receiver does, and the screws aren’t prone to working loose.

If the pistol is having function problems, over-lubrication at some time in the past is a possible cause. This pistol requires little-to-no lubrication, and it doesn’t need grease anywhere. According to the factory literature, the trigger rollers need only a dab of light oil on their axles (the roller pins). A tiny amount of oil is also applied to the sear roller, the firing pin roller, and their axles. The balance of internal parts can be wiped with a lightly oiled cloth or brush. Colt advises that no oil at all be used in freezing temperatures; I would extend this to include other inclement conditions such as sand and dust. You should also check to ensure that the slide detent is moving freely in its frame pocket. The detent’s function is to help hold the slide in battery against the firing-pin spring’s compression as the trigger is pulled. If it’s sticking, the slide will be robbed of recoil energy and function will be adversely affected. If the detent spring is weak or broken, the slide may be moving back during trigger operation. This results in weak primer strikes or failures to fire due to an insufficiently compressed firing-pin spring or because the slide has moved out of battery enough to activate the firing-pin block.

I lube almost all internal gun parts with a light paste made from a good gun oil (or synthetic oil) and molybdenum disulfide powder. The moly remains after the oil evaporates, leaving a dry film of lubricant that’s 100 times more slippery than graphite. Don’t get it on your clothes; it’s nearly permanent.

The shape of the trigger is the only noticeable difference between pre- and post-recall pistols.

Most feeding problems can be traced to the magazine. Check to see that it’s the right magazine. Check to see that it’s assembled properly (“Honest, I’ve never taken it apart. I don’t know how it got put together wrong!”). Make sure the extractor can be moved. If it’s stuck, the pistol will have problems with the slide not going fully into battery or it won’t reliably extract fired cases.

This pistol is a locked-breech, recoil-operated, inertially delayed design. It can be very particular about what it’s fed. I’ve found that the AA 2000 generally responds better to heavier bullets at lower velocities than to ultra-light bullets at hyper-velocities. My best guess is that the longer recoil impulse from the slower, heavier bullet is more conducive to smooth operation than a higher-energy (but durationally shorter) recoil impulse from ammo loaded with light bullets and fast powders. This is not a totally unusual situation; both the Glock and Sig-Sauer pistols in 9mm are similar in their dietary requirements. Specifically, these pistols often do not function well with “generic” ammunition, but will work perfectly with ammunition loaded to the same velocity, with the same bullet, but with a slower-burning powder. All of the AA 2000s I have had the opportunity to shoot have worked perfectly with everything except light-loaded “match” ammo.

Offered only in 9mm, this design begs to be powered up to a cartridge such as the 10mm; the barrel bushing just cries out to be ported or replaced with an integral compensator.

I believe the main reason that the AA 2000 was not a great commercial success is that it was not what the buying public was looking for when they went looking for a Colt. It seems to me that Colt’s managers basically painted themselves into a corner by refusing to develop and introduce new products—only variations on an older theme. And by the time they tried to break free of the constraints they had placed on themselves, it was a case of too little, too late.

Sadly, in my opinion, Colt is stuck in a rut from which there seems to be no escape—witness the 1911, AR-15, and the tiny selection of revolvers left from the great old days when Colt was “The Arm of Law and Order.”