The Seecamp Conversion

Drawbar to hammer hook fit on a Seecamp pistol

The debate between those favoring the single action and the double-action-first-shot pistol took predictable paths. The single-action shooter tended to be tactical minded, while double-action-first-shot fans liked the handling and perceived safety of the double-action pistol. Today we have safe-action pistols and striker-fired handguns that seem to be single actions, not safe action. There wasn’t a lot of choice in the 1970s and early ’80s. I began carrying a cocked-and-locked 1911 about 1978.

Firing mechanism on a Seecamp pistol
The mechanism seems both simple and ingenious.

Over the years, I have seen shooters carrying the pistol hammer down—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 respected the handling and power of the 1911 handgun. The solution was the Louis Seecamp double-action conversion.

Seecamp was a noted designer. He retired from O.F. Mossberg after years of service. Seecamp did many custom 1911s and was a respected gunsmith, but the double-action conversion of the 1911 is what he is best remembered for. The procedure demanded experience and a steady hand to convert the single-action 1911 pistol to a double-action-first-shot handgun.

The work began with cutting out a section of the right side of the frame. The conversion required a new hammer with a hook for a drawbar. A drawbar connecting the double-action trigger and the hammer was fitted. This drawbar connects to the hammer hook and incorporates a return spring that is fastened to both the drawbar and the frame.

broken pistol trigger that has been welded
The broken trigger had been repaired by welding, and the author has to give the welder credit for a job well done.

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 triggerguard was elongated and welded 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. The trigger presses the hammer against the original 23-pound 1911 hammer spring. Attempts to use a lighter hammer spring may be met with misfires, so leave the original as it is if you intend to fire the handgun using the double-action mode.

The manual of arms is interesting and unique. The original cocked-and-locked system may be used, and the safety cannot be applied when the hammer is down. The new trigger cocks and drops the hammer; the original trigger is retained for single-action fire. After the first shot is fired and the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for single-action fire, the Seecamp trigger presses against the single-action trigger, firing the pistol.

Drawbar to hammer hook fit on a Seecamp pistol
The drawbar fits onto the hammer hook as illustrated.

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.

The conversion seems reliable and robust. The pistol illustrated, however, once had a broken trigger that has been repaired by welding. I replaced the welded trigger with one from Gun Parts Corporation. Parts are scarce but not yet exhausted.

The handgun illustrated is an Omega Defensive Industries Viking Combat. This is among the first stainless steel 1911 handguns. During the 1980s, many makers attempted to launch their companies with 1911-based handguns. Springfield succeeded and a much different Auto Ordnance still exists. Randall, ODI and others are gone. Most used cast frames and slides, and quality varied.

One would think the ODI pistol with its licensed Seecamp conversion was manufactured with the relief cut in the frame and the large, rounded triggerguard. The triggerguard shows no signs of being cut and rewelded, and the frame cover is a nice, tight fit, not like a revolver sideplate but a good fit.

1911 ODI pistol right profile
The ODI pistol is better quality than most imported 1911 handguns. The Seecamp conversion is a factory license.

This is a Commander-length pistol with a 4.25-inch barrel, full-length guide rod, and beavertail grip safety. The front dovetail sight once boasted a night sight; the tritium has long gone dim. The rear sight resembles a classic Bomar and is marked STI. Overall, while this isn’t the best-fitted 1911, the work is credible. The pistol is supplied with an ODI-marked magazine that was probably manufactured by Metalform.

I was interested in the Seecamp conversion’s performance. I would have to separate the action from the middle-of-the-road gun that housed it and evaluate the conversion on its merits. I traveled to the range with a favored load, classic 230-grain hardball. The Winchester WCC cases were marked 1969 and clocked 802 fps.

I loaded the original magazine and also an Ed Brown eight-pack magazine with hardball. I faced off the target at 7 yards and fired a magazine in the single-action mode for familiarization. Like most steel-frame Commander pistols, the Viking Combat 1911 is easy to control for those who practice. Groups were small and well centered.

Next came the real test, firing in double action. I had a pleasant surprise. Although the action is heavy, the trigger pull is straight back. With a grip frame that fits the hand well and the typical 1911 low bore axis, I had good leverage against the trigger. I was able to center the hits time after time firing double action, even at a long 10 yards.

1911 ODI pistol left profile
This is a very interesting variation on the 1911.

The Seecamp trigger action performs better than anticipated. I fired two full magazines, lowering the hammer for double-action fire each time. Drawing quickly and getting on target, hit probability was high. I also did a number of drills in which I fired the first shot double action, then fired a follow-up shot or two single action. Results were excellent. The Seecamp conversion clearly had merit.

I sometimes carry a SIG P227 .45-caliber compact. The Seecamp/ODI pistol is at least comparable in fast double-action fire, although the SIG is much smoother. Hand fit is better with the 1911, although the SIG is more accurate in single-action fire.

With a conventional double-action-first-shot pistol, the bore axis is higher than the single-action 1911. This means more muzzle flip. The trigger finger comes from above and sweeps to the rear with the double-action pistol, while the Seecamp conversion demands a straight-to-the-rear trigger press with the trigger finger reaching forward, then back rather than sweeping down and back.

Leverage is good, and the wide trigger really helps. The Seecamp conversion works better than I would have guessed. It is certainly a viable answer to the double-action question. It is an interesting piece of history we will not see again.

What do you think of double-action 1911s? Do you own a Seecamp conversion? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (7)

  1. Why not just consider the Para Ordnance LDA trigger if you are considering a 1911 style double action triggered gun? Factory produced and still quite a few replacement parts available. Also the option of single or double stack magazines. If your going to modernize a classic at least get a higher capacity as an option. Just a thought

  2. Thank you for an interesting and informative article. I’d heard of the “Seecamp Conversion” years ago, but I’ve never heard what the conversion does, in such an easy to follow way (especially the modifications to the frame and trigger guard, I wasn’t aware that much work would be needed). I’ve never owned a 1911, I fired several from different manufacturers, but I’ve never felt comfortable enough with one to want one. Cost is a factor in that decision too. The import 191’s just aren’t that much to write home about. Buying a quality US made 1911, easily goes past a grand, and in no time, you”re pushing 2 grand (if I had that kind of dough, I’d be looking for a Sig P210 first😆). If I did buy a 1911, this would definitely be a modification I’d want, as I’m not a fan of SA for carry. I’ll be saving this article, for future reference. Thank you again.

  3. The Seecamp double-action conversion is interesting from a historical perspective but I always considered it a solution in search of a problem. Mr. Browning designed the M1911 to be carried cocked and locked. It is perfectly safe for a trained operator to do so. If Condition One makes you nervous, choose a different handgun. One of the many reasons for the eternal popularity of the M1911 is its wonderful trigger pull so don’t mess with it!

    1. I carry a Colt Defender in condition 1 every day and have done with all of my 1911’s for over 50 years. I love having the Seecamp conversion because he did not do that many so it is a good shooting, collectors piece. And if anyone ever read the reason why he made this conversion it is a very interesting piece of history. This man loved the 1911 so much that he devised a very practical way to have what he wanted. Very brilliant man who loved the 1911 enough to make it into something no one else did to suit his needs. I agree that browning made a perfect weapon with the 1911. Just look what he tried to create to improve on the design! And he didn’t live long enough to see it come to fruition. The Browning High Power. I have two and I can not really see any so called improvements over the original design 1911A1. Others may have different opinions but this was mine. I will keep My Seecamp and pass it to my son upon my demise.

  4. I own a Colt Commander Seecamp conversion. I absolutely love it. First it is a Colt, second it is a Seecamp conversion. The best of both worlds. I love shooting mine both double and single action. I enjoy the trigger action. It is one of 6 1911 Colts that I own and would not trade it for anything. My 1943 Colt is my favorite, but the Seecamp is a close second. The man was a genius and there will never be anyone to take his place. Hold on to them if you have one. They are great.

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