Gun Review: Smith & Wesson E-Series SW1911Sc

The 1911 is the dictionary definition of “been there shot that.” Especially now, during the centennial celebrations marking its debut. You could equip an Army unit with all the variants clamoring for a modern gun buyer’s attention, none of which is particularly noteworthy in terms of its mechanical innovation. But familiarity with John Moses Browning’s design does not breed contempt. And some gunmakers have viewed the 1911′s resurgence as a challenge: to improve on a classic without losing its fundamental strengths. To wit: Smith & Wesson’s new “E-Series” 1911′s . . .

Smith & Wesson are in the process of revamping their line of 1911′s. Peering into this year’s catalog you’ll notice they’ve dropped some models from their product line, and added a few new guns. We recently got our hands on one such newbie: the bobtailed E-series Sc carry gun.

When you first spy the blue plastic clamshell box with the S&W logo, you can hear the hum-drum beating. Open the case, and angels start singing that bit from the Stone’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Got wood? Oh yeah, they got wood. Faux or no, the beautifully grained handles on the 30ish different SW1911Sc’s I encountered were to have and to hold, from that day forth, for ever and ever, amen.

Smith ships the Sc with one flush-fit seven-round magazine and one eight-round magazine with a bump pad. The SW1911SC’s serial numbers all start with “UCK”—indicating the need for regular cleaning. It’s a good thing that tool-less disassembly is fast and easy.

The SW1911Sc’s a Scandium alloy-framed black anodized finish bobtailed 1911. It’s designed to compete with the rest of the Commander length (4.25″ bbl) 1911′s. The two-tone model sports a stainless steel slide, bringing the gun’s unloaded weight to 29.6 ozs. The sister pistol’s steel slide is Melonite treated, weighing in at 29.7 oz. At 7.95″ snout to tail, the SW1911Sc’s an easy choice for concealed carry.

Smith blessed the SW1911Sc with a titanium firing pin. In so doing, they’ve dropped the Series 80 style firing-pin block common on many modern 1911 variants. The weight of the Sc’s titanium firing pin is insignificant enough that the firing pin will not acquire enough kinetic energy to impart the requisite pressure on a pistol primer to cause detonation in a direct-drop from three feet. If Smith gives TTAG a destruction model, we’ll throw it against the wall and see what happens . . .

Smith have added an over-sized extractor to the new E-series guns, as well as their combat-style ejection port. I watched over a dozen shooters fire hundreds of rounds per gun, including a shooter who had never before fired a handgun as, uh,  finicky as the 1911. I didn’t see a single FTE (Failure to Extract).

Stealing a trick from their Performance Center pistols, the new E-series wears a recessed muzzle. It’s like Palladium cufflinks complementing a fine imported suit: the final touch that brings it all together. Functionally unimportant, yet aesthetically pleasing. So, Mr. Bond. You look good (and please don’t take that the wrong way). But do you shoot well? Short version – yes. Long version – keep reading.

The SW1911Sc’s precision-fit trigger [as above] makes a huge difference to the pistol’s perceived performance. The Sc’s trigger has very little slack, a clean and crisp pull, and a break that’s easier than hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock. The gun’s reset is solid, yet subtle. For shooters with not-so-giant paws, Smith & Wesson have cut a small relief just below the trigger guard, allowing meaty fingers that extra little bit of space with which to work. Nice touch.

Smith’s upmarket 1911 wears Trijicon Tritium front and rear, with enough glow-in-the-dark brightness to worry the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The gun’s also got an ambidextrous safety. Like most 1911 ambi-safeties, there’s a little bit of “play” in the extractor-side lever. Not unexpected, but enough to elicit knowing nods from the 1911 cognoscenti. Who might also debate the wisdom of a 1911 lacking” slide rattle” (some view extremely tight tolerances as a reliability issue). The 1911Sc’s slide is as well-fitted as a new jar lid and smooth with it.

The 1911Sc’s 17 lines per inch front-strap checkering and aggressive back strap striations foster a solid hold, even with sweaty hands. A dozen grooves grace the top of the slide between the front and rear sights, cutting down on glare and reflected light. Much appreciated when trying to take aim at high-noon in the Arizona desert. The same style grooves cover the whole of the rear of the slide.

Along the slide’s length, Smith & Wesson have milled “fish scale scalloped slide serrations.” That’s a direct quote from Dr. Seuss. Sorry, a seafood-obsessed firearms designer. I mean, straight from Smith & Wesson’s Marketing Director. A little tongue-twisty, but they get the job done.

In the video above, I run the SW1911Sc through the Funhouse at Gunsite. The pistol performed flawlessly. All my rounds landed center mass—save the headshot. Take particular note (immediately following my non-tactical and downright ugly reload in the previous video) at the lack of muzzle-flip. With a proper hold and push-pull, the Sc’s muzzle-flip is no more of a bother than it is on a full-size 1911. Compared to the 5″ 1911 I typically carry, the SW1911Sc’s muzzle-flip and second round follow-ups were just as easily managed.

As with most any  modern firearm, the SW1911Sc’s more accurate than all but the best shooters. At 15 yards standing, emptying the magazine at a regular rate of fire, I could create a respectable grouping within the nine-ring or better. The target above displays nine rounds, with two sets of the three producing one-inch, and one and one tenth inch groups. Missing the bull low and left is indicative of trigger control imperfection. Producing a group the size of a softball at 15 yards is more than respectable. Imagine what this sucker will do on the bench.

Thus far, it’s eaten most everything that’s thrown at it (note the one ammo issue below): Winchester White Box 230Grn FMJ, Federal 230Grn FMJ, Remington UMC 230Grn FMJ, PMC 230Grn FMJ, Speer Lawman 230Grn FMJ, and Blazer 230Grn FMJ with not a single issue. In terms of defensive and carry ammunition, I fed the SW1911Sc both Winchester Ranger SXT 230Grn HP, and Federal Hydra-Shok 230Grn JHP. All shot and cycled cleanly. I’ve experienced one Failure to Fire (FTF), using Remington Disintegrator 155Grn Copper / Tin Frangible ammunition.

Smith & Wesson have been in the 1911 game for just under a decade. They’ve proven that they can manufacture a Joe-average JMB that appeals to the masses. At the same time, their Performance Center products have demonstrated a clear ability to produce high quality custom pieces. With the E-Series, Smith split the difference. The attractive, accurate and reliable E-series 1911Sc easily runs with its grand-in-the-hand competitors. Brands snobs need not apply, but quality-minded 1911 buyers need to add the SW1911Sc to their shopping list.

SPECIFICATIONS

Caliber: .45ACP
Action: Single-Action Only
Capacity: 8+1 with bump-pad, 7+1 with flush magazine.
Overall Length: 7.95″
Barrel Length: 4.25″
Weight: 29.6 Oz. (Two-tone). 29.7 Oz. (Black).
Sights: Trijicon Tritium Night Sights Front and Rear
Frame Material: Scandium Alloy.
Slide Material: Stainless Steel
Finish: Two-tone or full Black Melonite Treated
Price: MSRP $1369

RATINGS (out of five)

Style:  * * * * *
The small touches that Smith and Wesson have added to John Moses Browning’s 1911 design make this pistol beautiful to (be)hold. The wood on the grips alone is enough to make me want to open-carry.

Ergonomics (Carry):  * * * * *
The “round-butt” bobtail makes this an ideal carry gun for those who have opted to carry a 1911. Printing is negligible and shirts stay un-torn when bending over.

Ergonomics (Shooting):  * * * * *
The missing .75″ of barrel are hardly noticed when firing the SW1911Sc versus firing a full-sized 1911. the checkering and striations provide an aggressive but comfortable grip. A firm grip aids in reducing muzzle-flip, the 1911Sc performs better than expected  in that department.

Reliability: * * * * *
One feeding issue—with Frangible rounds. With daily carry and range ammunition, the pistol hasn’t hiccuped. It eats flat nosers, hollow points, and ball without discriminating. In the Arizona high desert, this pistol functioned the entire week without a takedown.

Customize This: * * * * 1/2
The 1911 has a parts and accessories following with endless variations – many will fit the 1911Sc. Less 1/2 star for lack of grips available at the current time.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
This pistol competes with other bobtailed 1911′s wearing the names Bill Wilson, Kimber, Dan Wesson, and is a welcome addition. Smith have priced this pistol to undercut most every other bobtail commander on the market – what they haven’t cut is quality. The pistol runs like a champ. Another great offering from Smith & Wesson.