This year the shooting community is celebrating the centennial birthdate of the greatest fighting handgun to date in my humble opinion, John Moses Browning’s “Old Workhorse” the 1911. Almost every major handgun manufacturer today offers some form of the 1911, series 70 or series 80 and some offer both. The major difference and highly debated topic of series 70 vs. series 80 happens to be a slide with no firing pin safety (series 70) vs a slide with a firing pin safety (series 80). The Smith and Wesson 1911 Tactical Series up for review today has many new additional features one being a firing pin safety which was not included in the original design. On this SW1911 there are two other major additional features which I consider to be well designed and thought out upgrades to an already awesome pistol.
Meet the Smith and Wesson Tactical Rail Series 1911
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 8+1 Rounds
Barrel Length: 5″ / 12.7 cm
Front Sight: White Dot
Rear Sight: Low Profile Carry
Material: Stainless Steel Frame
Stainless Steel Slide
Overall Length: 8.7″ / 22.1 cm
Weight Empty: 41.0 oz / 1,162.4 g
Professional / Duty
As you can see by the picture the biggest difference which also resides in the name is the addition of the tactical rail. This universal picatinny rail offers a couple of benefits, the ability to mount a tactical light which comes in very handy in the role of Home Protector. Second being the additional weight forward which I found during my range sessions to provide quicker follow up shots in keeping the muzzle of the weapon down lower than traditional 1911’s. I am also sure the additional weight of the full length guide rode assist with such as well. The most notable design change is the external extractor, the SW1911 utilizes a pinned in external extractor in place of the original internal design.
Now before the purest 1911 enthusiasts run off screaming blasphemy, remember John Moses Browning himself in a later design went to an external extractor. In speaking with my dad and other elders fond of the 1911 tells many stories of the internal extractor being the source of many failure to feeds. A good friend of mine tells the story on putting down several hundred dollars in the 80’s for a Colt 1911 series 70 with internal extractor and then having to spend a couple of hundred dollars more to have the internal extractor tuned by a competent gunsmith to get it to run right. In these days of outsourcing and looking for cheap labor this just can’t happen anymore as others would soon take their hard earned dollars else where, so S&W had to get it right and they did.
As most of you know I am truly a revolver fanatic and to me there is nothing better, but a close runner up is a 1911. With my high regard for 1911’s there are a few features which have been added to this SW1911 which I am not very fond of. S&W included front cocking serrations, other than just not liking the looks I believe it poses a safety risk.
Manufacturers started including these front cocking serrations to assist with a process known as press checking. This is done with the strong hand griping the firearm, firearm pointed in a safe direction, finger off the trigger and extended on the frame, then bringing up your weak hand to grab the front of the weapon to check and see if a live round is loaded. Remembering our safety rules and always keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction and never at anything you aren’t willing to destroy also means keeping all of your body parts to the rear of muzzle. Press checking gets awfully close especially for a guy like myself with extremely large hands to having your weak hand in front of the muzzle. This feature also assist with those that want to eject a live round and not have it fall to the ground as your hand is placed over the ejection port and is capable of catching the live round. I myself have the hand strength and large enough hands to use the rear cocking serration and perform the same function. The only other criticism I have is the lack of left handed safety, for such a well built piece of machinery the lack of this feature seems something S&W could have added without increasing cost and driven more sales for those lefties out there.
There are no plastic pieces at all on this firearm, the slide is a matte stainless wearing the laser etched Smith and Wesson logo and moniker properly proportioned unlike some other 1911 large billboards. The front sight is white dot and the rear sight is a low profile carry white dot. Having been trained on 1911’s in the Marine Corps I would have preferred they included just low profile carry black sights. Most self defense trainers and combat shooting instructors teach front sight press, meaning having a clear picture of the front sight and placement on your target then squeezing the trigger. Trying to line up three white dots I noticed myself takes precious time and can get you injured or worst killed in a self dense combat situation. Having said that I love the sights for competition and accuracy, S&W intended for this firearm to fill multiple roles and it surely will have no issues on the range as a bowling pin or competition gun which the 3 dot system accels at. The frame to slide fit is as good as any production 1911 I have handled.
Through many range sessions I have had the pleasure to finally exceed 1000 rounds through this S&W1911 Tactical. Winchester whitebox as well as my 45ACP reloads which included rounds reloaded with Hornady 185grain hollow points have been fired in this weapon and to date I have yet to experience any malfunctions. This weapon was cleaned after every range session and was tested with the two original S&W logo’d 8round magazines which accompanies the S&W1911 Tactical inside the blue plastic S&W box. I have also tested it with Chip McCormick and Tripp Research 8 round magazines and again all functioned flawlessly.
The SW1911 Tactical is surely more accurate than I am capable and the trigger weighing in at 5 pounds on my RCBS trigger scale surely helps with this.
Having been very pleased with the accuracy I decided to try my skills in a combat type of situation as best as I could possibly simulate on an indoor range. I would be utilizing two 8 round magazines as well as a silhouette target at varying distances maintaing combat speeds in both pulling the trigger and reloading.
Silhouette Target 25 Yards 2 (8) round magazines combat trigger speed and reloads
Its obvious I am shooting a little left on the faster drills, This I believe comes from the increase speed and pushing the trigger left instead of having the controlled steady straight to the rear pull. Yet I am still very pleased with the handling and accuracy of the SW1911 Tactical.
As would be expected with a tank like built 1911 there has been no parts breakage or visible wear of any parts in 1000 rounds.
Smith and Wesson has a solid reputation as a leader in building revolvers. With this 1911 Tactical they continue to established themselves capable of improving upon a tried and true 100 year old design with built in accuracy capable of performing as a target gun out of the box.