A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SW1911PD Range Report

A new lightweight 1911 was inevitable when Smith & Wesson began making their version of "old slabsides". In 2004, S&W first introduced the scandium alloy framed SW1911Sc. It weighed an overall 28-ounces, as opposed to the near 40-ounce weight of a standard Government Model. The pistol was an instant hit for a carry gun, and has proven to be durable and reliable. In 2006, Smith & Wesson showed they listened well to their customer base when they released the SW1911PD. The SW1911PD was essentially the same pistol, blacked out, with more discreet markings on the slide. Click to enlargeWhen I found a used SW1911PD for sale at a good price, I quickly snapped it up.

Like the SW1911s before it, The SW1911PD has a serrated frontstrap, Novak sights, and a grip safety activated firing pin safety. The small parts are made of MIM, and the mainspring housing is checkered aluminum. From the factory, the pistol has a solid full length guide rod, and forward slide serrations, both of which I can live without. The external extractor on the SW1911 is not what John Moses Browning designed, (or rather, what the US Army requested), but Smith & Wesson had a lot of experience with external extractors on their double action auto loaders. Where external extractors fail on other 1911s, the S&W unit has a reputation for keeping on ticking.

To bring the pistol closer to my idea of a carry gun, I installed rubber S&W grips, a GI recoil set-up, and did a trigger job on it. Astute readers may notice a marking gone. With a Wilson magazine stuffed inside, I was ready to take the pistol to the range for reliability testing. Click to enlargeI brought along 250 rounds of Winchester White Box 230 grain target ammo, as well as 50 rounds of Federal 230 grain HydraShoks. I also took a standard SW1911 to compare the scandium framed pistol to.

I had read how the scandium 1911s were more difficult to shoot, due to their lighter weight. I prepared myself for that, but I refuse to wear shooting gloves. Over the past three years, I had not read a single complaint regarding the frame being weak. That is a good thing, because I like to train with what I carry. If a pistol cannot stand up to the pounding I will give it in training, I really don't want to stake my life on it.

I started shooting with the SW1911PD, first, just making certain it was safe after my gunsmithing efforts, and then trying to make it jam. I limp wristed it. I shot it sideways. I rode my thumb on the slide. I shot it upside down. Not once did it fail to feed and shoot. The safeties functioned positively as advertised.

I shot all 300 rounds through the SW1911PD. It was a blast to shoot. It had a quick, certain return to sights, allowing for rapid recovery and follow-up shots. Click to enlargeI found absolutely no difference in muzzle flip than what I am used to in a Government Model. Perhaps this is because I use a very strong isometric grip in a Chapman stance for my shooting. With my grip, the weight of the frame is simply not a factor in recoil.

I was, frankly, having a blast. Two shooters with Glocks were off to my right, and I was eating them up at 30 feet. I was punching holes in an index card taped to the chest of a silhouette target. There was a single ragged hole in that card. I was flying high. The SW1911PD was accurate. If I slowed down, it was a precision shooter. Then, I had a problem........I was out of ammo.

Damn. I went to the counter, and I bought another 100 rounds of 230 grain MagTech ammo. I decided I had better switch to the standard framed SW1911 immediately. I noted that the perceived recoil and muzzle flip was the same in my hands. Click to enlargeI shot about 25 rounds through the standard SW1911 and I realized something else. The SW1911PD was actually easier for me to shoot! I could hold it up, with less effort, for a longer period of time. No wonder I had unknowingly blazed through my ammunition. My arms simply were not getting tired from holding the extra weight extended at arms length!

I only have 375 rounds through this pistol thus far, but it is showing great potential as a carry gun. I have little doubt that the reduced weight on my belt will result in less fatigue at the end of the day. I would have absolutely no hesitation about recommending this pistol to a woman as a carry gun, assuming she is familiar with the 1911 platform, and uses an isometric grip. I look forward to passing the 1000 round mark and putting the pistol into service as a carry piece.

Then, I wondered how it would compare to my Colt Compact.

Update: The first internet report on a SW1911PD frame cracking that I have come upon is here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, the Officers/Compact does not shear off the tab on the recoil plug. Draw a line from the front of the tab back to the opening at about 45 degrees on each side. The resulting triangular piece is what breaks off. Under cycling stress, the thin metal flexes until it cracks. My first one lasted thousands, the replacement a few hundred. Colt was aware of this early on, but it seems they decided not to fix the problem due to possible liability concerns. Our legal system at work, plus the bean counters at Colt. You really can't tell the condition of the plugs integrity with a visual exam between shooting sessions. I would not carry with an original plug.


10:17 PM  
Anonymous Homer said...

Pretty much the same thing I found with my 1911PD. Other than snubbies, I have a rule about not carrying anything I haven't shot a 6-stage IPSC match with, using equivalent ammo to what I carry; I want to see where it, and I, mess up under stress. My PD was so much fun to shoot, and shot so much better than my usual Springer in Single Stack that it hurt to go back to revolver class the following match. I was surprised at how much higher my scores and lower my times were, all of which I attribute to the lower weight an the smoothness of the action. If I can find a similar terrific deal on another one I think I'll sell the Springer to get it.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Billy Budd said...

Dang it, now I want one!

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Mike Harbour said...


Funny you posted this...I just finished a weekend defensive handgun course with Pat Goodale in Billings, MT with the Gunsite version of 1911PD. That thing ran like a champ; no problems (that weren't shooter induced) after almost 700 rounds and no cleaning between the two sessions.

However, the rear Novak Lo-Mount Carry sight did lose its set screw; fortunately, it stayed in the dovetail, albeit loosely. Also, the finish on the slide got quite beat up after all those presentations...maybe I shouldn't use a Kydex holster, huh!?!

Other than that, the gun performed well, got a few comments (it was the only 1911 in the group of nine shooters on the second day), and best of all, showed all those Tupperware boys how good a modern-day version of JMB's masterpiece can really be in this day and age!

BTW, after fumbling around with that snag-free Novak rear during one-handed charging drills on my boot heel, I've decided to give it the heave-ho. In it's place will go a Yost-Bonitz Custom Pro-Grade rear with a nice 90-degree angle. Ought to be perfect for one-handed charging in a real-life situation!

Mike Harbour
Helena, MT

5:13 PM  
Blogger Mulliga said...

Smith & Wesson has been on a roll for awhile now. All reports are that the M&P is a good product, too. It's good to see the new owners turning it around.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Matt G said...

Ah, Xavier, now you're going to let the secret out (thank Gawd-- blare it from the rooftops, s'far as I'm concerned):
Weight is the single most important consideration in a carry pistol.

Next most important is overall width, just barely beating out

Grip protrusion size, and

Snag-free ability.

Huh. Overall length didn't even make that short list, did it? :)

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Robb Allen said...

I hate all of you.

I've only got my Glock 29 and my Dan Wesson .357 (which, if I don't hit you with the bullet, you'll probably suffer 3rd degree radiation burns). I want more, more, more.

I can hit the target reliably with the 10mm, hence why it's my carry piece, but supreme accuracy isn't in the cards. With the .357, I'm better, but a 6" barrel is simply too hard to conceal. What I really want to do is keep buying guns until (a) I find the perfect one or (b) the sheer volume of firearms causes Senator McCarthy to have a massive coronary.

Or better yet, both.

I really can't see how everyone can afford so many arms. The Mrs. tolerates my habits...err hobbies.. but at $500-$1000 a shot, she wouldn't tolerate it for long ;)

So, pardon me if I seethe with envy.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great post!

I'm an astute reader... How did did you remove that "lawyer marking?"


5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great post!

I'm an astute reader... How did you remove that "lawyer marking?"


5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow... I just bought the gun without knowing how good it is. I haven't had time to pick it up yet so I decided to research about it and so far I've heard nothing but great things about this particular gun.

12:14 PM  

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