Monday, April 4, 2011
S&W E Series, Detailed Review
I had taken a hard look at the E Series at SHOT Show, and had been eagerly awaiting the release of them since. My pistol, a stainless standard dust cover model, just arrived and I must say that I am very impressed. As already noted above, street price on this variant is about $900, which seems to be a pretty good deal for what you are getting.
The pistol comes as pictured above, in the blue plastic hard case, and includes two ACT magazines and the usual legal stuff that everyone throws away. This week we will take a hard look at the pistol inside and out, and next week we will see how it did on the range. Live updates and many more pics can be had on our Facebook page.
The overall feel of the pistol was very solid and smooth, with an excellent slide to frame fit, almost no sharp edges to speak of, and positive feeling controls. The safety clicked on and off positively, and the trigger broke cleanly.
The front strap has 20lpi checkering, which is very functional and is not so sharp that it may offend. The lines are fairly clean and straight, but the diamonds do not come to a sharp point. While it will not threaten the work of any custom pistolsmiths, this checkering gets the job done. There is a very pronounced high cut at the top of the front strap which makes the gun sit very comfortably in the hand.
The E Series boasts a new flush crown treatment, which is a nice touch. The barrel is cleanly machined and locks up well in the slide. The gun is equipped with a full length guide rod, which seems to be a big thing in production guns, but I can do without it. It is a nuisance, but a very simple fix for the end user to swap out.
The magazine well is cleanly beveled, and is possibly one of the most cleanly executed ones I have seen on a production gun. The bevel actually continues all the way around the mag well, and the bevel does not abruptly stop at some arbitrary point.
I had commented on the ejection port before, and it features a forward clearance cut for live round ejection. This is a smart but often overlooked feature. Most users do not appreciate it until they work malfunction clearance drills or have to unload their gun at the end of the shift and end up monkeying around with the gun in front of the clearing barrel at the station. The rear of the ejection port also has a flute to improve the exit of the casing during firing. The E Series features the wide Performance Center extractor, which had an excellent reliability record, and is notably superior to the extractor in the previous generation of SW1911s.
The slide has a serrated flat top treatment on all the E Series guns, and it looks good. The front sight is .125" wide x .135" high, and is a holdover from the Third Gen pistols. The rear of the slide of this model is smooth, while most of the other E Series guns are serrated. The E Series uses a Novak sight for the S&W Third Gen pistols. Again, the aftermarket customization choices for this dovetail is extremely limited. Aftermarket choices are fairly limited for these sights, but look for a 10-8 Performance rear sight later this spring, and a front sight late summer.
The trigger broke quite crisply at 5 lbs 5.5 oz for an average of 10 pulls on my Lyman digital gauge. I have no issues with the weight, and would be a very appropriate weight for a service pistol.
The magazine catch is the popular extended style we first saw on the Kimber 1911s. The catch on my pistol was equipped with a very light spring, which causes me some concern for duty use. I did have a bit of an issue with my mag catch as it would stick in the depressed position and require some wrangling to return to position. I am leaving it as is for initial test firing to see if it causes any issues.
The slide stop is a MIM unit, as are most of the small parts. That is to be expected at this price point, and I have no issues with that. It is clearly marked as a .45 caliber unit, which is refreshing to see versus stuffing a 9/.38 unit into a .45 and having the lobe crash into the rounds and causing false lockbacks. Yes, I've seen that before. The lobe has the proper .200" protrusion in toward the mag well, and the pin is .1985". The rear corner of the slide stop lever was probably the only objectionable sharp edge on the entire gun, and it was mild at that.
With the full length guide rod, the pistol quickly field strips into two subassemblies.
The slide features a titanium firing pin, and the interior exhibits no excessive machining marks. Yes, that bushing wrench is necessary for field stripping. Here you can see how smooth the interior of the slide is. The gun is built on all new machinery in Smith & Wesson's Houlton, Maine facility. The barrel link pin is staked in place, which is a nice touch not often seen.
The feed ramp is cut wide and deep, past .400", which is a good thing and also rarely seen on production 1911s. It is far more common to see shallow, narrow feed ramps which will feed ok with ball, but may be a bit hit or miss with different hollow points. This feed ramp geometry should handle all types of ammunition quite well. The barrel is throated well, with good geometry and surface finish at the mouth of the chamber. he feed ramp does exhibit some minor but noticeable machining marks. I will be interested to see how these fare once they get dirty or are fed hollow points.
It may be a bit hard to tell from this photo, but the plunger spring actually has a bit of a dogleg in it. This feature, specified on the GI print, is nice for keeping the plunger and spring from being ejected from the gun when you remove the thumb safety. This is also a feature not often seen in production guns.
The remainder of the internals is the same as seen on previous generations of S&W 1911s, and are unremarkable. They are MIM, and feature clean surface finish and consistent geometry. This is to be expected at this price point, and certainly not a showstopper by any measure.
One of the big production changes for the E Series was a fitted trigger. Here you can see that the trigger was fitted on the top of the pad. It fits well in the frame with no excessive play.
The plunger tube is properly staked into the frame.
An interesting by product of redesigning the frame for modern machining practices is the opportunity to get rid of a few stress risers and unnecessary sharp corners inside the frame. Note the areas at the back of the frame are all machined with round borders instead of sharp 90 degree corners.
The fish scale style grasping grooves, a carry over from Performance Center 1911s and now seen on the M&P's, is distinctive looking and makes for an effective grasping surface.
The factory E grips weren't working for me, nor were the hex head grip screws. A trip to the 10-8 inventory yielded a set of Dirty Olive G10 grips and some GI pattern grip screws.
Overall, I must say that I am quite impressed with the execution of the E Series. For under $900 street price, it would seem to be a pretty screaming deal. The gun has the most thorough dehorn job I have seen on a factory gun, and the only sharp edge I could find on the gun was at the back of the slide stop. While the benchtop exam went very well, the proof will be in test firing. Follow it here and on Facebook.
Posted by Hilton at 1:24 AM