I have been paying attention to the S&W 1911 since they introduced them back around 2004. The gun was "really close" and I told them so, to include some very candid feedback on what I thought were some big shortcomings. The main areas that I thought needed work were the Swartz style firing pin safety activated by the grip safety and the execution of the external extractor. Colt put the Swartz safety in some guns prior to WWII, but abandoned it. They later introduced the Series 80 mechanism in about 1984-5, and it should have been a clue that they didn't just reuse the Swartz. Depending on production tolerances, it is not hard to get a situation where the trigger is released to drop the hammer prior to the firing pin being freed. You'll end up with a click when you wanted a bang.
The external extractor was a move in the right direction, and initial results were quite positive. Modern service pistol designs use a hinged, coil spring powered external extractor, and this area has always been a weak point in the 1911 design. However, the claw of the S&W extractor sat a little high relative to the breech face, and did not have as solid a grasp on the case rim as the traditional internal extractor. Once the guns started to get into the high 4 digit or low 5 digit round count, a combination of wear and stacking of dimensional tolerances created extraction issues with some guns. Changing extractors and springs did not typically affect the outcome. Most shooters did not report any issues, as they either did not shoot the guns enough, or did not recognize the issues with erratic ejection. However, the problem existed nonetheless.
The new E Series guns address these two big areas of concern, and add a few other features. The guns dispense with the firing pin safety and use a titanium firing pin. The extractor has been replaced with the extra wide Performance Center extractor which was a very successful unit. Two big home runs so far.
The E Series pistols feature 20 lpi checkering on the front straps as a standard feature. When I first saw photos of the prototypes, I was worried that it'd be pretty horrific. However, when I got it in my hands at SHOT, I found that the checkering was extremely functional and felt very good in the hand. All the rows and points are even and square, and while they won't keep any custom pistolsmiths up at night worrying about the competition, it is a solid effort and it works. The best part of the front strap is a high cut at the top, which imparts a really nice high grip feel. The included "E" grips are a bit busy for my taste, but I usually change out the grips on any 1911, so who cares? Same goes for the hex head grip screws.
|20lpi front strap with excellent high cut|
|Standard controls with extended mag catch, long trigger, Wilson style ambi and grip safety|
|Well executed barrel crown|
|Serrated flat top slide is standard|
|Forward relief cut on ejection port aids live round ejection|
|The biggest ding on the whole gun, the recycled 3rd Gen Sights.|
The guns feature a Swenson style ambi, Wilson 298 style beavertail, traditional GI format slide stop, 3 hole long trigger, and extended mag catch. The frame and slide are nicely dehorned, thanks to extensive tumbling during production which removes all the sharp edges.
The guns have a nice flush crowned barrel. My previous experience with the Smiths has shown me that the guns will shoot very well. I know readers here will gripe about the full length guide rod, but here it is. Yet another part that I am used to switching out.
The top of the slide features a nice flat top treatment, which looks cool if nothing else. The fish scale grasping grooves are holdovers from the Performance Center 1911s, as well as the M&P line. I like how they look, and they are a very effective grasping surface.
Here you can see the wider Performance Center extractor. The ejection port has a nice forward relief cut and bevel, which is beneficial for live round ejection. Live round ejection is an overlooked feature, until you go to clear a malfunction or unload your gun every day at the end of the shift.
Ok, I saved it for last...yes the show samples still had the S&W Third Gen Auto sights on them. I know. No really, I tried. Don't give up yet though, full production has not yet spooled up on these guns, and there is genuine hope for production changes at some point. I have my ear to the ground on this, and will put out info as soon as I get it. You'll also notice that the back of the slide has a serration pattern on it. These serrations would certainly look better with a 10-8 sight on top of it....
My overall impression of the E Series is quite positive, and I look forward to wringing out my sample gun when it arrives. The series currently consists of a 2 tone rail gun, all black rail gun, 2 variants of a Commander (a true 4.25" bushing barrel) Bobtail with Scandium frame, and a standard dust cover stainless model. Expected MSRP ranges from $900-1300, which means for some very competitive street pricing for what I expect will be a very viable out of the box 1911. Stay tuned for a lot more on these guns as production starts to spool up in the next few months. If you were looking for an excuse to buy another 1911 this year, save those pennies and wait to see what happens with these guns.