In the past, I have looked to Smith and Wesson for revolvers; and several have passed, and several have remained in my hands since then. There are way too many polymer pistol models to wade through (and I am not a fan of the S&W trigger on any of the models). Although I was aware of Smith and Wesson 1911 pistols, I really paid no mind to them. With that that said, I have finally paid a mind to them and I would like to introduce you to one of the best 1911 pistols that I have ever had the pleasure of handling and shooting – the Smith and Wesson PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm.
At my local gun club, we have two Smith and Wesson 1911 range rental pistols; a Smith and Wesson ‘E’ series in .45 ACP and the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm. The latter is a pistol that I have been drawn to on several occasions, and one that I felt worthy enough of reviewing, perhaps attempting to convince myself that I need a 9mm 1911 pistol that carries an MSRP of $1,579.00 (at the time of this writing).
I have a couple of 1911-based pistols in 9mm; A Ruger SR1911 and a Rock Island Armory 1911FS Tactical. Both pistols are good shooters; however, the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm is a great shooter and in a class of “better than stock” pistols. So good, in fact, that I would seriously consider carrying it as an EDC. However, my frugal side says that it is too costly, and too fine a pistol to carry. Let me explain.
I currently carry a Rock Island Armory 1911 FS Tactical, which is an inexpensive 1911, as most of us know. I had to modify the front sight a bit to bring the impact of the projectile being fired to my point of aim at a combat distance of seven yards. I also had to tune the extractor for the proper tension. Finally, I had to swap the recoil spring out with an 18# recoil spring. That’s not saying anything against RIA 1911 pistols; these are production pistols that meet Armscor production quality standards, and these were simply tweaks that I had to do to ensure that the pistol was up to my standards for EDC. Additionally, the stock grip panels were removed, and a modified Hogue Rubber Wrap-a-Round Finger Groove Grip replaced them; the modification included a slight cut a the top of the right grip to accommodate the ambi safety lever.
The pistol has proven itself highly accurate with Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain JHP, which is my chosen defensive load with this pistol. The pistol has proven itself to be reliable, with errors in operation usually being my fault (accidentally pressing the slide lock mechanism), or a magazine fault. Should I have to use the pistol in a defensive situation, the pistol would probably be confiscated for a time, which means that I would be out of a personal protection pistol. Since the pistol was purchased for not too great a cost, my monetary loss is negligible. However, with a pistol like a Smith and Wesson ‘E’ series in .45 ACP, or the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm, or even a higher cost pistol like a Nighthawk Custom, Wilson Combat, Dan Wesson, or even a Springfield Armory TRP, the financial loss is quite a bit more, plus the fact that I am placing an expensive pistol in the hands of uncaring individuals; neither pistol would be the same ever again. With the Rock Island Armory 1911 FS Tactical, I am not as concerned, as it is simply a tool used to send a projectile (or more) into a bad guy and would do it just as well as its higher-priced brethren. With that said, I have succumbed to and purchased the SW1911 “E” Series as a prime candidate to replace the ‘Rock.’ The “E” series SW1911 is an excellent pistol for the price, but it is obviously not a Performance Center product.
When the opportunity to shoot an ‘upscale’ 1911 comes along, like the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm, I jump at the chance and sometimes I do have to face up to the fact at what I can get with an expensive pistol over a lower-cost and lower-quality pistol used for self or home defense. Let’s face it, we all know that a 1911 is a 1911, right? But, all 1911-based pistols are not equal and the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm is an example of that. The old saying; “All men are created equal and Smith and Wesson keeps it that way.” comes to mind. In this case; “All men are created equal and a Performance Center Smith and Wesson keeps it one step above.” Might be more applicable.
Let’s look at the marketing from Smith and Wesson for the pistol.
“Completing the line between main production and the Performance Center, the Smith & Wesson Pro Series represents the next step from standard models. These firearms are offered with a variety of enhancements yet still remain true to “stock.” Bringing competition specification and features to factory model, the Pro Series offer that ready-to-go package while still maintaining production line integrity.
- 30 LPI checkered front strap
- Hand polished integral feed ramp
- Precision crowned muzzle
- Oversized external extractor
- Full length guide rod
- Double sided frame safety
- Extended mag well
- Stoned hammer and sear”
Some consider an all stainless-steel firearm a bit flashy for concealed carry. In the summer weather that we have here in Georgia, I consider it a necessity and favor stainless-steel over everything else.
The look of the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm is quite sexy, with controls and sights being black adding contrast to the stainless-steel slide, frame, barrel, and full-length guide rod. Yes, the thumb safety, slide lock, grip safety, etc. are MIM parts, but they are fitted MIM parts and function like they are fitted parts – very well, thank you.
The now standard expectation of features are present; oversized ambidextrous thumb safety, excellent beavertail grip safety with memory bump, skeletonized trigger with over-travel adjustment, skeletonized and roiled hammer, extended slide lock, full-length guide rod, etc. Not normally standard, but is seemingly becoming that way, is the extended mag well (also in contrasting black), which is a feature that I like, and which allows using 10-round magazines that are relatively flush with the gun butt, although it subtracts slightly in the concealment department.
Markings on the slide and frame are minimal, and I could do
without the “CAUTION – CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH THE MAGAZINE REMOVED” statement
on the frame.
The ‘Ripple Cuts’ texturing on the slide is a peasant departure from the normal vertical or slanted serrations normally found on the slide. The first time that I saw the ‘Scalloped’ pattern on the Smith and Wesson “E” series .45 ACP I liked them and contributed to the reason why I bought the pistol. The ‘Ripple Cut’ pattern, as is on the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm looks outstanding and is highly functional. However, unlike the ‘E” Series, no forward pattern is used. I can live with both.
A most outstanding feature of the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm are the grip panels. These are the most effective grip panels that I have seen and held in a long time. Perfectly textured not with a cross-hatch or diamond pattern, but more of a granular texture that is easy to grip and easy on the hand, yet very capable of holding the hand in place. I heard one reviewer describe them as “tree bark” and I think that is a good description of them. While I normally like the Hogue finger-groove wrap-a-round grip on my 1911 pistols, these would easily take top spot. Coupled with the checkered front strap, textured main spring housing, and my high ‘over-the thumb safety’ grip, I was able to maintain a constant grip on the pistol during shooting without shifting or adjusting my grip as with some 1911 pistols. These grip panels will remain on the pistol.
Magazine exchanges were perfect. I had several Wilson Combat 9mm magazines with me and I was able to perform a combat reload with relative ease while trying a new technique; keeping the pistol close, high, and in-line to the target so that I can see both the target and the magazine well. A habit that I have picked up over the years of ‘palming’ the replacement magazine and swapping it with the replaced magazine. The pistol has an extended Magwell that helps to smooth the lines of the magazine ‘bumper pad’ that extend beyond the magazine well.
The fit and Stainless Steel, Matt Silver finish is superb, and the pistol is just a please to look at and handle. When held, it feels as if it belongs in your hand. The excellent grip panels and checkering of the front strap and mainspring housing just hold your hand in place.
The PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm runs a full-length guide rod. With the accuracy of this pistol as it is, there is no way I am going to change that fact.
At the Range
The PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm ran without fail. Some might claim that having an external extractor on a 1911 does not make it a 1911. I disagree. The reason that the 1911-based pistol has been around for so long is a contribution to the ability of many to improve on the design without completely removing what John Moses Browning envisioned and designed. The external extractor on the Smith and Wesson series of 1911 pistols is robust and works without fail. There is no ‘tuning’ of this extractor like I have had to do several times in the past – even on new 1911 pistols.
Sights are of the low-profile three-dot type. Although small, they are adequate for these old eyes, as could be attested to by the tight groups that were being shot. The weight of this full-size 1911 is 41.1 oz. (2 lb. 9.1 ounces) unloaded, which contributes greatly to the low felt recoil and muzzle flip. This is a very easy pistol to control for quick follow-up shots.
Slide a magazine into the magazine well, close the slide by either a sling-shot method or by pressing the slide lock down, flip the ambidextrous safety to the “On” position, bring the pistol up to bear to the target while pressing the safety lever to the “Off” position, pull the trigger, and commence to put a lot of holes in a tight group, if you do your part.
Accuracy is exceptional. If I could do my part on a consistent basis, and with ammunition mated to the pistol, I could deliver 1-inch groups with this pistol at combat distances, firing off-hand from my usual modified Weaver stance, until I tired of doing so. I am no slouch shooting a 1911 once the pistol and me tune in with each other, but the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm needed no dialing in. It’s a simply point-n-shoot pistol where the bullet impacts where you are pointed. If you are not used to shooting a 1911, there may be some transition, but to those are used to shooting a 1911, you will love how good this pistol makes you look. Of course, if you are a poor shooter, the pistol can make you look just as bad – but that is not a fault of the pistol.
The Concealment Factor
Concealment of a pistol always seems to be at the top of the list no matter what your PDA. Most uninitiated folks would balk at carrying a 1911. The PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm is a full-size (Government) 1911 with a Barrel Length of 5″ (12.7 cm), an overall length of 8.7″, and houses a 10-round magazine for a 10+1 capacity. In an excellent IWB holster, excellent gear, and the right clothing selection, the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm can be easier to conceal than a Glock, Smith and Wesson, or Springfield full-size of comparable-caliber and polymer pistols.
Some Personal Observations
From a personal standpoint, the only thing that I would have love to have on this pistol is that all the controls; the thumb and grip safety, the mainspring housing, slide lock/release, magazine release button, and the plunger tube be either of the same black color or all in silver to match the overall pistol’s finish. The Kimber Stainless II (shown below) is a prime example.
Or, like the Dan Wesson PM-9 shown below:
When you pay the kind of money as was paid for PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm (the Kimber, incidentally, is a lot less and the Dan Wesson PM-9 is about the same price as the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm), well…
Of course, I realize that this is something that I could do myself, but would it add value for the additional cost? Only to my anal self, probably.
Some may say that reviewing a 1911 is a futile venture since any 1911 platform is the same as the next. Now, that may be true when comparing one stock Glock against another, but it is not necessarily true with a 1911. There is usually enough difference between manufactures that make each 1911 unique even if cut from the same cloth. While the 1911 may seem to be a standardized design, each variant remains an enigma, a puzzle that must be sorted out before you can effectively understand what it is telling you. I have been shooting them on and off for close to fifty years and each one I have had, or handled, had a different story to tell, and I am sure that there will be more stories to come. There is an old saying in Harley-Davidson circles, “If you have to ask…” The 1911 pistol is kind of like that.
But that doesn’t mean that the Performance Center 1911 pistols are just some overpriced collector’s item. These are top of the line firearms that are used every day by everyone from competition shooters to U.S. Special Forces. I really don’t think that S&W is unwarranted for asking over $1,500; it’s a great gun that looks and operates like a custom-built machine. Even if you are looking for a personal protection weapon, these should still be on your list.
I can endorse the PERFORMANCE CENTER® SW1911 PRO SERIES® in 9mm with total confidence in doing so. I just can’t, unfortunately, say that I own one – yet.