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Smith & Wesson SW1911 Pro Series 3" Subcompact Review & Pics

Discussion in '1911 Forums' started by awpk03s, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. awpk03s


    Apr 1, 2007
    I recently picked up another new 1911. This one is a Smith & Wesson, sku # 178020, which is their Pro Series Sub Compact 3" model in 45ACP.


    I've been jonesing for a new dedicated CCW 1911 for some time, ever since I sent my Nighthawk Tactical Carry to get a complete back IonBond treatment. When that pistol comes back (maybe another 4-6 weeks, who knows... it's already been gone 6 weeks) I will still carry it on occasion, but will probably just shoot it more. With that said, I also really miss a lightweight 1911 since I got rid of my DW CCO last year, and so on the hunt I went. I was willing to consider bobtail commander guns, CCO guns, or Officer models. I didn't have the budget for a semi-custom gun this time around, so I tried to keep my search to <$1,100.

    I was willing to consider the popular Kimber Ultra CDP II, but in my neck of the woods they go for $1200+Tax, which I thought was a little rich. I have read a lot of good things about Smith and Wesson 1911s, and this model in particular. My local shop had one for $969, so after much deliberation, I picked it up. I know, I know, I could have gotten 2 Rock Islands or like 8 High Points as well, but I'm still satisfied with my decision :supergrin:

    Some highlights here:

    - Officer's frame made of Scandium/Aluminum alloy, and really helps to keep the weight of the pistol down (26.5 oz).

    - The front strap of the frame is vertically serrated, which doesn't really do too much for grip traction, but is better than nothing I guess.

    - 3" stainless bull barrel

    - Low mount 3 dot sights (I really think Tritium Night Sights are deserved at this price point however).

    - Checkered aluminum MSH. I have to add that the checkering is very aggressive and sharp.

    - Stainless slide finished in Melonite. Honestly, this was a pretty big selling point for me. I am a big fan of IonBond and Melonite, and am kind of anal about firearm finishes anyway, so in my book this was a big plus.

    - External extractor. It's not traditional, but it works. Doesn't bother me.

    - Firing Pin Safety, activated by the grip safety, and has no interaction with trigger pull/performance.

    - Ergo rubber grips - very nice actually.

    - Came with two 7 round ACT mags. Good range mags, but now what I will use for CCW.

    Okay, enough reading of the spec sheet, here are some more pictures, and some of my observations about the gun, and some of the changes I made.

    - Sights had to go. I added Heinie SlantPro Straight Eight Night Sights before it left the shop.

    - Single side safety was easy to snick off, but very mushy to engage. I got a Kimber ambi safety finished in IonBond Diamond Black (trying to color match the Melonite as best I could) from Nighthawk Custom, and had my local smith install that as well. As typical with my experience with these ambi safeties, they fit very well have a definite and positive snick on/off and look nice to boot.

    - The MSH was just too much for me. It dug into my side like no tomorrow, so I replaced it with a smooth MSH from VZ Grips.

    - I like a flat bottom mag, so I got a Tripp 7 rounder flush fit for CCW.

    - The trigger pull feels excellent. However, there is considerable movement in the trigger itself. Sloppiness for a lack of a better term. It is not terribly bothersome to me, but I may remedy it with a new trigger in the long run. I do have to point out however, that I while at the shop I compared the display gun with one from the back, and the one from the back had a HORRIBLE trigger pull, like it was hanging up on something, and you literally had to pull it to disengage. I think there was something wrong with it and that the shop may be looking into getting it fixed or replaced. Naturally, I purchased the display model.

    - The grip safety is not blended that terribly well. Also, it requires slightly more effort to engage than my Nighthawks do - I attribute this to the grip activated FPS?

    - Slide to frame fit is good, there is just a tiny hint of horizontal movement, but no vertical movement.

    - No ramped barrel here. I think because S&W claims the Scandium alloy is strong enough to handle the abuse to the frame. We'll see.

    So - bought gun, installed night sights, ambi safety, and then I immediately hit the range. No cleaning, just one drop of FP10 on the barrel hood and slide rails and then just straight shooting. I used the factory ACT mags, as well as Wilson mags. All worked equally well. I fired 50 rounds of Federal 230gr FMJ, 20 rounds of Speer Gold Dot 185gr JHP, 20 rounds of Winchester PDX1 230gr JHP, and 20 rounds of DoubleTap 200gr JHP.
    One thing that I immediately noticed about this gun, was the recoil. It was stout. Was it manageable? Yes, it was - but it's a pretty far cry more stout than a 5" steel frame 1911. This will take some getting used to for me in terms of finding the right kind of grip/stance that will work best with the small pistol, and I think contributed to some fatigue earlier on than I would have normally realized.

    Accuracy with the first 50 rounds of FMJ was a little all over the map. At 10 yards I had a 5" group. I attribute this mostly to adjusting to the recoil, and perhaps the Federal ammo.
    When I switched over to the JHP rounds, I had settled in a bit, and accuracy was MUCH improved to 2 - 2.5" group right in the center of the target.

    Ejection was perfect with all rounds and mags.

    Feeding was nearly perfect, and I will describe and address that here. On 4 occasions throughout the session, the round chambered, but slide failed to return completely to battery. A slight push on the rear of the slide and it was good to go. It occurred twice with FMJ, twice with JHP, and with both ACT and Wilson mags. Now, before the "OMG what a POS I would never trust that gun ever" comments roll in, I will point out several things that I think had a play here:

    - I did not strip and clean the gun prior to firing. My choice, probably should have done it, but I didn't.

    - I did not lube nearly as liberally as I typically would.

    - Being my first experience with a 3" gun, and adjusting to the recoil therein, could have had a play in this.

    - Upon field strip and inspection at home, I discovered the recoil spring was INSTALLED BACKWARDS from the factory. A little research and I discovered this is not a new issue for these guns.

    At home, I cleaned, lubed, and also then proceeded to work/rack the bare frame and slide (no spring) with lube/grease while watching TV (probably 1000 times). Reassembled (correctly) and put away.

    I need to take it out to the range again soon to try it out again, and also because I want to try the Tripp mag and some Wilson Combat 185gr Barnes bullet ammo. I'm confident that in this second range outing, after my experience with the contributing factors noted above has been fixed, that I shouldn't see any issues. However, if I do, Smith & Wesson's customer service has a great reputation for excellence - but seriously don't think I'll need it here.
  2. awpk03s


    Apr 1, 2007
    As I mentioned in another thread, I was lucky enough to snag a Milt Sparks VM2 in left hand to go along with this gun, and I received that in the mail today. Pretty impressed, and glad I got the "old" design.


    And another shot of my 10 yard JHP target:

  3. Nickpisp


    Oct 12, 2010
    Be careful, I hear those are capable of firing with the magazines removed......:faint:
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2011
  4. GeorgiaRedfish

    GeorgiaRedfish Senior Member

    Jun 29, 2010
    Right behind you...
    That would be tragic
  5. Z28ricer


    Aug 4, 2005
    Tampa, FL
    Cant believe they put that on there :crying:

    At least the "WARNING LASERS CAN HURT YOUR EYEBALLS" on my kimber was a sticker :dunno:
  6. G27RR


    Oct 11, 2010
    Nice review, sounds like a nice gun.
  7. dnuggett

    dnuggett PRO 2A

    Feb 28, 2005
    DFW TX
    Congrats and nice write up. Thanks!
  8. glock2740

    glock2740 Gun lover.

    Jun 19, 2008
    NW Ark.
    Congrats! Nice little gun. I've read alot of good things about them. Haven't got to fondle one yet though.
  9. ultraspec


    May 13, 2010
    Been thinking about one of these for awhile, can you post pics of the refinished ambi safety so I can see how well it matches?
  10. awpk03s


    Apr 1, 2007
    The ambi safety pictured above is the one finished in Diamond Black IonBond. The lighting in the pictures is a little tricky, but it color matches very well, and in terms if wear patterns, it should be similar to the melonite, and much better than bluing or a polymer finish.
  11. awpk03s


    Apr 1, 2007
    To update this thread and pistol report, I took my S&W Pro Series Subcompact to the range again today.

    Fired 100 rounds of Remington 230gr FMJ and 20 rounds of Wilson 185gr DPX rounds.
    Used Tripp and Wilson magazines.

    100% reliable with every shot fired, and accuracy was superb.

    This is going to be a sweet carry pistol!


    Dec 19, 2007
    It's reliable and that's what counts. Good job in staying with it in order to get it right.
  13. rsxr22


    Feb 25, 2009
    Youngstown, OH
    Congrats and Enjoy it!! Im looking forward to getting my hands on some of S&W's new 1911's and see what quality is like.
  14. +1 I want to pick up one of the new ones as well. I hope that they run as good as the op's.