Smith & Wesson “E Series” 45 ACP SW1911 Auto Pistols


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 20th, 2011


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Smith & Wesson "E Series" 1911 pistols: SW1911 (top), SW1911SC (bottom).



Disassembly is quick, easy and requires no tools.



Barrel hood has a witness hole to serve as a loaded-chamber indicator.



The E Series pistols have no firing pin safety.



The 1911SC (top) has a "Bobtail" butt, while the SW1911 (bottom) has a standard square butt.






Accuracy testing was done using a Ransom Master Series machine rest.



Typical group using handload with Rim Rock 200-grain SWC bullets.



Smith & Wesson entered the 1911 pistol market a little over eight years ago, and I reviewed their first effort at that classic design here on Gunblast in February of 2003. At that time, the SW1911 was a five-inch stainless pistol with a few variations from the original John Browning design, but the line of S&W 1911 pistols has now grown to twenty-five different versions, to suit any need that one might have for a 1911 auto pistol. 

The latest S&W 1911 pistols are the new “E Series” pistols, one of which is an ideal candidate for the perfect 1911 carry gun. With a huge plethora of 1911 pistols on the market today, from dozens of manufacturers, the choices seem almost limitless, and for me to declare one as “perfect” for any particular need deserves some explanation.

There are many 1911 pistols available today that would serve very well to be carried as a defensive sidearm, and I own a few myself. Seeking out my perfect carry gun several years ago, there was nothing on the market that fit my personal description for the perfect carry gun. I like the Commander length pistols. They have a full-sized grip for good control, and the four and one-quarter inch barrel seems ideal, having enough length for good balance and velocity, while being short enough for comfortable carry and concealment. I find the shorter Officer’s-size guns to be no easier to conceal, and the short-gripped 1911 pistols to be not as easy to control and fire accurately. I also love the Bobtail design, as pioneered by Ed Brown. However, while at the time that I was searching there were available Bobtail 1911 pistols, no one was producing a lightweight 1911 with a Bobtail frame, so I had to do the procedure to my Lightweight Colt Commander myself. The result was a relatively light, controllable, accurate, reliable, and powerful carry gun that was flat enough, light enough, and thanks to the Bobtail, easy to conceal and comfortable in the hand. I did the chop job myself, and sent the weapon to Robar for finishing. That Colt is now my perfect 1911 carry gun. Had the new S&W E Series Bobtail been in production back then, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and expense, and just purchased the Smith.

Before getting into detail on what makes this new S&W ideal for carry, there is another model in the E Series lineup also shown here, to fill the needs of those who prefer a full-sized, all-steel 1911. The two pistols share E Series upgrades and features, but fill different pistol needs, so both deserve a closer look.

Obvious at first glance is the aesthetic appeal of these E Series pistols. The beautiful wood grips are both handsome and functional, with enough texturing for a secure grip. The Bobtail grips have a fish-scale pattern texturing, while the full-size pistol has both fish-scale and checkering on the grip panels. The fish-scale pattern is continued both fore and aft on the slide for a secure grip while cycling the slide manually. Another feature of the new E Series is the lack of a firing pin safety. This is often erroneously referred to as a Series 70 type action, but the Series 70 designation on the old Colt pistols was in reference to the collet barrel bushing, and had nothing to do with a firing pin safety. S&W had a firing pin safety on their SW1911 pistols from their introduction, working off of the grip safety, but that feature has been eliminated on the E Series, as none is needed to prevent accidental discharge if the pistol is dropped, as the E Series pistols have a stronger firing pin spring.

Critical specifications are listed in the chart below. Weights are listed in ounces. Linear measurements are listed in inches. Trigger pulls are listed as pounds of pressure. Height includes sights but not the magazine base.

  SW1911 SW1911SC
Chambering 45 ACP 45 ACP
Weight with Empty Magazine 39.2 oz 29.2 oz
Trigger Pull 5.6 lbs 4.56 lbs
Barrel Length 4.96" 4.23"
Barrel Diameter 0.57" 0.57"
Overall Height 5.4" 5.4"
Overall Length 8.55" 7.79"
Slide Thickness 0.91" 0.91"
Grip Thickness 1.31" 1.33"
Trigger Reach 2.75" 2.75"
Magazine Capacity 8 Rounds 8 Rounds / 7 Rounds
Magazines Supplied 2 2

Both pistols come shipped in a hard plastic storage case with instructions and two magazines each. The SW1911 has two eight-round mags with extended base pads, and the SW1911SC comes with one eight-round mag with extended base pad, and one seven-round mag that fits flush with the butt of the grip. The slides and barrels on both pistols are made of stainless steel with an overall matte finish with the small parts such as the magazine release, slide stop, thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, and sights finished in a matte black. The sides of the slide on the full-sized pistol are polished. The hammers are of the rounded, lightened design. The sights on the Bobtail (SW1911SC) wear tritium inserts. The sights on the full size pistol are of the three-white-dot pattern, but have no tritium illumination. Both rear sights are of the Novak style, and the front sights are dovetailed into the slide, making both front and rear adjustable for windage correction. The front of the frames in the grip area is checkered on both pistols, and they have a relief cut at the rear of the frame just behind the trigger guard to allow a bit higher grip on the pistols. The thumb safeties are of the extended style, with the thumb safety on the Bobtail being ambidextrous, a feature which I dearly love. Both grip safeties are of the upswept beavertail design, to protect the web between the shooter’s thumb and finger, and to offer a more comfortable grip. The mainspring housing on the SW1911 is checkered, and on the SW1911SC, grooved. Both assist in keeping a secure grip on the pistols during firing. The rear of the slide on the Bobtail is grooved horizontally, to alleviate glare. Both pistols have throated and polished chambers, and smooth feed ramps. The triggers on both pistols are lightweight aluminum, with holes to further lighten the weight, and overtravel stop screws. Both pistols have stainless steel full-length recoil spring guide rods. The magazine wells are beveled to facilitate a quick reload. The muzzle of the barrel fits flush with the barrel bushing on the full-size pistol, and is slightly recessed on the Bobtail. The extractors on the E Series pistols are larger than the ones used on the original SW1911 pistols, and looks very similar to the extractors used on the discontinued S&W 1000 and 4000 series auto pistols. The mag release button on the Bobtail is slightly extended. As mentioned above, neither pistol has a Swartz safety or firing pin safety of any kind. None is needed. Both pistols are flattened and grooved atop the slide to prevent glare. Using a patented Scandium alloy for the frame, the SW1911SC is a full ten ounces lighter than the stainless, full-sized SW1911.

I fired the new E Series pistols for function and accuracy using several different brands and types of ammunition. I tested for velocity with my chronograph set at ten feet from the muzzle, and an air temperature of seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit, with a cloudy sky and a slight breeze. Velocity readings were taken at an elevation of approximately 541 feet above sea level. Velocities are listed in the chart below, and are listed in feet-per-second (fps). FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint. DPX is an homogenous copper hollowpoint bullet. Glaser is a specialty pre-fragmented bullet inside a copper alloy jacket. PB is Pow’RBall. EPR and AF are high performance specialty bullets as loaded by Extreme Shock Ammunition. LWSC is a cast lead semi-wadcutter bullet. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in grains.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity SW1911 Velocity SW1911SC
Cor-Bon JHP 200 1069 1034
Cor-Bon JHP 165 1171 1138
Cor-Bon JHP 230 940 930
Cor-Bon DPX 185 1018 994
Cor-Bon PB 165 1203 1145
Cor-Bon Glaser 145 1239 1219
Stryker FMJ 230 771 745
Remington FMJ 230 794 754
Buffalo Bore JHP 230 958 928
Buffalo Bore FMJ 230 944 915
Handload LWSC 200 1008 964
Extreme Shock EPR 185 1132 1098
Extreme Shock AF 125 1451 1410
WCC 1911 Ball FMJ 230 779 765

Accuracy was pretty good with several loads, with everything tried grouping five shots at twenty-five yards between two and three and one-half inches. The exception was my handload using Rim Rock 200 grain LSWC bullets. That load consistently stayed under two inches from both pistols. I could detect no accuracy difference between the two pistols, as each fired better with some loads than did the other. Reliability of both pistols was perfect. They fed, fired, and ejected every type of ammo tested without fail.

Both of these E Series pistols are excellent 1911 pattern handguns. The stainless full-size SW1911 is an excellent general purpose 1911. To me, the SW1911SC Bobtail stole the show, and my heart. It is lightweight, powerful, easy to carry, and easy to shoot. The Bobtail prevents the butt of the pistol from digging into my side, and it also feels so much better in my hand. It comes with ambidextrous safety, and tritium night sights. It also costs a couple of hundred dollars less than its closest competitor. Right out of the box, it is the perfect concealed carry 1911, with one caveat; it needs the addition of a Crimson Trace Lasergrip, and hopefully, that Lasergrip will be in production by the time you are reading this. I have been awaiting a Bobtail CT Laser for years, and one is in the works. It is listed on the Crimson Trace website as “coming soon”, and I have to have one. Adding it to this SW1911SC pistol will indeed make this SW1911SC the perfect carry 1911.

Check out the new E Series pistols online at

For the location of a S&W dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at

To order the E Series pistols online, go to

To order quality 45 ACP ammunition, go to,, and

To order the high quality handgun leather shown here, go to

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


SW1911SC Bobtail.



The new SW1911SC (right) has all the custom features done to author's lightweight Colt, right out of the box.



Excellent leather from Simply Rugged Holsters.