Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Pro Series 1911 Pistol – Reliable & Concealable

Dave Bahde, GetZone.com Contributor

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pro series 1911
S&W Pro Series 3" 1911 in 9mm is compact, accurate, very reliable, and a pure joy to shoot.

As a full-time gun writer, I shoot often, every day in a given week. But, it’s seldom the same weapon, or at least the same operating system. With most rifles, it’s not really an issue, but pistols can be a different story. My testing generally reaches well beyond the bench, in fact, I avoid them if possible, it’s mostly practical application. Practicing this way is valuable, but causes its own set of issues using vastly different systems. On the one hand, it is excellent training towards being a “master of arms”, as opposed to only shooting one weapon. Being able to pick up most any firearm and make it work, likely having tested it is nice, maybe lifesaving. The flip side is much of my training is not with the system generally carried, a 1911. Using that system for three decades it’s the one for which I am most familiar, and as a rule most proficient. Trigger take up is minimal, reset short, with a pull that is straight back with no stacking. Many modern pistols are exactly the opposite with long take up, glacial stacking and long reset. There is a reason many are fit with aftermarket triggers that mimic the 1911. Triggers are getting better, but where striker fired pistols really shine is size. It lends itself to reliable functioning pistols with 3″ barrels, primarily in 9mm. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case when it comes to 1911’s, especially chambered in 9mm.

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Compact 1911’s

Having owned several 1911 pistols with 3″ barrels, most of them ran very well, all chambered in 45 ACP. They are nothing new having been around since the Colt Defender’s introduction in 2000. Kimber offers several Ultra Compacts in 45 ACP. Just about everyone producing 1911’s offers one. They are compact, short, and easy to conceal. For years, one sat in my Galco Body Glove ankle holster as a patrol sergeant, then Lieutenant. Many all-steel versions are excellent; some of the lightweight models are a bit more hit-or-miss for reliability. Few have been offered in 9mm until recently, coinciding with the resurgence of the caliber. Increased effectiveness of modern ammunition makes the 9mm increasingly viable. Tighter machining and precise design lends itself to better-built firearms, especially where metal is involved. Compact 1911 pistols in 9mm offer higher capacity over their bigger-bore brethren. Less weight, less recoil, and easier concealability make them popular. The only remaining issue for some has been reliability, but Smith and Wesson’s new Pro Series 1911 seems to have dealt with that nicely.

pro series 1911
Hornady’s 135-grain +P is a proven round that ran perfectly and produced excellent accuracy

S&W Pro Series 1911

Most of what has made the Pro Series in 45 ACP popular has carried over. Placed just below Performance Center guns, the Pro Series 1911 offers many of the most desirable features. The slide is stainless steel with a scandium frame making it light; listed weight is 26.2 oz. empty. My test pistol weighed in at 29 oz. loaded with nine rounds of Sig Sauer 115-grain V Crown ammunition. Bull Barrel is stainless steel and fully supported using a two-stage plunger style return spring. The grip is high cut with grooves on the front strap. Extended beavertail provides a comfortable high grip, even for my large hands. Mainspring housing is beveled at the bottom and checkered for carry. The magazine release is slightly extended; grips are plastic with a sandpaper type texture. The trigger is a curved aluminum three hole and broke cleanly at a consistent four pounds using a series 80 firing pin safety. Thumb safeties are ambidextrous, slim, and operated with a satisfying snap. The slide is black with rear cocking serrations and three dot sights (white) using a carry profile. Tritium night sights are available through S&W. Their heavy-duty external extractor is used. Two eight round flush fit magazines (no base pads) were supplied, both made by Metalform.

pro series 1911
The bull barrel locks up tightly allowing for excellent accuracy along with complete reliability.

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Testing

The factory “dot” sights are just not viable for me — they are just too small. It’s personal for sure, many prefer them, but at my age, they are hard to see. I requested a set of Tritium sight to help my aging eyes. Aftermarket sights are just not out there for the Pro Series 1911 front dovetail, so short of a custom sight this is what I had to work with. The rear is standard Novak with several choices. The tritium front sight is larger with a white ring around the tritium vial, much easier for me to see. The standard rear was used with the dots intact and painted black, along with the Tritium rear. The dots on it are a bit wider than those supplied with the pistol.

pro series 1911
The factory rear sight is a simple white dot that is easily visible, or just as easily blacked out if needed.
pro series 1911
Adding S&W Tritium front sight provided a bigger dot, more visibility, and assists in low and failing light conditions.

I carried the pistol in my usual leather rig from Milt Sparks, a Nexus, along with some time in a Galco Ankle rig. For much of the range work, an RDR Custom Kydex IWB holster was used. Several magazines were tested including the supplied flush fitting 8 round magazine, Metalform 10 round magazines, Wilson Combat Elite, and Tripp Research.

Range Time

Testing started pretty down and dirty. The two magazines supplied along with three ten round Metalforms were loaded with Sig Sauer 115 grain V-Crown and emptied as fast as the trigger could be pulled. Pretty much  “bill drills” at seven yards. Another 50 rounds were used to ensure point of aim at various ranges and it went in the holster for carry over the next few weeks. Attending a Close Quarter Pistol class at Gunsite Academy it was tested using duty ammunition at the end of each training day — being on staff has its privileges. Even with a fully supported barrel short, 9mm pistols can be finicky with self-defense ammunition, especially 1911’s. That was just not the case here. Sig Sauer along with Remington’s HTP 115-grain +P, Barnes 115-grain TAC-XPD, and Speer 124-grain Gold Dot were tested. All functioned without issue — extraction was flawless, ejection consistent and positive. Recoil was manageable, downright soft to be honest. It felt like it could be used over several hundred rounds comfortably, and upon my return home, it was.

Trigger is a Series 80 style, yet remains crisp and predictable allowing for both accuracy and rapid fire when needed

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Tested for accuracy and velocity Hornady’s 135-grain +P Critical Duty was added to the mix. It’s one of my favorites and has proven itself with many police departments. It turned out the best group at 25 yards measuring at about 1.5″. Groups were fired from the hood of my truck using a bag for a rest. Most were in the 2-2.5″ range — accuracy was solid with most everything. At more practical ranges, 15 yards or closer it was about as accurate as it gets in a working pistol. Remington UMC 115-grain was incredibly soft to shoot yet cycled perfectly (even the lead-free) and was as accurate as I can shoot. My entire hand fit on the grip (although barely) making it easy to control. Even Doubletap Ammunition’s 115-grain bonded load at close to 1,300 fps was controllable, snappy for sure, but very controllable.

All the Metalform magazines performed flawlessly with the Pro Series 1911, the 10 round versions along with the two eight rounders supplied. The same was true for the Wilson Elite magazines. Given the supplied magazines were Metalform, and the higher capacity magazines functioned perfectly they would be my preference, but the rest worked fine.

pro series 1911
Compact, light and maneuverable the Pro Series was easy to use around barricades, obstacles, and other structures.

Adding the larger Tritium front sight was huge for me, it was easier for me to pick up during the day along with low and failing light conditions. Point of aim did not suffer, nor did accuracy. I have a nice sight pusher. If you install it yourself, make sure you have one or take it to someone that does – it’s tight. My preferred rear sight is black, or a single tritium insert centered in the sight that can’t be seen as a rule during daylight. Blacking out the factory dots worked best, and is also the easiest, although the rear is easier to push off. Factory dots are closer together and smaller, so unless you need tritium in the rear that worked well. Otherwise, the Tritium rear provides visible dots that are a bit farther apart. The Pro Series 1911 pistol will likely not go back, so eventually it will get a 10-8 performance rear installed, but for now, the blacked out rear is just fine.

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Final Thoughts

Like most lightweight pistols, the Pro Series 1911 was a joy to carry. It’s only an ounce or two lighter than a LW commander, but it is noticeably easier to conceal. It works AIWB, and concealed under a T-shirt and is compact, so fitting various spots around the truck. If your back is sensitive to weight or you are unable to conceal larger pistols, the Pro Series 1911 is about perfect and you don’t give up any real effectiveness, especially loaded with the hotter loads.

Smith and Wesson’s external extractor appears to deal with typical brass ejection issues well. It shoots everything well including the high-velocity rounds. Above all, it was completely reliable no matter how fast the trigger was pulled and what it was feeding. S&W and Wesson’s Pro Series 1911 offers yet another excellent choice for a concealed carry pistol in general, and 1911 specifically. Make certain you add this to the list for your next compact — it would be a great choice.

Specifications
Action: Single Action Only
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.0 in
OAL:        6.9″ 6.9 in
Weight: 26.2 oz (empty), 29 oz (fully loaded)
MSRP: $1,330.00

 

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Ammunition Velocity (fps) Group (in)
Remington 115 Grain +P HTP 1,105 2.44
Speer Gold Dot 124 Grain 1,025 2.5
Doubletap 115 Grain Bonded 1,288 2.5
Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain 1,100 2.1
Barnes 115 grain TAC-XPS 1,070 2.25
Hornady 135 Grain +P 1,000 1.5

 

Groups fired from a bag (rest) using the hood of my FJ Cruiser as a rest. Distance 25 yards, 3 five shot groups for comparison. Velocity in Feet Per Second (FPS) measured with a “Chrony” chronograph over three five shot groups.

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For more information, please visit: www.smith-wesson.com