S&W Prototype 1911

Here's One You Haven't Seen!
30

Long gone — The prototype from a canceled series of S&W Performance Center 1911 pistols.
The knife is an Al Mar Shiva, also now out of production.

It was 2006, well within striking distance of Smith & Wesson’s at-long-last decision to offer its own M1911. The M&P series was brand new, side extractors on M1911s were popular and I was at Smith’s Performance Center booth at the SHOT Show when I saw the flyer for a series of three different new models being introduced. Ranging from a base model to two more highly optioned pistols, the idea was to introduce a gun with all the basics covered — a turnkey pistol that could be slowly upgraded as the shooter’s needs grew, but didn’t need to be.

Being intrigued, I promptly got an assignment to cover the base model and a test gun arrived in short order. While it was a little different from the gun in the flyer, it had all the advertised features.

The unnamed gun consumed over 400 rounds with only a single misfeed, using defensive
ammo fed from every brand of magazine I could find — all nine of them.

A Beauty

Housed in a distinctive aluminum Performance Center hard case, the full-size .45 sported a fine matte black bead-blast finish. Checkered reddish-brown laminate grips added a touch of color as did the lightweight aluminum trigger and polished hammer. The upswept beavertail grip safety made the gun nestle right down into my hand. The checkering on the front strap and flat mainspring housing was well cut but not too sharp and while the gun wasn’t fully beveled, the sharp edges were removed from the muzzle, slide stop, thumb safety and other high-traffic areas.

It had a Novak fixed rear sight and proprietary S&W dovetail-mount front sight, both in a white-dot pattern while the other models could be had in plain black, white dot, night sight, or fiber optic configurations. Of course it had the S&W-designed pivoting extractor to replace the internal extractor traditionally used in the M1911. The extractor was significantly larger than even the one used on the regular-production SW1911 with a huge, well-shaped hook which worked well enough not to be noticed.

The trigger was crisp, the slide and frame tight both fore and aft and the hand-fit barrel rolled smoothly into place while locking up like a bank vault. At first blush, it was a good-looking, well-thought-out gun.

In addition to the clean magazine bevel, the side of the mainspring housing has been
machined so the shooter can add on a funnel later if desired.

Bang, Bang

I picked it up on a Friday evening and shot it for the first time the next morning in the local defensive pistol match — and won. The performance wasn’t an outlier, it consumed over 400 rounds with a single misfeed from an off-brand magazine (I shot it with every one of the nine brands of magazines I had on hand). It averaged under 2″ at 25 yards in the Ransom Rest, using defensive ammo — not target stuff. Handheld, my best group was 2 1/2″ at 25 yards, and from the bench, I put 5 out of 8 shots into 4″ at 100 yards.

The trigger broke like glass, the gun ran like stink and it hit like it meant it. What wasn’t to like?

The PC gun averaged under 2" at 25 yards in the Ransom Rest. From the bench,
Jeremy put 5 out of 8 shots into 4" at 100 yards.

The S&W-designed pivoting extractor was significantly larger than even the one
used on the regular-production SW1911s, with a huge, well-shaped hook.

But …

I’ll never know — all I do know is by the time my article went to the editor, the pistol series had been canceled. I also learned the gun I had been sent was a prototype, one of perhaps three of this model. The total number of prototypes for all three models fades in my memory, but it was in the single digits. Since there’s no sense creating demand for something people can’t get, the article was canceled along with the series.

Which means — except when I was shooting it — the gun never saw the light of day.

Until now.

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