Fit and Finish
Cosmetically, the frames of both of my test pistols are as nice as I have ever seen on an alloy-framed gun. Even when I disassembled the gun, I was unable to find any machine or tool marks. In fact, the frames feature a highly polished feedramp, something you don't usually see on an aluminum frame.
The SW1911PD features a standard unsupported barrel just like the original 1911 design. It is throated for reliability with hollow points and has a small window cut at the rear end of the barrel's hood so that the shooter can see if the chamber is loaded. A stainless steel bushing is used on the guns and a full-length recoil spring guide rod is used as well.
Like a number of other manufacturers, S&W builds its pistols with MIM (Metal Injection Molded) parts that are nearly as dense as traditional tooled-steel parts. MIM parts are incredibly consistent and this advantage ensures that the manufacturer does not have to do hand fitting of parts like sears, hammers, and disconnectors. This helps keep the cost of the gun down.
Shooting Small Groups
You'd think that shooting a gun that runs a half-pound lighter than a steel-framed pistol would be painful, but I am glad to report that is not the case. Recoil with both guns is very manageable. In fact, I could barely discern any difference between the full-size scandium-framed gun and a steel-framed gun. My Commander-size gun was a bit more lively to shoot but was by no means hard to control or punishing.
I did all of my accuracy testing from a seated position utilizing a Millett BenchMaster for support. I fired five rounds to a group with my targets set out at 25 yards. Both guns are fitted with the excellent Novak Lo-Mount carry rear sights and dovetailed front sights. They present a very crisp sight picture that aids in shooting small groups.
The other thing that aided me in shooting these guns accurately was their crisp triggers. Both guns' triggers broke at 4.25 pounds—probably the ideal weight for a gun that would be used for defense. S&W uses a long, lightweight trigger adjustable for overtravel on the PD models. Both pistols display an uncanny degree of accuracy and produced some really nice, tight groups.
It isn't very often that I receive a pistol for evaluation that produces groups under two inches with all ammunition. But that's exactly what these two S&W models are capable of. Certainly the degree of accuracy that these guns possess not only makes them a top choice for personal defense but also for sport shooting.
I probably put more than 200 rounds through each of these guns during my evaluation with some pretty potent defense ammo and had zero malfunctions with either weapon. I credit the well-polished feedramp, external extractor, well-throated chamber, and quality magazines for the guns' flawless performance.
As I mentioned earlier, the Commander-size gun was outfitted with a set of Desert Tan Crimson Trace Lasergrips embellished with the S&W logo. If you look at the pictures that accompany this article, you can see that the black molded rubber pad on the frontstrap is the activation button that the middle finger of the shooting hand will depress when a firing grip is taken. At the top of the right side grip is the module that produces the laser beam. There are small set screws that allow the shooter to adjust the laser for windage and elevation. Since my iron sights were on the money it took just seconds to adjust the beam to sit above the front sight.
The Crimson Trace grips are easy to use and certainly have a place on a defense gun, especially for low-light situations. It's also hard to dismiss the deterrent effect that the little red dot has when it's placed on a bad guy's chest.
I'm impressed with the S&W SW1911PD pistols. They're accurate and reliable and possess an exacting degree of fit and finish. Owners of these guns can also retrofit them with a number of aftermarket parts should they choose to do so, as almost all parts will interchange with a 1911 pattern pistol from other manufacturers. The obvious exclusion would be the external extractor and firing pin safety.
S&W also produces its 1911 pistols in a variety of configurations—some with light rails, some constructed from stainless steel. You'll need to look at them to decide which pistol best suits your needs.