The SW1911 design is heavily based on the original M1911 using the same dimensions for the frame and barrel. Likewise the ability to use the .45 ACP is retained as is the single action mechanism (although several parts have been strengthend). Therefore the standard SW1911 is said to feel almost identical to the original M1911.
The SW1911 also uses the recognisable beaver-tail grip safety, however the beaver-tail is oversized to ensure better control. Further safety mechanisms are included on the SW1911, such as an extended thumb safety (allowing for better control and ensuring a firm grip is maintained when switching the safety off) and several internal safeties, all of which work to prevent the SW1911 firing accidently.
Other features on the SW1911 are a serated front to the slide (making the slide action smoother and disassembley easier), an external extractor combined with a slightly enlarged ejector port (making the extraction and ejection process easier) and a lightweight hammer and trigger (making the trigger pull lighter and smoother) making the SW1911 a high quality and reliable M1911.
The SW1911 uses the same .45 ACP round as the original Colt M1911. Some SW1911s are chambered in the 9x19mm Parabellum round, opening the SW1911 to a wider market of users. The magazine used in the SW1911 is available in a range of capacities from 7 rounds to a 10 round box magazine, all with one shot in the chamber.
The SW1911 is referred to (in Smith & Wesson catalogues) as the Model SW1911. It is avaliable in all magazine sizes (open to the SW1911) and two different barrel lengths (5in and 3in). Other models are catalogued with different names with different aesthetic features, grips and sights.
Notable other models
- SW1911 E-Series - Frame and slide made from stainless steel, finished in satin stainless with white dot sight.
- SW1911SC E-Series - Frame made from an anodised alloy with stainless steel slide. The SW1911SC E-Series is finished in black with tritium night sights.
- SW1911 CT E-Series - Frame and slide made from stainless steel and finished in satin stainless with a white dot sight.
- SW1911TA E-Series - Frame and slide made from stainless steel and finished in satin stainless. Uses a tritium night sight and a tactical rail.
- SW1911 Pro Series - Frame and slide made from stainless steel, finished in matte silver with dovetail front sight and adjustable rear sight. The Pro Series is designed for competitive target shooting.
- SW1911 100th Anniversary Special - Frame and slide made from stainless steel and finished with engravings (via glass beads). A white dot sight is used for the front and a low profile carry sight used for the rear.
- SW1911DK - Uses a stainless steel frame with carbon steel slide. The front sight is a single blade with an adjustable rear sight.
The Smith & Wesson SW1911 is largely produced for civilian use, rather than the renowned military use of the original Colt M1911. The SW1911, thanks in part to its heavy weight, is a popular target pistol, with the recoil from the .45 ACP round almost completely nullified. The SW1911 is also a popular gun for self-defence and (in limited cases) hunting.
However the SW1911 is a very expensive version of the M1911 design, most models are sold new at over $1,000. Other M1911 designs, such as the Ruger SR1911, which are cheaper and with the same if not better quality manufacture have reduced the number and popularity of SW1911s used.