Smith & Wesson has a new product introduction that has been long overdue—the “E” Series of 1911s. Like so many other handgunners, I was delighted when S&W introduced their own line of 1911 pistols several years ago. But I was less than happy with the grip-activated firing pin safety system. To work properly, this safety required an exceptionally firm grip on the butt of the pistol. To my considerable dismay, I found that I didn't fully depress the grip safety every time, particularly when using a one-handed grip. The hammer would drop, but the gun didn't fire.
For 2011, the decision-makers at S&W charged my old friend Herb Belin with the job of up-grading the entire line of S&W 1911 pistols. Belin is an old hand at the Springfield plant and was the moving force behind the introduction of the Scandium-frame, lightweight revolvers and the X-frame .460 and .500 S&W Magnums. He tied into the 1911 problems with gusto and the first improvement made was changing the firing pin safety to a less complex—and foolproof—inertia-based system. Herb then performed some cosmetic changes before cranking up one of those fancy CNC machines to cut good-looking 20 lpi checkering on the frontstrap of every “E” series 1911. I haven't fired one yet, but they look like some pretty nifty 1911s for the big anniversary year.