In the world of firearms, there are few things as uniquely American as the 1911 handgun. A masterpiece developed by John Moses Browning, beloved throughout the 20th century and into modernity. Interestingly, the design has remained virtually the same throughout the 1911’s century-plus history, with only minor updates and changes making their appearance as early as the mid-1920’s. One of the changes made to the 1911 was the appearance of an external extractor on the gun, a design that Smith & Wesson has since incorporated into their version of the 1911 pistol.
While the external extractor may be regarded as a controversial tweak, Smith & Wesson has found this extractor model to perform fantastically for reliability when compared to the original internal extractor design.
To start, the external extractor found on the SW1911 is more stable than its internal predecessor. The original internal extractor design is steel bent to tension, tension that will relax over time and cause issues extracting spent cartridges. In contrast, the external extractor design comprises a pin that the extractor pivots on being held under tension by a spring; this provides a more constant and stable extractor.
Smith & Wesson has taken the external extractor one step further in reliability through its size. The extractor on the SW1911 is substantially larger than its internal counterparts, optimizing the ability to “grip” onto a casing’s rim, thus enhancing the pistol's reliability.
Images in this article are of the Performance Center® SW1911 Pro Series® chambered in 9mm. In addition to the oversized extractor, the SW1911 sports a full-length guide rod, bull barrel, and a firing pin block safety, none of which were original to the 1911. With these improvements to this century-old design, Smith & Wesson is showing us 1911 enthusiasts that old dogs can absolutely learn new tricks. When the temperatures outside start climbing, many gun owners find themselves reaching for a sub-compact or micro-compact handgun to carry. Simply put, it can be more challenging to conceal a full-size or even a compact pistol under a simple t-shirt, than it is a micro-compact. And if you’re carrying with a weapon-mounted light and/or an optic, these can become an even larger factor in deciding which gun to carry.
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