S&W 945 Performance Center Range Review

| December 27, 2010 | 15 Comments

Up for review today is the esteemed S&W 945 out of the illustrious Performance Center. I have been on the search for one for multiple years, it has been the Sasquatch of my dreams, very elusive. I have been frustrated while on this hunt yet also enjoyed the camaraderie one often receives when visiting gun shops. This one had less than 200 rounds fired through it and I knew I could trust this round count as it was another Marine (integrity of the highest caliber) whom I was acquiring this masterpiece from it was also in like new condition as the pictures will show. The S&W 945 is a single action semi-automatic pistol chambered in 45ACP, it comes with two eight round magazines with Performance Center markings. This comes in the bead blasted stainless finish, there is another version which comes in the polished blackened finish. Ambidextrous frame-mounted thumb safety and beavertail grip safety are also part of the standard offering.

Smith and Wesson also produced a 4inch and 3 1/4 inch barrel versions, the one being reviewed today came with a 5inch stainless match barrel, with a hand polished barrel ramp and hand fitted titanium-coated spherical barrel bushing. This spherical bushing has gained a lot of negative press on the internet due to difficulty caused by it during reassembly. This bushing has probably been the cause of many 945 owners to make claims of inaccuracy as well. The bushing plays a very vital role in the accuracy of this weapon and if bent will cause accuracy problems. During initial examination I did disassemble the 945, during reassembly I found if I used good old hoppes oil on the bushing and used my pinky finger to align the bushing and the barrel things went together without issue.

The slightly beveled magazine well ensures quick and easy reloads of the 8 round magazines. Though the S&W 945 looks extremely close to a 1911 it is not, 1911 magazines can’t be used with the S&W945 and neither will the S&W 945 magazines work with a 1911. The extended magazine release makes for easy engagement but has a firm spring to ensure a slight bump would not release the magazine. Only a positive firm engagement with the magazine release is going to cause the magazine to drop out.

The Smith and Wesson Performance Center has made a legendary name for itself with the quality workmanship it produces and the 945 is no different. The slide to frame fit is remarkably tight, racking the slide to the rear gave a feel as if it were on ball bearings. The front strap and rear magazine housing are checkered. The front strap is checkered at 30 lines per inch. The slide serrations are very functional and adds character, some refer to this as fish or snake scales.
The Fit&Finish deserves an “Excellent Rating”

Handling/Feel in The Shooters Hand
Though the looks are very close to a 1911, when you handle this masterpiece it will not even take the novice long to figure out this has a totally different feel than the 1911. The grip angle is different and follows the line of it’s siblings the 45xx series. The two piece laminate wood grips with checkering feels very comfortable which I believe to be accomodating for all hand sizes.
Handling/Feel in The Shooters Hand deserves an “Excellent Rating”

The trigger on the S&W945 has absolutely no over travel which I found to be absolutely amazing. This trigger is skeletonized and has no lateral movement as it should, just straight front to back movement. This trigger weighed in at a crisp 2 3/4 to 3 pounds. My father has always stated you can tell when you have a good trigger. If your focus and concentration is where it should be a good trigger will just about startle you when it goes off and I honestly had that experience while doing this review at the range.
Trigger deserves a “Excellent Rating”

The S&W 945 is equipped with a post front sight, Micro adjustable Bo-Mar rear sight.

Sights deserve a “Excellent Rating”

The eight round magazines it came with works flawlessly. Trying to ensure I keep my credibility of writing honest reviews, I tried desperately to find something wrong. Having looked at my notes during the initial handling quickly reminded me this review was starting to look like a perfect review. A phenomenon which rarely happens here at dayattherange.com. So before writing anymore I went back to the safe to retrieve this specimen and disassembled it again. I couldn’t even find a slight bur in the frame or slide and realized the performance center hand lapped the slide and frame which gave it the ball bearing like feel and tight fit. I decided when going out to the range I was going to take hardball 230gr ammo as well as 200gr SWC ammo. This was in attempt to find the flaw which has eluded me to this point for this review. Most 1911’s struggle with SWC loads unless tuning has been done by a competent gunsmith. Not on the 945, it performed flawlessly with both brands of ammo which were my own hand loads, again a nice compliment to the Performance Center of Smith and Wesson for hand polishing the feed ramp before sending this out the door.

As you can see in this picture the SWC’s are seated shallow to ensure reliable feeding in my 1911’s and having tuned this ammo specifically for 1911’s I would have made a bet this would cause issues, yet the S&W945 seemed not to care it fed and ejected without failure.

Accuracy was tested at 7, 15 and 25 yards with a two handed unassisted hold. I have often been frustrated with my 25 yard accuracy with semi_auto’s but was pleasantly surprised on this day. This gave me hope that maybe I am not as bad a shooter as I think I am, but I also realize no other semi-auto in my collection has given me this sort of confidence. I was so excited to be at the range I loaded one magazine with eight rounds of 200gr SWC and began to shoot at 7 yards. The first shot going off startled me due to the light trigger pull — I knew this shot would be a bad shot. To my surprise it was dead center of the 10 ring and 7 other shots followed all touching.

My good friend and shooting partner Darrell was impressed and I knew then I had a very nice shooter he has a very keen eye for quality. Darrell having brought along a S&W Model 17 for us to review for the sight decided to take some 2 inch shoot-n-see’s to test it with. We decided to paste one in the center of the target to try the S&W 945 with.

2inch targets posted

After 8 rounds of 45ACP SWC the 2inch target was gone.

Next we decided to run it out to 15 yards, Darrell wanted to try his hand at it.

I then loaded 8 rounds of the 230gr hardball and gave it a try at 15 yards. It looks as if two of the Rainer bullets may have impacted the target sideways and tore the target, I believe if we had card board backing on the target it would have been a lot cleaner.

After shooting 22LR through a S&W model 17 which I am very anxious to review along with 357magnum we decided it was time to try the 945 at 25 yards.
Darrell started with two full magazines to try and deliver 16 rounds down range as quick as possible while allowing him to remain on target.

For as quick as he was pulling the trigger I was impressed with his capabilities as well as the 945, to see just about all 16 shots were on the 5inch target. I am sure if we shot from rest we could deliver under 2inch accuracy at 25 yards.

Now it is my turn at 25 yards. Having a little anxiety knowing I typically don’t do well at 25 yards with a semi-auto I decided to only load 12 rounds of SWC. I would have been happy to have 3 rounds on the 5inch target. All my years of training has been defensive style training firing at silhouette targets at this distance though I have become very comfortable with my revolvers at this distance on 5 inch targets.

To my amazement I had more than I expected on target and you could imagine the smile on my face and joy in my heart.
Reliability&Accuracy deserves an “Excellent Rating”

For it’s technical specs the S&W Performance Center 945 has earned a perfect excellent rating, the only other to accomplish this is the 45 Colt performance Center reviewed here(625 45 Colt Performance Center Review), to top it off this has a serial number below 20. Though when I got home I did notice a non technical flaw and that was it’s looks. I found myself after cleaning it, with it just sitting in my lap drooling all over it marveling at its looks and features which may lead to a little rust the next time I pull it out of the safe :).

So if you admire real American craftsmanship and beauty look no further than the S&W 945 and ensure you keep a rig rag handy to wipe off any drool you or your buddies may leave behind.

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15 Comments on "S&W 945 Performance Center Range Review"

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  1. Bill U says:

    Good review! It would be interesting to put the 945 in the Ransom and shoot at 25 and 50 yards. If you ever have the desire to do so, we have one available at our club. We probably don’t have the 945 inserts, if the 1911 inserts would work, you would be in. It’s hard to explain to die hard 1911 fans how far S&W came with pistols like the 945 and the 952. They fit your hand like an appendage. Congrats on your find! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Gary LeDuc says:

    I came across my S&W 945 Perf. Center at a local sports store here in CA. I wasn’t even looking for a pistol that day, but it said take me home and I did. Not a bit sorry either, had it about 10 years give or take. I do not clam to be a Marks Man, but this gun shoots great and doesn’t miss a beat. I also have an old AMT Hardballer, what a night and day differents, I like the AMT, but the 945 is so smooth. Just bought a Kimber Ultra CDP II, but haven’t had time to use it yet.

  3. RFB308 says:

    Hi all,
    New to this forum and really enjoy reading it.
    I bought my 945 about 10 years ago and have put about 700 rounds through it so far.
    It is a 31/2″ model and shoots like a five inch. I grabbed it when it first came into my dealer and I had a choice between it and a 5″, but the serial number on it was 007 and I knew it wanted to come home with me.
    Never had a problem of any kind and take it to the range on almost every trip.
    My 945 (early PC) was fitted with the Briely bushing and barrel by Briely themselves or so I have been told.
    Definitely a keeper.

  4. ECWagner says:

    I own various 1911’a. Partial to Baer and Wilson and between both brands I own 12 1911’s. I have owned and extensively shot all of Kimber’s stuff, McCormick race guns, 70’s series Gold Cups, Heine, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Volkmann, Para and about a dozen other brands. Some required accurizing, others highly modified and some simply left alone. What I am trying to say is that I have extensively shot and continue to love 1911’s and they have been my favorite pistol until I purchased one of the last manufactured 945-1’s. Upon shooting I instantly noticed two things. The decrease in felt recoil as compared to all my other 1911’s and the laser like accuracy upon first shot. They are as accurate as the finest tuned Baer’s. All my friends that have fired my 945-1 come to the same instant conclusion – considerably lowered recoil- 15 to 20% ? maybe more, but the feeling is emediate. I believe the inherent laser accuracy is a product of various components – increased angle and natural alinement with fore arm/grip and machining. It shoots different that the 1911 and I liken the 945-1 more to a Browning Hi-Power. It feels a tad larger than a full size 1911 in grip area, but flatter. The 945 is more squared off. It fits my 1911 hand very well. As for CC – well I pack a full size and don’t feel a size difference. I will say that all my 1911’s have a smother in hand feel – even those with aggressive checkering. The 945 feels hard – more Bear and Volkmann solid. The 945-1 feels like singke piece of steel. Checkering on 945 is as aggressive as it gets, but it does not eat into hand after prolonged shooting -maybe because of softer recoil? I feed it all types of +P and it shoots softer than my CQB with 185 light loads. The Briely bushing setup is similar to Volkmann and is very easy to disassemble and reassemble – just an angle thing. In reassembling just place barrel in front of Briely and angle down – so when inserting barrel from other end the angle is pre set and it slides right in. Some 945 parts are 1911 interchangeable like safety, springs, clip release, trigger, hammer, sights, beavertail etc. I don’t understand some claims that its anythoing but a great shooter – I think maybe such comentators don’t own one – just talk. Machine work on the 945 is vg as on many other 1911’s. Do I consider it better than my 1911’s ? No, I like all my guns for individual reasons – like a different shirts, but I will admit that the 945 is easier to shoot accuratly especially if you like the +p’s. As for laser accuracy? All my full size hi-end 1911’s shoot nice with Wilson target sites – its just that the 945 surprised me like no other 1911. The 945 shoots and handles beyond my expectations. Bear, Wilson, Volkmann, Brown all shot as expected and maybe not quite as good as I wanted. The S&W 945-1 exceeded all my expectations even after been hyped by the 2 time German National Pistol Champion – who introduced me to the 945-1. Hope my comments help out. Thanks. EW

  5. Pete says:

    I’ve been looking for a carry 45 and bid on this early in the bid. After which I felt some buyer’s remorse because I wanted a double action. I though this was one, until I looked closer. Then I was hoping someone would out bid me. I still have 3 days. Seeing these great reviews, maybe I’m smarter than i think. So, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

  6. Dave says:

    I have a S&W 945 NO DAS 5 inch. I love the feel it fits so good. I’m very happy

    to have it with my Walther P88 full frame.

  7. Rick says:

    I bought my Smith & Wesson Performance Center 945 about 2 months ago brand new from a local dealer. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I took it to a indoor shooting range and when I fired the first shot it jammed! I tried 3 more times and it jammed every time. I was lucky enough that the range I went to had a Gunsmith working that day, I told him my problem and he asked if I wanted him to look at it and I said sure. He took the gun apart and there was a burr on the slide, he filed on it for a few minutes and lubed it up good and put it back together. I never had a problem since then and I will say it is the best handgun I have ever shot or probley will ever shoot. I have nothing bad to say, it is a awesome gun!

  8. Sam Sepulveda says:

    I bought my 945 when they first introduced it. My serial # is sw00040 and I nevered fired it. It has the 3.5″ compact barrel. Does anyone know the valued of this discontinued model

  9. Robert says:

    Saw this site and wanted to comment. I am a bullseye shooter and always had trouble in the 45 event because the 1911 just did not seem to fit my hand. I saw my 945 advertised on Gun Broker as new and available on lay away. I purchased the handgun and had it in my possession in 90 days. I shoot 180 gr SWC target loads and started testing different powder combinations and using the case/barrel method for seating depth. Using a Ramson rest the best group was 1.75 inches at 50 yards. Very suitable for Bullsye matches. My scores have increased in the 45 event – the gun sits lower than the 1911 and (to me) there is less barrel rise per shot. As other reviewers have indicated the trigger is very crisp, clean and as light a weight that you would want on a 45 ACP.

    As an aside I also purchased a SW 952-2 from the Performance Center and the trigger on this firearm is even better than the 945. It rivals the old SW 52 with regards to the trigger. I retired my 52 and now shoot the 952 in the center fire match. This gun with the correct load will shoot sub 2 inch groups at 50 yards. Just make sure your rounds are sub sonic to begin with.

  10. bill Ditt says:

    I own a 945 and was very impressed with accuracy. I shot it BE style, one handed at 25 yards on BE target, and had 3 tens and 2x, with ball ammo.
    I wanted to shoot it in IDPA matches, 10 shot unlimited. Problem is, fining ten round mags. I called S&W, I called ProMag , no dice. I read a post where someone modified a 4506 mag by recutting the release slot. I had our smith, Steve Pitt, at whistling pines gun club (col springs) recut slots in two 4506 mags. Seems to work, I bought 8 more and am having him do those as well…..

  11. Steve Hughes says:

    I would like to learn more about the 4506 mag alterations. I too want to use my 945-1 for IDPA but the 8 round mags prevent. If your guy has proven the alteration I would like to talk to him about buying 6 or so from him.


  12. George says:

    I own camfour edition 4 inch version shoots as well as my $3000 CUSTOM 45S

  13. Aad says:

    Good Morning USA ,
    I have a question I have from Performance Center a S&W Model 945-1 the complete Plunger Tube is missing ,do a Model 1911 Plunger Tube wil fit on this S&W Model 945-1?

    Looking forward to hearing from somebody.
    Regards, Aad Scheffer (NRA Member)

  14. Steve says:

    Aad, Just reading through this page today and saw your question.

    No, the PC 945 will not take a standard 1911 style plunger tube. As you can
    see here–if this will let me post a link–


    –the 945 uses the 39/59 series _style_ slide stop with a plunger, acting against a slanted surface (“side plate” in the 39/59 series) to bias the slide stop into
    it’s downward position. A 1911 uses a plunger in plunger tube, acting against a
    slanted surface on the slide stop itself.
    The 945 piece looks very different from the side plate of a 59/39 gun, I’d say they are not interchangeable, either–just guessing, however.

  15. Marge says:

    I have a “never fired” S & W Performance Center Model 945 that I bought new in 1994 with a very low serial number (104). Would like to sell but need to set a price for it.

    I have an idea of what I want, but need to get an appraisal before I put it up for sale.

    Anyone got any ideas or interested in it. I can send photo with tag still on it.

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