Is Modernizing the SA-35 a Mistake?

By Jeremy Tremp
Posted in #Guns
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Is Modernizing the SA-35 a Mistake?

October 20th, 2022

3:40 runtime

When I first got my hands on the SA-35, I was blown away at how well it shot and how comfortable it was. I wasn’t super familiar with the P-35 pistol, so I didn’t have much in the way of preconceived notions. I was honestly surprised that the original design didn’t take off as much as the 1911 in the earlier years. If you ask me, I think the 9mm versus .45 ACP debate is what helped keep the 1911 in the lead.

porting a modernized sa-35
Modernizing the author’s SA-35 pistol included a porting job to help reduce muzzle flip during recoil.

Fast forward to 2022, and 9mm is the reigning champ. I think there is a huge market for the SA-35, and it has certainly proven to be popular. But the tinkerer in me just had to “tweak” it a bit. Frankly, I wanted to see how awesome this pistol could be. But, is the SA-35 (and the P-35 design, by extension), “right” the way it comes? Should you not change it? Should you modernize the SA-35?

My Journey

Over the last year I have seen some incredible pistols come from the fine folks over at Mk3 Firearms, especially some beautiful P-35s. I contacted them to see if they were interested in putting their spin on the SA-35. They were all on board, and very excited about the resurgence of the pistol. They were ready to show the world what they could do with it.

modern sa-35
A factory Springfield SA-35 is a good-looking pistol. The author took it to an entirely new level with the custom work from Mk3 Firearms.

Before sending it off to them, I first sent the pistol to my buddy over at 2A Tactical AZ who is a master of laser engraving. I wanted the pistol to reflect where it came from and its namesake from Springfield Armory. I had him laser the crossed cannons and the SA-35 logo on the right side of the slide. I also had him do some lasering on the front and backstrap for a unique design. I then sent the pistol off to Mk3 Firearms. I told them I was interested in a grey/black look but beyond that I told them to go wild.

shooting a modern p-35
A pretty gun is nice. A reliable, accurate firearm is far more interesting. The author’s SA-35 is all of the above.

A couple months later I got a shipment notification that my pistol was on its way back to my FFL. Like a kid at Christmas, I couldn’t wait for the day. When I arrived at my FFL, I felt like I was opening up the Holy Grail and expected brilliant golden light to bathe my face as I stared into the glorious luminance. Frankly, my reaction was not far off. What an absolutely beautiful piece of artwork! My SA-35 was even better looking and feeling than I could have imagined.

The work they did includes the following:

  • 11 degree crowned barrel
  • Trijicon HD front sight
  • Heinie Mil-Spec ledge low mounted rear sight channeled for the hammer
  • Ported and polished barrel
  • BHSprings extractor
  • Hand contoured mini spur hammer
  • Single stage trigger job
  • Custom tri-blended Cerakote slide and frame with Graphite Black controls
  • RDIH slide release
  • Re-profiled factory trigger
  • 25 lpi hand checkered mag release
  • LOK Palm Swell Bogie grips
  • Welded beaver tail
  • Blended Magwell

Using the SA-35 as a baseline, they turned this thing into an even more tuned precision piece of machinery. At first glance, you can tell all the hard work and passion that went into everything on this pistol. The folks at Mk3 Firearms are masters of their craft and they created a one-of-a-kind pistol for me.

details of a modernized sa-35
For the author’s pistol, the SA-35 had its trigger reprofiled. Internally, a single-action trigger job made the pull absolutely sweet.

Hands-On

On the range the pistol was familiar, but everything about shooting it was made smoother, easier and even more enjoyable. The flat-faced trigger is out of this world. It’s lightweight, with very little travel and a crisp break, with a super short reset.

shooting a custom sa-35
The author found that the porting helped to quickly reacquire a good sight picture shot after shot.

The ported barrel and slide really help drive the pistol right back on target. I remember being impressed by the way the stock SA-35 shot, but this upgrade by Mk3 is a whole new level of awesome. They essentially upgraded just about every little piece and part of what makes the SA-35 a great pistol.

customized sa-35
You can immediately see the hard work that went into this one-of-a-kind pistol created for the author.

The LOK Bogie Palm Swell grips ensure a great lock up in your hands, and they are stylish to boot. I may try a few different versions of the LOK grips to see which are my favorite, but I am really digging the bogie pattern.

Conclusion

There are some that would say John Moses Browning’s last design, the P-35, was just perfect as-is. As the most widely used pistol around the world and a proven performer, there is an argument to be made that it might not need any modifications. But, while the Springfield Armory SA-35 stays true to the roots of the original design, it does add its own little custom tweaks. These include an improved trigger, no magazine disconnect, enhanced ergonomics, increased 15-round capacity, and more.

sa-35 with custom work
The original P-35 design was considered perfect by some shooters. However, the author shows that even it can be improved upon.

So, what I had Mk3 Firearms do could arguably be viewed as simply an extension of what Springfield Armory started with the SA-35. I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to connect with companies such as Springfield and MK3 firearms to be able to test products like this and share them with the world.

close up of modernizing sa-35
2A Tactical AZ performed the laser engraving on the slide of the author’s SA-35.

The SA-35 deserves the limelight, and the customization that the folks at MK3 Firearms did just makes it even better. If you have an SA-35 or a 1911, I would highly suggest getting in contact with Mk3 Firearms to see how they could make your custom pistol dreams come true.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Jeremy Tremp

Jeremy Tremp

Jeremy Tremp is a filmmaker/photographer who turned his passion for the firearms industry into a dream job. Having identified a need in the 2A space, he and some like-minded friends started Offensive Marketing Group to help bring their unique skillsets to an industry in dire need of "outside of the box" marketing approaches. One of the perks is getting access to some of the best gear and training in the industry. In his spare time, he loves to be at the range testing gear and learning to be a better shooter, firearms advocate and content creator.

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