SA-35 Review: Dissecting Springfield’s New Pistol

By Rob Garrett
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SA-35 Review: Dissecting Springfield’s New Pistol

February 24th, 2022

7 minute read

On October 26, Springfield shook the world with the introduction of the SA-35, an updated version of the venerable P-35 9mm pistol. The response to the pistol was overwhelming, as was the demand for pistols. As I write this article, that demand has no sign of ceasing.

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol disassembled on workbench
In this SA-35 review, the author pulls the pistol apart, thoroughly examines it and shoots hundreds of rounds through it in a range test.

Normally, when I receive a pistol for editorial coverage, I run three premium loads through it for accuracy and velocity results. Then I run a box or two of ball through it for photographs and fun. However, when I received my SA-35 I decided to do an extensive testing protocol because I was so excited about it. Therefore, this column will cover my initial impressions and the results of the tests.

First Impressions

Let me say that I think the SA-35 is a homerun for Springfield in many ways. First, it is a faithful rendition of the original design, with modern upgrades that make it serviceable right out of the box. Second, the manufacturing and finish on the SA-35 are not only excellent but better than some originals I have seen in the past. Let me briefly hit what I consider the high points of the SA-35.

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol with hammer cocked
The author’s personal Springfield SA-35 was used for the testing in this article.

Finish

Springfield gave the SA-35 a matte blue finish. While not as durable as some of the “spray and bake” finishes, it is both attractive and fits the personality of the SA-35. Some of us remember the horrible painted finishes on original guns! This gun should be blued.

Features

The no-bite ring hammer, excellent sights, beveled magazine well, extended safety and great trigger set the SA-35 apart from the imports. The use of a proven 15-round magazine negates any trivial critiques about capacity.

Man holding Springfield SA-35 pistol in front of a 1968 Ford Mustang
Springfield Armory loaded the hammer-fired SA-35 handgun with highly desirable features.

Barrel

The hammer-forged barrel, and barrel fit, is exceptional. Bill Laughridge, of Cylinder & Slide fame, said that the barrel lock-up on the original pistol was atrocious and, in many cases, you were lucky to get them to shoot four inches at 25 yards. My SA-35 results were half of the old standard.

Stocks

Kudos to Springfield for equipping the SA-35 with contoured wood stocks. The original stocks were not only thick but had no real contour on the edges. The SA-35 stocks are very similar to Spegels and taper to meet the frame with no overlap.

Springfield SA-35 pistol with magazines on a table
The author made sure he had a good supply of magazines to run the pistol with during his testing.

Slide/Frame Fit

The slide to frame fit, on my gun, is significantly better than on most original guns.

Aesthetics

Externally, the finish was void of any machine marks. The markings were clean and minimal. I was glad to see Springfield decided to forego their typical logo of the crossed cannons on the exterior of the gun. In my opinion, it just would not have looked right!

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol with Federal Syntech ammo
Federal’s Syntech ammunition is becoming a favorite for a lot of people – especially folks who spend a lot of time on indoor ranges.

Internal Examination

Breaking the pistol down, there were some chatter marks on the top of the rails and bottom edge of the slide. This is purely cosmetic and are found on originals as well. Other than that, all machines was crisp and clean. The barrel was properly throated and the feed ramp was polished.

Shots Fired: Range Testing

The ammo shortage has certainly changed the manner in which many writers conduct evaluations. However, I wanted to gather as much information on the SA-35 as possible, given certain limitations.

Range testing the Springfield SA-35 with a lot of different types of ammo
The only way to see if a gun is reliable is to shoot it. The author did just that, with a wide selection of loads.

The first stage of the test was to evaluate the SA-35 for reliability. I dug way back in the ammo bunker and was able to gather 21 different loads. These ranged from new production Super Vel 90-gr. +P to vintage Winchester 115-gr. Silvertip and Federal 115-gr. 9BP. I also included as many current production, premium loads, as possible.

The test protocol was to shoot 10 rounds from each load. To evaluate reliability, I loaded five rounds in the bottom of the magazine, followed by five ball rounds, and then five rounds at the top. The thought was that most malfunctions either occur in the first few or the last few rounds of the magazine. This also reduced the total rounds of premium ammo needed for this part of the evaluation.

Target measurement at 25 yards
The SA-35 proved to be very accurate at 25 yards. This exceeds the minimum accuracy needs for defensive work.

The 10 rounds were fired from a bag rest at a B-8 bullseye target, positioned 25 yards downrange. They were also shot through my ProChronoDLX chronograph. The hottest load was the Double Tap 80-gr. TAC-XP, which averaged 1,471 fps. The Super Vel 158-gr. Hushpuppy Subsonic load was the slowest at 891 fps. I had no ammo-related issues during this phase of the test.

To evaluate the accuracy, I measured the best five-shot group. This mitigated shooter error and was a better reflection of the potential accuracy of the SA-35. The reader will note the N/A comment on the chart. There were a couple of times when I failed to replace the target between loads. As the chart reflects, the SA-35 is certainly capable of providing 2″ or better groups, with most loads.

Ammunition Performance Results

AmmunitionVelocityEnergyGroup Size
DoubleTap Tac-XP 80 gr HP1,405 fps351 ft-lbs1.5″
Federal HST 124 gr JHP1,180 fps383 ft-lbs1.0″
Federal Hydra-Shok 147 gr JHP980 fps313 ft-lbs2.5″
Federal Premium 115 gr JHP1,148 fps337 ft-lbs1.5″
Federal Punch Personal Defense 124 gr JHP1,189 fps389 ft-lbs1.37″
Federal Syntech Defense 138 gr JHP1,081 fps358 ft-lbsn/a
Hornady Critical Defense 115 gr FTX1,160 fps344 ft-lbsn/a
Hornady Critical Duty 124 gr FTX +P1,208 fps402 ft-lbs1.88″
Remington Golden Saber 124 gr BJHP1,130 fps352 ft-lbs1.5″
Remington Golden Saber 124 gr BJHP +P1,179 fps383 ft-lbs1.0″
Speer Gold Dot G2 135 gr GDHP1,122 fps377 ft-lbs1.0″
Speer Gold Dot G2 147 gr GDHP1,022 fps341 ft-lbs1.37″
Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection 124 gr GDHP1,156 fps368 ft-lbs1.75″
Super Vel Mk144 Mod 0 Subsonic 158 gr891 fps278 ft-lbs2.0″
Super Vel 90 gr SCHP +P1,572 fps494 ft-lbs2.0″
Super Vel 115 gr SCHP +P1,241 fps393 ft-lbs1.25″
Super Vel Subsonic 115 gr1,093 fps305 ft-lbsn/a
Wilson Combat TAC-XP 95 gr HP1,282 fps347 ft-lbs1.75″
Wilson Combat TAC-XP 115 gr HP +P1,101 fps310 ft-lbs2.0″
Winchester Silvertip 115 gr JHP1,164 fps346 ft-lbs1.5″
Accuracy at 25 yards, the best five of 10 shots measured from center to center.

Pushing It Farther

The second round of tests involved evaluating the extractor and ejector, the reliability when shooting with a less than firm grip, and functioning with mixed loads left over from the first test.

About 100 rounds in, we did notice that the rear sight retention screw had worked loose. This was a quick fix with the proper wrench. This was the only issue we had with the actual pistol.

Man shooting a Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
The author shot the Springfield Armory SA-35 with a broad range of ammunition loads during testing.

To evaluate the extractor and ejection pattern, I fired 15 rounds of 115-gr. ball. Each round was fired without having a magazine in the gun. All rounds landed at three to four feet, between 3:30 and 5:00 from the pistol.

The final test consisted of an extended 20-round magazine dump to heat the gun up, followed by three 15-round magazines, shot rapidly. The three magazines contained a mixed selection of the loads tested for accuracy. These loads were all considered premium personal defensive loads.

Springfield SA-35 with sample target
Who wouldn’t want to shoot groups like this one? This Springfield 9mm was capable of very accurate and precise shooting.

During this test, we had one failure. On the second magazine, one Super Vel 90 gr. +P JHP hung up on the feed ramp and failed to feed. It should be noted that the overall length of this round is extremely short as well as being loaded to +P velocities. This was the only malfunction we had in the entire test series.

We finished on the day popping plates and ringing steel, with leftover loads, and the total round count for the day was around 450 rounds. We did not clean or lube the pistol during this process.

Wrap Up of the SA-35 Review

I consider the information that I gathered during this testing to be significant. With the exception of the aforementioned Super Vel load, the SA-35 was 100% reliable with all of the relevant personal defense loads. An examination of the frame, slide, and barrel, showed no excessive wear or peening. This was a pretty intensive test for one day of shooting, with an extremely broad range of bullet weights and loads.

The only negative comment anyone had during the test was that top edges of the backstrap were extremely sharp and somewhat uncomfortable during shooting. This is an easy fix for Springfield on future guns.

Thanks for coming along on the trip. There will be more to come.

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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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Rob Garrett

Rob Garrett

Rob is a career law enforcement officer who retired after 38 years of service. He holds multiple POST certifications including Firearms Instructor, FBI Firearms Instructor, and POST instructor. He started his editorial career with Harris Publications with his first article being published in 1984.

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