The Springfield Armory Range Officer or RO, is meant to be a basic platform for competition. What you add and why is up to you, not a custom 1911 builder.
This 100 year old design hasn’t changed, and is every bit as good as it was in 1911. On the RO, the parts are made to a stricter tolerance than other 1911s that aren’t made specifically for competition. Things fit tighter, which increases accuracy, but in the RO it doesn’t come at the cost of reliability so common in lesser examples of the 1911 design.
If you haven’t taken down a 1911 before, the tricky part most people forget is that, after you remove the slide from the frame, The bushing must be turned to the side to take out the button, then you remove the bushing, then pull the barrel assembly out the front. To reassemble is the reverse.
The grip safety on the RO has the bump at the end to insure a more positive release when you draw it quickly for competition. Behind it is a Remington Rand set up for competition with an old Bo-Mar sight. Note the difference in the thumb safety as well. The RO is a large flat paddle with grooves you just can’t miss.
The RO comes with a belt holster suitable for carry or competition. If you plan to carry the RO (which many people are already), you should replace the rear adjustable sight with a fixed low profile, and replace the big flat thumb safety with something that won’t snag on clothes so easy, and is preferably ambidextrous.
How is it that 100 years after John Browning invented the 1911, it can still be the gun that everyone is talking about? Well, since SHOT Show of 2011, that has been true for the Springfield Armory “Range Officer,” or RO as it is being called. This is not a gun that could be termed “yet another 1911.” It was developed with World Champion shooter Rob Leatham, and seems to have hit the sweet spot with both 1911 enthusiasts and new shooters alike as the gun to have if you want to buy a competition 1911.
The plan for the gun was to create a basic, stable, high quality platform for the shooting competitor looking for a 1911, without all of the bells and whistles of guns costing into the thousands. The RO is made from match grade components and will stand up to tens of thousands of rounds per year, that a normal serious competitor would shoot, without deteriorating the way a standard 1911 would.
When I spoke to Rob about it on Range Day before SHOT Show, he explained that it is all about “slop.” If you want a 1911 to always go bang no matter what ammo you put into it and how rarely you clean it, you build in a certain amount of what is called “tolerance,” otherwise known as slop, wherever the parts meet each other. This allows them to rattle around a bit and not bind or stick when the gun is hot and dirty. The gun works, and always goes bang, but will not be particularly accurate and will wear more quickly as the parts bang around.
Eliminating that slop and increasing the accuracy without compromising the reliability of the gun is the basis for the “custom competition 1911.” Match grade frames, slides and barrels with tolerances that are tighter and more defined are where you start, but where you finish is what makes the RO different from other offerings in the market. Most often a custom 1911 comes with a whole bunch of features, from “sticky” grips, to special adjustable triggers, to hammers and safeties and a whole bunch of other stuff you may want, and you may not want. And you won’t know if you want them until you get yourself out shooting and see what you feel could make your own game better.
Springfield created the RO to start with the basic match grade platform, and stop there. At an MSRP of $939 with a free holster and belt magazine holder, the RO gives you what you need to hone your skills at the range through thousands of rounds and go shoot your first match with a gun that won’t handicap your ability to actually win the thing. Where you take it, what you add, what you don’t, is up to you from there. Springfield’s argument is that nobody should make those decisions for you. They may claim to sell you a “complete package,” but “complete” means having what you want, and not what you don’t.
As a reviewer, we can’t really test the RO to see if it shoots at 20,000 rounds the way it did at 200. I don’t think Rob Leatham would put his stamp of approval on it unless it really did what it said it was going to do, and I’m not skilled enough a shooter to say if the RO can shoot a ragged hole at 100 yards.
We did shoot several hundred rounds through our review RO, with 230 grain FMJ roundball, 230 grain lead roundball, and some Hornady Critical Defense just to see how it shot with the +P. There were no failures to feed, even limp-wristed, and we didn’t clean the gun at all in between. The adjustable competition sights I wouldn’t say are the best I’ve ever shot, but I don’t care for sights where the front blade doesn’t fill the rear notch. But if anything, it illustrates the entire premise of the Range Officer. Springfield put one competition feature on the gun, and I would most likely replace it, and throw the sight I paid for with the gun into the parts drawer never to be seen again.
The trigger on the RO is a whole different story. I love it! It broke consistently at 4 lbs. 12 oz. and has no creep whatsoever. When you rest your finger on the trigger and pull, there is no takeup before the hammer falls. It is like an electric switch, on or off.
Likewise the grip and manual safeties. The grip safety has a bump in it at the end and a dip where the web of your hand goes in, which is not a new feature in 1911s, but also not something you find on a GI model or many that are made for carry. It gives you a positive push on the safety when you grab the gun, which under timed match conditions is critical. The drop safety is big and flat and has grooves in it so you can drop it with the edge of your thumb with no misses.
In many ways, it isn’t fair to gun writers that we have to write about the same gun 100 years later. This RO 1911, like almost all 1911s, is interchangeable with all the rest, going back to 1911. But if you keep in mind that even 20 years ago to get a 1911 that shot well you had to buy a $1,000 gun off the shelf, then send it to a specialty gunsmith for weeks, at the cost of hundreds of dollars, and even at that you had a chance of it only shooting one ammunition well. Now we are in the golden age of firearms still shooting the same 100 year old design, but with stellar results from just about any ammo you put into them. The Range Officer from Springfield Armory fills a need in shooting sport for a basic platform at a reasonable price. Now all you have to do is get out and shoot.