Read more at Springfield Armory: http://www.springfield-armory.com/products/1911-emp-9-mm/
Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=emp
Why do we Need Another Compact 1911?
There are a few facts about 1911’s that will never change, like this one: the further you stray from a 5” steel frame chambered in .45ACP, the more difficult it will be to develop a 1911 that runs reliably. This leads in to another fact: challenges in development of such a gun will always result in a price increase.
And yet, at some point throughout any class the question is asked: “What do you recommend for a compact carry 1911 that doesn’t cost $4,000?”
So clearly the need exists. Some folks just prefer a single action. Some don’t want a gun that’s made of plastic.
The EMP Difference
Let me go ahead and drop a knowledge bomb here. There are two primary reasons that going from .45ACP to 9mm in the traditional 1911 is such an undertaking, and they both stem from the fact that the 9mm round is shorter and more tapered than the .45ACP. The first challenge this creates is that the magazine for the 9mm has to be the same size as the .45ACP if it’s going to fit the magazine well and the slide travel. Get over that hurdle, and now you have to get the round to feed into a non-ramped barrel.
The traditional solutions have been to cut the frame to accommodate a ramped barrel, and to add a spacer to the rear of the magazine. Unfortunately, these solutions result in a new set of feeding problems: engineering a solution to the round’s new hobby of nose diving into the feed ramp and face-planting into the barrel. Now, there are several custom manufacturers out there who have scored high enough in what I’ll refer to as Feeding-Challenge-Whack-a-Mole to engineer compact 1911s in 9mm that run great. I know, because I own a few of their guns! However, due to the extensive custom work required to achieve this, none of these can be had for under two grand.
In 2007, the good folks at Springfield Armory set out to solve the 9mm 1911 problem in a new but simple way. They shortened the action of the original 1911 by 1/8th of an inch. They also designed a magazine specifically for 9mm that would fit the new, shorter-action gun. Behold: the problem was solved, and a reliable 1911 in 9mm was born. Springfield Armory then took all of the most popular features of a carry 1911 and added them to the new gun. These features included things like Combat, 3-Dot Tritium sights, thin grips, an ambidextrous safety… and then they dehorned the entire gun. They even throw in 3 Mec-Gar magazines (some custom guns only come with one), a holster and a magazine carrier–all in a lockable hard case? And they did it without in a price range that comes in well below the custom options.
And just to prove that they could, they repeated the whole thing with the .40 S&W.
|Magazines:||3-9 Round SS with base pad||3-8 Round SS with base pad|
|Barrel:||3” Stainless Steel Match Grade||3” Stainless Steel Match Grade|
|Trigger:||Aluminum Match Grade||Aluminum Match Grade|
|Grips:||Thinline Cocobolo or Grey G-10||Thinline Cocobolo or Grey G-10|
|Frame:||Anodized Forged Aluminum Alloy||Forged Steel, Black Armory Kote|
|Slide:||Satin Finish Stainless Steel||Satin Finish Stainless Steel|
|Recoil System:||Dual Spring w/Full Length Guide Rod||Dual Spring w/Full Length Guide Rod|
|Weight w/Magazine:||27oz.||33 oz.|
On the Range
As a student of 1911s, I decided to start taking a pair of EMP®s with me to the range regularly: one in 9mm with the Thinline Cocobolo grips, and the other in .40SW with the G-10 grips. This allowed me to test the concept and explore the differences over a much longer time frame than I normally would.
“Reliable” would be the best way to sum up both guns in a single word. I shot these guns over several months, and I never experienced any functionality issues. This was consistent with all ammunition I fed them. My favorite of the guns quickly became the 9mm, for several reasons. The thinner grips felt better in my hands. The extra round in each magazine was nice, but I appreciated the lighter, softer shooting of the 9mm even more. The .40SW was by no means a lesser gun. In fact, the opposite was true: it was just, well, more. More weight, more recoil, and the wider grips made it seem to take more out of you to hold and shoot for an extended period.
And what about speeds? The 3″ barrel will shave off some speed off what you will typically find listed on an ammo box. But a standard 115 grain 9mm round will leave the muzzle at more than 1,000 FPS. The .40 is still hot enough to expand, too. All but the heaviest rounds should get close to the 1,000 FPS mark. Some will be over. Either way, you get a bit more speed from the smaller rounds, and the gun can be sized down accordingly.
The controls all operated smoothly, and were easy to use. The trigger pull was just over 5 lbs. on both guns, but felt less, with no creep or over-travel.
The sights are made by Springfield, and they are Novak type, with two dots in the rear and one on the front post. The dots are tritium, made by Trijicon.
I did have one issue: both of the guns shot low for me with every round I tested. Poor trigger control can cause a low left shot, but this issue was not a result of poor trigger control. After learning where to hold the sights, I was able to regularly shoot sub 1 inch groups at 7 yards with both guns.
I also found myself longing for witness holes on the Mec-Gar magazines- loading a specific number of rounds for testing purposes would have been easier with them. But this feature is more of a “Nice to Have” than a “Need to Have.” Otherwise, the mags worked perfectly.
Answering the question
So for a reliable compact 1911 the EMP fits the bill. I know that with a street price above the 1K price, the EMP is not a cheap date–but it competes with guns costing over twice as much, so cheap–no, value–yes. If you are a fan of the single action, I’d highly suggest you check one out.
And, for those who want a slightly longer EMP, Springfield–at this year’s SHOT Show–released the EMP 4. This 4″ version will offer even more velocity, a longer sight radius, and we’ll have a full review of that coming soon, so stay tuned.