Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) from Springfield Armory

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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

The EMP is a 1911 at heart, but it has been built for the 9mm and .40, and not simply converted from the .45 ACP.

The EMP is a 1911 at heart, but it has been built for the 9mm and .40, and not simply converted from the .45 ACP.

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.

It allows single action fans a dedicated gun built for the nuances of the faster rounds.

The EMP allows single action fans a dedicated gun built for the nuances of the faster rounds.

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.

Finish options vary, as do grip materials.

Finish options vary, as do grip materials.

The Specs

Caliber:9mm.40SW
Magazines:3-9 Round SS with base pad3-8 Round SS with base pad
Barrel:3” Stainless Steel Match Grade3” Stainless Steel Match Grade
Trigger:Aluminum Match GradeAluminum Match Grade
Grips:Thinline Cocobolo or Grey G-10Thinline Cocobolo or Grey G-10
Frame:Anodized Forged Aluminum AlloyForged Steel, Black Armory Kote
Slide:Satin Finish Stainless SteelSatin Finish Stainless Steel
Recoil System:Dual Spring w/Full Length Guide RodDual Spring w/Full Length Guide Rod
Height:5”5”
Length:6.6”6.6”
Weight w/Magazine:27oz.33 oz.

While these are capable guns, they're built for self-defense.

While these are capable guns, they’re built for self-defense.

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 ambidextrous controls are exactly what you would expect from Springfield's 1911s.

The ambidextrous controls are exactly what you would expect from Springfield’s 1911s.

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.

The bull barrel fits well in the slide.

The bull barrel fits well in the slide.

Night sights come standard.

Night sights come standard.

The holster and mag carrier are a nice touch. They allow you to work with the gun while you make your own holster decisions.

The holster and mag carrier are a nice touch. They allow you to work with the gun while you make your own holster decisions.

The G10 grips on the .40.

The G10 grips on the .40.

The 9mm with all three of its mags.

The 9mm with all three of its mags.

The whole package fits neatly in the box.

The whole package fits neatly in the box.

And the box is lockable. While it won't foil a determined thief, it is secure storage.

And the box is lockable. While it won’t foil a determined thief, it is secure storage.

The magazines have a stop to prevent over-travel.

The magazines have a stop to prevent over-travel.

The angle of the sights works aesthetically with the lines of the gun.

The angle of the sights works aesthetically with the lines of the gun.

The gun runs fast. Recoil is easily managed and the sights are easy to pick up.

The gun runs fast. Recoil is easily managed and the sights are easy to pick up.

Despite the compact size, there is just enough real estate for a two handed grip.

Despite the compact size, there is just enough real estate for a two handed grip.

The compact design means less movement to clear the holster.

The compact design means less movement to clear the holster.

Precision Formed Custom Holsters from Multi-Holsters

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Jim W March 5, 2016, 10:05 pm

    Jon I luv your reviews/input usually, but I’m not w/ya on the EMP..lol..Out of ALL your replys I’m surprised nobody touched on the main dislike I had for this pistol: TAKEDOWN..that stupid freaking plastic piece that captures the recoil spring sucks !! I dont like ANY 1911 that I can’t “field strip ” w/o a bushing-wrench or some proprietary item !! Luv’d shooting the gun though, very accurate,had some weight to help recoil, but I did have some malfunctions w/certin types of ammo !! I agree about the box and additional items included as being to large and cheap..The gun is WAY overpriced for what it is, and my Glock 43 is more relieable, easier to shoot, lighter, holds more ammo, and wait for it,,1/3 the cost !! I sold the EMP at a $300 loss

  • JJ March 1, 2016, 12:35 am

    My Springfield Range Officer Compact in 9mm is one of my favorite handguns ever and if you’re looking for something a few $$less I would not hesitate… Incredible firearm.

  • JJ March 1, 2016, 12:35 am

    My Springfield Range Officer Compact in 9mm is one of my favorite handguns ever and if you’re looking for something a few $$less I would not hesitate… Incredible firearm.

  • Mike February 29, 2016, 10:39 pm

    Video marker 2:07

    Big ass box that you can lock! This is BS!

    Buy a freaking safe to put your guns in and stop listening to these people giving bad advice about how to store and secure a firearm.

    If it isn’t on your body or within arms’s reach, it needs to be in a safe and not in a crappy plastic box that you can lock but that I can slice and dice with a pocket knife.

    • Mark N. March 8, 2016, 11:31 pm

      I don’t think a safe will fit in the trunk of my Miata.

  • Doug February 29, 2016, 10:26 pm

    I owned an EMP in 9mm . Bought it new . Great pistol but it had problems extracting WWB ammo .
    Sent it back 3 times to Springfield explaining in detail what was happening , still no satisfaction .
    They ended up refunding me my purchase price . They never ( or so they said ) tested it with WWB .
    If a firearm can’t work with a basic range ammo then something is wrong . In it’s defense it worked
    with PNC ammo .

  • Mike February 29, 2016, 10:20 pm

    The blogger is incorrect. There are NO night sites on the EMP4 9mm pistol. There is a 2 dot nonadjustable rear sight and a fiber optic front sight. SA includes green and red fiber optic rods if you want to change them out.

    Everything else he said is correct. But dammit…why do I have to do YOUR job for you and why can’t you guys get it correct on the first take?

    Having said all that, this is one sweet pistol. 135 gr ammo is spot on with the sights. 125 gr rounds shoot just a smidge (just an inch or two high) and 147 gr will shoot 4-5 inched low. These measurements were at 10 yards (30 feet).

    The Springfield Armory pistol boxes suck. These things are freaking suitcases and annoy the hell out of me and everyone I know. JUST LIKE FN! Please make them smaller. The pistol does come with a crappy plastic holster and a 2 magazine ammo pouch. Some might like this, I don’t. It is more crap to put in a large suitcase box that I just don’t want.

    The pistol is supremely accurate. I really dig the three magazines. Thumbs up, big time. The down-side is the plastic holster and ammo pouches (which i never would expect in the first place) and the big ass case that I definitely don’t want.

  • Wheelspinner February 29, 2016, 9:46 pm

    The new…or not so new Baretta Stainless FS Compacl model L in 9mm is what cleans the table. Got one several months ago and all can say is “sweet”. Baretta knows how to make a gun and the FS Compact L is it………MSRP $700 but there out there for much less. Got mine for $575 new in the box with 2 mags…….and stainless.

  • Ken February 29, 2016, 5:10 pm

    The writers group size is not determined by him holding Kentucky windage. He should hold consistently and strive for the smallest group…..doesn’t have to be in the bullseye.

  • rabrooks February 29, 2016, 2:57 pm

    Tiny pistol in 40sw…. I experienced a Taurus PT101 in 40sw. It was full sized. Ouch!!!!

  • Steve February 29, 2016, 1:53 pm

    My wife wanted one about a year ago, carried a G26(with G17 mag) for the past few years and wanted something lighter.
    It is a very nice pistol but, very finicky on what it wants to shoot and the all steel mags were difficult for her to reload(bottom very sharp).
    She still has it but, picked up a Sig 938 late last year and loves it a bit more!
    PS I like shooting the Springfield though… lol

  • KBSacto February 29, 2016, 12:46 pm

    The EMP looks well made and has nice features that I wish more manufacturers would install on factory models. Many new firearms are not brought to the market because of need but more because of being new and interesting; I see the EMP falling into this category nicely. I expect many 1911 fans have and will pick up the EMP even though it has been on the market for a while. I remember when Colt brought back the Mustang and those I know who have them really like them. Kudos to Springfield for re-engineering the 1911 to work well in 9mm.

  • JoeUSooner February 29, 2016, 11:15 am

    Perhaps a set of the slightly-fatter G10 grips installed on the 9mm would address Joe P’s hand/grip disappointment….

  • steven Mitchell February 29, 2016, 10:57 am

    an obvious comparison for size would be an XDM sub-compact, but neither this article nor the Springfield Armory web site give the total width of this gun or the height from top to bottom.
    Does anybody out there have one of these and a pair of calipers? sure would be appreciated!

  • John R. February 29, 2016, 9:59 am

    I brought the .40 version about 5 years ago when they were selling like hot cakes. I choose the .40 over the 9mm because the .40 is all steel while the 9mm has a aluminum frame. Just a personal preference, I like all steel.
    It is accurate, reliable, and in the thousands of rounds I’ve put through it I have never had a jam, stove pipe, FTF, or malfunction of any nature.
    The EMP is a marvel of engineering, a reduced in size package that will put a round where you want it to go (with practice) as well as any full sized hand gun.
    Don’t be mislead by the writers target. The EMP can and will do much better.
    Suggested MSRP is $1200 but it has long passed the status of a boutique pistol and can be brought for much less if you are working with a retailer who would like to sell you one gun at a reasonable price, with hopes of future business, rather than one who could care less if he never see’s you again and tries to take you for everything you’ve got.
    If a highly accurate, easily concealable, and if a .40 or 9mm is in your future the EMP is a worthy consideration.

  • Elliott February 29, 2016, 9:22 am

    I don’t get it, why does everyone think it’s so hard to make something that looks like a 1911 function with smaller cartridges. We’very had 380 and 9 going back to the 1930s, if not before. Now I’m now gunsmith and don’t have the blessings of an endless collection or continuous review samples to compare. History has given us a plethora of examples from Colt (Govt 380), spring field (p238), Star, AMT, Llama, etc that prove it can bE done. Not to knock Springfield but reviewers please, let’s not over sell the new mousetrap.

    • BUURGA February 29, 2016, 2:42 pm

      Well said, and of course, there is the question of 1200.00 for a nine-round mag pistol? Nostalgia is one thing, but if this is for personal defense, then the question has merit.

    • Mark N. March 8, 2016, 11:39 pm

      Both the Colt Mustang in .380 and the P238/P938 (which is a Sig, not a Springfield) (and a Kimber, by the way) look like 1911s, but they really are not. The takedown is different, the disconnector is different, the safety is different, and none have a 1911 style grip safety. Colt allowed its patent on the Mustang to expire, and Sig took advantage of that, as did Kimber. Colt returned with its own version late to the game, and then came out with an ugly plastic one.

  • Joe P February 29, 2016, 8:50 am

    I have read about these lil jewels for a few years now and built a bit of a crush based on the gushing words of reviewer after reviewer. As a Colt Pocket light Govt 380 owner and fan, the recipe sounded like it would fit my taste like mom’s chili. A few weeks ago I finally got to fondle and shoot one at my local shops Springfield range day. I must admit in being disappointed. Yes, the lil cutie was put together well, and had all the looks. At 1200$ it should. For me The grip size was a little to small. Maybe an A1 style hump on the back, or maybe some more bulge on the grip panels would make it perfect. At the current cost I don’t care to experiment to try to fund out. All that said, I still like the idea, and hope a few others will give it a go. More in the market should bring costs down. Maybe browning will size up their 1911-380. Or maybe Armscor with their new 380 offering will decide to try 9. If somebody knows a rep please drop a few hints for me.

  • Zorro February 29, 2016, 7:42 am

    Why bother – when you can have a G26 or G27 with more round capacity for half the price and get a much more reliable pistol … I think people call that a no brainer …

    • Mark N. March 8, 2016, 11:41 pm

      That would depend on which state you live in. Some of us are only allowed ten rounds.

  • Joseph February 29, 2016, 5:46 am

    Or you could just go buy a browning style high power or one of it’s many offshoots in the mini and micro format.

  • Ralph February 28, 2016, 10:59 am

    Come on! I am so sick of seeing articles on 1911s. There are thousands of other firearms out there but this particular weapon keeps showing up. It’s like beating a dead horse. Now I do own one but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see other weapons profiled. Why can’t you do articles on , say, improving the trigger on certain firearms, or how to make your favorite AR more accurate? Please!!

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