New Springfield Range Officer Elite: Operator in 9mm & Compact in .45 ACP — Full Review

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I have long been a fan of the Springfield Armory when it comes to 1911s. Much like the Dos Equis beer guy: I don’t always shoot single stacks, but when I do, the odds are high that it’s a Springfield. This week, GunsAmerica got a first look at the new Range Officer (RO) Elite models.

The New Springfield Armory Elite Operator comes with a range bag, four magazines, a holster and also a spare magazine carrier with a few replacement fiber-optic front sights.

Directly from Springfield Armory, “New for summer 2017, the new RO Elite line adds multiple premium components and details for both competition shooters and defense-minded citizens, in both 9mm and .45ACP versions. For example, every new RO Elite series pistol is clad in the same Black-T® treatment specified on Springfield Armory 1911s built for the FBI’s regional SWAT and Hostage Rescue Teams. The Black-T coating is self-lubricating, highly corrosion resistant, unaffected by extremes, and engineered to shield the firearm from the heaviest use and toughest conditions. RO Elite models also include: Springfield Armory’s crisp, newly designed Gen 2 triggers, ambidextrous thumb safeties, and custom thin-line G-10 grips designed specifically for this series, adding an entirely new feel for high-precision 1911s. That’s more than $370 worth of upgrades for only a $125 increase in price.”

Range Time

Both the Compact and Operator models have the classic 1911 features: ambidextrous thumb safety, grip safety and a single-action trigger. They both feature bull, match-grade barrels, which improves accuracy.

For our test samples, I chose the RO Elite Operator in 9mm and the RO Elite Compact in .45 ACP. An unorthodox choice perhaps, but there is a method to my madness. All four of the new RO Elite models are available in 9mm or .45 ACP, so this is actually an introduction of eight new pistols.

The Compact model features a bull, match-grade barrel.

I haven’t spent a lot of trigger time on a full-sized 9mm 1911, so that is something new for me. The RO Elite Compact is about as small as 1911s come, and I was interested to see how it handled recoil with full-powered .45 ACP. Lastly, one of the weaknesses of 1911s in the modern era has been the lack of an accessory rail. A duty gun without an attached light is like a bull without horns. The few models that have accessory rails aren’t always up to the standards a duty gun should be held to. The Operator version of the RO Elite includes the rail, so I wanted to check it out.

The RO Elite series comes in a cardboard box, which at first glance had me wonder if Springfield Armory had lost their collective minds. The last Springfield pistols I purchased came in a plastic case that was solid enough for airline travel. A look inside the box reveals more than I had assumed. These guns were meant to be used, and the packaging reflects that. In the box is a range bag that is large enough for any pistol competition. In the bag are a holster, double mag carrier, pistol lock, spare fiber-optic sights, a cleaning brush and four magazines.

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The Elite Operator

The Elite Operator is a single-stack 1911 with nine-plus-one round capacity. It’s most notable feature is the front Picatinny rail underneath the barrel that allows shooters to attach lights and lasers. Photo Courtesy: Springfield Armory

SPECS

  • Type: Hammer-fired, single-action 1911
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Barrel Length: 5 in.
  • Overall Length: 8.6 in.
  • Weight: 41 oz.
  • Grips: G-10
  • Sights: White dot (rear); Fiber-optic (front)
  • Finish: Forged Steel, Black-T® Finish
  • Capacity: 9+1 rds.
  • MSRP: $1,159

The Elite Operator is indeed a full-sized 1911 with a steel frame. It features front and rear cocking serrations on the slide, an ambidextrous safety, and as mentioned an accessory rail, Picatinny to be exact. The sights on the gun were obviously meant to be used. The front is a fiber optic, the rear has white dots on a black serrated face. The rear sight also has a tactical ledge. It’s a hard angle that is hard to miss if you are manipulating the pistol one handed. This ledge is almost a ½-inch tall and guaranteed to work when you need it. Our test pistol was chambered in 9mm and the barrel is thick and match grade. With the reduced recoil of the 9mm, this pistol was a joy to shoot. I haven’t shot a lot of all steel 9mm guns, but this one stays tight on target with almost no muzzle flip. It has definitely made me rethink 9mm as a single stack option.

The white-dot Springfield tactical rear sight features a ledge that allows for easy one-handed manipulations.

The front is a fiber optic, the rear has white dots on a black serrated face. The rear sight also has a tactical ledge. It’s a hard angle that is hard to miss if you are manipulating the pistol one handed. This ledge is almost a ½-inch tall and guaranteed to work when you need it. Our test pistol was chambered in 9mm and the barrel is thick and match grade. With the reduced recoil of the 9mm, this pistol was a joy to shoot. I haven’t shot a lot of all steel 9mm guns, but this one stays tight on target with almost no muzzle flip.

The Elite Compact

The Range Officer Elite Compact is the perfect size for concealed carry. It features a single-action trigger, 4-inch match grade bull barrel and weighs only 28.5 ounces. Photo Courtesy: Springfield Armory

  • Type: Hammer-fired, single-action 1911
  • Cartridge: .45 ACP
  • Barrel Length: 4 in.
  • Overall Length: 7.6 in.
  • Weight: 28.5 oz.
  • Grips: G-10
  • Sights: White dot (rear); Fiber-optic (front)
  • Finish: Forged Steel, Black-T® Finish
  • Capacity: 6+1 rds.
  • MSRP: $1,030

The RO Compact is a 4-inch slide with an aluminum, chopped frame. The weight reduction is quite apparent when you pick the pistol up, which is a big plus for use as a concealed carry option. The frame is so short that the magazine for this gun only holds six rounds of .45 ACP. It is a small pistol that packs a lot of punch. The Compact features a match grade bull barrel with a flat wire, captive recoil system. There have been issues when other companies tried to shrink the size of the 1911, but my RO Compact ran without a hiccup. Although six is not a lot in the magazine, it’s size makes it an ideal carry package. And the good news is that if you need a reload, the Compact accepts full-sized magazines. The fiber-optic sights are the same as the Operator, which work well for CCW.

The G-10 grips allow excellent purchase but aren’t so severe that it will grab clothing when drawing from a holster. There is also a small indent on the left-side of the grips for thumb placement.

Both pistols feature the new slim line G-10 grips in a gray and black color scheme. The grips work well. They have enough texture to give you some bite, but not enough to snag on your clothing. There are beveled cut-outs at the height of the magazine release to help assure effortless reloads, which creates a nice aesthetic too. I tend to prefer thicker grips, but it’s an easy swap. Both have lightweight D shaped hammers, and the new G-2 triggers. The skeletonized pattern on the triggers is different from legacy Springfield Armory 1911 triggers with triangle cut-outs instead of circles. The new triggers break crisp and clean by factory standards. Extended beavertail grip safeties round out the package. The mainspring housings are flat, and the front strap is smooth on both models.

This new line of 1911 models can fill any need, from competition to defense. The 1911 fan boys out there are in for a treat, as Springfield Armory continues to roll out high-quality additions to the line. There are also two new models we didn’t test, the Range Officer Elite Target and Champion.

For more information about the new Springfield Armory Elite models, click http://www.springfield-armory.com/ro-elite-series/.

To purchase a Springfield Armory pistol on GunsAmerica, click https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=springfield.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Zack July 24, 2017, 8:18 pm

    Sounds to me like they only changed the grips trigger and hammer and added ambi safety. Perfomance wise what makes this one better the old range officer compact? Same sights trigger pull and barrel, no extended mag made for it, I just dont see the point and spending more on essentially the same pistol as the old range officer compact.

    • James August 19, 2017, 10:55 pm

      The Picatinny rail and the Black T coating…

  • Skeptical July 24, 2017, 8:25 am

    If they both have bull barrels how come the Operator looks like a skinny barrel with a bushing?

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