I was living in Canada the first time I heard gunshots from a murder in progress. As I wrote in the days that followed, Toronto’s residents blamed the police for the death of 18-year-old Gabril Nikov, even though officers arrived within minutes of the shooting. There is no Second Amendment in the Great White North, which means Canadians have only one option in a life-threatening situation: call the police and pray.
My time in Canada gave me an even greater appreciation for the right to protect myself and my family with a firearm. Law enforcement officers do their best to prevent tragedy, but no country’s police force can be everywhere at once. Sometimes, as the tagline goes for Springfield’s new 911, the police are minutes away, the threat is seconds away, and you’re your own first responder—whether you want to be or not.
As more Americans take the truth of this reality to heart, firearms companies have produced dozens of compact and sub-compact handguns perfectly suited for concealment. Many of these manufacturers offer reliable, well-made, and reasonably priced firearms, but I bet I’m not the only one who rolls my eyes when yet another small, black, striker-fired handgun hits the market. I own (and love) one of these guns, but it’s nice when a company engineers something a bit different in the CCL category.
Springfield’s new 911 may look like other sub-compact 1911-style 380s, but it handles better than any I’ve shot. The engineers at Springfield tweaked the mini-1911 design to minimize felt recoil, improve ergonomics, and provide a clearer sight picture even in the most stressful situations. Plus, it’s a great looking gun. The 911 stands out among the crowds of striker-fired handguns, and it won’t fail to deliver in a crisis.
Caliber: 380 ACP
Recoil System: Full Length Guide Rod w/ Flat Wire Spring
Sights: Pro-Glo™ Tritium/Luminescent Front & White Outlined Tritium Night Sight Rear
Weight: 12.6 oz
Slide: 416 Black Nitride, Loaded Chamber Indicator
Barrel: 2.7″ 416R Stainless Steel, Black Nitride Finish, 1:16 Twist
Grip Type: G10 Grips
Frame: 7075 T6 Anodized Hard Coat Aluminum, Octo-Grip Texture on Front Strap & Mainspring Housing, Extended Ambi Thumb Safety
Magazines: 1 – 6 Round Flush & 1 – 7 Round Extended, Stainless Steel
Springfield also offers the 911 with a black slide as well as two models with Viridian green grip lasers. Those are listed at $789 MSRP.
911 vs. Sig P238
The two handguns are identical in many ways (barrel length, overall length, and height), but the 911 has the Sig beat in several categories. The 911 is 2.6 ounces lighter and almost .2 inches slimmer. These are small differences, but they become more noticeable after carrying the firearm all day. The 911 also comes standard with an extended 7-round magazine, while the P238 usually comes with a 6-round magazine. Price goes to the 911 as well. Depending on which model you choose, Springfield’s handgun will set you back $100-$200 less than Sig’s. Magazines for the 911 will also be $20-$25 less.
In terms of ergonomics, the trigger guard extends farther forward on the 911 and has a small cut-out where the guard meets the grip. Both features allow shooters to use the firearm more easily with winter gloves. The beavertail extends farther to the rear of the gun, which helps control recoil. The 911 also comes standard with G10 grips. Grip texture is a matter of opinion, but I prefer the 911 grips over the P238.
Finally, and I expand on this a bit more below, the trigger on the 911 is lighter and crisper. Sig rates their P238 trigger between 5 and 7 pounds, but Springfield guarantees a 5-pound pull on their G10 trigger. The P238 still comes with an excellent trigger, but I give the slight edge to the 911.
The 911 copies the external safety and hammer of the traditional 1911 design, which makes it ideal for anyone accustomed to 1911 controls. If you’re used to carrying cocked and locked, you won’t have much trouble adjusting to Springfield’s new offering.
Beyond these two components, however, the 911 departs from John Browning’s original schematics. The 911 doesn’t use a barrel bushing, and the trigger is hinged even though it looks like it copies the 1911’s straight-pull design. Also, as with many 1911-style .380’s, the 911 doesn’t use a backstrap safety. Springfield eliminated this mechanism so users wouldn’t have to worry about maintaining a perfect grip in a self-defense situation. The lack of barrel bushing also makes takedown much simpler: users simply remove the slide stop lever to remove the slide and barrel.
The 911 includes a number of features that ensure safe carrying. The thumb safety blocks hammer movement, but as long as the hammer isn’t uncocked, the slide can be manipulated even when the safety is on. The hammer can also be half-cocked to ensure that the hammer won’t engage the firing pin even if the firearm is dropped. Carrying in this manner would require the shooter to disengage the safety and cock the hammer before firing, but it might be an option for those uncomfortable with carrying cocked and locked.
Springfield says its engineers focused on the shooter, not just the .380 cartridge when they designed the 911, and that attention is clear in the three contact points between the shooter and the firearm: the grips, trigger, and sights.
The grips and trigger are both constructed with G10 plastic, a high-pressure thermoset laminate made of multiple layers of woven fiberglass mesh cloth held together with an epoxy resin. It’s basically super tough plastic, and it makes the gun a bit lighter than other pocket pistols. Springfield included grip texture in all the right places (front strap and backstrap, safety lever, trigger, and hammer), but more importantly, they used the right amount of texture. It’s aggressive enough to provide confident handling, but it won’t take off a layer of skin if you use an IWB holster.
The trigger is excellent, despite its deceptive appearance. It weighs a hair above 5 pounds in the model I tested, and the reset is short, crisp, and tactile. The light pull weight combined with the textured shoe allows the shooter to maintain proper form even while attempting rapid follow-up shots.
The grips and trigger are great, but the factory sights set the 911 apart from comparable firearms. The rear sights are white tritium and the front sight is a Pro-Glo™ tritium dot outlined with a yellow luminescent ring. The front and rear sights contrast during daytime shooting, and all three dots glow brightly in the dark. The rear sight is U-shaped rather than square, which helps align more precisely with the circular front dot. The rear notch has been cut in the standard location, but the sight itself extends backward so it rests at the very rear edge of the slide. While an extra quarter inch of sight radius isn’t going to make you noticeably more accurate (especially in a self-defense situation), I thought it was a nice aesthetic touch, and it does remove the rear edge of the slide from your sight picture.
The handgun’s most significant “design feature,” of course, is the caliber. I won’t spend much time arguing for or against 9mm’s little brother, but I will say this. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the discomfort of carrying a 9mm or a .40 tempts you to leave your gun at home. The 911 doesn’t give you that excuse. It’s so small and light, you won’t notice it’s there. The best argument in support of the .380 might be “it’s better than nothing,” but the 911 is tiny enough to count as “nothing” if that’s what you’re limited to carrying, whether from necessity or preference.
If you already pack the small arms arsenal of an African country, you might find the 911 useful as a backup gun. Its 7+1 capacity is higher than most revolvers and its stainless-steel barrel and slide won’t rust no matter which sweaty crevice you manage to hide it in.
Function and Performance
None of this matters if the gun doesn’t go bang every time you pull the trigger, and the 911 delivered in each of my test categories.
The firearm comes lubed from the factory, so I pulled it out of the box, loaded a mag, and put it through its paces. Small .380’s often need a 200-round break-in period, but the 911 functioned near-perfectly even without the benefit of an initial clean and oil. I used Sig-Sauer’s 90 grain V-Crown, a jacketed hollow-point bullet designed for self-defense, and Sig’s 100 grain full metal jacket. Both loads performed well in this firearm, and I never experienced any feeding or ignition issues.
I began by putting shots on target at 10 yards, which is the maximum range you’re likely to use this handgun to engage an attacker. I won’t be winning any marksmanship competitions, but from this distance I was pleased with my ability to hit in a 6-inch circle without having any previous experience with the gun.
Next, I moved to the five-yard mark and repeated the process. The 911’s accuracy was excellent with both types of ammunition.
I transitioned from shooting for accuracy to shooting with speed, and the 911 excelled in this category as well. Its diminutive size doesn’t provide much leverage for controlling recoil, but that’s part of the trade-off when using an extra-small handgun. The aggressive grip texture, light trigger, all-metal construction, and extended magazine help accommodate for its size. The contrast between front and rear sights also make quick follow-up shots easier.
Self-defense semi-auto handguns like the 911 should cycle even when the shooter uses a weak, one-handed grip. A user might be forced to shoot with one hand in a self-defense situation, and fatigue or injury might prevent them from taking a firm hold. “Limp-wristing” is also a common problem among new shooters, and there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to teach someone to shoot with a gun that doesn’t cycle.
Again, the 911 functioned as it should even while I held it loosely with one hand.
Next, I loaded the magazine to full capacity, chambered a round, and added one more to the mag. Handguns have been known to jam when fully loaded because cheap magazine lips sometimes release more than one round at a time under the spring’s pressure. The 911 cycled flawlessly under these conditions.
I shot approximately 300 rounds throughout the course of these tests and only experienced one issue. Sometimes the 911’s slide wouldn’t lock back on the final round. This will likely occur less frequently as the firearm continues to be broken in, but it is an issue that should be addressed before the firearm is carried on a regular basis. If the slide doesn’t lock back in a self-defense situation, a user could lose valuable seconds realizing the problem, inserting a new magazine, and racking the slide.
Still, the 911 never failed to chamber and fire a round, which was more than satisfactory at the range.
My only other critique is that the ambidextrous safety lever sometimes pinched my trigger finger when I flipped it from safe to fire. The ambi safety is a great feature, but the size of the 911 puts my trigger finger high on the frame and in the notch through which the safety travels. Practice would no doubt solve this problem, but it could be a hazard in a self-defense situation.
Even after the 911 performed so well during testing, I was most pleased with my comfort level after firing so many rounds with such a small firearm. Other .380 pocket pistols have left my hands sore after a trip to the range. Shooting the 911 isn’t as comfortable as a full-sized 1911, but it isn’t unpleasant at all. The heavily textured grips allowed me to control muzzle flip and get the Pro-Glo front sight back on target, and the excellent trigger made hitting my target a relatively simple task.
If you’re looking for a micro-pistol that you can carry in deep concealment or a reliable backup gun if the S really HTF, the 911 is a great choice. Plus, you won’t hate shooting with it at the range, which means you’re much more likely to practice if you ever have to be your own first responder.VI
Visit Springfield Armory for more information on the 911 by clicking here.