By Paul Helinski
Springfield Armory EMP
Sometimes the reviews here at GunsAmerica are driven by advertising, but not the way you have come to expect them to be in the print pubs. In the case of the Springfield Armory EMP Micro-Pistol, the first time an ad for it ran alongside one of our Digest emails, over 7,000 of you clicked on the ad, instead of one of the articles (ahem). This seemed to indicate that a lot of people were interested in the gun, so we asked Springfield for a test subject, in .40 S&W. The result was not only getting to shoot a genuinely nifty and useful firearm. It turns out that the gun is not just YA1911. (Yet Another 1911). Unlike all of the other 1911-style pistols in 9mm and .40S&W, the EMP was re-engineered to shoot these cartridges specifically. It is truly a “scaled down” 1911, and the components have been made to function reliably with both a smaller cartridge, and smaller barrel length, in the 1911 design. The grip angle is the same as the standard 1911 but the grip is thinner, and guts of the gun are smaller to work in a shorter space. We tested our EMP extensively, and it is both reliable and accurate. At a street price in the $1,200 range, this is not an inexpensive firearm, but with stock tritium night sights and custom shop grade parts, the Springfield EMP is a lot of gun if you want to carry a 1911 for personal defense. This gun has been available for many years in both 9mm and .40 S&W, but judging by how many of you clicked on the ad, there are still plenty of people who didn’t know about it.
The first question people usually ask about the EMP is if it has an alloy frame, meaning aluminum alloy. No it does not. The EMP .40 is carbon steel, with Springfield’s “Armory Kote” finish. The 9mm is alloy. On both guns the slide is forged stainless steel and comes with a satin finish. Overall, the EMP is 6.5” long and 5” high, and the .40 weighs 33 ounces empty. The 9mm is 7 ounces less. The magazines are stainless, made by Mec-Gar in Italy, and the .40 holds 8 rounds, while the 9mm holds one more. As with all Springfield pistols, the EMP comes with a hard lockable case with a holster, mag holster and lock. Our gun came with three magazines. Each has a “slam plate” that sticks out beyond the bottom of the gun. The grips on the EMP are South American Cocobolo (and very pretty as you can see in the pics) with machine-cut checkering and an SA logo. The sights are carry-style, with no snag points, and the tritium inserts are from Trijicon. The thumb paddle safety release is ambidextrous, and the trigger and hammer are skeletonized.
The 3” barrel on the EMP does not have a barrel bushing in the front like a regular 1911. About the only unpleasant thing about the gun is that you have to use a special insert to take it down, or at least to take the barrel out of the frame. You lock the slide forward, then clip a little plastic piece to the guide rod. This prevents the guide rod from going back to full length, so you can pull it out. Lose that little part and you won’t have as fun a time taking down your EMP. Springfield 1911s also come with an internal locking system on the rear of the grip that uses special key, two of which come with the gun. This is a unique feature of their guns that you rarely ever read about.
Everything on the EMP is smaller than a regular 1911, but it still feels like one. Springfield already made a compact .45ACP 1911 before the EMP. It is called the “Micro-Compact.” To go even smaller, the company had to limit the gun to smaller cartridges, and by doing so they allowed the EMP engineers to create a new gun that is not interchangeable with YA1911. The grip is 1.4/10ths of an inch smaller than a 1911, and this allows you to hold the gun a little bit tighter into your hand. It also allows some smaller-framed shooters to hold comfortably a 1911 where they can’t hold a standard size. As a side note,
you could also use that thinner profile to add Crimson Trace grips while keeping the grip more like what you are used to with a standard 1911. The other smaller parts on the gun are the slide, firing pin and spring, plunger tube housing, trigger bow, extractor and even the magazine.
The EMP recoils pretty much like a standard 1911. In .40S&W, the relatively heavy weight of the EMP controls the kick so much that it isn’t uncomfortable at all. Muzzle flip, however, is almost always an issue for the .40 S&W and it is in the EMP as well. If you favor the 1911 design, the EMP will shoot for you “as expected.” I suspect that the 9mm will flip much less, and that it will be a pleasant gun to shoot for even the smallest of shooters. Because of the slightly extended magazine, the EMP is a three-finger grip for even the biggest hands. I have not seen a flush magazine available for the gun at the Springfield Store. Like all 1911s, the EMP is a holster gun, and besides the belt holster that comes with it, any standard 3 or 4” inside-the-waistband holster for standard 1911s will fit the gun perfectly.
We shot the EMP with several types of ammunition to get an idea of what you should expect. At 10 yards, it repeatedly shot Hornady Critical Duty into about an inch of dispersal, rested. Federal Guard Dog, several bullet weights of Hornady Critical Defense and steel cased Tula .40 S&W averaged in the just over 2” range. There is no explanation of why the Critical Duty performed in the same range as some $3,000 1911 pistols out there, but the overall results were more in line with other production-quality 1911s by higher-end gunmakers. Hornady Critical Duty is a round specifically designed to meet the FBI barrier penetration tests. On the chronograph, all of the ammo we tested reflected a slight loss in speed due to the short 3” barrel on the EMP.
As you can see from the pictures, the EMP is a pretty gun. The fit and finish are meticulous, and it has little extras like a slightly beveled mag well and rounded edges on the ejection port. A lot of care and attention to detail went to into these guns, and as much as we love Springfield’s plastic pistols, you just can’t compare a well-made 1911 to any plastic gun at all. The EMP is a very mature design, made for elitists in the concealed carry world and gun nuts in general. I won’t be swapping the XD-S in my pocket for an EMP on my belt any time soon, but if I were of the gun nut variety that doesn’t think you are carrying unless you have a leather holster on your belt, I would probably carry the EMP (in .40). This is a gun that probably nobody has ever experienced buyer’s remorse over. That is why they make gun safes big and roomy — so we can all get one of each.