I recently learned about a trend in the world of AR-15 building called “bombproofing.” Builders use the beefiest, most indestructible components to develop an AR-15 that will hold up for tens of thousands of rounds and keep ticking after intense environmental stress.
Springfield’s new Ronin is like a bombproofed 1911.
John Browning’s legendary design is already tough. It wouldn’t have stuck around for over 100 years and dominated military engagements all over the world if it didn’t have the proverbial stones to get the job done. But Springfield’s new offering is about as tough as a 1911 can get. Seriously. You could use it as a wheel chock or the world’s manliest paperweight.
The best part? At $849 MSRP, you won’t have to mortgage your house to bring one home.
“We wanted to develop a pistol that gave you all the strengths and benefits of the Springfield 1911 and at a price point of only $849,” Springfield’s Mike Humphries told me when I asked him why the company began developing the Ronin. “The result is a pistol comparable to ones that cost more than a thousand dollars with these features.”
Specifications, per Springfield’s website:
- CALIBER: .45 ACP or 9mm
- COLOR: Stainless/Black
- BARREL: 5″ Forged Stainless Steel, Match Grade, 1:16
- SLIDE: Forged Carbon Steel, Blued
- FRAME: Forged Stainless Steel
- SIGHTS: Fiber Optic Front, Tactical Rack White Dot Rear
- RECOIL SYSTEM: GI Style
- GRIPS: Crossed Cannons Checkered
- MAGAZINES: (1) 8-Round for 45ACP; (1) 9-Round for 9mm
- WEIGHT: 40 oz (45ACP); 41 oz (9mm)
- LENGTH: 8.6″
- HEIGHT: 5.5″
- MSRP: $849
Built to Last: Forged vs. Cast
What makes the Ronin so tough? It starts (and ends, really) with the manufacturing process. Unlike many other 1911’s at this price point, the Ronin uses a forged frame and slide rather than cast components. And I only say “many other” on the off chance that one exists I haven’t been able to find. The other big manufacturers all use cast components for their sub-$1000 1911’s.
As Humphries explained, forging is the process of pounding and compacting material into a uniform piece. It’s a classic manufacturing technique that keeps irregularities from forming within the component. It also produces a high level of density, which allows for higher-quality machining and a much stronger material.
Casting, on the other hand, involves pouring material into a hollow mold that resembles the piece but could leave cavities, voids, etc., after the process has cooled. Cast slides and frames aren’t weak by any means. Lots of firearms manufacturers use cast components with acceptable results. But if you’re looking for something that will last decades and keep shooting, forged parts are the way to go.
That quality is apparent in the Ronin even right out of the box. At over 40 ounces, it’s slightly heavier than other 1911’s at this price. Weight isn’t a perfect indicator of quality, of course, but the Ronin feels well-built. Its heft makes it a bear for concealed carry (more on this below), but a dream for competition.
The slide-to-frame fit also testifies to the quality of Springfield’s manufacturing process. There is zero wiggle with the hammer un-cocked and only a slight side-to-side movement with the hammer cocked. Slide-to-frame fit has a debatable effect on accuracy (some say it matters, others say it doesn’t), but you can’t get this kind of fit with an imprecise manufacturing process.
Some users might question Springfield’s decision not to include a full-length steel guide rod and spring plug. I get this critique but keep in mind that there are inevitable trade-offs at this MSRP. Personally, if I have to choose, I’d rather have a forged slide, frame, and barrel than high-quality small parts that I can swap out later.
A variety of modern features build on the Ronin’s base of quality materials. The sights and the trigger are excellent. I like the contrast between the two white dots and the red front fiber-optic, which can be swapped out easily for a different color. The rear sight is also what Springfield calls “tactical rack.” It’s raised slightly, which allows you to press it against the edge of a table or chair and rack it with one hand.
The “Gen 2.0 Speed Trigger” features a crisp, consistent 4-pound break, and the reset is audible and tactical. The trigger is polymer, which I understand isn’t as desirable to old-school 1911 aficionados. But Glock, et al, have demonstrated the durability of polymer triggers, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which the trigger’s construction would become an issue. On the contrary: I found it comfortable to shoot and super fast. The Gen 2.0 uses four skeletonized sections in the shoe rather than five on the Gen 1.0.
Forward cocking serrations, a beavertail grip safety, an extended safety lever, and a baseplate magazine round out the Ronin’s laundry list of modern features. It’s an impressive array of features for the price, and all aid in handling, safety, or accuracy.
Right now, Springfield doesn’t have any plans to release a lefty version. Humphries told me they decided to cut the ambidextrous safety to keep the price low. This is obviously a bummer for the lefties among us, but aftermarket 1911 products are easy to find—along with reputable gunsmiths to install them.
At the Range + Accuracy
The Ronin is a pleasure to shoot. I opted for the 9mm, and I’m glad I did. The weight of the Ronin combined with the relatively light recoil of the 9mm are a match made in whatever heaven John Browning ended up in.
The sights are easy to pick up, which makes follow-up shots even easier. I found myself shooting faster without sacrificing accuracy as the pistol’s weight reduced muzzle flip and the checkered grips provided a positive, non-slip grip surface.
The trigger also helps throw lead downrange in a hurry. The single-action break and quick reset made for faster shooting, and the straight-line texturing helped keep my finger on the trigger.
I had no problems with reliability. I used two hollow-point loads (Hornady’s Critical Duty 135g and American Gunner 115g) along with one FMJ cartridge (Remington UMC 115g) throughout the course of my testing and never experienced a single malfunction. I also shot rapid fire and with a limp wrist without issue.
Shooters with physical limitations might find that the weight of the handgun becomes an issue over an extended range session. The same heft that helps control recoil might make the handgun difficult to lift and aim for certain types of shooters. I can’t see this being a huge issue, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Accuracy was well within the acceptable range for an off-the-shelf 1911. I shot two 10-shot groups with two different Hornady cartridges from 25 yards using a Ransom Multi Cal Steady Rest. As you can see, all groups fell between 2.2-2.5 inches.
You can take this for what it’s worth, but I also backed up to 100 yards and took some shots at a man-sized steel target. Once I found the correct point of aim, I could ring it all day.
The Springfield Ronin 1911 would excel in any appropriate competitive setting. It’s well-built, accurate, easy to shoot, and reliable. The magazine also drops free, which is an important consideration for any competitive firearm. Sure, you can find souped-up 1911’s that might be more accurate or boast a lighter trigger. But for the price, the Ronin’s performance is tough to beat.
This may sound counterintuitive, but I also think the Ronin would make a great training gun for new shooters. Some folks put new shooters on smaller guns that seem easier to manipulate. But the smaller the gun, the greater the recoil, generally speaking. The Ronin’s weight lessens felt recoil, and new shooters will appreciate its easy-to-understand external-hammer design and its crisp trigger.
There are probably better options for defensive purposes. I say that only because of the limited magazine capacity. These days, even subcompact handguns can squeeze more than 9+1, so I’d look elsewhere for a home defense or concealed carry firearm.
If you’re stuck on the 1911 as a defensive piece (it did win WWII, after all), I’d keep it in the quick access safe at home. Carrying the Ronin around all day would get old pretty quick, and you’re not increasing capacity for the weight you’re sacrificing.
But let’s be honest—you’re not going to buy the Ronin because it’s the most practical gun in the world. If you wanted something cheap, practical, and ugly, there are lots of striker-fired plastic guns to choose from. You’re going to buy the Ronin because it’s beautiful, tough, wonderful to shoot, and will last until your grandson’s son or daughter is ready for their first 1911.