The latest entry into the single-stack 1911 world comes from Springfield Armory. Springfield has been making 1911s for decades but their newest pistol, the Emissary is a bit different. The Emissary is not a competition gun; it’s a carry or tactical pistol. I don’t know who is still carrying a full-size 5-inch 1911 these days, but some people must be because companies like Springfield are still making them.
The first thing you notice about the Emissary is that it has a square trigger guard which is a first on a production 1911 from Springfield. That’s where it all started – making a 1911 with a square trigger guard. The design went through many different variations until it became what we see today. Other unique features include the tri-top slide, bull barrel and 10 LPI blocks on the grips, front and back strap.
Traditionally, 1911s are checkered with 20-30 LPI (lines per inch). The little diamonds or squares those checkering lines produce offer a great grip because they are pointy and sharp. The downside is that they grab things like clothes. The Emissary has large blocky checkering (10 LPI), or what I call flat checkering. I call it that because the squares are flat with no points. This keeps them from grabbing clothes and other things but they still provide a very aggressive texture to grip. It is a great blending of concepts that works well in the flesh.
The grip panels feature the same 10 LPI blocks but they are very slim. The Emissary is two-tenths of an inch skinnier at the widest point of the grips when compared to my old Springfield 1911 from the early 2000s that has standard wood grips.
The slide is also a new style for Springfield. It’s a tri-top slide. Tri-top slides have been around quite a while but this is Springfield’s first. I really like tri-top slides; functionally they are the same as rounded but they look much better to me. The top of the slide has 40 LPI grooves between the sights to cut glare and nice aggressive texturing near the muzzle.
When you look at the muzzle of the Emissary you see another big change – the bull barrel. A bull barrel is thicker than a standard barrel and it accomplishes two things. It eliminates the need for a barrel bushing and bushing tool to take the gun apart. A bull barrel also weighs more which takes away some of the recoil.
The trigger is a nice, mostly flat design. The very top and bottom have a small curve. Those curves help keep your finger in the middle of the trigger and help stop you from dragging your finger on the top or bottom of the trigger guard. The face of the trigger is textured with 40 LPI grooves. The trigger averaged a break weight of 4.0 pounds on my Lyman digital scale. There is 2-3mm of pre-travel before you hit the trigger wall and then it breaks cleanly. It’s a solid trigger for a carry gun.
Sights are ultimately a user preference feature. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. That does not necessarily make either set of sights bad by default though, just different. That said, the new sights on the Emissary do not work well for me. The rear is a U notch that is .140″ wide with a line under the U cut. The rear also has a ledge so if one hand is disabled you can still rack the slide using the ledge on your belt, your shoe or just about anything else you can find out in the world. The front is also .140″ wide and features a tritium vial for night use and a yellow ball around it.
I prefer sights with a square rear notch .130-.140″ wide with no markings and a fiber optic front that is .100-.110″ wide. The U-Dot sights on the Emissary don’t give me enough light on either side of the front sight when aligned with the rear. I also find the U-notch lines and dots distracting; I have trouble with any kind of repeatable precision with sights like these. This showed up when I was testing various ammo for accuracy. My groups all sucked (5 inches+ at 25 yards) and didn’t do the gun justice as it is very accurate.
As you can see in the video above, Rob Leatham has no trouble being accurate with the U-Dot sights. In case you have never heard of Rob he has been competing for Springfield for over 20 years and has collected 34 National and 8 World titles along the way. Rob does not suck. Rob is the best pistol shooter in the history of practical pistol shooting sports. The U-Dot sights work well, just not with my brain. Luckily, sights are easy to change on the Emissary if you want something different.
I met up with Rob Leatham on the range to shoot and talk about the Emissary. I handed Rob my Emissary straight out of the box. I did not clean it, lube it or even take it apart. Rob grabbed some ancient competition ammo he loaded many years ago and went to work. The Emissary ran perfectly, zeros jams or misfeeds. That says a lot about the fit and quality of the Emissary.
Ammo is still scarce these days, but SIG Sauer was nice enough to send me a few boxes of their Elite Performance 230gr. FMJ for testing. The rest of the ammo was sourced by myself and others at GunsAmerica, digging deep in our personal stashes and recovering various boxes of random .45 ACP, much of it at least 20 years old.
The Emissary ate it all without incident. Between Rob and me we put about 400 rounds through the Emissary without issue. Even the 185gr +p JHP and 200gr JHP ran perfectly. Springfield did their homework and built a reliable out of the box 1911.
With all ammo, the recoil was slightly mild for a 1911 and very mild with the Surefire X300 light attached. There are three types of recoil. Push, which is the gun pushing back against you; it does not matter as it does not disturb the sights. Torque, which is the gun trying to twist in your hand. Torque does not disturb the sights either so it does not matter very much. The last type is Flip. Flip is the muzzle of the gun wanting to jump up and it completely disturbs the sights; flip is the one to care about. As 1911s go, the Emissary had mild push and torque. The flip was also soft and easily managed. Overall the Emissary shoots well and predictably.
As the Emissary is very new there are not a lot of holsters that will fit it. QVO Tactical was kind enough to send out one of their Secondary OWB paddle holsters that fit the Emissary with a Surefire X300 weapon light. It is a kydex holster and my version had a camo fabric cover over the Kydex. I normally have to modify and massage a new holster but the QVO fits the Emissary perfectly.
Using the QVO holster Rob did some Failure and Bill Drills along with his Standard Controllability Test. Using the same holster I shot a variety of plate racks, spinners and other assorted steel from 10-30 yards the next day. The Emissary performed well – as expected.
Overall I liked the Emissary a lot but I would change a few things. The serrations on the corners on the front of the slide should continue down the sides for a better grip when racking the slide from the front. I would also like a minimal magwell on the frame. Reloading Single Stacks is very very hard to do fast without a magwell. Lastly, I was disappointed that there is no optics mount. Optics are all the rage these days and for good reason.
If you are looking to buy a single stack, take a good look at the Emissary. The single stack has been around for more than a century but the Emissary has unique looks, excellent performance, and is a great value at $1,279 MSRP.
Springfield Emissary 1911 Specs:
Caliber 45 ACP
Barrel 5 inch Match Bull – 1 in 16 twist
Slide Forged Carbon Steel – Blued
Frame Forged Stainless Steel
Sights U-notch rear, tritium front
Guiderod One piece full length
Grips VZ Grips Thin-Line G10
Magazines Two 8 round mags included
Weight (no mag) 40 oz/2.5 lbs.
Length 8.4 inches
Height 5.25 inches
Holster QVO Tactical Secondary OWB – $95