By Bob Campbell,
The Springfield EMP 1911 is a 9mm caliber 1911 that may represent the perfect all around size, weight and handling for a 1911 handgun. Before I continue I should mention that previous 9mm 1911-type handguns are the same size weight and dimension as a .45 ACP 1911. That is OK for easy shooting as the weight limits recoil. But for concealed carry you might as well choose the .45 and superior wound ballistics in the same weight class. Low recoil .45 ACP loads are available that are not difficult to control. There are also issues with 9mm feed reliability. Modifying .45 ACP magazines to take the shorter 9mm cartridges doesn’t always work out. Springfield took a look at the whole picture and redesigned the 9mm 1911. The EMP isn’t a re-chambered .45 ACP but a true purpose-designed 9mm that features a 9mm scaled magazine well. The EMP features magazines manufactured by MecGar, a respected maker. The piece is well done and attractive. The grip frame is proportionately smaller than the .45 and so are the overall dimensions.
The pistol features a three-inch long barrel with a ramped feed way and a belled lockup. There is no barrel bushing. Disassembly is much different than the original 1911―the barrel is removed from the front of the slide during disassembly.
The pistol weighs a light but steady 26 ounces. Springfield chose to go with a premium top of the line 9mm rather than a Mil Spec grade handgun.
The EMP features a black anodized aluminum frame, a stainless steel slide, and Novak sights. The sights are excellent designs and feature three-dot tritium inserts. This is the most effective set up for a combat gun in my opinion. The hammer is skeletonized and easy to manipulate, with adequate surface for a good hold. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger about half way into its travel. The slide lock safety is ambidextrous and positive in its indent. The aluminum trigger offers a serrated face for control. Trigger compression is a crisp 5.2 pounds without a trace of creep, over-travel or backlash. Trigger reset is fast. The 1911’s best attributes including a low bore axis, a short trigger action and good hand fit are retained in the EMP.
The manual of arms is as follows―to load the pistol lock the slide to the rear. Insert a loaded magazine.
Grasp the rear of the slide, pull it to the rear, and release, allowing it to smartly travel forward. The slide lock safety is then applied and the pistol is ready for carry. When you are ready to fire the pistol is drawn and the safety is moved to the fire position after the pistol is on target.
The safety is ergonomically designed so that there is no speed penalty relying upon a handgun with a safety. It is a simple matter to quickly place the pistol on safe if need be. If you drop the handgun the grip safety will prevent the trigger from moving. When you grasp the pistol the grip safety is depressed. This system makes for a very fast first shot, and an accurate first shot with the straight to the rear trigger. If you are uncomfortable with this system then you should choose another. For those willing to master the single-action cocked and locked system, there is no handgun faster to an accurate first shot or follow up shot. A significant investment in training is needed.
When you have made this investment in training you are as well armed as possible with a handgun.
I have fired the pistol extensively, perhaps nearing two thousand cartridges, not a great number over the course of a few months of firing. Recoil is light for this weight handgun. The dual recoil spring and the shape of the grip and the pistol’s low bore axis contribute to this impression. The pistol is fast―very fast on target. The sights offer excellent acquisition speed.
I fired the pistol at humanoid targets at 7, 10 and 15 yards in practice sessions and produced X-ring hits more often than not. The EMP offers excellent practical off-hand accuracy in firing at small targets at known and unknown ranges, a true test of accuracy and marksmanship. You are not sacrificing much, if any, accuracy with the EMP’s short barrel and sight radius. The rigid barrel and excellent trigger action, complimented by good sights, make for good hit probability.
This is one of the easiest 9mm hand guns to get fast hits with I have fired and among the easiest to like.
Handling and performance have been excellent save for a single snag. During an initial firing session the pistol would not feed hollow points. The nose caught on an edge of the feed ramp. A call to Springfield, a call tag sent, and the pistol was on its way home to Springfield. Three weeks later I had it back with a discernible polish and angle on the feed ramp. While I was not happy, this is something that happens sometimes with every maker and seems to happen less often with Springfield.
After the pistol’s return I ran a course in feed reliability, not wasting the ammunition but firing the cartridges on a combat course.
These were a diverse lot including the Federal 124-grain HST, Fiocchi 147-grain XTP, Double Tap 115-grain +P+, Hornady 115-gr. XTP, SIG V Crown, Winchester 124-grain PDX +P, and Winchester Silvertip. All cartridges fed, chambered, fired and ejected. When testing ammunition I was surprised by the velocity retained in the three-inch barrel Springfield. As an example the Winchester 124-grain PDX breaks 1212 fps from my Glock 17 and 1180 fps from the EMP. The 115-grain Winchester Silvertip breaks 1190/1160, respectively, in these two handguns. That is good velocity retention in a short barrel and I am certain the fast burning powders used in the 9mm Luger have much credit for this.
Most recently I have tested the pistol with a good mix of Black Hills Ammunition 9mm products. The 124-grain JHP offers low felt recoil and excellent accuracy at about 1050 fps. Those favoring control over maximum power and those wishing to deploy a load that favors penetration over expansion will choose this loading. The 115-grain EXP breaks 1180 fps and offers high velocity and rapid expansion
without going to +P pressure. The 9mm 125-grain Honey Badger breaks about 950 fps and offers good control and solid accuracy. This loading relies upon bullet design rather than expansion for wound potential, with a sharp cutting edge. Choose your load depending upon whether you are likely to encounter felons behind cover and your own ability to control recoil.
At present the pistols sells for $1048.95 at cheaperthandirt.com. There are less expensive handguns that are reliable. The pistol, then, it might be said, appeals to the many 1911 fans that are willing to pay for a custom grade handgun off the rack. Whoever you are the pistol is fast, very fast on target to an accurate first shot for those that practice. It is also more accurate than any other single stack 9mm I have tested in this size and weight category and more accurate than most full size 9mm handguns. Speed to a first shot and speed to an accurate first shot is unequaled in my opinion. Once the EMP had the initial problem attended to, it was as reliable as a handgun can be. For this type of performance—and for those willing to practice—it is well worth its price.