Before I begin singing the praises of the Springfield EMP 1911, I should say that I have never felt the 9mm 1911 made a lot of sense. It was like putting a six cylinder engine in a Corvette. The 10mm 1911 is like a 454 Chevelle by comparison. However, the Springfield EMP is not an average 1911 9mm.
The 9mm is as heavy, long, and tall as the .45 ACP 1911. The 1911 was originally designed for the .900-inch long .45 ACP. (A logical move from the 1900 .38 ACP and its .900-inch long cartridge, but that is another story.) The short 9mm cartridge presented feed difficulty. Most 9mm magazines were simply pinched .38 Super magazines with a spacer in the back. This wasn’t ideal.
Reliability was never in the class with the .38 Super and .45 ACP. This presented an impediment to the many fans of the 9mm. 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. 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, 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, short trigger action, and good hand fit are retained in the EMP.
Magazines are important and the MecGar magazines offer a good design, good finish, and they are provided with strong springs to ensure feed reliability. Short-slide handguns of all types are less reliable on average, but this handgun has proven cycle reliability with every loading fired.
Initial firing was undertaken with SIG Sauer FMJ ammunition. I fired not only the original 115-grain FMJ loading, but also the new target grade 147-grain FMJ. Two hundred rounds later, I had a good feel for the EMP. Recoil is light for this weight handgun. A strong recoil spring, 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 man-sized targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards, and produced X-ring hits more often than not. After the first 10 magazine loads were fired, I began firing at small targets at 15 to 25 yards.
The EMP offers excellent practical off-hand accuracy. 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 handguns to get fast hits with I have ever fired and among the easiest to like. After the initial range evaluation, I took the pistol home, cleaned and lubricated it, and chose ammunition for the next range trip. This time, however, I ran across a snag. The pistol would not feed hollow points. The nose caught on an edge of the feed ramp. Not every time but often enough to be aggravating. I made two trips to the range with loads from the major makers. Only Gorilla Ammunition 115-grain +P was completely reliable, and this wasn’t acceptable.
A call to Springfield, a call tag sent, and the pistol was on its way home to Springfield. Twelve days 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 than many.
After the pistol’s return I ran a short course in feed reliability, not wasting the ammunition in pointless firing 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-grain XTP, SIG V Crown, Winchester 124-grain PDX +P, and Winchester Silvertip. All cartridges fed, chambered, fired and ejected.
The velocity retained in the three-inch barrel Springfield surprised me. As an example, the Winchester 124-grain PDX breaks 1,212 fps from my Glock 17 and 1,180 fps from the EMP. The 115-grain Winchester Silvertip breaks 1,190/1,160, respectively, in these two handguns. That is good velocity retention, and I am certain the fast burning powders used in the 9mm Luger have much credit for this.
At this point, we must evaluate the pistol’s performance versus its price. At present the pistol sells for $1,048.95 at Cheaperthandirt.com. There are less expensive handguns that are reliable. The EMP, it might be said, appeals to the many 1911 fans willing to pay for a custom grade handgun off the rack.
Whoever you are, the pistol is fast, very fast on target—for those who 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. For this type of performance—and for those willing to practice—it is well worth its price. As for myself, the EMP is riding in a Galco Royal Guard holster as I write this and is likely to be a trusted companion for some time.
Are you a fan of 1911s? How about the 9mm cartridge for self-defense? Share your answers in the comment section?
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
View all articles by Bob Campbell
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