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Springfield Armory EMP Compact 1911

Chambering a 1911 for 9mm cartridges is a radical move, but Springfield’s EMP is a solid, light, and accurate pistol for duty and off-duty carry.

April 01, 2007  |  by Paul Scarlata - Also by this author

There can be no denying the popularity of the 1911 pistol. Since its introduction nearly a century ago, the 1911 has set the standard for all other combat handguns. But despite its great design and its long history of service, the 1911 presents a significant problem for officers who want to carry it as a duty weapon. It's big and heavy.

Your average, full-sized, steel frame 1911 is at least 8.5 inches long and, when loaded, will tip the scales at more than two pounds. That is quite a chunk of metal to lug around on your belt or conceal under a jacket all day. In contrast, many of the more popular polymer frame pistols now used by police weigh less when loaded with 12 to 15 rounds of ammunition than an empty 1911.

Chambered Down

The primary reason for the 1911's inconvenient dimensions and weight is the cartridge it was designed to fire. The .45 ACP is a big round, so the immutable laws of physics require a big pistol to launch it.

Over the years, many manufacturers have offered "compact" 1911 pistols, but the "compacting" process generally consisted of little more than hacking off sections of the slide and barrel and shortening the grip frame. While this yielded shorter and lighter 1911 pistols, they still felt big and because they were lighter the shooter felt more recoil.

Springfield Armory, which offers one of the most complete lines of standard, compact, sub-compact, and micro 1911s, has now responded to requests for a new type of compact 1911. The new Springfield 1911 is not just an attenuated version of the standard 1911 but a true small pistol. The Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) was radically re-engineered specifically for the concealed carry market, making it an attractive weapon for detectives or for off-duty carry.

The first thing Springfield's engineers had to do was to discard the .45 ACP cartridge and chamber their new pistol for the 9mm Parabellum. While I can hear the wails of protest and gnashing of teeth out there, I am not affected by them. When loaded with high-performance, hollow-point bullets, the 9mm parabellum no longer has to take a back seat to its larger caliber cousins when it comes to on-target performance, and it provides the added benefits of lower levels of recoil and higher magazine capacity.

Adopting the 9mm cartridge was just the first step in creating the EMP. In fact, no fewer than 15 different components were redesigned to produce this 21st century 1911. The redesigned components include the slide, extractor, firing pin, firing pin spring, frame, trigger bow, trigger mechanism, and the plunger tube and its spring.

All of the edges on the EMP's stainless steel slide have been radiused for shooter comfort and to lessen the chances of it hanging when it's drawn from concealment. The frame is made from black anodized alloy, which not only provides an attractive contrast to the slide, it pares the EMP's weight to a mere 23 ounces, about the same as many snub-nosed revolvers. Another nice touch that you will quickly notice on the EMP is the aggressively beveled magazine well.

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