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.[PAGEBREAK]

Filling Your Hand

Because it was designed for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, Springfield's engineers were able to reduce the diameter and the front-to-rear dimensions of the EMP's grip frame by 0.25 and 0.125 of an inch, respectively. This might not sound like much, but when you pick up an EMP it is immediately evident. Even officers with small hands will have no trouble getting a secure grip on this compact pistol.

Other features that make the EMP a most shootable handgun are a match grade barrel with integral feed ramp, aluminum trigger with overtravel adjustment screw, a beavertail grip safety with palm swell, ambidextrous safety levers, a lowered and flared ejection port, checkered mainspring housing, and tritium night sights.

The magazines are made by the Italian firm of Mec-Gar and should be called the "niner/niner magazine," as they were designed from the ground up for the 9mm cartridge and hold nine rounds. They also feature a short finger rest extension, so even shooters with large hands can get a full, four-finger grip on the pistol.

Like all current production Springfield 1911 pistols, the EMP comes with the patented Integral Locking System. The ILS uses a small key to lock the mainspring, which prevents the hammer from being cocked and prevents the slide from being retracted.

A nice touch is the belt slide holster and dual magazine pouch that come with the pistol, both are very practical for concealed carry.

Range Time

In February, Debbie Williams of Springfield Armory was kind enough to provide me with an EMP to test for Police.

Accuracy testing was conducted from a rest, at a distance of 15 yards, the results of which are displayed on the chart below. While the pistol printed a bit to the left, this was easily rectified by drifting the rear sight. Other than that, I found the EMP's accuracy to be above par for this class of handgun. However, it showed a definite preference for lighter bullets, and groups got larger as bullet weight increased.

After chronographing the various loads, I belted on the holster and mag pouch that came with the EMP and ran it through a series of offhand drills at seven yards, firing the pistol with supported and unsupported grips. My friend Butch Simpson then repeated the process, firing a magazine each of the four brands of 9mm ammunition we had available. These "composite groups" were extremely tight and well centered. In fact, my target had 30 out of the 36 rounds expended inside of the X ring. No complaints here.

I experienced a total of one failure to feed with the first magazine of ammo I fired through the EMP. After that it ate up whatever I stuffed in the magazine and spat out the empty shells.

If you need a small, concealable pistol for duty or off-duty carry, the EMP may be just what you're looking for, especially if you like the 1911 design and you're not married to the .45 ACP cartridge. The EMP is one of the most practical launching platforms for 9mm rounds that I have seen in some time.

Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE.

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