Skip to main content

Springfield Defender .45 GAP

Springfield's mini- .45 is a perfect match for the compact but powerful .45 GAP cartridge

According to Shooting Times Handgun Editor Sheriff Jim Wilson, defensive shooters have been wanting big-bore handguns that are easy to conceal for more than 150 years. Since about the last half of the 19th century and well into the 21st century these "shootists" have wanted small, concealable handguns chambered for powerful cartridges.

Often referred to as pocket pistols, belly guns, and even bulldog pistols, these handguns make as much sense today as they did in the 1850s because of the number of states that have passed concealed-carry laws. Springfield Inc. (Dept. ST, 420 W. Main St., Geneseo, IL 61254; 800-680-6866; www.springfieldarmory.com) is taking big-bore pocket pistols in a new direction with its new mini .45.


The Defender comes with fixed Novak rear and dovetailed front three-dot tritium night sights.

Springfield's new mini .45, called the Defender, is a recoil-operated 1911-type single-action semiautomatic pistol chambered for the compact but powerful .45 GAP cartridge. As such, the new pistol has been scaled down in size. What's really innovative about its design is that it is not just shorter in overall length or merely a tad slimmer in profile. Its internal firing mechanism has been shortened, and consequently its grip frame has been shortened front to back. Rob Leatham, world-class shooter and Springfield spokesman, says the changes amount to about a 1/8- inch shortening (front to back) of the grip frame and the slide.


That decrease in size required resizing the magazine, the firing pin, the ejector, the extractor, the plunger tube, the plunger spring, the trigger bow, and, of course, the frame. The cumulative effect of the grip frame changes is almost a 1/4-inch reduction in grip circumference. These changes not only make the Defender's grip smaller, but according to Leatham, it actually makes the mechanism more efficient.



SPECS
Springfield Defender
.45 GAP Semiautomatic Pistol
Manufacturer:Springfield Inc.
Model:Defender
Operation:Recoil-operated single-action autoloader
Caliber:.45 GAP
Barrel Length:3.0 inches
Overall Length:6.6 inches
Weight, empty23 ounces
Height:4.9 inches
Safety:Manual slide lock thumb safety, grip safety, internal firing pin block, Springfield I.L.S. (internal locking system)
Sights:Fixed Novak rear; three-dot night sights
Stocks:Cocobolo
Magazine Capacity:6 rounds
Finish:Blued
Price:$1184

Some of the Defender's other features include Novak low-profile combat-style rear sight and dovetailed front sight (the three-dot tritium night sight system), six-round magazine, 3.0-inch barrel (fitted directly to the slide), flat mainspring housing, lowered and flared ejection port, adjustable aluminum speed-style trigger, blued Commander-style hammer, ambidextrous thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, loaded chamber indicator, checkered cocobolo grip panels, and Torx head grip screws.

The sample pistol we received weighed in at 29 ounces without a magazine and was finished in a deep, glossy blue. Combine that with the rich woodgrain of the grip panels and you have a very good-looking pistol. As for the weight, Springfield's specs list the gun as weighing 23 ounces, but according to the company's literature, that's for an alloy-framed model. The review sample we got our hands on weighed more because it was a steel-framed preproduction gun.

When conducting the usual 1911 "wiggle test" (pushing on the hood of the barrel and wiggling the slide from side to side), I found the barrel to lock up nice and tight, and the slide-to-frame fit had just a small amount of wiggle. That doesn't concern me at all because this type of pistol is clearly intended for personal protection with complete reliability being more important than match-grade accuracy. Still, the slide was not as loose as a lot of old Government Models I have inspected that functioned reliably and shot accurately.

As it came from the factory, the trigger had a slight amount of takeup, but it broke crisply and consistently at 4.5 pounds of pull. I measured it with my Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge three times, and all three times it was exactly 4.5 pounds.

Springfield's mini .45 GAP was plenty accurate for self-defense. Its best group average (1.5 inches at 15 feet) came with Speer's 185-gr. Lawman loads.

Plenty Powerful & Accurate Too

My shooting tests with the .45 GAP Defender were done using seven different factory loads: Federal's 185-grain Hydra-Shok, Speer's 185-grain Gold Dot and Lawman TMJ, Speer's 200-grain Gold Dot and Lawman TMJ, and Winchester's 185-grain Silvertip and 230-grain FMJ. I fired four five-shot groups with each of the loads from a sandbag benchrest at a self-defense distance of 15 feet.

The test ammunition gave good combat accuracy with the groups averaging from 1.50 to 2.25 inches. The consistently most accurate round in the Defender during my shooting review was the Lawman 185-grain TMJ loading from Speer. Velocities from the three-inch barrel averaged 942 fps overall, with the highest being turned in by Federal's 185-grain Hydra-Shok (981 fps). But the difference between it and the second highest velocity load (Speer's 185-grain Gold Dot) was only one fps, so on another day of shooting the ranking could conceivably change.

Winchester's heavy 230-grain FMJ load produced the lowest average velocity (820 fps). All loads compared favorably to .45 ACP factory ammunition fired through a three-inch-barreled pistol. (I recently test-fired a three-inch-barreled Kimber Ultra Raptor II in .45 ACP and for factory loads with the same bullet weight range [185 to 230 grains], it averaged 814 fps.)

The Defender was very comfortable to shoot. As for functioning, well, short-barreled .45 ACP 1911 pistols, regardless of brand, are known to be picky when it comes to what ammunition will run through them flawlessly. That doesn't appear to be a problem with the .45 GAP Defender. It was exceptionally reliable.

To my way of thinking, the most unique feature of the Springfield Defender is its size. The gun is, to put it in a single word, dainty. But don't take that the wrong way. In the hand it feels like a real gun, and it is plenty stout enough to handle comfortably when firing the .45 ACP-equivalent .45 GAP cartridge.

Shooting Springfield's .45 GAP Defender
Factory LoadMuzzle Velocity (fps)Standard Deviation (fps)Extreme Spread (fps)15-foot Accuracy (inches)
Federal 185-gr. Hyrda-Shok98117442.00
Speer 185-gr. Gold Dot98014391.75
Speer 185-gr. Lawman TMJ97511351.50
Winchester 185-gr. Silvertip97020502.00
Speer 200-gr. Gold Dot92012361.75
Speer 200-gr. Lawman TMJ95018471.75
Winchester 230-gr. FMJ82016452.25
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 15 feet. Velocity is the average of 20 rounds measured 15 feet from the gun's muzzle.

The 200-grain factory loads were noticeably the most comfortable to shoot, but I am confident that even small-stature defensive shooters can handle any of the factory ammunition easily. And the pistol is plenty accurate for its intended purpose of personal protection.

The .45 GAP Defender is a slim, compact defensive handgun that is chambered for a powerful, fight-stopping caliber. Its sights are easy to pick up quickly, in both bright light and low light conditions. It is very comfortable to shoot, and it is plenty accurate.

I like the direction Springfield is taking with this small, reliable pocket pistol. I think you need to check out one for yourself.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished walnut stock. Magazine capacity is four rounds. It is well made, accurate, and attractive. This is a fine rifle that is light enough to tote over hill and dale but heavy enough to hold steady for precise shooting in the field.Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review Rifles

Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review

Steve Gash - August 17, 2020

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished...

A unique load for the .450 Bushmaster is Hornady's new Subsonic offering. It's loaded with the company's 395-grain Sub-X (Subsonic–eXpanding) bullet that is designed to expand and penetrate but not break up.Hornady .450 Bushmaster Subsonic Ammo Ammo

Hornady .450 Bushmaster Subsonic Ammo

Steve Gash - August 13, 2020

A unique load for the .450 Bushmaster is Hornady's new Subsonic offering. It's loaded with the...

The Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe features a European walnut stock, a non-military action, and a two-position  wing-type safety.Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe Rifle Review Rifles

Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe Rifle Review

Joseph von Benedikt - August 19, 2020

The Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe features a European walnut stock, a non-military...

The Rossi RB22M .22 WMR bolt-action rifle features a synthetic stock, a crossbolt safety, and a detachable five-round magazine. The rifle comes with scope mount bases installed.Rossi RB22M .22 WMR Rifle Review Rifles

Rossi RB22M .22 WMR Rifle Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - July 10, 2020

The Rossi RB22M .22 WMR bolt-action rifle features a synthetic stock, a crossbolt safety, and...

See More Trending Articles

More Handguns

Made from 1990 until 1997, the sturdy and compact Star M-40 Firestar was one of the first concealable pistols chambered for a potent cartridge.Star M-40 Firestar Single-Stack Pistol Handguns

Star M-40 Firestar Single-Stack Pistol

Joseph von Benedikt - April 07, 2020

Made from 1990 until 1997, the sturdy and compact Star M-40 Firestar was one of the first...

While most new handguns are chambered for the popular 9mm and .45 ACP, interest in .22 LR and 10mm Auto semiautomatic pistols appears to be resurging. Here's just a taste of the many exciting new handguns for 2020.24 New Handguns for 2020 Handguns

24 New Handguns for 2020

Lane Pearce - June 02, 2020

While most new handguns are chambered for the popular 9mm and .45 ACP, interest in .22 LR and...

The new .22 LR Ruger Lite Rack LCP II is an ideal rimfire trainer to the popular .380 ACP LCP II pocket pistol.Ruger Lite Rack LCP II Review Handguns

Ruger Lite Rack LCP II Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - June 01, 2020

The new .22 LR Ruger Lite Rack LCP II is an ideal rimfire trainer to the popular .380 ACP LCP...

Smith & Wesson's reintroduced eight-shot medium-frame Model 648 double-action revolver is a perfect platform for the .22 Magnum rimfire cartridge.Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 WMR Revolver Review Handguns

Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 WMR Revolver Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 01, 2020

Smith & Wesson's reintroduced eight-shot medium-frame Model 648 double-action revolver is a...

See More Handguns

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now