January 08, 2007
Springfield has reengineered every aspect of its 1911 pistol to come up with a compact that is truly made for the 9mm cartridge.
I've never really gotten too entangled in the great 9mm/.45 ACP debate that shooters and gun writers like to drag out every so often. Both cartridges are accurate. And when shots are properly placed, they will do the job. When not properly placed, neither will stop the action with one hit.
I have often suggested that if a person were to carry a big handgun, it ought to be in a big caliber. Or, at least, it should be in the biggest caliber that the shooter can handle efficiently. And that's why I prefer the .45 ACP for large service pistols.
But, with that said, for some time I have thought that the natural vehicle for the 9mm cartridge would be a slim, compact handgun suitable for concealed carry. It would be something small and flat that could be tucked away under a shirt or in a pocket.
Over the years, several companies have introduced double-action auto pistols and striker-fired pistols in 9mm that have sought to meet these concealment needs. But being sort of partial to the 1911 design, I was very pleased to receive a brand-spanking-new, little 9mm 1911 from Springfield Armory.
A Classic Design Is Enhanced€¨Springfield's new pistol is called the "EMP" (for Enhanced Micro Pistol). This slick little pistol has a 3-inch barrel and weighs only 23 ounces, yet it has a 9-round magazine capacity and a large enough grip that your little finger doesn't dangle helplessly in the air.
To put the EMP in proper perspective, you need to realize that a Walther PPK/S in .380 ACP weighs a tad over 22 ounces and is only slightly shorter and thinner than this new pistol. The new EMP measures 6.6 inches long. In effect, Springfield Armory has designed a 9mm 1911 pistol that is only slightly larger than a .380 pocket pistol.
To accomplish this Springfield made alterations to some 15 different parts of the 1911 pistol. The slide is shortened, and in doing so, the Springfield design engineers also had to shorten the extractor, the firing pin, and the firing pin spring.
The EMP's frame has also been shortened, and this also required the shortening of the trigger bow. (Springfield refers to this new shortened and enhanced firing mechanism as a "short-action 1911" kind of like the way riflemen have been referring to the different action sizes of bolt-action rifles.) Also shortened was the plunger tube and spring that interacts with the slide stop and thumb safety.
Springfield also reduced the diameter of the pistol's grip frame. Grabbing a standard 1911 pistol that has thin, concealment grips, I compared the circumference of the grip frames. The EMP's grip frame diameter was 1/4 inch smaller.
The EMP's stainless-steel slide has had all of the sharp edges radiused for shooter comfort. And dovetailed into the slide is a set of fixed combat sights with tritium inserts. The EMP is fitted with an attractive set of thin cocobolo grips that are checkered and have the Springfield logo.
The EMP's frame is anodized alloy, and the black frame with the stainless-steel slide gives a pleasing two-tone look to this pistol. The frame is also fitted with ambidextrous thumb safeties and a beavertail grip safety.
The EMP's magazine came in for its share of alterations, too. The magazine tube and spring were shortened. The follower, basepad, and spring plate were also modified.
The EMP Is A Smooth Operator€¨I tested the Springfield EMP with an assortment of 9mm ammunition. In the 115-grain bullet weight I chose the Winchester Silvertip and the Remington-UMC JHP rounds. In the 124-grain weight I chose the Magtech FMJ round, Hornady JHP/XTP, and Federal Hydra-Shok JHP.
The Winchester 115-grain Silvertip was the hottest round tested and produced an average velocity of 1089 fps. The most accurate round was the Federal 124-grain Hydra-Shok, which averaged 2.25 inches at 25 yards. All test ammunition averaged 2.25 inches to 3.25 inches for five-shot groups at 25 yards.
The EMP functioned smoothly and reliably with the test ammunition. This is due, at least in part, to the integral feedramp on the gun's 3-inch barrel. In addition, the trigger pull was a clean, crisp 4 pounds.
The most interesting thing about the EMP was how manageable it was. Here is a 23-ounce pistol firing 124-grain projectiles at over 1000 fps, yet the gun is quite comfortable to shoot. I am convinced that the main reason for this is the reduced circumference of the pistol's grip frame. I could get my hand completely around the EMP's grip for tight control. It was far more comfortable, I might add, than the typical ultralightweight revolver shooting .357 Magnum ammo or even .38 Special +P.
In my view, this Springfield EMP is the perfect vehicle for the 9mm cartridge. Too often companies just shorten an existing gun--especially with striker-fired pistols--and call it their concealment model. They don't take into consideration that the pistol's thickness, weight, and overall dimensions, affect concealability much more profoundly than barrel length. The thickness of the EMP's slide is less than an inch. The thickness of the grip frame, with grips attached, is right at an inch. This is definitely not a pistol that has just been chopped off on both ends. It's very clear that a lot of thought and expense has gone in to the design of the pistol.
I make no apologies for being a 1911 fan. The design has proven itself in numerous violent conflicts, large and small, for nearly 100 years. And when reaching for a full-size belt gun, I will still wrap my hands around one that is chambered for .45 ACP.
Having said that, I really like the concealment potential of the Springfield EMP pistol. The Springfield EMP and the 9mm cartridge just seem made for each other. I'm not sure I can resist adding it to my collection of carry guns. To tell you the truth, I'm not going to put up much of a fight. I'm not sure you'll be able to either. Springfield has begun shipping the new EMP to distributors and dealers, so by the time you read this you ought to be able to locate one near you. You really do need to see it and feel it to get the full impact of what Springfield has accomplished.