New for 2016: The Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP 4 – Compact 9mm [REVIEW]

The Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP 4 - Compact 9mm [REVIEW]

Every year in January in Las Vegas they have a SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoors Trade) Show to introduce many new firearms and shooting accessories. Some of the new guns are just modifications of previous models, with slight variations of the older versions. I always try to select three or four of the new and different guns to review. The ones I believe are the best overall ones to consider for various uses. For 2016, I chose a few handguns to review for different uses or purposes. Since I already own two Springfield-Armory Enhanced Micro Pistols (EMP) with a 3-inch barrel and find them to be very high quality and accurate, I had to see if the 2016 EMP 4, the 4-inch version, had any new features and if it was equal to or better than my 3-inch models. Recently, I used my 3-inch EMP to successfully classify in the BUG (Backup Gun) Division in an International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) qualifier. Now the 4-inch version would be an option to consider for the CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) Division of IDPA, as well as for practical carry purposes. When Springfield gave me an opportunity to review, shoot, and evaluate the EMP4, I was very glad to do it. Here are my opinions of the EMP4, based on my criteria.

Here are the EMP4’s Specifications:

Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP 4 - Compact 9mm - Specs

Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP 4 - Compact 9mm

Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP 4 – Compact 9mm

Below are my criteria that I considered when I examined, analyzed, shot, and reviewed the EMP4. I was considering the EMP4 primarily for concealed carry and for use in the new CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) Division in IDPA.

Criteria and Considerations 

My criteria that follow are the physical gun attributes, features, and results I want for my specific purposes for the gun. I will use My 10 Criteria for evaluating the handgun for my concealed carry and IDPA purposes. Of course, some criteria standards are defined differently and some not used for different uses of the handgun, e.g. carry versus competition. There are other less tangible, subjective features that may be appealing for some, like appearance, included extras like a holster and mag pouch, ease of takedown, case, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into the last Miscellaneous criterion. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria or desires and subtract any of mine. Here are mine: 

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages and results in accurate target hits with a maximum of a 4″ inch hit group at  7-10 yards and do that consistently;

2. Trigger Press maximum of about 5.0-5.5 pounds – lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and press that is crisp and identifiable;

3. Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and easily identifiable and short reset point; Trigger with a smooth consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);

4. Barrel length of 3.0″-4.0″ (primarily for Concealed Carry; secondarily for IDPA CCP Division);

5. Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see [like Fiber Optic]; fast target acquisition; adjustable for windage- for purpose); or Night Sights for low-light situations;

6. Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (prefer 25-30 oz or so for IDPA, personal & home defense);

7. Caliber match to your needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference;

8. Capacity of at least 9 in a 9mm magazine;

9. Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; and

10. Miscellaneous – Finish, fit, & quality appearance; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; ease of disassembly-assembly; Hard Case; Extras (like holster & mag pouch), etc.

Remember, there are a lot of attributes, pros and cons, and criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, and defined needs and use.

FIELD TEST OF THE EMP4

After shooting and handling the new EMP4 in 9mm and carefully considering the EMP’s specifications, below is what I discovered and my point evaluations. You should know that I am not being paid to say these things, am not on Springfield’s payroll, and do not feel obligated to say the things that follow.  Know that I am not a top expert shooter by any means and I only shot about 150 rounds through the new EMP, so it really is not fully broken in. I  shot a variety of ammmo including: American Eagle 115 grain, Blazer Brass 115 grain, Freedom Munitions 124 grain, Aguila 124 grain, and Lax 115 grain reloads. I must honestly say that this 9mm EMP4 was one of the the best-shooting, accurate, reliable, and comfortable guns with light recoil that I have shot recently. The crisp and smooth trigger was excellent. The slide-to-frame fit was very tight and solid. I experienced NO malfunctions or stoppages of any kind; no failures to fire or failures to feed or eject; no failures to lockback; no misfires; no problems whatsoever. This EMP4 was very enjoyable to shoot, was smooth shooting, and had very manageable light recoil. This gun was very accurate out-of-the-box. For the rounds I shot with it, the EMP4 impressed me as a high quality, classy, accurate, reliable, good-looking, and precision handgun.

10 Yards- 15 Hits Drawing & Slow-Fire

10 Yards- 15 Hits Drawing & Slow-Fire

1. The Accuracy of the EMP4 was acceptable for me at distances of 7 and 10 yards. I was able to shoot decent groups even with my aging eyes (and a current minor eye cyst), with the gun doing most of the work. My groups of 15 shots at each of the distances were about 3.5 inches or so for the first time I ever fired the gun drawing from the holster included in the hard case. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various 115 grain FMJ and 124 grain FMJ ammo. I did not shoot hollow points… 10.

2. The Trigger Press out of the box averaged about 5.0 pounds, with 5 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. Since it is a new pistol with no break-in period, it met my criterion and expectations. I believe with more rounds down range and my improved handling, it will be even better… 9.

3. The EMP4 Trigger had a short travel distance with a crisp, identifiable reset point. I easily got off quick follow-up shots. The reset was very definite and identifiable.The single-action trigger was very good, smooth, and consistent shooting with the same press each time. I really enjoyed shooting it… 10.

4. The 4-inch Barrel, as compared to my 3-inch EMPs, did seem to help me. The longer barrel provides many types of powder a longer burning time for a complete burn which increases velocity, which in turn adds to muzzle energy. But, I felt very little recoil with the EMP4 and it was very stable and comfortable. The extra inch for the barrel did give me more stability, less muzzle flip, and with the longer sight radius contributed some to help my accuracy. The match-grade barrel, slide, and trigger really helped… 10.

5. The Fiber Optic Front Sight and the low-profile, combat Rear Sights really helped me to quickly get my sight alignment and sight picture. It was very easy and quick to find the the front sight. Extra Red and Green Rods were included. I liked that the rear sight was adjustable for windage. The Sights are steel and sturdy… 10.

6. The lightweight aluminum frame combined with the stainless steel barrel for a nice 31-ounce unloaded mag Total Weight. The EMP4 was not too heavy and there was very little felt recoil. It was just right for me and I could handle it well and accurately for a compact gun… 10.

7. The 9mm Caliber in the slim 1911 EMP4 was very enjoyable to shoot, made recoil very manageable, and I was accurate with it. It easily digested a variety of 115 and 124 grain 9mm ammo (including reloads)… 10.

8. I liked the 10+1 Capacity of the EMP4-9mm and the extra rounds gave me peace of mind… 10.

9. The Egonomics of the EMP4 were just right for my medium-sized hands. I could easily reach all the controls like the thumb safety, slide lever, and magazine release, without turning the gun or adjusting my grip. It was comfortable in my hands and its slenderness fit them just right… 10.

The Springfield EMP4 lockable hard Case includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, lock, and more.

The Springfield EMP4 lockable hard Case includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, lock, and more.

10. Miscellaneous. I disassembled and re-assembled and cleaned the EMP4 before I shot it. However, it took some time to get accustomed to the takedown procedure. There was not a takedown piece included (like with the EMP-3) that fits on the guide rod. But, you don’t have to use the piece and it is fairly easy to take it down without it. One criticism is a lack of witness holes in the mags to help you see how many rounds are loaded. Another is the need for at least one mag to be a flush-fitting magazine (not available at this time) for carry purposes to reduce bulging. This was also an issue (albeit a minor one) for the 3-inch EMP… 8.

Total Points = 97 out of 100 Possible. The EMP4 is very comparable to the EMP 3-inch barrel gun. It is challenging to improve upon an already quality gun, but they at least matched it and in my opinion surpassed it with the EMP4, in part from the addition of the Fiber Optic Front Sight.  My high score rating is very high for this gun compared to many others I have reviewed. Without a doubt, I definitely RECOMMEND this handgun for concealed carry, personal protection, and for IDPA shooting. I want to shoot more rounds through it and try hollow points and 147 grain ammo to see if my evaluation still holds. I feel certain it probably will, so I decided to buy the EMP4. I am voting with my money for continued excellent results.

I hope my review of the 1911 EMP4 compact in 9mm has introduced you to a new and excellent handgun. With the several added features, I guess you do get what you pay for. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and using only 150 rounds of available ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what’s important to you ahead of your range live fire. Then critically evaluate the gun yourself with your criteria and purpose, using standard drills (several mentioned in my recent book “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials“), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.

Continued success!

Photos by Author and Springfield-Armory. 

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 

© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • FredC

    Thank you for this review. It is just what I wanted to hear. I have the 3″ EMP in 9mm and I love it. I suspected the EMP4 would be even better and it sounds like it is. I am surprised that the MSRP on the 4 is less than the 3. Now I have to figure out what to sell so I can buy one.

  • Mr. HH

    I picked mine up today and headed straight out to my favorite shooting spot only to discover the rear sight was set WAY left. My bad for not catching it at the gun shop. Wasn’t able to move the sight in the field so had to compensate 5″ to the right at 7yds. Major QC fail by Springfield. In spite of that, I found it to be a great little shooter and was able to keep a tight group immediately, although severely challenged by compensating for the sight placement. I’ll return it for correction and I’m sure I’ll love it once it’s dialed in.

  • FredC

    If it is off by 5″ at 7 yards, there is something more wrong than a windage adjustment (unless the rear sight was hanging off the right side of the slide.

    • Mr. HH

      Left, and darned near. I submitted a warranty claim. Hopefully they will ask for the gun back. Upon further inspection the sight is not only off center but also twisted. Either it was mis shapen or ruined when installed.

      • FredC

        They should take care of you. I had the ejector come loose on my EMP 3″. They drilled it and pinned it and got it back to me in less than two weeks.

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