Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion Contour 9mm [FIREARM REVIEW]

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion Contour 9mm [FIREARM REVIEW]
Name at least three key things you want for your concealed carry handgun. It is pretty evident to most of us. I know that I definitely want very high quality fit, finish, and function, reliability, and accuracy in my pistol for those Sierra-Hotel-Tango-Foxtrot encounters. When Springfield-Armory offered to send me the new EMP4 with the contoured features and other improvements to review, I just had to test and evaluate it to help folks and myself.

Since we already own three Springfield-Armory 1911 Enhanced Micro Pistols (EMPs) (two with a 3-inch barrel and the EMP4 with a 4-inch barrel and without the contoured butt) and our students love them, I suspected that this new EMP4 Contour in 9mm would be a great option to consider for concealed carry and for the CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) Division of International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) competition shooting.

Last year when the standard EMP4 was introduced, I gave you my review of the EMP4 and recommended it on this website. So how does this new EMP4 Contour compare with its changes? Below are my criteria, analysis, and opinions of the new EMP4 Contour. First, I want to give you the EMP4 Contour’s Specifications and Features, then follow-up with my criteria, field test, analysis, opinions, and my final recommendation to buy or not. I want to use high-quality premium ammo and a top-grade leather holster to test this new EMP4 Contour.

Springfield Armory EMP4 Contour Specifications

Model Number1911 EMP4 Contour #PI9229L
Barrel Length / Finish4"; Match Grade; Stainless Steel; Bull; Fully-Supported Ramp
Sights / RadiusFront: Fiber Optic-Red; Rear: White Dot Low-Profile Combat
Weight30.5 oz (empty mag)
Frame / FinishForged Aluminum Alloy; Black Hardcoat Anodized; Two-Tone
Slide MaterialForged Stainless Steel; Satin Finish; .92" Wide
TriggerMatch Grade; Single-Action; Aluminum
Trigger Press5 lbs; Smooth and Crisp
Trigger TravelShort & Quick Trigger Reset
Magazines / Capacity3 Mags - Steel; 9 Rounds; Flush Fit; Single Stack
SafetiesExternal Manual - Thumb; Ambidextrous; Beavertail Grip Safety
GripsG-10; Black Textured; Beveled Bobtail Cut on Mainspring Housing; Golfball-Stippled Front and Rear Slip-Free Grips; Durable Fiberglass
OtherLifetime Limited Warranty (original purchaser); Dual Recoil Springs with Full-Length Guide Rod; Extra Accessories
MSRP$1,220 (buy on market for $950 or so)

Springfield Armory EMP4 Contour Features

  • Shortened Frame and Beveled and Rounded Bobtail Grip for Enhanced Concealed Carry
  • Match-Grade Trigger – Smooth and Clean Break; Short and Soft Press; Crisp, Tactile and Audible Reset
  • Match-Grade Steel Barrel – Bull with Polished and Full Ramp; Bushingless
  • Posi-Lock Texturing on Front and Rear Straps for Secure Rapid-Firing and Ergonomic Control
  • Fiber Optic Front Sight for High Visibility Focus
  • Rounded Edges – Thin & Very Concealable; No Rail; Low Profile
  • All Steel Controls: Slide Stop, Mag Release, Ambi Safeties, Skeletonized Hammer; Beavertail

Below are my criteria that I considered when I examined, analyzed, shot, and reviewed the EMP4 Contour. I was considering the EMP4 Contour primarily for concealed carry, so I wanted to closely evaluate its features, concealability, and handling for concealed carry. Would this be in my top 3 concealed carry pistols for regular carry?

Criteria and Considerations for this Springfield Armory EMP4 Contour

My criteria that follow are the physical gun attributes, features, and characteristics I want for my specific purposes for the gun. I will use my 10 criteria for evaluating the handgun for my primary concealed carry purpose, with my IDPA purpose being secondary. 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, individual felt recoil, included extras like a third magazine, holster and mag pouch, ease of takedown, lockable 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.  

Remember, there are a lot of characteristics, 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.

Springfield EMP4 Contour 1911 9mm--RIGHT side

Field Test of the EMP4 Contour

After shooting and handling the new 1911 EMP4 Lightweight Champion Contour in 9mm and carefully considering the EMP’s specifications, below is what I learned and my point evaluations for each criterion. You should know that Springfield Armory and Kramer Holsters are not paying me to say these things, I am not on Springfield’s or Kramer’s payrolls, and do not feel obligated to say the things that follow.  Also, recognize that I am not a top expert shooter by any means and I only shot about 250 rounds through the new EMP4 Contour, so it really is not fully broken in.

Target Hits-- 7 Yards- 18 Hits Drawing & Fast-Fire with Mag Change with EMP4 Contour
Target Hits– 7 Yards- 18 Hits Drawing & Fast-Fire with Mag Change with EMP4 Contour

For my Field Test, I shot a variety of high-quality 9mm JHP and FMJ ammo including:

  • Sig Sauer Elite Performance 115 grain FMJ (1185 fps muzzle velocity-359 ft-lbs muzzle energy),
  • Sig Sauer V-Crown 124 grain JHP (1165 fps muzzle velocity-374 ft-lbs muzzle energy),
  • Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain JHP (1185 fps muzzle velocity-359 ft-lbs muzzle energy),
  • Federal Premium 124 grain HST JHP
  • Federal Premium 135 grain Hydra Shok JHP

I must honestly say that this 9mm EMP4 Contour was one of the the best-shooting, accurate, reliable, and comfortable guns with light recoil that I have shot recently. It did not have ANY malfunctions or stoppages. The crisp and smooth trigger was excellent. The slide-to-frame fit was very tight and solid. There were no failures to fire or failures to feed or eject; no failures to lockback; no misfires; no problems whatsoever. The Sig Sauer and Federal Premium ammo worked great. This EMP4 Contour was very enjoyable to shoot, was smooth shooting, and had very manageable light recoil. This gun was very accurate and reliable in the short run out-of-the-box. For the rounds I shot with it, the EMP4 Contour sincerely impressed me as a high quality, accurate, reliable, good-looking, and precision handgun with a high-visibility front sight, great match-grade trigger and barrel, and a beveled mainspring housing butt which helps reduce the bulge for comfortable and easy concealed carry. I loved the Bobtail butt because it molded to my medium-sized hand so nice and carried well.

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10

The accuracy of the EMP4 Contour for carry purposes was very acceptable for me at distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards. I was able to shoot decent groups even with my aging eyes, with the gun doing most of the work. My groups of 18 shots with a draw from concealed carry and a mag change at each of the distances were about 2.5-3 inches or so for the first time I ever fired the gun and drawing from the Kramer Leather holster. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various premium 115 grain, 124 grain, and 135 grain JHP and FMJ rounds.

2. Trigger Press – Score: 9

The trigger press out of the box averaged about 5.1 pounds, with 10 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. Since it is a new pistol with no break-in period, it met my criteria and expectations. I believe with more rounds down range and my improved handling, the press will get a little lighter.

3. Trigger – Score: 10

The EMP4 Contour match-grade skeletonized 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, & consistent shooting with the same press each time. I enjoyed shooting it.

1911 EMP4 Contour Match-Grade Bull Steel Barrel
1911 EMP4 Contour Match-Grade Bull Steel Barrel

4. Barrel Length – Score: 10

The EMP4 Contour’s match-grade 4-inch Bull 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 Contour with a bushing-less bull barrel and it was very manageable and comfortable. The extra barrel inch did give me more stability, less muzzle flip, and with the longer sight radius contributed some to help my accuracy. The match-grade barrel and trigger really helped.

1911 EMP4 Contour Red Fiber Optic Front Sight
1911 EMP4 Contour Red Fiber Optic Front Sight

5. Sights – Score: 10

The fiber optic front sight and the low-profile, combat rear sights really helped me to quickly get my sight alignment and sight picture. I prefer the fiber optic front sight and it helped me to quickly find 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. It was easier for me to see the green fiber optic front sight, since I am red color blind. It has a center mass point of aim sight picture at less than 25 yards, but is designed to use a 6 o’clock sight picture at 25 yards, depending on ammo and the shooter. +P ammo is not recommended in the operation manual.

6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 10

The lightweight aluminum frame combined with the stainless steel barrel for a nice 30.5-ounce unloaded mag total weight. The EMP4 Contour was not too heavy and there was very little felt recoil, manageable for me. It was just right and I could handle it well and accurately for a compact 1911 gun.

7. Caliber – Score: 10

The 9mm caliber in the slim-grip 1911 EMP4 Contour was very enjoyable to shoot, made recoil very manageable, and I was accurate with it, given my medium-sized hands. I prefer the 9mm for concealed carry, since I practice a lot with it and am accurate with it. It easily digested a variety of 115, 124, and 135 grain 9mm ammo.

EMP4 Contour (left) with Bobtail G-10 Grips/Flush Mag & EMP4 Standard (right) with Cocobolo Wood Grips/Slam Pad Mag
EMP4 Contour (left) with Bobtail G-10 Grips/Flush Mag & EMP4 Standard (right) with Cocobolo Wood Grips/Slam Pad Mag

8. Capacity – Score: 9

I like the 9+1 capacity of the EMP4 Contour 9mm single stack mags and the rounds give me peace of mind. It was nice to have included 3 (Yes THREE) 9-round steel magazines that were flush-fit for concealed carry. The mags have witness holes to help keep up with the number of rounds. I wanted the 10-round capacity, like the standard EMP4 has without the contour (spoiled I guess), but I understand the tradeoff for the longer slam pad that permits the extra round. By the way, mags are interchangeable between both EMP4s.

1911 EMP4 Contoured, Bobtail Butt Helped Concealed Carry
1911 EMP4 Contoured, Bobtail Butt Helped Concealed Carry

9. Ergonomics – Score: 10

The ergonomics of the EMP4 Contour were excellent for my medium-sized hands. Thanks to the design of this gun with a shorter grip and since all my fingers could fit it, I could easily reach all the controls like the thumb safety, slide lever, and magazine release, without turning the gun or adjusting my grip. And, it was comfortable in my hands and its thin design fit them just right. I really like the golf ball dimpled texture and honestly it was NOT too aggressive. The rounded bobtail grip really helped my concealed carry of this gun. It was very comfortable to carry for my limited week carrying it.

Springfield EMP4 Contour lockable hard Case includes 3 magazines, lock, brush, Extra Fiber Optic Rods & Manual
Springfield EMP4 Contour lockable hard Case includes 3 magazines, lock, brush, Extra Fiber Optic Rods & Manual

10. Miscellaneous – Score: 8

I disassembled and re-assembled and cleaned the EMP4 Contour before I shot it. Thankfully, I was familiar with the takedown procedure. It has a flat wire Recoil Spring system, so you have to put the takedown piece on the guide rod. But, you do not have to use the piece and it is fairly easy to take it down without it, after some practice. One criticism with the EMP3 is a lack of witness holes in the mags to help you see how many rounds are loaded. NOT with the EMP4 Contour… it has witness holes. YES! It was also nice to see that they recognized the need to offer a third mag and that the mags were flush-fitting for carry purposes to reduce bulging. (This was an issue (albeit a minor one) for the 3-inch EMP). There were NO holster and pouch included, but Kramer Holster sent me one of their custom leather double-stitched holsters to use with it. This belt scabbard holster was of very high quality and made of durable horsehide. It is a high-riding pancake holster with an FBI forward cant with 1.5″ belt loops for strong side outside-the-waistband carry. The design of the Kramer Holster tucked the butt of the EMP4 tight to my body which really helped with concealment. While this fine gun with this added high-quality leather holster were very concealable and a great combination for concealed carry, no holster was included with the gun.

Springfield EMP4 Contour with Kramer Leather's Horsehide Scabbard Pancake Holster Tucked Tight for Concealment
Springfield EMP4 Contour with Kramer Leather’s Horsehide Scabbard Pancake Holster Tucked Tight for Concealment

Total Points = 96 out of 100 Possible

The EMP4 Contour is very comparable to the quality EMP 3-inch and EMP 4-inch barrel guns, but with several improvements. It is challenging to improve upon an already quality gun, but Springfield exceeded it and in my opinion this is one of the very best 1911 9mm compact guns on the market now, if not the very best one. The high-visibility fiber optic front sight, the great tigger, the rounded bobtail grip enhancement for concealed carry, its reliability, its accuracy out-of-the-box, easy and comfortable carry, and very controllable felt recoil are among my main reasons for my high evaluation for this gun.

Even if you do not like 1911s, you should try this gun. My high score rating is very high for this gun compared to many other compact carry guns I have recently 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 various hollow point ammo to see if my evaluation still holds. I feel certain it probably will, so I will probably buy this EMP4 Contour for myself and get the custom holster.

It will probably be in my rotation for my top 5 concealed carry compact guns and rigs. I believe that you do get what you pay for and, of course, you are betting your life on your concealed carry gun, holster, and ammo. I want the best quality fairly-priced-for-what-you-get handgun that is accurate and reliable to defend my live and the lives of my loved ones, that is comfortable to carry in a high-quality holster and belt, and with high-quality premium JHP ammo. I have no qualms whatsoever about this gun, given its reliability so far and its accuracy, as well as the fine holster and ammo I carefully selected and used for this test. I have high expectations for my concealed carry guns and expect this gun, holster, and ammo to deliver continued excellent results.

I hope my review of the 1911 EMP4 Contour compact in 9mm has introduced you to a new and excellent handgun. With the several added features and high quality craftsmanship, 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 250 rounds of certain ammo, albeit premium 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, priorities, 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.

Be Safe and “Carry” on friends!

Photos by Author and Springfield-Armory.


Springfield Armory
Geneseo, IL 61254

Kramer Leather Holster
Tacoma, WA 98411

Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP-FMJ Ammo
Newington, NH 03801

Federal Premium Ammo
Anoka, MN 55303

* 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. 

© 2017 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 ColBFF@gmail.com.

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"Col Ben" is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben recently wrote the book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at ColBFF@gmail.com.
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Col Ben

Well after more shooting the EMP4, this will be in my top 5 for my CC rotation. Also, will use it for IDPA and CCP Division if I can get some more rounds thru it. This conceals very well. Hope you can try it.