Springfield Armory 1911 EMP Sub-Compact 9mm for Carry [REVIEW]

The Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP Sub-Compact 9mm for Carry [REVIEW]
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful! Well, we have to look beyond the surface appearance and delve deeper into the features, our criteria and goals. This applies to a lot of things in life and certainly to handguns. Most of us spend considerable time searching for THE concealed carry pistol that is both accurate and reliable, while meeting our many other preferred features. Appearance is usually not high on our criteria list. I happen to like single-stack, single action pistols, in particular 1911-type guns. But, I also like 9mm caliber striker-fired guns. With all these, I can practice more often because of the lower-priced ammo, compared to say my .45, .40, .38, or even .380 rounds. So my quest has been to find quality single-action smaller 1911s or striker-fired guns in 9mm that have been proven to meet my criteria and that function well. While 1911s are designed for the .45 caliber, Springfield spent a lot of time specifically designing a 1911 that feeds and functions well with 9mm ammo, is accurate and reliable, and is not finicky.  So does the EMP fit the bill?

I want a barrel of 4 inches or less, a great short and lighter consistent trigger press, a thinner width for carry, decent capacity and weight, among my other 8 key factors. I am not asking for too much, am I? I want it all, but I am a realist recognizing there are tradeoffs. (Look at my recently published book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials” which lists my 4 main criteria and my 8 key factors for the top 21 carry guns I studied and ranked by categories.) I’m betting my life on my carry gun, so cost is not a major factor for my carry gun, but a factor. After all, you usually get what you pay for… and you’re betting your life on your carry gun. So I researched, studied, and shot the Springfield-Armory 1911 EMP in 9mm, among the other 20 guns. This is my report of one of the guns, the EMP, which happened to rank very high on my list of 21 carry guns.

 1911 Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) in 9mm with G-10 Grips in Custom Holster
1911 Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) in 9mm with G-10 Grips in Custom Holster

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP Sub-Compact 9mm Specifications

Barrel Length / Finish3" Stainless Steel Bull Barrel; Match Grade; Fully Supported-Ramped
SightsNovak-Style; Trijicon Night Sights; Low Profile; Windage Adjustable Screw
Weight26.7 oz (empty mag)
Frame / FinishForged Aluminum Alloy with Matte Black Finish; Anodized
Slide MaterialForged Steel; Match Grade; Stainless Steel-Satin Finish
TriggerMatch Grade; Adjustable for Overtravel; 5,0-5.5 # Press; Aluminum 3-Hole
Recoil SystemFull-Length Guide Rod; Dual Recoil Spring
Magazines / Capacity2 9-Round; Stainless Steel; Single Stack
Width1.06" - 1.20" with Ambidextrous Safeties
HammerDelta Lightweight; Skeletonized
SafetiesHigh-Hand Beavertail Grip; Extended Manual Thumb - Ambidextrous Double Sided
GripsG-10 Extra Durable; Grey-Toned; Full Length; Flat Mainspring Housing
OtherStippled Backstrap; Lowered & Flared Ejection Port; Kydex paddle holster, dual magazine carrier, cleaning brush, lockable case

Below are my criteria that I considered when I examined, analyzed, shot, and reviewed the EMP. The top three criteria were most important to me and I was considering the EMP primarily for concealed carry and for use in the new CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) Division or the BUG (Backup Gun) Division in IDPA.

SA 1911 EMP 9mm

Criteria and Considerations for this Springfield Armory 1911 EMP Sub-Compact 9mm Review

Here are my 10 criteria for evaluating the handgun and I will apply them for my concealed carry and IDPA purposes here. Of course, some criteria standards are defined differently and some not used for different uses of the handgun, e.g. carry versus competition. My criteria that follow are the physical gun attributes, features, and results I want. There are other less tangible, subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a preference for a 1911 style, appearance, included extras like a holster and pouch, 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 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 EMP 9mm

After shooting and handling the new EMP in 9mm and carefully considering the EMP’s specifications, below is what I discovered and my point evaluations. And by the way 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 300 rounds through the new EMP, so it really is not fully broken in. I  shot a variety of ammo including American Eagle 115 grain, Blazer Brass 115 grain, Freedom Munitions 124 grain, Aguila 124 grain, and Lax 115 grain reloads. I have many handguns and some high-quality ones, but I must say honestly that this 9mm EMP was one of the if not 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. Honestly, it was a joy to shoot. It was so smooth shooting with light recoil, I enjoyed it and could hardly put it down. A fun experience that made me look good with accurate hits. Without a doubt, the gun is more accurate out-of-the-box than I am. For the rounds I shot with it, the EMP impressed me as a quality, classy, accurate, reliable, good-looking, and precision handgun.

7 Yards- 20 Hits Out of the Box
7 Yards- 20 Hits Out of the Box

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10

The Accuracy of the EMP was great for me at medium distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards. This old bird with aging eyesight was able to shoot decent groups, with the gun doing most of the work. My groups of 20 shots at each of the various distances were about 4 inches or so (with a few fliers) for the first time I ever fired the gun “out of the box” 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.

2. Trigger Press – Score: 9

The Trigger Press out of the box averaged about 5.5 pounds, with 6 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. It is a new pistol with no break-in. This was within my criterion and expectations, but I thought it might have a lighter press between 4.5 and 5 pounds. Really no concern here. I believe after it is broken in with more range time and with smoothing and lubrication, the press will improve.

3. Trigger – Score: 10

3. The EMP Trigger had a short travel distance and identifiable reset, was crisp, with a somewhat light press. I got off quick follow-up shots easily. 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.

4. Barrel Length – Score: 10

The 3-inch Barrel surprised me, compared to my 6 other 3-inch guns. Honestly, I felt very little recoil with the EMP and it was very stable and comfortable. I was also surprised by my accuracy with it at 20 yards. The match-grade barrel, slide, and trigger really helped me.

5. Sights – Score: 10

The tritium Night Sights really helped me at dusk and low-light shooting. I easily focused on the front sights. I liked that the rear sight was adjustable for windage. Sights are steel and dove-tailed mounted.

6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 10

The lightweight aluminum frame combined with the stainless steel barrel for the 27 ounce Weight, which was just right for me. Not too light and not too heavy. Very little felt recoil and I could handle it well and accurately for a small gun.

7. Caliber – Score: 10

The 9mm Caliber in the 1911 EMP was a joy to shoot, made recoil very manageable, and I was accurate with it. The variety of 9mm ammo was much less expensive and readily available. It digested reloads easily.

8. Capacity – Score: 10

I liked the 9+1 Capacity of the EMP-9mm and it was better than the other small guns with 6,7, or 8 rounds.

9. Ergonomics – Score: 10

The ergonomics of the EMP 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. This was a relief from doing that with some of my other handguns.

The Springfield EMP lockable hard case includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, and more
The Springfield EMP lockable hard case includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, and more

10. Miscellaneous – Score: 8

I easily disassembled and re-assembled and cleaned the EMP before I shot it. However, I had to practice a few times using the takedown bushing piece that fits on the guide rod. You don’t have to use it, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy to do. The using of a bushing piece for takedown was one of the only three criticisms I have of the EMP.  Another is a lack of witness holes in the mags to help you see how many rounds are loaded. Also, a flush-fitting magazine (not available) would be best for carry to reduce bulging.

Total Points = 97 out of 100 Possible.

This is one of my highest scores for a handgun evaluation.  I most certainly recommend this handgun for concealed carry, personal protection, and for IDPA shooting, with the proper ammo and break-in period. Remember, this is just my personal opinion. I did fork over the money for this gun and so far am not one bit sorry and have excellent results.

I hope this review of the 1911 EMP in 9mm has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and using only 300 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 time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.

Continued success!

Photos by Author.

* 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.

© 2015 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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Did the ejector come loose? Or is Springfield finally pinning them in? Mine needed three trips to Springfield before it became awesome.


I understand the author and his criteria for an EDC that he can depend on to save his life. We all have our criteria. Here are mine, for anyone who cares:

1. Powerful, hard hitting caliber.
2. Absolute reliability.
3. Every shot a hit accuracy.
4. Large magazine capacity.
5. Nice trigger pull.
6. Something I am comfortable carrying every day.
7. In summary . . . something I can trust with my life.

A single stack design that includes an external safety and 9 rounds of 9mm doesn’t meet my personal criteria, but that doesn’t mean a thing when applied to other people. Each to their own.

So . . . my EDC is a Glock 21.

1. Absolute reliability under any conditions.
2. Accurate enough for first shot and subsequent shot hits.
3. Powerful .45 ACP round.
4. 13+1 capacity with an extra mag.
5. 5.5 pound trigger out of the box and 4 with a minor modification.
6. Very comfortable in a quality IWB holster such as a Crossbreed.
7. I am confident trusting my life to it.

Each to his/her own. But . . as for me and my house . . it’s .45 ACP. I love my Glock 21, and my wife carries a 1911, and she is very good with it.

Jim Lagnese

The FNX 45 would work as well for you. For me, it’s generally warm here and concealing a service sized gun isn’t fun. When I lived in colder climes, sure.


No doubt the EMP is quite nice, I have a 40 G10 8+1 for a few years now. Never had any troubles with mine what so ever. Actually rented a 9 before I bought the 40, didn’t like the 9 as much; might be due to the fact that the rental was not in as good a shape as should have been. I actually enjoy shooting 40’s, like my Kahr MK40 5+1 a lot, better than the EMP. If I am wanting to carry a higher capacity firearm, then I go to my recently acquired CZ75 D Compact PCR. Packs 14+1 rounds of 9mm in an alloy frame with a decocker. The 3 firearms I mentioned here are 3 of my top choices, a 4th being the Sig P938 SAS with the addition of the Hogue rubber grip and extended mag for 7+1.