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Springfield Armory announces the “smallest 1911 in the world” 9mm pistol. Well, it certainly is small, looks great, and appears to have a lot of features. It is similar to the original EMP 3-inch that I reviewed a few years back, but is priced a little lower, is lighter and smaller, has fiber optic but not tritium sights, and has some different features. I specifically selected this 1911 ultra-compact Ronin EMP 3 pistol to review, since I own the original and excellent 1911 EMP 3-inch 9mm pistol. Overall, what features were changed from the original EMP 3 to this new Ronin EMP3? This new miniature 9mm 1911 “Ronin” is an ultra-compact 1911 single-action 9mm. As far as the name “Ronin,” I learned that Ronins were skilled Japanese Samurai warriors and heroes to some who fought village bandits. I want to analyze this new 1911 Ronin small sub-compact in depth, examine its features, strengths, and less than strong points, give you my opinions to help you, and make a Recommendation or not.
Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin EMP 3″ Specifications
|Model||1911 Ronin EMP 3|
|Barrel Type||Forged Stainless Steel; Match-Grade; Bull Barrel; Fully-Supported Ramp; 1:16" RH Twist; Bushingless; Barrel Head Notch Serves as Loaded Chamber Indicator|
|Barrel Material||Stainless Steel|
|Color||Satin Aluminum and Black: Two Tone|
|Sights||Front: Red Fiber Optic (Standard); Rear: Black, Serrated U-Notch Rear-Tactical Rack- Ledge for One-Handed Slide Racking, 2 White Dots|
|Slide Material||Forged Carbon Steel|
|Slide Finish||Matte Blued|
|Frame Material||Lightweight Forged Aluminum Alloy|
|Frame Finish||Satin Silver Cerakote; Flat Mainspring Housing with 20 LPI Checkering on Rear Back Strap; Plain Front Strap- No Checkering|
|Trigger - Type/Action||Single Action; Flat; Polymer; Recoil-Operated-Spring, Dual Captive Recoil Spring Assembly; Full-Length Guide Rod|
|Trigger Press||4.75 lbs. (as measured over 12 trials with my Electronic Trigger Pull gauge)|
|Magazines - Capacity||9 Rounds; Stainless Steel Mag; Single Stack; Mag Not Flush Fit; Slightly Beveled Mag Well; One Mag Included|
|Weight (Unloaded)||24 oz, unloaded|
|Safeties||Extended Manual Thumb Safety; Grip Safety - Speed Memory Bump; Beavertail; No Firing Pin Safety, Series 7 Design; Not Ambidextrous|
|Grips||Custom Wood Hybrid: Checkered and Smooth|
|Other||Limited 1-Year Warranty- from Date of Original New Purchase; No Rail; No Front Slide Serrations|
My Criteria and Considerations
For evaluating any handgun, I use my Col Ben’s 10 Criteria for Handgun Evaluation, including for concealed carry. So I will use them for the 1911 Ronin EMP 3. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features and factors that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last “Miscellaneous” criterion. I must admit that all gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want all of my criteria to be ideally met. I assigned a total possible point score of ten points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. And a “Recommend” or “Not Recommend” at the end of my review. You can certainly add your own additional criteria, preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider. You make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, goals, defined needs, and use.
Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill
I used my standard “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” to test and evaluate a pistol after I initially thoroughly clean it. You can use my basic Concealed Carry Drill to test and evaluate your handguns… and it involves shooting only 15 rounds total into five circle targets of various sizes at your chosen distance for the gun you use. I like the realistic 5-yard and 7-yard distances best to match common distances for personal defense.
You can download and print “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and targets by clicking on the link at my website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Go to and click on the “More” Section on far right of the Home Page and then click on “Carry Drill.” Drag a corner in to resize Drill to full coverage and print on full-size paper.
Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin EMP 3″ Range-Test Results
I used five kinds of various bullet grains and types of ammo, both Full Metal Jacket and Hollow Point, for field testing the Ronin EMP 3. I easily and quickly landed all 15 rounds (with a mag change) with the Ronin EMP 3 in the five various-sized circles of my standard Concealed Carry Drill at 5 yards, 7 yards, 10 yards, and then at 15 yards. I met my distance and time goals at all distances, except the 20 yards test, with all rounds. I missed my 20-seconds goal for 15 hits at 20 yards. Shooter error. Close, but “no cigar.” I must practice more and get a new set of eyes. I bypassed the 3-yard trial for more of a challenge and shot 210 total rounds of various weights and types, e.g. CCI Blazer, Hornady Critical Defense, Federal Punch, and Federal Syntech.
All brass always ejected consistently and landed in the same general area each time, with no damages to the cases or primers. Very reliable gun and ammo. Ronin EMP always locked back after emptying the magazine.
As you decide for yourself, use my Drill at various appropriate distances as you choose at 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards to challenge yourself and assess skill-level improvements, as you progress. At first, do not time yourself but safely practice, until you feel comfortable and safe with the Drill. Hope my Drill helps you. Success with my Concealed Carry Drill!
Range-Test Ammo and Range Use
A want to give a big “Thank You” to my friends at GunMagWarehouse for supplying the excellent range-test ammo. They supplied me with various types and weights of rounds, like the CCI Blazer 115 and 124 grain FMJ, the Hornady Critical Defense 115 grain Polymer JHP, and the Federal Personal Defense Punch 124 grain JHP. All of these are great ammo choices, in my opinion,
All the ammo performed great and I did not have any malfunctions, stoppages, or failure to perform with any of the ammo used. All brands, weights, and types were extremely reliable. Generally and overall, however, the Ronin EMP 3 seemed to perform best with the 124 grain FMJ and JHP rounds. But it easily digested the various 115 grain ammo as well.
Also, “Thank You” to Santa Rosa Shooting Center, FL and my friends for Range use to test the new Ronin 1911 EMP 3.
Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin EMP 3″ Review Opinions and Evaluations
After live-fire shooting with the Ronin EMP 3 9mm, here are my opinions and evaluations for each of my ten criteria.
Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The Ronin EMP 9mm’s Accuracy was excellent and effortless for me at close and medium distances of 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards, typical self-defense distances. This senior gunslinger was able to shoot superb groups with the gun right out of the box, with various ammo. It was mostly the gun. All my hits out to 15 yards with this 1911 Ronin EMP were on target and Accurate. My group sizes averaged about 2.5 inches at all distances, except at 20 yards, for me drawing from a holster. Practice! I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various types of 115 and 124 grain FMJ and JHP ammo. I honestly had no problems with any of the rounds when loading or ejecting. None, nada, zero, zippo malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever. I was impressed with the Ronin’s inherent Reliability. The Ronin EMP’s Accuracy was stellar from 5 to 15 yards using a Center-Mass Sight Picture or Hold. At 20 yards, the Accuracy was best for me with a 6 O’Clock Sight Picture/Hold.
TIP: With the 1911 Ronin EMP, shooters may use a “Point of Aim” Sight Picture at 25 yards, which means the bullet should impact the target at the point visible at the top of the front sight. Also, shooters may use a “6 O’Clock” Sight Picture to strike the center of the target. The Ronin Operating Manual says that these pistols “are designed to use the ‘6 O’Clock’ Sight Picture at 25 yards, but some pistols may shoot “Point of Aim” at 25 yards, depending on the shooter and ammunition.”
Trigger Press – Score: 10
Out-of-the-box the Trigger Press averaged 4.75 pounds without modification for the 1911 Ronin EMP 3 9mm, with 12 readings with my digital trigger press gauge. It met my expectation to be under 5 pounds. With more ammo down-range practice and “break-in,” the press should definitely improve and lighten.
TIP: I have found on most 1911s that after about 500 to 1,000 rounds fired the trigger press weight will drop about 1/4 to 1/2 pound lower.
Trigger – Score: 10
The Ronin EMP 3’s flat, polymer skeletonized single-action Trigger was crisp, smooth, and excellent, with minimal takeup. It had a short reset and a crisp break for quick follow-up shots. The reset was definite and was very solid. One of the best resets I have tested. This excellent single-action trigger was consistent with its press of near 4.75 pounds each time. My wife and I really enjoyed shooting this single-action short and soft trigger.
Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 3.00 inch Match-Grade Bull Barrel is great for concealed carry. The dual recoil spring assembly and bull barrel reduce felt recoil. The cold, hammer-forged Barrel was stainless steel with tight tolerances and helped with rust resistance. It definitely helped with stability, accuracy, reliability, and minimal recoil. The felt recoil was very manageable for both my wife and I. The barrel has a Loaded Chamber Indicator slot which allows you to see whether a shell is loaded in the chamber. If a round is in the chamber, you can clearly see its brass case.
TIP: A “Bull” barrel resists vibration better because it is thicker than a standard barrel. This minimizes movement and helps with accuracy, prevents heat buildup, and also helps reduce felt recoil.
Sights – Score: 9
I like the Fiber Optic front sight and black, serrated area by the rear sights on the Ronin EMP. I can live with the rear white dots or can black them out. The front sight of the Ronin EMP 3 is dovetailed into the slide and the rear is windage adjustable. However, I would prefer to have the tritium night sights front and rear, like on my standard, original EMP 3. They are easy to pickup and use and allow sufficient light in low and no light to help you focus. However, because of my color blindness I like and prefer a green fiber optic front sight because that color is more easily identified by me (and by most others) and is fine in the daytime, since it relies on ambient light. It would be helpful to have a tritium ring around the fiber optic front sight, combining both advantages.
The fiber optic versus tritium night sight decision is an inveterate issue. The fiber optic loses its bright illumination quickly in decreasing and low light levels, but is fine in bright light. Fiber optic relies on ambient light for visibility and has a longer shelf life than tritium. Mine worked fine in late afternoon, not bright sunlight. Tritium sights are great for low and no light, are continuously illuminated, and produce their own light. But the tritium sights cost more. Fiber optics are great for target and sport shooting because the small diameter rod allows for greater precision shooting and the fiber optic rod lights up brightly when outside. Love this! They seem to work best for long-distance shooting, like with rifles. Keep in mind that the tritium light sensitivity reduces over time. I give a slight edge to tritium because of their advantage in low and no light self-defense situations, but get your bucks out.
Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The 1911 Ronin EMP 3 weighs 24 ounces unloaded and is just right for concealed carry. In comparison, my standard EMP 3″ weighs 26.7 ounces unloaded. Not much of a noticeable difference in the about three ounces, but the Ronin did feel lighter overall. Accuracy and felt recoil were very good, but the muzzle flip was just slightly more than I wanted. I did easily handle it. However, the Ronin EMP was not as snappy as my Hellcat, due to having more weight. Of course, there are tradeoffs and I really like this gun. It is a quality, solidly-made 9mm pistol and the accuracy and control are there.
Caliber – Score: 10
The Ronin EMP in 9mm caliber was easy and fun to shoot and I managed the recoil well. It is definitely an accurate and soft shooter. I prefer the lessened felt recoil, reduced movement, and more control for improved accuracy with the 9mm caliber.
Capacity – Score: 9
As shown above, I like the 9-round capacity of the one included Springfield Ronin EMP 3″ 9mm steel mag with extended base pad. This mag has no round-indicator witness holes. I like the holes. The Springfield Store offers a Flush Fit 9-round mag only for the 4″ Ronin EMP. I think there should be a Flush Fit mag for the Ronin EMP 3 ” pistol to help with concealed carry, which it is designed for. This is one thing for certain I would change. However, I have a flush-fit I had specially made for my original EMP which I can use for this Ronin EMP. I also think two steel mags should be included as standard, but understand the tradeoff for the moderate price for this pistol. My original standard EMP 3″ came with three 9-round mags and, of course, cost more. With the likely need to have more ammo to deal with multiple bad guys/gals and the trend toward magazine capacity restrictions, shooters need more than one mag. I did find that my standard EMP mags (also not Flush Fit as standard) would fit the Ronin EMP 3. Of course, adding two mags to be included as standard, with one being Flush Fit, adds cost. Mags are not a major Ronin con.
Without a magazine safety, the Ronin magazine ejected cleanly and fast with an easy press of the mag release button, without yanking it out. While eight rounds loaded easily, adding the ninth round was AT FIRST somewhat difficult for me. With no mag safety, the shooter can shoot with a round in the chamber while changing mags in a self-defense situation. The Ronin EMP uses standard pressure ball ammo (FMJ) and self-defense JHP rounds. +P ammo is NOT recommended in the Operating Manual and “only clean, dry, original, high-quality, commercially manufactured ammunition is recommended.” I had no problem with any of the fine ammo I used in my trials.
Ergonomics – Score: 9
The Ergonomics of the 1911 Ronin EMP are excellent. It felt great in my hand with its narrow width. It measured about 1.12 inches wide across at the grips. Most 1911s measure between about 1.25 inches and 1.38 inches at the grips. Its height was 4.8 inches tall, compared to the standard EMP 3″ at 5 inches. At its widest point, the Ronin EMP 3 measured 1.12 inches, compared to 1.06″ for the standard EMP 3 width. I could hardly tell the small differences. Both my original EMP 3-inch and this Ronin EMP 3-inch pistol have an overall length of 6.6 inches.
It was easy and comfortable to reach all controls like the thumb safety, slide stop lever, and magazine release. I could tell this is a high-quality pistol with excellent craftsmanship. It fit great in my medium-sized hands… and for my wife and her small hands. She loves it and I probably will loose it to her, if I buy it… or when.
The mainspring housing, hammer, slide release, mag release, thumb safety, grip safety, and hammer and sear pins are all quality made with steel. And the smaller parts are firmly and tightly fitted to enhance accuracy and reliability. No rattles at all. I had no slide nor hammer bite and it felt very good to hold this thin profile pistol. The slide-to-frame fit was very solid and it was easy to rack the slide.
Miscellaneous – Score: 9
Although a little different than disassembling some other 1911s because of its ultra-compact size, I easily disassembled, cleaned, and re-assembled the 1911 Ronin EMP 3 before I shot it. Be careful not to have the dual recoil spring flying across the room because it is under pressure. The Operating Manual was very helpful and you can use the included small Take-Down Piece to help. There are two methods for Disassembly, both using a Take-Down Piece placed on the Guide Rod. Although there is no hard plastic case included, there was a nice, well-made, padded soft case included in the cardboard box. I understand that to save on costs it ships in a cardboard box, but the nice soft case for carrying is nice. Included is only one 9-round mag, a lock, bore flag, Take-Down Piece and Instruction Manual. Personal preference for me is to have the front strap checkered to help the grip, but I do understand the cost for this. The back strap checkering is excellent and this is a must-have for me on 1911s. The beautiful appearance of this 1911 Ronin is very apparent, but so is its performance to me. It is a high-quality accurate and reliable handgun. I really like the quality and attention to manufacturing details, especially for its moderate MSRP of $899. and its extras. I probably will add this fine 1911 Ronin EMP 3 9mm to my concealed carry rotation… or maybe for my wife’s.
Holsters for the Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin EMP 3″
1791 Gunleather OWB Steerhide Holster, Full-Grain Leather Belt, & Snagmag Concealed Mag Holster for Ronin EMP 3
Shown with the high-quality Ronin EMP above is a high-quality 1791 Gunleather Outside-the-Waistband Multi-Fit Open-Top Belt Holster and premium-leather belt. The holster fits the 1911 Ronin EMP 3 well and other small 1911 and 9mm pistols.
The holster is quality made with Certified Heavy-Native Steerhide that holds the 1911 pistol snug and secure. This model holster fits a 1911 pistol with no rails or with half rails and comfortably molds to your body. It comes with a reinforced mouth and sweat guard as standard. The holster comes in three colors: Classic Brown, Signature Brown, and Stealth Black, as shown, and are reasonably priced. It is designed to provide excellent retention… and it does.
This premium-leather holster belt is made with top-quality, full-grain 14-ounce leather and from the topmost layer of hide. It is a very sturdy, quality belt designed for everyday carry and built to last, with a steel buckle and genuine Chicago screws. The manufacturer says their belts will “never split, sag, stretch, or break” and are backed by a Lifetime Warranty with a 100% guarantee for satisfaction. These leather belts have reinforced stitching for durability. Belts are available in Stealth Black (shown), Classic Brown, and Vintage Brown colors, 1.5 inch width, many sizes, and are reasonably priced. Note the lightweight discreet pocket and IWB Snagmag Concealed Mag Holster for an extra mag. Very nice.
Urban Carry Lockleather OWB Hybrid Leather and Kydex Holster, Thick Bullhide Leather Belt, and IWB Mag Holster for Ronin EMP 3
Shown with the high-quality Ronin EMP 3 above is a premium-quality Urban Carry Outside-the-Waistband Open Top, Conceal Carry hybrid holster that combines the safety and security of reliable click-retention kydex with the comfort and durability of premium leather. The Lockleather retention clip has you covered if you jump, move around, ride a motorcycle, run, or lean back. Retention is adjustable. The adaptable leather is comfortable and curves to your body. It is also designed with a distinctive and extended sweat guard to absorb any pressure from the firearm and to keep the gun off your skin.
The holster is molded at an ideal angle to secure your gun in a position so that it is ready to draw immediately. The 100% American made premium leather holster is reinforced at the opening so it does not bend with gun insertion. The holster’s ultra-thin profile keeps it hugged in tight to the body. There is a full 10-year Warranty. Note the durable leather pocket and invaluable IWB Extra Mag Holster for single and double stack mags with adjustable tension.
The above premium-leather holster belt is hand made in America with 1/4″ thick English Bridle Bullhide Leather and can hold the weight of a heavy firearm. It is a very sturdy, quality solid leather, single-ply belt designed for everyday carry and built to last, with single-layer (not stacked) construction, steel buckle and Chicago screws. These leather belts have reinforced stitching for durability and the belts are backed by a Warranty. Belts are available in Black (shown), Brown, Classic Brown (Tan), and Cordovan colors, 1.5 inch width, many sizes, and are reasonably priced.
TOTAL POINTS: Springfield 1911 Ronin EMP 3-Inch = 95 out of 100 Possible.
Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin EMP 3″ Review Conclusions
I most certainly recommend this high-quality, reliable and accurate, Springfield 1911 Ronin 3-Inch 9mm pistol for concealed carry, home and self defense, and fun plinking at the range. With its lighter-than-steel alloy frame and the shorter barrel, it is designed for carry and is lighter and easier to conceal than other 1911s and their 4 and 5-inch barrels and weights. I really like the 1911 feel in the hands with its hybrid checkered and smooth wood grips and a reduced frame size for this Ronin EMP. This EMP 3 has a shortened frame, barrel, and slide allowing a reduced grip circumference just right for my medium-sized hands, as well as for my wife’s smaller hands. And it has very controllable felt recoil.
The Ronin EMP 3 is more than beautiful with its Satin Aluminum and Black two-tone color and Cerakote frame. With its attention to details and its quality-built craftsmanship, this is a pistol with custom-like features which any shooter can be proud to carry and use. I am not over-exaggerating. This is an excellent 1911 Ronin EMP 3 classic and modernized pistol with a 3″ size for carry and at a reasonable price. You get a lot of extra features along with fine accuracy and reliability for this moderately-priced 1911 Ronin EMP 3.
I would conceal carry this pistol without hesitation and with peace of mind, given its many high-quality features, like the Match-Grade, forged stainless steel barrel with fully-supported ramp, fine flat trigger, lightweight forged aluminum alloy frame, excellent grips, and fiber optic front sight. If I had to change anything, I would have two 9-round mags and a flush-fit mag for concealed carry. Consider that this Ronin EMP stacks up well with pistols costing more.
I personally chose and solidly recommend the 1791 Gunleather and Urban Carry high-quality, premium-leather OWB holsters and belts, designed for this high-quality 1911 EMP pistol. Both also have excellent extra mag holsters for pocket and IWB carry.
Also, a big “thank you” to GunMagWarehouse for providing their great variety of stellar ammo for my range testing. I recommend their prompt service and selection.
After a total of more rounds down range demonstrating similar to the above performance results, I would bet my life on this excellent 1911 Ronin EMP 3″ pistol.
Reliable… Accurate… Concealable… Quality-Made… Dependable… Great Trigger and Barrel… Affordable: What more could you want in a 9mm defensive pistol? Continued Success, and Be Safe!
Geneseo, IL 61254
Coppell, TX 75019
Miami, FL 33142
Urban Carry Holsters
Sanford, FL 32771
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.
© 2022 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.
1911 RONIN EMP 3"
Accuracy and Reliability