Range Report: Springfield Armory EMP 4

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms, Range Reports

I know there are a lot of fans of the 9mm—particularly after the FBI switched back to the 9mm and a ton of police departments followed suit. On the other hand, the .45 ACP has it followers led by the champions of the 1911. The solution? How about a purpose built 1911 for the 9mm. It’s sacrilege to some and perfection to others, but how it performs is all that really counts.

Springfield EMP 4 9mm pistol right

The Springfield Armory EMP 4 pistol is a winner and worthy of trusting your life to.

The EMP is not a new line for Springfield. In fact, Springfield launched the Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) about a decade ago. The intent was to offer a subcompact 9mm in a 1911 configuration. It was the perfect blend of caliber and the 1911 platform in a concealable package—thanks to the 3-inch barrel. The EMP was the perfect blend not because two popular elements were brought together, but rather because the EMP was built from the ground up to be a 9mm—unlike many 1911 .45 designs that are merely converted to accommodate a smaller caliber. To do this, engineers had to design a slightly shorter action and narrow the frame and grip while maintaining the look, feel, control and function that would be familiar and accepted by 1911 fans.

As was true with cell phones, tablets, and other technologies, devices keep getting smaller and smaller until they become too small to be useful for many. Pocket pistols suffered from this to a degree; although there are a few pocket or micro pistols that I regularly employ as a BUG (Back Up Gun). For me, the key is “as a back up.” To ever need a defensive pistol means thing has to have gone very wrong. To need a back up to a defensive pistol means things have gone horribly wrong. That being said, BUGs have their place and I deem them necessary to a proper defensive posture.

Dual magazine holder with magazines

The dual magazine holder is handy on the range or during minor competitions.

Enter Springfield’s new for 2016 EMP 4. Smaller than a full frame 5-inch 1911, but more controllable and accurate than a 3-inch model. And, because it is chambered for the 9mm, the EMP 4 also enjoys a capacity advantage. Speaking of capacity, in addition to the 4-inch barrel, the EMP 4’s grip has been extended by .5-inch. This provides just enough length to get all of your (my anyway) fingers on the grip, plus it adds a round giving the EMP 4 a 10+1 capacity. All totaled, the EMP offers a familiar manual of arms and a fine balance for a 9mm 1911.

The Details

As would be expected for a pistol of this size, the EMP 4 is a single-stack, single-action, semi-auto pistol. The design is pure John Browning inspired right down to the linked-barrel design. The slide is constructed from stainless steel, while the frame cuts the needed weight to make it a viable carry option by utilizing a matte black hard-anodized lightweight aluminum frame. The result is a sleek and stylish two-tone finish.

Target acquisition is quick and sight alignment sure thanks to the low profile, dovetailed, Novak-style rear sight featuring dual white dots. The front sight is an orange fiber optic infused blade that is well placed for durability. The sight placement makes the most of the sight radius for increased accuracy potential.

Springfield EMP 4 with hard case and magazines

The EMP comes standard with a lockable carry case, three 10-round magazines, paddle holster, dual magazine pouch, cleaning brush, rear sight tool, and cable lock.

The EMP 4 features a 4-inch stainless steel match-grade bull barrel with a fully supported feed ramp. There isn’t a tactile loaded chamber indicator, but the top of the chamber has a small witness hole that serves as a visual indicator. The barrel is fitted at the muzzle with a removable barrel bushing. The recoil assembly utilizes a full-length steel guide rod which supports a single flat-wire spring held in place by a reverse spring plug.

The aluminum frame follows traditional lines, so it does not have an accessory rail. The trigger consists of a long, skeletonized, aluminum match-grade trigger with a serrated face and broke cleanly at 5 pounds, 3 ounces. The front strap of the grip frame features Springfield’s POSI-LOK reverse-cone—essentially a cross between dimpling and checkering that provides a solid hand purchase without requiring a flesh donation every time you fire it. Adding to the POSI-LOK’ s grip enhancement are the Thinline Cocobolo wood grip panels that also feature a diamond pattern checkering.

The frame-mounted controls, including the slide stop, magazine release, hammer, and grip safety is all constructed of matte black 4140-carbon steel. The thumb safety is designed to be low profile and ambidextrous for concealed carry. The magazine release button is textured and otherwise standard fare. From the back, the EMP 4 utilizes an extended beavertail grip safety, with memory bump to enhance grip consistency. The EMP 4 comes standard with three 10-round blued steel magazines that are manufactured by Mec-Gar in Italy and feature a metallic follower and Slam Pad polymer base plate. It also has a quality hard, case, dual magazine holder and range holster.

Dave Dolbee with Springfield EMP 4 9mm pistol

At 10 yards, the EMP 4 outshot the author regularly shooting groups such as these.

Overall, the fit and finish on the EMP was beyond excellent. In fact, it borders custom grade.

On the Range

Concealed carry may lead to last line of defense, so many prefer self-defense loads rated as +P. I am normally hesitant to shoot these from a compact pistol, so I started with a variety of loads ranging from range ammo such as Winchester white box and worked through 115-, 124-, and finally 147-grain loads. The EMP’s balance, feel, and textured grip left little doubt when I grabbed the first of the +P loads. The hotter the load, the more you are going to feel the snap of the recoil with any pistol and the more wear you are going to subject critical parts to. Springfield recommends +P ammunition for only limited use for occasional practice and carry. However, the EMP 4 took the +P loads with general ease. In fact, the gun was shooting so well with all loads that I opted to compete with it in a bowling pin shoot on the second day.

The Springfield Armory EMP 4 pistol is a winner and worthy of trusting your life to. It is accurate enough to confidently defend yourself at the outer limits of self-defense ranges, but still small and sleek enough to comfortable conceal and carry. Best of all, for a fan of the 9mm such as myself, you can afford plenty of ammunition, which will lead to longer and more frequent range sessions. However, for those looking for something that pushes a bigger pea, The EMP 4 will soon be offered in .40 S&W.

Dave Dolbee shooting the EMP 4 9mm pistol

The look, and more importantly feel, of the EMP 4 is all 1911 with excellent balance and controls.


Manufacturer: Springfield Armory

Model: EMP 4″ (PI9211LP

Action: Single-Action Semi-Auto1911

Caliber: 9 mm

Slide: Stainless Steel

Frame: Forged Aluminum, Black Hardcoat Anodized

Grip Panels: Thinline Checkered Cocobolo

Front Sight: Fiber Optic

Rear Sight: White Dot Low Profile Combat

Barrel: Stainless Steel Match Grade Bull, Fully Supported Ramp

Guide Rod: Full Length

Trigger: Match Grade Long Aluminum

Barrel Length: 4.00″

Overall Length: 7.50″

Height: 5.50″

Slide Width: 0.92″

Grip Width: 1.15″

Weight: 31 oz. with Empty Magazine

Capacity: 10+1 Rounds

Twist: 1:16” RH

Rifle Grooves: 6

Accessories: Lockable carry case, three 10-round magazines, paddle holster, dual magazine pouch, cleaning brush, rear sight tool, and cable lock.

MSRP: $1,179

Have you shot the EMP 4? Are you excited about the EMP 4 in .40 S&W? What is your favorite Springfield pistol? Share your answers in the comment section.


Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (19)

  • Adam


    EMP supposedly stands for “Enhanced Micro Pistol”, but I don’t see what’s “micro” about a pistol that is both longer and taller than a Glock 19 while holding a third less ammunition per magazine.

    I’ll concede that the EMP 4 is 0.03″ narrower than a Glock 19 – but that’s not something you’ll notice without a set of calipers handy.


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