Range Report: Springfield Range Operator

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Range Reports

A few decades ago, a startup company resurrected a revered name in firearms. Springfield Armory Incorporated has since prospered. Today, it is regarded as an old-line company by younger handgunners. Considering the conservative nature of shooters, this is quite an accomplishment. Springfield began its climb to the top by offering a good product at a fair price. The Range Officer now continues the tradition.

Springfield Range Officer pistol in DM Bullard Chocolate elephant leather holster

DM Bullard’s inside the waistband holster, in chocolate Elephant, is ideal for spreading the weight of a big .45 about on the body.

Springfield began its climb to the top by offering a good product at a fair price. Its primary claim to fame was the Government Model 1911 handgun. Today, the 1911 is just one of the many accomplishments of firearms inventor John Moses Browning. While he invented sporting arms such as the Winchester 1894 and Browning A5 shotgun, his field of expertise included the Browning Machinegun, Browning Automatic Rifle, M2 .50 caliber machinegun and others.

The Government Model 1911 has kept Americans alive and buried their adversaries for over 100 years. The 1911 is a single-action pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. The original 1911 pistol endured rigorous testing including being dropped in sand, fired until too hot to handle, and being fired 6,000 rounds without a single malfunction.

The pistol is fed from a 7-round box magazine. The pistol features a slide lock safety that locks the action when applied, and the safety may only be applied when the pistol is properly carried with the hammer to the rear. This ready mode, known as “cocked and locked,” is faster to an accurate first-shot hit than any other system.

DM Bullard IWB Holster
Dmbullardleather.com
The Dual Carry is among the best designed and executed inside the waistband holsters. This holster features an ideal cant—what we once called the FBI tilt—for concealed carry. The balance of speed and access is excellent. The Dual Carry features a wide body to spread the weight of a service pistol on the belt. This design also means the width is smaller as there is no belt clip on the face of the holster.

The pistol may be placed off safe as it is drawn into action. The single action trigger does one thing; it drops the hammer. A straight to the rear trigger compression is an advantage in accuracy and rapid fire control. A grip safety locks the trigger until the safety is depressed.

Manipulating the slide lock safety and depressing the grip safety are each natural motions that do not interfere with the firing grip. The pistol also features a low bore axis. Due to the design and uncomplicated trigger action, the pistol may use a lower riding slide. As a result, there is decreased leverage for the muzzle to rise in recoil.

Springfield Armory introduced its original 1911 at a time when the supply of GI 1911 pistols was drying up. At the time, competition shooters often turned to building their own pistol from aftermarket slides and frames; the situation was ripe for the introduction of a quality 1911 clone. Springfield introduced several improved models, including the Mil Spec, which features good sights and a scalloped ejection port, and eventually the Tactical Response Pistol and Professional Model. These are excellent handguns well worth their price, but it is a price some cannot bear.

Paper target with bullet holes

The Springfield is sighted for 25 yards and may fire a little low at 7 yards but this is easily accounted for.

Springfield won a prestigious contract for the FBI SWAT pistol. This 1911 handgun fired 20,000 rounds without any type of malfunction and maintained an accuracy standard of 5 shots in 1.25 inches with FBI issue JHP ammunition. Springfield has continued to offer good pistols at a fair price including the Loaded Model. Primary improvements include a beavertail grip safety that prevents hammer bite and helps funnel the hand onto the frame during high-speed drills. The memory bump beavertail grip safety also ensures the grip safety is consistently depressed during action.

The pistols are offered in stainless, blue, and parkerized finish. Improvements in grips include laser-engraved crossed cannon grips that many find attractive—other pistols are supplied with high-end G10 grips. Internally, the trigger action features a smooth break and the magazines have been perfected for feed reliability. Coupled with the good qualities of the original 1911 such as reliability, good heft and balance, these are incredible fighting tools. When you hold the pistols something says “friend.”

Range Officer

Springfield has used Range Officer as a designation for its ‘value line’ 1911 handguns. The primary difference between the RO guns and the high-end pistols is the finish. The Range Officer line features a parkerized finish. In this case, the pistol also has a slide lock safety of standard configuration rather than the more expensive ambidextrous unit. The match-grade stainless steel barrel and tightly fitted barrel bushing provided good accuracy potential.

Bob Campbell shooting from the retention position

Firing from the retention position reliability was maintained.

The Springfield Range Officer Operator features a light rail. This rail is compatible with the wide range of combat lights and lasers currently available. The pistol features forward cocking serrations. The sights are a Novak white dot rear and fiber optic front sight. The contrast is good, and the fiber optic sight offers rapid acquisition in speed shooting. The pistol features a scalloped ejection port, lightweight hammer, target trigger, and a well designed beavertail safety. Trigger compression is factory-set at a clean 6.5 pounds. I think the Range Officer line offers good value. I have experienced good results with every version tested.

Range Testing

Working from Eclipse Holsters’ strong side holster, speed was excellent. This holster keeps the pistol secure on the belt and offers a good mix of speed and retention. I loaded the Springfield magazines and backed them up with a good supply of 7- and 8-round magazines. The pistol was lubricated on the long bearing surfaces. The magazines were loaded with Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ ammunition.

Firing quickly at 5, 7 and 10 yards, and working double taps on the target, the pistol provided excellent results. This is a handgun that responds well to a trained shooter. Moving between targets quickly, and getting the fiber optic sight on the target, gave a solid hit when the trigger was properly compressed. The results simply cannot be faulted.

Posed to shoot Springfield's Range Officer 1911 pistol

The author found the Springfield Range Officer Operator a reliable and accurate service pistol.

The light rail doesn’t seem to affect balance; however, a steel frame .45 is controllable. While I sometimes deploy lighter, aluminum-frame handguns whenever possible, the steel frame 1911 should be adopted.

Accuracy

I also proofed the pistol with several defense and service loads. Recoil was greater with +P loads and a decision must be made if these loads are worth the extra effort to master. The wound potential of the .45 ACP is proven. I do not let those with a one-safari resume affect my view. I have observed the effect of the .45 ACP personally and researched the wound potential of many handgun cartridges.

The .45 ACP offers the best balance of control and wound potential available. Among the top loads available for the .45 ACP is the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok. An intelligently designed bullet with a proven history, the Hydra-Shok offers excellent wound potential. The American Eagle practice load fires to the same point of impact, making the two a good combination. Firing for accuracy from a solid bench rest position at a long 25 yards, every effort was made to gauge the accuracy potential of the Springfield Range Officer Operator. The pistol is responsive to a trained shooter and offers excellent practical accuracy. The single best group was a 2.0-inch effort for 5 shots with the Speer 230-grain Gold Dot.

The 1911 is a respected war dog and law dog as well. Many attempt to denigrate the reputation of the 1911. I doubt they would take their argument to the face of the Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen that saved their lives and defend our freedom with the 1911. Many civilians and peace officers have similar experience with the 1911. Springfield Armory has taken a great handgun and not only made it better, Springfield made it affordable.

25-Yard Accuracy—average of two 5-shot groups fired from a solid rest

Load Velocity Average Group
(in inches)
 American Eagle 230-grain FMJ  832 fps  2.8
 Federal 230-grain Hydra Shok  854 fps  2.5
 Speer 200-grain Gold Dot +P  1050 fps  2.65
 Speer 230-grain Gold Dot  827 fps  2.15
 HPR 185-grain JHP  980 fps  2.6
 PMC 230-grain FMJ  867 fps  4.0

Do you own or have you shot Springfield’s Range Officer? Share your Springfield story in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (18)

  • Dale

    |

    I have the Range Officer Operator in 9mm with the Novak rear and fiber optic front sights. It’s not as accurate as I would like plus it shoots high. Unfortunately there is no way to adjust the sights being that they are fixed sights. The only adjustment is for windage only. I guess I’m going to have to purposely aim low to hit the target where I want the bullet to go.

    Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

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      High at what distance?

      Reply

  • Dan

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    I was a little surprised at the 4 inch groups with the PMC ammo. All my 45s shoot much better than that with it..I guess that chamber is more finicky than the ones on my pistols.

    Reply

  • Adam

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    This is just the existing 5″ Range Officer with a rail added, correct?

    Or am I missing some significant change to the base model?

    Reply

    • RKC

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      The Range Officer was originally an adjustable sight .45

      The RO treatment has been given to other SF 1911s.

      The RO Operator has fixed sights, the RO fiber optic front sight, and the typical dull money saving finish of the RO line

      Reply

    • Adam

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      I usually prefer the black/grey metal finishes (ideally from a nitride treatment) on pistols, but to each their own.

      The fixed sights are certainly a noteworthy difference on a carry pistol.

      Reply

  • Lance Burnell

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    I purchased the RO Operator about 3 months ago and love it. Very easy to shot and very accurate, this has become my EDC and I am sure it will be for a long time to come.

    Reply

    • rkc

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      We are brothers!
      Thanks for reading

      Reply

  • William Weddendorf

    |

    I completely understand that “tight tolerance” chambers may not function with all loads, but when (as I said) I have another “loaded’ Springfield 1911with an assumed “tight tolerance” barrel and and EMP with the same type of heavy barrel that happily digest my handloads, then the barrel on the Range Officer may be assumed to be too tight – whether in-spec or not!

    Reply

  • William Weddendorf

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    I normally have had good luck with Springfield Armory, but my Range Officer (even with Custom Shop work) has been twice returned for hand-loads jamming in the barrel. I have numerous other 1911’s Kimber (also upgraded at SA’s shop) and a Loaded Springfield, and have never experienced even one such issue – let alone two that completely disable the gun and prevent it from being opened. Needless to say, my RO is going to be sold as I cannot rely on it.

    Reply

    • RKCampbell

      |

      I am certain you meant handloads jamming in chamber.
      I am also certain that if the pistol functions with factory loads then the handloads are improperly crimped. A match grade barrel has a tighter chamber and off spec handloads that may work in another handgun will not work there.

      Reply

  • William

    |

    AWESOME HANDGUN!!
    I ask my 22 yr old son what type AR would he like for his birthday. To my susprize, he said “Dad I would liike a 1911″
    I started research. I have a very good friend that competition shoots. He told me hands down Springfield Range Officer. I trusted Max, and followed up.
    Right out of the box my son blistered the target at 25 yds the very first time he fired the handgun.
    By ALL MEANS it is a quality wepon.
    It was only 2 weeks and dad had one!! Lol.
    We had a Ruger and a Para Arms 1911 already.
    Nothing that I have shot of any brand can hold a candle to the Springfield!!
    Thank you for your article.

    Carry with Honor
    William
    SE Alabama

    Reply

  • Adam

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    For the editors – the byline says the article was written by Dave Dolbee and not Bob Campbell.

    Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

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      My mistake. The system automatically puts my name on it unless I remember to change. Bob Campbell is the author. ~Dave Dolbee

      Reply

    • Adam

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      The identity of the author was unmistakable after the first few paragraphs, so it’s unlikely anyone was misled or confused by the typo.

      Reply

  • Adam

    |

    While talking up the FBI HRT contract and 1911 pistols in general, you neglected to tell us which specific 1911 model HRT is actually using. How could an interested reader go buy the same pistol at their local gun store if they don’t even know which one to ask for?

    Reply

    • RK Campbell

      |

      The SF Professional is the FBI model by another name.

      While the TRP will do much the same thing, the fact remains the Professional Is quite a handgun.

      Reply

    • Adam

      |

      I do not dispute the quality of the HRT pistol (or Springfield 1911 pistols in general), but it is a hand-tuned item from the Springfield custom shop that costs north of $2,000. While high-end pistols are a joy to shoot, in most cases even a basic $500-$600 service pistol is more accurate from a rest than the shooter can manage off-hand.

      It’s also worth noting that a stock Glock pistol passed the same 20,000 round reliability test as that custom 1911 at roughly a quarter of the price, and the polymer-frame striker-fired service pistols from S&W, Springfield, SIG, etc offer similar reliability and value for dollar as the Glocks.

      If your goal is to become a better shooter, more training and practice is almost always a better investment than more expensive gear.

      Reply

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