Range Report: Springfield Armory EMP 9mm

Bob Campbell aiming the Springfield EMP pistol

Before I begin singing the praises of the Springfield EMP 1911, I should say that I have never felt the 9mm 1911 made a lot of sense. It was like putting a six cylinder engine in a Corvette. The 10mm 1911 is like a 454 Chevelle by comparison. However, the Springfield EMP is not an average 1911 9mm.

The 9mm is as heavy, long and tall as the .45 ACP 1911. The 1911 was originally designed for the .900-inch long .45 ACP. (A logical move from the 1900 .38 ACP and its .900-inch long cartridge, but that is another story.) The short 9mm cartridge presented feed difficulty. Most 9mm magazines were simply pinched .38 Super magazines with a spacer in the back. This wasn’t ideal.

Reliability was never in the class with the .38 Super and .45 ACP. This presented an impediment to the many fans of the 9mm. Springfield took a look at the whole picture and redesigned the 9mm 1911. The EMP isn’t a re-chambered .45 ACP, but a true purpose-designed 9mm that features a 9mm scaled magazine well. The EMP features magazines manufactured by MecGar, a respected maker. The piece is well done and attractive. The grip frame is proportionately smaller than the .45 and so are the overall dimensions.

The pistol features a three-inch long barrel with a ramped feed way and a belled lockup. There is no barrel bushing. Disassembly is much different than the original 1911—the barrel is removed from the front of the slide. The pistol weighs a light but steady 26 ounces.

Springfield chose to go with a premium top of the line 9mm rather than a Mil-Spec grade handgun. The EMP features a black anodized aluminum frame, stainless steel slide, and Novak sights. The sights are excellent designs and feature three-dot tritium inserts. This is the most effective set up for a combat gun in my opinion. The hammer is skeletonized and easy to manipulate, with adequate surface for a good hold.

The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger about half way into its travel. The slide lock safety is ambidextrous and positive in its indent. The aluminum trigger offers a serrated face for control. Trigger compression is a crisp 5.2 pounds without a trace of creep, over-travel or backlash. Trigger reset is fast. The 1911’s best attributes including a low bore axis, short trigger action, and good hand fit are retained in the EMP.

Magazines are important and the MecGar magazines offer a good design, good finish, and they are provided with strong springs to ensure feed reliability. Short-slide handguns of all types are less reliable on average, but this handgun has proven cycle reliability with every loading fired.

Initial firing was undertaken with SIG Sauer FMJ ammunition. I fired not only the original 115-grain FMJ loading, but also the new target grade 147-grain FMJ. Two hundred rounds later, I had a good feel for the EMP. Recoil is light for this weight handgun. A strong recoil spring, shape of the grip, and the pistol’s low bore axis contribute to this impression.

The pistol is fast, very fast, on target. The sights offer excellent acquisition speed. I fired the pistol at man-sized targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards, and produced X-ring hits more often than not. After the first 10 magazine loads were fired, I began firing at small targets at 15 to 25 yards.

The EMP offers excellent practical off-hand accuracy. You are not sacrificing much, if any, accuracy with the EMP’s short barrel and sight radius. The rigid barrel and excellent trigger action, complimented by good sights, make for good hit probability.

This is one of the easiest 9mm handguns to get fast hits with I have ever fired and among the easiest to like. After the initial range evaluation, I took the pistol home, cleaned and lubricated it, and chose ammunition for the next range trip. This time, however, I ran across a snag. The pistol would not feed hollow points. The nose caught on an edge of the feed ramp. Not every time but often enough to be aggravating. I made two trips to the range with loads from the major makers. Only Gorilla Ammunition 115-grain +P was completely reliable, and this wasn’t acceptable.

A call to Springfield, a call tag sent, and the pistol was on its way home to Springfield. Twelve days later, I had it back with a discernible polish and angle on the feed ramp. While I was not happy this is something that happens sometimes with every maker and seems to happen less often with Springfield than many.

After the pistol’s return I ran a short course in feed reliability, not wasting the ammunition in pointless firing but firing the cartridges on a combat course. These were a diverse lot including the Federal 124-grain HST, Fiocchi 147-grain XTP, Double Tap 115-grain +P+, Hornady 115-grain XTP, SIG V Crown, Winchester 124-grain PDX +P, and Winchester Silvertip. All cartridges fed, chambered, fired and ejected.

The velocity retained in the three-inch barrel Springfield surprised me. As an example, the Winchester 124-grain PDX breaks 1,212 fps from my Glock 17 and 1,180 fps from the EMP. The 115-grain Winchester Silvertip breaks 1,190/1,160, respectively, in these two handguns. That is good velocity retention, and I am certain the fast burning powders used in the 9mm Luger have much credit for this.

At this point, we must evaluate the pistol’s performance versus its price. At present the pistol sells for $1,048.95 at There are less expensive handguns that are reliable. The EMP, it might be said, appeals to the many 1911 fans willing to pay for a custom grade handgun off the rack.

Whoever you are, the pistol is fast, very fast on target—for those who practice. It is also more accurate than any other single stack 9mm I have tested in this size and weight category, and more accurate than most full size 9mm handguns. For this type of performance—and for those willing to practice—it is well worth its price. As for myself, the EMP is riding in a Galco Royal Guard holster as I write this and is likely to be a trusted companion for some time.

Are you a fan of 1911s? How about the 9mm cartridge for self-defense? Share your answers in the comment section?


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. I bought a new EMP on December 9 2017. Beautiful gun. At the range was a different story. The slide would not lock back after the last round fired. Random occurrence but enough to disqualify the gun for concealed carry. It also would not feed hollow point defense rounds. At all. Springfield has had it back for 3 weeks now and no word on its return. I’ve emailed them and will continue to do so. Not happy so far with this purchase.
    Tom Nassetta

  2. I’ve got the .40 cal version of the EMP. It’s accurate, reliable, digests any ammo I put through it, and, in my opinion, an engineering marvel.
    I’ve heard all the arguments for the 9mm, and the newer and better ammo for them, but I’m not ready to jump on the 9mm band wagon. Logically if improvements for 9mm ammo is advanced it stands to reason that the same leaps and bounds have been made for the .40, which I don’t see a sudden demise of, there are just to many of them out there.

    1. You are right. I have some hot georgia arms .40SW+P+ with a Gold Dot 165 grain bullet that is 619ft/lbs of muzzle energy. Im actually scared to shoot that stuff to much. My normal carry stuff Speer Gold Dot Lawman is still blowing by 9mm at 475 to 484ft/lbs.

      Though I do have some tula 9mm that was specked to 1345 ft/sec which calculated out at 462 ft/lbs.. again a very hot round. However that was in a FMJ that would be like poking someone with a fast needle.. Penetration no issue.

      Hornady critical duty flexlock is only pushing 306 ft/lbs so I would say that yes.. 9mm is getting better but 40sw is also holding that much farther with performance gains of its own in bullet design. With the extra size and weight between 115/124 vs 165/180 grn between the two calibers I would hazard that the 40 is edging out % wise the increase over time in performance.

  3. The great body of evidence and research does not support the opinion of low bore pistol effectiveness. The 9mm is little enough.
    Folks who have been in fights and survived have a different opinion. I do not think I have any macho about although I am very confident in my beliefs. I think that the writer- often an inexperienced individual-that tells us it is all ok and all calibers are good are doing the reader a grave disservice.
    Kind of like the new breed of modern preacher that ignores Hell in his teaching. Neither is in touch with reality.

    1. Just to put it in perspective, all a pistol is for is to get you to a rifle. Pistols suck at putting people down comparatively. Why do most people who get shot with pistols survive vs most people that get shot with rifles or shotguns don’t. Not saying that pistols aren’t dangerous and that people don’t die from being shot with them but they are the equivalent of a high school yard fight vs a MMA cage fight. They are what you get to shoot something controllable in a 2lb 4 or 5 inch long form factor. Vs a rifle that has in comparison to a 9mm 4 (.223/5.56) to 8 (308win) times the knock down power per shot.

    2. Well I think a great many folks are going to disagree with you in the typical self defense situation. First off on the street you are unlikely to be carrying a rifle or have one handy. In a business or residence you would have the concern of over penetration as you are responsible for the bullet and wherever it goes after you discharge your weapon. Additionally, I am not certain where you get your statistics from but I can tell you this. There are a lot of us out here who are very proficient with a handgun and have the will to use it. So I have to respectfully disagree with your entire post.

    3. “Kind of like the new breed of modern preacher that ignores Hell in his teaching. Neither is in touch with reality.”

      You can hardly mention Hell and reality in the same sentence and still expect to be taken seriously.

    4. So who are these folks you know who got in a fight and have different opinions? Also, what statistics are you citing? References? Now if you are referring to military combat the theory behind going to a 9mm from a 45 cal was to wound not necessarily to kill. The idea was it took more people out of the fight because every person wounded to any serious degree had to have one or two people to help them to safety. While a 45 will do a better job of killing it certainly doesn’t mean that in the typical self defense situation a 9mm or less won’t do the job. You need to read more of the NRA Armed Citizen which deals with real life instances and you will see that people are successful in defending themselves with all kinds of calibers and weapons. They have to make do with what they can handle, what they feel comfortable with and what they can afford.

    1. Sir,

      Are you sure you understand what a low bore axis is? The bore axis is the height of the center line of the bore above the hand. A low bore axis results in little muzzle flip. Every writer from Hatcher in the 1930s to CB Colby, Jeff Cooper, Massad Ayoob, and others have mentioned the low bore of the 1911 as a good attribute of the pistol. It is measurable. Pistols such as the SIG P226 and Beretta 92 have a high bore axis.
      The Blue Flame Six Corvette was trendsetter but pretty certain it would not have survived in the marketplace being outrun by Packards

  4. For all those folks who think bigger is better without accounting for the many variables (primarily do you even have what it take to shoot someone), I have never had anyone offer to let me shoot them even with a .380 auto to see whether I can put them down or not. Whatever you have at the moment is the best you have. And all of this macho over talk really gets tiresome.

    1. Thanks dprato!! I carry a 9. My wife carries a .25. Although her .25 is small, that’s still 7, 1/4″ burning, bleeding holes. No, it doesn’t have the penetration or knockdown power of mine, or any other larger caliber pistol. It does give her peace of mind though. And as you said, let me shoot you 7 times and we’ll see how you react. Or in easier comparative terms. Let me stab you 7 times with a pencil. Sure the first one or two, will just piss you off, but the other 5 will definitely trigger the self preservation instinct. Stopping most attackers as they weigh the situation.

    2. AMEN! Better to carry something that you are comfortable with than the opposite, or nothing at all. Anyone who tells you they have carried the same firearm for 20, 30 or 40 years is probably either a LEO or lying. Times change, clothing styles change, lifestyles change. In spite of the Left’s best efforts to control firearms, we are blessed with orders of magnitude better and greater EDC options than ever before.

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