Springfield Armory allowed me the gift of testing its new edition of the eye-catching Emissary 1911 before its May 2022 release. Their earlier version of this gun is a government-size 45 ACP. The newest Emissary is Commander-sized and chambered in 9mm with a 4.25-inch barrel. It’s definitely not a run-of-the-mill 1911. Read on to find out why.
Springfield Emissary Features
Sure, a 1911 is the definition of a traditional platform. But this one is different — inside and out. That much is obvious at first glance. Its profile and appearance are more steampunk than old Army style. Let’s start with the unique, angular slide. It has a narrow top, grooved for glare control, with a plain black, narrow U-notch rear sight and orange/tritium up front. The sides of the slide drop off like the roofline of a Victorian house, settling into vertical sidewalls to make a hexagon of sorts.
There are fairly standard slide serrations aft of the ejection port and up front, and three decorative notches on the angled surface. The slide has bluing for finish. Its sleek surface is eye-catching and shows the fingerprints of anyone who ventures to fondle or shoot the gun. A brushed stainless frame provides contrast for the striking, dark-colored components. It’s almost impossible to get tired of looking at this pistol thanks to the richness and contrast of textures.
Also, unlike anything else is the trigger guard. It’s not rounded like a normal 1911; nor is it squared off like most striker guns. It’s square-ish, big enough for gloved operation, and sports a rounded outer corner. Likewise, the trigger is more about making its own style than following trends. I’ve not seen anything like it. It’s solid black, and lightweight polymer or G10, and not finely curved like some that follow the current trend of skeletonized 1911 triggers.
Keeping with unapologetically unique style is the texture of the Emissary’s grips, front strap, and backstrap. When my FFL handed the box to me, he said, “This is rough!” I soon found out what he meant. There’s no need to add traction on these grips. The G10 grips are very aggressively sculpted, guaranteeing a solid purchase on what little recoil this gun delivers.
Also unique is the fact that the grip panels are flat in profile, whereas most are fatter in the middle. This is a grip trait I’ve been wanting since I owned my first 1911, and a request to which more than one grip-maker and gunsmith have responded with side-eye. Springfield finally delivered! As a result, my small/medium-size hands have no problem reliably depressing the grip safety and my thumb reaches the slide lock without excess effort. Hallelujah!
Stainless steel components, including a crowned, heavy bull barrel, make this gun a heavy one. Along with 9mm chambering, recoil is negligible. Its silvery/black contrast finish, significant heft, and rough grip texture make operating, and even just looking at, the Emissary a unique and memorable experience in a market that’s chock-full of endless, but less remarkable, interpretations of the platform.
The safety, trigger, and takedown lever are black polymer and contrast nicely with the silver/black theme. Likewise, the beavertail and skeletonized hammer are black.
With a good variety of sponsored ammunition, we were able to test the Emissary’s reliability with some degree of confidence. Each type was cycled-through at least once with a full magazine in rapid-fire. We returned to slow-fire with four or five rounds of each brand mixed in the mag to see if mid-stream changes would make a difference in feeding/extraction. Only one problem was encountered among the following loads:
- Federal American Eagle Lead-Free 75-grain
- TulAmmo 115-grain steel case FMJ
- Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain JHP
- Winchester USA Ready Defense 124-grain +P JHP
- SIG Sauer M17 124-grain +P JHP
- Federal Premium HST Tactical 147-grain
All these rounds cycled through mag dumps without issue. However, the SIG Sauer M17 incurred a failure to go into battery upon the initial loading. Both testers noted the slide being sluggish to load, and we loaded not just by releasing the slide lock, but by pulling the slide rearward to fully compress the recoil spring. The slide ran fine for actual firing, though.
Thanks to day-after-day of persistent high winds, it was only fair to the gun to forgo a serious grouping test, since the targets were in constant motion. Given that, the Emissary has a quality bull barrel, and that its .45 ACP predecessor is known for outstanding precision, it’s safe to assume this 9mm edition is above average in the accuracy department.
The nine-round mags (two included) dropped freely from the mag well regardless of load status. I consider this an essential feature, and the Emissary has it. Loading ammo into the mags requires a bit of effort to ensure each round is fully seated at the rear of the magazine. For those who struggle to load, the day-saving Uplula Universal Magazine Loader works well with the 9mm Emissary mags.
The left side-only safety is easy to operate. This is so much the case that I find it necessary, when shooting right-handed, to grip with the right thumb atop the safety to prevent unintended engagement. In terms of personal preference, I think it’s set just right, as opposed to having a safety that requires effort to get the gun running.
That reminds me to comment on keeping this gun running. Springfield provides a little Allen wrench to disassemble the Emissary. The user manual advises a simple thin paper clip can suffice for it. Takedown entails holding the slide back to a matching notch on the frame, and then inserting the Allen wrench through the holes in the recoil spring housing. This permits the removal of the recoil spring and barrel from the underside of the slide.
Reassembly is the simple reversal of this process. I found the procedure simple after looking at a YouTube video showing the process on a .45 ACP Emissary. The user manual diagram lacked sufficient detail for my non-mechanic’s mind to understand the process.
Specs: Springfield Emissary 4.25-inch 9mm
Chambering: 9mm Luger
Barrel: 4.25-inch forged stainless steel, match grade, fully supported ramp, bull, 1:16 twist
Slide: Forged carbon steel, blued
Frame: Forged carbon steel
Recoil system: Commander length
Overall length: 7.75 inches
Overall height: 5.25 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Springfield outdid itself at creating the crossroads of performance and style with the Emissary series. I’m pleased to see this 9mm line extension, which makes the gun more inviting to shoot from both a physical and ammo availability perspective. It takes a bit more coin to make this one yours than the average 9mm 1911. But it’s a fair price for the upgrade in above-average accuracy and looks.
I see this gun as being ideal for the guy or gal who wants to best their buddies at bullseye shooting, or the open carrier who wants a reliable and eye-catching defensive gun. For the weekend recreational shooter, there’s something to be said for having a gun everyone wants to look at and that everyone can easily shoot.
During the trial period, I encountered a friend at the range who has a copy of this gun in 45 ACP. He spoke highly of its performance and was pleased to show it off. The 4.25-inch, 9mm Emissary has a suggested retail price of $1,349; market prices should come in lower.