Range Report: Springfield Armory EMP 4

Springfield EMP 4 9mm pistol right

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.


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Comments (19)

  1. 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.

  2. The Review is accurate when it comes to controllability, concealability, etc BUT…My new (earlier version) EMP had @ 1K rounds through it when it slam-fired on a reload from slidelock. Got DQ’d at the IDPA match, but got it fixed by the gunsmith. Still throws a round out of the top if I reload too hard from slidelock. Not a fan of reloading from slidelock, but they stipulate it in the stages on occasion. I’ll carry it if my .45 is too big To conceal as it operates the same. Hey, it’s bigger than my .32!

  3. Magazines in mag holder face two different ways in picture and another shows a shooter with no eyes or ear protection. Need to make sure of proper pics promoting the correct use of equipment and the safe use of a firearm.

  4. Dave, My wife and I each own an EMP-4 and we regularly take them down for cleaning. Perhaps we’re into a difference of terms, but, “The barrel is fitted at the muzzle with a removable barrel bushing.” is a non-starter. There is no removable bushing at the muzzle. I have yet to see a 1911 with a bull barrel and a removable barrel bushing.

  5. I’m not a big fan of 1911’s for personal defence but do love the 1911 .45 for various reasons. Would just rather have a 9mm Glock or Beretta 92 in a sh*t storm. As for the guy who “knows” about the 9’s shortcomings, about a year ago in Albuquerque a cop shot another cop with a .45 8 times and the shootee is still alive albeit pretty screwed up. Shot placement is what matters.

    1. I too have been a long time fan of the 1911. Having said that though, it is hard to find anyone that can find an incidence where a Glock has failed to do the job at that critical moment when it was needed the most. I’m sure there have been Glocks that have failed, I’m just not aware of it. I’ve never owned a Glock, but the ones that I have shot surprised me at how well I was able to to shoot with it.

  6. You caught me at a bad time and my rant ‘above’ is the result. However, when someone wants to advance their promotions of the 9mm bullet against the .45 or the .357, I like to tell two short stories about two episodes that occurred ‘years ago’ when the Ct State Police gave up their .357s in favor of Berretta 9mm(s): One concerned a ‘perp’ in Bridgeport, Ct that was high on drugs. It took 38 rounds of 9mm to put him down, but only after he had killed four officers. The other story was about two convicts who had, with inside help, escaped from the Somers-Osbourne maximum security prison in Enfield, CT: Two state cops were able to pin down the convicts who possessed a 4 x 4 and an AK-47, but couldn’t subdue them. A super number came along and killed them both with his .357.. Pretty well sums up my opinion of the 9mm round no matter the grain weight of the actual bullet. Maybe someone should bring out a 9mm Magnum? After all the bullet is basically the same as a .38 which led to the .357 magnum!

    1. Jim, you need to realize that not everyone buys their guns thinking they are going to have to kill people with them. Many people buy guns simply because they like to shoot, not because they are going to carry them every day and use them in a personal defense situation. Most of the guns I own weren’t bought with personal defense in mind at all.

      I think we tend to loose sight of that often.

    2. When you say that the two cops “could not subdue them” with 9mm, how many times did they hit the perps with 9mm slugs? Is that a critique of lethality of the 9mm or of poor marksmanship and shot placement? A miss with a .45 will have the same result as a miss with a 9mm or a .22LR for that matter.

  7. Jim, stay with your block Glock, eat a salad and calm down before you give yourself a coronary. Lol! Really doupt if this was made just to upset you but you would think huh? The shame of it all! Lol! Think I’ll buy one though, what do ya think Jim?

  8. My wife and I both enjoy our 1911s in .45 ACP. They are accurate and fun to shoot, but neither of us carry them for EDC. They have too many hiccups and the ammo capacity is too low, so she carries her Beretta 92 that holds 17+1 of 9 mm and I my G21 that holds 13+1 of .45. Both guns that are accurate and utterly reliable no matter what ammo you feed them.

    1911’s are great guns, but I really have no interest in a 9mm version. But that’s not to say other shouldn’t enjoy a 9 mm 1911. It’s just that to me, they are the archetype of the .45 ACP firearm and that’s a role that nothing will ever replace them in.

  9. With todays modern ammo the 9mm has come a long way .But i will never prefer it over my colt 45 officers model i have carried for near 15 yrs the 45 acp with moderrn ammo does a better job of 1 shot stopping power and surpassses the 9mil by a mile i carry a 9mm as my1 of my back up handguns but will always reach for the old colt first every time saying the 9mm is junk depends who masde it there are junk guns of every caliber but myself have always been a big bore man i can drop the clip and reload my colt in a split second on the move pratice and training is the key and bullet placement .Wait for the shot and a double tap of 45 acp hornady 200 grain bullets center mass will end any fight on the spot even with body armor on it knock the wind out of them long enough to get the shot to finish the job 9mm has come miles in the last 10 yrs but if you train you do not need 18 rounds to do the job in most street firefights i have 6+! in the tube and 2 mags i am confident it will do the job without doubt and i never carry just 1 handgun in streets to me a good 9 mil on a small frame is a great back up gun but not my first choice .JMHO.

  10. Don’t really care if it is on a 1911 frame, it’s STILL a 9mm. I will not have on my premises. PERIOD! It’s a piece of crap; I’d rather have a slingshot.

    1. That’s sound logic. I have an irrational hatred of 9mm so I’d rather have a slingshot. Magnificent critical thinking skills on display here.

    2. lmao @ sling shot lol are you crazy man? ill take the 9mil if it is there and all i can get to at the time this is 21st century streets man not the outback lol. I would give a slight giggle before i dropped ya with a 9mil with that slingshot lol.I have seen some dumb things said on here that is at the very top of the list for stupid lol.

  11. Dave, I’m one who believes that knockdown power is proportionate to the amount of muzzle energy which is transferred to the intended target. The 9mm has less recoil than a .45+P, so why not compromise as I have and use the .38 Super? I know this round has been around for a long time and in my view, is way underrated by all the so-called experts. The .38 Super is known to have muzzle energy very competitive with, if not better, than the .45 ACP. What I favor is that the higher velocity of the Super round would give reason for greater expansion capability and deep penetration, plus lighter ammo for carry. I have mine in a Colt 1911-style frame, but may be labeled a “Series 70” or similar. Very accurate. Other reflections?

    1. I cannot argue much with any of your points. Now, all we have to do is convince the manufacturers…

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