Springfield gained a great deal of experience in fitting frame slides and barrels during the past three decades. As a result, it is in a position to offer custom grade accuracy at a fair price. A few years ago, Springfield Armory introduced a pistol that became a great success. Springfield’s Range Officer 1911 is a first-class target pistol well worth its modest price, offering a match-grade barrel and accuracy potential that will win any match. In this world, you seldom get more than you pay for, but in the case of the Range Officer, a trained shooter has a great handgun for considerably less than the price of other target-grade 1911 handguns. The Range Officer is decked in a dull parkerized finish, which is an economy feature, but the heart of the pistol is what counts. Recently, Springfield has offered the concept in a downsized 1911.
The Springfield Range Officer Compact is a 28-ounce pistol with a belled barrel, short slide and abbreviated grip frame. Designed for personal defense, this handgun is intended to provide first-class protection without the expense of a custom grade finish. The well-fitted bell barrel, sometimes incorrectly referred to as a bull barrel, locks up securely on the slide. There is no room for the conventional barrel bushing of the 1911 in a short slide pistol. The barrel must tilt at a severe angle in order to feed and function properly. Changes in the 1911 template must be made. The pistol features a modern spring within a spring recoil technology to harness both heavier recoil and faster slide velocity.
The assembly includes a full-length guide rod. The ramped barrel eliminates the traditional two-piece feed ramp of the 1911. This barrel ensures feed reliability and properly supports the cartridge case head. A ramped barrel prevents damage to the aluminum frame from sharp-nosed JHP or SWC type projectiles, as well.
The slide is parkerized and the frame is anodized. The sights feature two white dots in the rear and a bright fiber optic front sight. This combination gives shooters every advantage in fast combat-style shooting. As a bonus, a couple of spare fiber optic rods are supplied with the pistol. The lockable hard case features a range holster, magazine carrier and spare magazine.
The pistol features a nicely checkered magazine spring housing that gives the shooter excellent adhesion when firing the light .45. The 1911 beavertail safety is particularly well designed. The beavertail safety funnels the hand to the proper firing grip, spreads recoil out in the palm to an extent, and ensures the shooter engages the grip safety properly. There is also a well-designed speed safety. The trigger offers a smooth compression at a crisp 5.5 pounds. There is about 0.13-inch travel—the typical rapid reset of the Springfield 1911 trigger.
The frame, with the six-round 1911 magazine, is properly called an Officer’s Model size. The slide, however, features a 4-inch barrel rather than the 3.5-inch Officer’s Model barrel or the 3-inch Defender-size barrel. In my opinion, this configuration offers excellent balance and utility. The .45 ACP relies upon mass and frontal diameter for effect, not velocity. However, just the same, the 4-inch barrel offers slightly higher velocity over the shorter 1911 barrels. The lightweight .45 kicks more than the 40-ounce Government Model, but if you can handle a Commander .45, you can handle this pistol. The Range Officer Compact kicks the least of any small .45 I have yet fired. For those that practice, the Range Officer Compact offers a high degree of protection.
The Range Officer Compact has impressed me with its engineering. The next step was to give the piece a good workout on the range. I leave nothing to chance with a personal defense firearm, and the pistol would be proofed. I lubricated the long bearing surfaces and took to the range with a good supply of practice and defense loads.
Many 1911 handguns demand a modest break-in period. The Range Officer Compact came out of the box running. The initial firing was accomplished with HPR 230-grain FMJ loads. If a 1911 doesn’t run with 230-grain hardball, it is pretty sick. I loaded the supplied magazines, a few extras and laid into man-sized targets at 5, 7 and 10 yards. The results were excellent. The sights are an advantage in rapid fire. The pistol isn’t a heavy kicker, despite its size, and the sights are well regulated for 230-grain ball ammunition. Next, I fired one magazine each of the HPR 185-grain JHP and the HPR 230-grain JHP, to confirm feed reliability. The dozen rounds fed without a problem.
Firing from a braced barricade position, the pistol proved accurate enough for any reasonable chore. Firing at a Shoot-N-C target at 15 yards, and carefully aligning the sights and with attention to the trigger, 2-inch wide 5-shot groups were fired. That is more than adequate for the task. I also fired a number of defense loads during this outing. I once preferred the 230-grain JHP in my .45s and still do in the 5-inch guns. Hornady has done a lot with bullet technology. The 185-grain XTP American Gunner loads demonstrate an excellent balance of expansion and penetration in the ideal range. They are fast enough to ensure bullet upset and provide good accuracy. Recoil is slightly less than the 230-grain load. I have also carried the Critical Defense load and find it viable. Without splitting hairs, either one is a fine defense load. The FTX perhaps is more likely to offer consistent expansion; the American Gunner more likely to offer consistent penetration. Shot placement means the most. These loads gave excellent function and a full powder burn even in the RO’s short barrel.
After living with the Springfield RO Compact for several weeks and firing just over 350 rounds of ammunition, I find the piece reliable, accurate enough for personal defense and light on the hip when properly carried in a well-made IWB holster.
Would you carry the Range Officer Compact? Share your favorite 1911 carry in the comment section.