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A Look at the Springfield 1911 Lightweight Operator .45 ACP

Springfield Champion Lightweight Operator

Previously, we reviewed the Springfield Armory Loaded Operator. The Loaded Operator is a full-size, Government Model, steel-frame handgun with a light rail. The Springfield Loaded Operator is slightly heavier than a standard 1911 due to the rail.

The pistol is easy enough to control and quite accurate. Reliability is unquestioned. The only legitimate criticism of the full size 1911 .45 is its size and weight. The pistol isn’t the easiest to conceal. I have carried the Government Model often during the past 40 years.

The pistol is flat and concealable with the proper leather gear, but the weight really pushes the envelope. Enter the Springfield 1911 Champion Lightweight Operator.

A shorter and lighter 1911, it has its advantages—one of which being that it may be faster from leather. A lightweight frame certainly makes for an easier piece to carry and conceal. While recoil is increased with a lightweight handgun, the trade-off is reasonable.

Springfield Lightweight Operator
Both versions of the Operator, full size and compact, are excellent handgun choices for personal defense or home defense. Perhaps you should own an example of each!

A Commander Clone?

Springfield’s Champion isn’t a Commander-type handgun. The Commander features a 4.25-inch barrel and retains the standard barrel bushing. The Champion uses a four-inch barrel and bushing-less lockup. This results in a more compact and less-complicated handgun.

Accuracy is often excellent. The Champion also features an aluminum frame. This is coupled with the Armory Kote finish and light rail. At 31 ounces, the Springfield Champion Operator is significantly easier to carry comfortably than a Government Model-type handgun.

Design Features

The Springfield Champion Lightweight Operator is well finished and the fit is good and tight. The pistol features Novak Lo Mount sights, the premier handgun sights for all-around personal defense and combat use. These sights feature three-dot tritium inserts.

This gives the pistol 24-hour capability. The pistol is five and a half inches tall and the length is seven and six-tenths inches. This .45 ACP pistol is supplied with two seven-round magazines.

Some pistols are supplied with Springfield’s crossed cannon cocobolo grips; the example I tested was delivered with G10 grips. Either does the job, though the G10-type is probably more durable. Trigger compression is smooth and consistent at 4.7 pounds.

Springfield Lightweight Operator G10 Grips
The pistol’s G10 grips offer a good balance of adhesion and abrasion.

The pistol features a full-length guide rod. The grip safety is properly fitted, releasing its hold on the trigger halfway into trigger compression. The pistol’s ambidextrous slide lock safety is well-designed and positive in operation. The barrel is a ramped design.

This neatly solves any problem with the bullet nose gouging an aluminum-fed ramp. There is practically no lateral play when grasping the slide against the frame. The barrel is well-fitted. The locking lugs glide smoothly into place as the slide is racked.

If there is any downside at all, it is that the full-length guide rod complicates field stripping. This isn’t a difficult problem, but simply a consideration.

Novak sights
Novak sights with a tritium insert are the ideal combat sights.

How It Performs

The Springfield Champion Lightweight Operator features a beveled magazine well. During the test and evaluation, I used the supplied Springfield magazines, Wilson Combat units, and MecGar’s 10-round magazine. All functioned flawlessly.

I began the evaluation with SIG Sauer Elite . 45 ACP 230-grain full-metal jacketed ammunition. This is a clean-burning number that gives good accuracy. The pistol is fast on target and controllable in rapid-fire.

With proper attention to the sights and trigger, the pistol delivers solid hits at a typical combat range. The .45 ACP isn’t about a cluster of holes in a target, but about delivering the shot to the X-ring time after time. I also tested a number of personal defense loads.


SIG spent considerable time, effort and expense in developing the V-Crown hollow-point bullet. This bullet features reliable expansion and a good mix of penetration and expansion.

Pistol Slim Profile
The pistol is relatively slim for the caliber.

Ammo Testing

First up was the SIG Sauer Elite 185-grain JHP. This loading is the fastest of the SIG offerings and also offers the lightest recoil due to the light bullet weight. I like this loading. It is controllable and accurate. Next up was the SIG Sauer Elite 200-grain JHP.

This is a well-balanced loading that offers perhaps ideal performance. It is the most accurate loading tested with a five-shot group of less than three inches at 25 yards. The final load is the 230-grain V-Crown JHP. This load is the classic or standard .45 ACP weight.

Expansion and penetration are well-balanced and the loading is more than accurate enough for any reasonable task. These loads will provide the user with excellent performance. Reliability is the bottom line and these loads have it.

SIG Sauer Elite .45 ACP ammunition
SIG Sauer Elite .45 ACP ammunition provides good protection and excellent accuracy.


The Springfield Champion Lightweight Operator is an excellent handgun—head and shoulders above most 1911 types in the price range. With its light rail, ramped barrel and tritium sights, this is a great personal defense handgun and superior service pistol.

Which do you prefer, the loaded or lightweight Operator model? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (5)

  1. I had a Springfield Loaded Operator for 7 years before I got a Champion Operator Lightweight. The L.O. is a superb gun and if you can carry a full size 1911-pattern gun, it’s a top choice at a bargain price. I bought it for one of our sons, who was professional military, for him to take to The Desert. Unfortunately, the military would not let him take a personal firearm. So, one of our other sons nabbed it and I haven’t seen it since. He uses it in a professional capacity. He took some marvelous pictures of it with his uniform and badge, but threatened me with mortal harm if I published any of them.
    The Champion Operator Lightweight excels in its attributes and performance. First time shooting it I had three relatives and a friend, all experienced shooters, and three of them are professionals. All said it was simply the best “Commander-size” gun they had handled. From hand-to-hand, accuracy was excellent. A couple worried that the light weight might affect follow-up shots, but that wasn’t the case, and everyone easily double-tapped the bullseye at 10 yards.
    My biggest complaint, as noted above, is field-stripping. I’m also not a big fan of rails on small guns, though I acknowledge the usefulness to others. For a holster, I use the Springfield-supplied one made for it.
    For ammo I prefer 200-gr bullets with modern configurations. Very effective and don’t kick hard. While I am happy with the supplied grips, wood ones, for shooting a lot I’d probably switch to Hogue or other soft grips.
    I’m a Certified Ol’ Guye now. When younger and, ahem, lighter, I much preferred full-size 1911-pattern guns. Today Commander-size guns top my list, and the Sprignfield COLW is at the top of the list. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

  2. I prefer the Champion lightweight Operator for the reasons stated above. Weight! I have a Range Officer which is perfect for uniform duty, but too heavy for plain clothes.

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