Firearms

A Look at the Springfield 1911 Loaded Operator .45 ACP

Springfield Operator Rail

In my opinion, the most solidly built, reliable, and useful of all personal defense handgun designs is the 1911—given a quality example, that is. Quite a few of the 1911 types presently made are intended mostly to sell cheaply.

They are recreational-grade at best. The original was made of the best material of the day and made as well as possible. While modern manufacture makes precision work and hand-fitting expensive, it isn’t prohibitively expensive.

The Springfield Loaded Operator is no more an original 1911 than my Jeep is a 1939 Willys, but it certainly has the appearance and builds on the best attributes of the type. I don’t invest objects with fantastic abilities.

The men that saved their lives with the weapons are more worthy of study than the arms they yielded. Just the same, few, if any, handguns have the background of the 1911 pistol.

The 1911 is my favorite handgun and one that I have carried professionally for more than 40 years. I was never issued the piece, but purchased it on my own dime and trained on my own time.

The pistol seems to have a bearing of conviction and a business-like appearance that means more than words can convey.

Springfield Operator, Springfield Champion Lightweight
The Loaded Operator, left, and the Champion Lightweight, right, are exceptional Springfield handguns.

Design Features and Specs

The Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 features include:

  • A straight-to-the-rear trigger compression
  • Alow-bore axis that limits muzzle flip
  • A handle that fits most hands well
  • A grip safety that prevents movement of the trigger unless the grip safety is fully depressed
  • A slide lock safety

The 1911 is safe when carried cocked and locked, hammer to the rear and safety on. The safety moves the sear from the hammer, and the grip safety keeps the trigger locked.

There is no handgun faster to an accurate first shot than a properly carried cocked-and-locked 1911 handgun. The modern 1911 (in good examples) is much better made to closer tolerances than the original—and even more reliable.

Anyone can make a cheaper gun and there are plenty of cheaply made 1911 handguns. The Springfield builds more on recent history than harking back to 1911.

As an example, the original Springfield Bureau Model was required to fire 25,000 rounds without a single failure while grouping five shots into a 1.25-inch group at 25 yards at the beginning and end of the test.

That is even more impressive than the original 1911’s performance. The Loaded Operator reviewed here isn’t a Bureau Model, but it isn’t that far from that handgun, either.

Springfield Operator Novak Sights
The Springfield Operator features Novak sights with tritium inserts.

High-End Details

The “operator” moniker simply denotes a Springfield 1911 with a rail. There are a number of choices for these, including the Marine Corps (MC), Long Beach, and TRP Operator.

At just over $1200, the Loaded Model Operator isn’t inexpensive, but it costs half as much as some high-end 1911 handguns. In my opinion, it gives up little to the more-expensive pistols and performs better than the less-expensive handguns.

In short, it is a good buy and among the best buys in a mid-range 1911 handgun. The pistol features Springfield’s Armory Kote finish. This is a durable, self-lubricating finish.

Armory Kote makes the pistol a bit slicker drawing from a holster, but perhaps a little too slippery to rack the slide as well. The pistol, like all 1911s, is easier to rack for most of us by using the rear serrations, while the pistol also features forward-cocking serrations.

The transition from the slide to the frame at the dust cover is handled very well, with a ball-end cut usually found only on $2,000 handguns.

Springfield Operator Serrations
Forward-cocking serrations make for easy manipulation.

Grip and Sights

The pistol features well-designed G10 grips. The front and rear feature slightly different patterns. The result is excellent abrasion and adhesion. The pistol features a modern beavertail safety. This safety helps funnel the hand into the proper firing grip.

A memory bump on the grip safety helps the shooter keep the beavertail depressed. Some shooters practicing the thumbs forward-firing grip: raise the palm off the grip safety, deactivating the trigger.

The Springfield grip safety with memory bump eliminates this concern. The pistol features an ambidextrous slide lock safety. The safety is well-fitted and very crisp in its indent. The pistol also features Novak Low Mount sights.

Each is dovetailed in place and, the rear sight is adjustable for windage. The sights are properly regulated for 230-grain loads and the six o’clock hold. Trigger compression is a smooth 4.9 lbs. and smooth (very smooth) with a rapid reset.

Springfield Operator Features and Specs
Compared to a GI-type 1911, the Springfield Operator is a highly advanced handgun. Note ambidextrous safety, beavertail grip safety, night sights, forward cocking serrations, light rail and Armory Kote finish.

How It Performs

The pistol has been fired with a wide variety of practice loads and service ammunition, including lead bullet handloads and jacketed hollow-point service loads.

As an example, the Remington UMC 230-grain jacketed bullet is a good practice load—accurate, clean-burning and reliable.

When the FBI tested the Springfield .45, many felt that Remington could not accomplish the accuracy specified by the FBI contract with a full-power jacketed hollow-point bullet.

The Golden Saber 230-grain JHP met the standard for a 1.25-inch 25-yard group in the original Bureau Model and the contract was sealed for both Springfield and Remington. The Springfield pistol responds well to a trained shooter.

The combination of good sights and a crisp trigger make for good control. The pistol, at 40 ounces, is slightly heavier than some 1911 handguns. This results in good recoil control. The pistol is more accurate than most 1911 handguns I have tested.

While control in offhand fire and firing combat drills is most important, absolute accuracy is interesting and often reflects care in manufacture.

I have fired the pistol from a solid bench rest-firing position and found the piece capable of a five-shot group at 25 yards of two inches (sometimes less), depending upon the skill of the shooter.

Remington Golden Saber
Remington’s Golden Saber .45 ACP loads offer both reliability and wound potential.

A Note About Holsters

I have carried a Government Model 1911 for many years. As long as proper leather or Kydex holsters are chosen, it isn’t difficult to conceal the handgun under a covering garment. You will notice that the handgun is there, but the long flat 1911 offers excellent balance.

It is essential to use a proper gun belt. The Galco N3 inside-the-waistband holster features a tunnel loop located near the rear of the holster, cinching the holster close to the body. The draw angle is ideal. For range use, the Galco Stryker Kydex holster is my choice.

GALCO Striker Holster
The GALCO Stryker is a first-class all-around general use holster.

This holster allows a good draw angle. This type of holster is essential for range work as you develop your skills with the handgun.

There should be a good training regimen with the concealed carry holster as well, but on the other hand, you cannot run before you walk and, for many range drills, the Stryker is ideal.

It will conceal the handgun under a longer winter garment and for those that carry the 1911 hiking or in the field, it is a great choice.

Conclusion

The Springfield Loaded Operator is among my most-trusted handguns. It is as reliable as any handgun I have used—and more so than most. It is a solid companion.

Like this look at the Springfield Loaded Operator? Be sure to check out our review of the Springfield Lightweight Operator as well.

What do you think of Springfield Loaded Operators? Do you have a favorite 1911? Let us know in the comments below.

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 (7)

  1. The Taurus 1911 is not even close to the Quality of Springfield . I am a 1911 Enthusiast, and I don’t like Railed models, but Springfield offers this Model in a Non Railed Version.

  2. I’ve owned the used the Springfield MC operator for awhile; my favorite 1911 so far. Significant upgrade compared to my old Taurus 1911. Much less finicky than some of the Kimbers I’ve experienced.

  3. I have the Kimber Custom II TLE RL, pretty much the same pistol which I bought a couple years ago for less than $1000. It’s been very accurate and reliable.

  4. I own a Long Beach Operator and find it to be a truly exceptional weapon. I chose the LB model only because it was the only Operator that came with 8 rund magazines.

  5. I have several 1911 style handguns and prefer it as my go to home defense weapon. I don’t own a high end weapon but have practiced with my Sig Sauer, Colt and Rock Island models in all conditions and have never had a misfire, which is my number one criteria in a handgun. Properly cleaned and maintained 1911s are simply one of the very best personal defense platforms in both .45 and 10mm versions. I like polymer frame models and have quite a few of those but I always find my way back to the tried and true that I carried as a Marine even when the Beretta 9mm was available. I just plain like the feel of the 1911, even the cut down Colt New Agent and Sig Sauer versions I have, when handled and fired.

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