Springfield Armory is considered an old-line company by most young shooters. I remember when it was an upstart with a GI-type 1911 at a fair price. My how times have changed. Springfield 1911 pistols are good to go “as issued” for most uses and also serve as a base gun for many competition and custom pistols. The Emissary is designed as a personal defense and tactical handgun.
A surprising number of us carry a full-size 1911 .45 when covering garments allow. With proper leather choice, it isn’t that difficult. The 1911 is long but thin in cross-section. The Emissary as it turns out is slightly thinner than the original 1911. In many ways, the Springfield is a departure from the 1911 and the updates are pleasing to the eye and beneficial to the shooter.
Springfield Emissary Features
I have been waiting to find an Emissary locally for perhaps six months — about the same wait as the first Springfield Ronin. I finally found the piece, and I am not disappointed.
The Emissary is well fitted and finished, and while it follows the general outline of a 1911, there are significant differences. The Emissary features a square trigger guard. This allows the shooter to rest a finger against the front of the trigger guard when taking a firing grip. This makes for excellent tension and control.
This type of firing grip is ‘out of fashion’ for competition but has its adherents. Whether you choose to use the finger-forward firing grip or not, the trigger guard has a striking appearance.
The slide is cut in a style called the tri-top. The angles are pleasing and represent difficult machine work usually found on ultra-expensive custom pistols. Modern CNC machining works wonders.
The pistol features unique blocks on the front and back strap rather than the usual pyramid. There is nothing sharp about this arrangement, but the blocks feature an excellent level of adhesion while firing. The grips follow this pattern, which is among the best gripping surface of any modern 1911. While excellent for hand purchase, the grips do not abrade the palm.
The pistol features a heavy bull barrel. A bull barrel doesn’t use the conventional 1911 barrel bushing. The barrel locks up on the slide and offers a tight fit that should be an aid in accuracy.
Another good feature is a set of grooves between the sights. The sights are practical and ideal for personal defense. The rear sight is a U-notch. These sights are sometimes called ‘old man’ sights, as they are fast into action and alignment for aging eyes.
The rear sight is a ledge type that allows racking the sight against a boot heel or belt to rack the slide or release the slide after slide lock back. The front sight is a bright green luminescent roundel with a tritium center. This combination offers rapid sight and target acquisition at close range, but also offers good accuracy potential well past 25 yards.
The trigger is a solid design without an adjustment screw. There are target features that have slipped into service and defense pistols. A lightweight adjustable trigger isn’t the preferred setup for a defensive handgun.
The Springfield Emissary’s trigger is slightly curved and grooved down the center. This is an ideal trigger for control in fast combat shooting. Trigger compression is smooth with modest take-up. The trigger broke at 4.75 pounds.
The slide lock safety was crisp and indented tightly. I occasionally see a poorly fitted slide lock safety, even on more expensive pistols. There is no excuse for this. After 110 years, folks should know how to fit a 1911 safety. The grip safety properly released its hold on the trigger about halfway into compression — as it should.
The barrel throat was properly fitted with a 1/32-inch gap between the two halves of the feed ramp. The Emissary, like all Springfield 1911 handguns, doesn’t use a positive firing pin block or drop safety.
Springfield utilizes a lightweight firing pin and extra power firing pin spring to ensure drop safety. This prevents the firing from taking a run forward, should the firearm be dropped on its muzzle.
Despite the slightly different slide dimensions of the Emissary, the pistol was a good fit for 1911 holsters provided they are designed for rail guns. I used two holsters from Bullard Leather. The first is a belt slide. This isn’t the common minimal belt slide.
This holster features a well-designed sweat guard. This not only protects the shooter from the gun’s metal edges, but it also protects the handgun from perspiration. The sweat guard makes for easy holstering and a fast draw.
This belt slide was worn between the belt and the trousers. I like this holster a great deal. For maximum concealment, an inside-the-waistband holster was indicated. The Bullard Leather IWB used a strong, steel belt clip that took a strong bite of the belt. The holster was well designed and executed and offered excellent concealment potential. Be certain to wear a properly designed, thick, leather gun belt.
Springfield Emissary 1911
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5-inch Match
Sights: U-notch rear, tritium front
Grips: VZ Grips Thin-Line G10
Magazine: Two 8-round
Weight: 39.5 ounces
Length: 8.4 inches
Height: 5.25 inches
Firing impressions were obtained using a mix of ammunition — including a number of a dwindling supply of handloads. If I could obtain primers, my ammunition crunch would be over. Handloads included a 185-grain SWC at 1,000 fps, a 200-grain SWC at 890 fps, and a 230-grain RNL at 780 fps — all using Winchester 231 powder.
|Load||Velocity (FPS)||Groups Size (inches)|
|Winchester 230-grain FMJ||855||2.8|
|185-grain XTP Handload||1,100||2.4|
|Remington 185-grain Golden Saber||1,020||2.6|
Function was flawless. There was no break-in period. The Springfield never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject using 280 handloaded cartridges.
The Springfield Emissary is a great shooting and handling handgun — as a quality 1911 should be. Recoil was modest, thanks in large part to the steel frame.
Firing quickly for combat accuracy, the pistol tracked well. It also traversed between targets quickly. The trigger was controllable and offered a sharp reset.
The sights were ideal for combat shooting. Moving to factory 230-grain FMJ, I ran a box of Winchester USA through the pistol with good results.
The final test was for absolute accuracy. This wasn’t really a test of a combat pistol, but we all like to know what type of accuracy a handgun is capable of. This also shows the time and care that went into manufacturing a pistol that requires some hand fitting.
I fired the following loads for accuracy at the 25-yard line from a solid bench rest. I used the MTM K-Zone firing rest during this accuracy firing. The pistol is certainly accurate enough for any reasonable chore. The Springfield Emissary is a first-class handgun with much to recommend. It isn’t cheap, but it is well worth its price.