Springfield Emissary: A Serious Upgrade to the 1911 Platform

Springfield Emissary 1911 .45 acp pistol right profile

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 1911 .45 acp pistol left profile
The full-size 1911 is still a popular choice among self-defense enthusiasts.

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.

Close up of the hammer, grip safety, and slide lock safety
The Springfield features a well-fitted slide lock safety and well-turned grip safety.

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.

Front strap of the Springfield Emissary 1911 handgun
The front strap is well designed. While offering an excellent grip, it didn’t snag clothing.

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.

Sight picture of the Springfield Emissary featuring a U notch rear and tritium roundel front sight
The author especially appreciated the pistol’s rear-sight design.

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.

The pistol features a conventional light rail for mounting combat lights or lasers. During the test program, I used a TruGlo Sight-Line laser with good results.

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.

TruGlo Sight Line laser on the front rail of the Springfield Emissary 1911
TruGlo’s Sight-Line laser was a good fit and offered a neat, compact package.

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
.45 ACP
 5-inch Match
 U-notch rear, tritium front
 VZ Grips Thin-Line G10
Two 8-round
39.5 ounces
8.4 inches
 5.25 inches

Test Firing

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.

LoadVelocity (FPS)Groups Size (inches)
Winchester 230-grain FMJ8552.8
185-grain XTP Handload1,1002.4
Remington 185-grain Golden Saber1,0202.6

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.

D. M. Bullard leather belt slide holster holding the Springfield Emissary 1911 .45 ACP pistol
Bullard Leather offers a well-designed belt slide that proved to offer good performance on the range and in concealed carry.

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.

What do you think of the Springfield Emissary 1911 pistol? Let us know in the comments!

  • TruGlo Sight Line laser
  • Springfield Emissary 1911 .45 acp pistol left profile
  • Front strap of the Springfield Emissary 1911 handgun
  • Springfield Emissary 1911 pistol in a DM Bullard leather holster
  • TruGlo Sight Line laser on the front rail of the Springfield Emissary 1911
  • Front sight and slide of a pistol
  • day glo yellow front roundel sight with tritium
  • Close up of the hammer, grip safety, and slide lock safety
  • Sight picture of the Springfield Emissary featuring a U notch rear and tritium roundel front sight
  • Springfield Emissary 1911 .45 acp pistol right profile
  • D. M. Bullard leather belt slide holster holding the Springfield Emissary 1911 .45 ACP pistol

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 (8)

  1. All I think of when I see is Springfield Army is how the sold out the gun rights community by lobbying for a carve-out that exempts them from the Gun Dealer Licensing Act in Illinois instead of opposing the scheme.

  2. My first memories of Springfield Armory is an upstart manufacturer of a M-14 clone called the M1A. I recall that back in the 1960s they bought thousands of torched M1 Garand receivers for the government, selected the best “halves” and welded/machined them to m14 specs and built the M1As on those re-manufactured receivers. Later on, the maufactured their own brand new receivers and continue that to present day. They produce fine products, though most are not made in the U.S.

  3. did I miss the PRICED some where?
    How about telling us OLD folks with arthritis about the “SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT” expressed in Pounds pull (much like trigger pull) ?

  4. Enjoyed the article. I own a SA TRP and Vickers Tactical but not an Emissary. Gun shows it’s CNC design but always nice for me to see steel handguns. My local dealership is well stocked in polymer framed auto loaders not so much in all steel ones. An artifact of the times.

  5. What, no tint control? It has all the other useless bells and whistles, but none of the necessarily features like an ambi safety.

  6. Jack C

    These are not manufacturers images. I shot the snot out of this pistol.

    Oil, unburned powder, powder ash, handling

    The finish is flawless.

    Excellent pistol.

  7. Just wondering about the finish, looks like the front of the slide is “cloudy” in the pictures and poorly finished. The butt of the unit in the rear sight view seems to have heat treatment gone afoul. Although this all could be due to poor cleaning. Also what about average pricing and availability.

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