Gun Review: Springfield Armory EMP

So John Moses Browning is a genius and all that. Robert checked out the 1903 Colt and loved it. But for most gun guys, Browning’s greatest contribution to the world of firearms will always be the 1911. Its full-size elegance and extra safety features hit their ballistic sweet spot. Is .45 ACP always necessary? Of course not. Two point five million GLOCK owners can’t all be wrong. Luckily, those of us who worship at the altar of the 1911 can buy 9mm versions. Yes, but…

A full-size 5” barrel 1911 or even a 4.5” Commander-size 1911 in 9mm leaves you with a lot of extra iron. Kinda like taking a Chevy Big Block and boring it out to 300 cubic inches. So along comes Springfield Armory who unleashes a 1911 chambered in 9mm (you can get .40 S&W too) with a 3” barrel. And according to the company and the specs, the EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) is the smallest ‘real’ 1911 ever produced. With that diminutive footprint, chambering 9mm, I thought I found my ideal carry gun. So I bought it . . .

The fit and finish of the EMP is fantastic, right down to the wood grips that are cut on a milling machine. The slide features one of those new fantastic super-coatings that look like aluminum but wears like steel. The frame has been dipped in Springfield Armory’s black hardcoat anodized finish. You would be hard pressed to find the guys at Nighthawk Customs doing better work on the exterior.

And then comes the swag- the nice blue case has foam that is custom fitted to hold the weapon, a cleaning rod, a match-style plastic holster, another holster for magazines, a tool for field-stripping the gun, and couple of top-shelf Mec-Gar magazines. The nine-shot mags are made in the land of Ferrari, proprietary to the EMP. WHich explains why there aren’t any holes for keeping track of the number of bullets loaded.

The EMP has all the 1911 niceties, of course. There’s your extended ambidextrous safety and lightweight trigger, and a beaver-tail grip safety. You also get the same kind of extra that annoys Smith & Wesson purists: Springfield’s Integrated Locking System (ILS). The backstrap mounted key lock freezes the slide and hammer. Does anyone really use these things?

Trijcon nightsights sit atop the EMP. Nothing wrong with that.

The first round I fired through the EMP felt great. I only put one round in the magazine because of the rare chance that the sear on a new 1911 isn’t working right and there is the potential for the gun to runaway on you (i.e. full auto). Squeeze the trigger and bang. Nice. Until I noticed the brass chimney on the top of that beautifully finished aluminum. Motherfucker. Lets try with a mag. I did a little tap-rack, and the next shot had the same problem. Plus the next seven rounds in the mag. I promptly returned to my retailer with my $1200 purchase . . .

Who sent it off to Springfield Armory for repair. You see, I live in one of those communist states that has the serial number of my gun printed on my pistol license. It would be much more of a headache to go back to Police HQ and the ensuing bureaucracy than to deal with Springfield Armory customer service. After all, I was told they are among the best in the business.

At least they lived up to the hype. The dealer took care of all of the shipping details. Springfield returned a tuned pistol with a polished feed ramp. So free Springfield Custom Shop work done on a production model. Bonus!

The next 50 rounds went really smoothly. The EMP is an amazingly accurate weapon. At 25 yards, a carefully-aimed baby 1911 is as accurate as most full-size semis. Beyond that, obviously, not. The recoil is manageable enough to make the EMP a suitable gun for ending a range session, helping to maintain the skills needed to use it effectively.

And then my friend Gene, an NRA instructor, was about to give me a lesson. No more bang. This time, it was the firing pin. I was relieved that Gene was there to attest to the fact that I did nothing to create the problem. Gene handed me his Browning Hi Power. He’d fired 30,000 rounds through it without a hitch. “Buy this next time you want something in 9mm.” Yeah, next time . . .

Back onboard FedEx for another trip to the state of Blagojevich and Obama and all that delicious Heller fighting. At this point, I was an irate customer and told SA to get the pistol running right or keep the damn thing. It turned out to be a metal burr on the firing pin. I scoured the web for similar problems with other EMPs. Nope. Just my luck.

After the gun returned to my care for the second time, I got busy. I’ve put 500 rounds through  the EMP with no more failures. But still, the idea of using the Springfield EMP for an everyday carry gun (why I bought it) still gives me the willies. Perhaps after another 500 rounds at the range I’ll trust my unfaithful companion.

Or maybe not. Maybe John Moses was right when he designed another gun to use the round of the GLOCKnoscenti. But the EMP is a beauty. Usually this level of fit and finish is reserved for Hollywood Starlets. But just like Mary-Kate Olsen battling anorexia, making a 1911 skinny does not necessarily make it good.

If my pistol has to go to Dr. Drew at the clinic in Illinois one more time for treatment, I’ll just disown her on Gunbroker. After all, she ain’t family. She’s only supposed to protect it.


Caliber: 9 X 19mm
Magazines: 3 X 9 round, stainless steel with rubber slam pad
Barrel: 3″ stainless steel match grade, fully-supported ramp, bull
Sights: Fixed low-profile combat rear, dovetail front, Tritium three-dot
Trigger: Long aluminium match grade, five to six pounds
Grips: Thinline Covobolo hardwood
Frame: Forged aluminum alloy, black hardcut anodized
Slide: Forged stainless steel, satin finish
Recoil system: Dual spring, full-length guide rod
Height: 5″
Length: 6.5″
Weight (empty): 26 ounces
Price: $1100 to $1200

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
You just are not getting this level of fit and finish at this price point often. To get better you need the big big bucks.

Ergonomics * * * *
Even comes with an ambidextrous safety selector from the factory. It could be a little diminutive if you have large hands.

Reliability *
But lets add an asterisk to this…mine sucked from the get-go, but others have had no problem with the pistol. If you get a good one that always goes bang, this is definitely a four-and-a-half star pistol.

Customize This * *
It comes from the factory with everything that you need. So low stars here is a good thing unless you are a hot-rodder at heart.

Beauty is skin deep. Unless it isn’t. God I hope it isn’t.

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