I first encountered the Springfield Armory EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) in late 2004, at a company seminar in San Diego, California. It was a 1911 with aluminum frame, scaled down for the short .45 GAP (Glock Auto Pistol) round that Ernest Durham and his team at Speer had just created for Glock. Not only had the barrel and slide been shortened, but the grip-frame had also been reduced in dimension front-to-back for this shorter cartridge, which in its turn had been developed to fit in a .40 S&W/9mm platform.

Recoil of this potent new high-intensity cartridge turned out to be surprisingly controllable. The gun ran 100% with all the .45 GAP ammunition that I and the proverbial gaggle of gun writers could shoot through it… and when the ammunition is provided for free, that adds up to buckets o’ bullets.

What impressed me most was that with the grip-frame (and of course, the magazine it housed) being shorter front to back in proportion to the shorter cartridges therein, the shooter could get “more hand around the gun,” and “more finger onto the trigger.” That pistol felt in my average size hand about the way I imagine a standard size 1911 in .45 ACP felt in the giant hands of my 6-foot-7-inch mentor, the late Bill Jordan. More flesh and bone wrapped around the “handle” simply gives the pistol shooter more control, up to a point, particularly in one-handed shooting.

When Springfield Armory produced the EMP, they manufactured the gun in 9mm instead. The good news was that with the smaller diameter 9mm cartridge, the magazine could hold more ammunition. The 9mm EMP carries nine rounds in its single stack, and a tenth in the firing chamber. With a lightweight firing pin and strong firing pin spring, it’s “drop-safe” and immune to inertia discharge if it’s struck or dropped on either end. This allows safe carry cocked and locked with a torpedo in the launch tube.

At the time of its introduction, this short-handled gun was amazingly holding the same cartridge capacity as a full-size 9mm 1911 in Government Model configuration. Only later would Wilson Combat introduce a 9mm EDM magazine that would hold ten rounds, bringing total capacity up to eleven before a reload became necessary.

Not only was it eminently shootable, it was eminently reliable. This is important because 9mm 1911s are notoriously finicky in that regard. John Moses Browning designed the 1911 platform as a recoil-operated gun, firing a powerful cartridge that would generate ample recoil to operate its big steel slide. He also built it around the .45 ACP, a distinctly longer cartridge than the 9mm. Not until the mid-20 century would Colt, and then others, chamber the 1911 for the shorter 9mm, a cartridge that also had less recoil to operate the slide.

Explains Dave Williams, head of the Springfield Armory Custom Shop and the man who designed the EMP, “Most magazines have a spacer to position the 9mm cartridge forward, to allow for it being so much shorter than the cycle length the 1911 was designed for. The full-size 1911s have had a pit of a reputation for maybe not being as reliable as a .45 ACP. 9mm cartridges, when you carry them in a single-stack magazine, are not well supported at the front end. Rob Leatham several years ago came up with a magazine design which, instead of the spacer in the back, had an integral feed ramp guilt into the magazine to help a nose-down cartridge come up.”

By simply shrinking the size of the 1911 pistol to the proper dimensions for the 9mm cartridge, those expedients were eliminated in the EMP. The result was an extraordinarily reliable pistol.


The first EMP I got from the factory, a 9mm with the serial number 0159, proved to be malfunction prone. I sent it back, and Dave—an honest man—told me that there had been some problems with the first few hundred guns. He sent me a replacement…and that one went through several hundred rounds of assorted ammo with no malfunctions whatever. I bought it when the test, done for another gun magazine, was complete.

Later, they came out with a .40 caliber version, which holds a bit less. I never tested that one extensively, though Tom Gresham and I played with one during the third season of Personal Defense TV, and I found it to be accurate, controllable, and reliable.

There has been a lot of demand for a longer-framed one with 5-inch barrel for IDPA and similar competiton. Dave Williams tells me the company is looking at that…but also is so backordered on the products they’re making now, that a longer EMP with longer grip and larger magazine capacity is probably some distance down the road.

While the .40 has worked out well, the 9mm version has proven to be the most popular. I’ve seen several of them in the courses I teach over the years—there were two or three of them in my last course in California—and I can’t help but notice that they all seem to run like tops, and create very satisfied owners.

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  • Dufus

    I purchased EMP9 in January of 2011. Honestly it was a piece of crap. Multiple failure-to-fire (light primer strikes), stuck firing pin, jams, etc. First trip back to SA was returned with notation “firing pin hole de-burred, extractor drilled and pinned (originally glued).” Another trip to the range revealed that the problem had not been fixed. Back to SA. It replaced the barrel link assembly along with minor adjustments and sent me test results on 104 rounds through all 3 mags.. On the most recent trip to the range, it performed flawlessly for 300+ rounds.

    Good on ya SA for finally fixing it at no charge to me. Boos and hisses for letting it out of your factory in such a condition.