Springfield Armory cut its teeth making custom-crafted 1911s and has been building them since the mid-1980s. The experience Springfield gained over the years in fine-tuning 1911 actions and building specialized frames, slides and barrels has also given it the capability to produce a target-grade 1911 for what amounts to little more than the price of a standard pistol. The first proof came in 2011, with the Range Officer Government Model. The Range Officer provided shooters with a competition-ready .45 ACP for under $1,000, and now they’ve done it a second time with the new Range Officer Compact.

Custom-Grade 1911

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The Range Officer Compact has a flat, finely checkered mainspring housing, raised palm swell and beavertail grip safety.

Unlike the Government Model Range Officer, the Compact uses a polished bull barrel and has a dual recoil spring and full-length guide rod, features that generally run up the price of a 1911. The 4-inch, match-grade, stainless barrel has a fully supported ramp and a full-length guide rod. To minimize carry weight, the Compact uses a forged aluminum alloy frame, while the 6.25-inch-long slide is forged carbon steel. This is the same forged frame and slide used on the considerably more expensive Springfield Trophy Match and TRP models. At the rear are dovetailed, white-dot, low profile combat sights, and on the business end sits a raised, dovetailed blade with red fiber-optic insert. The Compact has a flat, finely checkered mainspring housing, raised palm swell and beavertail grip safety, serrated Delta-style hammer, single-sided thumb safety, a skeletonized, lightweight speed trigger averaging 5 to 6 pounds of pull, and a lowered and flared ejection port.

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On the test range, the Compact’s custom features contributed to less felt recoil and faster sight acquisition between shots. Average trigger pull on the test gun was 5.3 pounds and best five-shot groups at 15 yards averaged 1.5 inches with Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTX clocking 910 feet per second.

Overall, for a compact 1911, this newest version of the Springfield Armory Range Officer, priced at $989, delivers the most gun for the money while providing premium features, precision slide and frame fit, excellent sights, a lightweight trigger, very manageable recoil, and the accuracy demanded from a close-quarters sidearm.

XD Defense

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Springfield XD-S 4.0

Springfield Armory has been an innovator for years, pushing the envelope in the design of its smaller, more efficient XD series of polymer-framed pistols. In 2012 the company reached a benchmark with the introduction of the smallest .45 ACP semi-auto in history—the XD-S 3.3. This was followed by a 9mm version with higher capacity and more manageable recoil in a pocket-sized semi-auto design that rewrote the book on what defines large-caliber pocket models.

With the addition of the XD-S 4.0 models (the original .45 ACP and 9mm models have 3.3-inch barrels), they have added 0.7 inches more barrel and a longer sight radius without compromising the XD-S model’s shorter grip frame. The new 9mm and .45 versions increase the barrel to 4 inches and the slide to 6.75 inches. The new XD-S 4.0 models otherwise retain the same excellent 7+1 (9mm) and 5+1 (.45 ACP) standard capacity and have the advantage of a little more weight (2 ounces) to help reduce muzzle lift. What you have in the XD-S 4.0 models is the best possible combination of the larger XD Service Model’s 4-inch barrel on the subcompact frame of the XD-S.

RELATED: Springfield’s Lean & Mean XD-S Pistols

The XD-S 4.0 also includes all of Springfield’s recent upgrades to the trigger and internal safety operation (signified by a small roll pin added to the grip safety). If the XD-S 4.0 feels a tad nose heavy, it’s no bad thing because the gun balances nicely with a two-handed hold and seven rounds in the magazine. There are no disadvantages here.

The XD-S 4.0 maintains all of the standard features including dual safety mechanisms, the Ultra Safety Assurance (USA) toggle trigger and Springfield’s secondary 1911-type grip safety. Both safeties must be properly engaged in order for the XD-S to discharge. However, the XD-S will fire a chambered round without a magazine. Not having a magazine disconnect is one of those arguable features, but most individuals who rely on a firearm for personal defense will favor a semi-auto that can still operate if a situation arises when the magazine cannot be reloaded in sufficient time, the magazine has been lost or damaged, or only a single round is available and expediency dictates dropping it into the chamber, closing the slide and taking the shot.

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Springfield XD-S 4.0

With the longer barrel and slide, the XD-S 4.0 becomes a little easier to handle (not that the XD-S 3.3 is a chore, but the extra length has its advantages), particularly with heavy-hitting personal defense and law enforcement ammunition. While still a subcompact, the new longer-barrel models give Springfield another tactical advantage with an already proven design.

RELATED: Springfield Armory XD(M) & XD-S 4.0 Shootout | VIDEO

Like all XD-S models, the 4.0 models use a striker-fired system fine tuned to reduce trigger take-up and provide a short reset. Including engaging the blade trigger safety, there is about 0.5 inches of travel, and the trigger pull remains crisp and consistent from shot to shot. Average pull on the test gun was a nominal 7.3 pounds. Being a striker-fired design, there is no second-strike capability; however, the quick-reset trigger mechanism only requires the slide be pulled to the rear 0.25 inches to enable the action.

While maintaining the same standard capacities in 9mm and .45 ACP, the XD-S 4.0 models also inherit the XD-S 3.3’s reduced recoil through Springfield’s distinctive recoil spring and plunger design, engineered to mitigate a significant degree of the recoil expected from a comparatively lightweight, polymer-framed handgun. With an extra 2 ounces from the longer barrel and slide, the XD-S 4.0 models are even quicker to get back on target, and easier to handle.

EMP Protector

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Springfield EMP

How could the venerable 1911 design be improved? Colt has made numerous upgrades over the last 100 plus years, including smaller models like the Commander and Officer’s versions, but Springfield Armory took 1911 dimensions to a new level with the introduction of the Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP). The action of the EMP is 0.125 inches shorter than that of the original 1911. This translates into several concrete advantages for the shooter.

The EMP’s shorter grip radius produces a shockingly comfortable shooting experience with greater control. The shorter dimensions also work to increase reliability, something that’s crucial in a concealed carry pistol. And, of course, the overall dimensions make it one of the smallest 1911s out there. The EMP is loaded with all the features you expect in a custom-built 1911—low profile, three-dot tritium combat sights; a match-grade, fully supported and ramped barrel; a long, lightweight speed trigger with 5 to 6 pounds of pull; a flat, checkered mainspring housing; and dual recoil spring with full-length guide rod. With 9+1 rounds of 9mm or 8+1 rounds of .40 S&W, the EMP packs an amazing amount of punch in one of the smallest 1911s ever. The gun’s overall length is just 6.6 inches, height is 5 inches, and the carry weight is a mere 27 ounces (unloaded).

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