Ballistics by the inch

Review: Springfield 1911 EMP® 4” Concealed Carry Contour Model

Earlier this year I added this note to my reprise review of the Springfield EMP:

One thing additional to note: recently Springfield came out with a slightly different version of the gun called the “EMP® 4” Lightweight Champion™ with Concealed Carry Contour“.  Here it is:

See that cut-off angle on the bottom of the grip? That’s Ed Brown’s “Bobtail” from his Kobra Carry. I haven’t shot the new Springfield version yet, but I really liked how that felt on the Kobra Carry. A friend of mine got one of the new guns, and I look forward to trying it. I could see trading-up from my original EMP for one of those.

Well, last weekend I had a chance to shoot my friend’s gun, and … yeah, baby, I likes it!

OK, first thing: pretty much everything I’ve said about the EMP previously applies to the new 4″ barrel model. Yup: great gun, extremely reliable for me, minimal recoil, fit & finish is fantastic, and I loved shooting it. If you want details, go read that review.

What else to add? Well, here’s the actual gun I shot:

You’ll note that it still has the tag on it — my buddy hadn’t had a chance to shoot it yet, either. So this is straight out of the box, without doing anything other than running a boresnake down the barrel and then taking it to the range.

Unsurprisingly, it shot flawlessly. And dead-on accurate.

The extra 1″ of barrel does help the sight radius some, though I never had any problems hitting my target with my 3″ barrel EMP. And it probably helps tame recoil a bit more with that extra 3.5 ounces of additional weight, though again that wasn’t a problem with the slightly smaller gun.

But what I really like is that Bobtail cut, as I thought I would. Because it meant that the relatively short grip fits my large hand better, without the extra corner digging into the bottom of my palm. Shooting my EMP was never a problem, but this is a whole lot better. It’s like the first time you put on new prescription glasses: suddenly things are better than you thought possible. For someone with smaller hands, it’s probably less noticeable, but for me it was surprising.

The other notable difference between the EMP and this EMP4 is the grips: on the new gun, they’re not as aggressively textured. I thought that it wasn’t *that* big a difference, but it might matter to some folks.

Something to think about. I’m certainly giving serious consideration to trading up from my old EMP to the new one. If I was going to rely on one or the other for concealed carry, I’d probably just keep the 3″ EMP. But for my needs, the new model is probably the right choice.

Gee, it sounds like I’ve talked myself into it …

Jim Downey


April 6, 2018 Posted by | 9mm Luger (9x19), Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reprise: Springfield EMP

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, and now that the holidays and other issues are passed, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for, and it originally ran 7/26/2012. Some additional observations at the end.


Last year (so, 2011) in my review of the Springfield EMP I concluded, “$1,100 is more than I have spent on any handgun previously and I don’t really need another concealed carry gun, which is also too heavy for pocket carry. I watched it disappear into the gun case … Guess I should start saving my money.”

Well, I had a change of heart. I should never have bothered saving the money to buy the gun. Nope. I should have sold something to get it because then I would’ve gotten it sooner.

Still impressed

In my initial review of the EMP, I was impressed with the overall quality of the gun. Impressed with how it had been redesigned around the smaller cartridge size of the 9mm and the .40 S&W, rather than just adapted for those cartridges from the standard .45 ACP design of the 1911. Impressed with the overall quality. With the accuracy. With the way it felt in my hand.

Putting several hundred rounds through the gun, cleaning it a couple of times, carrying it as my primary self-defense gun for a week at a time – all of this has provided me ample opportunity to re-evaluate the EMP. And I am still impressed.

Real life use

The first thing I did after taking the gun home was to take it apart and clean it. It didn’t need it – it came clean and properly lubed – but this is my standard practice with a new gun. And with the EMP, it was the first chance I had to actually take one apart, since the one I tried previously belonged to my friend.

Disassembly was more or less routine for a 1911, but with two significant exceptions. The first is that the recoil spring is a captured assembly with the guide rod and using the little plastic clip Springfield provides makes it much easier to assemble and disassemble the gun. The other is that unlike most 1911s the EMP doesn’t have a barrel bushing – the barrel itself is flared out to match up to the slide.

The gun then went for a trip out to the range with my wife and I. I put a couple hundred rounds of factory ball ammo (124 grain, standard pressure), a bit less of my practice reload ammo (same specs), and about 60 rounds of mixed premium self-defense ammo through the gun (about half of the different ammos tested for Ballistic By The Inch). Just to be sure, I ran a couple of extra magazines of my preferred carry ammo (Speer short-barrel 124 gr GDHP +P) through it. It ate everything. It ejected everything. It was accurate with everything. I didn’t have a single problem with it.

My wife, on the other hand, did. Several times she had problems with the gun cycling completely. She’s not too much for shooting semi-autos, as she greatly prefers revolvers, and it was clear that the problem was limp-wristing. With a short action and stiff recoil spring you need to hold the grip firmly so it functions correctly.

I tried to reproduce the problem, but I couldn’t do it. I’m much more used to shooting a small semi-auto. As a point of information, I can create this problem with a number of other even smaller semi-autos including one I own.

First impressions really last: I still love it

So, what did I think after putting the EMP through its paces?

Well, I still love it. It was easy for me to shoot well, in that “dynamic” way I mentioned in my previous review. At 10 and 25 yards I was able to consistently pop 6-inch spinner targets and tin cans, shifting quickly from one to the next.

The trigger is crisp and breaks cleanly, aiding accuracy. Recoil is very manageable for such a small gun, meaning you can stay on target for multiple shots. And shooting several hundred rounds through the gun in a short period of time didn’t leave my hands sore or me tired.

There’s gotta be something I don’t like

Yeah, there are a couple of really minor things. One is that the gun doesn’t have any stippling or grooves or anything on the front strap of the grip. With the aggressive relief on the G10 grips on the one I got, this isn’t really a problem, but something on the front would probably make the gun just that much more secure in the hand.

And those G10 grips do present a minor issue I hadn’t considered previously. The relief on them is so aggressive that I needed to get a new holster for summer carry – the one that comes with the gun, and the OWB pancake holster I had for a micro 1911 (which fits the EMP perfectly) doesn’t have a body shield and you need one or the grips will chew up your skin.

Conclusion, revisited

This is a hell of a gun. Small enough to carry comfortably, but equally comfortable for an extended trip to the range. At 27 ounces, it’s too heavy for a pocket gun, but I’m more than a bit leery of carrying a ‘cocked & locked’ 1911 in a pocket anyway. In terms of size for holster carry, the EMP is very comparable to a J-frame and holds twice the number of rounds.

Yeah, I’m glad I got it.


And I still have it, though it is currently on loan to a friend who is considering getting one. In the 5+ years that I have had it, my opinion hasn’t changed much at all from what is written above. My new favorite 9mm carry ammo is the Buffalo Bore 124gr +P+, and the EMP handles that as well as all other ammo I’ve run through it over the years. The little EMP is still a great gun to shoot, though I honestly haven’t carried it all that much in the last couple of years.

One thing additional to note: recently Springfield came out with a slightly different version of the gun called the “EMP® 4” Lightweight Champion™ with Concealed Carry Contour“.  Here it is:

See that cut-off angle on the bottom of the grip? That’s Ed Brown’s “Bobtail” from his Kobra Carry. I haven’t shot the new Springfield version yet, but I really liked how that felt on the Kobra Carry. A friend of mine got one of the new guns, and I look forward to trying it. I could see trading-up from my original EMP for one of those.

Jim Downey

January 7, 2018 Posted by | .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19), Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ammo test results for a pair of 1911s

This is the second in a series of informal blog posts about the .45 ACP/Super/.450 SMC testing sequence we conducted over the Memorial Day weekend. You can find the previous post here.

Today we’re going to see what the results are for a couple of different high-end 1911 platform guns. The first is an Ed Brown Kobra Carry (reviewed here), a Commander-sized (4.25″ barrel) single stack designed as a concealed-carry gun. We made no modifications of it for the more powerful loads. Here it is during our testing:

Ed Brown

The second is a Wilson Combat Hunter set up for the .460 Rowland cartridge with a 5.5″ barrel. Here’s my review of it, and here it is on the day of testing:

Wilson hunter

As I said with the other two posts about these tests, it’ll be a while before we have all the data crunched and the website updated, but I thought I would share some preliminary thoughts and information through a series of informal posts.

Quick note about the data below: All the ammo used, with the exception of the four * items, were part of our overall test sequence and had three shots made over the Oehler chronograph (which is a double-unit, and automatically records and then averages the two readings), representing a total of 6 data points. I’m just giving the overall averages here; the full data will be available on the website later. The four * ammunition types only include two shots/four data points through the Ed Brown Kobra Carry,  since it is a typical length for a self-defense gun. That’s because we only had one box of each of this ammo, and were wanting to get data which would be of the greatest use to the largest number of people.

Ammo                                                         Ed Brown Kobra Carry              Wilson Combat Hunter

      Buffalo Bore

.45 ACP Low Recoil Std P 185gr FMJ-FN                 798 fps / 261 ft-lbs                       791 fps / 256 ft-lbs

.45 ACP Std P 230gr FMJ-RN                                811 fps / 335 ft-lbs                       819 fps / 342 ft-lbs

.45 ACP +P 185gr JHP                                       1130 fps / 524 ft-lbs                     1139 fps / 532 ft-lbs

.45 ACP +P 230gr JHP                                        952 fps / 462 ft-lbs                       970 fps / 480 ft-lbs

.45 Super 185gr JHP                                         1257 fps / 648 ft-lbs                     1312 fps / 706 ft-lbs

.45 Super 200gr JHP                                         1175 fps / 613 ft-lbs                     1216 fps / 656 ft-lbs

.45 Super 230gr FMJ                                         1067 fps / 581 ft-lbs                     1105 fps / 623 ft-lbs

.45 Super 230gr JHP                                         1084 fps / 600 ft-lbs                     1109 fps / 627 ft-lbs

.45 Super 255gr Hard Cast                                 1061 fps / 637 ft-lbs                     1074 fps / 653 ft-lbs

      Double Tap

.45 ACP +P 160gr Barnes TAC-XP                        1121 fps / 446 ft-lbs                     1162 fps / 479 ft-lbs

.450 SMC 185gr JHP                                          1310 fps / 704 ft-lbs                     1350 fps / 748 ft-lbs

.450 SMC 185gr Bonded Defense JHP                  1254 fps / 645 ft-lbs                     1294 fps / 687 ft-lbs

.450 SMC 230gr Bonded Defense JHP                  1103 fps / 621 ft-lbs                     1108 fps / 626 ft-lbs


Critical Defense .45 ACP Std P 185gr FTX               969 fps / 385 ft-lbs                       976 fps / 391 ft-lbs

Critical Duty .45 ACP +P 220gr Flexlock                  932 fps / 424 ft-lbs                       936 fps / 427 ft-lbs


.45 Super 170gr CF                                           1249 fps / 588 ft-lbs                     1259 fps / 598 ft-lbs

.45 Super 185gr XTP JHP                                   1285 fps / 678 ft-lbs                     1339 fps / 736 ft-lbs

.45 Super 230gr GD JHP                                     1071 fps / 585 ft-lbs                    1099 fps / 616 ft-lbs

*Federal  HST .45 ACP Std P 230gr JHP                815 fps / 339 ft-lbs

*G2 Research  RIP  .45 ACP Std P 162gr JHP        961 fps / 332 ft-lbs

*LeHigh Defense .45 Super 170gr JHP               1165 fps / 512 ft-lbs

*Liberty  Civil Defense .45 ACP +P 78gr JHP         1843 fps / 588 ft-lbs

As with the other guns I’ve posted about, the general trends are pretty clear with the power rising as you go from standard pressure to +P to Super/.450 SMC, and topping out at about 750 foot-pounds of energy in a couple of loads. And it is interesting to note that the 185gr loads seem to be the “sweet spot” in terms of power across the board.

Of course, pure power is just one component for what makes a good ammunition choice. Bullet design & penetration is extremely important when considering a self-defense load. Shootability in your gun is also critical — because if you can’t recover quickly from shot to shot, then you may limit your ability in a stressful situation. Likewise, if the ammo doesn’t function reliably, or damages your gun, that is also a huge factor.

Most of the ammo we tested functioned very well in both 1911 platforms.  Interestingly, while we had experienced FTFs (failure-to-fire) with a number of the different Double-Tap rounds in both the Bobergs and the Glocks, we didn’t experience any such problems with either 1911.

The larger platform of the Wilson Combat Hunter handled the recoil very well, even from the hottest loads. Recoil was a little more noticeable with the Ed Brown, but only by a slight amount. As I noted with the Glock 21 converted for the .460 Rowland,  I was impressed that The Wilson Combat Hunter didn’t have any problems cycling even the lightest loads reliably.

Another note: we were unable to detect any damage or unusual wear to either gun, though it is possible a steady diet of loads of that power could cause some over the long term.

Lastly, I ran some .460 Rowland Buffalo Bore 230gr JHP cartridges through the Wilson Combat Hunter, since we had only had one type of ammo for that gun when we did the .460 Rowland tests.  That had been Cor-Bon Hunter 230gr JHP. The Cor-Bon tested at 1213 fps / 751 ft-lbs, and the Buffalo Bore tested at 1349 fps / 929 ft-lbs of energy.

Look for more results, images, and thoughts in the days to come.

Jim Downey

June 9, 2015 Posted by | .45 Colt, .45 Super, .450 SMC, .460 Rowland, Data, Discussion., General Procedures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments