December 1, 2021

The Long and the Short of It: Ronin vs. EMP


If you want to separate handgunners into two major categories, there is the 1911 crowd – and there is everyone else. And don’t think this is a generation gap or Fudd vs. Hipster topic, because I know plenty of youngsters who have that 1911-or-nothing attitude. And if you’re in that camp, or undecided and curious – today’s choices are exponentially more plentiful than those that existed when I was a young man. The model of 1911 used to come in one size, with few optional features, and in one caliber – .45 ACP.

Ronin vs. EMP 1911 9mm pistols
In this head-to-head prizefight, the author considers which 1911-style 9mm you should consider for practical uses.

Today, the 1911 design has nearly as many variants as there are other types of handguns. This ranges from size and features to chambering. In recent years, a resurgence in popularity of the platform has blended with the modern desire for the more manageable 9mm cartridge, and with it the slight increase in capacity. Those who desire John Moses Browning’s legacy for personal defense, whether inside or outside the home have an abundance of options, and not surprisingly – many of those are to be found at Springfield Armory – a long-time manufacturer of high-quality 1911s in all budget ranges.

Today, we’re taking a look at two 1911 variants chambered in 9mm – the full-sized Ronin and the miniature EMP. What are the differences in practical use? Is one more accurate? What about reliability? Capacity? Let’s dive in.

Overview

The Ronin is the quintessential 1911 form factor – a 5” barreled, solid steel and stainless-steel construction, 41 oz. workhorse that has, in Springfield Armory fashion, some very nice ‘extras’ baked in. Those include an excellent set of sights that combines a fiber optic front with a tactical style rear, as well as a nice trigger and exceptional fit and finish.

Hornady Critical Duty ammo with Springfield Ronin 1911
Hornady’s Critical Duty load is a potent round when combined with a Springfield Ronin or EMP.

The EMP is a “honey, I shrunk the 1911” version with a 3″ barrel, an aluminum alloy frame and stainless-steel slide, combat style Tritium night sights, and slides into the waistband with just a 6.6” overall length and 27 oz. form. I encourage you to read Robert Sadowski’s review of the EMP Concealed Carry Contour 9mm pistol.

Springfield Ronin vs. EMP height comparison
There are significant differences between the dimensions of the Ronin and EMP pistols. Which best fits your needs?

Both pistols evaluated have a 9+1 capacity with the standard magazine.

Head-to-Head

While the full-sized Ronin can certainly be carried concealed, the challenges of concealing a pistol this size (especially in summer) are considerable. The EMP on the other hand, is a much smaller package and weighs much less. Where the Ronin shines is in recoil management and long sight radius, making it a nice option for range days and competition. While not at all bad, you’ll feel more recoil and have a bit more muzzle rise with the 3” EMP.

Profile comparison of EMP and Ronin pistols by Springfield Armory
This is another look at the size differences between the two pistols. The EMP is clearly smaller for CCW, but that might not be what you need.

Accuracy is always a topic of interest when comparing a sub-compact pistol to a full-sized duty gun. And while the laws of physics still haven’t been repealed, I do find that modern ballistics technology combined with improved barrel manufacturing tend to flatten the curve.

I tested both these guns on a CTK Precision pistol rest at 15 yards, using Fiocchi 124 gr. FMJ and Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr. +P. This provides a nice contrast in ammunition types. The Ronin liked the Fiocchi a bit better, printing a 5-shot group of 1.53” and the best 3 at only 0.66”. The EMP preferred the Hornady, with a 2.8” group of 5 and the best 3 at 1.2”. Off-hand shooting at 10 yards made consistent fist-sized groups with both guns and all ammo types used.

The Ronin is a very budget-friendly 1911 that has the build quality and features of a far more costly pistol and is one I would strongly recommend for home defense, range use, and entry-level competitors.

Man shooting Ronin pistol at range
Size and weight of the gun can affect how quickly you can shoot accurate follow-up shots.

The EMP is ideal for deeper concealed carry, while also being excellent for home defense. The standard night sights make it capable of a sight picture in the near-total darkness of a nighttime emergency. Its lighter weight and shorter height are two specs that are crucial to CCWs.

Conclusion

Regardless of which of these two 1911 models you might choose, you’ll have one of the best-built and most reliable handguns made.

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