1911s have long been a prevalent platform for defensive use. Generations have trusted their lives to the 1911, both in times of war and peace. The simple controls, sturdy construction and flat shooting nature of the platform have long been admired by a wide variety of shooters. The 1911 has many of the qualities shooters look for in a defensive pistol all while offering a great shooting experience.
1911s, if bought from a reputable manufacturer, generally have great fit and finish, a solid single-action trigger pull and good controllability. They are equipped with safeties, both a passive one on the rear of the grip and a manual one by the shooter’s thumb, which is important when using a single-action firearm for defense.
In my opinion, the most significant aspect of the 1911 as a defensive weapon is its great shooting characteristics, which can inspire confidence even in novice shooters. Naturally, many shooters like to carry what they shoot well on the range. The trouble for many comes when trying to conceal a full-size 1911. The long barrel, full-length grip and heft of all-metal construction make it less-than-optimal for concealment.
With concealed carry rising in popularity around the country, many shooters have decided to switch from the 1911 platform over to smaller, lighter and more compact platforms. By doing this, they may be able to carry concealed more comfortably. Unfortunately, this portability can come at a cost if you are a true fan of the 1911. Luckily, there is an option for shooters who want to retain the stellar shooting characteristics of the 1911s without sacrificing comfort of carry and portability.
Not Short on Performance
Cutting down a 1911 to compact dimensions is no easy task. It takes solid engineering and an understanding of the nuances of the design to make sure it will work, and work reliably. There is nothing more useless than an unreliable carry gun. Springfield Armory clearly has a deep background in the 1911, so it makes sense they not only decided to tackle this difficult subject, but also take it to the next level.
The Springfield EMP is an ultra-compact 1911 chambered in 9mm that was designed from the ground up for that cartridge. It is smaller than other 1911s on the market, designed specifically for the shorter 9mm round (as compared to the longer .45 ACP cartridge). The newest EMP pistols are the Ronin EMPs, available in 3” and 4” versions (see Jeremy Tremp’s review of these pistols).
The EMP is roughly 10-oz. or more lighter than most full-size 9mm 1911s, and is comparable in weight to many subcompact polymer-framed handguns currently on the market. It has an anodized aluminum alloy frame, which helps keep the weight low.
The EMP I have on hand to test is the earlier model with Trijicon tritium night sights and an ambidextrous safety. The gun also features a 3″, match-grade forged stainless barrel, which accounts for its ability to remain quite accurate despite its reduced size.
I enjoy having an ultra-compact 1911 like the EMP in my carry rotation for several reasons; the primary reason is confidence. In the case of an ultra-compact 1911, I have a greater sense of confidence as the gun is inherently shootable. Rather than a cramped, feather-light pocket pistol, this ultra-compact 1911 is a balanced, wieldable pistol with enough room for a full grip, yet small enough to be carried comfortably. The grip length is quite important as it is directly related to how easily the gun can be controlled during recoil. The ability to get a solid grip on a small pistol should not be underestimated.
Another confidence booster provided by the ultra-compact is the use of standard sights as opposed to the minimalist sights found on many carry-oriented pistols. The tritium sights on this pistol, or the fiber optic ones on the Ronin EMPs, are quick to pick up and offer a remarkable degree of accuracy for such a small gun. However, the sights are still low-profile enough to not snag on clothing during the draw.
Another reason I enjoy carrying an ultra-compact is the minimal space taken up by spare magazines. The 9-round magazines are slim and easily fit into a pocket if a dedicated mag holder is not being used.
Another advantage of the micro 1911 for those who have trained on the design is familiarity. All of the controls on the ultra-compact 1911 are the same as those found on the full size. This means that manipulations practiced with the full-size 1911 will transfer over almost completely to the smaller gun. The exception to this is in the manipulation of the ultra-compact’s smaller slide. That being said, I’ve had no issues manipulating it, even during rushed reload drills.
An ultra-compact 1911 performs quite well when stacked up against other concealed carry handguns. The smoothness of function in an ultra-compact is especially evident when shooting it alongside other carry guns. It simply feels good to manipulate and shoot in my opinion. There are no uncomfortable or odd surfaces on the gun. This not only provides pleasant handling characteristics, but makes the gun more comfortable to have pressed up against you all day when carried concealed.
In the end, selecting a concealed carry firearm is all about preference. Some shooters want the highest capacity. Others look for compatibility with their favorite red-dot optics. But, all shooters have one thing in common when searching for a concealed-carry handgun — they want it to shoot well, despite its small stature.
While the ultra-compact 1911 might not be the newest design on the block, it deserves consideration for carry on the grounds that it is an easily concealed and highly shootable handgun. For me, the ultra-compact 1911 is a fresh spin on a timeless classic. It allows 1911 shooters to carry over the things they love most about their platform into a gun small enough to take with them everywhere. The key is to make sure you select a quality one that is 100 percent reliable, and from a reputable manufacturer. The EMP is certainly my choice!
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