I’ve handled a lot of 1911 pistols over the years. Many of them have been factory guns, while a significant number have been from smaller, custom shops. When done right, a 1911-style handgun is a thing of pure joy. When done wrong, the pistols are nothing more than an ineffective boat anchor.
What’s great about the Emissary line is that these pistols shoot and feel like custom guns costing twice as much as Springfield’s suggested retail price. From the feel of the aggressive texture to the flawless bluing on the slide, the Emissary 1911s can go toe-to-toe with any 1911 on the market today.
As I sit here writing this article, I have three of the four Emissary offerings available locked in my office safe. The fourth Emissary, a 4.25” pistol chambered in 9mm, is sitting next to me on the desk. It’s the newest addition to the line and I daresay it’s my favorite so far. Let me tell you a little about it.
The Perfect CCW 1911?
I don’t have any display guns. Nor do I own any barbecue guns that are dragged out just for show when company comes around. While I do have some guns for historical or nostalgic reasons, most of my firearms are intended for more serious pursuits such as defending my life or putting food on the table.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a high-end custom firearm. Quite the contrary; I have a great deal of respect for the artisans who produce them, and I admire the quality of their creations. It’s just that guns with a more practical purpose attract my attention — and my dollars.
That is one of the reasons why I like the new 1911 Emissary 4.25” 9mm pistol. It is a practical handgun, but one that Springfield Armory decided to also make remarkable. The result is a 9mm 1911 that might just be perfect for concealed carry.
Features of This Emissary
While many of the features of this pistol carry over from the rest of the Emissary line, I’d like to highlight a few things that are important to me.
First, this is a more compact pistol than the larger 5” Emissary guns. It has a 4.25” barrel with a commander-length recoil system. While the extra 0.75” of the longer gun does have advantages, I feel the shorter pistol simply balances better in my hands. Additionally, the length reduction aids in concealment when carrying outside the waistband.
Second, the fit on this gun feels so incredibly precise. It is on par with the best custom 1911 pistols I have shot. When I field-stripped the gun for the first cleaning, I halfway expected to see the slide was running on ball bearings. Likewise, the cosmetics of the Emissary 4.25” 9mm are beautiful. The bluing on the slide is rich with an almost jet-black color similar to polished obsidian.
The sights are true combat sights. Called U-Dot sights, they are some of the best found on any production pistol in the world today in my opinion. The front sight combines a tritium vial with a large photoluminescent ring for a bright, contrasting aiming point that jumps easily into the eye’s vision. Springfield uses the Tactical Rack U-Dot rear sight with a wide U-shaped notch that quickly aligns with the front sight.
Getting a solid grip on this pistol is easy. Springfield Armory combines the highly-effective Thinline G10 panels from VZ Grips with checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing called “grenade” checkering. It’s comfortable, yet highly “grippable.”
Additional features of this gun include a forged stainless steel, heavy-profile bull barrel, a square triggerguard and a forged carbon steel slide and forged stainless steel frame. The flat-top “Tri-Top” slide is serrated to reduce glare while the slide sides have large lightening grooves that work well for a gripping surface. Springfield Armory includes a pair of 9-round magazines that are fitted with base pads.
|Barrel||4.25” forged stainless steel, bull|
|Slide||Forged carbon steel, blued|
|Frame||Forged stainless steel|
|Sights||Tritium/luminescent front, tactical rack U-notch rear|
|Recoil System||Commander length|
|Grips||VZ Thin-Line G10|
|Magazines||(2) 9-round magazines included|
As with the other pistols in this line, the 1911 Emissary 4.25” 9mm proved a capable shooter on the range. Reliability was 100% with five different loads — two FMJ target loads and a trio of self-defense hollowpoints.
Recoil was even milder than I anticipated. While the gun is not a featherweight, neither is it a chunky beast. Nevertheless, the recoil from even high-pressure loads was very tame. Combined with the grip texture, the weight made controlling the pistol during shooting a breeze.
Accuracy was impressive. As with most guns, the machine is capable of more accuracy than I am. To reduce my natural ticks, flinches and breathing imperfections, I tested the gun’s accuracy using a simple rest on a bench at 15 yards. I’d shoot five rounds and then measure the best three, center to center. All three hollowpoint loads shot groups of less than 0.75” at this distance. The best of the bunch is the highly respected Federal HST. Three bullets made a single misshapen hole just off the center X that measured under 0.4”.
|Ammunition||Velocity||Energy||Best 3-Shot Group|
|Federal HST 147-gr. JHP||1,031 fps||347 ft-lbs||0.38”|
|Liberty Defense 50-gr. JHP +P||2,061 fps||566 ft-lbs||0.69”|
|Speer Gold Dot 124-gr. JHP||1,135 fps||355 ft-lbs||0.63”|
As delivered, the gun felt a touch tight. The more I shot, the more it seemed to loosen up — though accuracy and reliability were impressive throughout.
As with any gun you intend for personal protection, I recommend shooting no fewer than 500 rounds through it, including at least a couple of boxes of your intended carry load. I don’t know about you, but I want to find any potential flaws on the range and not on the street.
I don’t know if the Springfield 1911 Emissary 9mm with a 4.25” barrel is the best 1911 for concealed carry, but it certainly can make a credible claim to the title. Throughout my time testing it, the pistol met and exceeded every one of my expectations. The fit and finish are impeccable, while the performance was superb.
Earlier in the article, I referred to the price being half of what a comparable custom gun would cost you. I stand by that claim. Springfield Armory assigned a suggested retail price of $1,349 to this Emissary. I’ve handled and shot 1911 pistols with price tags north of $3,000 that aren’t as nice as this pistol.
If you find yourself in the market for a premium 1911 chambered in 9mm, you’d be hard-pressed to justify spending a dime on another pistol when this one is readily available.
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1911 Emissary Series
Federal Personal Defense HST 9mm
Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 9mm +P
Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection 9mm