Enhancing the EMP

John Harrison's custom take on Springfield's mini 1911.

John Harrison reworked the terrific Springfield EMP to create a gun that looks better and shoots better than the original pistol--which is no small feat.

Springfield's ultra-compact EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) is one of the slickest carry guns to come down the pike in a long time. Though its appearance is pure 1911, Springfield Armory's engineers scaled it down to fit the 9mm cartridge, creating a powerful, reliable carry piece that weighs just 26 ounces.

Custom pistolsmith John Harrison (harrisoncustom.com) was as enamored as many shooters by the EMP's many virtues, so he ordered one immediately. It ran flawlessly and shot great, but as an accomplished pistolsmith--and one who'd bought the EMP as a wedding gift for his daughter--he felt compelled to make some changes.

Harrison started by welding the original dovetail sight cuts and reshaping the top of the slide to its original contour. Then he flattened and serrated the slide top to 40 lines per inch. He also put 40 lpi serrations on the rear of the slide, a French border where the slide flat meets the top radius, and bevels on the bottom edge of the slide.

Harrison re-cut the sight dovetails and installed a serrated Novak front sight with a white dot and a rear sight by SDM. He re-contoured the rear sight for one-handed slide operation and enlarged the rear sight notch for faster target acquisition.

Harrison kept the factory barrel, recoil spring and guide rod. He did, however, throat and polish the feed ramp to enhance reliability and re-cut the barrel crown for improved accuracy. Harrison wanted to refit the beavertail grip safety, but aluminum frames are not conducive to such work, so he sent the EMP back to the Springfield Custom Shop, which built up the tangs so he could refit them. The resulting refitted factory beavertail has a hairline fit.

Other improvements included a mainspring housing from VZ Grips that was checkered to 30 lpi with top and bottom borders. Harrison modified the frontstrap with a high cut and 30 lpi checkering with top and bottom borders. The frame was re-contoured to a round-butt profile, and he made and fitted a set of smooth, slim grips from cocobolo.

He also modified the frame with a countersunk and reshaped slide stop, a countersunk magazine release and a hand-finished magazine well. The safety is Wilson Combat's No. 6N. Ignition parts are all by Harrison Design. The trigger is a smooth, customized Grieder short trigger that broke at a very crisp three pounds, 11 ounces.

While the magazine still holds nine rounds, Harrison shortened the factory magazine, which protrudes a bit from the bottom of the frame in factory form, and TIG welded in a stainless floorplate. The modified magazine fits flush with the frame.

Finally, Harrison gave the little EMP his carry bevel package and polished the slide flats before sending it off for a classic, two-tone finish. The slide is finished in black IonBond DLC. The frame wears Metalife hard chrome over a base of electroless nickel. The result is striking and virtually weatherproof.

I had a chance to shoot the custom EMP. The EMP poured round after round into a coffee cup-sized group at seven yards. It also fed, fired, extracted, and ejected flawlessly.

At 15 yards from the bench, the three-inch barrel yielded nothing to my five-inch, 9mm 1911, with several groups measuring well under two inches. Recoil was a tiny bit snappier, but it was negligible compared to that of a full-size .45 ACP.

Next I did some seven-yard speed drills, and on paper I could easily keep fist-size groups centered on the target. I mowed down pepper poppers really fast and had no trouble schooling a few of my training partners on the dueling tree thanks to the gun's accuracy and capacity.

All in all, I would have to say the little EMP is the epitome of pocket pistol perfection. I'm sure Harrison's daughter will agree.

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