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Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 9mm Compact Carry 1911: Full Review

The 1911 is alive and strong, and models like the Springfield Armory EMP Ronin are great for concealed carry.

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 9mm Compact Carry 1911: Full Review

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911 (Handguns Photo)

Springfield Armory has been on a roll of late, adding a new 10mm carry version of its XD line of pistols, reviving the Browning Hi Power with the SA-35, and redefining the micro-compact pistol with the high-capacity Hellcat. Recently, Springfield set out to optimize one of the most revered pistol platforms of all time with the release of its Ronin EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol), a 1911 that’s optimized for concealed carry.

The Ronin EMP is chambered in 9mm and is available in two versions. One version comes with a three-inch barrel and has a capacity of nine rounds, while the second has a four-inch barrel with a 10-round mag. Both pistols come with blued steel slides, aluminum frames and walnut grips, and both have more than 10 parts that are proprietary to this 1911 model. Also, neither weighs more than 28 ounces unloaded.

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911
Ronin EMPs come with a classic 1911 control layout, and besides size, what really sets them apart is the great-looking two-tone hot-salt-blue slide and satin aluminum frame. (Handguns photo)

Even after a century, the 1911 remains a very popular pistol that has fared well in the face of competition from polymer-frame pistols. But there are some features that favor newer designs. For starters, the 1911 was initially chambered in .45 ACP, and rightly or wrongly, the personal defense world, the military and law enforcement have come to favor the 9mm. Springfield recognized this, but rather than choosing to simply build a traditional 1911 with a 9mm barrel, the company decided that if it was changing the chamber dimensions, it might as well go ahead and change the whole gun. These pistols aren’t 9mms built around the 1911 but rather 1911s built around the 9mm.

Ronin Upgrades

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911
The rosewood-colored grips have the crossed-cannon Springfield logo, and the magazines come with bumper pads, which aid in loading. (Handguns photo)

Weight savings were a first step. By utilizing a forged aluminum alloy receiver for both the three-and four-inch Ronin EMPs, Springfield keeps the weight of these guns comparable to their polymer-frame counterparts. For example, the three-inch Ronin EMP with an unloaded nine-round magazine weighs 24 ounces while company’s XD-S Mod.2 9mm with an unloaded extended nine-round magazine in place weighs 22.5 ounces. The four-inch Ronin EMP boasts a 10-round capacity and weighs 27.5 ounces, which is right there with the XD-M Elite 3.8 9mm at 27 ounces—although the latter does give you one extra round.

The Ronin EMP’s frame not only is made of aluminum alloy but also is shortened, one of the revisions Springfield made to the standard 1911 design. The action is also shortened, which gives the three-inch Ronin an overall length of 6.6 inches, which is 0.3 inch shorter than Smith & Wesson’s Pro Series three-inch 1911 9mm. The four-inch Ronin measures 7.6 inches. More noticeable than the altered frame length is the substantially reduced grip radius. The Ronin EMP comes with a grip that measures 1.1 inches wide at the base of the grip safety. By contrast, a 1911 .45 Government pistol with the same style grips measures 1.25 inches wide, and the 1911 .45 ACP also had a grip that was 0.2 inch deeper than the Springfield from front to rear.

Variations of 0.15 and 0.2 inch don’t seem significant until you pick up a Ronin EMP, especially if you’re accustomed to shooting and carrying a 1911. The Ronin EMP also fits closer to the body, which makes it easier to conceal than standard 1911s. In addition to the frame dimensions, other proprietary elements on the Ronin EMP include slide, firing pin, firing pin spring, extractor, ejector, trigger and more. Both Ronin EMP pistols come with metal Mec-Gar magazines with extended base pads.

Springfield’s Ronin EMP pistols have a long list of premium features. Like other Springfield Ronin pistols, the EMP features a slide made from forged carbon steel that is hot-salt blued with a matte top to reduce glare and sports a high-polish finish on the flats. The slide’s edges are nicely beveled for improved aesthetics and comfort, and there are rear serrations only. The hot-salt bluing on the forged steel slide mates nicely with the Satin Aluminum Cerakote finish on the frame. The hammer and Gen 2 Speed trigger are skeletonized, and the beavertail safety is enlarged.

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911
The Ronin EMPs employ a bushing-less bull barrel and full-length guide rod. The four-inch gun has a flat-wire recoil spring while the three-incher has a dual captive spring. (Handguns photo)

Ronin EMP pistols feature quality wooden grips with Springfield’s signature crossed cannons logo with diamond checkering on the lower portion of the grip. The rosewood finish on the grips looks good against the silver frame and blued slide—which is the distinguishing style of all Ronin pistols—and more importantly, the grips offer a secure hold on the pistol while firing.

The thin design allows the gun to ride close to the body, making this quite possibly the easiest 1911 to conceal. There is checkering on the mainspring housing of both pistols, but the frontstraps are smooth.

Forged stainless steel match bull barrels are standard features on Ronin EMP pistols. The barrels are fully ramped, and the barrel finish and machining are smooth and clean. The barrel’s beefy profile adds at bit of weight, but the payoff is extremely good accuracy. Additionally, because they lack barrel bushings, both Ronin EMPs fieldstrip more simply and rapidly than traditional 1911s. You can disassemble these guns almost as fast as you can a polymer-frame pistol, and there’s no need to pull the trigger.

There is a bit of a difference between the two in this regard. While both pistols have full-length guide rods, the three-inch gun has a dual captive recoil spring while the four-incher has a flat-wire spring. To disassemble the three-inch gun, remove the mag, lock the slide to the rear, ensure the gun is unloaded, then snap the supplied plastic takedown piece over the exposed portion of the guide rod. Position the slide so the stop aligns with the disassembly notch, remove the stop and pull off the slide. Withdraw the recoil spring and the barrel. The four-inch gun has a similar disassembly process except it uses a wire takedown piece that is inserted into a hole in the guide rod.

This sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Like I said, it’s easier to work with than the typical bushing-based setup. One of my primary grievances with most carry pistols is that the sights seem to be an afterthought. This is not the case with the Ronin guns. Tactical Rack white-dot rear sights and a fiber-optic front sight are dovetailed into the slide of Ronin EMP pistols and offer a clear sight picture even in low light. The tactical ledge on the rear sight is large enough to be functional and comes with glare-reducing serrations and beveled edges. The fiber-optic front sight grabs the attention and is superior, at least in my mind, to the standard issue three-white-dot layout. The slide is not machined for reflex sights.


Classic Controls 

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911
The Tactical Rack rear sight allows you to rack the pistol one-handed should your support hand become disabled. (Handguns photo)

The controls are 1911 basic on both pistols and comprise a single-side thumb safety, a round magazine release button and a slide stop. The controls are crisp and easy to operate. The safety clicks on and off with authority, and the slide stop is large enough to be functional. The 1911’s controls are superior to most of the spongy or miniaturized controls that pass muster on some polymer-frame pistols. In an armed conflict, when hands are trembling and nerves are up, the ability to operate your weapon effectively is paramount.

I carried both versions of the Ronin EMP, and both rank among my favorite 1911s for everyday carry. Weight is minimal, and these guns are easy to conceal even under light clothing. The weather was transitioning from late winter to early spring when I carried these guns. I favored the four-inch version when conditions called for outside-the-waistband carry and a midweight cover garment. As warmer weather arrived and I switched to lighter top garments, the three-inch Ronin EMP carried in an inside-the-waistband holster became the favored option. But with a bit of planning and careful wardrobe selection, both pistols could be carried inside the waistband.

Both guns proved more accurate than many polymer guns. That’s because you’ve got a premium barrel and premium components throughout. The Gen 2 Speed trigger’s crisp, clean pull also contributes to accuracy. It was 5.5 pounds for the three-inch gun and 5.2 pounds for the four-inch gun based on an average of 10 pulls on a Wheeler gauge. From a fixed rest at 25 yards, the four-inch Ronin shot slightly better than its three-inch counterpart, but both guns are very good. The three-inch Ronin EMP produced a 1.72-inch five-shot group.

At the same distance the four-inch gun punched five holes into 1.24 inches, and three of the five shots were practically in the same hole.  The four-inch barrel also boosted muzzle velocities by 50 to 100 fps on average. Reliability was excellent. Between testing both versions, I fired more than 250 rounds—a count that included seven different loads—and there was not a single malfunction. Another factor that enhances accuracy is the quality of the sights, and Springfield deserves a pat on the back for putting useful, practical sights on their handguns. The layout isn’t as fancy as some 1911 pistols with tritium night sights, but the red fiber-optic front sight is easy to see in a variety of light conditions.

Both guns enjoy the benefits of being 1911s, and there are plenty of accessories to fit them. Want an inside-the-waistband or an outside-the-waistband holster for your Ronin EMP? There are hundreds of options, and if your local gun shop carries even a few holsters in stock, there’s a good chance that one of them will work well with these pistols. The Ronin EMP is also a good choice for a first-time 1911 owner or someone who isn’t familiar with the platform. I normally shy away from suggesting 1911s to first-time gun buyers because the layout is more complicated than the average point-and-click polymer pistol design.

However, the modest grip size and the easy-to-use control layout won’t hinder new shooters from quickly becoming comfortable with this gun. Recoil is manageable even with hot defense loads. Suggested retail price for both pistols is $899, which comes in below Kimber’s Stainless Pro Carry II 9mm ($1,012) and Ruger’s SR1911 Officer and Commander ($1,209). When you balance price and functionality, the Ronin EMP gives you everything you need.

Which Ronin EMP version should you buy? The three-inch gun combines concealability with potent capacity, but the four-inch gun offers a longer sight radius and an extra round in the magazine. Springfield makes good guns, and good guns make good investments—not that you’ll ever want to sell your pistol. You might find out that these are just the 1911s you’ve been waiting for all these years.

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911
(Handguns photo)

Springfield Armory EMP Ronin 1911 Specs

  • Type: Hammer-fired, semiautomatic 1911
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 9 rds. (3 in.), 10 rds. (4 in.)
  • OAL/Height/Width: 6.6/4.8/0.9 in. (3 in.); 7.6/5.1/0.9 in. (4 in.)
  • Weight: 24 oz. (3 in.), 27.5 oz. (4 in.) 
  • Grips: Checkered wood with Springfield logo
  • Finish: Blued slide, Satin Aluminum Cera- kote frame
  • Trigger: 5.2 lb. (4 in.), 5.5 lb. (3 in.) 
  • Sights: Tactical Rack white-dot rear; red fiber-optic front
  • MSRP: $899
  • Manufacturer: Springfield Armory

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