October 11, 2021
No gun in history has been more refined than John Browning’s 1911 semi-auto pistol. Not that the original needed a lot of tweaking—today’s 1911 is, in many ways, very close to the gun that debuted over a century ago—but there are so many different versions of the pistol that it takes a lot to make a new gun stand out from the crowd. Springfield has done just that with the Ronin Operator, and now there’s a version with a 4.25-inch barrel and aluminum alloy frame to complement the five-inch, steel-frame Ronin that debuted last year.
The new Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin Operator 4.25 is designed for carry. The alloy frame is, naturally, lighter than steel, and the shorter barrel makes this version easier to conceal than its full-size cousin. The Ronin Operator 4.25 weighs just 29.5 ounces, more than 10 ounces lighter than the Ronin Operator 5-inch model and about a half-pound lighter than competing steel-frame Commander pistols.
In addition to being lighter, the Ronin Operator 4.25 is also thinner than many of its counterparts. The Springfield measures about 1.18 inches wide across its laminate crossed-cannon grips. By contrast, most 1911s measure between 1.25 inches and 1.35 inches across the grips, and while that doesn’t sound like much, you’ll feel it the moment you pick up the gun.
This makes it easier to conceal than Commander-length pistols with fat grip panels. At its widest point, across the controls, the Ronin Operator 4.25 measured 1.31 inches, similar to many compact striker-fired 9mms with manual safeties.
The pistol’s height when measured from the bottom of the base pad to the top of the rear sight is 5.6 inches, and although that’s taller than some competing carry guns, the tradeoff is more firepower and more grip space for better control and faster follow-ups.
While concealable, the Ronin Operator 4.25 offers plenty of capacity. The 9mm version holds nine rounds in the magazine, while the .45 ACP model holds eight. Those rounds are stored in a metal magazine with left- and right-side viewing ports and an extended base pad.
The 4.25-inch Ronin is an attractive gun, and its hot-blued steel slide looks good with the satin aluminum Cerakote frame and laminate grips. The Commander-length match-grade barrel is made from forged stainless steel and comes with a 1:16 twist and a fully supported ramp.
The slide is also forged stainless steel, and there are angled serrations on the rear of the slide. Both the fiber-optic front sight and two-dot, serrated rear sight are dovetailed into the slide, and the rear sight’s flat front makes one-handed racking easy—hence the Tactical Rack name. In traditional 1911 fashion the Ronin is equipped with a barrel bushing.
The Ronin checks all the boxes for a great, lightweight 1911 carry pistol, but it faces some stiff competition. Ruger’s SR1911 is slightly shorter than the Springfield by 0.15 inch, but the Ruger is about 0.2 inch wider and the capacity for the .45 ACP version is one less than the Springfield’s. Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center SW1911 is similar in size to the Ronin 4.25, but it’s twice as expensive.
Despite its minimal weight, the Ronin 4.25 .45 ACP produces manageable recoil thanks to the grip space. There’s no checkering on the frontstrap, but the mainspring housing is checkered, and there’s never the feeling the pistol is trying to somersault from your hand when firing.
Is it a beginner’s gun? Maybe not, but I believe most new shooters would feel more comfortable firing .45 rounds from this gun at 800 fps than they would cracking off rounds from a micro-compact 9mm pocket pistol with hot defensive ammo.
Accuracy was quite good. The best five-shot group fired from 25 yards measured 1.45 inches, and this gun consistently produced groups at or under two inches from that distance.
That’s not quite as good as some custom 1911s, but it’s pretty close, and that’s even more impressive considering this is a lightweight factory 1911 with a suggested retail price below $850. There were zero malfunctions throughout the test: This gun simply runs.
Accuracy is enhanced by the crisp, 4.6-pound, skeletonized, Gen 2 Speed trigger. Controls are standard 1911, and the thumb safety is left-side only. There’s a generous beavertail with a memory bump, and the magazines drop free of the gun cleanly with a press of the button.
My wish list for this gun is short. Front slide serrations are always nice, and a blued slide won’t stand up as well as some other finish options. I also wish the grip was bobbed like the SW1911. However, I do believe the Ronin Operator 4.25 is one of the best carry 1911s at this price point, and I think you’ll find the Springfield stacks up well with guns costing much more. Don’t be surprised if you pick this pistol up and feel that you’ve finally found your perfect carry 1911—at a price you can actually afford.
Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin Operator 4.25 Pistol Specs:
- Type: 1911
- Caliber: 9mm, .45 ACP (tested)
- Capacity: 8
- Barrel: 4.25 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.9/5.6/1.2 in.
- Weight: 29.5 oz.
- Grips: checkered laminate
- Finish: satin aluminum Cerakote-finished aluminum alloy frame, hot-blued carbon steel slide
- Trigger: 4.6 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: two-dot notch Tactical Rack rear, red fiber-optic front
- Price: $849
- Manufacturer: Springfield Armory, springfield-armory.com