A 1911 review of a downsized semi-auto pistol that is made for carry.
My first experience with large caliber semi-auto pistols was with a 1911. For many years, a 1911 was the only centerfire semi-auto I owned, and I learned to love John Browning’s remarkable design. Try to imagine any other mechanical design that’s still at the zenith of its life after more than 100 years of use. 1911s have been the mainstay of competition pistols since a few years after their introduction, and they’re still at the top.
Last year, I reviewed Springfield Armory’s Range Officer in 9mm. One of my friends who’s competed in almost every imaginable kind of competition and shot dozens of 1911s during his shooting career remarked that the 9mm Range Officer was one of the nicest out-of-the-box pistols he’s ever shot. He even proclaimed it to perhaps be the best bargain in modern firearms.
Originally a candidate in a Defense Department trial to find a lighter service pistol for officers, the Colt Commander was the first lightweight 1911. Chambered in 9mm and with an aluminum alloy frame and a 4¼-inch barrel, Colt put the Commander into production in 1950.
When I found out Springfield Armory was making a compact version, I knew I had to try one out and emailed Springfield Armory that same day requesting a test gun. The Range Officer Compact is a smaller gun than the Colt Commander of my youth. It has a 4-inch barrel and an aluminum alloy frame, and an Officer-length grip.
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The front strap is smooth and the flat back strap is checkered in a high-grip, fine checkering pattern. There’s an extended beavertail grip safety with a generous bump at the bottom to allow shooters with thin hands to engage the grip safety.
My hands are slender enough that I can’t rest my thumb on the thumb safety of guns without the bump and still be sure I’ll keep the grip safety engaged. The thumb safety is oversized and on the right side only. I think this is a good idea on a carry 1911.
While I haven’t carried a 1911 as a daily CCH gun, I’ve had friends in law enforcement advise me that an ambidextrous safety might not be a good idea on a carry 1911 because it can be disengaged by seat belts and other objects the shooter comes in contact with. If you need a left-hand safety, it’s an easy and economical add on.
The trigger is a long, lightweight speed trigger. On my test gun the trigger broke with a slight amount of creep at just over 5 pounds, reasonable for a concealed carry defense gun. There are angled, generous cocking serrations on the rear area of the slide. The hammer is a skeletonized Commander style.
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Sights are a combat style two-dot rear and a high-visibility front with both green and red replacement material provided. The slide sports a flat Parkerized finish, and the aluminum frame is black Hardcoat anodized and matches well. The grips are thin cocobolo with double diamonds at the attachment screws and the familiar crossed cannons Springfield Armory logo.
A Bull-Barreled Gun
While the standard Range Officer is straight laced all the way, the design of the Range Officer is drastically different from the build of older 1911s. The Compact is a bull-barreled gun without a barrel bushing. The stainless steel match-grade barrel features a fully supported ramp, and there’s a full-length recoil spring guide rod and dual recoil springs.
Shooting the Range Officer Compact is similar to shooting an old style Commander except with better sights and more ergonomic controls. Recoil with 230-grain hardball and +P defense loads is snappy but manageable. It’s my theory that you carry a gun more than you shoot it, and if you use the gun to defend yourself, you’ll never feel the recoil. Obviously, second shot recovery is always an issue with hard kicking guns, but no one will argue the potential of the .45 ACP round, and heavy guns often get left at home.
Accuracy was more than adequate, though it seemed to take 50 or so rounds for it to settle down. Of course, this might have been me. After a couple hundred rounds, I managed a pretty respectable 10-shot group at 10 yards. Slow fire and rapid fire were both manageable and plenty accurate. It wasn’t a problem running the plate machine at 10 yards while staying on the standard six-second time limit.
Most of my shooting was done with Winchester 230-grain Target and Win 1911 230-grain Target. I also ran a couple of boxes of 185-grain Silvertips, and there wasn’t a single malfunction.
Like the standard Range Officer, the Range Officer Compact is a lot of gun for the money. If I were to voice a suggestion, it would be to include at least one slightly longer magazine for pocket carry or perhaps to extend the magazine just a bit to allow for seven rounds. Of course, longer magazines for 1911s are not difficult to find. Extra magazine capacity is always a good thing.
The RO Compact functions flawlessly and is more than accurate enough for the purpose intended. There’s a hard plastic case with a holster, magazine pouch, two six-round magazines, tools and extra sight insert material. As is the usual case for Springfield Armory, it’s a lot of gun and an excellent value.
This article also appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Springfield Armory Range Officer Compact
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 6 + 1
Magazines: Blued steel with witness holes
Barrel: 4-in. stainless steel, ramped match grade
Sights: Two-dot combat style rear and high-visibility front
Frame: Aluminum alloy with anodized matte finish
Slide: Forged steel, Parkerized
Length: 7.6 in.
Height: 5 in.
Weight: 28.5 oz.
Options: Comes with a hard plastic case, holster, magazine pouch, two six-round magazines, tools and extra sight insert material