Pocket Power In An 8-Shot .40 S&W.
The now wildly popular Springfield EMP emerged in 2007 as an alloy-frame downsized 1911 chambered for 9x19mm with the steel-frame .40 S&W variation coming on board in 2008. The consumer base for such a handgun is enthusiastic, dedicated, and demanding, comprised of the sort of shooters who will pay a premium for his equipment, use it regularly and have the skill set to determine if it meets high expectations of performance. Half a decade later, the EMP enjoys sustained and growing acceptance among this rather unforgiving demographic.
Our sample .40 S&W EMP arrived a complete CCW system. The pistol itself resembles the Pythagorean Ideal established by such classics as the 1908 Colt and the 1911. Observers often deem the fit and finish comparable to the best offerings of custom makers. The stainless slide, black-coated frame and the deep red cocobolo grips present quite a harmonious package.
Practical enhancements include Novak-pattern Trijicon night sights, ambidextrous safety, and a match trigger that settled in at 5 pounds after lubrication and initial shooting. The EMP is drop-safe by virtue of a light firing pin and heavy firing pin spring and has no passive firing pin block. Its standard accompaniment consists of three 8-round magazines, a tension-adjustable Kydex holster and double magazine carrier, an assortment of hex wrenches a spacer to capture the recoil spring assembly for easy disassembly and keys for the unobtrusive and unproblematic Internal Locking System hidden away on the mainspring housing.
It could use a Torx 15 driver for the grip screws—an item that may be supplied in the near future. At 6.5 inches long and 5 inches tall, the pistol approaches the minimum practical dimensions for a pistol of this caliber. The grip circumference is significantly less than that of the full-size 1911s, consistent with the overall downsizing of the arm to conform to the length of 9x19mm and .40 S&W cartridges. The coned, bushingless bull barrel is 3 inches from muzzle to the back of the fully supported chamber and suitably configured for the shortened slide cycle. The double-recoil spring on a full-length guide rod is a near-necessity for a 1911-type pistol of this size adding greatly to the expected service life of the recoil system. Springfield Armory recommends replacement after 5,000 rounds. Some small, lock-breech handguns eat up their single-recoil springs within a few hundred shots.
Three shooters—two with large hands and one with hands small enough to become a primary concern when selecting a pistol—all felt the grip size and trigger reach of the EMP ideal. The grip diameter coupled with the beaver tail allowed all of them to quickly acquire and maintain a perfect shooting grip. All remarked felt recoil, even with the 155- and 165-grain Hornady loads at 1,200-plus fps, was surprisingly mild. Recoil and barrel rise were significantly lessened with the two loads using 140-grain lead-free hollowpoints. The 27-ounce weight, roughly equivalent to service-sized .40s with alloy or polymer frames is a significant factor in recoil abatement.
Initially, the EMP was hitting to the right. The rear sight is tightly fitted in the dovetail and retained by a set-screw. After I had regulated the sight, all loads were dead on for windage with some hitting slightly low and heavier bullets impacting a few inches over the sights. The CorBon and Black Hills loads using the 140-grain Barnes lead-free hollowpoint hit to the sights at 25 yards and turned in the smallest groups of 1.7 and 2.2 inches respectively. A couple of groups with the heavier bullets put the first round a couple of inches out of the primary group. When I re-shot these groups, the fliers went away indicating possible shooter-error as the actual cause. The EMP was reliable with all of the charted loads as well as the remnants of a box of Speer Gold Dots and 180-grain Black Hills JHP on hand. I had a single failure to feed when a 155-grain Black Hills JHP with a seemingly ideal ogive stopped against the barrel hood. There were no further malfunctions in about 300 rounds even with the sharp-edged, Barnes hollowpoints. Since the stoppage came early in the process it is likely a result of initial break-in.
My first “practical” exercise was the controllability drill that tasks the shooter with drawing the gun from the holster and putting 5 rounds in a 5-inch centered spread at 7 yards. My actual group measured 5.2 inches but with high-performance .40-caliber bullets as with horseshoes, hand grenades and thermonuclear events, “close” counts for something. Walking through the Texas Concealed Handgun Proficiency demo which consists of 50 rounds of timed fire from 3, 7, and 15 yards produced a 100-percent score with all but five rounds in the 10 and X rings. Maintaining shots within the 9-, 10- and X-ring of the B27 target at 25 yards is a reasonable expectation shooting unsupported from either a 1- or 2-handed hold.
At 1911forum.com, an entire subsection is devoted to the EMP. In the space of 2 years this site has expanded to 147 pages with about 25 posts per page devoted to EMP enthusiasm, modifications, performance and issues.
Unlike many Internet sites, the tone of this site is overwhelmingly positive. It is apparent that these pistols arrived in the marketplace fully vetted. Buyers did not discover any major design flaws. The problems that do occur instead seem to be random issues like light firing pin strikes and the occasional failure to feed with some ammunition. When issues arise, they are handled promptly by Springfield Armory’s historically excellent customer service.
By Mike Cumpston
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