With the popularity of smaller 9mms for CCW, there has been a glut of introductions in that segment of the market. I’ve carried a Sig 228 and Glock 19 for years and thought it was time to try something a bit smaller and easier to carry. After looking very hard at what was available, I was drawn to the Springfield Armory EMP. This review is really more of a guided tour for those who might be looking at this for a future purchase.
I grew up with the 1911 and have known for years that it’s function starts to fall off as the barrel/slide length fall below 4.25”. Even Wilson Custom won’t guarantee their guns with barrel lengths shorter than 3.25”. But the EMP promised to be something special with an action reengineered to function with the 9mm length cartridge.
The EMP was originally forecast, at the SHOT Show, to be available in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 GAP. The 9mm comes with an alloy frame while the .40 has a steel frame…the .45 GAP has fallen by the wayside. The EMP has great proportions and the satin black of the frame, sights and hammer, contrasting with the polished slide stop, thumb safety, mag release and Main Spring Housing (MSH) are set off nicely with the bead blasted white trigger, barrel and slide
The EMP is not as small as I imagined. It is about the same size as my Kahr CW9.
As a matter of fact the CW9 is actually thinner (with its polymer frame not needing additional stock panels)
…especially with the EMP’s ambidextrous thumb safeties ( note the extractor – re later)
It comes equipped with a Novak rear sight fitted with Trijicon night sights and a serrated front blade with a front dot
a nice touch you usually only see on custom guns is that the base of the front sight has been blended into the slide’s contour.
The gun is full of touches that have become rare in production pistols…the slide and frame are lightly beveled…even the edges of the ejection port has been smoothed
…and the magazine well has been lightly flared
…and the magazine well has been lightly flared
Nice touches are the steel MSH, beavertail grip safety and the skeletonized hammer ( note the grip safety – re later)
I didn’t care for the drilled trigger, but I liked the subtle undercut of the trigger guard (it’s more felt than seen)
An interesting feature is what appears to be a bushingless bull barrel supported by a full length guide rod
However, when you retract the slide, you’ll find that the barrel isn’t flared/belled at the front, only the top surface is relieved back to the first locking lug…there are two
While the guide rod is a double spring affair
It looks like the initial recoil impulse is taken by the larger outer spring, while compressing the smaller inner spring in a separate tunnel
The feed ramp is integral with the barrel and the chamber is fully supported. The notch in the barrel hood allows for visual inspection for a loaded round
The slide to frame fit is very nice and there is no movement when you push down on the barrel hood
The only fit issues I had were the gap between the frame and the beavertail and the end of the extractor not being flush with the rear of the slide… referenced in the picture above …but then I have to remember that this pistol’s price just pushed into four figures!
The EMP comes with three magazines, made for Springfield by Mec-Gar
…which were the perfect length for my Ranger 127gr +P+
…and held them nice and high for pickup and feeding
I liked the South American Coco Bolo grip panels with the Springfield logo
…and the minimalistic lettering on the slide
I found it interesting that the EMP came with a checkered MSH (metal), but a smooth front strap…I’ll have to give it some thought before deciding what texture I might like on it. I’m also thinking about changing out the thumb safeties for a single sided one and the trigger for a solid one (maybe even a flat one). I might even be willing to suffer the lost of one round to get a flush bottomed magazine, as the grip frame has plenty of room for three fingers.
Shooting Impressions: It has been rainy and I had to shoot at an indoor range with terrible lighting. I really couldn’t get a good sight picture (it is no fun getting older) and had a hard time focusing much past 7 yards.
After warming up with some PMP 115gr FMJ, I thought I’d shoot it for a group with my intended carry load, the Ranger 127gr +P+ load and got this group
It measured about 1” by .5” (center to center) shooting 2 handed at about 1 round a second. Enough time for the sights to settle and squeeze off another round (the nick in the upper left hand corner was one of the warm up rounds)
Function: The EMP functioned flawlessly, feeding 100% with all 3 magazines it came with. The rounds released cleanly from the Mac-Gar magazines and fed with no stoppages on the feed ramp. There had been reports of the early models having tight extractors and chambers (which were taken care of by SA), but that certainly wasn’t the case on this example, extraction was clean with both cases I tried.
Trigger: The trigger was a bit heavier than I would have preferred, but broke cleanly and consistently…very suitable of defensive carry.
Recoil: The recoil was a bit more snappy then I thought it would be, almost as much as my Kahr CW9 with the polymer frame. Nothing really objectionable, but I can see how it requires a firm hold.
Sights: I found the Trijicon dots in the Novak rear sight distracting when trying to align the sights. The silver rings caught the light of the range lights and that kept catching me eye. I was pretty happy with the group I shot, except that it was centered about 3” high (that’s an adhesive name tag in the picture). It most likely was a result of me not getting a distinct sight picture. I’ll have to take it out when the weather clears up and see if it gets better in natural light.
The gun was tight and showed no undue wear after the range session. The only visible wear is at the muzzle of the barrel and the locking lugs seating in the slide.
The grip safety was fitted well enough to avoid any pinching of the web of my hand.
The thumb safety clicked on and off smoothly with just about the right amount of resistance.
The magazines all locked in positively when inserted with authority…you can’t baby them into the mag well as there is quite a bit of upward pressure in the fully loaded magazine.
I feel that the build quality of the EMP falls somewhere between the Springfield TRP and the Professional…which makes it quite a value at around $1k
Druthers: My only real complaint is with the serrations on thumb safeties being very sharp…my thumb was not happy after 50 rounds. I can see having the thumb safety changed to a one-sided one with a slightly beveled edge. I think I’ll also be looking at changing out the rear sight for something in plain black…maybe the 10-8…and adding a solid (maybe flat) trigger too.