Pat's Product Review: Springfield Armory EMP 40

Monday, Sep 2, 2013

It's been a few years since Springfield Armory came out with their Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) and I decided to take a wait and see attitude - I waited until they actually hit the market. What is unique with the EMP is that, it appears to be a 1911 handgun, with a big change. Springfield Armory redesigned most of the parts, to reduce the overall size of the EMP. It's not a chopped or cut down full-sized 1911 - far from it. Almost every part was redesigned by Springfield Armory, including the frame, slide, trigger, hammer, backstrap, etc. None of these parts will interchange in a regular 1911.  The EMP is the very first production 1911 made from the ground up to shoot short cartridges like the 9mm and .40 S&W.
 
Let's take a quick look at some of the features the EMP has to offer. My sample is in .40 S&W, and you can also have it in 9mm...the .40S&W has an all-steel frame, while the 9mm can be had with a light-weight aluminum frame. The .40 EMP sample has a 3-inch barrel, that is made out of stainless steel and is match-grade, with a fully supported ramp for the bull barrel. The recoil system is a dual spring set-up, and the sights are Novak-style, low profile, that are dove-tailed into the slide, front and back and have 3-dot Tritium for night use and ambi safety. The trigger is an aluminum match-grade, and my sample had a super-smooth 4.5-pound pull - no need to adjust or do anything to the trigger pull, it was perfect for me. The slide is made out of forged stainless steel with a satin finish - nice touch. Grips are G10 with angled grooves for a sure grip on the gun under any weather conditions. We also have a beaver-tail grip safety and combat hammer and flat mainspring housing. The all-steel frame is Armory coated for a nice subdued black finish and it's pretty tough stuff.
 
The EMP 40 weighs in at 33-ounces with the all-steel frame, I'd like to see Springfield come out with one in an aluminum frame, to shave a little more weight from the gun - of course, that would increase felt recoil, and the little EMP 40 does buck, no doubt about that at all. The 9mm version can be had with an aluminum frame and comes in at 27-ounces. The EMP 40 feels heavier than it is - at least in my hand - for some strange reason. However, the little gun balances nicely and is fast-handling, too. The ejection port is lowered and flared, and I had no malfunctions of any type in my testing. The gun is very tightly fitted - you would believe this gun was assembled and fitted by a custom 1911 gunsmith because it is so tightly put together. The EMP 40 also comes with three, 8-round magazines, a nice touch! And, the magazines have slam pads for speed reloads, no worries about getting the meat of you hand caught between the magazine and the magazine well when you slam a reload home.
 
The only thing I'd like to see on the EMP is a checkered front strap. However, I overcame this handicap and installed a Crimson Trace LG-912 laser grip - I removed the outstanding G10 grips that came on the EMP 40, and replaced them with the Crimson Trace LG-912 sample I received had their new Black G10 laser grips. For those not familiar with Crimson Trace, their laser grips are "instinctive" in that, you don't have to think about them - when you grip your gun properly, and pressure is applied to the grip, there is a front activation switch and it activates the laser - you don't have to think about it, or press any extra buttons. There is a manual on/off switch, for when the gun isn't in use. However, I saw no need to turn the Crimson Trace LG-912 off, I left it on. The laser grips are sited-in at the factory for 50-feet, and my sample was dead-on - at that distance. However, I made adjustments - which are easy to do - and zeroed my sample in at 25-yards - just a "me" thing.
 
I had a great selection of .40S&W ammo on-hand for my testing. And, with the great ammo drought we've been facing, I've cut back to only shooting about 200 rounds in my firearms tests these days. However, the EMP 40 was so much fun to shoot, I burned through more than 500 rounds of ammo in my testing. I shot the EMP for more than three months, and never had any problems. I used Italian Gun Grease to lube the pistol at the onset of my testing and never cleaned or lubed the gun after that. I've found, in my humble opinion, that Italian Gun Grease lube is the absolute best there is on the market - bar none. In my testing, I had ammo from Black Hills Ammunition 155-grain JHP, 180-grain JHP and the 140-grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP hollow point, as well as the 180-grain FMJ reloaded ammo. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their standard pressure 140-grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP hollow point and the same in 125-grain - both are standard pressure, but still a bit hotter than any other maker's standard pressure 40 S&W loads. I also had their brand-new 200-grain Hard Cast standard pressure load, that they call their Outdoorsman Load - great if you need some serious penetration on dangerous game, this load will get your attention! I also had 155-grain JHP +P, 180-grain JHP+P and 180-grain FMJ +P load, and this last one will also get your attention - and would be great for carrying in the boonies where you might encounter dangerous game - it will penetrate, like the 200-grain Hard Cast load will.
 
I thought about doing my accuracy testing at 15 yards, considering the short 3-inch barrel on the EMP 40, but after thinking it over, I did my testing at 25 yards, with the gun rested on a sleeping bag, over the hood of my SUV. I will say, the EMP 40 was very consistent in the accuracy department - there honestly wasn't a clear-cut winner in my humble opinion. Most groups hovered around 3-inches or a bit less. The Buffalo Bore 200-grain Hard Cast load would shoot a bit tighter groups. The Buffalo Bore 155-grain +P load showed a little sign of the empty cases starting to bulge ever so slightly - nothing to worry about, but it was something I noted just the same. The 180-grain +P JHP didn't show any such signs.
 
The Buffalo Bore 125-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point was going to be my load of choice, for self-defense. However, I found that load was a bit hot - even though it is rated at being standard pressure - it was a bit harder for me to recover rapidly from shot-to-shot with this load. The 140-grain Barnes all-copper hollow point wasn't as bad. In the end, I decided on the Black Hills 140-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point as my street carry load in the EMP 40 - it was slightly more accurate than the Buffalo Bore load with the same bullet. However, I wouldn't feel the least bit handicapped with any of the JHP or Barnes TAC-XP loads for self-defense against two-legged predators, and any of the FMJ or Hard Cast loads for carrying out in the boonies. Now, I should mention that, Springfield Armory recommends that you do not fire +P ammo in any of their 1911s with barrels shorter than 5-inches. I'm sure part of this is a legal-eagle thing - liability purposes or concerns. I wouldn't shoot a steady diet of +P loads through the EMP 40, for the simple fact that it accelerates wear and tear on the gun. And it is a bit hard on the shooter, too.
 
For some reason, and I can't explain it, I really liked the Buffalo Bore 200-grain hard Cast load in this gun - no explanation for it, it just felt good to shoot - even though it was the heaviest load I tested. The Black Hills 140-grain Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point seemed to cycle the slide smoother than the other loads, too. Maybe just a subjective thing in my book - I really can't explain it. But if you do a lot of shooting like I do, you pick-up on slight differences in how a gun handles different ammo - some cycle the slides smoother than others do. Some cycle the slides fast, some slower.
 
Springfield Armory also includes a nice large carrying case for the EMP to ride in on your trips to the range. And, if you can legally carry the EMP 40, Springfield includes a nice polymer paddle holster and a double magazine case, too. I don't know why more gun companies don't do this - it is always a pain to find a holster to fit new gun designs - other than using generic type Nylon holsters, that don't fit anything quite right. However, Springfield Armory stepped-up and provides holsters and mag pouches for most of their handguns they sell today. including their XD line. Thanks, Springfield!
 
There is nothing negative to report on the EMP 40, just some "druthers" - I mentioned I'd like to see the front strap checkered, but this can be overcome with some skate board tape - and I apply this to the front strap on a lot of semiauto pistols - its cheap and it lasts a long, long time and is easy enough to replace when it wears out. I'd like to see the EMP 40 offered with an aluminum frame - however I know the felt recoil will be quite a bit more substantial to the all-steel frame version - but still, I'd like to see it offered. And, needless to say, the Crimson Trace LG-912 laser grips were the perfect addition to the EMP 40 - maybe Springfield Armory could offer the EMP with the Crimson Trace laser grips - just another option that consumers could choose from. If you feel you must "hang" anything onto your EMP, the Crimson Trace laser grips are the way to go - and I like the instinctive aspect - nothing to think about, just grip the pistol properly and they turn on - and there is that intimidation factor, when the bad guy sees that laser pointed at them. It just might cause them to give-up the fight, before it begins.
 
I'm always on the look out for the perfect concealed carry handgun - and I'm not sure if I'll ever find "the" one that is perfect for me, but the EMP 40 comes close, very close - perhaps if they come out with an aluminum framed version, that might be it and my quest will end. However, as it is, the EMP 40 is hard to beat, with the right load, and the Crimson Trace laser grip. II can think of a lot worse set-ups, but it's hard to think of many that are a much better combination than this.
 
If you're in the market for a great concealed carry pistol in .40 S&W or in 9mm then take a close look at the EMP line-up. I think you'll be very pleased, and like most Springfield Armory firearms, they are always in great demand, and a bit hard to find. But it's worth the effort to seek out an EMP - I think you'll like it, once you hold one in your hand, and like it even more once you fire it - and prepare to be amazed at how accurate this little pistol can be.


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