Springfield Armory’s 1911 Loaded Target pistol impressed Rod Pascoe
The name Springfield Armory was a shortened form of what was more correctly known as the United States Armory and Arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts which dates back to 1794 and was mainly responsible for manufacturing and supplying firearms to the military. Following the armory’s closure in 1968 the L.H. Gun Co. of Texas took on the name Springfield Armory Inc. to capitalise on the logo and brand recognition but otherwise there’s no connection to the original US Government armory.
Over the years many gunmakers have taken the original military version of John Browning’s iconic Colt 1911 pistol and made adaptations and improvements to cater to the sporting shooter and Australian distributor NIOA sent Australian Shooter one such pistol from the Springfield 1911 range to put to the test.
The 1911 A1 Loaded Target comes in a modest cardboard box with a handy Cordura zipped pouch, two magazines, cable lock, security and take-down keys. It’s an attractive piece intended as a shooter first and foremost, not a collectors’ item and the fact it’s called ‘Loaded’ suggests it has stacks of additional features above and beyond those of a standard 1911. It’s marketed in the US as ‘California-compliant’ which is another way of saying pistol club-friendly in Australia in terms of calibre, barrel length and magazine capacity.
It ticks the boxes for most practical disciplines such as IPSC, Action Pistol and Service Match. It’s a single-action, full-size, forged steel frame and slide pistol and in that regard resembles the traditional blued Colt 1911 but with shiny brushed stainless steel on the flat parts of the slide and frame. That contrasts with matte-finished round surfaces around the grips and triggerguard and it’s in 9mm Luger not .45 calibre as was the original, as any diehard Colt aficionado will remind you.
It comes with attractive cocobolo chequered timber panel grips with the original Springfield Armory crossed cannons logo. Obvious aspects which separate it from the original include the click-adjustable rear sight, both front and rear being dovetail mounted and can be swapped out with a number of readily available aftermarket products.
The trigger and hammer are both skeletonised. The spring housing below the grip safety is finely chequered but no such treatment appears on the front strap, something that comes down to personal preference with some favouring a chequered front strap to aid controllability (adding grip tape is always an option). The chequered backstrap also houses Springfield’s patented Integrated Locking System, a small switch activated by the supplied key to lock the action when stored or unattended, while another small hole on the backstrap facilitates removal and disassembly of the main spring housing.
Deep front and rear serrations on the slide provide a firm grip when racking against the hefty force of the recoil spring. The frame has an extended ambidextrous safety system and extended beavertail with a memory hump. This hump or speed bump as it’s sometimes called had been an aftermarket option for 1911 grip safeties for some time but these days is becoming standard fit.
Apart from the hump providing a little extra hand pressure on the grip safety for some shooters, when drawing from a holster the ‘feel’ of the bump confirms their hand placement on the grip. The aluminium trigger has deep vertical serrations and a hole to access a trigger over-travel screw. There’s a visual loaded chamber indicator which is actually just a hole at the back of the chamber through which the rim of the case (fired or unfired) is visible.
The 127mm match-grade stainless barrel fits snugly and has a slight taper to help it settle into the bushing at the front of the slide. There’s no detectable barrel movement with the slide closed and locked to the barrel. The ejection port profile has been lowered and flared presumably to prevent any hang-ups from ejecting brass becoming stuck in the action. The pistol weighs 1.2kg unloaded and has a pleasant balance although the hefty slide and low hand position makes it feel a little top-heavy.
The web between my thumb and trigger finger is comfortable and fits well into the beavertail, the grip width made for a single-stack magazine but for me is a little big overall as my thumb couldn’t quite reach the magazine release without shifting my hand on the grip.
I was a little surprised the internal workings were completely devoid of lubrication as while the pistol had clearly been fired, none of the metal-to-metal contact points had any oil whatsoever, though I soon dealt with that after field-stripping to the point required for everyday care and cleaning.
Loaded models have a full-length recoil spring guide rod which is in two pieces. I’m not sure why they’ve departed from the traditional, shorter one-piece rod and plug that’s been with us for years as the two-piece slows the stripping process and requires the use of a supplied Allen key (apart from that there’s the potential for it to work loose). There’s an argument the little bit of extra weight of the extended rod up front helps reduce muzzle flip and, having the spring supported for the full length of its travel prevents it binding inside the slide channel, though I haven’t heard of this being a problem. You can change to an aftermarket one-piece rod if preferred.
The trigger has a crisp yet heavy let-off following a short, light first pressure. It’s listed as having a 3lb 2oz or 1.45kg trigger pull but I couldn’t register a reading below 6lb (2.72kg) after five attempts. Again this wasn’t an insurmountable problem after some internal gunsmithing. The trigger reset on the other hand feels clunky but might fix itself with more lubrication and use, while the over-travel screw was well set up out of the box and required no further adjustment. The slide also contains the extractor and titanium firing pin.
At the range
Along with the pistol NIOA supplied some ammunition in Federal 115 and 124-grain Syntech cartridges and I had some Syntech 150-grainers to hand. Syntech bullets consist of a lead core coated with red polymer claimed to reduce friction, heat and fouling, therefore prolonging barrel life and minimising cleaning. The other round I tried, for those able to use jacketed ammo on their range, was Federal American Eagle 124gr FMJ.
The nine-round magazine was easy enough to load but the ninth round required more effort. All ammo tested in the Springfield fed, fired and ejected faultlessly and with the aid of a Service Pistol barricade I fired five-shot groups from 25 yards. Full house factory loads recoiled as expected and ‘felt’ recoil reduced as the bullet weight became heavier. The softer recoil of the heavier 150gr means it’s easier to realign the sights to the target than the lighter, snappier 115-grainers and, taking my eyesight into account, I felt the groups were adequate.
The three Syntech samples grouped slightly better than the FMJ and the 115gr Syntech had the edge on the others, something to consider depending on the match you’re shooting. The pistol felt good to shoot and, out of a holster with some practice, didn’t take long to master a consistent high grip thanks to the beavertail.
As mentioned, the only external adjustments on the pistol are to the rear sight windage and elevation settings and trigger over-travel screw. However, there are many aftermarket parts available for the 1911 which can be readily swapped out or modified to suit a particular requirement. The two-piece recoil spring guide rod can be replaced with the original or similar ‘GI’ style one-piece rod and plug, though for more intricate adjustments and modifications some basic gunsmithing skills might be called for when dealing with the main spring and leaf springs behind the magazine.
The 1911 has been a popular platform on which to build custom pistols such as in the Action Pistol Open category where, apart from slicking the internal workings, trigger, sear and springs, external changes such as a compensators can be made with aftermarket or custom barrels. Alternatively, shooters can keep their 1911 in stock condition and use it for general club work. Many have a soft spot for the 1911 and will buy such a gun for the nostalgia of the ‘good old days’ of pistol evolution, history and development and there are plenty of versions made today by various manufacturers.
Don’t judge the Loaded Target or any other pistol on appearance alone and be mindful of the purpose for which you’re buying the gun. As an all-round out of the box club centrefire pistol the Springfield 1911 Loaded Target is a reliable, versatile and accurate handgun. Overall it performed well and was pleasant to shoot even with full-house factory loads, the review gun being 9mm Luger though NIOA also stock a .45 ACP version for states which allow them. Retail prices vary so it’s worth checking the many websites around for a good deal and at time of writing the listed RRP is at the top of the range.
Springfield Armory 1911 A1 Loaded Target
Calibre: 9mm Luger, 9x19mm, 9mm Parabellum
Weight: With empty magazine 1.2kg (40oz)
Barrel: 127mm (5^), match grade forged stainless steel, one-in-16 twist
Slide and frame: Forged stainless steel
Sights: Fully adjustable target
Recoil system: Two-piece full-length guide rod
Grips: Cocobolo timber with crossed cannon logo
Magazines: Two x 9-round single-stack
Trigger weight: 3lb 2oz
RRP: About $2100