1911 Face-Off: Emissary vs. the Mil-Spec

By Dan Abraham
Posted in #Guns
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1911 Face-Off: Emissary vs. the Mil-Spec

November 8th, 2021

9:14 runtime

On July 28th, Springfield Armory released the Emissary 1911. The Emissary is a beautiful 1911 with several modern features. Everything from the slide to the sights to the grip were enhanced to fit today’s modern shooters.

Comparing the Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 1911 to the Emissary 1911
Mil-Spec meets modern in this matchup between a pair of Springfield Armory 1911 pistols.

I took the Emissary out for the first time and was blown away by its accuracy. Right out of the case, the Emissary 1911 hit home with me. The fit, feel and function the Emissary offered was nothing short of amazing. Make sure you read Paul Carlson’s full review of the Springfield Emissary.

Why Compare?

I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the Emissary 1911 — a defensive-grade pistol with custom-style tweaks, priced at an MRSP of $1,279 — with a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 1911 for an MSRP of $640.

Two 1911 pistols from Springfield Armory
Many 1911 shooters will immediately notice the full-length guide rod on the Emissary. Which system do you prefer?

Springfield’s Mil-Spec 1911 is the closest representation to John Browning’s 1911 in today’s market. Many traditionalist 1911 fans prefer the “bare bones” Mil-Spec 1911. By contrast, many modern shooters enjoy the enhanced features the Emissary offers. What better way to show off two incredible 1911 pistols than to compare them (bearing in mind their cost difference, of course).

Tell Me About the Emissary

Let’s begin with the grip. The Emissary has stunning grenade-pattern G10 grips, with the frontstrap and mainspring housing engraving textured to match the G10 grips. It allows the shooter to have a strong purchase of the pistol while maintaining complete control when shooting.

Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 1911 vs. Emissary 1911 sight comparison
Sights are another point of difference between the guns. The Emissary (left) uses a bright front sight with a wide U-notch rear.

The Emissary uses an extended beavertail along with an oversized thumb safety. The slide is a work of art with glossy sides and a matte black serrated flat top. Springfield’s triangular beveled slide, called the “Tri-Top,” steps away from the original rounded slide that was most prevalent in the 1911 handguns. The slide has wide deep cut serrations in both the front and rear of the slide. It ships with two eight-round magazines that have extended baseplates.

The Emissary took a page out of the Hellcat book with its U-Dot sights. It uses a thick and adjustable “U” in the rear and a front tritium night sight. I just sink that front dot in that rear u-notch and the shooting accuracy is incredible.

It has a skeletonized hammer, and a Picatinny rail is located on the dust cover for light/laser attachments. The Emissary also has a squared triggerguard that offers plenty of space for gloved fingers to comfortably reach the trigger. It is a beautiful pistol and a precise shooter in one.

What About the Mil-Spec 1911? 

A Mil-Spec 1911 is a solid shooter that gets the job done. Although it lacks a lot of modern enhancements, a Mil-Spec 1911 will handle the .45 ACP like a true champion. It is not the sexiest pistol in the gun store but it works and 1911 purists love ’em. While it is basic, it does have some modern upgrades, such as a lowered and flared ejection port, three-dot sites and more.

Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 1911 and Emissary pistols with magazines
Other differences between the guns include the hammer style, beavertail grip safety, thumb safety and magazines.

The wood grips on the Mil-Spec 1911 have checkering along with an arched mainspring housing with checkering. There is no texturing on the frontstrap. The beavertail is shorter and the hammer is spurred. Both the slide and frame have a parkerized black finish. The rear slide serrations are thinly cut vertical lines.

The Springfield Mil-Spec 1911 has three-dot sights that are fixed on the slide. The three-dot sights offer a good sight picture considering most semi-auto pistols use them. The Springfield U-Dot sight picture offers very little room for error. I feel the Emissary sight system is superior to the standard three-dot sights.

Tell Me About the Triggers

The Springfield Emissary has a solid flat trigger that breaks at 4.5 lbs. I really like how Springfield designed the trigger as it felt natural and normal for quick and accurate follow-up shots. I think we can all agree that 1911s are among the finest shooting pistols on the planet. The light trigger pull and extremely short reset allow the shooter to stay on target.

Man shooting the Springfield 1911 Mil-Spec pistol
Springfield’s Mil-Spec 1911 offers all of the great features that purists and historians can appreciate.

The Emissary flat trigger takes the traditional 1911 trigger to the next level. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Emissary trigger is copied by other manufacturers and is widely available in the future.

The Mil-Spec 1911 has a smaller, solid “short” trigger that breaks at 4.75 lbs. The Mil-Spec 1911 trigger is the standard in which 1911s were built. It is also a very nice trigger due to its light pull and short reset.

Recoil Systems?

The Emissary uses a full-length guide rod and a bushingless bull barrel. Combined, this system reduces felt recoil significantly. Coupled with the short and flat trigger system, follow-up shots are very accurate. If the shooter does their part, precise accuracy will follow. Then there is the Emissary sight system; well, you know where I am going with this. The Springfield Emissary is the smoothest shooting 1911 I have ever experienced.

Man shooting a Springfield Armory Emissary on the range
The Emissary pistol shot very well for the author – from the first shot to the last.

The Mil-Spec 1911 uses an original G.I.-style guide rod. Several modern 1911s continue to use the G.I.-style guide rod because it is a proven system. The Springfield Ronin has a G.I. guide rod that works incredibly well, also. I haven’t noticed a great difference in shooting accuracy with the full-length guide rod and the G.I. guide rod. Both recoil assemblies are proven and have stood the test of time.

The disassembly process is very different with these two 1911 handguns. Watch the attached video to get a better idea of each 1911 pistol’s disassembly.


Both the Springfield Emissary and the Springfield Mil-Spec 1911 pistols are fine pistols. Being a huge fan of 1911s, it’s fair to say I love them both. However, the modern features the Emissary offers directly improved my range time performance. Honestly, I fell in love with the Emissary after the first magazine was fired.

Looking at the original Mil-Spec 1911 and the design’s evolution to the 2021 Emissary is breathtaking. I believe if the true 1911 traditionalist who likes the bare bones Mil-Spec 1911 tried the Emissary, they just might become a believer and happily own both. I know I want to!

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Dan Abraham

Dan Abraham

Dan "TheFireArmGuy" Abraham is a gun enthusiast, collector and 2A advocate. Sending a strong 2A message and showcasing firearms is a passion for him. He enjoys featuring firearms that suit the "working man." Dan believes firearm ownership is an essential American value. Understanding that firearms are not a "one size fits all," Dan offers gun reviews that help the reader choose the best fit for them. Within his reviews, the reader will observe the gun's features, specifications, shooting impressions and best applications. He attempts to be informative, concise with "no fluff" and on point.

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