Is the EMP 1911 a Compromised Design?

By Will Dabbs, MD
Posted in #Guns
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Is the EMP 1911 a Compromised Design?

January 5th, 2023

6 minute read

The Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 4” 1911 pistol is crafted from the ground up to be the optimized 9mm single-action concealed carry handgun. Building upon the rock-solid foundation of John Moses Browning’s inimitably timeless combat tool, the artisans at Springfield Armory strove to bring this classic century-old design into the Information Age.

emp 1911 design compromised
How does the Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 4” 1911 pistol perform as a CCW pistol? Does it strike a workable balance between packability and real-world tactical performance?

EMP stands for Enhanced Micro Pistol, and it is so much more than simply a miniaturized .45 ACP 1911 rechambered in 9mm Parabellum. The Ronin EMP incorporates eleven proprietary parts specifically designed to run the 9mm cartridge in this chassis. These components include the frame, slide, firing pin, firing pin spring, extractor, ejector, trigger, plunger tube, plunger tube assembly, grips and magazine. The end result is a shooting and carrying experience unique to this platform.

The Ronin family of guns comes in seven different configurations and three discrete chamberings. Each gun orbits around a forged steel slide mounted atop a forged aluminum frame. Within the Ronin line are two EMP variants — a 3” and a 4” version. For me, the 4” version represents a most fascinating compromise.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Is it just me, or does it seem like folks are a bit more acrimonious these days than might once have been the case? Problems that previously could have been settled via civil discourse now unfortunately seem to be adjudicated by means of anarchy and street violence. Is compromise a failed concept these days?

emp 1911 design problems
The Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 4” 1911 pistol is specifically designed to be part of your standard daily loadout.

This particular Ronin EMP might just disprove that perception. By melding a full-sized frame offering a 10-round capacity with an abbreviated 4″ bull barrel, the synergistic result really is greater than the sum of its parts. The 1911 Ronin EMP 4″ handgun is easy to conceal while remaining eminently shootable. It is the elusive successful compromise.


The American gun culture has been a bit fickle when it comes to defensive handgun cartridges. More than a century ago, John Browning dreamt up the .45 ACP because .38-cal. handgun cartridges were inadequate for the task at hand. Eventually, American law enforcement and civilian shooters dabbled in the 9mm Parabellum because of its soft recoil and prodigious capacity. Deficiencies in bullet design eventually drove us to such stuff as the .40 S&W and 10mm, but bigger cartridges always equal more punishment on both the shooter and the gun.

emp 1911 problems
The author has carried the Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 4” 1911 pistol underneath his surgical scrubs in an IWB holster.

Nowadays, advances in defensive bullet technology have put the performance of the 9mm back on par with its portlier brethren. With its luster properly restored, the 9mm is now the most popular defensive handgun round on the planet. This makes the 9mm the obvious chambering for the 4” Ronin EMP.

On a 1911 pistol the frame is what interfaces flesh with machine, so it’s important. The Ronin EMP frame is forged aluminum alloy finished out in satin aluminum Cerakote. This keeps weight in check while still offering the sort of durability and wear resistance that lets the gun become a generational heirloom.

emp 1911 finish compromise
The satin aluminum finish matches the deep blue of the slide to make a beautiful 1911-style pistol.

The slide is forged carbon steel sporting a lustrous deep blue. The slide is what encapsulates the chaos, so it has to be as strong as is humanly possible. At the risk of sounding like a vapid teenager, the dichotomy between the silver frame and the rich blued slide strikes a pleasant visceral aesthetic chord as well.

If the frame is the foundation of a combat handgun, the trigger is the nerve center. The adjustable skeletonized Gen 2 Speed Trigger has been perfected by Springfield Armory over generations. Of all the many splendored reasons we corn-fed American shooters remain hopelessly enamored with this antique handgun design, the beautiful single-action trigger is undoubtedly the most compelling.

hellcat compared to emp 1911
The author thinks the Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro (left) is the top of the heap in modern polymer-framed striker-fired carry guns. And he also thinks the capable 4″ Ronin EMP hearkens back to an earlier era.

Left-sided controls are easily accessed, and the thumb safety is slightly oversized for easy access. The magazine release is of the ideal dimension. The wooden grips sport a rakish diagonal pattern that is both functional and attractive.

The front sight includes a fiber optic insert. The rear Tactical Rack sight includes a pair of white dots for quick orientation along with glare-reducing serrations. The cumulative effect is both fast and precise.

Range Time

The heart of the Ronin EMP 4” compromise balances concealability against practical performance. The barrel and slide are an inch shorter than standard. This makes the gun more comfortable when you inevitably have to sit on it as well as being quicker to present.

shooting test of the emp 1911
The Springfield EMP showed no problems on the range as the 1911 design lends itself to accurate shooting.

The full-sized frame gives you plenty of real estate on which to grab. This equates to better control and precision. Unlike most concealed carry pistols, the Ronin EMP 4-inch 1911 is both fun to shoot and deadly accurate.

I have launched quite a few rounds out of 1911 handguns. I went decades without owning one before finally taking the plunge. Now the collection is littered with the things.

edc gear with springfield armory emp 1911
The Springfield Armory EMP 1911 4″ model is a key part of any EDC gear. Many people consider it as key as a watch, knife or cell phone.

A vintage G.I. 1911 .45 is cool, but recoil is a real thing. These old guns also drop their empties right on the top of your head. Modern .45 ACP 1911’s of the sort produced by Springfield Armory rectify whatever shortcomings the G.I. originals might have exhibited, but they are still powerful guns with robust personalities. By contrast, this Ronin EMP 4” pistol is an absolute dream on the firing line.

This gun is positively docile. I ran everything from 147-gr. hollowpoint defensive rounds down to 100-gr. machined Black Hills HoneyBadger loads through it during our time together. The gun ran 100% with everything and cycled like the precision instrument it is. The gun also shot to point of aim right out of the box. The attached performance data tell the story better than I might.

Shooting Performance

LoadGroup SizeVelocity
Black Hills 100-gr Honey Badger0.8″1,191 fps
Federal Ammunition 147-gr JHP1.0″923 fps
Winchester Ammunition 115-gr FMJ1.4″1,247 fps
Group size is best four of five shots fired from a simple rest at ten meters. Velocity is the average of three rounds fired across a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph oriented ten feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: FMJ (full metal jacket), JHP (jacketed hollow point).


Most of the time, a proper compromise leaves both sides feeling a bit tepid. By definition, you have to give something up to get there. Not so much this time around. The Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 4-inch handgun is easy to pack and smooth to shoot. Rather than diminishing the good stuff, it really is the best of both worlds.

Everybody is different. Your level of experience and personality will drive whether your carry gun needs to be some polymer-framed micro compact like the Hellcat or something more traditional like the Ronin EMP. For those whose proclivities wander to thin, single-action and metallic, the EMP is the smallest production 1911 of its sort in the world. Sporting inimitable engineering and materials science along with a truly superlative feature set, the Ronin EMP 4” is the concealed carry gun for the shooter of distinction.

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Will Dabbs, MD

Will Dabbs, MD

Will was raised in the Mississippi Delta and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After eight years flying Army helicopters, he left the military as a Major to attend medical school. Will operates an Urgent Care clinic in his small Southern town and works as the plant physician for the local Winchester ammunition plant. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three adult children, and has written for the gun press for a quarter century.

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