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Review of the Springfield Armory EMP 9mm


If you read my recent review of the Sig 238, you’ll know I purchased one for my wife, but ended up purchasing a second one for myself.  A Sig 238 is based on the 1911 platform, and operates quite differently from most other striker fired weapons, like my S&W M&P 9c.  I don’t plan on carrying my Sig 238 all the time – perhaps just during the Summer months.  But the thought occurred to me that I really should get a firearm that I could practice and train with that has more “1911 like” controls.

I grew up with a father who loved collecting and trading in high-grade 1911’s – Gold Cups, Series 70 Government models….all names I grew up with.  I was never particularly attracted to 1911’s for many years…I considered them “my father’s gun.”  But now that I’m older, I find a growing affinity for the platform…perhaps out of nostalgia and love of my father.  Isn’t it amazing how much more we become like our parents as we age?  I briefly considered getting a nice 1911 in .45 ACP after I had purchased my Sig 238, but I really didn’t want to pay .45 ACP ammo prices, as I like to shoot a lot.  I soon discovered there were some nice choices for 1911 style guns chambered in 9mm.  After doing some research, I settled on the Springfield Armory EMP.

To the 1911 purist, no gun that isn’t chambered in .45 ACP can be considered a true 1911.  Indeed, the EMP isn’t simply a 1911 with a 9mm barrel – it was designed from the ground up to be a 9mm hand gun, which further alienates from the 1911 purist crowd.  I found the fact quite attractive however as some 1911’s modified to fire a 9mm round have less than stellar reputations for reliability – not good for a weapon which might be used daily for self-defense.

As pretty as the EMP is, the gun was very much designed to be carried as a defensive weapon, and is quite small by 1911 standards.  The 3″ stainless steel “bull barrel” adds some weight to the front end of the compact firearm and goes a long way toward mitigating muzzle flip/recoil.

One of my favorite cosmetic features (which are also quite functional) are the cocobolo grips.  The checkering is both aesthetically pleasing and makes the EMP easier to hang on to while firing.  The grips also feature the Springfield Armory logo at the center and looks fantastic:

A version of the EMP is also available with G10 grips, but whichever version you buy, the other handles can be purchased separately.  I’ve actually got some on order.   Who doesn’t like to play dress up with their guns?  🙂

In keeping with the defensive/carry theme for this pistol, it comes equipped straight from the factory with fantastic Trijicon brand tritium night sites – another feature which helped sell me on this gun:

The EMP is sold with three 9-round magazines which when used, plus one in the chamber, provides a 10-round capacity.  That’s about the minimum I’d need to complete a course of fire in the weekly tactical league in which I participate.

I thoroughly enjoy shooting the Springfield Armory EMP.  The match-grade aluminum trigger is light and crisp with just a slight bit of take up, and a nice reset – it’s rated for 5-6 lbs. of pull but mine feels lighter.  The thumb safety was easily engaged/disengaged, and I found the EMP extremely accurate.  Unfortunately, I had some reliability issues with the gun during my first outing to the range.  Here’s the video of the first 100 rounds I fired through the EMP:

After the first outing, I went home and thoroughly cleaned and lubed the gun.  Apparently this is something that most 1911 guys will tell you that you should do before firing the gun.  I’ve never cleaned a brand new gun before firing, so this was a learning experience with regard to a 1911 style gun.  I’m happy to report it performed much better on the 2nd outing:

The retail price of the Springfield Armory EMP (reference number PI9209LP) is $1345.00, and comes with the usual polymer gun and two-magazine holster Springfield ships with many of their firearms (particularly in the XD and XD(M) lines).  That price is a pretty tough pill to swallow when you compare it the less expensive, higher capacity polymer gun options from several different manufacturers, including Springfield themselves.  But if you’re looking for a carry-sized, 1911-style pistol chambered in 9mm, the choices are few.  Among them, Springfield Armory has the best reputation for customer service/after sales support, and the EMP is held in high regard.  I’m quickly becoming a fan.  🙂


About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of, as well as and *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. Good review! This Springfield is a nice gun, but why not get it in .45 ACP?

    Frankly, if the price of the (more manly, lol) ammo bothers you, I would have suggested a Kimber Crimson Carry II or perhaps even a Colt Defender, each for about $250 or so less in .45 ACP. That $250 would buy enough REAL ammo to make it a non issue — and you would have an arguably better EDC gun with a lot more stopping power.

    PS: The reason EVERY modern non-combat 1911 needs to be cleaned and oiled forst is that they are much tighter now than Mr. Browning first intended for combat. Without this, you will have many issues during the break-in period of the first 200-500 rounds.

  2. You know Rick, every study I’ve ever seen which has taken a look at the topic indicates that statistically there’s NO difference in the end result between any of the defensive hand gun rounds. Take a look at this article:

    I’ve trained under and gotten to know the author.

    Every study I’ve seen says shot placement is the key, not caliber. a 9mm magazine holds more rounds, is cheaper, and because it’s cheaper I can shoot more and practice more, which improves my shot placement. Winner: 9mm. 🙂

  3. John,

    Good points — obviously where a person is shot is THE utmost importance. However, I am a bit skeptical about this article. If memory serves, a large number of the .22 hits calculated were close-range head-shots — not likely applicable to a 1-on-1 defensive carry situation. (More likely the work of a pro.) This article states that it generally takes about two .45ACP rounds to incapacitate a Bad Guy vs 2.5 rounds from a 9mm. BUT, even then, a big and expanding .45ACP hole in the leg (or anywhere else) of a BG is a lot more likely to stop him than a much smaller (albeit much faster) 9mm one. Lest we forget, other than merely logistics, one big selling point for NATO using 9mm and not .45ACP was 9mm was considered more humane than the nasty .45ACP. When I am faced with a Bad Guy, I want nasty — and having a EDC documented to have taken down a Japanese Zero during WWII via headshot also does not hurt. LOL

    Another nice thing about the .45ACP (in a 4 or 5″ 1911) is you can swap your the barrel and slide with a .22, so it allows you to practice with your same gun action even cheaper than with your nice 9mm Springfield EMP. All of that said, my EDC gun of choice is all stainless steel — either from Les Baer, Wilson Combat, Dan Wesson, or Kimber… depending on my mood. Obviously the first 3 cost more than your Springfield EMP, but my stainless Kimber is the same price. There are also nice 1911 choices from Colt (and others) for that price range too.

    All the best!

  4. If I can jump in on this discussion….

    You both make good points. Shot placement is important, as is stopping power. But I personally feel that having a gun that fits your grip is more important yet. In defensive situations, you need a weapon that you feel confident and in control of.

    I own both the EMP in 9mm and a Kimber CDP Pro in .45ACP. Both are extremely accurate inside 15 yards, where any real defensive shooting would take place. I have owned the Kimber for about 10 years, and bought the EMP about 5 years ago, shortly after it was introduced. My intent was to have a 1911 style pistol that would be cheaper to shoot. Honestly, shooting .45ACP for an hour or two at the range adds up fast. I would often go through 200 rounds, costing up to $100 per session. The SA ammo saves me $50 each time. Well, it’s more like $25 per session, since I split up the shooting between the two guns.

    But the bottom line is, as much as I like the EMP, I shoot much better with the Kimber simply because it fits my hand better. My groups are noticeably tighter in comparable use. I can shoot faster while holding the same level of accuracy (or even better).

    As Rick described, I had a Marvel .22 conversion kit for the Kimber and used that a bit for a while. But I found that it wasn’t comparable to shooting the real ammo due to the lack of recoil. If anything, it was teaching me bad habits. Eventually, I only used it when I brought a newcomer to the range and wanted to give them a more user-friendly introduction to shooting.

    Bottom line: I think the EMP is a great gun, and is very comparable to a true 1911. The size difference in the hand is very minor and could be a plus or minus depending on your hand and preference. Fit and finish of the gun is outstanding. It is to the same level as the Kimber, with everything tight and functioning flawlessly. I’ve used both for concealed carry and the EMP fits slightly better behind the hip, but the Kimber is slightly easier to draw. I’d consider them about equal for different reasons. But if I had to choose just one gun, I’d take the Kimber in .45ACP because it’s the gun that I have more confidence in. I’d just have to suck it up when it comes to resupplying ammo.

    Fortunately, I don’t have to choose. 🙂

  5. Bret – I don’t disagree with you. I sort of assume, as a function of shot placement, that the shooter has done their homework and purchased a gun that’s a good fit for them and doesn’t inhibit good shot placement.

  6. I picked a SA EMP 9 last weekend and finally got to shoot it today. I did clean and lube before shooting. I ran about 100 rounds 115 and 124 FMJ, Hornady and Magtech JHPs no failures to feed. The pistol performed flawlessly, the trigger is sweet out of the box. I found it a little hard on the heel of my right hand after a while but that’s not really surprising for a compact. I normally shoot a full size M&P 9 which clearly has me spoiled as far as grip comfort goes. I started out on a 1911. Nothing beats the .45 ACP, but I’ve swung to the shot placement school of though, especially with modern JHP loads and a quality trigger with a crisp reset.

  7. Terry Wolf says:

    John: Thanks for your original review. I am considering an EMP for daily carry. Do you still have yours? Carry it with confidence? If not, what happened?

    I will value your comments. –tw

  8. Terry – I’ve never really tried to carry the EMP for CCW nor would I recommend any 1911 style gun over a striker fired weapon like a Glock or M&P. It’s a fun gun though.

  9. Chris S. says:

    I received my EMP 9mm yesterday (shipped from to my local dealer), paid $1063 new. I read and watched many reviews before deciding on this purchase, and having owned a 1911 previously, I was already aware of the necessity of a break in period. I took my new EMP out where I shoot, at about 7p, there was plenty of daylight left. It was hot and humid and sweat was dripping onto my hands every time I reloaded the mags. I did do a field strip and clean/lube before I took it out. I brought approx. 300 rounds with me (250 fmj of three different manufacturers, and three different types of hp). As expected, I experienced the exact same issues John did in his first video, for the first 90 or so rounds. After that, the gun was nice and hot and getting loosened up, and for the remaining 200+ I didn’t have a single issue. I plan to take it out again today or tomorrow, because I still feel it needs a little more break in, but I am loving it so far. On a side note, while cleaning it last night after shooting, I noticed the grips had come loose just a bit. Mine has the G10 grips (I think they look even better than the wood) so I just tightened them down a bit. From what I’ve read on various forums, this is also common, and I might get some O rings for the screws to keep them snug.

  10. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your experiences!

  11. Fletcher Brown says:

    Fabulous dialogue. John, Chris, Terry, Bill, Brett, Rick: After reading many hundreds, or thousands, of internet reviews and dialogues on every possible topic under the sun – I have finally found the absolute best thread ever. You all have different views, eloquently authored, by knowledgable men who seem talk, listen, evaluate, respect and respond to each other as civilized debaters. No disrespect, no vulgar language. You comment, counter-comment, offer opinions well expressed and well received. This is pure gold.

    My hat is off to you gentlemen. I have read all of your comments several times. I listened. I respect and value each of your inputs. Then, I went to my local gun shop and after becoming a squatter and wearing a path in their carpet I bought my first (non-revolver) pistol in 45 years. My local gun shop was just so very patient with me as I handled, fondled, pointed, cocked, dry-fired, and agonized over my various choices.

    I was buying a pistol for my four day Front Sight handgun class to start in a week. I finally settled on a Springfield EMP 4 (full size frame and 4 inch barrel) but walking out the door I already had reservations – 9mm, 45 ACP, Springfield, Kimber, S&W PC 1911, Sig 320? Maybe I should have ……. …….. …….

    Now that I am home and reading your comments again and reconsidering my options I realized that I could not really make a bad choice between all of the excellent options that are offered. I just want to be a law abiding, knowledgelable, well trained, safety conscious, armed citizen – and that I will be -regardless of my choice. I am sure that I will revisit the gun store to acquire additional and alternative options as I gain experience and capability and confidence.

    I thank you gentlemen for your honest and respectful debate about sorting out he very best of all the good options. I am looking forward to the day that I have the experience to join in conversations like you her had and offer my opinions to other seeking some knowledge.

    Semper Paratus.

  12. Thanks for the kind words Fletcher and congratulations on your purchase!


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