Pat's Product Review: Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911

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It is no secret in my family that my all-time favorite handgun is the good ol' 1911 - in some shape or form. A 1911 was one of the first (not the first) handguns I ever owned, and my love affair only grew over the years. I have lost count of the number of 1911s I've owned in my lifetime, but I'm sure its a safe bet, that I've probably owned a couple hundred 1911s. I've had everything from plain old Mil-Spec 1911s, to custom made guns from big-name makers, and well as building a good number of custom 1911s for my own use over the years.
 
John Moses Browning, the designer of the 1911, was truly a gifted man, when it came to firearms. However, I believe, his crowning accomplishment was (is) the 1911 - no other handgun is as famous, or as copied, or customized as the 1911 is. The 1911 was one of the longest-serving firearms in US military history, and it was the longest-serving handgun, until it was replaced in the mid 1980s. And, to this day, I believe it was a mistake to replace the 1911 with a double-stack, 9mm handgun - when it comes to using Full Metal Jacket ammo - that the military is restricted to using - the .45ACP round is far superior to the 9mm when it comes to stopping power. I don't care to get into a debate over which handgun round is a better stopper. It all comes down to shot placement, no matter what caliber you use. However, handgun rounds have benefited greatly over the years, when good Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) rounds were introduced. The early JHP rounds didn't always expand, however, today's JHP rounds do the job, no doubt about it. But the military is restricted to FMJ ammo, and that is a shame if you ask me. We always play by the rules, and the bad guys don't.
 
For several months, I've been testing and evaluating the Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911 .45ACP in stainless steel. I've owned several "Loaded" Springfield Armory 1911s over the years, but this is the first stainless steel model with fixed sights. Let's take a look at the "Loaded" model, it includes all the modern-day improvements that used to be performed by custom gunsmiths - and it could easily cost you $500 to $1,000 to have all these improvements done - depending on which gunsmith you selected to work on your box-stock, Mil-Spec 1911. And, there was no guarantee that your gun would be returned any better than it was before you sent it off, depending on the gunsmith you sent it to. And, you could easily have been without your 1911 for six months to a year - I kid you not 'cause some of the better-known gunsmiths were (and are) backed-up that long.
 
Some of the features on the "Loaded" model include; a precision fit forged frame, slide and barrel, lowered and flared ejection port, delta light-weight hammer, loaded chamber indicator, titanium firing pin for faster lock-time, carry bevel package, dovetail front sight and premium fixed rear sight with white dots in the front and rear sights, Torx head grip screws and light-weight, adjustable speed trigger. The trigger is set at the factory 5-to-6 pounds - my sample was dead-on at 5 pounds and very crisp, with no slop.
 
Did you pay attention when I said this gun comes with a forged slide, frame and barrel? Yes, a lot of 1911s are cast - and in my very humble opinion, some of these cast 1911s don't hold up very well. And, the reason is, some aren't cast properly or heat-treated, though when done properly, cast frames and slides are very acceptable. Also, no matter how great the materials are, that any firearm is made out of, if they aren't properly fit, they won't be reliable or as accurate as they should be. My Springfield Armory "Loaded" sample is, without a doubt, the tightest fitted 1911 to pass through my hands - and I've owned a couple custom 1911s from big-name custom shops, that weren't this tightly fit. And, the barrel-to-slide-to-frame were expertly fit, to be sure. Springfield Armory has been doing 1911s for a lot of years, and they do 'em up "right" if you ask me.
 
One thing I can take or leave, is the  two-piece full length guide rod on a 1911. There was a time, when I thought they improved accuracy and function, and I no longer believe that to be a true statement. So, if you're like me, and don't care for a full-length guide rod, you can easily replace it with a Mil-Spec guide rod. I left the full-length guide rod in place. I made two changes in my sample, and I didn't "need" to make the changes. First I applied some skate board tape to the front strap on the frame for a secure grip on the gun under any weather conditions. Secondly, I took off the beautiful Cocobolo hardwood grips, and replaced them with a pair of "Code Zero" 1911 grips, from Mil-Tac Knives and Tools. I designed these grips myself, and I prefer them to any other design. My good friend, Craig Sword, who owns and operates Mil-Tac, worked with me for a year, to perfect this design, and get it absolutely perfect. Be sure to check 'em out on their web site, they really are great feeling 1911 grips - and no I don't make any money off of sales to the public - but Craig keeps me supplied with "Code Zero" 1911 grips whenever I need them. So, don't think I'm hawking my own design to make money - I'm not!
 
The "Loaded" model also comes with an ambidextrous safety - these were all the rage at one time - and I confess I put them on more than a few of my own 1911s. Today, I can take 'em or leave - and many people still want ambi-safeties on their 1911s, so Springfield Armory fits them to the "Loaded" model - and the safety snicks on and off with authority. I couldn't tell you how many factory, out-of-the-box 1911s I've owned that had mushy safeties - they just weren't fitted - they were "installed" and there's no reason for that. Springfield Armory gunsmiths know how to properly fit a safety, no doubt about it. We also have a beavertail grip safety, with a speed bump on the bottom edge - this ensures that the grip safety is properly depressed, and it helps spread out recoil, too. Again, this part was expertly fit - no slop, and it released about one-third of the way in when depressed - outstanding! The Delta speed hammer (skeletonized for fast lock-time), make the gun more accurate. Another nice touch.
 
The barrel on my "Loaded" sample was perfectly fitted, which contributed to the outstanding accuracy I obtained from this sample. We also have a throated and polished chamber on the barrel, as well as a polished feed ramp on the frame - there were no feeding problems at all - no matter what type or brand of ammo I put though this pistol. The slide has grasping grooves fore and aft - another nice touch. The low-profile combat sights are some of the best in the business - designed by custom gunsmith Wayne Novak - one of the top 1911 builders in the world! The sights are fast and easy to pick-up, too - made for a great sight picture. The sides of the frame and slide were highly polished, and the remainder of the gun was subdued - very kool looking.
 
The "Loaded" 1911 comes in a great carry case, that includes two 7 round magazines, as well as a holster and a magazine pouch. The gun is ready for carry, as it comes out of the box - just clean-off the packing oils, properly lube the gun and take it out to the range for a test-drive. The 5" stainless steel barrel gave me the best accuracy I've ever had, out of ANY 1911 that I've owned - bar none, period, end of story!
 
I had a good assortment of .45 ACP ammo to test in this gun, from Black Hills Ammunition I had their 185 grain TAC-XP Barnes all-copper hollow point +P load, and their 185 grain JHP steel-cased ammo - which is fast becoming a favorite with many shooters on a budget. From Winchester, I had their 230 grain FMJ USA-brand load - always a good load for target shooting and function testing. From Buffalo Bore I had their 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P load, their 185 grain JHP +P load, and their 255 grain Hard Cast +P load. I've had great success with the 185 grain TAC-XP +P loads from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore - the Buffalo Bore load is a bit hotter than the Black Hills load, however, the Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911 handled 'em both with ease - either one would be a great carry load on the street for self-defense. I was getting 1.75" groups, at 25-yards with either one of these loads, if I did my part - using a rest, over the hood of my SUV. The Winchester 230 grain FMJ load was giving me 2 1/2" groups - always a good load. The steel-cased JHP load from Black Hills was giving me 2" groups - and the recoil was very easy on the gun and myself - I like the savings using this ammo over brass-cased ammo - and this is newly-manufactured ammo - not reloads. Black Hills was having a difficult time getting high-quality once-fired .45ACP brass for making their reloads, so they started using steel-cased ammo - and this is brand-new ammo! It's a bargain. The Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P load - it was also in the 2 to 2 1/2" range and would be an excellent self-defense load.
 
The winner in the accuracy department was the Buffalo Bore 255 grain Hard Cast +P load - if I hunkered down, I could get 1" groups - and that is outstanding accuracy from a custom 1911 - but this "Loaded" 1911 is a factory gun. While not my first choice for a self-defense round against two-legged critters, this is my load of choice, for stoking in my 1911s, if I'm out in the mountains, where I might run into 4-legged critters like black bear! Now, with that said, this would be a good load to carry as your back-up load - if you engaged in a gunfight, and the bad guy took cover - behind something "heavy" - you want some serious penetration - and this 255 grain Hard Cast +P load will do it for you. Still, for street work, I'd opt for either the Black Hills 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P or the Buffalo Bore 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P load - same bullet from Barnes that Black Hills and Buffalo Bore are using, except Buffalo Bore is sending their load down-range with more velocity. But nothing is free in this world, and the Buffalo Bore load recoils more than the Black Hills load does. To be honest, the Black Hills load recoiled less than the Winchester 230 grain FMJ load did - and I've found this to be true in all the .45ACP handguns I've tried this load in - I like it!
 
I'd have no problem carrying the Black Hills 185 grain JHP steel-cased ammo in any of my 1911s for self-defense - even those that recommend that you don't shoot steel-cased ammo through their guns - it's an excellent load and penetrates and expands nicely - plus you're saving money. The Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P load - again, no problem carrying that one for self-defense. What it comes down to, with any caliber or loading is, you have to pick the caliber and load for the job. There isn't a one load do-all round - at least not yet. If you're looking at facing down two-legged critters, the Barnes load from either maker will get the job done. If you're looking at being out in the boonies, and you might face four-legged critters, the Buffalo Bore 255 grain Hard Cast load would take care of things. Everything is a compromise, to some extent, so pick your loading according to you needs. For plain ol' target practice and "killing" rocks and tin cans - the Winchester 230 grain FMJ load is economical and always a great shooting round.
 
In all, I fired more than 1,000 rounds through my "Loaded" sample, without a hint of a bobble or malfunction. Most of the ammo run through this gun was the Black Hills 185 grain JHP load - Jeff Hoffman made sure I had a good supply of this great shooting ammo on-hand for testing in several .45ACP handguns I've been testing for SurvivalBlog. In 20 years of writing about guns, I've probably fired well over 100,000 rounds of various Black Hills ammo through my guns - and I've never once had a problem with any rounds - not once!  I've been shooting Buffalo Bore ammo for about a year and a half, and they are producing some premium ammo - it's not for plinking - this ammo is for serious self-defense and hunting purposes - they are an up and coming company, and I'm seeing signs of growth there. Winchester? What's not to say about them? Great ammo - always has been. And, the USA-branded stuff is economical and good shooting. I like running this stuff through new guns to help get them broken-in.
 
I don't believe my Springfield Armory Loaded Stainless Steel sample is a fluke - Springfield Armory is producing some outstanding 1911s - and they know how to build them right. I don't ever recall having a 1911 from Springfield Armory that wasn't a really great shooter - this one was better, and I think Springfield Armory is just doing an even better job than ever fitting their 1911s. If you want a full-loaded 1911, with all the stuff you'd pay a custom gunsmith to add, at a great expense over this "Loaded" sample, then check one out at your local gun shop. Why purchase a Mil-Spec, bare bones 1911, then spend a small fortune having it customized like the Springfield Armory "Loaded" model? I'm sure you won't have anything better than this "Loaded" model, and you will probably spend a lot more money, too.
 
The retail price on thee Springfield Armory Loaded sample is $1,039 but you can oftentimes find these same guns for $100 to $200 less, if you shop around. You could spend a lot more, and get a similar 1911 from some of the well-known custom 1911 makers - you could spend twice this amount, or three times this amount, but I don't know if you'd be getting two or three times better 1911. Check out a Springfield Armory "Loaded" 1911, and I think you'll be impressed - they are not only a great handgun for self-defense on the street, but also an outstanding survival weapon - they rarely break, and when they do, they are easy to repair.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on September 3, 2012 4:49 AM.

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