I still remember the very first Springfield Armory 1911 .45 ACP pistol I ever owned. I believe the year was 1987, and I purchased a brand-new, still in the box, mil-spec Springfield Armory pistol. The gun was nicely finished with an evenly applied parkerized finish, with the overall appearance being that of a standard mil-spec gun in all regards. However, the darn thing wouldn’t feed any type of ammo – I reworked the feed ramp and throated the barrel and adjusted the extractor – rather then sending it back to Springfield Armory. Every now and then, a lemon slips through no matter who the gun manufacturer might be.
Since my first Springfield Armory 1911, I’ve owned quite a few samples from Springfield Armory over the years. There’s only been a few models that I haven’t had, one being the “Professional Light Rail” which comes from the Springfield Armory Custom Shop, and the other being the “Trophy Match.” There’s a few other Custom Shop models that are being made, but the two I really wanted to own are the above two. I’ve owned two of the TRP (Tactical Response Pistols) over the past couple of years – and they are as close as you can come to owning a custom 1911 from some of the high end custom shops.
The latest offering from Springfield Armory is the new “Range Officer” and let me tell you, it is an absolute best-buy in a 1911 if you are looking to get into the competition game. The Range Officer weighs in at 40-oz with it’s match-grade 5″ barrel, with stainless steel match-grade barrel bushing. At first glance, the Range Officer looks like a “Loaded” 1911 from Springfield Armory, sans the ambidextrous safety, and with an adjustable rear sight. Don’t let the looks fool you!
The Range Officer comes with a flared and lowered ejection port, match-grade trigger and extended beaver tail grip safety, with an extended thumb safety. Okay, no big deal thus far, lots of 1911s come with these features today. However, let me tell you, Springfield Armory did an outstanding job putting this gun together – on my sample, and others I’ve examined, the slide to frame to barrel fit is perfectly executed. There is no wobble up and down, side to side or front to rear on the slide, frame and barrel – they are mated together with the best custom 1911s I’ve seen, bar none!
The fad for a few years has been for a full-lenth recoil guide instead of the mil-spec guide and plug – the Range Officer does away with the ful-length guide – I’m happy to see this, as most full-length guide rods only complicate disassembly. The Range Officer comes standard with two 7-rd magazines, as well as a holster and mag pouch, in a nice blue hard carrying case.
Ok, so what sets the Range Officer from many other run of the mill 1911s? Well, as already mentioned, the slide, frame and barrel fit are without peer in a production 1911, and the fit is the equal, if not better, than that seen on some custom 1911s costing thousands of dollars. Dave Williams, who runs the Springfield Armory Custom Shop, did an outstanding job coming up with the concept for this 1911. The Bo-Mar style fully adjustable rear sight is extremely rugged – I’ve owned some other 1911s with adjustable sights that wouldn’t hold a zero. The Springfield Armory fully adjustable rear sight isn’t gonna lose it’s zero under recoil. I’ve read on some websites and blogs, that many people complain that the rear sight on the Range Officer has too many sharp edges. I couldn’t find ’em on my sample – for the most part, the edges are ever so slight melted on the sight.
Trigger pull is important on a 1911, you can have a well-fitted gun, but if the trigger pull isn’t up-to-par, you are still gonna have a hard time hitting your target. The pull on my Range Officer sample is right at 4.5-lbs and super smooth, and extremely crisp. I was tempted to work the trigger over, but I know when to leave well enough alone. The pull feels a lot lighter than it actually is, and with it being so smooth and crisp, I didn’t think I could improve upon it very much.
The Range Officer also comes with a beautiful set of hard wood checkered grips, with the Springfield Armory logo embedded in the center. Again, I was tempted to remove the grips and put a pair of my “Code Zero” 1911 designed grips (from: www.mil-tac.com) on the Range Officer – I elected to leave the handsome wood grips on the gun. The flat mainspring housing is plastic – and while I’ve never seen a plastic mainspring housing break, I’d like to see this part replaced with an all-steel housing – just my preference on a superbly built 1911! The mainspring housing is checkered for a secure hold, and there is also the Springfield Armory integral lock on the housing – if you want to use it to lock you gun from unauthorized use.
The beaver tail grip safety was timed perfectly, and there was no need to adjust it – when the Range Officer is gripped properly, the beaver tail releases the trigger when it’s pulled. There was a hint of play between the beaver tail grip safety and the frame – but nothing to complain about in the least. I would have liked it if Springfield Armory would have installed a slightly extended combat mag release – but that’s something that I will take care of later on – it’s a quick and fairly cheap expense to replace later on – just something I’d like to see on this well-equipped 1911.
The concept of the Range Officer is to help you get started in competing in the many different types of handgun shooting sports out there. The Range Officer is designed to be affordable, and it’s made to the same high-quality specs as the TRP and Trophy Match models. The Range Officer isn’t a simple do-all 1911 for competition – rather, it opens the door for you to get started into shooting pistol competition. You can send the gun off to the Springfield Armory Custom Shop if you want something added or changed – say perhaps, you want the front strap checker, instead of being bare. I’m simply gonna add some skate board friction tape to the front strap on my sample – it accomplishes what I want, and it’s a lot cheaper than having the front strap checkered and then having the frame re-parkerized.
With my aged eyes, I find all-black sights a bit hard to pick-up rapidly. You can take care of this by using a drop of gold nail polish in the center of the front sight – it helps you see the front sight, it really does! If you want to add a Tritium night sight you can do that to the dove-tailed front sight that comes on the gun. You can also swap out the fully adjustable rear sight for a fixed sight if you desire. Personally, I’m not a big fan of full adjustable rear sights on most guns. However, the Springfield Armory rear sight will be staying in place on my sample – it works fine for competition or carry. I know, I know, a lot of gun writers have written thousands of words about adjustable rear sights tearing-up their shirt, side or jacket lining – this Springfield Armory fully adjustable rear sight isn’t gonna do that with the proper holster. I guess if I had one minor complaint, it would be that I’d like to see a little more daylight (side-to-side) between the front and rear sight – the sight picture is “tight” – and again, you can remedy this yourself if you want by opening up the rear sight picture a little bit with a file. I can live with the sight picture now that I’ve added the gold nail polish to the front sight.
I knew before I even took the Range Officer out to shoot it, that it was gonna be a great shooter – you can usually tell when a 1911 is put together this tightly, and with such care, and premium parts. I had a good selection of Black Hills Ammunition, Buffalo Bore Ammunition (www.buffalobore.com) and Winchester (www.winchester.com) ammo on-hand for testing. I fired several hundred rounds of the Winchester USA white box 230 grain FMJ ammo through the Range Officer to break it in – it didn’t need it! The gun functioned 100% without a single malfunction of bobble of any sort. I also fired a couple boxes of Black Hills 230 grain FMJ through the gun – again, no problems. I used the Black Hills 230 grain JHP and 185 grain JHP ammo without any problems, as well as their +P version of their 185 grain JHP. And, the newest load from Black Hills, their 185 grain Barnes Tac-XP +P load. This is a solid copper bullet – no lead core – again, no problems. From Buffalo Bore, I tried their 230 grain JHP and 185 grain JHP loads – both are +P rated – no problems to report. However, you knew you had a hot load on your hands with the Buffalo Bore +P loads – they aren’t made for whimps! Tim Sundles, who operates Buffalo Bore recommends that if you are gonna feed your 1911 a steady diet of his +P loads, that you install a heavier recoil spring – I concur!
In all, I fired close to 800-rds of ammo through my Range Officer sample, with nothing that even hinted at being a malfunction or any type. As I mentioned above, I knew this gun was gonna be a great shooter even befor I shot it. I don’t do the Ransom Rest thing – I leave that to other gun writers. I do most of my test and evaluation shooting standing on two-legs at 25-yards – which gives me real world results. For accuracy testing, I usually have a rolled-up sleeping bag that I put on the hood of my SUV and I use that as a rest. There were no poor accuracy results with the Range Officer – my worst groups were in the 2.5″ range – if you can call those bad groups (I don’t!). I got those results with the Winchester USA brand 230 gr FMJ loads and the Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP+P loads – and if anyone thinks those aren’t good accuracy results, then they don’t know what they’re talking about…I’ll take those kinds of groups all day long from a factory 1911.
The most accurate load from the Range Officer was the Black Hills 230 grain JHP load – I had several groups that were slightly bigger than an inch – that’s 5-shots at 25-yards, over a rest. I think I could have gotten some groups right at one inch or less, if I did my part better. However, I’ve been shooting a lot of 1911s the past month or so – more shooting than I normally do – and fatigue does tend to set in after a while. I honestly, with all my heart, believe the Range Officer can shoot an inch or under with the right loads. I had one group that just ever so slightly was above the one inch mark…and there’s a lot of custom 1911s that can’t shoot that well. As with any gun, experiment to see what ammo your gun likes the best, and then go with it, if it’s a good defensive load.
The purpose of the Springfield Armory Range Officer is to give the consumer a read-to-go, out-of-the-box, 1911 that can get you going into one of the many shooting competition sports – and the Range Officer has achieved that in my humble opinion. I no longer shoot in handgun competitions – haven’t done so for a lot of years. However, were I to get involved in pistol shooting once again, I’d reach for the Range Officer in a New York Minute. Is the Range Officer perfect? No, then again, no gun is. Can Springfield Armory improve or add onto the Range Officer? Yes, but that would add to the suggested retail price of $939. I would like to see Springfield Armory add the slightly extended combat mag release (as standard)…any other changes, the purchaser can have done by the Springfield Armory Custom Shop, depending upon your own taste and preforences. As the Range Officer comes out of the box, it can handle anything you ask of it.
If you’re in the market for a really top-notch 1911, that can handle just about any chores you can throw at it, then take a real close look at the Springfield Armory Range Officer. It won’t let you down, on the competition field or on the mean streets – it’ll get the job done, I have no doubts. And, while the Range Officer was introduced in Nov. 2010, they are still in very short supply. I checked Gunbroker.com and Gunsamerica.com and there are very few samples up for auction on those web sites. I knew from the beginning, that the Range Officer wasn’t gonna go back to Springfield Armory – it’s a keeper – now I just have to figure out how I’m gonna come up with the funds to purchase this sample. My guy at the gun shop offered to buy it if I didn’t want it. And he doesn’t buy a lot of guns for himself, so that said a lot! If you want custom 1911 performance and accuracy from a production 1911, at avery affordable price, then get yourself a Springfield Armory Range Officer.
I can honestly say, that I’ve had a couple big-name custom 1911s that didn’t shoot nearly as accurately as the Range Officer does – and they cost thousands of dollars more than the Range Officer does. Whenever I run across a 1911 that is priced fairly (and the Range Officer most certainly is), is well-built, with quailty parts, and is more accurate than I can be with it and 100% reliable – I’m snapping it up! The concept behind the Range Officer is that of a 1911 ready for competition. However, I believe it is equally well-suited as a carry gun for self-defense, survival, law enforcement duty, military SpecOps or anything else you can think of. It really is “that” good!