The 1911 handgun has been around since, well, 1911, so the design is more than a hundred years old. For an old work horse, the design shows no signs of slowing down. As a matter of fact, there are probably at least 50 companies producing the 1911 in one form or another. We can have a 1911 in the basic mil-spec version or a fully decked out custom gun with more bells and whistles than we could ever use. We can find 1911s imported from The Philippines for well under $500 or acquire custom guns that easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. We can have a full-sized 1911 or a sub-compact version and everything in between those sizes.
One of the major players in the 1911 field is Springfield Armory in Geneseo, IL. They have some 1911s produced in Brazil, and many are made in-house. You can choose anything from a mil-spec version, which are very nice guns, to one from their Custom Shop and once again everything in between. Also, Springfield Armory has one of the best warranties in the business, too.
I rarely, and I mean rarely, do a side-by-side test of any firearms. For good reason, no matter how fair one wants to be, we will always favor one gun over another, for whatever reason. This doesn’t mean that one gun is necessarily better than the other gun. It’s just our preferences and personal tastes. We can take two identical guns from the same manufacturer, and we will most likely favor one over the other. Go figure.
With the above in mind, I thought it would be interesting to test the Springfield Armory TRP 1911 against the TRP Operator 1911 to see how they compared. The TRP has a 2-piece guide rod, while the TRP Operator has a 1–piece guide rod. Both guns have Tritium night sights. The TRP has fixed Novak combat sights, and the TRP Operator has a full adjustable rear sight. Both come with two 7-rd stainless steel mags with slam pads, both have their frames made out of forged steel, and ditto goes for the slides. Both have identical grey G-10 gips, and both have 5-inch match grade stainless steel barrels. Both have the outstanding Armory Kote on the slides and frames that really resists the elements. The TRP weighs 42 oz, while the TRP Operator weighs 45 oz, due to the Picatinny rail on the frame for lasers and lights. Actually, there are very few differences at all between the two guns.
If you like adjustable sights, the TRP Operator is the way to go. If you like fixed sights, the standard TRP is the right choice. If you want that Picatinny rail for mounting lights and lasers, then the TRP Operator is your choice. Other than that, the guns are pretty much the same in all the areas that count.
Springfield Armory has a limited edition of only 1,500 TRP Operator 1911 available that are set up the way famed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle had his that he carried in Iraq. The gun with serial #1 was sold at auction, and if I recall it went for over $22,000. However, if you can find any of the other serial numbers, the retail price is $2495, however I suspect they will all sell for even more than that.
Both of the TRPs come from Springfield Armory in a very nice polymer carrying case that includes the two magazines, a double magazine pouch, a paddle holster, full instructions, and a cleaning brush. The two magazines have slam pads for a reason; there is an extended magazine well “funnel” on the gun for faster reloads, and mags without the slam pads would be difficult to insert. The slam pads are the way to go. The trigger pull on both of my samples came in right at 4½ lbs, and I didn’t see any need to adjust it lighter than that; this is a good trigger pull for a self-defense handgun. The TRP had a slightly, every so slightly, crisper trigger pull. Both guns also have the extended beaver tail grip safety that were timed perfectly. Both guns had ambidextrous thumb safeties as well. They snicked on/off with authority; there’s no slop! The barrel on the TRP Operator is a heavier bull barrel, as opposed to the standard diameter barrel on the TRP.
Both of the TRPs fit nicely in a Blackhawk Products tactical thigh holster and their SERPA hip holsters. I was a little concerned that the Operator with the Picatinny rail wasn’t going to fit in those holsters; it fit nicely. However, the Operator needs a specially molder leather holster that will have room for the Picatinny rail. The TRP fit in every 1911 holster I tried it in.
Many years ago, I co-authored a book called SWAT Battle Tactics with my friend John McSweeney, who passed away about a dozen years ago. McSweeney was the founder of the American Kenpo Karate Association, and he is credited with introducing Kenpo Karate in Ireland. He was also well-known for his handgun skills, especially when it came to Point Shooting. He and I used different methods, but they were compatible with one another, as demonstrated in our DVD “Tactical Point Shooting” that is sold by Paladin Press. I used to teach SWAT tactics many, many years ago, and my SWAT book is in need of a serious update when I can find the time, or perhaps I need to write a completely new book.
I’ve stated before that if I had to go into an active shooter situation and I could only have one handgun, the 1911 would be that firearm, with plenty of spare magazines. The .45 ACP puts the bad guns down faster, in my humble opinion, and the TRP 1911s are both chambered in .45 ACP. When I taught SWAT tactics to police officers, it became apparent that they had difficulty moving through the hallways and small rooms with a shotgun or an AR-15. I suggested that they try house clearing with a handgun instead of a long gun, and it worked better. That’s not to say that a shotgun or an AR-15 shouldn’t be used. Take it for what it’s worth and save the hate mail. Use what you use best if you’re a SWAT officer. If I knew I was going up against several armed suspects who were armed with AK-47s or AR-15, my choice would be an AR-15 WITH a 1911 on my hip. It just depends on the situation. Choose the tools you’ll use carefully, and train with them. I have every confidence in the world, if only armed with a good 1911, the right ammo, and plenty of spare magazines, going into many dangerous situations.
Highly trained SWAT teams, like the world-famous Los Angeles PD, issue 1911s to their officers. Each officer is actually issued two 1911s– one has a rail for a light, and one without a rail. They choose accordingly when going into a dangerous scenario. Many other SWAT teams around the country, even around the world, pick the 1911 as their sidearm. Take it for what it’s worth.
Many of my long-time readers will know that I just can’t help but change something on my 1911s or tinker with them to make things more to my liking. The only changes I did on both the TRP and the TRP Operator were to replace the standard 16-lb recoil spring with an 18.5-lb heavier recoil spring. I shoot a lot of +P ammo through my 1911s, and I think the heavier recoil spring just makes sense. It protects the frame from getting battered by the hotter rounds. Other than that, I made no changes to either gun.
Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition kindly supplied me with a great assortment of .45 ACP ammo for my testing, and I did a lot of shooting for this article. From Buffalo Bore, I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC XP low recoil, standard pressure, all-copper hollow point round, their 255-gr Outdoorsman Hard Cast +P load, 230-gr FMJ FN +P, 185-gr JHP +P, 200-gr JHP +P, and their 185-gr Barnes TAC XP all-copper hollow point +P. From Black Hills, I had their 200-gr Match SWC, 230-gr FMJ, 185-gr JHP, 230-GR JHP, 230-gr JHP +P, and their 185-gr Barnes TAC XP all-copper hollow point +P.
I fired more than 500 rounds through each gun over my testing period of a couple months, and there were zero, none, nada malfunctions of any type. The TRP Operator needed to have the fully adjustable rear sight adjusted a bit. It was shooting too high and to the left a bit. The fixed sight TRP was dead-on at 25 yards.
Accuracy testing was done at 25 yards with the TRPs resting over a sleeping bag over the hood of my pickup truck– my usual routine. Both guns would easily shoot under three inches with all of the ammo. Some rounds gave me groups of 2½ inches, if I did my part. One ammo gave me a 2-inch group, if I did my part, and that was the Black Hills 230-gr JHP, with the Buffalo Bore 200-gr JHP +P load right on its heels. I also allowed several friends to shoot both guns, and none of them could decide which one they liked better. I believe, on a good day, when I’m really on my game, I can get groups down below two inches.
So, what did I learn from the TRP vs TRP Operator testing? Well, I thought the heavy bull barrel TRP Operator would give me smaller groups. It didn’t. There really wasn’t any measurable differences between the two TRPs. This surprised me, because a heavier bull barrel has given me better accuracy in the past on 1911s. It just show that Springfield did an outstanding job fitting the barrels on both guns for the most accuracy.
Did I have a preference at the end of my testing? Yep, I liked the TRP a little bit better than the TRP Operator, for concealed carry! It just seemed to balance a little better in my hand than the TRP Operator did with the rail on it. Now, going into a dark building at night not knowing what was hiding and waiting for me, it would be a complete toss up as to which TRP I grabbed. If using a rail mounted light, the TRP Operator would win. So, when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t feel the least bit undergunned or outgunned with I had the TRP or the TRP Operator in my hands. There was no loser here. Both guns are winners in my book. The Operator retails for a little bit more than the standard TRP does, and I’m not listing prices here. I checked all over the Internet, and prices are all over the place. So shop around on the ‘net or at your local gun shops, and see who has the best prices. However, don’t be surprised if your local gun shop doesn’t even have either TRP in-stock; they are hard to come by, and Springfield works overtime to try and meet demand. The guns are very popular. You can’t go wrong with either one.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio