Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Springfield Armory’s Loaded Operator 1911

Over the years, I’ve owned more 1911 handguns than any other type of handguns. No matter what new type of polymer handguns that come into my hands, I always turn back to the grand ol’ 1911 as my favorite handgun. It’s just hard to argue with success. The 1911 was first made in, well, 1911, and it celebrated more than 100 years of age a few years ago. To be sure, I honestly can’t keep track of all the gun companies that are making 1911s these days. If a person could sit down and start counting all the different companies who are either making or did make 1911s, I’m sure it would number well over a hundred. Then we have to look at the different models of 1911s, which easily number in the hundreds and hundreds of different models. One 1911 maker alone produces more than 60 different types and styles of 1911s. Wow!

The 1911 is unique when it comes to handguns. It is the only handgun, that I’m aware of, that has a trigger that slides back and forth. All other guns have triggers that pivot. The sliding trigger explains why the 1911 handgun has one of the best trigger pulls on the market. Maybe your particular 1911 doesn’t have the smoothest trigger pull right now, however, it can be made to have a smooth and slick trigger pull with very little work. Also, let’s not forget the reset once the trigger is pulled on a 1911; it’s very fast and VERY short, as to my knowledge no other handgun has a shorter trigger reset than the 1911. I can put eight empty .45ACP brass cases in the air at the same time with a good 1911 in my hand. Try that with any other handgun. I can shoot the 1911 faster and better than any other handgun I’ve ever tested, bar none!

I’m not aware of any other style of handgun that is customized more than a 1911, nor any other handgun that has its own entire parts catalogs, like Brownell’s 1911 parts catalog. To be sure, there are also more gunsmiths who specialize in the 1911 than any other handgun in the world. The world is awash with polymer handguns and more new models seem to come out every week, but none are as popular as the 1911. The 1911 is as American as American can be.

Enter the Springfield Armory 1911 Loaded Operator, which is a new model for 2015 that I received about a month ago for this article. I’m here to tell you that this factory 1911 is absolutely a top-of-the-line 1911. It has everything you may want and nothing you don’t need. The Loaded Operator is a full-sized Government-style 1911. It has a 5-inch barrel and full grip frame, plus it also has a Picatinny rail under the dust cover in case you want to mount a light or laser on it. That’s nice!

Let’s take a closer look at the Loaded Operator. We have night sights front and rear on the slide, with the rear being a Novak combat-style rear sight, which is the best of the best, in my humble opinion. The slide is opened up and flared back for sure ejection of empty and loaded rounds. There are also angled slide serrations, front and rear, for a sure grip when loading a round from the magazine into the chamber. The barrel is stainless steel, match grade, and it has been throated and polished to feed any type of rounds you might want to throw its way.

Moving down to the frame of the Loaded Operator, we have a match-grade trigger that breaks clean at 4-lbs, which is just about perfect for street use. You don’t want a trigger pull much lighter than that, nor do you need a trigger pull any lighter than that. We also have an ambidextrous thumb safety, expertly fitted, that *snicks on and off with authority and no play at all. A beaver tail grip safety that is timed perfectly is a joy. The back strap is checkered for a sure grip, too. Springfield Armory also included an extended magazine chute for getting a mag loaded into the gun as fast as possible; this is really, really nicely fitted, too. The gun comes with two 8-rd magazines, too. The grips are checked black G-10 with a groove milled into the left side grip panel, so there is easy access to the magazine release. On top of it all, there is zero play between the slide/frame/barrel, and I mean zero play that is expertly fitted. The slide rides on the frame are butter smooth, too. The hammer is a combat style, and the firing pin is titanium for a fast lock time.

The barrel bushing is stainless steel, and fitted just right; it’s tight, but you can still turn it with finger pressure instead of using a bushing wrench. On the Springfield Armory website, it states that the Loaded Operator comes with a one-piece guide rod. My sample has the standard Government-style, short guide rod, which I much prefer over a one-piece guide rod. The gun has what is called an “Armory Coating”– a hi-tech polymer finish that is black in color and very tough. It will outlast any blued gun by far.

Springfield Armory ships the Loaded Operator in a very nice polymer carrying case. Inside the case was the gun with two 8-rd mags, as well as a holster and double magazine pouch. There is a cleaning rod/brush and excellent instructions, as well a coupon for discounted Springfield Armory products, like more mags if you want to have some spares on hand.

The only change I made to my Loaded Operator was that I added some skateboard friction tape to the front strap of the gun. It was a bit too slick for my liking. Then again, I do this to almost every 1911 I’ve owned. I like the gritty feel on the skateboard friction tape. It gives me a better hold on the gun under all weather conditions, and skateboard tape is $1.99 per foot, which is inexpensive. I replace it once a year, if needed.

I’ve customized quite a few 1911s over the years, not only for myself but for friends and customers, when I had a gun shop. However, I didn’t turn out one 1911 that was as nicely fitted as the Springfield Armory Loaded Operator that I tested for this article. I’ve also owned a couple high priced 1911s from custom 1911 makers that weren’t as nicely put together as the Loaded Operator. Additionally, these guns easily cost twice what the Loaded Operator sells for, and they didn’t shoot any better, either.

I had an outstanding assortment of .45 ACP ammo on hand for testing, too, from Black Hills Ammunition. I had their outstanding 230-gr FMJ, which is always a great performer in the accuracy department, their 230-gr JHP, 185-gr JHP, and I found some of their 230-gr JHP +P in an ammo can. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had the following: 160-gr Barnes TAC XP low recoil all-copper hollow point round, 255-gr Hard Cast +P load, 230-gr FMJ FN +P, 160-gr Barnes TAC XP +P all copper hollow point, 200-gr JHP +P, 185-gr Barnes TAC XP all-copper +P hollow point, and 185-gr JHP +P load. Whew!

In all, over several shooting sessions, I put more than 600-rds down range. It was some fun shooting and some accuracy shooting. For my accuracy testing, I did my usual rolled-up-sleeping-bag-over-the-hood-of-my-pick-up-truck shooting at 25-yards. For function testing, I burned through a lot of ammo as fast as I could pull the trigger, and I have plenty of extra 1911 magazines on hand at all times. The gun got hot, but it never missed a beat. During the accuracy testing, no load shot more than 3-inch groups. That’s pretty cool. Most groups were well under three inches. If I did my part all of the time, I could get groups under two inches. Keep in mind that this is a factory gun! The best group from all my shooting was from the Black Hills 230-gr JHP load. I got several 1 1/2 inch groups, so long as I was on my game. The Loaded Operator also liked the Buffalo Bore 160-gr Barnes TAC XP lo-recoil load. I was getting some groups close to an inch and a half. I can’t complain in the least about the accuracy with any of the loads I tested from Black Hills and Buffalo Bore. They both produce top-notch ammo. Tim (Buffalo Bore) and Jeff (Black Hills), you guys are doing up ammo right, and folks need to really take a close look at all the different ammo you make.

There are a good selection of holsters on the market for 1911s these days. However, I really like the line up from Blackhawk Products – Their SERPA concealed carry holster is great. It holds the gun high and tight to the body. Their Tactical Thigh holster is great for SWAT cops and military use since it holds a 1911 on your thigh, right where you need it to be, and it would be my first choice if I were a SWAT cop or carrying a 1911 in the military. One thing that drives me crazy, and in my case its a short drive to crazy, is watching people in gun shops buy really nice guns, like this Loaded Operator, and then purchase the cheapest holster they can find. Why? Do yourself a favor, check out the Blackhawk line of holsters. They are priced right and will last you a lifetime.

Now, as savvy SurvivalBlog readers know, quality never comes cheap. You can buy cheap all the time, but do you want to bet your life on a cheap 1911? I have several 1911s that are made in the Philippines. They’re really decent guns for the money, which was well under $500, and they are fun to shoot. However, do you really want to bet your life on a “cheap” 1911? The Springfield Armory Loaded Operator 1911 retails for $1,399, and as I’ve said before, you only have to buy quality once. I’ve paid twice this amount for some custom-made 1911s that were no better made than this Loaded Operator.

After my testing, I replaced the factory 16-lbs recoil spring in the Loaded Operator with an 18.5-lbs recoil spring, which is a smart thing to do if one plans on doing a lot of shooting with +P .45ACP loads. The gun never missed a beat, and I even mixed different types and brands of .45ACP ammo in magazines during my testing. The gun gobbled up everything I threw at it and perked along just fine. So, if you’re in the market for an outstanding 1911, take a close look at the Springfield Armory Loaded Operator. You may find yourself doing what I did. I took the gun apart, looking for the built-in radar that Springfield must have installed, because I don’t usually shoot this good. I’m a better than the average shot, because I shoot a lot– several times per week, but this Loaded Operator just seemed like it zeroed in on the target like it had radar and placed all those rounds on target like the gun had built-in radar.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

Recipe of the Week: Red Mac and Cheese, by M.J.


  • 1 large soup pot, large enough to easily hold 5 pounds of food
  • 1 pound of your favorite pasta, cooked al dente and drained. (Do not rinse; rinsing pasta waters down the final product. You want sauce sticking to your pasta rather than water.)
  • 1 – 32 ounce jar of your favorite tomato sauce, or make your own
  • 1 pound of sliced American cheese


  1. In a large pot, heat tomato sauce, almost to boiling. Gradually, add cheese, stirring constantly. Turn the heat down or the cheese could scorch the pan.
  2. When the cheese is thoroughly melted in the tomato sauce, add drained pasta and mix well.
  3. May be served with salad and garlic bread.

All recipes are meant to be tweeked

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Do you have a favorite recipe that would be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers? Please send it via e-mail. Thanks!