When the demand for the M1911 surged during World War I, Colt (the original manufacturer of John M. Browning’s design) was unable to satisfy all the orders. Production was bolstered by including government-owned Springfield Armory to manufacture the design as well. In 1924, the M1911 was modified slightly, including a rounded mainspring housing, a shorter trigger, and widened grip safety (among other minor changes) and given the designation M1911 A1. And while the original Springfield Armory shut down in 1968, the name license was purchased in 1974 to a firearms company dedicated to producing civilian versions of the M14 rifle– the M1A. They soon expanded production to include a new generation of the old Browning trademark, M1911s. Although the original Springfield Armory and its present-day namesake aren’t related beyond the epithet, they can both be associated with continuing a tradition of producing an iconic 1911 pistol.
The M1911 A1 Loaded, produced by Springfield Armory has all the classic elements of the original 1911 design, but with a few improvements upon the standard. Like the M1911s of WWI, the A1 Loaded carries 7+1 rounds of .45 ACP. Its full size stainless steel frame and slide house a 5” barrel. Not surprisingly, the full size steel .45 isn’t a lightweight – it weighs in at 40oz, unloaded. But, despite its large size (8.5in long by 5.5in tall and about an inch wide), and flashy looks (this 1911 sports a polished stainless finish on the flats and matte rounded edges, front and rear cocking serrations, finished off with diamond checkered cocobolo wood grips) it does feature some concealed carry elements in its design. Chief of these are its low profile three dot combat sites and beveled edges.
The Springfield 1911 covered in this post was the first centerfire this reviewer shot, and since then, it has fired several thousand rounds – all without a single error of any kind. This puppy eats any .45 like candy, from top shelf self defense ammo, to bargain bin rounds, and everything in between. There are those who find this Springer’s Brazilian origin “dubious,” but as I’ve yet to have even one stovepipe (the lowered and flared ejection port may have contributed to that), it would seem those fears are unfounded. To see how this pistol handles at a self defense distance (about 16ft) check out this video. It keeps fist-sized groupings from that distance without much effort. The pistol’s large size is an advantage when shooting that hard-hitting .45 ACP. Its relatively slender, but still full size grip, allows for the shooter to establish a firm hold, which further reduces perceived recoil, making it easier to keep successive shots on target. The factory 3 dot sights are somewhat small, but still functional in decently lit conditions (however, the size and the lack of tritium insert becomes more of a detraction in poorly lit environments). The skeletonized trigger, however, doesn’t disappoint. It breaks cleanly after a short travel and a 6lb pull.
Just as the classic 1911s of the Great War Era, the 1911 A1 Loaded is a beast to disassemble. The video at the top of this post gives a full demonstration of how to field strip and then reassemble the Springer. (It also happens to be one of the first few videos I ever recorded, so if I seem a tad nervous, it’s because I’m still rather camera shy.) First, the first part of the two piece guide rod must be loosened and removed(make sure you have your allen wrench handy). Next, while depressing the recoil spring cap, the barrel bushing needs to be rotated one quarter turn clockwise. This moves it out of the way of the recoil spring cap so that it can be removed (keep in mind that it is under tension from the recoil spring and will have a tendency to fly across the room if not managed carefully). After that, the slide will need to be moved rearward until the takedown notch on the slide aligns with the corresponding notch on the frame at the slide stop pin. Once aligned, pushing the head of the pin will free it from the frame for removal. Now the slide can be removed by sliding it forward off the frame. Turning the slide upside-down reveals the recoil spring and the recoil spring guide. These can be slid out from the slide and then the recoil spring can be separated from the guide. At this point, rotating the barrel bushing one half turn counter-clockwise will release it from the slide and it can be removed. Then, with the barrel link pointed forward, the barrel can be removed through the front of the slide. Now the A1 Loaded is finally field stripped.
Putting it back together involves reversing all the previous actions, which is already a lot of steps. Unfortunately, it is more challenging to assemble this 1911 than it is to disassemble it. Follow the disassembly in reverse until the slide has been repositioned onto the frame with the take down notches realigned. When replacing the slide stop pin, there is a small plunger on the frame that will need to be depressed while the pin is pushed back into the frame (I usually use a small flat head screwdriver covered in electric tape). And, be careful, because if the slide stop pin wiggles while it’s being forced back through the frame and barrel link (you’ll need to make sure that the barrel link is in the correct [rearward] position so that the slide stop pin slides through it), the back of the slide release can cause an arcing scratch across the frame from the takedown notch to the trigger guard (often called an “idiot scratch”). After that, the recoil spring must be compressed with the recoil spring cap so that the barrel bushing can be rotated back into (vertical) position, capturing the spring and cap. Then the recoil spring guide rod can be tightened back into place and, voila! Not exactly a walk in the park, but there it is. Complete disassembly and reassembly is only more complicated.
As with any 1911, there is always the element of the manual thumb safety to evaluate when considering this pistol for concealed carry. Those opposed to manual safties on carry firearms argue that flicking off the safety (like the ambi thumb safety of the 1911 A1 Loaded) is one extra step that might be forgotten in the stress of a self defense situation. On the other hand, some feel that regular practice is enough to train one’s self to disengage the safety if the situation called for it. Some oppose carrying a 1911 because of the limited capacity single stack pistols offer. The Springfield A1 Loaded puts 7+1 rounds at the operator’s disposal. Whether or not that is sufficient, only the person carrying it can decide for themselves. There is also the 1911 A1 Loaded’s inconspicuous nature when evaluating it as a potential carry gun. It’s far from a “pocket pistol.” As an average-sized female, this reviewer finds it a challenge to effectively conceal a handgun with as much real estate as the Springfield 1911 A1 Loaded. However, compared to the girthy 1.5” Beretta 92FS or SIG P226, the A1 Loaded is comparatively narrow, and may be a more feasible option for average-sized males (or somewhat larger sized females).
Those who love the classic 1911 design, but want just a little more from their .45 (without having to drop custom shop/competition quality cash) won’t be disappointed with the Springfield 1911 A1 Loaded. It pays homage to the Springfield Armory M1911s of old with the traditional 1911 grip angle, forged steel slide and frame, wide beavertail and grip safety and delivers 8 rounds of punchy .45 ACP. It’s still a pain in the butt to take down and clean. However, the good looks and performance of added features, such as front cocking serrations, three dot sights, lowered and flared ejection port, makes the Springield A1 Loaded a 1911 with more range fun.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Frame Material: Stainless steel
Slide Material: Stainless steel
Finish: Matte rounds w/ polished flats
Barrel length: 5.0in
Overall length: 8.5in
Overall height: 5.5in
MSRP: $1,039 (street price is closer to ~$850)