Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm Review

By Ben Findley
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm Review

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

United States -(AmmoLand.com)- In 2007, Springfield-Armory introduced their groundbreaking 1911 Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) in a subcompact 9mm with a 3-inch barrel.

Springfield-Armory was a major innovator in changing the 1911 design to better accommodate the 9mm cartridge for concealed carry.

The Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 9mm changes what a compact 1911 can be. Of course, the 1911 design originated with the .45 ACP cartridge, but the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP was adapted to reliably function with the 9mm cartridge for more comfortable shooting. It is one of the smallest 1911s on the market. The action of the EMP is 1/8 inch shorter than the original 1911 with a shorter grip radius for more control and it holds more rounds than the typical 1911 in .45 ACP.

Well for 2016, Springfield introduced a new variation, the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion with a 4-inch barrel, fiber optic sights, more rounds capacity, a taller frame, and slightly more weight for better performance, with a lower MSRP. So does the new Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4″ Lightweight Champion 9mm live up to the outstanding reputation of the original EMP? I want to compare the Specifications of both guns, give my criteria for my evaluation, rate each of my criteria, and present my recommendation. I hope this review and analysis helps you when considering the EMP for your possible carry gun.

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm vs the Springfield Armory EMP3

Here are the EMP4's Specifications compared to the EMP3's Specifications:

Note some key differences between the two models:

  • (1) EMP 4 = 31 oz. weight v. EMP 3 = 26.7 oz.
  • (2) EMP 4 = Fiber Optic Front Sight v. EMP 3 = Trijicon Night Sights
  • (3) EMP 4 = 10 Round Capacity v. EMP 3 = 9 Round Capacity
  • (4) EMP 4 = 5.5″ Height v. EMP 3 = 5.0″ Height
  • (5) EMP 4 = 1.15″ Grip Width v. EMP 3 = 1.06″ Grip Width
  • (6) EMP 4 = $1179 MSRP v. EMP 3 = $1320 MSRP
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm vs the Springfield Armory EMP3
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm vs the Springfield Armory EMP3

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm : My 10 Criteria and Considerations

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm in Galco Stinger Holster
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm in Galco Stinger Holster

My criteria that follow are the physical gun attributes, features, and preferences I want for my carry purpose for the EMP. You may have other criteria and desired features, but these are what I consider. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria or desires and subtract any of mine. Here are mine:

(1)    Accuracy and Reliability- Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages and results in accurate target hits with a maximum of a 4″ inch hit group at  7-10 yards and to repeat that consistently;

(2)   Trigger Press maximum of about 5.0-5.5 pounds – lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and a press that is crisp and identifiable;

(3)   Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and an easily identifiable and short reset point; a Trigger with a smooth consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);

(4)   Barrel length of 3.0″-4.0″ (primarily for Concealed Carry);

(5)   Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see [like Fiber Optic]; fast target acquisition; adjustable for windage- for purpose); or Night Sights for low-light situations;

(6)   Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (prefer 25-30 oz or so);

(7)   Caliber match to your needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference;

(8)   Capacity of at least 9 in a 9mm magazine;

(9)   Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; and

(10) Miscellaneous – Finish, fit, & quality appearance; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; ease of disassembly-assembly; Hard Case; Extras (like holster & mag pouch), etc.

Remember, there are a lot of attributes, pros and cons, and criteria to consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, and defined needs and use.

Field Test Of The Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm

After shooting and handling the new EMP4 in 9mm and carefully considering the EMP's specifications, below is what I discovered and my point evaluations.

You should know that I am not being paid to say these things, am not on Springfield's payroll, and do not feel obligated to say the things that follow.  Know that I am not a top expert shooter by any means and I only shot about 150 rounds through the new EMP, so it really is not fully broken in.

I shot a variety of ammo including: American Eagle 115 grain, Blazer Brass 115 grain, Freedom Munitions 124 grain, Aguila 124 grain, and Lax 115 grain reloads. I must honestly say that this 9mm EMP4 was one of the the best-shooting, accurate, reliable, and comfortable guns with light recoil that I have shot recently. The crisp and smooth trigger was excellent. The slide-to-frame fit was very tight and solid. I experienced NO malfunctions or stoppages of any kind; no failures to fire or failures to feed or eject; no failures to lockback; no misfires; no problems whatsoever.

The Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm was very enjoyable to shoot, was smooth shooting, and had very manageable light recoil. This gun was very accurate out-of-the-box. For the rounds I shot with it, the EMP4 impressed me as a high quality, classy, accurate, reliable, good-looking, and precision handgun.

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm: 7 Yards- 11 Hits Drawing & Fast Fire
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm: 7 Yards- 11 Hits Drawing & Fast Fire

(1) The Accuracy of the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm was acceptable for me at distances of 7 and 10 yards. I was able to shoot decent groups even with my aging eyes (and a current minor eye cyst), with the gun doing most of the work. My groups of 15 shots at each of the distances were about 3.5 inches or so for the first time I ever fired the gun drawing from the holster included in the hard case. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various 115 grain FMJ and 124 grain FMJ ammo. I did not shoot hollow points... 10.

(2) The Trigger Press out of the box averaged about 5.0 pounds, with 5 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. Since it is a new pistol with no break-in period, it met my criterion and expectations. I believe with more rounds down range and my improved handling, it will be even better… 9.

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm was Reliable with Various Ammo- 10 Yards- 20 Hits with Slow Fire.
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm was Reliable with Various Ammo- 10 Yards- 20 Hits with Slow Fire.

(3) The EMP4 Trigger had a short travel distance with a crisp, identifiable reset point. I easily got off quick follow-up shots. The reset was very definite and identifiable.The single-action trigger was very good, smooth, and consistent shooting with the same press each time. I really enjoyed shooting it… 10.

(4) The 4-inch Barrel , as compared to my 3-inch EMPs, did seem to help me. The longer barrel provides many types of powder a longer burning time for a complete burn which increases velocity, which in turn adds to muzzle energy. But, I felt very little recoil with the EMP4 and it was very stable and comfortable. The extra inch for the barrel did give me more stability, less muzzle flip, and with the longer sight radius contributed some to help my accuracy. The match-grade barrel, slide, and trigger really helped… 10.

(5) The Fiber Optic Front Sight and the low-profile, combat Rear Sights really helped me to quickly get my sight alignment and sight picture. It was very easy and quick to find the the front sight. Extra Red and Green Rods were included. I liked that the rear sight was adjustable for windage. The Sights are steel and sturdy… 10.

(6) The lightweight aluminum frame combined with the stainless steel barrel for a nice 31-ounce unloaded mag Total Weight. The EMP4 was not too heavy and there was very little felt recoil. It was just right for me and I could handle it well and accurately for a compact gun… 10.

(7) The 9mm Caliber in the slim 1911 EMP4 was very enjoyable to shoot, made recoil very manageable, and I was accurate with it. It easily digested a variety of 115 and 124 grain 9mm ammo (including reloads)… 10.

(8) I liked the 10+1 Capacity of the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm and the extra rounds gave me peace of mind… 10.

(9) The Egonomics of the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm were just right for my medium-sized hands. I could easily reach all the controls like the thumb safety, slide lever, and magazine release, without turning the gun or adjusting my grip. It was comfortable in my hands and its slenderness fit them just right… 10.

The Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm's lockable hard Case includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, lock, and more.
The Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm's lockable hard Case includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, lock, and more.

(10)  Miscellaneous. I disassembled and re-assembled and cleaned the EMP4 before I shot it. However, it took just a little practice to get accustomed to the takedown procedure using the provided “pin.” There was not a takedown piece included (like with the EMP-3) that snaps on the guide rod. But, you don't have to use the piece and it is fairly easy to take it down without it. They provide a special “pin” that fits in the guide rod and helps relieve the spring pressure for easy takedown. One criticism is a lack of witness holes in the mags to help you see how many rounds are loaded. Another is the need for at least one mag to be a flush-fitting magazine (not available at this time) for carry purposes to reduce bulging. This was also an issue (albeit a minor one) for the 3-inch EMP… 8.

EMP 4 Lightweight Champion – Total Points = 97 out of 100 Possible.

The EMP4 is very comparable to the EMP 3-inch barrel gun. It is challenging to improve upon an already quality gun, but they at least matched it and in my opinion surpassed it with the EMP4, in part from the addition of the Fiber Optic Front Sight.  My high score rating is very high for this gun compared to many others I have reviewed. Without a doubt, I definitely RECOMMEND this handgun for concealed carry, personal protection, and for IDPA shooting. I want to shoot more rounds through it and try hollow points and 147 grain ammo to see if my evaluation still holds. I feel certain it probably will, so I decided to buy the EMP4. I am voting with my money for continued excellent results.

I hope my review of the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm has introduced you to a new and excellent handgun. With the several added features, I guess you do get what you pay for. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what's important to you ahead of your range live fire. Then critically evaluate the gun yourself with your criteria and purpose, using standard drills (several mentioned in my recent book “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials”), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.

Continued success!

Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm Resources:

Photos by Author and Springfield-Armory.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected]

Col. Ben Findley
Col. Ben Findley

About Col Ben Findley:

“Col Ben” is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben recently wrote the book Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com.

  • 7 thoughts on “Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 9mm Review

    1. Sounds like the EMP4 has a problem with Hollow Points & needs ramp work.Yeah, me 2, I hate to spend that kinda $$$ on a CC gun for self defense, if it ain’t perfect. Picky me. That’s Y I shoot Bill Wilson 1911’s. BUT I have been drawn to this EMP 4, looks like the perfect CC gun, for a 1911 addicted Dude. I think I will check with Bill Wilson & C what they think & maybe doing a typical Wilson tune up.

    2. I wish I could say the same about trusting this EMP4 9 mm. I shot 50 rounds through it brand new from the gun dealer. Cleaned it and loaded the gun. Went to show a friend my gun and unloaded it and then it would not load rounds in the chamber. They dead nose and jambed on the ramp. Sent it to SA and they replaced the ejector pin. When I got it back same thing. Sending it back to SA again. Who needs this for personal protection. I tried Winchester which I originally shot , Remingtons and Remington hollow points. It doesn’t matter if I put 5 rounds or 10 in the mag. And all 3 Mags do the same. At $1100.00 dollars I thought I was getting a good gun. My Glock is reliable. Next is a gun smith what choice do I have if the factory can’ fix it.

    3. I have owned an EMP 40sw for over 4 years now and put 100’s of rounds thru it of all different types with never one flaw, jamb, hold back or anything. Just purchased this EMP 9mm LW today and test fired it at the store where I bought it. I had 2 malfunctions in 50 rounds. I hope to GOD this was the ammo because I am a perfectionist and any malfunction or finicky weapon does not fit my billing of EDC. The ammo was Ga. Arms 115gr JHP RMFG. I have always considered this ammo just a step under my premium ammo and have never had any issues from it in other guns. Please tell me its the ammo. I suppose the gun needs a good cleaning and obviously I’m headed back to the range for another test. However, a nagging doubt is now deeply embedded in my mind.

    4. Since I have an EMP 3″, that extra inch on the EMP 4 has been tantalizing me just enough to seek out the information such as you have provided here. Well Colonel, you are certainly no help with that dangling carrot…
      However, your report is concise & very well done and I thank you for that. Though I do not believe I would make it my ccw, I am looking at it as a primary grab for hd. Of course, reliability would dictate that choice.
      Thanks again for your report & your service…

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