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(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Daniel Henderson

If you’re able to add and subtract, it’s easy to figure out that the 1911 has been with us for 105 years. There is a 1911 priced to fit every market you can think of. I could spend several hours listing every single 1911 available on today’s market and still miss some. So why would you care about this one?

Let’s rewind back to 1996.  The FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) needed a 1911. The accuracy standard was for three 10-shot groups at 25 yards fired from a Ransom Rest with a group no larger than 1.5” with Remington Golden Sabers. It was then shot 20,000 times and retested for accuracy again. To give you an idea of how extreme this was, Bill Wilson produced a fixed barrel rig to show that grouping from Golden Sabers was impossible.

In the end, only one gun survived and met all of the FBI’s demands.  The result is the most torture tested, durable, and reliable 1911s ever made. It’s called the Springfield Armory Professional 1911-A1.

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This gun defines the Springfield Custom Shop.  f you want one of these at list price, you’re waiting 24-36 months for them to get to your order. It’s not just a normal pistol slapped together like a Mil-Spec or a Range Officer. This is a custom pistol, hand-fit and finished to a level comparable with the Wilson Combats and the Ed Browns of the world.

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I was lucky enough to find a new one that wasn’t TOO much over MSRP, but still less than a brand new Wilson Combat CQB. When you hold the gun in your hands, you start to realize why this gun costs what it does and why it has a cult following. Nothing  on the gun moves until you demand it moves. The bushing is fit so tight that it rubs the finish off of the Black-T coated barrel.

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When you grip the gun, there’s no way you don’t notice the hand cut 20 lpi checkering on the frontstrap and the mainspring housing.  For those people with softer hands, it can feel sharp. For others like myself, the points blend in with your hand like it made just for you.  From the rear, it looks like one solid piece with tattoo ink where the slide and frame join together.

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There is a minor elephant in the room. There are three MIM parts on the gun. The slide release, magazine release, and the disconnect are MIM parts. Do I care? No. This is the most brutalized firearm in history. Did they break when it was torture tested by the FBI? No. Are they going to break under the so called “stress” I’ll put it through? No.

My Professional has survived about 1,000 rounds. I’ve run Federal HSTs, Speer Lawman loads from 185gr to 230gr, and crappy Winchester White Box thru it. They all went bang with as much drama as a colonoscopy. I haven’t bench-rested the gun, but I can routinely put eight rounds with two inches from 7-15 yards standing. The funny part is the gun likes the Speer Lawman 200gr +P loadings (1,080 fps/518 ft-lbs) better than rest. It’s a brutal load to shoot in most guns, but the Pro shrugged it off and enjoyed it.

It also didn’t care what magazine you shoved into it. The gun came with five Metalform seven-round mags. I’ve used Wilson Combat 47D and ETM mags with no drama. The maxwell didn’t have an issue with Chip McCormick 10 round mag even though the base is wider than most 1911 mags. Cobra eight-rounders? Bring ‘em. The Pro doesn’t care. It just wants to be fed.

One part of the gun that has gotten much better with use is the trigger. When it arrived, the trigger pull was about 5-5.5#. It had very little take up, but took much more effort to fire than a Wilson Combat Classic or a Dan Wesson VBOB. Now, the trigger pull is down near the advertised 4.5-5# pull and feels great.

As everyone knows, there’s no such thing as a perfect gun. The grips it came with were plain-Jane cocobolos. They were OK, but they didn’t pop. I’ve replaced them with a set of Fusion Firearms 1/2 smooth, 1/2 checkered grips that has a beautiful grain to them and saves my thumb from being rubbed raw during range use.

The biggest change I made was the sights. Twenty years ago, if you wanted great fixed sights, your choice was Novak. These Novaks weren’t the ones Ed Brown uses with the painted white rings around the tritium vials.  These were the metal lined types that work great in the dark and get lost in the day. For me, the answer was Wilson Combat Battlesights.

The taller rear has an excellent .140” U-notch with yellow vials. The front is a .200” Dawson Tritium sight as Springfield uses a much larger dovetail in the front than the usual Novak cut. With a large white ring, the Green Tritium front works excellently with the rear sight when firing drills, target shooting, or shooting in the dark where the green front/yellow rear keeps you from asking which dot is in front.

Pricing on this gun is hard to figure out. If you were on the build list two years ago, you’ll be spending about $2,700. MSRP for current orders is about $3,100. I’ve seen Gunbroker auctions go north of $3,500 for this gun. Regardless, if you like 1911s, you cannot go wrong picking this one. This gun combines the traits of every semi-custom maker out there. It is fit as tight or tighter than a Les Baer. It has the beauty of an Ed Brown. It has ball bearing feel of a Wilson Combat. You won’t regret it.

SPECIFICATIONS: Springfield Armory Professional 1911-A1

Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 5.0”
Overall Length: 8.7”
Weight: 40 oz
Finish: Birdsong Black-T
Price: ~$3,150

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style: * * * * *
A distinctive take on the classic.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
This is the gun that taught everyone how an autoloader should feel.

Reliability: * * * * *
What break-in period?  It worked from the start.

Customizable: * * *
If you order direct from Springfield, your only choice is rail or no rail. But once you have, it’s a 1911. You can change anything you want if you have the cash.

Carry: * *
If I was an officer, I’d carry this no question. As a civilian? Carrying IWB? Not so much.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
Any GLOCKtard will tell you a gun this tight will choke. This gun says otherwise.

53 Responses to Gun Review: Springfield Armory Professional 1911-A1

    • In that case I’ll piggyback on your valuable post to cheat my post up to the top, too 😉

      I owned one of these for a year. No rail, though, as real Operators like me don’t need one 😛 and mine was from before that kinda thing was trendy. In fact, it was a more “original” version of the Pro with the Nowlin barrel and what people claim is a nicer, more durable finish than what’s on the modern ones (any with a Springfield barrel). It was a very nice 1911. In part, though, because mine had like 15,000 rounds through it so was really smooth and great but no longer overly tight. 1,000 isn’t even broken in!

      That said, after fostering a Dan Wesson Valor and a DW Discretion for quite a while, I don’t find them lacking anything vs. the Springer Pro except cult following, over $1,000, and an overly-tight fit. They’re where the Pro is after like 5,000 rounds, when the trigger smooths out and the lockup isn’t so tight that it sticks hard — sometimes when new you have to slam the muzzle on a hard surface to unlock it. The DWs were just perfect and slick and fitted spot-on right out of the box, and stayed exactly that way. DW’s black finish is fantastic, and IMHO the checkering is more appropriate for bare-handed use. The Pro (and TRP, which is the mass-market version) were designed for shooting with gloves. Not that I minded shooting them bare-handed, but the sharp points on the 20 lpi checkering is definitely very aggressive. DW also has no MIM — all machined from bar stock — not that I honestly care much.

      All that said, my Springer Pro w/ Nowlin barrel is one of the only guns I’ve sold that I regret selling. It’s an excellent pistol, an excellent example of a 1911, and if for no other reason than collectability and “investment” purposes, I wish I held onto it.

      • Got nothing against Dan Wessons at all. Since I’ve gone full 1911 snob, they’re the only production guns I’d buy or compare against the semi-customs. I do love the hard fit that these guns get.

        Also, if I do another one of these reviews, is there a set list of Star Rating Categories? I checked a couple of them and these were the most common, but could I just do anything? I really didn’t want to make this just a love affair to this gun because there are some things it doesn’t do as well as others.

  1. It was a decent review until you threw in the “Glocktard” jab. Totally unnecessary in my opinion. Can’t we just like guns without having to be snobs about it?

    • +1

      As someone who worked in law enforcement until a few years ago (was a department firearms instructor my last five years), I also disagree with his carry comment under the “Carry” category.

      My department had a pretty broad approval list, including 1911’s from Colt, Sig, and Springfield. I own a TRB, Colt Gold Cup, and a Para Black Ops (pre-Freedom Group takeover). My TRP is tight and smooth. It was also on the approval list. Would I carry it on patrol? NEVER! I do know someone that did, and to each there own. You just cannot pay me enough to carry a gun on my hip that runs in the thousands. Your firearm gets bumped against stuff all the time. It gets a heavy dose of the elements (rain, snow, and harsh sunlight) every single day. When you go through an officer involved shooting, you have to part with it for weeks and sometimes months at a time.

      I carried a G21 with a G30 backup my entire career. It worked, it went “Bang” when I pulled the trigger, and it functioned as a heavy use utility gun. So, therefore, I am just a “Glocktard.”

      Each gun I own fills a different purpose and role. Some of us don’t want to carry around $3,000+ of personal “weapon” that will only get scratched, dinged, and weathered. To me, it would be like carrying unnecessary jewelry on patrol to only get damaged and dinged. I don’t understand why you had to ruin the article with such an arrogant comment?

      Anyway…

      • You may be the gentleman to answer a question for me. I am a big Glocktard ( over 2 dozen), my guns get shot. Not 500 rounds a year, sometimes 500 in a range trip. Is there any truth to the claims that the frames give on the .40s? 3 of my .40 cals have over 3000 rounds through them ( I know that isn’t a huge amount, but some) and I have no issues whatsoever. Any response would be greatly appreciated.

        • Crowbar,

          As with any weapon, parts WILL fail at some point. The 17/22/31 frame is a strong frame. Gen 3 and later typically do not have any “atypical” failures. The original Gen 1 frames did not have slide rail reinforcement metal in the framing, and on occasion, you would see one at the range where the slide would “fly off the weapon.” It wasn’t violent, and it would basically slide completely off the frame and fall to the ground during the recoil cycle. The slide rails basically failed. We would send the pistol back to Glock, and they would rebuild it. I’ve never seen this with any Gen 2 or newer platforms.

          The .40 was an interesting learning curve for Glock when the Gen 3 came out as it had a rail. The original magazine design utilized a 10-coil magazine spring. The harmonics of the attached light/accessory would sometimes cause a failure to feed (usually between the 3rd through 10th rounds). Basically, the slide wouldn’t go back completely into battery. A quick slap of the magazine would cause the breach to lock back up, clearing the malfunction. The solution was to go to an 11-coil magazine spring. All magazines from approximately 2003’ish (I cannot remember the exact year) come from the factory with an 11-coil magazine spring.

          My 21 (.45 ACP) has approximately 110,000 rounds through it. Around 75,000 rounds, my trigger linkage did break. The gun would still go “bang,” but the trigger wouldn’t always reset. The thing I do like about Glock is that it typically takes two part failures for the gun to not go “bang.” I also have a factory G20 upper and use the 10mm for back woods, so the frame does take a pounding.

          I do typically replace all of my magazine springs every couple of years (they always stay loaded and cycle a lot of rounds). The Glock Armorer’s manual recommends replacing the recoil spring every 5,000 rounds. I usually replace it every 11,000’ish.

          If your frame is Gen 3 or later, you should be fine. I do have a 22 that has approximately 25,000 rounds on the frame (a Gen 3). I have a 31 upper for that (the .357 Sig is a high-velocity “screamer,” and for whatever reason, I get a kick out of shooting it), and so far, no issues.

          I have shot the XD many times, and there are things on the ergonomics side I like better, and there are other things I don’t like as much. Some have asked me why I never switched to it. My answer is simple. When I entered LE in 2004, it didn’t exist (well, it was the HS2000 and not on any department’s approval list). I shot some IDPA prior to starting LE with my Colt Gold Cup. The G21 seemed practical at the time and was on the approval list. With so many rounds through it, I shoot it well, so why switch? Everyone has their preferences, and it comes down to what works well with each shooter. Does it fit their hand? Do they shoot it well? Is it enjoyable for them to shoot (IE they will practice more)? The most important question, “Will that specific shooter, with their chosen gun, walk away capable of effectively winning a gun fight with a bad guy?” Just my two cents for whatever it’s worth . . .

          I hope this information with the G22 is helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions!

    • Then I do apologize. I’m not lumping every Glock fan into the “GLOCKtard” designation. The guys in the comments that are saying “My Glock will do that and ________” or “There’s nothing that Porsche can do that my Mustang can’t…” and so forth. Those are the folks that do annoy me whenever someone reviews a gun over $900 MSRP. This gun is one of those guns that are of a completely opposite philosophy yet just work and work and work. For example, they excuse the sloppy fit and finish of a Glock as a key for it’s reliability yet this gun is so tight it should choke on every round but it doesn’t.

      I should have explained it a bit more or leave it out.

  2. The article is in error. The 1911-type mechanism was first produced in 1902. Browning’s pistol design is 114 years old. After a few improvements, and government mandated alterations, the US Army adopted it in 1911. Please check your history before publishing such assertions.

    Thank you

  3. $3,000. Can’t carry it. 7 rounds. I don’t like glocks, but they make a lot of sense. Thanks for the review.

    • Tell me why you can’t carry it again. There are people here who carry full sized 1911s every day. If you mean, it’s stupid to carry a $3000 pistol, I get that but I don’t think that’s what you are saying.

    • certainly not better than the stuff Nighthawk has been putting out. I was a little offended actually that the good ones were mentioned and Nighthawk was left out!

    • Yes it is. It’s every bit as good as a Wilson or a Nighthawk, but it also has a different personality. Compared to a GRP or a CQB, this gun is frozen in time. For the most part, they’re using the same parts that they used 10ish years ago and have to get approval in order to change anything. Now, Wilson/Nighthawk/Ed Brown use 100% forged parts.

      Where Springfield beats them is they are a 100% custom shop. They’ll build you anything using any parts you want. You want a gun with a fitted Ed Brown Beavertail, Nighthawk magwell, Wilson internals, EGW flat trigger and thick bushing fitted to a reverse crown barrel, and have the slide Black-T coated and the frame Hard Chromed? They’ll do it. The other guys limit you to their parts, their finishes, or they might use someone else’s parts if you send it to them.

    • Yeah, that’s what I noticed, too, and the article did not address my concern; Do I have to already *be* a certified Operator to buy the gun, or does buying the gun *make me* a certified Operator?

      • Nah. It’s just what Springfield calls all their railed 1911s. You do not need to show your dealer your mall ninja card before purchasing.

  4. Hmm, can’t carry it, expensive and used by operators operating operationally. ….what is a mall ninja gun?

  5. Not sure why people keep saying you can’t carry this? You can carry almost any handgun if you dress right and have a good holster. Not everyone needs a pocket pistol or tiny revolver to CC. Also, what’s price have to do with anything? This guys loves that gun and could afford it. I would carry a high-end 1911 for EDC if I could afford it too. Seems just a snobby as he’s been accused. IMO, good review on a great gun.

    • True. I should have gone into saying I would CCW this gun, but would carry it OWB, but the contest said to keep it around 800 words and I rode that limit pretty hard.

  6. 7 Glocks for one of these with no wait, yeah its a range queen, too expensive and heavy to daily carry and too few rounds.

  7. This is not a rhetorical question, I really am curious: How often do you think the folks with the $2,000-4,000 1911s actually shoot them? I mean, how many rounds, how many range trips, etc.? I ask because I can’t think of a single firearm I’d spend more than $1,000-1,200 on, and if I did I think my OCD would keep me from taking it to the range.

    • My “practice” gun is a $1300 CZ. My “Match gun” is a $1550 CZ. neither gets much in the way of cleaning or encouragement and the very act of using them from the holster degrades the finish on them. They’re purebreds and do what they’re supposed to. They’re not necessarily pretty.

      My old match gun was a Dan Wesson valor that got similar treatment and that gun was pretty special (it changed clothes and became an AccuShadow)

    • For me, it’s every other range trip. It goes back and forth between a Wilson Combat Ultralight. I’d love to do another review on that one and do a compare and contrast. If you also do some digging, there’s a poster on 1911enthusiast that took one and stopped posting after 8K rounds and also put up a lot of pictures chronicling the whole thing.

  8. 1) My Dan Wesson Guardian at $1500 is looking better and better.

    Ok I did 1 to 1 1/2 inch groups at 7 yards with a Commander length. And I gt grief. 🙂

  9. I think it’s funny when dudes are like “I put ONE THOUSAND rounds through this puppy, it’s NBD” then wipe down the gun, and put it back in their safe after kissing it on the rear sight and tucking it in. like it’s a testament to the design, craftsmanship, or both. Most competition shooters call that ” a light month of shooting”.

    More of a criticism at large knowing most American firearms will never see round counts into the 4 or even 5 digit realm, let alone 6.

    • And how all of these User submitted reviews are validations of our own purchase decisions. “Aww yeah, I’m the man because I bought this, check out how awesome I am.”

      I’m just as guilty of it as well, but that’s because CZs are legitimately better than most other firearms that folks are making.

      • True, but in this case I wavered between two guns. I went with this one because it had an interesting story to go along with it. But if the TTAG guys are interested, I can put together a review completely shitting all over another custom 1911 I bought that was a nightmare.

  10. It’s not too much the author’s fault. It seems he attempted to emulate the normal writing style found on TTAG, but went full retard. Rather than a touch of narcissism, he went full on.

  11. Wait, if someone showed you can’t get that tight of groups, how come they picked a gun anyway? Was it just close enough?

    Looks cool, for sure.

    • No, the Springfield hit the accuracy requirements. I believe it was the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of American Handgunner that went into the Wilson rig showing the Golden Saber accuracy issue. I think the FBI also changed and said if they could hit it with either Golden Sabers or Federal Hydra Shoks, then it was a pass.

  12. As an owner of a Springfield Armory “Professional” I will say that they are a very well made pistol and worth the money spent. I originally purchased mine as a duty weapon for everyday carry, the agency that employs me later changed it’s mind regarding these weapons deeming them to be “elitist”, so I stayed with my Sig P220 in 45 a.c.p.

    After reading numerous comments I’d like to add mine regarding cost vs. use etc.. I have owned and carried for work Sigs, Glocks, Colts and Berettas all of which are fine weapons but none is by any means without issues. It took three Sig P220’s for me to fine one that is reliable, not good for nearly a $1,000 a pop pistol. I’ve had Glocks go back to Georgia multiple times for service. Don’t think that your weapon is totally reliable just because it’s a Glock or HK or even a Springfield.

    BTW, the Springfield Armory Custom Shop will work on darn near any brand of 1911, so if you’re in the market to upgrade check them out, their prices are reasonable for the quality of their work.

    • Nice pistol and nice review.
      I shoot and EDC my Ed Brown executive carry every day. I worked hard for the $$ and will spend it on what I damn well please. The saddle I work off of I won, and it cost more. Just saying. YMMV, who cares!

  13. This review drips with “Oh my god look how awesome my gun is! I have to keep saying it’s awesome to justify how much I paid for it!” The big ol’ “Operator” slapped on the side gives me the literal douche chills & the needless “Glocktard” slam at the end pretty much rounds out the overall douche-iness.

    • Trust me, there’s other guns I could shit all over that I’ve spent my hard earned dollars on that aren’t Glocks and I almost wrote for this review. I went with this one because it has a great story to tell that most guns don’t have. If I wanted to just stroke my ego, I’ll take this gun back to the range…

  14. Good write up!!! Looks like some of the Glocktards are jealous, they need to quit playing couch commander while watching TV with there Block!!!! I have a Springfield and the Quality is top notch, and yes I kiss my Springer at bed time everynight.

  15. Special Forces and CAG, DEVGRU, FR now Raiders (who were issued 1911’s and then within a year of those being issued replaced them all) train and use their firearms more than most civilians. Of the entire worlds SF units 80% also use the same pistols, as well as 83% of American law enforcement agencies , and our own above mentioned elite units all use the same pistols for the same reasons…AK like durability and dependability, few moving parts and always goes bang, and We the People can buy the exact sidearm they use and for under $600, ….but WTF do they know they aren’t couch commandos but are all “GLOCKTARDS”

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