As has been demonstrated time and again, the genius of John Moses Browning’s 1911 design knows no bounds. Which is why it’s still so popular with shooters and concealed carriers over a century later. One of the only drawbacks, though, is the size and weight of a full-size .45. That’s just more gun than most carriers are willing to tote on a daily basis. Hence the increased popularity of shorter-barrel guns in calibers as small as .380 ACP.
Their lighter weight and slightly slimmer profiles have made 9mm 1911-style guns uber-popular with concealed carriers. Which is why Springfield’s 911 EMP 4 Concealed Carry Contour 9MM (yes, that’s quite a mouthful) such an attractive package. Given that long moniker, we’ll just refer to it here as the EMP4.
The EMP4’s two-tone design features a satin finish steel slide over matte black aluminum frame. That keeps the gun’s weight down for maximum concealed carry comfort. It’s about a half pound lighter than most standard .45 ACP 1911 pistols, but feels even lighter.
That frame’s also remarkably slim. While the slide measures just over an inch wide (the ambidextrous safeties add to that). the frame is a mere .92″ thick.
Another plus: Springfield packs the EMP4 with three nine-round magazines.
The EMP4’s stainless steel slide has cleanly cut rear slide serrations and racks easily. Springfield went heavy on the branding on both sides, prominently engraving the gun’s model number, brand and caliber. That’s a bit much for our tastes, but most buyers won’t mind.
They’ll probably forget all about that billboard-style slide up above when they wrap five fingers around the gun. The EMP4 features a deeply divoted G10 grip design. Those grip panels may look like a palm shredders, but, in fact, they’re quite comfortable and easy to shoot while providing a firm, sure grip, even when wet. The same pattern’s continued on the gun’s front strap and mainspring housing.
The pistol’s slim enough that even small-handed shooters will be able to reach the EMP4’s magazine release with little or no grip shifting and mags drop free as they should for quick reloads.
But what really makes the gun rest comfortably in the hand is the EMP4’s bobtail design which is both easy on the hand and reduces printing slightly more than a 1911’s traditional squared off design. That extended beavertail is a plus, too.
The gun’s skeletonized aluminum trigger (the hammer’s skeletonized too, BTW) continues the pistol’s two-tone color scheme and looks good.
We couldn’t get our hands on an official test model of the EMP4, so we borrowed one. Note that our gun’s front sight was missing the orange front fiber optic tube. Happily, that didn’t reduce the pistol’s accuracy at all. Springfield chose a two-dot Novak-style ramped battle sight for the aft end.
The sight picture is excellent and easy to acquire, but the rear sight is sloped too much to reliably use to rack against a belt or other hard surface if you have to run the gun one-handed.
The EMP4 we tested had a characteristically clean-breaking 1911-style trigger, This one touched off at just over five pounds with the quick re-set you’d expect.
Springfield chose a bushingless match grade bull barrel for the EMP4 with a full-length guide rod.
We tested the EMP4 with a variety of range and personal defense loads. Our gun had been shot extensively before we got it and was in need of a good cleaning, but we intentionally shot it filthy. The result – nothing we did could make the gun gag. It reliably fed and ejected everything we put through it.
And given its intended use as a concealed carry pistol, the EMP4 proved more than accurate enough at self-defense distances. Plus we coaxed a 2.5-inch five-shot group out of her while braced at 25 yards.
This isn’t an inexpensive gun. But with the…here goes…EMP 4″ Concealed Carry Contour 9mm (whew!), Springfield’s put together a very attractive concealed carry option for those who prefer a lighter weight pistol that lets them carry cocked and locked, with all the safety features an 1911 affords.
Specifications: Springfield Armory 1911 EMP 4 9mm
Slide: Stainless steel
Frame: Forged aluminum alloy, black hardcoat anodized
Grip Panels: Textured G-10
Front Sight: Fiber optic
Rear Sight: White Dot Low Profile Combat
Barrel Length: 4″ match grade bull barrel
Overall Length: 7.5″
Slide Width: 0.92″
Grip Width: 1.15″
Weight: 30.5 oz. empty
Capacity: 9+1 Rounds
MSRP: $1,220 (retail is about $975)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * *
Some graybeards will object because a 1911 is supposed to be blued steel and cocobolo. Right? We beg to differ. The EMP4’s silver and black two-tone color scheme works well no matter what you’re wearing. But we could do without the billboard-sized branding on the slide.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The EMP4’s slim profile and light weight make it an easy shooter and even easier to carry. Lefties will appreciate the fully ambidextrous thumb safety. The big plus, though, is that bobtail grip and rounded mainspring housing which feel just right in your hand (left or right).
Reliability: * * * * *
We shot this gun filthy dirty and experienced precisely zero problems with either range ammo of FMJ. You can (and probably should) rely on the EMP4 as an everyday carry gun.
Customize This: * * * *
Not quite as many as a standard government-size .45, but there are plenty of options out there should you want to make the sights, trigger, or grip your own.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
There are few semi-autos that carry as comfortably as JMB’s 1911, no matter what size or configuration you’re talking about. The EMP4 shaves about a half pound off the weight of a full-size .45 and gives you 9+1 rounds of 9mm deterrence. Plus it’s just plain fun to shoot. If you’re of the 1911 carry persuasion, the Springfield EMP4 is well worth your time and attention.