Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911
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Carry pistols seem to get smaller with each iteration. With the introduction of pistols like SIG’s P365 and Springfield’s Hellcat pushing the envelope, it forced a revolution of sorts in the gun industry. That revolution meant smaller and easier to conceal guns with increased capacity. It was only a matter of time before the venerable 1911 got the same treatment.

It used to be that if you wanted to carry what many would call John Browning’s finest achievement, you’d opt for a 1911 sporting a 4- or 5-inch barrel or limit your capacity to 6+1 with something like a Detonics Combat Master with 3-inch barrel.

Other manufacturers made smaller 1911s, but the capacity was never quite there, or they were harder to carry double stacks. Making matters worse for some is the stouter felt recoil associated with the .45 ACP in smaller packages, and the fact that most people just don’t shoot as often as they should.

The obvious answer, then, was a smaller 1911-esque pistol chambered in a caliber other than (gasp!) .45 Auto with higher capacity. One of those pistols is Springfield Armory’s EMP line.

Springfield Armory’s EMPs (Enhanced Micro Pistol) aren’t exactly technological breakthroughs. They’ve been a few other pistols sporting the EMP name and I’ve shot most of them. I owned the now-discontinued EMP4 Lightweight Champion for a few years before unforeseen expenses forced me to sell it.

Politics aside, I’m convinced that Springfield Armory builds some of the best mainline 1911s available on today’s market. They may not have all the bells and whistles but if you want a gun that works, won’t break the bank, and is pleasing to the eye — then SA is a good place to start.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

This time around we discuss the SA Ronin EMP 3″, a packable, three-inch barrel 1911-style pistol. While the EMP 3 doesn’t break any capacity records, it has upped the amount of bad guy stoppers you can carry to 10 (9+1) in a small, concealable package.

The Ronin EMP 3 gets its start as a two-tone pistol with an aluminum frame and forged carbon steel slide that, according to Springfield, was built around the 9mm Luger cartridge. In my humble opinion, this is a very attractive pistol you’ll be proud to carry.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911
The backstrap checkering is cleanly done and nicely aggressive.

Unlike the other EMPs I’ve fired, the Ronin EMP 3 has no front strap checkering or dimples present. I didn’t really miss them, though, due to the gun’s weight (24 oz.) and being able to wrap all of my fingers comfortably around the grip.

Riding on the silver Cerakoted aluminum frame is a blued steel slide with a rounded, matte finished top to help reduce glare while shooting in bright light.

Another spot where this EMP is different from some of the others is that there is no tool required for takedown — a huge plus in my book since I lost the one my old pistol came with during the first week. Speaking of takedown, it’s fairly straightforward and easy once you’ve gotten the hang of getting the recoil spring/guide rod assembly out.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911
No tools needed for field stripping.

Simply pull the slide back to the appropriate spot (if you’ve ever pulled a similar gun apart you know what I’m talking about and if not, YouTube is your friend), pop the pin, and push the slide off the frame. From there, you finagle the recoil spring assembly out of the slide, push the barrel link down, and slide the barrel out the front.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

Reverse the process for assembly, and a function check will reveal a nice, crisp trigger pull that I’d estimate to be around 3-5 pounds, though I don’t currently have a working gauge.

Speaking of the trigger, it is skeletonized (as is the hammer) and adds to the overall aesthetic of the pistol.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

One thing that Springfield Armory has seemingly been in tune with customers about is stupid branding. What I mean is my old EMP 4 Lightweight Champion had an in-your-face attitude screaming the make and model of the pistol from the slide. The Ronin’s text is much smaller and more understated.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

There’s no GRIP ZONE here — thank goodness — and folks in the lanes next to you at the range will only notice that you’re shooting a 1911.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

I had zero issues with the 9-round Mec-Gar magazine that shipped with the pistol. That’s been my experience that Mec-Gar makes fine magazines and these is one is certainly no different. The main issue for me is that only one mag is included with the gun for the MSRP of $917.

I’m a firm believer that every defensive handgun needs to ship with at least two magazines, if not three. Personally speaking, it’s a disservice to customers to only include one mag.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

My other gripe with the gun is its lack of ambidextrous control. Left-handed people exist, and they’d likely love this pistol if they were able to manipulate the safety as easily as righties can.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

Even with the two drawbacks listed above, the Ronin carries and shoots very well and vigorously ate the three different types of munitions I fed it (listed below). I haven’t experienced a single malfunction with the gun.

Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

This pistol sports a 3-inch bull barrel. While it isn’t something I’d enter into long-distance shooting competitions with I’d have every confidence carrying it for self-defense. I stepped it out to 10 yards with minute-of-man accuracy and would feel confident carrying this pistol around for defensive scenarios any day of the week.

For a sub $1,000 1911 that you easily can carry and trust with your life, I’d say that Springfield has done a very good job with the Ronin EMP 3. If you’re one of the legion of 1911 manual of arms devotees who likes single action and carrying cocked and locked, the EMP 3 will likely be right up your alley.

Specifications: Springfield Armory Ronin EMP 3 1911

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 9+1 rounds
Barrel Length: 3″
Overall Length: 6.6″
Weight: 24 oz.
MSRP: $917

Ratings (out of five stars):

Aesthetics * * * * *
This is an empirically good-looking pistol. There’s something about the iconic design of Browning’s most popular handgun that people naturally flock to and the Ronin EMP 3 is no different. The two-tone color scheme and wood grips are pleasing to the eye. And the fact that they skipped the in-your-face branding is a huge bonus.

Ergonomics * * * *
The 1911 is one of the most ergonomically ideal handgun designs ever conceived. That said, I’m not a lefty. And lefties were left out in the Ronin EMP 3’s design process.

Reliability * * * * *
I fired hundreds of rounds and it worked with each press of the trigger. I fed it 124 grain PPU, 115 grain Federal American Eagle, and 124 grain Federal Punch JHP personal defense ammo. The Ronin EMP 3 just kept going.

Accuracy * * * * *
This is an everyday carry personal defense pistol. I test fired it at 5, 7, and 10 yards. I shoot 1911-style pistols well and this gun was no different. The short, crisp trigger lends itself to very accurate shooting, particularly for a gun with a 3-inch barrel. And because the 9mm recoil was mild, I was able to get back on target for fast, accurate follow-up shots. I shot several magazines one-handed and the accuracy did not suffer at all.

Overall * * * *
Again, the only knocks against the Ronin EMP 3 are the single magazine that’s included and the lack of an ambidextrous safety. If you’re right-handed and don’t mind shelling out more cash for more the minimum number of magazines you should have for your carry pistol, this is a five-star gun.


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  1. That’s swell. Too bad you can’t sell your AR in ILLannoy @no carveout🙄🙃

      • “Do not forget.

        Do not forgive.”

        LKB –

        If I ever start to piss you off, warn me, please?

        You hold a grudge longer than a spiteful woman… 🙂

        • Hey, I’m of Clan Campbell (paternal grandmother).

          The Clan’s official motto is “Ne Obliviscaris” (literally, “Do Not Forget”; idiomatically, “Never Forget”); and the Campbells were notorious for not only being ruthless warriors (and mercenaries) but also holding grudges against rival Highland clans for centuries before eliminating them (as the Lamonts and the MacDonalds found out the hard way).

          Springfield betrayed the Illinois Second Amendment community, and then blatantly lied about doing so. Unless and until those responsible are gone (and they remain in control of the company to this day), why do they deserve anything but contempt?

          So, I say again:

          Do not forget.
          Do not forgive.
          Springfield delenda est.

  2. Good review. One of my greatest regrets is selling a Colt Officer’s ACP that I had sent through Novak’s shop. Pass on 9mm in a 1011. Magazine capacity be damned.

  3. I had the original SA EMP and loved it. Was my first 9mm pistol. Traded it off for a Sig P229 Scorpion, I wanted more capacity back then. Now the Sig serves as nightstand duty and I’d love to have one of these, however in the 4″ model. Wish it had front strap checkering or dimples but do like that it’s a single side safety. Lefties suck, make everything complicated for normal people and i’m not just talking about left handed people BTW.

  4. My EMP came on a special deal with a range bag and ten Mec-Gar magazines on sale for less than $1000, and with an additional sale at the dealer, I bought the package for under $900. Mine is stainless with a 3.5″ barrel and night sights. I added front strap serrations with the little aluminum piece you can buy from Brownell’s for, as I recall, less than $10. (It is held in place by the grip panels as long as they are wood.) It is lovely to shoot and accurate within its intended range. Recoil is moderate with my usual 124Gr cartridges, and follow up shots are quick. I have never had a stoppage.

    • P.S.: It has an ambidextrous safety. But it has the tiny little take down clip that I too lost within the first week. It would have been better if they’d just drilled a hole in the recoil rod like Kimber does that allows the use of a paper clip when you lose the Kimber pin.

      • “It would have been better if they’d just drilled a hole in the recoil rod like Kimber does that allows the use of a paper clip when you lose the Kimber pin.”

        A competent ‘smith could do that job, most likely…

  5. I have the Emp with the 4” barrel and have started carrying it significantly more than my P365XL. I’m very impressed with its accuracy accuracy and ease of use. It points naturally and and is very intuitive if you’ve done much 1911 shooting.
    I carry it more often as it is more comfortable than my P365.

  6. That’ll be an easy PASS for this Illinois resident. At least RRA came out against the latest ban.
    SA ain’t no friend to the 2nd in Illinois

  7. I have the SA 1911 Ronin EMP 4 ….. in 4” version, it is really just as concealable as the EMP 3, but you get 10 round mags. I carry an extra, so I have 10+10+1 with me. The 4” barrel has better performance with a 9mm than a 3” barrel. Price was the same, weight is an extra 3 oz, a bit more ammo ….. what’s not to like.

  8. I’m just a little surprised it isn’t setup for a 3-9×40 scope. I know how much everyone loves optics on pistols.

    But seriously,
    This is interesting and would possibly make a great pocket gun. But at the moment, it isn’t on my list. But a full size Ronin in 10mm might be. I’m just not crazy about fiber optic sights on serious firearms. My personal preference is tritium front sights like on the Emissary.

    If I’m going to carry something of this size in 9mm the it will likely be a P365. But I am flexible.

  9. The EMP concept is a good one, I have been a little disappointed with the execution:
    Non-centered firing pin strikes.(common to model and non-correctable)
    Soft strikes on primers. (common to the model and correctable)
    SA’s proprietary sight cuts which are not interchangeable with Novak or other standard makers which greatly limits sight choices.

    • Non-centered firing pin strikes ARE correctable. At mfg. more attention paid to setups, tooling and especially Quality Contol. Also, firing hole can be bushed in a similar method to what Gre-Tan does for rifle bolt heads.


    • hahaha not sure if serious. .380 could be smaller, and then maybe a conversion kit for .22. but a da 1911 is like putting a clutch lever on a guzzi convert.

    • Colt did that. No one liked the guns.

      The “Double Eagle” model in the 1990s was DA/SA, with a SIG style decocking lever on the left side of the frame. Colt had very serious problems with QC at the time and they weren’t well made–I believe Dean Speir’s .40 caliber review gun was shipped with a .45 caliber barrel that was rollmarked “.40,” and would squirt the entire live round out the muzzle when he tried to load it–and everyone noticed. The Double Eagle immediately got a horrible reputation, just like the Colt 2000 “All American,” and they didn’t sell. It didn’t help that the guns were as ugly as a mud fence, defacing the classic 1911 lines with a gigantic curved hooked trigger guard that would have been right at home on the cover of an issue of Soldier of Fortune from 1977. The Double Eagle was discontinued and Colt has been doing their level best ever since to pretend they never existed at all.

      Now, of course, collectors go bananas for them. They can have ’em.

  11. What’s the purpose of that thick-ass barrel?

    Does it help with overall feel in the hand, balance/handling?

      • Nah, it was supposed to be drilled out .45, but the guys at the drill press were still celebrating with that Bud Light perv and accidentally grabbed the wrong drill bit. The bean counters caught it, and said to run them out as it, with single stack 9mm mags and market it as something new and really cool. This also may explain the off center firing pin strike.

  12. springfield xdm elite 3.8 osp
    optics ready
    accessory rail
    fully ambi controls
    2 mags – 12/16 capacity
    not super slim but still totally carryable
    twice the pistol
    for half the price
    because its NOT a 1911

  13. Looking for the best 9mm Pistol by use and a price range. Pops Hardware and Gun have the best 9mm pistols on affordable prices. We buy some tool form them and our experience was good.

  14. i find these tremendously appealing, 3.5″ would be better. alloy frame, sa w/ hammer, frame safety goes down for off. my jam. and such a wee bit larger than p938 for two more caps.
    cook county resident says nope. just can’t never do it.
    good friend has hellcat, he’s disgusted with it. sample of one, but it comes with a modicum of schadenfreud. i know that’s a successful design, just sayin’.
    still curious ’bout smith csx.

    • Ruger makes a 3.6″. It’s more expensive. Commenter Um… on here got a CSX and slicked up the trigger. I’m happy with a PC Shield Plus. It has a nice trigger. Everything else about it is pretty much perfect for EDC.

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  15. Yeah, I’m still waiting for Springfield to apologize for that herpes infected dicking it gave Illinois and the rest of the 2A Community by Proxy. They can rot.

  16. I hate it when gun companies forget about us south paws. This is why I carry a XDE and Beretta 92X compact. 1911s would be interesting but everyone hates us


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