Springfield launched the Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) over a decade ago, so it is far from the latest “fad” handgun to have caught the market’s eye. The intent was to offer a subcompact 9mm in a 1911 configuration. It was the perfect blend of caliber and the 1911 platform in a concealable package—thanks to the 3-inch barrel. The EMP was not the perfect blend because two popular elements were brought together. Instead, it was perfect because the EMP was built from the ground up to be a 9mm—unlike many 1911 9mm designs that were merely converted to accommodate a smaller caliber. To do this, engineers had to design a slightly shorter action and narrow the frame and grip while maintaining the look, feel, control and function that would be familiar and accepted by 1911 fans.
As was true with cell phones, tablets, and other technologies, devices keep getting smaller and smaller until they become too small to be useful for many. Pocket pistols have suffered from this to a degree; although there are a few pocket or micro pistols that I regularly employ as a BUG (Back Up Gun). For me, the key is “as a back up.” To need a defensive pistol means things have already gone very wrong. To need a back up to a defensive pistol means things have gone horribly wrong. That being said, BUGs have their place, and I deem them necessary to a proper defensive posture.
Springfield’s EMP 4 is smaller than a full frame 5-inch 1911, but more controllable and accurate than a 3-inch model. And, because it is chambered for the 9mm, the EMP 4 enjoys a capacity advantage. Speaking of capacity, in addition to the 4-inch barrel, the EMP 4’s grip has been extended by .5 inch. This provides just enough length to get all of your fingers on the grip, plus it adds a round giving the EMP 4 a 10+1 capacity. All totaled, the EMP offers a familiar manual of arms and a fine balance for a 9mm 1911.
As would be expected for a pistol of this size, the EMP 4 is a single-stack, single-action, semi-auto pistol. The design is pure John Browning-inspired, right down to the linked-barrel design. The slide is constructed from stainless steel. The matte black, hard-anodized, lightweight aluminum frame cuts the needed weight to make it a viable carry option. The result is a sleek and stylish two-tone finish.
Target acquisition is quick and sight alignment sure thanks to the low profile, dovetailed, Novak-style rear sight featuring dual white dots. The front sight is an orange fiber optic infused blade that is well placed for durability. The sight placement makes the most of the sight radius for increased accuracy potential.
The EMP 4 features a 4-inch stainless steel match-grade bull barrel with a fully supported feed ramp. There isn’t a tactile loaded chamber indicator, but the top of the chamber has a small witness hole that serves as a visual indicator. The barrel is fitted at the muzzle with a removable barrel bushing. The recoil assembly utilizes a full-length steel guide rod which supports a single flat-wire spring held in place by a reverse spring plug.
The aluminum frame follows traditional lines, so the EMP 4 does not have an accessory rail. The trigger consists of a long, skeletonized, aluminum match-grade trigger with a serrated face and broke cleanly at 5 pounds, 3 ounces. The front strap of the grip frame features Springfield’s POSI-LOK reverse-cone—essentially a cross between dimpling and checkering that provides a solid hand purchase without requiring a flesh donation every time you fire it. Adding to the POSI-LOK’s grip enhancement are the Thinline Cocobolo wood grip panels that also feature a diamond pattern checkering.
The frame-mounted controls, including the slide stop, magazine release, hammer, and grip safety is all constructed of matte black 4140-carbon steel. The thumb safety is designed to be low profile and ambidextrous for concealed carry. The magazine release button is textured and otherwise standard fare. From the back, the EMP 4 utilizes an extended beavertail grip safety, with memory bump to enhance grip consistency. The EMP 4 comes standard with three 10-round blued steel magazines that are manufactured by Mec-Gar in Italy and feature a metallic follower and Slam Pad polymer base plate. It also has a quality hard case, dual magazine holder, and range holster.
Overall, the fit and finish on the EMP was beyond excellent. In fact, it borders custom grade.
On the Range
Concealed carry may lead to the last line of defense, so many prefer self-defense loads rated as +P. I am normally hesitant to shoot these from a compact pistol, so I started with a variety of loads ranging from range ammo such as Winchester white box and worked through 115-, 124-, and finally 147-grain loads. The EMP’s balance, feel, and textured grip left little doubt when I grabbed the first of the +P loads. The hotter the load, the more you are going to feel the snap of the recoil with any pistol and the more wear critical parts will be subjected to. Springfield recommends +P ammunition for only limited use—that means occasional practice and carry. However, the EMP 4 took the +P loads with general ease. In fact, the gun was shooting so well with all loads that I opted to compete with it in a bowling pin shoot on the second day.
The Springfield Armory EMP 4 pistol is a winner and worthy of trusting your life to. It is accurate enough to confidently defend yourself at the outer limits of self-defense ranges, but still small and sleek enough to comfortable conceal and carry. Best of all, for a fan of the 9mm such as myself, you can afford plenty of ammunition, which will lead to longer and more frequent range sessions. However, for those looking for something that pushes a bigger pea, The EMP 4 is offered in .40 S&W.
Manufacturer: Springfield Armory
Model: EMP 4
Action: Single-Action Semi-Auto1911
Slide: Stainless Steel
Frame: Forged Aluminum, Black Hardcoat Anodized
Grip Panels: Thinline Checkered Cocobolo
Front Sight: Fiber Optic
Rear Sight: White Dot Low Profile Combat
Barrel: Stainless Steel Match Grade Bull, Fully Supported Ramp
Guide Rod: Full Length
Trigger: Match Grade Long Aluminum
Barrel Length: 4.00″
Overall Length: 7.50″
Slide Width: 0.92″
Grip Width: 1.15″
Weight: 31 oz. With Empty Magazine
Capacity: 10+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: Lockable carry case, three 10-round magazines, paddle holster, dual magazine pouch, cleaning brush, rear sight tool, and cable lock.
Are you a Springfield or 1911 fan? Have you fired the Springfield Armory EMP 4? What Springfield or 1911 models are your favorites? Share your answers in the comment section.
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