If you’re looking for higher-end features in a quality 1911, and you’re on a lower-end budget, look no further than the Range Officer: it’s ready to go!
by Bob Campbell
The original Springfield Armory (the very first armory established under authority of General George Washington) started making guns in 1777. Closed by the federal government in 1968, and then privately reopened with a brand new start in 1974 in Geneseo, Illinois, the resurrected Springfield Armory also resurrected its military roots, producing the semi-auto M1A rifles (the first civilian production of the M-14) and soon thereafter the venerable 1911 John-Browning-designed handgun — the “Government Model.”
The 1911 has been produced now by a plethora of different manufacturers, and, holding true to the original design, they all share most things in common. A 1911 is a single-action, magazine-fed autoloader with a sear-blocking safety as well as a grip-actuated safety on the frame backstrap. A well-made 1911 is a hard-hitting, durable, and reliable pistol design (especially hard-hitting in its original .45 ACP chambering). The original 1911 pistol endured a series of rigorous testing trials before being adopted by the U.S. including being dropped in sand, corroded in acid, fired until too hot to handle, and firing through 6,000 rounds without a single malfunction. It was the only design submitted that passed all these tests. (It later passed a 20,000 round endurance test to meet FBI-mandated contract requirements, a contract which was won by Springfield Armory.)
The 1911 safety and firing mechanism is different from most available handguns: its safety can only be applied when the pistol’s hammer is set fully to the rear, ready to fire. Carrying a 1911 in this mode, known as “cocked-and-locked,” makes it very fast getting to the first shot. The single-action trigger helps here too. Unlike the double-action-first-shot, double-action-only, or those using a “trigger-actuated” safety system, all a single-action trigger does is move the sear to drop the hammer. This is an advantage in accuracy and control on the first shot, and for subsequent rounds. The grip safety locks the trigger until the safety is depressed by the shooter’s hand grip.
Springfield Armory offers a wide variety of 1911-style handguns, ranging across frame and slide sizes, weights, calibers, and “levels” of build attention. There is also a wide price range that goes along across that board. The main differences among their various 1911 models are in the attention to details: the component quality, and the level of fitting and tuning, and the finish. At the base level, you can still get an “original” GI-spec .45, and at the upper-end, Springfield Armory can box up a championship-level competition piece ready for you to take to the USPSA Nationals, and win it.
Springfield Armory has used “Range Officer” as a designation for its “value line.” The primary difference between these guns and the higher-end pistols is the finish. The Range Officer line has a parkerized finish (stainless steel is also available). These pistols also have a one-sided thumb safety rather than the more expensive ambidextrous unit. However, the Range Officer lineup still features a match-grade stainless steel barrel and tightly-fitted barrel bushing, two primary keys to good accuracy potential from a 1911.
The Range Officer version tested (the “Operator”) features a light-mounting rail. This rail is compatible with the wide range of available combat lights and lasers. The Operator also has forward cocking serrations on the slide. Its sights are from Novak — a white dot rear and fiber optic front. The contrast is good, and the fiber optic sight provides rapid acquisition. The pistol also features a scalloped ejection port, lightweight hammer, target-style trigger, and a grip-enhancing beavertail grip safety. Trigger compression is factory-set at a clean 6.5 pounds.
Working from an Eclipse Holster, speed was excellent. This holster keeps the pistol secure on the belt and offers a good blend of speed and retention. I loaded the supplied Springfield magazines and backed them up with a good supply of other 7- and 8-round magazines. The pistol was lubricated prior to testing. The magazines were loaded with Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ ammunition.
Firing “double-taps” quickly at 5, 7, and 10 yards, the pistol produced excellent results. This is a handgun that responds well for a trained shooter. Moving between targets quickly, and getting the fiber optic sight on the target, gave a solid hit when the trigger was properly compressed. The results simply cannot be faulted. While I often deploy lighter, aluminum-frame handguns because they’re lighter in the holster, the extra weight of its steel frame makes the Range Officer easily controllable.
I also tested with several defense and service loads. Recoil was greater with +P loads and a decision must be made if these loads are worth the extra effort to master. The wound potential of the .45 ACP is proven. I do not let those with a one-safari resume influence my view. I don’t think anyone can argue against the defensive capability of a .45 ACP.
Among the top loads available for the .45 ACP is the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok. An intelligently-designed bullet with a proven history, the Hydra-Shok offers excellent wound potential. The American Eagle practice load fires to the same point of impact, making the two a good combination. Firing for accuracy from a solid bench-rest position at 25 yards, the single best group was a 2.0-inch effort for 5 shots with the Speer 230-grain Gold Dot.
Springfield Armory has taken a great handgun design and not only made it better, but, with the Range Officer, Springfield Armory made it affordable. Compared to even minimum custom-done modifications to a standard-style 1911, the package wrapped around the Range Officer is a great value.
Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).