In the year 2022, the 1911 pistol was right at 111 years old. I’ll say that again—111 years old. Yet, despite being a century-plus-old design, it remains one of the most effective fighting pistols ever designed. Likewise, it is still relevant and is still carried by professionals and well-trained enthusiasts to this day. So, it makes sense that Springfield Armory would continue the platform with its Emissary.
The Springfield Armory Emissary
Aside from a form factor that points naturally and balances well, the typical 1911 delivers a man-stopping payload of .45 ACP. Yes, 9mm is all the rage these days since the FBI flipped back to it because of improved bullet technologies and performance.
However, those improvements weren’t limited to just the 9mm cartridge; they were visited upon all calibers. So, no matter how good 9mm gets, .45 ACP is and always will be better. Well…at least that’s my opinion.
That’s why I’ve always liked the 1911 pistol. It’s an efficient delivery system for those all-American bullets that seem like they originated in Texas, where everything’s just bigger.
You would think that with all of the development and customization that has been done to the 1911 during the past century, the story of the 1911 has been completely written and that the book has been closed. However, Springfield Armory might just argue that point with you. Especially where production guns are concerned. And to illustrate its point, the company introduced Exhibit A—the Emissary.
Reimagining A Classic
If you look up the word “emissary,” it’s generally defined as someone who is sent on a special mission. Usually, as a diplomatic representative. That’s almost exactly what Springfield Armory’s 1911 is all about. The Emissary is essentially representing Springfield’s 1911 platform. And its mission is to redefine what can be done at the production level.
Prior 1911s have been reconfigured and customized in almost every way imaginable. However, all of that extra work takes lots and lots of cash. The Springfield Armory Emissary is about bridging the gap between custom and production pistols with various refinements while remaining affordable.
In some ways, the new Emissary is a bit of a contradiction. It offers stark beauty and elegance with its two-tone appearance while serving up workaday features that make it a practical and extremely effective fighting pistol.
The Emissary’s dual-tone visage consists of a stainless steel frame with a carbon steel slide. Both of which are crafted from a forging process. The slide is ornamented with a blued finish that emphasizes the elegance of the overall package.
Also adding to the Emissary’s visual appeal is the “Tri-Top” cut slide that includes what Springfield calls “lightening grooves.” Although they might be used by some as pseudo-cocking serrations.
There is just enough depth to these grooves not only to help reduce weight but to assist a little with manipulating the slide from the front. The finishing touch on top of the slide is a set of 40-lines-per-inch serrations to mitigate glare.
Springfield’s U-Dot Sight
The piece de resistance, with regard to the slide, is the installation of Springfield’s excellent U-Dot sight arrangement. This set-up includes a white “U” outline on the rear sight and a front sight that offers a high-visibility yellow outline with a tritium insert for low-light work.
I ran across this arrangement for the first time with the Springfield Hellcat. These sights are fantastic for quick and precise work. I wish I had this sight package on all of my pistols.
Turning our focus inward for a moment, we come to the bushingless barrel configuration. It is accompanied by a full-length guide rod assembly. Springfield went with a heavy-profile bull barrel that the company bills as designed for maximum accuracy. Likewise, it offers a bit more weight up front to reduce muzzle flip.
Expanding on the barrel’s efficacy is its fully supported feed ramp that yields more strength and better reliability as well. Other links in the ignition chain include a skeletonized hammer and Springfield’s Gen2 Speed Trigger.
As we move to the bottom, things get a little more utilitarian. Specifically, the frame is essentially the human interface for the Springfield Armory Emissary and offers up features designed to maximize that interaction.
First, the forged steel front strap and backstrap are machined with grenade-pattern texturing to lock in the user’s grip during recoil. The VZ Grips Thin-Line G10 grip panels replicate that same texture pattern. This ensures a sure hold on the grip at every point where it contacts the hand.
Up front, the Emissary sports an oversized and squared-off triggerguard that facilitates the use of a gloved trigger finger. This might seem like a minor point, but it’s a critical feature. Specifically because a single-action trigger within a small guard can be inadvertently engaged by a gloved finger rather easily.
Plus, the square triggerguard is something different that you don’t see on a lot of 1911 pistols. Though you’ll probably need to have a custom holster made to fit this specific 1911. Finally, the frame also sports a Picatinny rail for mounting your favorite accessories.
Carrying the Emissary
As it sits, the Emissary weighs in at 40 ounces, with an overall length of 8.4 inches and a height of 5.25 inches. This is unquestionably a large and hefty pistol that will require a solid rig to carry on a regular basis. But for what it offers, I think it would be worth the extra effort and expense.
Though, many will probably elect to deploy it as a defensive tool for the home or business. The Emissary ships with a nylon pouch/case and two eight-round magazines to get you started. However, you’ll probably want to pick up a few more mags for those trips to the range.
Range day is always more fun when you’re among friends. And it’s also better when testing pistols since you can get feedback from multiple shooters. I was lucky enough to have a few friends along during one of my testing sessions with the Emissary. It was an instant hit.
Everyone, to a man, complimented the grenade-pattern texturing that was machined into the frame. While one person said that it might be just a bit too aggressive, everyone agreed that it locked in the hand as tight as a bank vault.
I’m not a fan of a blued finish on working guns. I’d prefer something a bit more robust and corrosion-resistant. But three of the four argued with me and said that it gave the Emissary a classy look. Shows what I know, right? I agree that it looks classy but I still prefer a DLC or nitride finish for a carry pistol. And I would definitely carry the Emissary based on its performance.
As much as people complain about a .45’s recoil, the Emissary’s 40-ounce weight goes a long way in solving that problem. Sure, in a compact pistol, the .45 ACP has a good bit of thump to it. But a full-size 1911 is all about big-bore power.
That’s where a couple of them disagreed with me again. They would like to see the Emissary offered in 9mm as well. Not so much because of recoil but the ability to stack a few more rounds in the magazine.
Speaking of recoil, we had guys of all shapes and sizes there, and everyone easily managed to stay on target for quick, accurate follow-up shots.
Running the Emissary
Part of that accurate shot placement was also due to the excellent U-Dot sight package. Everyone talked about how fast it was to align the sights and how good of a sight picture it painted.
Two guys mentioned how simple and clean the sight picture was. They specifically mentioned the yellow outline as being very quick to pick up in daylight during presentations on the targets.
The other part of the equation was the excellent Gen2 Speed Trigger. My review pistol had just a tad of pre-travel, and then the break was impressively crisp at an average of 3.98 pounds, with no hint of staging or when it would release. It’s not the lightest trigger I’ve tried, but it’s an exceptionally positive break and about perfect for a carry pistol.
As the guys took their turns with the Emissary, we ran hollow points, ball ammo, and some truncated range loads. The Emissary digested every ammo type without the slightest hiccup in reliability.
The controls were positive, including the snappy thumb safety that was a bit oversized for easy engagement. The Mec-Gar magazines ejected cleanly and fed everything without issue. Everything worked as it should while presenting a sleek, refined quality about the pistol.
The last litmus test was to check the accuracy at 25 yards while shooting from the bench. I’ll just say up front that the Emissary gets an A+ on that front as well. For a production pistol, the Emissary was incredibly accurate with a variety of ammunition.
Average group sizes were well under 2 inches. The single best five-shot group was just 1.38 inches, and the best average group size was 1.57 inches. That was shot with Winchester’s 230-grain Personal Protection load. However, the rounds from Sig Sauer and Speer were close enough on average to make it dealer’s choice.
Of the three loads tested, Winchester’s load offered up a bit more recoil. But that round was traveling a good 50 feet per second (fps) faster than the other two. The Sig and Speer rounds had an average velocity of 849 and 860 fps, respectively. The Winchester load averaged 918 fps.
Of course, I won’t be satisfied with that. I’ll be checking out some +P loads for the Emissary soon. I do like a bit of sizzle with my .45s.
After all the testing was done and everyone had their turn, we talked over a few more points, and I had them guess the Emissary’s price. Estimates ranged from $1,600 to $2,200. When I told them that the MSRP was only $1,279, a few jaws hit the floor.
They all figured, with the machining, angled slide, and the pistol’s accuracy, that some custom work had to be done. In my mind, that tells me Springfield Armory achieved what it set out to do with the Emissary.
All About The Mission
To be honest, Springfield isn’t revolutionizing the 1911 market with the Emissary. There’s nothing new about this pistol, where features are concerned, that we haven’t seen before. What is new, however, is some of these features finally trickling down to a more affordable, production-level gun. This includes the aesthetically pleasing Tri-Top slide, the heavy-profile barrel, or the machining done to the frame.
That’s not to mention the kind of outstanding accuracy that is usually reserved for high-end custom pistols.
What matters most with the Emissary, though, is Springfield’s execution and how everything works together seamlessly for a higher quality experience without requiring the customer to pay an exorbitant price.
With what they’ve done with the features of the Emissary and with the very reasonable asking price, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe their mission was absolutely accomplished.
For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.
Springfield Armory Emissary Specs
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inches
Overall Length: 8.4 inches
Weight: 40 ounces (empty)
Height: 5.25 inches
Grips: G10 Thin-Line
Sights: U-dot, tritium front
This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns January/February 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.