In the mid-1990s, the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team released a solicitation for a 1911 duty pistol.
The selection process was extensive, with some of the biggest names in the industry not making the cut. At the end of the process, the FBI selected Springfield’s Professional model. Several years later, the Professional was adopted by the Bureau’s regional SWAT teams. In 2000, I had an opportunity to evaluate the Professional model for “Combat Handguns,” and I was so impressed with the gun that I purchased it. In fact, to date, it’s been one of the most shot and carried pistols in my inventory. Since 2000, I have evaluated at least a dozen 1911-style pistols from the great folks in Geneseo, Illinois, and have continued to be impressed with their quality and performance.
Of course, the Professional model is a limited-production pistol that is hand-built in Springfield’s Custom Shop. For many years, the majority of the production has gone to fill government agency contracts, with a small number being allotted to dealers. It should come as no surprise that the demand for the Professional has continued to outstrip the supply, and there is currently a two-year backlog of orders.
However, for those who want a quality duty-ready 1911, there is another option—the Springfield Tactical Response Pistol, or TRP. This gun is perhaps the unsung hero of Springfield’s entire line of 1911s. The TRP was introduced in 2001 to fill the gap between a full-house custom build and the standard “production” pistol. It was designed around the same general specifications as the FBI’s Professional model. And it offers nearly the same performance at a fraction of the cost.
I called Custom Shop Director Dave Williams to get the full story on the TRP. He pointed out that while the TRP is not a Custom Shop product per se, it is hand-built by some of Springfield Armory’s most experienced gunsmiths.
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According to Williams, TRP production starts in a manner similar to the Professional. The gunsmith receives a semi-finished, hand-forged National Match frame and slide and individually cuts the rails, drills the pin holes and fits the slide by hand-lapping it to the frame. The result of this attention is a slide-to-frame fit with zero vertical or horizontal play. The TRP has a match-grade barrel that is fitted to a match-grade bushing, making the pistol more than capable of providing superb accuracy and reliability. Springfield also cuts forward cocking serrations into the TRP’s slide and contours the slide relief with ball-mill cuts.
As with the Professional, the TRP features a magazine well extension, a checkered frontstrap, a beavertail grip safety and an ambidextrous thumb safety. The match-grade trigger is made of aluminum and fitted with an overtravel stop. The grip panels are unique to the TRP line and are made from a G10 composite with snakeskin-like texturing, and a relief cut on the left-side panel improves access to the magazine release.
Currently, the TRP is available in five different models. The standard TRP is equipped with tritium Novak sights and is available in either stainless steel or with Springfield’s proprietary black Armory Kote. Armory Kote has proven more durable that other finishes with enhanced protection and lubricity properties. The stainless TRP is mechanically identical to the Armory Kote model, except it is polished and matte stainless.
As with the Professional series, Springfield recognized the need for a railed model. The first TRP Operator featured a full-length dust-cover rail, giving it a very unique appearance. This model is still offered in limited numbers.
The TRP Operator differs from the standard TRP in several ways. Instead of traditional Novak sights, these guns feature low-profile, buried, BoMar-style adjustable sights with tritium inserts. The other difference is that each TRP Operator features a conical or bull barrel that eliminates the need for a bushing. I asked Dave Williams about this and he stated, “Bull barrels are kind of unique to short-barreled 1911s and competition 5-inch-barreled 1911s. We chose to offer a factory 5-inch bull barrel for the same reason competition shooters use them—mainly the reduction in felt recoil as a result of the extra weight. The TRP Operator is our top-of-the-line rail gun, so it seemed a logical choice for the heavy bull barrel system.”
I recently got my hands on the newest TRP Operator model, featuring a black Armory Koted slide and a gray frame, for testing. It arrived in a hard case that is approximately 9 by 12 inches, making it significantly smaller than the company’s older cases. The custom foam insert is cut for the pistol, three magazines and the obligatory gun lock. There are provisions for two padlocks, making the case ideal for secure storage or air travel. The TRP Operator is shipped with two 7-round magazines with slam pads.
The pistol itself reflects Springfield’s commitment and attention to quality. The 20-lpi checkering on the frontstrap and mainspring housing was flawless. The slide-to-frame fit was as good as any full-house custom pistol I have ever evaluated. The Armory Kote finish was clean and even, and the new tactical gray color is very attractive. The match trigger broke cleanly and averaged 5 pounds on my Lyman digital trigger gauge.
TRP Operator Trigger Time
On the range, the TRP could be described as boringly reliable. It ran well with every load I tried. The initial testing was done with 230-grain Federal American Eagle FMJs. When I had to adjust the rear sight for both elevation and windage, the positive detent adjustments were precise and predictable. And I was surprised by the American Eagle load’s consistency. This ball load averaged a mild 799 fps with an extreme spread of 37 fps and a standard deviation of 15 fps. That is as good as some match ammo.
For personal-defense ammunition, I tested three of the leading loads on the market, including Federal 230-grain HSTs, Gorilla Ammunition’s 230-grain Silverback “FBI” JHPs and Super Vel’s 185-grain +P JHPs. I shot all of the ammo off-hand from 25 yards. This is always the hardest portion of the evaluation, and in reality, it’s more an evaluation of the shooter than the pistol. The Federal HSTs produced a group that measured 1.5 inches, and they were the softest-shooting defensive rounds. The group from Gorilla’s Silverback load measured 2 inches while the Super Vel load created a group measuring 2.75 inches. I also experienced no malfunctions with any of the loads. The American Eagle FMJ load produced a very respectable 1.75-inch group.
After a satisfying range trip, I broke the TRP Operator down, cleaned it and used it as my bedside gun. I set it up with SureFire’s excellent X300 Ultra, which produces 600 lumens of powerful white light via two lithium CR123A batteries. Combined with the three-dot tritium sights, the TRP Operator became a low-light warrior.
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Carrying a railed, 5-inch-barreled 1911 can present some issues. For leather lovers, Galco offers the Halo, which is a leather concealment holster for the TRP Operator. While on the Galco website, I highly recommend taking a look at the company’s belts. I have worn Galco’s gun belts for years and can vouch for their fit and durability. If Kydex is preferred, I would look no further than my friends at Blade-Tech. The company’s Classic Eclipse holster is available for use with the X300. Blade-Tech also offers a very cool EDC gun belt. The TRP Operator is also an ideal pistol for law enforcement tactical teams. For tactical uses, the Safariland Model 7354 is the holster by which all others are measured.
TRP? More Like MVP
In my opinion, the TRP Operator is the most valuable pistol on the market today. It is constructed of quality materials, and its fit and finish rival many custom pistols. Just as important, its reliability and accuracy far surpass many pistols in the same price range. Were you to buy a basic 1911 and ask a custom shop to bring it up to the TRP’s standards, you would exceed the retail price of the TRP by several hundred dollars.
Williams summed it up nicely: “Springfield could sell two to three times as many TRPs a year if we had them.” However, the current staffing and other demands on the factory will not allow this type of increase without sacrificing quality, something Springfield will not do.
While Springfield has requested that specific customers or agencies not be listed, TRP models are being carried by serious people, in and out of uniform, who go into harm’s way on a daily basis. These people have found that they can rely on the TRP to carry them to the fight and bring them home. To use a popular term, the TRP Operator is “good to go.” But I have to make one exception: This one may not go back to Geneseo.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inches
OA Length: 8.6 inches
Weight: 45 ounces (empty)
Sights: Adjustable three-dot tritium
Finish: Black/gray Armory Kote
For more information, visit springfield-armory.com.