First Look: Springfield Armory 911 .380 ACP

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I can appreciate Springfield Armory's tagline for its new micro .380, "When the police are minutes away and the threat is seconds away... 9-1-1 ...When you have to be your own first responder." When anyone pauses to consider the message, it's agreeable to those who have experienced a real need for professional help.

When I was a child, I called on law enforcement twice; once when I was six or seven and found Mom choking in the kitchen and the second was when I heard a noise in my parents' bathroom and saw a bad guy attempting to break in. In both circumstances, a professional first responder was several minutes away. When Springfield Armory launched a pistol named for a series of numbers that society has trained us to associate with help in time of crisis, it grabbed our attention.

Another clue that the 911 is not a typical 1911 is that it lacks a grip safety lever at its backstrap.

For the gun enthusiast, "911" also draws reference to the venerable "1911." Though the 911 (and other micro 1911s) feature many differences when compared to John M. Browning's original, the layout of controls and manual of arms are relatively the same, albeit scaled down. If you carry a larger 1911 as a primary defensive pistol, the 911 serves as a capable backup that doesn't require different motor skills to employ.


See also: Springfield Armory's $150,000 EDC Giveaway.

Though Guns & Ammo's editors remain reluctant to recommend a .380 ACP-chambered pistol that uses either a six-round flush or seven-round extended magazine as a primary defensive sidearm, we support the catchphrase, "Better to have a gun than none at all." Certainly, the loads available for .380 ACP have come a long way in terminal performance than was available just 15 years ago.

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It will be a challenge to find a micro 1911-style handgun in .380 as reliable and rugged as this one because inside it contains a polished, supported feed ramp and two, well-designed magazines. Usually, small .380s have feeding issues and the occasional malfunction during the first 200 rounds that's fired through it of out the box. (Sometimes I think that another phrase, "break-in period," was first used to describe a new Model 1911.) Such malfunctions can plague 1911-based designs of a smaller scale than the Government model due to the special engineering required to properly orient the bullet nose with the chamber and marry the reciprocating slide mass to the chamber pressure available to cycle the action.


Normally, a flat-tipped defensive bullet is challenged to feed reliably because its nose hits the supported ramp and starts to turn up before the slide's breech face can level the cartridge and push it into the chamber. Depending on the magazine's fitment and relationship within the frame, a sloppy gun will allow the tightly loaded magazine to hold onto the rim of the cartridge too long, inducing a malfunction. However, the 911's feed ramp is slick and machined as a part of the bushingless, stainless steel barrel.

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Of course, Springfield Armory opted to machine the slide of the 911 out of 416 stainless. It can be purchased as a matte, natural contrasting appearance with the black anodized aluminum frame, or it can be found with a black Nitride finish over the stainless steel. Either way, corrosion from the humid environment of carry against your body can't harm this pistol. (The first micro .380s were prone to rust spots that formed on steel slides where substrate wasn't adequately covered by bluing or another spray-on finish.)

As a micro, the 911's profile measures only 5½-inches long by 4-inches high with the flush-fit magazine inserted. Those are pocket-carry dimensions. It's also a 12.6-ounce lightweight thanks to the 7075 T6 aluminum frame and presence of G10 materials. I find G10, which is commonly used to mold indestructible textured grips, used in other places on the 911 such as the trigger shoe and mainspring housing. This explains how Springfield Armory can keep the retail price down to $600 as they pass along savings from not having machine checkering on the backstrap or purchase a more expensive trigger and set of grips.

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There has been a lot of attention given to the controls. There are serrations on everything that requires our fingers to work it. Serrations exist at the front of the trigger shoe, atop the magazine release button, on the slide lock and ambidextrous thumb safety levers. What impresses me to notice is that not only are there serrations on top of the slide lock lever (for using it as a slide release), there are serrations under the lever too (to encourage our thumb to press it up when needing to lock the slide back).

Though the thumb safety lever is miniature when compared to a standard 1911 thumb safety, the protruding ledge is rather generous and makes me think of an extended thumb safety on a standard 1911 that was shrunk for the 911. It offers enough surface area to press down with the joint of our firing hand's thumb to keep the muzzle level and manage recoil more effectively. And if you weren't already familiar with how the thumb safety of a 1911 works, the 911 offers shooters a red-painted indicator on both sides of the G10 grip panel to let you know what condition this pistol is in. Unfortunately, there is not a tab on the ambi safety lever as there is on other 1911s that prevents the slide's rearward travel when engaged in the up position.

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Another clue that the 911 is not a typical 1911 is that it lacks a grip safety lever at its backstrap. It might be hard to reliably disengage on the 911 for its micro size, which means not having that feature on the 911 is likely preferred. When you grip the pistol and press the trigger, it needs to go bang without having to adjust our grip.

Two other aspects that make the 911 a pleasure to shoot include the high relief at the rear of the triggerguard and the option to carry a magazine with a finger extension. These two features make the 911 surprisingly comfortable to grip in larger hands. Most shooters with big hands detest micro .380s due to the lack of surface area to wrap fingers around.

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There are other details to the 911 that exude evidence of quality and that this gun isn't just a gimmick to include the loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide and steel, three-dot sights — Ameriglo Pro-Glo night sights. There's a yellow, luminescent ring that surrounds the tritium-filled vial that is the front night sight, which means that this is also a sight system that's great for daylight hours.

The pistol also comes with a zipped, soft-sided nylon case that contains an excellent holster that's removable due to Velcro. With it out of the case, I discovered that the holster also functions as a pocket holster. (Bonus!) I only wish that Springfield Armory hadn't embroidered its cross-canon logo on the outside of the case. Had it been a logo on a removable Velcro patch, I'd be more comfortable walking around with the 911 carried off-body in this case during broad daylight.

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Springfield Armory's new 911 is going to be a hit with micro .380 fans. And if I were looking for a pocket-carry backup to a larger, cocked-and-locked Springfield Armory .45 worn on my hip, this would be it.

Look for a complete review with performance results of the new Springfield Armory 911 in the May 2018 issue of Guns & Ammo magazine. Until then, visit springfield-armory.com.

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