September 23, 2013

Springfield Armory Custom Shop Professional .45 ACP

We tested and evaluated a 1911A1 Professional from the Springfield Armory Custom Shop. This gun sold for $2400, or about four times the price of our Mil-Specs. The connection was that a customer can send his Springfield Mil-Spec to the Custom Shop and for $1,495, Springfield Armory will apply an upgrade in parts and workmanship called the “Professional” package.

Because we recognize that shooters may start with a Mil-Spec gun but may eventually want more performance, we wanted to report if we thought a conversion of this magnitude was worth the money. Here’s what we found.

The Springfield Armory Custom Shop offers a menu of ala carte modifications describing just about anything that can be done to a 1911 style semi-automatic pistol. The featured items on the Custom Shop’s price list are complete guns and package modifications. A package is a specified list of upgrades and modifications performed on the customer’s gun. Packages available from the Custom Shop for 1911 style pistols are the Professional, Competition, Tactical Response, Loaded, and Defense. Prices range from $175 for the Defense package to $1495 for the Professional, which according to the Custom Shop brochure is an upgrade to “the same exacting specifications as the FBI contract model.”

The Professional is a complete rebuild, including the installation of a match-grade barrel and complete refinishing. Other parts listed for installation include match hammer and sear, speed trigger, titanium firing pin with extra heavy firing pin spring, beavertail grip safety, ambidextrous thumb safety, low mount Novak rear sight with matching dovetail front sight, 3-dot tritium inserts, magwell, 20-lpi checkering on the front strap, checkered cocobolo grips, beveling of all external parts, deburr complete pistol internally, apply a “Black T” finish to the complete pistol and ship with six Metalform seven-round magazines tuned to the pistol.

Springfield Armory Custom Shop Professional .45 ACP

Courtesy Gun Tests

Buying this package and applying it to the basic Springfield Mil-Spec gun is the equivalent of our test gun, the PC9111 model, $2,400. There just isn’t much more you can ask from a 1911, in our view. The cost is the sole drawback. Adjustable aluminum trigger, flush-mounted slide stop, lowered and flared ejection port, low-mount snag free Novak rearsight, lightweight hammer, extended beavertail grip safety with raised countour, ambidextrous slim-safety, checkered cocobolo wood grips, 20-lpi checkered front strap, and magazine with base pad are some of the modifications evident in this photo.

Parts are important, but the Custom Shop offers hand fitting and hand checkering. For example, the benefit of the magazine well would be lost if not for a careful blend with the bevel on the frame.

Springfield prefers to work on carbon-steel-framed pistols, like the Mil-Spec tested above. We were advised that the Black T finish could overcoat the Parkerizing. Turn around time was another consideration, and currently this job would take about 24 weeks. In our experience this is about average for building a custom gun.

To preview what to expect from transforming our pistol into the Professional package, we acquired a completed Custom Shop Professional model pistol in .45 ACP. The Professional and both Mil-Specs from Auto Ordnance and Springfield Armory weighed in between 36 and 38 ounces, but the Professional felt more like one solid block of steel. The Black T finish left the frame with a slight matte exterior, but the slide was a gleaming ink-like blue. We also noticed that the barrel extended well past the bushing, probably because the tube measured 5.1 inches in length. The barrel did not have a cutaway for visual chamber check. The hood was blued and fit tightly against the breech, adding to its solid appearance.

Springfield Armory Custom Shop Professional .45 ACP

The Professional is a reminder of just how many modifications and refinements can be applied to the 1911 pistol.

The words Nowlin .45 ACP were barely visible on the barrel; Nowlin is a manufacturer of top-quality barrels. The standard length guide rod was retained, but the tight bushing fit required the use of a wrench. The slide-stop pin had been machined flush with the right side of the frame and beveled to prevent any possibility of it being pressed and causing a stoppage. The ambidextrous safeties were narrow but easy to use, blending in with the profile of the grips. The low-mount rear night sight by Novak was sunk cleanly into the slide, with the rear notch as far to the rear as possible. The dovetail of the front-sight blade all but disappeared into the slide. Frame checkering was ultra clean, and the magwell was melded neatly in place. The mainspring housing was flat. The grip safety did offer a raised area to ensure activation.

The Professional arrived with six seven-round magazines made by Metalform, all of which worked perfectly. Each magazine was fit with a rubber base pad to extend its length far enough below the magazine well to allow for positive loading and add durability to the magazines should they be dropped.

Springfield Armory Custom Shop Professional .45 ACP

The Black T finish left the frame with a slight matte exterior, but the slide was a gleaming ink-like blue.

Our inspection revealed only one variation from what was promised. The brochure listed a custom-tuned 4.5-pound trigger pull, but we measured the trigger pull to be some 6 pounds, which was actually more in line with our production models. A call to the Custom Shop assured us that weight of trigger pull can be specified, but for carry Springfield Armory does not recommend setting the trigger to less than 4.5 pounds.

In our head to head match up of the Mil-Specs, we had deferred to the poor sights on the Auto Ordnance and collected accuracy data at 15 yards. Taking the Professional to the range, we felt no such restriction and fired 25 yards downrange from a rest to determine accuracy. We used the very same ammunition to test the Custom Shop Professional as we did in our test of the Mil-Spec models. The Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ rounds produced groups that varied between 2.2 and 2.5 inches. The Winchester USA 185-grain FMJ rounds varied in group size from 2.0 to 2.4 inches.

Our handload featuring the 200-grain moly-coated Precision bullet and Hodgdon Clays powder varied in group size from 1.9 to 2.6 inches. But our top performer was the Black Hills 230-grain JHP round. The Black Hills ammunition consistently printed five-shot groups measuring 1.8 to 1.9 inches across.

Comments (12)

I had only one loose and rattling .45 (Capt.'s) in my arms room, 508TH ARCT, that couldn't hit anything though I had access to unlimited ammo and range time.
However, after firing my personal Colt Match Target .22 so much that it went full auto, I found that .45 magically and surprisingly became more accurate.

Posted by: slowmover | August 20, 2015 12:05 PM    Report this comment

I bought a stainless loaded Springfield some years ago now, and on firing it the first time, it was a fine single shot. It would not feed ball ammo. I found the fault, the magazine well front that is the feed ramp in a standard 1911 was so rough that a cartridge would not load into the chamber. I polished the frame, and it became a 10 to 15 shooter before stoppages reoccurred. On inspection the breech face was about the roughness of 80 grit sandpaper, and would scrub off enough brass to cause a feed problem. The breech face needed polishing, but would cause a headspace problem. At this point I contacted Springfield and was told that I needed to send it in for warranty work, and I would be reimbursed for the shipping. I sent the weapon to them, and in about 5 weeks received it back. But I was never reimbursed for the shipping, although I tried to get it worked out I never received an answer. It now functioned but shot 5 to 6 inch groups at 25 yards. I disassembled it and found that it was almost impossible to get the barrel bushing out, as it was so loose that it was cocked in the slide. After getting the bushing out it could be put into the slide and it rattled when shook. It was also about 1/16 of an inch too large for the barrel OD. I again contacted Springfield for a bushing that I could fit myself. I was told I would have to send it in as any work I did would void the warranty. At this point I ordered a NM bushing from Brownells and fitted it myself. I now have an unwarranted 1911 that shoots sub 1.5 groups at 25 yards if i do my part. The point of this comment is to let others know that while I now have an accurate pistol, I could have had one a lot sooner if I had bought a Kimber. Springfield dropped the ball big time on the pistol I bought form them, and then compounded it by not living up to their warranty promises.

Posted by: olderndirtcop | December 31, 2010 12:54 PM    Report this comment

I've got a Springfield Loaded Ultra Compact and it cost 1/2 the price also and shoots as good as my Kimber at 1/2 the price. I'll just say that you shoot as much as I do after a couple of boxes of shells through these guns you ought to hit like that.

Posted by: chuck t | December 17, 2010 5:12 AM    Report this comment

I've owned them plain and I've owned them fancy but the ones I keep are the ones that are dependable. I like a good looking anything but if it or they aren't dependable then I trade.

Posted by: Wood Butcher | December 1, 2010 12:06 PM    Report this comment

I'll second that Markbo. None of my Kimbers cost half that amount either but they will certainly match that performance. (BTW, the Kimber CDP Custom Defense Pistol from the Kimber Custom Shop sells for 1/2 the price test gun.)

Posted by: marXman | November 29, 2010 11:29 PM    Report this comment

I'll second that Markbo. None of my Kimbers cost half that amount either but they will certainly match that performance.

Posted by: marXman | November 29, 2010 11:20 PM    Report this comment

I am sure this is a fine, fine 1911. But being one of those on an income limited by my job, it's out of my range. But I have 3 Kimbers that I would put up against it any day of the week and not one cost 1/2 that price.

Posted by: Markbo | November 25, 2010 8:19 PM    Report this comment

Having spent over 20 yrs in combat arms and having fought in three different combat zones I feel qualified to pass on what I've learned about the .45 auto. All the bells and whisles are nice but not nessesary, my rock island .45 has issue sights and I added the beavertail safety, the trigger pull is atrocious and it's ugly but, it still shoots minute of chest out to 50 yds and if you need more than that get a rifle. People get this through your heads, THIS IS NOT A BEAUTY CONTEST IT'S SURVIVAL! PS, I've got a total of $450.00 invested in my non jaming personal defence weapon, I can buy a hellofa lot of .45 ammo for $2000.00.

Posted by: firstsoldier | November 25, 2010 3:55 AM    Report this comment

Maybe I am an old skin fint our just a poor old disabled vet that hasn't got alot of money but it seems to me that with all the 1911's out there they could bring the price down a bet. I like the 1911 even the ones that I was issued in the Army I was very pleased with even though most guys I talked to on the range and other wise said they couldn't hit nothing with one, until I should them a couple of tricks I learned. One of the tricks was to fire the weapon a alittle low as you bring the weapon up instead of trying to bring the gun down. I own two 1911's, one is the Llama in .45 and one is the High Standard in .45 both are very reliable and will do the job for me any time I need them too.
God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future.
Keeping to My Oath Locked Loaded and Keeping My Powder Dry
Get the US Out of the UN and the UN OUt of the US

Posted by: bear1 | November 24, 2010 6:50 PM    Report this comment

@ Wood Butcher, while Novak sights are not my favorite for visibility, I share your enjoyment of a well-fitted Springer 1911. Your relatively rare 9mm 1911A1 is about as fun a pistol as there is, as far as I'm concerned. Kudos on your ownership of Springfield's fine product.

Posted by: David C | November 24, 2010 3:35 PM    Report this comment

I have a 1911a1 from Springfield in 9mm that I like to play with and after reading the article I can see an upgrade in the near future> Do I think it will work better? Nope but I sure do like having well built firearms that reflect my pride in owning and shooting them. I like the idea of a pistol that is so well fitted that seams are hard to locate and no one is going to convince me that my fifty something eyes wont be able to see that Novak sight package better.

Posted by: Wood Butcher | May 20, 2009 12:47 AM    Report this comment

My only extensive shooting experience was with my government issue 1911 during my pilot days in WW II, I clearly recall that I didn't experience a single mishap of any sort though I fired hundreds of rounds with government issue ammo. I loved that pistol. It was my constant companion during my 27 month tour of duty overseas. I truly regret having turned it in when I was separated from the service.

Posted by: MORT S | May 14, 2009 11:45 AM    Report this comment

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