October 8, 2013

Springfield Armory Lightweight Champion Operator PX9115LP 45 ACP

We tested two Caracal 9mm handguns (which have since been recalled) against two 45 ACP handguns in a September 2012 showdown of self-defense pistols. The 45s were the Springfield Armory Lightweight Champion Operator PX9115LP 45 ACP, $1076, and the Dan Wesson ECO 01969 45 ACP, $1662. Here’s an excerpt of that report.

Springfield Armory Lightweight Champion Operator PX9115LP 45 ACP, $1076

Springfield Armory offers two lightweight 1911 45s, each with a 4-inch barrel. One is the $1031 Loaded Lightweight Champion PX9149LP, and the other is our test gun, the Lightweight Champion Operator. Visually, the primary difference is the OD Green-colored frame of the Loaded model and the addition of an accessory rail to the Operator. The Operator also comes with cocobolo wood grips instead of rubber grip panels.

We acquired the Operator because few 1911s (and even fewer compact models) offer an accessory rail. Two 7-round magazines were supplied, but the grip was long enough to consume 8-round magazines without the basepad protruding from the grip. In addition to regular testing, each of our test rounds was fired through the Operator via 8-round magazines from Wilson Combat and Chip McCormick. Despite being fired weak hand only, strong hand only, and from support, our Lightweight Champion Operator worked without malfunction throughout every aspect of our tests.

Sheathed in black Armory Kote, the frame of the Lightweight Champion Operator offered a Picatinny accessory rail along its 2.1-inch dustcover. The cocobolo grip panels were heavily checkered, save for the traditional diamond-pattern flats and the Springfield Armory logo. Held in place by Torx screws, their profile was very tall, and we could feel a large contrast with the tightly peaked radius of the front strap, which was smooth rather than checkered.

The lower portion of the backstrap consisted of a checkered mainspring housing with flat profile. The full-width beavertail grip safety offered a raised section for positive engagement. The interior of the magazine well was beveled to about a 45-degree angle. The hammer was skeletonized, and the aluminum trigger was ventilated with three holes. The natural color of the aluminum trigger contrasted with the otherwise shadowy appearance of the frame and grips. Trijicon-branded night sights were dovetailed into place front and rear. The front blade had score lines to absorb glare as well as the tritium module. The slide offered only rearward cocking serrations. Ambidextrous thumb safeties were in place. The right-side paddle was slightly smaller by about one line of serration in width. Overall, the only imperfection we found was the edge of the left thumb safety, which we thought was a little too sharp.

Springfield Armory Lightweight Champion Operator PX9115LP 45 ACP

Just about the perfect 1911 45. But the long dustcover makes takedown more complicated.

Both the Springfield and Dan Wesson ECO 1911s operated with a bull barrel, negating the need for a barrel bushing. This meant take down required capturing the spring action of the recoil system before the barrel could be removed. In the case of the Operator, the recoil system consisted of a plunger or shock-absorber style, requiring a special tool for disassembly found in the airline quality hard attaché case. (Also included in the case was a belt slide holster and a dual magazine pouch with Picatinny rails along the edges for securing a laser or weapons light. Both units were tension adjustable).

Step one of takedown was to lock back the slide. Then snap the takedown piece, a plastic half-radius bushing, over the exposed section of the recoil assembly. Due to the long dustcover, we had great difficulty getting the takedown piece past the front of the guide rod and into position. In addition, reassembly was hampered by the difficulty of then removing the takedown piece. A better takedown procedure was to first separate the entire top end from the frame. Next, push on the rear of the recoil assembly to compress the spring and expose the area where the takedown piece was snapped into place. With the recoil assembly secured, it was easily removed. The key to reassembly was to make sure the recoil unit was seated fully into position against the barrel feet so the slide could pass easily across the frame.

Bench shooting is supposed to be slow fire, but the gun’s ultra-clear sight picture and the precise 5.5-pound trigger made it hard to slow down. We had to resist the urge to let the trigger snap with each flash sight picture. The result was groups that ranged in size from 0.8 inches to 2.0 inches across for all shots fired. The Hornady Custom 185-grain JHP rounds were the most accurate, with five-shot groups averaging just 1.1 inches center to center. The most powerful ammunition was the Speer Gold Dot rounds, registering 377 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Springfield Armory Lightweight Champion Operator PX9115LP 45 ACP

Few 1911s offer an accessory rail regardless of frame size. The compact Lightweight Champion Operator offered true Picatinny specifications and three slots.

In our action test we fired eight times over the course of two target exposures. All eight shots landed on target, scoring three 10s, three 9s, and two 8s. Shooter impression was somewhat of a shock after finishing up with the 9mm pistols. The nature of the recoil was different from the Caracals, presenting torque or twisting of the gun as well as muzzle flip. Remembering to switch off the safety made the shooter a little more self-conscious. During dry fire, it began as a distraction but may ultimately have provided a key moment focusing the shooter’s attention before firing. The high thumb position riding the safety opened the grip up, and the shooter felt that the relation to the wrist position was noticeably different than when holding the striker-fired pistols with the thumb wrapped around the grip.

But we think spreading out the hand made it easier to isolate the trigger finger from the rest of the grip. The sight picture was clearly keyed on the front-sight blade, which unlike the Quick Sight stood out like a pointer. The short snappy movement of the trigger was in great contrast to the Caracals, which seemed to demand a gathering rather than a pressing motion. At first, this tempted us to somewhat overpower the trigger during the action test and pull shots low.

Our Team Said: The Springfield Armory Lightweight Champion Operator proved as accommodating as a butler. It made every shooting chore ridiculously easy. We didn’t have to struggle with choice of ammunition, sight picture, loading, controlling the trigger, or recoil. We have to credit the recoil assembly for its soft shooting. We wish there was some method of toolless takedown. Still, this is one of the best compact 45s we’ve tested.

Comments (15)

I haven't found any either. And I haven't been in a topless bar since 1995. The girls can't get within 3 ft. now so what's the point in going? Besides, my dogs get really pissed if I am out after the sun goes down.

Posted by: Cecil B | October 11, 2013 9:25 PM    Report this comment

Yeah, Cecil.....I have noticed that I always get some sort of sale bulletins from them every day, and sometimes more often. As far as topless bars go.....I can't remember when last I was in ANY bar for the purpose of just purely drinking. While I do enjoy a couple of Martinis when dining out, none of the restaurants where I take my wife have topless entertainment or waitresses.....Hmmm.....

Posted by: canovack | October 11, 2013 5:40 PM    Report this comment

Yes Sir. It is very easy to purchase things and they ship quickly. They are owned by Optics Planet, so they sell stuff that did not move. I have made some relatively painless purchases. And, you will get a page from them every day, so, something else to keep us out of the topless bars.

Posted by: Cecil B | October 11, 2013 5:03 PM    Report this comment

Hey, Cecil, I just subscribed to Dvor.com. They do have some interesting stuff. I haven't yet purchased anything from them, but I figure I am likely to see something there that I want.....notice I did not say need.....but then often times my wants have a way of turning into needs. I presume that purchasing from them is straight forward, like fill in a credit card number and go from there......

Posted by: canovack | October 11, 2013 4:46 PM    Report this comment

bear1: you might also want to subscrube to Dvor.com. They sell stuff that has been in their warehouse at a discount. You get a daily e mail of what item is for sale. I have bought a number of things from them.

All I can say about the treatment of our vets is (without resorting to my sailor's tongue), it is a goddamn national disgrace. And to think that those poor old guys that schlepped to D. C., probably on their LAST outing to see the WWII memorial, will remember that fiasco till they take their last breath. I am ashamed.

Posted by: Cecil B | October 11, 2013 2:58 PM    Report this comment

I, too, am grandly pissed off at the antics ongoing in Washington. Our elitist elected officials are more interested in seeing their constituents suffer than they are in solving the problems of governance. While they play silly partisan games of brinkmanship, the people they work for are hurting as they continue to grandstand on their positions. Those members of the Potomac Country Club, who enjoy all sorts of perks, along with their exhorbitant salaries and retirement plans will ultimately come pandering to us as the 2014 and 2016 elections loom nearer. When they do, our response should be unequivocally clear: ABI.....Anybody But Incumbents!

Now, with all of that said, bear1, have you checked online for pancake holsters? I have seen them on the websites of MidwayUSA, Natchez Shooting Supplies, Brownell's, etc, etc. Also, I have several Don Hume pancake holsters. I mention these, because, Don Hume is not as expensive as many of the other brands, yet the product is quite serviceable and attractive in appearance. I know it's pretty much out of the question that you might see them at a gun show in California, since the terms "gun show" and "California" are mutually exclusive. That said, however, I often see Don Hume holsters and other items, such as mag carriers, at our local gun shows.

Posted by: canovack | October 11, 2013 10:51 AM    Report this comment

This combat Vietnam Vet is really pissed off with all the crap going on in DC right now and how they are treating our fallen comrads in arms and OUR MONUMENTS. Also heard today that they are NOT working on our claims and appeals, while they are still getting paid. I am staying home tomarrow and all weekend in support of the truckers,bikers and Vets going to DC this weekend. I have tried to get hold via phone and email my so called senators, boxer and fienstien (no caps on purpose) and can't get through because they are in hiding, the cowards.
By the way I have 3 1911's and been have problems finding a pancake holster for them.
God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future.
Get the US Out of the UN and the UN Out of the US

Posted by: bear1 | October 10, 2013 8:49 PM    Report this comment

She won't get MY vote. And I have been ABI for years for all the good it has done. But let's try again in 2014. This mess is an embarrassment for the entire Republic. I thought kids in school were a pain in the ass but these guys put them to shame.

Posted by: Cecil B | October 10, 2013 6:35 PM    Report this comment

Of course, we are going to have to be very careful about who we let through the primaries to run against the incumbents. It won't matter what party affiliations the incumbents now have, if we can find good candidates to run against them in the primaries..... Oh! By-the-way.....This Wendy Davis girl is raising some stink, but we need to remember that she is pro-abortion and anti-Second Amendment. Her record on gun related legislation is negative to our cause, and she has taken an active role in trying to get gun shows thrown out of Dallas, For Worth, and Austin. She succeeded in Austin by cozying up the the APD Chief Acevedo and the resident BATFE station chief. She must be defeated and sent packing back to California.....

Posted by: canovack | October 10, 2013 5:34 PM    Report this comment

Indeed.....My battelcry for the 2014 elections is ABI.....Anybody But Incumbents! I figure that if we could get all of the incumbents out of there that are up for re-election in 2014, it would present a very strong message to the ones who will be looking for re-election in 2016. If we can't get term limits placed on these dingbats through legislation, we will have to do it through the ballot box.

Posted by: canovack | October 10, 2013 5:28 PM    Report this comment

Especially when you get to be our age. LOL

How about this dog and pony show in D. C.? Are you as disgusted with it as am I?

Posted by: Cecil B | October 10, 2013 3:06 PM    Report this comment

Cecil, I agree with your comment about needing a tool to disassemble a firearm.....any firearm. While it may be necessary to use tools for detailed disassembly, for the basic take-down for cleaning or immediate action clearance, it is far better to be able to do so without having a tool along.....that may get lost in the shuffle.

Posted by: canovack | October 10, 2013 2:57 PM    Report this comment

I carried a Colt Commander, way back when I was in the PD. It shot as straight as one could hold it and NEVER had a problem. Didn't like the nickle satin finish but that was just a personal thing. I don't like the idea of needing a tool to strip your gun for cleaning. One more thing for me to lose.

Posted by: Cecil B | October 10, 2013 12:39 PM    Report this comment

Commander sized 1911 pistols seem to be all the rage right now. I have a number of 1911s in my collection, and they are all good shooters and carry quite nicely in pancake holsters. I tend, however, to favor pistols of all persuasions that do not have accessory rails. My reasons are that I normally do not equip my concealed carry pieces with lights or lasers.....with one exception.....my SIG Sauer P229. I have equipped it with XS Big Dot tritium express sights and a Lasermax guide rod laser. Since the Lasermax is an internal device, the P229 slides into and out of its holster without concern for a holster that will accommodate an external laser.

Posted by: canovack | October 10, 2013 10:59 AM    Report this comment

The Springfield-Armory Champion Operator is the single best handgun I have owned. It is my primary conceal carry piece. The aluminum frame is light, but the stock fills my big hand for a perfect purchase of the firearm.

Friends ask "do you like the Operator?" My quick response is "it always hits what I point it at!" Out of the box the trigger feels like a factory trigger job - no creep, no crawl - very crisp and sharp.

I highly recommend this to anyone - LEO, CCL, hobbyist, plinker, home defense - you name it. Its a winner. Hard to find and not real plentiful anywhere. If you find one on the shelf, do not kick yourself later for not buying it where you find it.

Posted by: dgpcpa | October 10, 2013 10:54 AM    Report this comment

Add your comments ...

New to Gun Tests? Register for Free!

Already Registered? Log In