Springfield Armory Garrison PX9420 45 ACP

Reliable and well suited to personal defense. Good sights, a good trigger, and feeds with reliability. We didn’t like the slim grips, but they are easily changed to something you prefer. The Garrison uses a standard barrel bushing and recoil-spring lockup. This is a lot of gun for the dollar.


In the last 18 months or so, Springfield Armory has introduced several 1911 handguns in its new Emissary and Garrison lines. We took these two of these new variations and compared them to a top-grade Loaded Operator to see which one is the Best Buy. After the smoke cleared, we were surprised at how the test shook out.

The first of these new pistols was introduced in July 2021, the Emissary. Springfield claimed the pistol bridged “the gap between duty and custom handguns.” The Emissary is delivered in a cardboard box with a zippered case, two Mec-Gar 8-round magazines, manual, and gun lock. Its basic elements included a forged stainless-steel frame and forged carbon-steel slide, offering a distinctive two-tone finish. Other features included a squared trigger guard, a “Tri-Top” slide cut, a flattened top strap finished with 40-lines-per-inch, a tritium-and-luminescent front sight, a Tactical Rack U-Dot rear sight, and a bushingless heavy stainless-steel bull barrel. The 45 ACP-chambered pistol is model number PX9220L, which we test here. In November 2021, Springfield Armory announced a 4.25-inch 45 ACP (PX9218L) and a 5-inch 9mm version (PX9219L), followed by a 4.25-inch-barrel 9mm (PX9217L) in May 2022.

In November 2021, Springfield added the Garrison line, also in 45 ACP initially. The 5-inch-barreled Garrison was pitched as a classic 1911 pistol with a traditional barrel-bushing system and wood grips, but also with enhancements, such as a match-grade stainless-steel barrel, skeletonized hammer, extended beavertail grip safety with memory bump, forged frame, low-profile high-visibility sights, thin-line grips, and more. At roll-out, it was available in a blued finish (PX9420) or stainless (PX9420S). We test the blued gun here. Also, the company released two 9mm Garrisons in April 2022, with the same finishes and similar configurations.

Of course, Springfield still offers several of its Loaded Operators, but our specific test gun, the PX9105LL18, has been discontinued since we purchased ours. No matter, an online check shows plenty of Loaded Operator pistols are still available at retail. Also, we’ve tested several Loaded pistols over the years, such as the Loaded Operator PX9105LL in the July 2020 issue, which earned an A and a Best Buy rating. We also shot a Loaded Operator PX9105MLP in the February 2008 issue, giving it a B+. We ran a Loaded Target in the September 2015 issue, with that pistol earning an A grade. In the August 2008 issue, we gave a Loaded Ultra Compact PX9161LP a B- grade. As for Operators, we most recently tested a Ronin Operator PX9120L in the July 2021 issue, giving that gun an A- grade, but also making it Our Pick. In the September 2012 issue, we tested a Lightweight Champion Operator PX9115LP, giving it an A- grade. In the March 2019 issue, we tested a Range Officer Elite Operator in 10mm, giving it an A grade. So we’re pretty familiar with the platform.

How We Tested

To test the pistols, we used three types of ammunition. This included the primary test load, Remington’s UMC 230-grain full metal jackets, Black Hills Ammunition’s 230-grain FMJs, and Fiocchi’s 200-grain XTP jacketed hollow points. The combat portion of the test began with the pistol carried in a range holster and ready to draw. Our shooters drew the pistols and fired at man-sized targets at 7 and 10 yards. We fired 50 rounds in each pistol in this manner using the Remington FMJ load. In accuracy testing at 25 yards, we fired the pistols from an MTM K Zone shooting rest. This is a rest designed for rifles and handguns. Remove the rifle-rest section, and you have a well-designed pistol rest. Here’s what we found when shooting these Springfield pistols side by side:

Gun Tests Grade: B+ (BEST BUY)


One member of our South Carolina test team reported seeing a Garrison for sale at $715 shortly after we finished this review. The Garrison may be intended more for the market niche the Ronin also occupies, a pistol intended for the traditionalist, the shooter who believes less is more. The Ronin is a bi-tone gun, while the Garrison is a single color, either blue or stainless.

Action TypeSemi-auto, short recoil-operated locked breech, single action
Overall Length8.5 in.
Overall Height5.5 in.
Maximum Width1.25 in.
Weight Unloaded38.0 oz.
Weight Loaded43.0 oz.
Slide MaterialForged steel
Slide Retraction Effort18.5 lbs.
Receiver MaterialSteel
FinishSalt blued
Front Strap Height2.6 in.
Back Strap Height3.2 in.
Barrel Length5.0 in.
Grip Thickness Maximum1.2 in.
Grip Circumference5.1 in.
MagazineOne 7 round
Rear SightFixed, Novak Lo-Mount type
Front SightDovetailed post
Sight Radius6.4 in.
Trigger Pull Weight6.5 lbs.
Trigger Span2.8 in.
SafetiesSlide lock, grip
WarrantyLimited lifetime
Telephone(309) 944-5631
Made InU.S.A.

There are other differences as well. Colonel Jeff Cooper referred to a certain type of 1911 as a consensus gun. This handgun would represent the consensus of what was needed and nothing more. Good sights, a speed safety, and a good trigger were all that was needed. It is fitting the Garrison pistol fills this niche. When Colonel Cooper was writing about the merits of the 1911 and proving them in competition, he accelerated the demand for quality 1911 handguns. Colt could not supply enough pistols. Part of the success of the original Springfield 1911 was built upon this demand.

Disassembly of the Garrison is pure original 1911, without any drawbacks. The supplied magazine with the Garrison had a loose follower (arrow). It never failed to feed, but the follower required repositioning each time we loaded the magazine. The salt blue finish of the Garrison is attractive. That said, it will not last as long as many other modern finishes.

The Garrison is a quality pistol well suited for upgrades, and it is a much nicer pistol in appearance than either the original Springfield GI or the later Mil-Spec Springfields. The finish is Springfield hot salt blue. It is at least equal to a Colt Series 70 we had on hand. The Garrison features a forged frame and slide, same as the other Springfields. This is an advantage over the many cast frame pistols costing nearly as much as the Garrison.

The Garrison features a conventional slide and frame. Its operation uses standard barrel locking lugs and swinging link of the other pistols. In comparison to the Emissary, the Garrison uses the original barrel bushing and standard recoil spring and guide rod. The mainspring housing is checkered differently than the Emissary and is identical to the Operator. The beavertail grip safety is the same as the other two pistols. The Garrison uses the same speed safety as the other two pistols, save the Operator is ambidextrous.

The Garrison’s wood grips are well finished. The mainspring housing is nicely checkered, but the front strap is not checkered at all.

The Garrison is the lightest of the three pistols at 37 ounces even. The Garrison uses a target-type trigger that is lighter than the Operator but not as light as the Emissary. Trigger compression is 6.5 pounds. One trigger was not appreciably smoother than the other two trigger actions, in our estimation. Reset is sharp and rapid in all three pistols. In common with the other pistols, the Garrison runs on a 16-pound recoil spring. The Garrison features Novak Lo-Mount-type sights, not the wedge-type sights. The Garrison sights use a white-three-dot arrangement properly regulated for a 6 o’clock hold at 20 yards. The pistol seems well finished, and all controls function crisply.

At right, the Garrison’s checkered slim-line grips were discussed quite a bit. In the end, our testers decided the grips are a boon for those with small hands and are easily replaced by others who want a little more girth. The pistol also features three-white-dot sights and a left-side speed safety, as well as a nicely shaped beavertail safety.

The single bone of contention our shooters had was the Garrison’s slim grips. Springfield chose to use thinner-than-standard grips on this pistol. The smaller grips were generally okay in our shooters’ hands, but some felt standard grips would be a better choice. The wood grips are well finished and seem to be good quality. The mainspring housing is nicely checkered, but the front strap is not checkered at all — an example of cost savings that adds up across the pistol.

Because this is the lightest pistol of the three 45 ACP handguns tested, it recoiled the most. Recoil was not uncomfortable for practiced shooters, but the push from the Garrison was clearly greater than the other two. Firing fast in combat-style shooting, we saw the pistol was as good as the other two Springfield 1911s to the first shot at 7 yards. In continuing strings of fire with the lighter Garrison, experienced shooters were not able to recover as rapidly from recoil as with the heavier pistols. The Garrison is nimble and fast handling and runs between targets well. The sole problem we had with any of the three pistols was a small one. The follower of the Garrison’s single seven-shot magazine was stuck forward and had to be repeatedly pushed down and back before loading. It never failed to feed, however.

In bench accuracy, the fitting and trigger action of a 1911 are measured, and the result is usually in line with the cost of the pistol. In this case, the Garrison posted good results for the price. While no groups were less than 2 inches, the Garrison was statistically as accurate as the Emissary and nearly as accurate as the Operator. It simply was not as easy to use well in offhand fire.

Our Team Said

Choosing the best pistol in this match up was very difficult, especially when we factored in value.

l We feel the Springfield Armory Emissary is a premier concealed-carry and personal-defense pistol. The sights and grips have appeal in these markets.

l The Springfield Armory Loaded Operator is a service-grade holster gun and a very good one. The ability to easily field-strip and maintain the LO without tools is an advantage. The LO has hand-filling grips and a magazine well. The forward cocking serrations are more useful than the Emissary’s. The Emissary’s forward serrations will not snag a tightly fitted holster, and the front strap of the Emissary offers greater adhesion without undue abrasion than the Loaded Operator. If price is no object, then the Loaded Operator is Our Pick.

l The Springfield Armory Garrison is a more humble pistol than the others. The Garrison’s finish is less durable than the Loaded Operator’s, but the former is still quite attractive. The Garrison doesn’t have night sights, but the sights are well designed for most uses. The Garrison is reliable, affordable, and accurate enough for almost any conceivable chore. We think the Garrison is a Best Buy.

45 ACP Range Data

To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups at 25 yards using an MTM K Zone rest. To measure velocity, we used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony, with the first screen of the chronograph 10 feet from the muzzle.
Black Hills 230-grain FMJSpringfield OperatorSpringfield EmissarySpringfield Garrison
Average Velocity855 fps849 fps859 fps
Muzzle Energy373 ft.-lbs.368 ft.-lbs.377 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.20 in.2.40 in.2.50 in.
Average Group2.50 in.2.60 in.2.90 in.
Remington 230-grain FMJSpringfield OperatorSpringfield EmissarySpringfield Garrison
Average Velocity829 fps834 fps851 fps
Muzzle Energy351 ft.-lbs.355 ft.-lbs.370 ft.-lbs.
Small Group1.90 in.2.30 in.2.60 in.
Average Group2.35 in.2.50 in.2.95 in.
Fiocchi 200-grain XTPSpringfield OperatorSpringfield EmissarySpringfield Garrison
Average Velocity940 fps966 fps953 fps
Muzzle Energy392 ft.-lbs.414 ft.-lbs.403 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.00 in.1.85 in.2.30 in.
Average Group2.40 in.2.30 in.2.60 in.

Value Guide: 45 ACP 1911 Handgun Rankings

Gun NameDateGradeComments
Kimber Custom LW 37000597 45 ACP, $709Jul. 2021AThe Kimber is a dull black pistol compared to the Ronin, but it offers good fit and finish.
Metro Arms Mac Bobcut 1911 Deep Blue 45 ACP, $902Jul. 2021AThe Commander-size Bobcut gave up little to the Government Models in performance.
Tisas 1911 Duty B45 45 ACP, $449Jul. 2021BBest Buy. Ambidextrous safety, well-designed beavertail grip safety, forward cocking serrations.
SIG Sauer Ultra Compact W1911U-45-BSS 45 ACP, $949May. 2021AOur Pick. Has a flared and extended ejection port, extended ejector, and a very nice trigger pull.
S&W SW1911 Pro Series 178020 45 ACP, $1249May. 2021A-We liked the recoil impulse and movement of the S&W the best. Function was 100% with all ammo.
Colt Defender Lightweight Stainless O7000XE, $999May. 2021B+We want our frames to last for years, so we are not great fans of aluminum feed ramps as on the Colt.
Ruger SR1911 Officer Stainless 06762, $979May. 2021BAll-steel construction and slightly longer slide-barrel combo resulted in the softest recoil impulse.
Springfield Loaded Operator PX9105LL 45 ACP, $1162Jul. 2020ABest Buy. If you need a personal-defense handgun rather than a show piece, this is the trick.
Guncrafter Commander 45 ACP, $3285Jul. 2020AOur Pick. The fitting is excellent, the sights are ideal for combat, and the trigger is superb.
Nighthawk Custom Falcon 45 ACP, $3699Jul. 2020AAn excellent production/custom grade handgun. Very smooth, excellent finish. Best combat ability.
Dan Wesson 1911 Heritage RZ-45 01981 45 ACP, $1227Jul. 2020A-The Dan Wesson Heritage offers good fit and finish and accuracy. Had break-in malfunctions.
Devil Dog Arms 4.25 Standard DDA-425-BO45 45 ACP, $1150Jul. 2020A-Of the five reviewed in July 2020, this gun makes the most sense for real-world concealed carry.
Desert Eagle 1911C 45 ACP, $695Aug. 2019ABest Buy. Reliability was good and accuracy was the best of the test.
Kimber Pro Carry SLE 45 ACP, $750Aug. 2019AGood reliability, excellent sights, the best trigger of the test, and more-than-acceptable accuracy.
Taurus 1911 Commander 1-191101COM 45 ACP, $500Aug. 2019B-We did not like the fit of the beavertail safety. Less accurate than the previous 2018 test gun.
Iver Johnson Polished Hawk Commander 45 ACP, $570Aug. 2019CPoor attention to detail in feed-ramp finish, trigger-pull weight, and selection of the proper slide lock.
Taylor’s & Company Compact 1911 51469 45 ACP, $450Jun. 2019A-Had good sights and a good trigger. We would have liked a textured front-grip strap.
American Tactical Firepower Xtreme GI 1911 45 ACP, $398Jun. 2019A-This a traditional GI-style Commander with a nice trigger and good sights.
Taurus 1911 Officer 1-191101OFC 45 ACP, $459Jun. 2019B+Had all the right features, but it did not shoot to point of aim. Would need a new rear sight.


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