Gun Tests Grade: A- OUR PICK
Some refer to the Springfield Ronin Operator as a “Retro” gun. If so, the Ronin Operator is reminiscent of high-end custom guns of a generation ago. Custom packages, including good sights, a beavertail grip safety, and a good trigger action, could run one $1000 or more on the customer’s gun. The advent of the Kimber Custom 1911, with its impressive array of features, meant that custom guns had to be better than ever, and so did factory guns, to compete. Colonel Jeff Cooper narrowed the 1911’s needs down in what was called the consensus gun, a general agreement that the 1911 needed good sights, a speed safety, and a good trigger. If you were to play around with exotic bullet styles, then you needed a polished feed ramp. These advantages were eventually codified by the factory.
Springfield Ronin Operator PX9120L 45 ACP
|Action Type||Short recoil-operated locked breech, single action|
|Overall Length||8.6 in.|
|Overall Height||5.5 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.25 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||39.0 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||44.0 oz.|
|Slide Material||Forged Steel|
|Slide Retraction Effort||18 lbs.|
|Finish||Blue and Stainless|
|Front Strap Height||2.6 in.|
|Back Strap Height||3.2 in.|
|Barrel Length||5.0 in.|
|Grip Thickness Maximum||1.15 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.2 in.|
|Magazine||One 8 round|
|Rear Sight||Fixed drift adjustable ledge type|
|Front Sight||Dovetailed post with fiber optic|
|Sight Radius||6.4 in.|
|Trigger Pull Weight||4.25 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||2.8 in.|
|Safeties||Slide lock, grip|
In the meantime, custom 1911 handguns were turned out, and in most cases they were excellent handguns. The appearance of these handguns, with their flashy two-tone finishes, high-profile sights, and custom grips, was distinctive. And the custom guns shot well. Many are still in use. A well-fitted handgun will have less slop. Tighter fitting results in less eccentric wear. Those who came to the decision that the 1911 is the finest defensive handgun available found these handguns from custom shops, such as the Action Works, Novaks and Wilson Combat, to be excellent firearms. But they were costly.
Now many of those features and tight fitting can be had in factory guns, and we were interested to see how the Ronin Operator stacked up. Out of the box, the Ronin featured a well-turned-out blued slide and a brushed-stainless-steel receiver. The sights are modern tactical sights that allow racking the slide on a thick gun belt or boot heel. Springfield refers to these as the Tactical Rack Ledge design. Another good feature was a generous rear notch offering excellent speed of acquisition. The front sight featured a fiber-optic insert. The trigger action was a smooth 4.2 pounds, as good as we have tested on a factory 1911 handgun.
The grips are reminiscent of the Ahrends tactical grips used by many custom 1911 makers. They are half checkered and half smooth. The operating premise is that the grips offer good purchase but would also allow fast shifting of the grip on the move if needed. The grips are thinner than usual as an aid in concealed carry. No need to purchase slim-line grips for this pistol. Most of the raters felt control was fine with the slim grips, but some opined they would have liked standard grips.
The grip safety was a beavertail type. This type of safety is important because it accommodates all shooting styles. Those who cup the palm as they effect a thumbs-forward shooting grip sometimes do not properly depress the grip safety. The memory-groove beavertail eliminates this concern. The grip safety properly releases its grip on the trigger halfway into the safety’s movement. The beavertail was nicely smoothed into the frame.
The slide-lock safety was not a big gas-pedal type, but it extended to a useful degree. More important than the size of the safety was fitting. The indent was tight and crisp. The pistol had serrations on the hammer, slide lock and safety, as well as the rear of the sight. The pistol featured both forward and rear cocking serrations. We used the rear serrations for racking the slide and the front serrations for a press check to determine if the chamber is loaded.
The pistol featured the standard recoil system rather than a full-length guide rod. This makes for easier field stripping. The Ronin was supplied with a single magazine. We feel that a pistol should be delivered with two magazines, but a single magazine seems SOP in modern times. We added a good supply of proven Wilson Combat and Mec-Gar magazines, which were used in all of the pistols during the test.
During the firing tests, the pistol was fired at man-sized-silouette targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards in fast-paced defense drills, including drawing from concealed carry. We used the Jeffrey Custom Leather Range Master for the Commander-length gun and the Jeffrey Custom Leather Professional for the 5-inch guns, available from JeffreyCustomLeather.com. The Professional was an outstanding design for concealed carry, riding close to the body and offering a sharp draw. The Springfield Ronin was fast from leather and fast on target. Like any other Government Model 1911, the pistol doesn’t demonstrate uncomfortable recoil. The sights and trigger make for an excellent combination. We used two loads in firing 100 rounds during the offhand combat stage. The Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain lead semi-wadcutter (LSWC) is a medium-power load designed for economy. We also used the Black Hills Ammunition 230-grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ) load as a measure of control with a full-power charges. We suffered a rather odd malfunction during the first 40 rounds. The cartridge escaped the extractor and was base up in the slide window. As the 1911 slide recoils to the rear and the extractor pulls the cartridge case from the chamber, the magazine is feeding a fresh round to the extractor. The cartridge-case rim is captured by the extractor as the cartridge moves upward. The case is snugged against the breechface. The extractor guides the cartridge onto the feed ramp as the nose bumps across the feed ramp and into the chamber. (The Wilson Combat magazine features a higher feed angle with less bumping.) While we originally marked this failure to feed as a break in malfunction, we later came to believe it was magazine related. Just the same, the Kimber experienced zero break-in malfunctions with the same bunch of magazines. In executing speed loads, the slightly beveled magazine well was a welcome addition to the pistol.
All controls on the Ronin are positive in operation. We liked the sights during speed drills. They are easily acquired in rapid fire. All in, the pistol was a good shooter in fast combat firing.
In accuracy testing from a solid benchrest, we used three loads. These included the Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain LSWC, the Hornady 200-grain XTP, and the Federal 230-grain Gold Dot +P. All were accurate enough for personal defense. The Hornady XTP cut a 1.5-inch group for one effort at 25 yards, but the average was less.
Our Team Said: The Ronin was clearly accurate enough for personal defense. We rated the pistol down a half grade on the single malfunction. Shooter related, break in, or bad luck, this type of malfunction did not occur with the other pistols.
45 ACP Range DataAll groups were fired at 25 yards from a solid benchrest position using a Bullshooters pistol rest. The first chronograph screen was 10 feet from the muzzle of the firearm. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to record velocities.
|Black Hills 200-grain LSWC||Tisas Duty||Metro Arms Bobcut||Kimber Custom LW||Springfield Ronin|
|Average Velocity||877 fps||854 fps||860 fps||884 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||342 ft.-lbs.||324 ft.-lbs.||328 ft.-lbs.||347 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.5 in.||2.3 in.||2.0 in.||1.9 in.|
|Average Group||3.3 in.||2.7 in.||2.3 in.||2.3 in.|
|Hornady XTP 200-grain JHP 9112||Tisas Duty||Metro Arms Bobcut||Kimber Custom LW||Springfield Ronin|
|Average Velocity||987 fps||960 fps||980 fps||959 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||433 ft.-lbs.||409 ft.-lbs.||426 ft.-lbs.||408 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.5 in.||2.3 in.||2.0 in.||1.5 in.|
|Average Group||2.9 in.||2.8 in.||2.3 in.||1.9 in.|
|Speer Gold Dot 230-grain JHP 23966GD||Tisas Duty||Metro Arms Bobcut||Kimber Custom LW||Springfield Ronin|
|Average Velocity||899 fps||814 fps||908 fps||903 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||413 ft.-lbs.||338 ft.-lbs.||421 ft.-lbs.||416 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||2.8 in.||2.4 in.||2.1 in.||2.2 in.|
|Average Group||3.4 in.||2.9 in.||2.5 in.||2.5 in.|
Value Guide 45 ACP 1911 Handgun Rankings
|SIG Sauer Ultra Compact W1911U-45-BSS 45 ACP, $949||May 2021||A||Our Pick. Has a flared and extended ejection port, extended ejector, and a very nice trigger pull.|
|S&W SW1911 Pro Series 178020 45 ACP, $1249||May 2021||A-||We liked the recoil impulse and movement of the S&W the best. Function was 100% with all ammo.|
|Colt Defender Lightweight Stainless O7000XE, $999||May 2021||B+||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, $979||May 2021||B||All-steel construction and slightly longer slide-barrel combo resulted in the softest recoil impulse.|
|Springfield Loaded Operator PX9105LL 45 ACP, $1162||July 2020||A||Best Buy. If you need a personal-defense handgun rather than a show piece, this is the trick.|
|Guncrafter Commander 45 ACP, $3285||July 2020||A||Our Pick. The fitting is excellent, the sights are ideal for combat, and the trigger is superb.|
|Nighthawk Custom Falcon 45 ACP, $3699||July 2020||A||An excellent production/custom grade handgun. Very smooth, excellent finish. Best combat ability.|
|Dan Wesson 1911 Heritage RZ-45 01981 45 ACP, $1227||July 2020||A-||The Dan Wesson Heritage offers good fit and finish and outstanding accuracy. Had break-in malfunctions.|
|Devil Dog Arms 4.25 Standard DDA-425-BO45 45 ACP, $1150||July 2020||A-||Of this set of five, this gun makes the most sense for real-world concealed carry.|
|Desert Eagle 1911C 45 ACP, $695||August 2019||A||Best Buy. Reliability was good and accuracy was the best of the test.|
|Kimber Pro Carry SLE 45 ACP, $750||August 2019||A||Good reliability, excellent sights, the best trigger of the test, and more-than-acceptable accuracy.|
|Taurus 1911 Commander 1-191101COM 45 ACP, $500||August 2019||B-||We did not like the fit of the beavertail safety. Less accurate than the previous 2018 test gun.|
|Iver Johnson Arms Polished Hawk Commander 45 ACP, $570||August 2019||C||Poor attention to detail in feed-ramp finish, trigger-pull weight, and selection of the proper-size slide lock.|
|Taylor’s & Company Compact 1911 51469 45 ACP, $450||June 2019||A-||Had good sights and a good trigger. We would have liked a textured front grip strap.|
|American Tactical Firepower Xtreme GI 1911 45 ACP, $398||June 2019||A-||This a traditional GI-style Commander with a nice trigger and good sights.|
|Taurus 1911 Officer 1-191101OFC 45 ACP, $459||June 2019||B+||Had all the right features, but it did not shoot to point of aim. Would need a new rear sight.|
|Colt Gold Cup NM O5870A1 45 ACP, $1190||May 2019||A||Our Pick. The National Match Colt is the most accurate of the five handguns tested.|
|Colt Series 70 01970A1CS 45 ACP, $865||May 2019||A||Best Buy. The least expensive tested, but it could be the best carry gun for the money.|
|Les Baer Concept VI 45 ACP, $2290||May 2019||A-||It wasn’t faultless; we dinged it for a sharp edge on the safety.|
|Colt Bright Stainless Gov. O1070BSTS 45 ACP, $1549||May 2019||B-||Flawless fit, finish, and build quality. Slippery grip isn’t easily addressed.|
|SIG Sauer Match Elite 1911T-45-TME 45 ACP, $1050||May 2019||D||If you’re willing to do some light gunsmithing, move the grade up to B.|
|Remington 1911 R1 Enh. TB 96339 45 ACP, $675||February 2019||A||A well-outfitted gun for the money. Consider the threaded-barrel model over an R1E.|
|Kimber 1911 Warrior SOC 3000253 TFS 45 ACP, $1309||February 2019||B-||The Bobcut offers a crisp trigger pull and bobbed grip for better concealment.|
|American Tactical Imports ATIFGX45 45 ACP, $525||February 2019||F||We had ongoing function problems when the suppressor was fitted to the gun.|
|Metro Arms MAC 1911 Bobcut 45 ACP, $746||October 2018||A||The Bobcut offers a crisp trigger pull and bobbed grip for better concealment.|
|American Classic ACC45C 45 ACP, $568||October 2018||A-||Our only ding on this gun is the lack of a serrated front grip strap.|
|Taurus 1911 Commander 1-191101COM 45 ACP, $459||October 2018||A-||The trigger was a bit too heavy, but the sights are good. Great fit and finish.|
|RIA Tactical 2011 w/TruDot Night sights 45 ACP, $590||April 2017||A||Best Buy. Light rail, good barrel fitting, TruDot night sights, ambi slide-lock safety.|
|Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347||April 2017||A-||Good fit and finish. The Match Grade barrel lived up to its name. Reliability was faultless.|
|EAA Witness Elite 1911P 600347 45 ACP, $470||April 2017||B-||Least accurate pistol off the bench. Magazine latch could cause dire consequences.|
|ATI Firepower Xtreme Hybrid FXH-45 45 ACP, $600||April 2017||D||We could not convince the pistol to fire without a trip back to the factory.|
|Kimber Gold Match II 45 ACP, $1311||June 2016||A||Offered an excellent trigger action and was more accurate than the Springfield.|
|Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347||June 2016||A||Best Buy. The Springfield offered excellent reliability and good accuracy.|
|Colt Rail Gun 01070RG 45 ACP, $1199||April 2016||A||An all-stainless 1911 with Novak sights, ambi safety, and a rail. Excellent.|
|Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347||April 2016||A||Our Pick. This is a first-class 1911. Excellent reliability, accuracy, and night sights.|
|Springfield Loaded PX9109LP 45 ACP, $790||April 2016||B||Best Buy. A good choice for home defense, carry, IDPA, and as an all-round handgun.|
|Colt Combat Elite 08011XSE 45 ACP, $1015||April 2016||B||We rated it down based on the lack of an ambidextrous safety.|
|Colt’s Mfg. Co. Series 70 O1970A1CS 45 ACP, $953||August 2015||A||Excellent trigger action, good accuracy, relatively light weight for a steel-frame 1911.|
|Colt’s Mfg. Co. 1991A1 No. O1991 45 ACP, $745||August 2015||B+||Accurate and reliable. Some of the 1991A1 pistols have a nicer trigger than ours.|
|Colt’s Mfg. Co. Gold Cup Trophy O5070X 45 ACP, $1249||July 2015||A-||Excellent trigger action, good accuracy, and sights that offer good adjustment.|