Springfield Ronin Operator PX9120L 45 ACP

The Springfield Ronin Operator exhibited excellent practical accuracy. The sights, trigger action, and controls were well fitted. The thin, but well-checkered grips and simple outline, along with the traditional recoil system, make this a nice handgun for daily carry at a fair price.


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 TypeShort recoil-operated locked breech, single action
Overall Length8.6 in.
Overall Height5.5 in.
Maximum Width1.25 in.
Weight Unloaded39.0 oz.
Weight Loaded44.0 oz.
Slide MaterialForged Steel
Slide Retraction Effort18 lbs.
Receiver MaterialSteel
FinishBlue and Stainless
Front Strap Height2.6 in.
Back Strap Height3.2 in.
Barrel Length5.0 in.
Grip Thickness Maximum1.15 in.
Grip Circumference5.2 in.
MagazineOne 8 round
Rear SightFixed drift adjustable ledge type
Front SightDovetailed post with fiber optic
Sight Radius6.4 in.
Trigger Pull Weight4.25 lbs.
Trigger Span2.8 in.
SafetiesSlide lock, grip
WarrantyLimited lifetime
Telephone(309) 944-5631
Made InUSA

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.

The Ronin had a clean rear-facing blade with the points knocked off.

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 Ronin’s fiber-optic-tube mount is set into the slide.

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.

Tactical features of the Springfield (bottom) offerings included forward cocking serrations and standard recoil spring assemblies.

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.

We suffered an odd malfunction with the Springfield that was probably magazine related. The cartridge probably popped out of the feed lips before it was caught by the extractor.

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.

The Springfield’s checkered mainspring housing had a smooth front.

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 Data

All 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 LSWCTisas DutyMetro Arms BobcutKimber Custom LWSpringfield Ronin
Average Velocity877 fps854 fps860 fps884 fps
Muzzle Energy342 ft.-lbs.324 ft.-lbs.328 ft.-lbs.347 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.5 in.2.3 in.2.0 in.1.9 in.
Average Group3.3 in.2.7 in.2.3 in.2.3 in.
Hornady XTP 200-grain JHP 9112Tisas DutyMetro Arms BobcutKimber Custom LWSpringfield Ronin
Average Velocity987 fps960 fps980 fps959 fps
Muzzle Energy433 ft.-lbs.409 ft.-lbs.426 ft.-lbs.408 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.5 in.2.3 in.2.0 in.1.5 in.
Average Group2.9 in.2.8 in.2.3 in.1.9 in.
Speer Gold Dot 230-grain JHP 23966GDTisas DutyMetro Arms BobcutKimber Custom LWSpringfield Ronin
Average Velocity899 fps814 fps908 fps903 fps
Muzzle Energy413 ft.-lbs.338 ft.-lbs.421 ft.-lbs.416 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.8 in.2.4 in.2.1 in.2.2 in.
Average Group3.4 in.2.9 in.2.5 in.2.5 in.

Value Guide 45 ACP 1911 Handgun Rankings

Gun NameIssueGradeComments
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, $1162July 2020ABest Buy. If you need a personal-defense handgun rather than a show piece, this is the trick.
Guncrafter Commander 45 ACP, $3285July 2020AOur Pick. The fitting is excellent, the sights are ideal for combat, and the trigger is superb.
Nighthawk Custom Falcon 45 ACP, $3699July 2020AAn excellent production/custom grade handgun. Very smooth, excellent finish. Best combat ability.
Dan Wesson 1911 Heritage RZ-45 01981 45 ACP, $1227July 2020A-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, $1150July 2020A-Of this set of five, this gun makes the most sense for real-world concealed carry.
Desert Eagle 1911C 45 ACP, $695August 2019ABest Buy. Reliability was good and accuracy was the best of the test.
Kimber Pro Carry SLE 45 ACP, $750August 2019AGood reliability, excellent sights, the best trigger of the test, and more-than-acceptable accuracy.
Taurus 1911 Commander 1-191101COM 45 ACP, $500August 2019B-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, $570August 2019CPoor 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, $450June 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, $398June 2019A-This a traditional GI-style Commander with a nice trigger and good sights.
Taurus 1911 Officer 1-191101OFC 45 ACP, $459June 2019B+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, $1190May 2019AOur Pick. The National Match Colt is the most accurate of the five handguns tested.
Colt Series 70 01970A1CS 45 ACP, $865May 2019ABest Buy. The least expensive tested, but it could be the best carry gun for the money.
Les Baer Concept VI 45 ACP, $2290May 2019A-It wasn’t faultless; we dinged it for a sharp edge on the safety.
Colt Bright Stainless Gov. O1070BSTS 45 ACP, $1549May 2019B-Flawless fit, finish, and build quality. Slippery grip isn’t easily addressed.
SIG Sauer Match Elite 1911T-45-TME 45 ACP, $1050May 2019DIf you’re willing to do some light gunsmithing, move the grade up to B.
Remington 1911 R1 Enh. TB 96339 45 ACP, $675February 2019AA well-outfitted gun for the money. Consider the threaded-barrel model over an R1E.
Kimber 1911 Warrior SOC 3000253 TFS 45 ACP, $1309February 2019B-The Bobcut offers a crisp trigger pull and bobbed grip for better concealment.
American Tactical Imports ATIFGX45 45 ACP, $525February 2019FWe had ongoing function problems when the suppressor was fitted to the gun.
Metro Arms MAC 1911 Bobcut 45 ACP, $746October 2018AThe Bobcut offers a crisp trigger pull and bobbed grip for better concealment.
American Classic ACC45C 45 ACP, $568October 2018A-Our only ding on this gun is the lack of a serrated front grip strap.
Taurus 1911 Commander 1-191101COM 45 ACP, $459October 2018A-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, $590April 2017ABest Buy. Light rail, good barrel fitting, TruDot night sights, ambi slide-lock safety.
Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347April 2017A-Good fit and finish. The Match Grade barrel lived up to its name. Reliability was faultless.
EAA Witness Elite 1911P 600347 45 ACP, $470April 2017B-Least accurate pistol off the bench. Magazine latch could cause dire consequences.
ATI Firepower Xtreme Hybrid FXH-45 45 ACP, $600April 2017DWe could not convince the pistol to fire without a trip back to the factory.
Kimber Gold Match II 45 ACP, $1311June 2016AOffered an excellent trigger action and was more accurate than the Springfield.
Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347June 2016ABest Buy. The Springfield offered excellent reliability and good accuracy.
Colt Rail Gun 01070RG 45 ACP, $1199April 2016AAn all-stainless 1911 with Novak sights, ambi safety, and a rail. Excellent.
Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347April 2016AOur Pick. This is a first-class 1911. Excellent reliability, accuracy, and night sights.
Springfield Loaded PX9109LP 45 ACP, $790April 2016BBest Buy. A good choice for home defense, carry, IDPA, and as an all-round handgun.
Colt Combat Elite 08011XSE 45 ACP, $1015April 2016BWe rated it down based on the lack of an ambidextrous safety.
Colt’s Mfg. Co. Series 70 O1970A1CS 45 ACP, $953August 2015AExcellent trigger action, good accuracy, relatively light weight for a steel-frame 1911.
Colt’s Mfg. Co. 1991A1 No. O1991 45 ACP, $745August 2015B+Accurate and reliable. Some of the 1991A1 pistols have a nicer trigger than ours.
Colt’s Mfg. Co. Gold Cup Trophy O5070X 45 ACP, $1249July 2015A-Excellent trigger action, good accuracy, and sights that offer good adjustment.


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