May 2014

Polymer-and Steel-Frame 45s: Glock 41 Vs. Springfield’s R.O.

Glock’s new Model 41 is long but light and easy to shoot. The Springfield Range Officer is slightly more accurate. Both are ‘Grade A’ guns, so choosing between them is no easy task.

While the 1911 pistol has ruled the roost for many years, the Glock has made significant inroads, despite long-slide Glock pistols with good shooting characteristics being available only in 9mm Luger and 40 S&W chamberings. This has changed with the introduction of the Model 41, which is chambered in 45 ACP and is about the same size as a full-size 1911. The Glock 41 long slide has been awaited with some anticipation, mainly among those who have wanted a polymer gun that competed head-to-head with one of the better 45 ACP 1911s.We collected both guns and ammunition for a face off to see which one best employed the qualities of the original Colt National Match pistol, a go-anywhere do-anything 45 with hardy fixed sights and a carefully fitted barrel. The handguns tested are much in the same vein, what we hoped were solid, reliable pistols that are not specialized.

The Glock is intended to offer a handgun to meet the long-slide 1911 on its own ground, but in the end it is closer to a standard Government Model in heft and size while offering an advantage over the Glock 21. We would see how the recoil and control felt compared to a steel-frame 45 shot side by side with several types of loads. Unless you have a Brinks truck full of money following you around or a big-name sponsor, you will be cranking up the Dillon and using handloads if you shoot a lot. Not surprisingly, the ammunition shortage has put a crimp into component supply, but we were able to put together a standard handload for test purposes. This included a 185-grain Montana Gold JHP bullet and enough Hodgdon Titegroup for 1000 fps. This is a useful all-round competition load for plate shooting and even pins. Next, we wanted an accuracy loading. We chose the ASYM 230-grain Match load. This ammunition is earning a good reputation for accuracy and quality control. Next, we chose a defense ammo. The Black Hills 230-grain JHP has proven to have a good balance of expansion and penetration in testing and usually delivers good accuracy.

Because the long-slide Glock also claims to achieve higher velocities with a given load compared to other handguns, we added a +P load. We were able to secure the Speer Gold Dot 200-grain +P. During range testing on steel plates and during combat drills, we also used standard ball ammunition, including the Black Hills 230-grain FMJ in the remanufactured line, steel-cased ammunition, including Wolf 230-grain FMJ and the Hornady Steel Match, and also an alternate handload using the Hornady 230-grain XTP over a heavy charge of Unique powder for 900 fps. This would make for a thorough and painstaking test of the capabilities of the handguns.

The test procedure included firing from a solid braced benchrest position under the most favorable conditions to measure the accuracy potential of each pistol. We also fired the pistols at steel reaction targets in rapid-fire drills and fired at man-sized targets in combat-style shooting at 7, 10, and 15 yards. Finally, we fired at an steel reaction target at 50 yards.

In head to head shooting with raters firing and then swapping guns, it was obvious that both pistols are excellent performers. All the raters waiting in line had to do was watch the steel gongs swing with hardly a miss from either pistol. The fit and feel of these pistols are very different, but each works for a skilled shooter. When firing at steel plates and man-sized silhouette targets, the Springfield proved to have the edge in control, our shooters said. While the Glock gave good results, the Springfield would finish off a run on steel plates slightly faster, and combat groups on the X-ring targets were better centered. However, the Glock would have 13 holes in the target — and there’s no ignoring that important advantage. When performing speed-loading drills it was a draw. Even raters with plenty of 1911 shooting under their belts commented on the excellent geometry of the Glock for rapid reloading. The new-style magazine release and the tapered high-capacity magazine contributed to this speed.

The Glock was comfortable enough to fire; however, after long sessions, the laws of physics showed us the felt recoil of the lighter polymer 45 will wear on the shooter. When firing at the 50-yard steel plate, the two pistols did very well, with each hitting the 8-inch gong on demand in the hands of skilled shooters. At this range, the superior trigger action and sights of the Springfield began to show an advantage, but for the price, the Glock might be fitted with aftermarket steel sights for a better sight picture. Here’s how each pistol performed in more detail:

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