April 2016

Four 45s Compete for Top Carry Honors

The Combat Elite and Rail Gun go against competing sidearms, namely, the Loaded Model and the Tactical Response Pistol. All are credible performers, but in the end, the TRP is the superstar.

We would buy and use any of the four pistols tested, but Our Pick was Springfield’s TRP. It also happens to cost the most.

The high-end 1911 handgun continues to be popular, so popular, in fact, that folks are willing to drop well over one thousand dollars to gain what they hope is superior performance. On a high-end pistol, “performance” often means features, such as good sights, forward cocking serrations, a good trigger compression, and attention to detail. The discerning shooter is looking for reliability first, then handling, accuracy, and fit and feel, and four handguns that are reputed to have those qualities at various price tags come from Colt and Springfield Armory. We recently tested two sidearms chambered in 45 ACP from each company that would interest nearly any buyer who was in the market for a self-defense arm. The products were Springfield’s Loaded Model PX9109LP, $790; and for hundreds more, the company’s Tactical Response Pistol, the TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347. To fit in that sizable price gap in the Springfield lineup, we selected Colt’s Combat Elite 08011XSE, $1015, and the Rail Gun XSE 01070RG, $1199. These are actual counter prices from BudsGunShop.com, and our intent was to survey a range of pricing to see if additional dollars translated into additional performance that would matter to our test team of shooters.

Springfield’s Loaded Model was a combination with good features for the self-defense shooter, but we rated it down a grade because it wasn’t quite as accurate as the other pistols. Still, a Best Buy.

Among the most popular sidearms in terms of numbers sold are the Colt Combat Elite and the Springfield Loaded Model. A Colt Rail Gun variant is used by the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Springfield Bureau Model, similar to the TRP, by the FBI SWAT team. All four are combat guns intended to give the user an advantage in the field, so our thorough test involved a number of trained shooters who were asked to push the pistols to the limit, so we could discover the boundaries of control, combat accuracy, and absolute accuracy. We should also note that the Loaded Model was a rater’s personal carry gun. The rater stated it came out of the box running and has never given a complaint, and it has some 5,000 rounds through it. Cosmetically, it was hard to assess the status of the Loaded by just looking. The pistol is finished in a dull, non-reflective Parkerized finish that doesn’t show wear very much. The other pistols were new out of the box.

We would carry the Colt Combat Elite without hesitation. But the Springfield Loaded pistol costs hundreds less, and the TRP was more accurate.

Colt’s Rail Gun appears to be an XSE-series pistol with a rail. But the rail subtly alters the pistol’s geometry, making it more muzzle heavy than the others. But if you want a rail, here you go.

At this point we will mention the holsters used, as the Rail Gun demanded rail-specific holsters. The other three guns were easily passed around to the raters and standard holsters were used for them. For the Rail Gun, we had to invest in two holsters specific to it, with three raters doing most of the firing. We used Ted Blocker’s X 16 holster in both standard and 1911 rail-gun types. The holster was used both strong side and crossdraw, with excellent results. We also used a ZZZ Custom (ZZZCustomHolsters.com) Kydex strong-side holster, which gave a good fit on the Colt’s long bearing services and is relatively compact for a rail-gun holster. The other holster was a Sweetwater Saddlery strong-side pancake design that hugs the body.

Our test loads came from Black Hills Ammunition, top a 200-grain Semi-Wadcutter; Hornady, the American Gunner 185-grain XTP 90904; and Winchester’s M1911 load, here the 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint X45P. As the numbers above show, Springfield’s Tactical Response Pistol, or TRP for short, was the most accurate gun in the test with every ammo, save for a tie with the Colt Combat Elite with the Black Hills 200-grain semi-wadcutter.

At the range, we used three loads. The Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet was our training and practice load. Next, the Hornady American Gunner 185-grain XTP represented a lightweight-bullet defense load, and the Winchester M1911 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint stood in as a heavy defense load. These are affordable 45 ACP choices likely to be used by shooters. We expected that heavy bullets with a long bearing surface would demonstrate good accuracy, but in this case, the lightest bullet weight gave the best accuracy. Also, our shooters noted the heavier push of the 230-grain load. Following are objective data about each handgun, as well as the subjective opinions of our shooters based on head-to-head firing tests:

RANGE DATA

BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION
200-grain SWC 45 ACP
Springfield Armory Loaded Springfield Armory TRP Colt Rail Gun Colt Combat Elite
Average Velocity 870 fps 890 fps  888 fps  866 fps 
Muzzle Energy 336 ft.-lbs. 351 ft.-lbs.  350 ft.-lbs.  332 ft.-lbs. 
Smallest Group 2.2 in. 1.5 in.  1.9 in.  1.6 in. 
Largest Group 2.6 in. 2 in.  2.5 in.  2 in. 
Average Group Size 2.2 in.  1.8 in.  2.2 in.  1.8 in. 
HORNADY AMERICAN GUNNER
185-grain XTP 45 ACP
Springfield Armory Loaded Sprinfield Armory TRP Colt Rail Gun Colt Combat Elite
Average Velocity 970 fps 963 fps 990 fps 975 fps
Muzzle Energy 386 ft.-lbs. 380 ft.-lbs. 402 ft.-lbs. 390 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group 2 in. 1.4 in. 1.25 in. 1.5 in.
Largest Group 2.5 in. 1.9 in. 1.9 in. 2.15 in.
Average Group Size  2.5 in. 1.5 in. 1.9 in. 2.3 in.
WINCHESTER M1911
230-grain JHP 45 ACP
Springfield Armory Loaded Springfield Armory TRP Colt Rail Gun Colt Combat Elite
Average Velocity 871 fps 860 fps 866 fps 888 fps
Muzzle Energy 387 ft.-lbs. 377 ft.-lbs. 382 ft.-lbs. 402 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group 2.3 in. 1.3 in. 1.8 in. 2 in.
Largest Group 2.7 in. 1.6 in. 2.1 in. 2.5 in.
Average Group Size 2.5 in. 1.5 in. 1.9 in. 2.3 in.

Average velocity readings were recorded by firing five-shot strings over a Competition Electronics Pro Chrono. Ambient temperature: 65 degrees. Elevation: 815 feet above sea level. Benchrest accuracy figures are the average of three five-shot groups at 25 yards. Ammunition sources: Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain Semi-Wadcutter D45N120 (www.MidwayUSA.com); Hornady American Gunner 185-grain XTP 90904  (SportsmansGuide.com); Winchester M1911 230-grain Jacketed Hollowpoint X45P (CheaperThanDirt.com).


Springfield Loaded Model PX9109LP 45 ACP, $790

GUN TESTS GRADE: B (Best Buy)

Although we rated the Loaded Model down a notch on accuracy, this Springfield 45 is a good choice for home defense, carry, IDPA, and as an all-round go-anywhere do-anything handgun.

ACTION Single action, semi-auto, locked breech
OVERALL LENGTH 8.6 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT 5.4 in.
MAX WIDTH 1.5 in.
WEIGHT UNLOADED 39 oz.
WEIGHT LOADED 43.5 oz.
BARREL 5 in., Match grade; stainless steel, 1:16 twist
MAGAZINE (2) 8-Rd. blued steel
SLIDE Parkerized steel; 2-piece N.M. Full-length guide rod
FRAME Parkerized steel
FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT 2.6 in.
FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT 3.2 in.
GRIPS Laser-engraved Cocobolo
GRIP THICKNESS (MAX) 1.3 in.
GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (MAX) 5.4 in.
SIGHTS Steel, fixed combat, 3-dot Tritium
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT 5 lbs.
TRIGGER SPAN 2.5 in.
SAFETY Ambi slide lock safety, grip safety
WARRANTY Lifetime
TELEPHONE (800) 680-6866
SITE Springfield-Armory.com
MADE IN Geneseo, Illinois

The Springfield Loaded Model occupies much the same position in its company’s lineup as the Colt Combat Elite. The Combat Elite is close to the Jeff Cooper description of having only what is needed — and nothing more — on a fighting handgun. The Loaded Model was a response to market pressure to offer a handgun with what originally were considered to be custom features over and above its G.I. Model and the Mil-Spec Model (the latter of which is still available from Springfield). We tested both of these lower-priced handguns in the May 2010 issue and graded the G.I. PW9108LP 45 ACP, $643, as a B+ handgun, and the similar but stainless G.I. PW9151LP 45 ACP, $693, as a C. The Mil-Spec PB9108LP Parkerized, $753, got an A grade.

The Springfield Loaded Model is well worth its price, with a combination of Novak sights, an ambidextrous safety, and adequate accuracy.

As a rule, the Loaded Model is more tightly fitted than the G.I. Models, in particular the barrel, barrel lugs, and barrel bushing. Thus, in benchrest-accuracy testing, the Loaded Model may be more accurate than the G.I. 1911A1 by a noticeable margin. It was clear during this test that the Loaded Model is not the chassis for the TRP, nor could the shooter easily modify the Loaded Model to TRP status. The frame and slide of the TRP are much more tightly fitted, we learned, which must be done during manufacturing. Or, by the time you pay a gunsmith to tighten the frame-to-slide fit, you could simply have purchased the TRP, minus barrel fitting and front-strap treatment.

The Springfield Loaded Model, left, featured a two-piece guide rod that is easier to disassemble. The Combat Elite, right, had a one-piece guide rod that will not work loose.

The Loaded Model featured Novak Lo Mount sights front and rear. So do the other three handguns, but only the TRP features night-sight inserts. The Loaded Model had forward cocking serrations like the others. We assessed the fit of the barrel to the slide with a stainless-steel barrel bushing to be tight enough for good accuracy potential. Its full-length guide rod may be disassembled with a large Allen wrench. A two-piece guide rod is the easier design to disassemble. Some believe a one-piece unit will work loose with extensive firing, but we did not experience this problem during our test shooting. If it were to be a problem, the simple fix would be to check the full-length guide rod for tightness and screw it tight every few hundred cartridges fired. But our experienced raters have not observed a properly tightened full-length guide rod working loose.

Shooter’s view of the Loaded Model. The ambidextrous safeties are prominent in the profile.

Trigger compression was consistent among four remarkably similar trigger actions. The Loaded Model broke at a clean 5 pounds. The initial testing was conducted by firing 150 rounds in each pistol in a series of combat drills. We drew from a strong-side holster and fired at man-sized silhouette targets at 7 and 10 yards. We also fired at the InnovativeTargets.net steel gong target at 25 yards. In addition to the commercial loads we used to ensure shooters across the country can validate our test results, we also used handloads to save money.

The grip safety and slide safety shown from the right side of the gun. Both worked as expected. Some shooters will disagree with the handiness of the ambi safety, but it’s a helpful feature in our view.

The first was a combination of the Montana Gold 185-grain JHP and enough WW231 for 950 FPS. We fired more than 100 of these in each handgun. To confirm accuracy with lead bullet reloads, essential for economical practice, we used the Magnus 200-grain semi-wadcutter bullet over enough Titegroup powder for 890 fps in the next 50 rounds. Both loads fed, chambered, fired, and ejected normally and showed good practical accuracy. The Loaded Model’s two supplied magazines were supplemented with 7-round Brownells’ magazines. The single best accuracy result we saw was a group with the American Gunner load, five rounds in 2 inches at 25 yards. This is fine accuracy for a service-grade pistol, but, overall, it was a notch less accurate than the other handguns.

Our Team Said: The Loaded Model was a combination with good features for the self-defense shooter, but we rated it down a grade because it wasn’t quite as accurate as the other pistols. The matte finish, while durable, was not as well turned out as the other handguns. But for the money, it’s hard to beat, so it gets our Best Buy designation.


 

Colt’s tactical grips are a good design for concealed carry. They are half-checkered, with smooth wood toward the palm and texture for the fingers.

Colt Combat Elite 08011XSE 45 ACP, $1015

GUN TESTS GRADE: B

The Colt Combat Elite offered excellent trigger action, good accuracy, relatively light weight for a steel-frame 1911, and top-quality fit, finish, and appearance. Combat shooting accuracy was good, and speed from concealed carry excellent. We rated it down based on the lack of an ambidextrous safety.

ACTION Single-action, semi-auto, locked breech, series 80
OVERALL LENGTH 8.5 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT 5.4 in.
MAX WIDTH 1.5 in.
WEIGHT UNLOADED 38 oz.
WEIGHT LOADED 42.5 oz.
BARREL LENGTH 5 in.
BARREL Stainless steel, national match, 1:16 twist; full-length guide rod
MAGAZINE 8-Rd. detachable box
SLIDE Carbon steel, brushed blued finish, lowered & flared ejection port, front & rear serrations
FRAME Brushed stainless steel
FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT 2.6 in.
FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT 3.2 in.
GRIPS Wood, half smooth, half checkered
GRIP THICKNESS (MAX) 1.3 in.
GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (MAX) 5.4 in.
SIGHTS Novak Lo Mount Carry
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT SINGLE ACTION 5 lbs.
TRIGGER SPAN SINGLE ACTION 2.5 in.
SAFETY Single side slide lock safety
WARRANTY Limited lifetime
SITE Colt.com
TELEPHONE (800) 962-COLT (2658)
MADE IN Hartford, CT
MADE BY Colt's Manufacturing, Co., LLC

The Colt Combat Elite is a specialized version of Colt’s XSE guns and a stablemate to the Colt Rail Gun. The Combat Elite, like the others, is a 5-inch-barrel Government Model handgun with a steel frame. The Colt Combat Elite has the features of the Colt XSE series, including Novak sights, forward cocking serrations, a match trigger, and a beavertail grip safety. Even so, the Combat Elite is advertised as a “back to the basics” Colt, and we understand the appeal. As outfitted, the pistol was striking.

The Combat Elite is a clean design and a good all around personal defense handgun.

A feature of the XSE series is a concave gap beneath the trigger guard just at the top of the front strap. This concave area serves to lower the bore axis into the shooter’s hand. An advantage of the 1911 type is a low bore centerline, and this dished out portion helped even further. A properly designed beavertail grip safety also lowered the bore axis, resulting in less leverage for the muzzle to rise against in recoil. The Colt uses the Series 80 firing pin block or drop safety. The Springfield 1911 handguns use a lightweight firing pin and heavy-duty firing-pin spring as a drop safety. The lightweight firing pin design of the Springfield passed rigid FBI testing, so its field function shouldn’t be a worry for the self-defense shooter.

The Colt slide was nicely finished in blue. The frame was stainless steel. The slide featured forward and rear cocking serrations, Novak sights with white outline and a scalloped ejection port. Fit of the barrel hood, barrel bushing, and locking lugs gained our approval. The slide rolled smoothly on the link, showing excellent fitting. The barrel feed ramp featured the relatively new Colt dimple in the ramp that works well in feeding every bullet design we have tried. The beavertail grip safety was well designed and seemed identical to the Springfield. The pistol’s slide-lock safety was not ambidextrous. Because tactical training involves using the handgun with either hand — regardless of the shooter’s favored hand — this is a demerit among high-end 1911s. The Rail Gun cost a few dollars more but features both a rail and an ambidextrous safety.

The cut of the forward cocking serrations and the dovetail sight installation showed excellent fit.

In character, this back-to-the-basics Colt features a full-length guide rod that’s one piece, which is less likely to work loose but which is more complicated to field strip. The grip safety properly releases its hold on the trigger about half way into compression. The mainspring housing is not heavily serrated, but offers some adhesion. The grips are attractive, half checkered and featuring the Colt logo. The purpose of the tactical grip is to afford the user good abrasion when firing but also to allow good hand adjustment, quickly, during movement. They work as designed, although we prefer the Ahrend’s Grips original tactical grip design. The front strap was not checkered, in contrast to the TRP, which featured a checkered front strap. The Colt had an advantage with a nice 5.0-pound trigger compression, exactly one half pound lighter than the TRP, and in our view, the Colt trigger was tighter with less take up. The Colt was supplied with two magazines.

The Colt was lubricated and the magazines loaded with ammunition for the initial testing with the allocated 150 rounds to each pistol. The Colt Combat Elite cleared leather quickly and proved accurate and controllable in combat-style shooting. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The sights were properly regulated for 230-grain loads. While the Colt was tight, there were no break-in malfunctions. A combination of good sights and a great trigger gave good results on the silhouette targets. The pistol was not lubricated again during range work as the raters passed the pistol around and fired, loaded magazines, and finally picked up the brass. The Colt showed reliability and clearly was an effective personal-defense handgun. We thought it was a better shooter than the Loaded Model, but at something of a price premium.

Firing off the benchrest, the Colt’s smooth trigger compression gave good results. The pistol was slightly more accurate than the Rail Gun and more accurate than the Loaded Model as well. The single best group came with the Hornady American Gunner 185-grain XTP at 1.5 inches, although the average with this round was larger.

Our Team Said: This pistol was reliable, accurate, and handled well. We would carry the Colt for personal defense without hesitation. But the Springfield Loaded pistol has more features for the money, and the TRP is more accurate. Also, we rated the Combat Elite down based upon a lack of an ambidextrous safety that most pistols in this price range have. If the pistol was designed as a clean and classic Colt, so be it, it succeeds.


 

Colt Rail Gun XSE 01070RG 45 ACP

Colt Rail Gun 01070RG 45 ACP, $1199

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

The Colt Rail Gun is an all-stainless 1911 with impressive performance. Novak sights, an ambidextrous safety, a rail mount and excellent performance gave the pistol a lead over the Combat Elite with equal features and then some.

ACTION Single-action, semi-auto, locked breech, series 80
OVERALL LENGTH 8.5 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT 5.4 in.
MAX WIDTH 1.5 in.
WEIGHT UNLOADED 39 oz.
WEIGHT LOADED 43.5 oz.
BARREL 5 in., national match stainless steel, 1:16 twist
MAGAZINE 8-Rd. detachable box
SLIDE Brushed stainless steel, lower & flared ejection port
FRAME Brushed stainless steel, 1913 accessory rail
FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT 2.6 in.
FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT 3.2 in.
GRIPS Checkered double diamond
GRIP THICKNESS (MAX) 1.3 in.
GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (MAX) 5.4 in.
SIGHTS Novak Carry with dots
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT SINGLE ACTION 5.5 lbs.
TRIGGER SPAN SINGLE ACTION 2.5 in.
SAFETY Ambidextrous slide lock safety, grip safety
WARRANTY Limited lifetime
SITE Colt.com
TELEPHONE (800) 962-COLT (2658)
MADE IN Hartford, CT
MADE BY Colt's Manufacturing Co., LLC

Colt’s Rail Gun appears at first as simply an XSE-series pistol with a rail. While this is true in basic terms, the pistol’s geometry is subtly altered, making it more muzzle heavy than the other handguns, and it seems to absorb recoil better, although it weighs little more than the other 1911s and is lighter than the TRP.

Colt Rail Gun XSE 01070RG 45 ACP

The Colt uses a standard recoil-spring guide rod, which results in less difficulty in field-stripping.

The Colt Rail Gun featured a stainless-steel frame and slide. The finish was well polished. The checkered cocobolo grips were double-diamond designs. These double diamonds offer a classic appearance and also reinforce the area that attaches to the grip frame. These grips were well made and worked well, but in the opinion of our testers, they do not offer the adhesion of the TRP’s G10 grips. The fit of the barrel to the slide and the bushing to the barrel were excellent. The fit wasn’t so tight the pistol cannot be field-stripped with the fingers. Just the same, we used a bushing tool. After disassembling 1911 handguns over the course of a few weeks and cleaning them before accuracy testing, a bushing wrench came in handy. The Colt Rail Gun does not use a full-length guide rod, but, rather, the original short guide rod. For fast cleaning and easy maintenance, this is the preferred set up. As one of the more experienced raters noted, for an issue handgun, the Rail Gun set up is superior. Separating it from the TRP’s set up, we think the latter is better suited for a well-trained smaller team or individual. As a consensus, we all agreed with this proposition.

Colt Rail Gun XSE 01070RG 45 ACP

The Colt ambidextrous safety worked well, but we prefer the Springfield design. It is anchored by the right-side stock (arrow).

The slide-lock safety was an ambidextrous unit that allowed the use of the Colt by either hand, an upgrade over the Combat Elite, in our view. There were no problems with the Colt safety; however, we prefer the Swenson-based design of the Springfield. The Colt safety was supported by the right-hand grip panel, less obviously than on the Springfield. The Colt beavertail grip safety was well designed. Shooters who occasionally let the palm of the hand rise off the standard grip safety during firing will find that all of the beavertail safeties will work about the same for them. Our shooters noticed very little difference in where the safeties engaged in the sweep of the beavertail’s movement.

The Rail Gun trigger compression registered 5.5 pounds, with exactly the same weight and feel as the TRP. The pistol featured forward cocking serrations and a 16-pound recoil spring. The hammer of the TRP required less effort to cock. The sights share a common design with the other pistols, Novak Lo Mounts, with white-dot inserts. The primary difference between this gun, the Colt Combat Elite, and the Springfield Loaded Model is the rail. If you must have a rail, this is the gun to choose from among these four, but we note that Springfield also offers a TRP rail gun, the PC9105LCA. We do want to emphasize that the balance of the pistol is slightly changed with a rail, according to half of the raters, and that was without a light mounted. It’s just something to consider when you’ve narrowed the field and you’re trying to make your final buying decision. In this test, only the TRP felt better during combat firing.

Colt Rail Gun XSE 01070RG 45 ACP

The M1913 Picatinny Rail offers the versatility to attach tactical lights or laser sights to the receiver of the Colt Rail Gun.

Our Team Said: The crew was split on the easy maintenance advantage of the Rail Gun and the full-length guide rod and increased rigidity of the TRP. If we were arming a battalion, the Rail Gun is the best, we feel. In contrast, the TRP feels more like a SWAT-trained officer’s firearm. The TRP’s self-luminous iron sights are also an advantage. As for absolute accuracy, the Rail Gun was more accurate than either the Loaded Model or the Combat Elite, but not as accurate as the TRP. The best effort hovered around a 1.25-inch group with the American Gunner 185-grain XTP, but the average was not as good as the TRP’s.


 

Springfield TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP

Springfield Armory TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP, $1347

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Our PICK)

This is a first-class 1911. The Springfield offered excellent reliability, accuracy, and night sights, a big advantage. Excellent slide-to-barrel fit and frame-to-slide fitting.

ACTION Single-action, semi-auto, locked breech
OVERALL LENGTH 8.5 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT 5.7 in.
MAX WIDTH 1.5 in.
WEIGHT UNLOADED 42 oz.
WEIGHT LOADED 45.5 oz.
BARREL 5 in. match grade stainless steel, 1:16 twist; full-length guide rod
MAGAZINE (2) 7-Rd. stainless steel with slam pads
SLIDE Carbon steel, black armory kote
FRAME Carbon steel, black armory kote
FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT 2.6 in.
FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT 3.2 in.
GRIPS Black & grey G10 checkered
GRIP THICKNESS (MAX) 1.3 in.
GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (MAX) 5.4 in.
SIGHTS Low profile combat, 3-dot tritium
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT SINGLE ACTION 5.5 lbs.
TRIGGER SPAN SINGLE ACTION 2.5 in.
SAFETY Slide lock, grip
WARRANTY Lifetime
TELEPHONE (800) 680-6866
SITE Springfield-Armory.com
MADE IN Geneseo, Illinois

The Springfield Tactical Response pistol was originally offered as an affordable version of the Professional Model. The fit and finish were noticeably superior to the Loaded Model, and to our eyes, it was on par with the much more expensive Professional Model. (Bud’s listed one for $2,345.)

Springfield TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP

The TRP pistol we tested was supplied with two magazines, a plastic range holster, and dual magazine carrier. The TRP uses a lightweight firing pin and heavy firing pin spring as a safeguard and does not incorporate a firing pin block into the action. When racking the slide of the TRP, we believe the fit was tighter than the Colt Combat Elite or Rail Gun and much tighter than the Loaded Model. But better fit wasn’t the only edge. The Springfield racked up features to offset the $332 price differential between it and the Combat Elite, and the $148 difference between it and the Colt Rail Gun. However, at $557 above the Loaded Model, you will need a good reason to justify the price difference, and a lot of training and practice, to make use of the TRP’s superior performance. If you do not need or desire these features, they are irrelevant, but some are good to have.

Springfield TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP

The Springfield TRP is a well-made 1911. We would pay the higher price to get this superior handgun. Part of its appeal is a hard-use Teflon-based finish, but it is also delivered with goodies, including a latchable and lockable hard case, two magazines, a plastic range holster, and magazine carrier.

The Springfield TRP features a Teflon-based coating that proved durable during our testing and it was self lubricating. Still, we lubricated the pistol just the same as most users will. The fit of the slide to the frame was tight, with very little lateral play. The cocking serrations forward and rear are a bit longer than the Colts’. The Novak sights were identical, save the TRP featured self-luminous tritium inserts, which are a pricey and helpful upgrade. The full-length guide rod offered reasonably rapid disassembly by use of an Allen wrench compared to a two-piece guide rod that may be unscrewed by hand. We only report on what we observe, and the Springfield full-length guide rod did not loosen and was easy to field strip. The slide-lock safety was ambidextrous and gave the TRP another advantage. Fit and crispness of the slide lock safety and magazine release were each excellent. The trigger action was clean and broke at 5.5 pounds.

A big advantage was the TRP’s checkered front strap, which presented 20-lines-per-inch checkering that gave good adhesion when firing. Coupled with checkered G10 grips, most of our shooters liked how the gun felt during tactical firing. One of the female raters felt the checkering was too sharp for her palm. Our most experienced rater also found the abrasion to be a bit sharp and saw the checkering left an outline in his palm. To control the pistol in stressful times, with sweaty or wet hands, these textures are helpful. The strategy to avoid tearing your hands up during high-volume shooting is to wear gloves during the bulk of your practice. Outside the test, we should note that one of the raters used a TRP for more than a year as a daily carry gun and eventually changed to a Novak Custom Gun, largely based on abrasion and weight of the TRP.

Springfield TRP PC9108LP 45 ACP

The TRP’s ambi safety earned high marks. Because we grade for both right- and left-handed use, an ambi safety provides an edge in the outcome. The composite G10 black-and-gray grip panels provided a firm grip on the gun that showed up in combat accuracy and control.

Elsewhere, the grips were made of G10 composite and were well turned out and offering good abrasion. They were slightly thicker than the Colt Combat Elite grips. The TRP also featured a magazine chute. Be aware that this chute isn’t compatible with every type of bumper pad. We used the supplied magazines and five Brownell’s 7-round magazines. We fired the Springfield on the same combat course, with the same ammunition, and fired each pistol at the same time with raters alternating with each handgun. We made several observations. The Colts and the Loaded Model were faster from leather and faster on target. The Colt Combat Elite was lighter, and perhaps the tactical grips made for better speed. The difference wasn’t great but was noted. However, once on target, the Springfield TRP’s superior checkering and abrasion made a difference. The pistol was more controllable than the Colts. To less experienced raters, there was little difference. For those grasping the TRP as tightly as possible and controlling the trigger, the TRP was the more controllable handgun in rapid fire. During combat firing the TRP showed an advantage in delivering rapid hits and controlled double taps.

Also, the Springfield TRP proved more accurate than the other pistols. The single best group was a 1.25-inch group with the Winchester 230-grain JHP, the hottest load tested with the most energy and recoil. The heavier trigger of the TRP was not a significant factor in benchrest accuracy, we found. On a bright sunny day, the sun glinted on the night sights, which is worth noting.

Our Team Said: If you do not need the extra features of the TRP, and are not willing to master the gun, the difference in price may be a deal breaker. However, for that money you get tritium night sights, an ambidextrous slide lock safety, front strap checkering, a magazine guide, a hard-use finish, superior combat accuracy and superior bench rest accuracy. An aftermarket Teflon finish alone would cost nearly the price difference between the Colt Combat Elite and the Springfield. We rated the Springfield TRP the best performer in this race, and we’d pay the extra money for it if we could afford it. While not a Best Buy, it is Our Pick.

1911 holsters

We used three holsters in testing the 1911s, all with good results. Left to right are the Blocker X 16, useful for crossdraw and strong-side carry, the Sweetwater Strong Side Pancake Holster, and the ZZZ Custom Kydex Tactical Grade for the Colt Rail Gun.

Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

Comments (6)

As a long-time M1911A1 fan and having carried one as a part of my uniform, either while in the Military or as a former Deputy Sheriff, I find myself falling in love with 'Ol Slab Sides all over again whenever I see an article about a "new" model or another manufacturers latest offering.
I purchased my first M1911A1 while overseas, stationed in Europe, for the (then) princely sum of $350.00, although it was (and still is) a Series 70 GI model, tiny sights and all.
With the exception of adding a replacement rear sight with dots, installing a beavertail type grip safety (actually flatter and wider since the true "beavertail" style hadn't come out in the late '70's) and wrap around thinner rubber grips and a durable plastic (?) mag well, the gun is pretty much bone stock, including the liliputian (sp?) sights on this original Colt pistol.
It is amazing how the price on this type platform has skyrocketed but it is no wonder when considering all the upgrades and modifications.
Not being made of money and now being a (disabled) retired veteran, I truly wish I had the discretionary cashola to buy one of the tested pistols, although I lean towards the rail gun but would prefer the sights to have tritium inserts. Just my personal opinion and preference.
That said, would it be possible (or even realistic) to buy a replacement slide assembly that would be a drop in replacement with tritium Novak sights and include a lowered ejection port?
I'm not interested in having my original slide modified to incorporate my desired inclusions, but am concerned that any new Colt slide would incorporate the Series 80 firing pin safety block which might not work since my Series 70 frame doesn't have the internals to activate the plunger, etc., to disable the safety when the trigger is pulled.
Anyone have any suggestions?
Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Huggy | August 16, 2016 12:18 PM    Report this comment

It is nice to read how well these did in ideal conditions. I would like a report on how well the weapon responded under combat conditions. How about from a holstered position. Five rounds in five seconds at 25 feet. How fast did the weapon return to an on target position. I would take a five inch group at that range would seem adequate. If you miss all five at that range ,you better run like he'd. Be safe out there brothers.

Posted by: never666 | April 14, 2016 4:29 PM    Report this comment

"Four 45's compete"......... NOT!
This "Shoot Out" should have been called "Colt vs Springfield".
So I didn't read it, though I suspect it was a "push".
It seems some folks carry all their marbles in a sock, you know the one with a hole in it.

I am a 1911 fan, have 6 autos and 2 wheel guns, none the same and none in THIS "Shoot Out".
How are we to glean any opinion from this test with only 2 manufacturers represented?

"It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'compete' is."
Sebbie, Eufaula, OK

Posted by: Sebbie | April 14, 2016 3:53 PM    Report this comment

Your article states that "The Loaded Model featured Novak Lo Mount sights front and rear. So do the other three handguns, but only the TRP features night-sight inserts," but the specs on the Loaded provided in the chart show the sights as "Steel, fixed combat, 3-dot Tritium" as does the TRP, and my own Loaded model certainly came with tritium night sights. Am I missing something or are the specs shown in the chart incorrect and your test model Loaded actually came with non-tritium 3-dot sights?

Posted by: olivehead | April 13, 2016 9:05 AM    Report this comment

There's only ONE FINAL THING a good 1911 needs now; it's had attachment rails, laser/light combos, extended-cap magazine and so forth...all of which it's needed for generations.

The one thing? A good, comfy hand-grip , with or without all the grippy crap, It's rather mundane to be sure, but it's a pair of either shaped (like on the Browning Hi-Power) or moulded to the hand for extra grip, safety, capacity & comfort. You could even snick (intentional) 4-6 more rounds in that little bulb at the bottom, eh? Made from the right leather & weighted, it could not only fit those extra rounds to decide the outcome of your confrontation, but if it came down to needing a cosh, it's there and waiting for you!!!
Chuck Klasek
Norman, OK

Posted by: cmk59 | April 6, 2016 11:05 AM    Report this comment

It sounds like the Springfield TRP is a worthy firearm. I was curious what prompted the A+ rating to the Remington 1911 R1 tested in 2012? Do you think that it outperformed the Springfield TRP recently tested?

Posted by: Cold Goose | March 30, 2016 6:01 PM    Report this comment

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