A couple years ago, I thought I didn’t need any more handguns (ha ha, what a fool I was). On a forum I frequent, I posed a question: What Should I Get? Essentially, I was looking for input from other forum members as to what was “missing” from my collection, because from where I sat I couldn’t see anything else that I could own. After listing all the handguns I owned at the time, I hit “post” and awaited the responses. Gun people being gun people, we love to spend other people’s money and the suggestions rolled in. They all had merit, yet none of them were compelling enough to raise an eyebrow. Then, it came. Someone suggested a 1911… but in 9mm. Well, I certainly didn’t own one of those, and the idea of match-grade tight groups in a soft shooting, classic design got me thinking. Ultimately, those thoughts manifested themselves into an STI Spartan in 9mm.
The STI Spartan is a great pistol for someone on a budget and fit the bill nicely. On paper, it was in fact my most accurate 9mm and I figured I would have it forever. Then I heard about Springfield Armory making their Range Officer in 9mm, and the Spartan went on the “for sale” boards. Quickly, I had an offer to purchase and ended up with close to $600 in my pocket.
The market being what it is, the prices on Range Officers started increasing. By, like, $100. Not happy with this, I expanded my search into other models and came across what appeared to be a lightly used Springfield Loaded Target 9mm in Stainless Steel. Since my ultimate idea was to have a stainless or hard chrome finished 1911 9mm with adjustable sights and front strap checkering, the Loaded, while more expensive than the Range Officer, already came in stainless and therefore saved around $200 in what would eventually be the cost of hard chroming the R.O. This particular Loaded came with five magazines as well. After a call to check the serial number with Springfield Armory, I found out the gun was made in March 2004. So, with my newly expanded options in front of me, I placed a bid. And, I won.
Fast forward a week. The Loaded, as of today, is in my possession. Here are my initial observations:
- This particular gun came with five magazines, a hard case, allen wrenches for the guide rod, and keys for the internal mainspring lock. It did not come with the holster and mag carrier package like Loadeds do today and, frankly, I don’t care.
- The pistol looks great. There is a tiny, tiny bit of nick marks on the right front slide serrations, but not enough to really notice. Other than that, the surface looks great. The traces of an “idiot mark” are present beneath the slide stop, but it’s hard to find a 1911 that doesn’t have a trace of some mark there already. And, it’s faint.
- This pistol is smooth. I can’t quite describe it, but it’s the smoothest feeling 1911 I own… and that’s saying something. It isn’t quite as tight as my others from a slide to frame fit perspective, but that’s okay. Slide to frame fit is highly overrated in terms of producing accuracy. And, like I said, it’s smoother than any of my other 1911s in terms of slide movement.
- The controls are all crisp and, well, I can’t quite describe it but they feel like quality. The ambidexterous thumb safety snaps on and off with a nice clack. My S&W PC1911 didn’t do that, but this Loaded does. I can quite put into words what it is about this pistol, but it just feels solid. Parts feel well finished, smooth, and seem to move with precision.
- The ad for this pistol said “fantastic” trigger. Yeah, sure, I thought. I know triggers and I’ll be the judge of that. Well, folks, it is fantastic. Like “let me squeeze this with my eyes closed and try to find some hint of creep or grit. Hmmm… nope, can’t feel anything like that. Let me try again. Nope, just a clean break.” The only way I can describe the break is “surgical.” That’s not an adjective that is really applicable to a trigger, but it breaks as clean as my Kimber Series 1 and my S&W PC1911, and those are the two best triggers I own (outside of my S&W revolvers). The weight is at a perfect “just below” 4 lbs. as well. “What???? I don’t need to bend a sear spring????” I guess not, at least unless I want to take it down just a wee bit to 3.5 lbs.
- Bushing fit is tight. Not overly so, as I can easily remove the bushing with my fingers, but it’s tight enough that I can’t feel any play in the barrel.
- There is no overhang between the rear of the slide and the frame. Almost all of the Range Officers I have seen have this, and it looks sloppy. While the extractor is slightly proud of the slide, I can live with that.
- I do NOT like the two-piece guide rod. Why would you complicate disassembly like this? I’ll keep it for now, but it’s a PITA and creates unnecessary steps in disassembly if you ask me.
I have never owned a Springfield 1911 before, and I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get the “better” Range Officer at first. But, as long as this pistol shoots as well as it feels, I have a feeling I’ll not give another thought to the Range Officer with this Loaded in my hands. This is my first Springfield 1911 and already I am impressed with the fit and finish of this pistol. Stay tuned for a range report coming soon!