Springfield Armory has come a long way since they first opened their doors in 1974 to become one of the top leaders in the 1911 market. Springfield’s Custom Shop has become the crown jewel of the company, offering a full service “one stop shop” for anyone with custom 1911 needs, regardless of manufacturer. Headed up by Dave Williams, the shop made a name for itself in 1998 by winning the FBI contract to provide the Bureau’s regional SWAT teams with a custom 1911 built to FBI specifications.
Now, 10 years later, the Professional Model has become one of the most sought-after 1911s built today. Last year, I had a chance to evaluate a compact version of the Professional built by the Custom Shop (see GW/LE Feb08). The “mini-Pro” was based on a micro frame and a Champion slide and was one of the best shooting pistols I had tested in several years. It was with real regret that I had to return the little pistol to Springfield.
The mini-Pro did get me to thinking about how I would build a similar model. After some consideration, I started writing a “build sheet” for the ideal carry gun. I started with the basic Custom Carry Compact that is a package offered by Springfield Custom. Long-time gun toters know that the butt of the frame is the hardest part of the pistol to conceal. They also know that shorter barrels, while looking cool, are often self-defeating. Short barrels bleed off velocity, increase muzzle flip and shorten the sight radius.
Springfield’s micro frame is the equivalent of an Officer’s Model and allows for a magazine capacity of six rounds, while the Champion slide has a 4-inch barrel. Put the two together and you have the base gun for the Custom Carry Compact (CCC) and the perfect configuration for an all-day concealed carry pistol.
Starting with that platform, I began listing my preferences on the order sheet. I knew that I wanted a carry bevel to remove any sharp edges, a single side safety and high visibility sights. I also wanted the front strap to be checkered and undercut at the base of the triggerguard to allow for a higher purchase on the smaller frame. From a cosmetic standpoint, I wanted a solid trigger for that retro look and ball cuts on the front of the frame. I did not choose any really unnecessary extra items, as I intended this to be a constant carry/hard-use pistol. I also went with Springfield’s proprietary Armory Kote finish. With that goal in mind, I e-mailed Springfield and the shop got to work.
At this writing, readers should expect about a nine-month wait for a full build from Springfield Custom. While this may test the patience of some, the wait is significantly shorter than other shops, some whose wait is measured in years! During the wait, I exchanged a few phone calls with Williams to discuss an option or two and then waited a little longer. When I picked up the blue Springfield Custom hard case from my FFL (Federal Firearms License), I felt more than the usual excitement of picking up a new pistol.
Upon opening the case, I immediately noticed the pistol had two very striking features. The first was the flat black Armory Kote finish. I was accustomed to the semi-gloss Armory Kote that’s found on the TRP (Tactical Response Pistol) and other products. Instead, I found a very flat finish that seemed to absorb light! I have to admit that I was not even aware that a flat Armory Kote was available. The only parts that did not receive this treatment were the barrel and the trigger. I found the finish very functional and attractive, especially for a pistol designed for concealment. The overall measurements for the CCC were 5 inches in height and 7.5 inches in length. The height is identical to Springfield’s popular EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol). A stop at the scales found that the little gun weighed in at just 28.5 ounces.
The second feature was what Springfield calls a radical carry bevel. While some carry bevels simply break the edges, Springfield Custom did a melt on the little gun that passes the obligatory “bar of soap” feel without changing the lines of the pistol. The flat finish and softened lines of the pistol give it a stealth look. Every edge of the pistol has been melted or beveled to varying degrees. The bevel even extends to the magazine release, slide stop and the bottom edge of the slide. The rear of the extractor was fitted to the rear of the slide making it appear to be an integral part of the slide. The ball cuts change the contour where the slide meets the front of the dust cover and give the pistol a unique appearance.
Springfield Custom started with a national match alloy Compact frame and had fitted a Champion slide. They undercut the base of the triggerguard and then hand checkered the front strap and the main spring housing with 20-LPI (lines per inch) cuts. The high grip modification allows a slightly higher purchase on the grip. Shooters with larger hands especially appreciate this modification. The edges on the beavertail grip safety have been radiused to allow them to flow seamlessly with the frame.
An important but often overlooked modification was the rounding of the base of the mainspring housing to remove the offending edge. A close examination revealed that the single side thumb safety had been slimmed and smoothed. Thin double diamond stocks adorn the grip and, like the rest of the pistol, the edges have been beveled.
Internally, the pistol was given a complete reliability job. A match-grade Kart barrel was installed and the feed ramp and throat were polished. The extractor was fitted, polished and tuned to Springfield Custom specifications. The shop installed a Springfield tool steel hammer and sear that was matched to a solid aluminum match trigger. Using Lyman’s Electronic trigger gauge from Brownells, I found that the trigger pull measured a clean 3.75 pounds with no overtravel. Finally, the ejection port has been lowered and flared to improve ejection and to allow a live round to be cleared without any obstructions.
Over the past several years, my preference in sights has changed, as has my eyesight. I requested that Springfield install Dick Heinie’s superb Straight-Eight tritium sights. The Straight-Eights feature a single tritium insert centered at the base of the rear sight notch. To acquire a proper sight picture, the front sight tritium insert is “stacked” on top of the rear vial, forming an 8. The rear edge of the rear sight is a large flat surface that draws the eye to the aperture. I find this to be one of the fastest sight configurations for my eyes. As with the rest of the pistol, the edges of the rear sight have been rounded.
Out of the box, the lockup on the CCC was very tight and I admit that I expected to have some functioning issues during the first hundred rounds or so. This proved not to be the case and I only experienced two failures to feed in the first 15 rounds. After that, the CCC ran without a problem with a variety of ammunition to include, Remington Golden Saber loads in standard velocity 230-grain, standard velocity 185-grain, and the hot 185-grain +P load.
Everyone agreed that the little gun was just too light to be effective with the +P load. We also included some Winchester 230-grain SXT’s (Supreme Expansion Technology), Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shoks, and a couple of boxes of 230-grain FMJ (full metal jacket) from Remington. Again, no functioning problems were experienced. The more rounds we put downrange, the smoother the little pistol got.
Those shooting the CCC came to the conclusion that the ideal load for the CCC was the Remington, standard velocity 185-grain Golden Saber. The 185-grain bullet seems to be the ideal load for the combination of the lightweight frame and 4-inch slide. With the 185-grain Saber, recoil and muzzle rise was minimal and rapid follow-up shots were quick and precise. Springfield shipped the CCC with one flat base magazine and one magazine with a bumper pad. Several of the shooters with larger hands appreciated the extra length when using the bumper pad. The bumper pads also assist in positive reloads when they are conducted under speed.
Carrying the CCC was a joy. I used a Summer Special IWB (inside-the-waistband) and a 5BN belt rig, both from Milt Sparks. The shorter frame eliminated the typical bump when sitting down in a chair or a booth in a restaurant. The Champion length slide anchored the pistol in the pants and, when combined with the Summer Special, the CCC seemed to disappear. The lack of sharp edges made carrying the CCC under an outer shirt very comfortable.
Normally when I test a factory pistol, I have a few things I would like to change. Even when you have a pistol built to your specifications, there may be features that you wish you had added or deleted. I worked very hard to try and find something that I would like to change on the CCC but came up empty. A couple of shooters commented on how “aggressive” the 20-LPI checkering is but I don’t find it to be on the CCC or my Springfield Professional Model.
The thin stocks may not fit those with larger hands or long fingers, but this is an easy fix. I could not be happier with the Heinie Straight Eight sights. The clean rear sight and tritium inserts offer a rapid acquisition under the most demanding conditions. Much to my delight, the CCC came together as the clean working gun that I envisioned when I placed the order.
It is purpose-built pistol and each modification combines to create a working pistol that one can live with on those long days in less than favorable conditions. This is one test pistol that has found a home on my side and in my safe.
As I previously stated, Springfield Custom can build just about anything that you can think of. It also seems that the secret is out and, according to Springfield, the configuration of the micro frame and Champion slide is a very popular build. The list of options is extensive. For example, those not liking the matte black Armory Kote can order the semi-gloss Armory Kote in black or green. They also offer Black T, and several nickel finishes.
The shop maintains a stock of most popular sights, so changing out the Heinie Straight Eights for your favorite sight combination is not a problem. If you would rather have 30-LPI or even 40-LPI, just check that option on the build sheet. They can also flatten the top of the slide, checker the base of the triggerguard, install a magazine well, or paint tiger stripes on the slide and frame.
Every Springfield Custom pistol comes with a certificate signed and dated by Springfield that documents the model number, serial number and the date of completion. This birth certificate is just one more detail that makes every Springfield Custom pistol special. For those looking for a minor tuneup, a custom build on an existing pistol, or custom pistol from the ground up, Springfield Custom is the place to go.
A Close Quarters Battle 1911, the Wilson Combat CQB Elite .45 ACP handgun is...
by Rich Grassi / May 11, 2009