Springfield Armory is most famously known for its innovative polymer-framed 3.3 XD-S .45 ACP, the smallest production .45 ACP semi-auto in the world, but the company established its early reputation building Springfield versions of the legendary Model 1911. To this day, the company remains one of the leading custom manufacturers of high-quality 1911-style semi-auto pistols in the world.
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When the word “custom” comes into any description associated with a contemporary 1911 pistol, the price becomes commensurate with the gun’s features, and Springfield has some 1911 models in its arsenal running upwards of $2,000. However, the experience Springfield has gained over the years in fine-tuning 1911 actions, as well as building specialized frames, slides and barrels, has also given it the capability to produce a target-grade 1911 for what amounts to little more than the price of a standard pistol. Enter the Range Officer model.
Introduced in 2011, the Range Officer provided shooters with a competition-ready .45 ACP for under $1,000. For $899, the Range Officer delivers a 5-inch, stainless steel, match-grade barrel, a fully adjustable target rear sight, a handsomely parkerized frame and slide, a flat mainspring housing, a beavertail grip safety, a Delta hammer, a speed trigger, a beveled magazine well, a lowered and flared ejection port, diamond checkered walnut grips and two 7-round magazines. What you have is a pistol that shoots well beyond its price tag, and it even includes a Springfield carrying case, an injection-molded paddle holster and a double magazine pouch. So what more could you ask for?
The answer is the Range Officer Compact, a Commander-sized version designed for either competitive shooting or concealed carry use. It is the same high-quality pistol, but refined for a more specific purpose and fitted with some additional upgrades and specialized features that set it apart from other compact 1911s in its price range.
When the test gun arrived, I had certain expectations before I even opened the case. And it was all there, everything I anticipated from Springfield, and a couple of things I didn’t. For one, unlike the Government Model Range Officer, the RO Compact uses a polished bull barrel, a dual recoil spring assembly and a full-length guide rod. All were unexpected, as these features generally run up the price.
The 4-inch, match grade, stainless steel, bull barrel has a fully supported ramp, and the full-length guide rod is surprisingly easy to remove when field-stripping the RO Compact. To minimize its weight, Springfield uses a forged aluminum alloy frame with a durable black hardcoat anodized finish, while the 6.25-inch-long slide is forged carbon steel with a black Parkerized finish. This is the same quality forged frame and slide used on the Springfield Trophy Match and TRP models, and provides a precision fit identical to these considerably more expensive 1911s. At the rear is a dovetailed, white-dot, low-profile, combat sight, and at the business end is a raised, dovetailed blade with a red fiber-optic insert.
Like the Government-sized Range Officer, the RO Compact has a flat, finely checkered mainspring housing, a raised palm swell and a beavertail grip safety (also all black), a serrated Delta-style (skeletonized) hammer, a single-sided thumb safety, a skeletonized speed trigger with a 5- to 6-pound pull, and the same lowered and flared ejection port. Although leaning more toward a concealed-carry sidearm, the RO Compact is equally suited for competition thanks to its lightweight trigger, while the beavertail grip safety and flat mainspring housing make it a very comfortable pistol to hold for extended periods.
For concealment, the RO Compact has a grip frame that measures 5 inches from the base of the beveled magazine well to the top of the rear sight, a narrow grip width of 1.32 inches with Thinline Cross Cannon double-diamond cocobolo grips, an overall length of 7.6 inches and a weight of only 28.5 ounces unloaded. While the smaller frame does cost you one round, dropping the capacity to 6+1, the RO Compact’s balance and ease of operation easily compensate for the tradeoff.
Foregoing the often time-consuming methods for field-stripping 1911s with full-length guide rods, the RO Compact has a quick takedown procedure by making use of a simple plastic “takedown” piece that fits over the guide rod (with the slide locked back) to relieve spring tension and allow easy removal of the assembly from the slide. The slide stop lever pulls out and goes back in with little effort, so this gun is truly as easy to handle on the workbench as it is on the range. (This same takedown procedure is also used by Springfield for Micro Compact, Ultra Compact, V-10, Compact and Champion models).
Shining At The Range
Over the last 30 odd years, I’ve sent a lot of .45 hardball and tactical ammunition downrange, and a finely built 1911 with a tuned action is a hard gun to beat for durability, accuracy and handling. The multitude of improvements made over the last 100-plus years since John M. Browning first designed the 1911 have made them very reliable guns that U.S. Special Forces, elite Marine units and many law enforcement agencies still prefer over more modern sidearms. As for the Springfield RO Compact, all the stars are aligned to make this an excellent shooting and handing semi-auto.
On the range you immediately begin to find the features that rise to the occasion. Having the bull barrel and full-length guide rod are a plus, and since the takedown procedure is only slightly compromised by the upgrade, it is an absolute advantage. With the Springfield’s lightweight speed trigger and precise slide-to-frame fit, the skeletonized Delta hammer speeds up movement and improves lock time. Spent shell cases easily clear the lowered and flared ejection port and have less tendency to come back at you. This is particularly important to shooters like myself who are left-eye dominant and right-handed, because our heads are not in the right place, so to speak. Lastly, there is recoil management and sight acquisition. The double recoil spring, bull barrel and full-length guide rod all contribute to less felt recoil and faster sight acquisition between shots. The low-profile, white-dot rear sight has a nice square channel that aligns quickly with the bright red fiber-optic front sight, and this works well under a great diversity of lighting situations. The trigger pull on my test gun averaged 5.3 pounds, about the same as a striker-fired Glock, with 0.13 inches of travel and a quick reset.
To test the pistol, I chose three tactical loads with varying grain weights. On the light side was Hornady’s Critical Defense 185-grain FTX, in the middle was Sig Sauer’s new 200-grain Elite Performance JHP, and rounding out the mix was the heavy-hitting Federal Premium 230-grain Hydra-Shok JHP. The Hornady FTX ammo left the RO Compact’s 4-inch barrel at 910 fps, the Sig Sauer load registered 850 fps, and the Federal Hydra-Shok clocked 810 fps.
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The RO Compact has excellent balance in hand. The recoil was moderate with all three brands of ammunition, and the gun shot just slightly below the point of aim with all of the ammo at 15 yards. Overall, tfiring off-hand using a Weaver stance, the best groups averaged 1.75 inches. The best group measured 1.5 inches with the Federal Premium ammo, and the Sig Sauer and Hornady rounds created similar groups measuring 1.75 inches.
Overall, for a compact 1911, this new version of the Springfield Armory Range Officer delivers the most gun for the money (under $1,000) while providing premium features, such as the bull barrel and full-length guide rod, precise slide-to-frame fit, excellent combat sights, a lightweight trigger, very manageable recoil and the accuracy demanded from a CQB sidearm.
For more information, visit springfield-armory.com or call 800-680-6866.