Like the average American who goes armed, most detectives have a need for a pistol that is easily carried and concealed, and this generally means a small overall silhouette and light weight. Unlike most, they are typically required to carry concealed at all times when on duty.
I’ve had quite a bit of experience with Springfield’s 1911s and have found them to be reliable, accurate, well made and reasonably priced. When a detective I work with wanted a concealed weapon that was light and slim but didn’t sacrifice serious firepower, Springfield’s Ultra Compact I was testing seemed a perfect fit.
When the pistol arrived, it was packed in the familiar grey polymer hard case with foam padding, a polymer belt slide holster and double magazine pouch, two 6-round stainless steel magazines, owner’s manual, nylon bore brush, two hex-head wrenches, takedown pieces and a pair of keys for the Internal Locking System (ILS).
An initial handling of the pistol revealed that it had an excellent fit and finish. The slide was perfect. Moving my hand over the pistol, the only sharp edges I could detect were the cuts at the front of the rear sight dovetail, the rear edges of the front sight blade, and the edges of the thumb safeties. The grip safety was nicely blended to the frame. Slide stop, mag release, extractor, ejector, plunger tube and thumb safeties are hard-chrome-plated, creating an attractive, contrasting look with the gun’s finish. I was able to manage zero play between the slide and frame, other than the front-to-rear travel the design calls for. There was also no movement when I tried pressing down on the barrel with the slide in battery. The only exceptions to an otherwise exacting fit and finish were some minute machine marks on the lower leading edge of the slide stop, and that the extractor noticeably protruded from the back of the slide.
The Ultra Compact designation seems to simply be Springfield’s version of the Colt Officer’s model with a 7-inch overall length and 5-inch height. Even the weight is the same, at 32 ounces. Of course, the “Loaded” designation means the pistol comes with most of the bells and whistles that were once thought of as custom features.
The slide is CNC-machined from forged ordnance-grade 416 stainless steel. There is a slight bevel on the front of the slide to keep it from biting into holsters, and genuine Novak-style fixed night sights stuffed with Trijicon vials are set into dovetails. Deeply cut cocking serrations at the rear of the slide provide an excellent gripping surface for manipulating the slide.
The Ultra Compact’s frame is also CNC-machined from forged stainless steel with a slightly beveled mag well for quick loading. The grip safety is Springfield’s own High Hand beavertail unit, which sweeps up for a high grasp and employs a memory bump to ensure disengagement. A lightweight, three-holed, long aluminum trigger trips the sear. Mainspring housing is a flat serrated steel unit housing Springfield’s ILS, which provides for the instant locking or unlocking of the weapon’s Delta lightweight hammer with a turn of the included keys.
There is no firing pin safety, a plus in the minds of many 1911 aficionados who understand how such a feature complicates a smooth trigger or sometimes relies on small parts prone to breakage or bending. The Springfield line of pistols prevent discharges from a dropped pistol through a clever but simple system of a titanium firing pin and requisite heavy spring, which prevent the pin from striking a primer through inertia.
Ambidextrous thumb safeties with flared, serrated pads flank each side of the frame, and the magazine release and slide stop are both serrated. The thumb safeties positively click “on” or “off.” A stiff spring keeps the mag release from disengaging unintentionally.
Rounds hurtle toward the target down the 3.5-inch barrel; the added mass at the muzzle snugs it to the slide, negating the need for a bushing. The barrel is hammer-forged, ordnance-grade stainless steel with a 1-in-16 right-hand twist. A groove cut into the top rear of the barrel serves as a loaded chamber indicator, and a fully supported ramp guides rounds into the chamber. The full-length guide rod is part of a captive dual-recoil spring assembly, serviceable to 5,000 rounds.
The pistol’s finish is matte stainless with brushed, almost polished flats. Springfield uses attractive double-diamond-checkered cocobolo grip panels with a slim profile, and the grip is secured via hex screws.
As this was a short-barreled pistol, I tested it for accuracy at a range of 10 yards. I stapled up Visi-Color targets from Champion Targets, bench-rested the pistol, and settled in to fire five-shot groups to evaluate the inherent accuracy of the gun.
Despite the short barrel and grip frame, the Ultra Compact proved to be no slouch in terms of accuracy. The tightest group of the day came from CorBon’s 230-grain FMJ, with all five rounds crowding into 1.19 inches, center to center. Close behind were Asym’s 230-grain FMJ Match loads at 1.31 inches.
Recoil wasn’t bad, and these shorter pistols are a bit quicker to get on target than their full-length counterparts. I tried firing at some steel pepper poppers at a range of about 15 yards from a free-standing position, and rang the steel almost every time. I’m sure the misses were my own failure rather than that of the pistol.
At the end of the day, I emptied a magazine into a silhouette target from 7 yards as fast as I could trigger the shots; half of those went into the smaller scoring ring, where the heart and major vessels would be. The remaining half was in the larger ring, still in the center of the torso. I continued this drill a number of times and wound up eating away a large area of the small scoring ring with a few outside in the large ring and three stray rounds that went into the shoulder.
The excellent sights are large and easy to pick up with the eye for quick initial and follow-up shots. Trijicon inserts get the job done in low light. The Ultra Compact sported the pleasurable ergonomics the 1911 is known for, despite the abbreviated grip frame length. I have large hands, but I was able to wrap my little finger around the grip. The memory bump on the grip safety ensured positive disengagement throughout my tests despite a high-thumb hold.
The little Springfield had a fairly good trigger as well, breaking crisply at 5.25 pounds. There was about 0.06 inches of take-up before resistance was felt, and another hair of travel before the break. If there was any over-travel, I was unable to discern it. Besides showing excellent accuracy for a short-barreled pistol, the Ultra ran 100 percent reliably with the rounds I fed it throughout the day.
Slim, relatively light for a .45 ACP chambering and compact in profile, the Ultra would be an excellent choice for concealed carry by the armed citizen, plainclothes or undercover officer, and it certainly would perform just as well in the role of a range or home defense pistol. The gun is easily carried despite its heavy caliber. More important than its “tote-able” properties, the gun runs dependably and delivers very good accuracy with generous sights that include tritium for low light. Lastly, it’s plenty attractive in my eyes — wood grips over stainless steel have always been a personal favorite. For a gun that is going to be carried often on the person, stainless also makes sense for corrosion resistance in the face of perspiration from close-body carry. Considering the features you get in the Ultra, the $1,051 price tag is in line with any other quality production 1911. Add all of these factors up, and the Ultra Carry is a great choice in a crowded field of compact 1911 pistols. For more information, contact Springfield Armory at 800-680-6866, or go to springfield-armory.com.