With most things in life, you pay for a little more than you want to get the basic function that you desire. Those that have ever been car shopping can likely relate to this statement. “Oh, you want leather seats? Well, they only come with the douchebag dealer-upgrade package.” Nobody likes that. And the right manufacturers don’t like serving their customers that way either. So, manufacturers like Springfield Armory offer firearms like the Operator 1911 with just the right mix of cost and value.
The Springfield Armory 1911 Operator
For decades Springfield Armory has been the right manufacturer. It offers a balanced array of budget-friendly options and tricked-out masterpieces. Somewhere along the line, the Geneseo-based gun company began filling in the gaps between these two extremes. Particularly in its 1911 product family.
Lineups like the Ronin, Garrison, and Emissary offer packages addressing the needs of a certain type of gun owner. While these lines are excellent at what they do, they don’t offer much for the shooter looking to own an “operator-style” pistol without jumping into the “fully loaded” line. So, out of necessity, the Operator was born.
Meet The Operator
As Springfield’s newest lineup, the Operator offers the features that the prospective tactical 1911 owner wants. And it does it without the price tag associated with the stuff that they don’t. Therefore, instead of costing upwards of $1,300, the Operator is offered at an MSRP of around $1,159.
Chief of these features is a frame, slide, and barrel made from Springfield’s signature forging process. This yields tougher, stiffer components when compared to casting. The frame differs from a standard government profile. Specifically, it is built with a three-slot accessory rail that is all but standard for a modern pistol.
The slide saw a little bit of modernization, too, as it has been cut with forward cocking serrations to compliment the ones in the rear. This helps those with a dexterity issue to use their entire hand to rack the slide. Likewise, it helps gloved shooters get a grip when the chips are down. The slide and frame are finished in a deep-black Cerakote, setting the stage for a host of premium components.
The Operator in Hand
Controlling the .45 ACP cartridge takes a little more work than, say, a 9mm Luger. So, G10 stocks were used in place of those made from traditional rosewood or plastic. This material can be cut with more aggressive angles and, although it may be subjective, looks absolutely gorgeous too.
A relatively flat mainspring housing helps to increase the shooter’s purchase and is cut with a similar texture. This serves both functionality and aesthetics. Just above this critical component is an enlarged beavertail grip safety. As a result, it eliminates any chance of getting pinched by the lightweight-skeletonized hammer, regardless of how high you like to keep your hand.
The Operator also lets shooters of either dexterity decide if they want to shoot “thumbs over” or “thumbs under,” as the ambidextrous safety allows southpaws to pick their most comfortable option, just the same as boring right-handers.
The Beauty of the Operator is In the Subtleties
The slide of the Operator remains relatively true to the original, sans the aforementioned forward cocking serrations. This was done intentionally to satisfy purists while keeping production costs down. To the untrained eye, this isn’t particularly noteworthy. However, for someone who examines a different 1911 every month, it means something major.
I always like to look for simplifications like this because it shows me how the engineers that designed it think. Finding cost savings features through simplicity tells us that quality wasn’t sacrificed. Why resort to inferior materials or methods when we can just take away the things that the prospective end-user doesn’t want anyway?
As the slide is the largest moving part of a semi-auto pistol, its fit to the frame tells us scores about its accuracy and reliability. Whenever I examine a 1911, I check to see how much “wiggle” there is between parts. The Operator was rock-solid in this department, meaning that the lockup would be dead-nuts repeatable.
Now, sometimes the downside of tolerances this tight is a lack of reliability. Specifically, because just a speck of unburnt powder can cause a stoppage. The only way to tell if a pistol is built too tight for the working class is to shoot it and to shoot it a lot. So, that’s exactly what I did.
I packed my car with more .45 ACP than most people would be comfortable with and two target systems from Action Target that “encourage” fast pistol work. As usual, I had a windy day at the seaside shooting club I belong to. This wouldn’t affect accuracy at my 15-yard target distance. However, one thing was for sure, the gun was going to take on enough sand to show us if it was built right.
I started things off with the easiest of the freedom food to digest, Remington’s 230-grain FMJ ammo. These came out of a 250-round Mega Pack and look comically similar to the company’s famous golden bullets. Scaled up, of course.
After putting 100 trouble-free rounds down the pipe in the name of “break-in,” I sat down and had a little group therapy with almost another sleave of this stuff alongside some Hornady 185-grain American Gunner and Black Hills 135-grain Honey Badger.
Groups were what you would expect from a gun of this lineage. And after close to 200 rounds there still wasn’t a single stoppage to speak of.
Moving on to the moving targets, I lit up both as fast as possible. The swinging and turning motions required me to hit the trigger as fast as possible to land a successful double-tap. Here is where I appreciated the soft 5-pound, 2-ounce break and snappy reset of the skeletonized trigger.
Adding to the speed was the tritium front sight, which took zero effort to find on the move. Recoil was about what you would expect and changed noticeably with different brands of ammo. I found the 185-grain Hornady to be the softest shooting. And surprisingly, the Black Hills had a bit of punch to it, mainly because it is loaded for self-defense.
Overall, I wouldn’t consider any of these rounds unmanageable. This is a testament to not only the balance of the gun but the result of using G10 grips and the reduced mainspring housing profile as well.
After digesting close to 400 rounds, the Operator was ready to be taken down and cleaned. Although it didn’t exhibit signs of needing it, I don’t let my 1911’s run too long between maintenance intervals. I was happy to see that very little was disturbed regarding the internal components of this pistol. This is as God and John Moses Browning intended (same person to some).
True to the original in this respect, the Springfield Armory Operator is a Series-70 design and does not have a firing pin block or the awful trigger press that is commonly associated with it. It is also built on the traditional bushing system and employs a solemn, simple recoil spring. Field stripping is no different than any other 1911, and thus cleaning it should be entirely familiar to most.
After putting it back together, I reflected on the day’s events and was thoroughly satisfied with what Springfield had introduced to the sea of 1911s on the market. I enjoyed the balance of old-world styling with modern features. Particularly features like tritium sights, Picatinny rail, and the unmistakable feel of a quality all-steel handgun. Those looking to fill that operator gap in their 1911 collection ought to look towards, well, the Operator.
For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.
Springfield Armory Operator 1911 .45 ACP Specs
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel: 5.0 inches
Overall Length: 8.63 inches
Weight: 41.5 ounces
Grip: G10 VZ Grips
Sights: drift adjustable white-dot rear, Tritium front
Action: SA semi-automatic
Finish: Black Cerakote
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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