By Dick Jones, Gun Digest
In 1985, Springfield released their 1911, the 1911-A1. Early guns were exact copies of standard issue 1911s from earlier years. Other models soon followed, and eventually the Range Officer was released in 2010.
Almost everyone I’ve talked to who bought a Range Officer back in 2010 has been impressed with the value and quality of the pistol.
Don’t forget that it comes with a serviceable holster, a double magazine pouch, an extra magazine and a really good hard-exterior carrying case that provides great protection to it when traveling.
Obviously, there are features that come on more expensive guns that aren’t found on the Range Officer, but the list of standard features is impressive. With a very affordable MSRP of $977 and actually selling for around $800, the Range Officer is designed for competitive shooting and features many of the bells and whistles on guns with a much higher price tag.
In a move that will surely extend the Range Officer’s popularity, the company is now offering the model in 9mm Lugar, which makes sense because so many competitive shooters use 9mm.
The cost of shooting a 9mm over a .45 is considerably less, particularly with many matches having round counts that come in somewhere north of 100 rounds.
Magazine capacities are greater in the 9mm, and most importantly, recoil is more manageable with the smaller caliber, yet still effective, handgun. Even if the shooter eventually plans to get into serious competition later, beginning with a nine is a good idea.
The most serious impediment to fast and accurate shooting is poor trigger management and anticipation of recoil. Beginning with a 9mm can help a beginning shooter to better manage the trigger while avoiding a flinching habit.
As a shooting instructor, I see a lot of new shooters who choose to start with a .40 or .45 and develop serious issues with recoil anticipation.
Those issues can have such a disastrous effect on accuracy as to discourage the new shooter, and sometimes they become habits that are almost impossible to break. The Range Officer in 9mm has everything the beginning competitor needs to get started at a reasonable cost, and provides more than enough accuracy for all but the more advanced competitors in action shooting.
Of course, the Range Officer as it comes out of the box isn’t going to win the Bianchi Cup, but it’s a good starting point. Obviously, it could be the basis for a very serious race gun. The 24-time USPSA National champion, Rob Leatham, has had a little more than his share of success using Springfield Armory guns, and he continues to do so.
On the Ransom rest, the Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 stayed around the two-inch mark at 25 yards, just as I had hoped.
While the exterior finish of the Range Officer is below the level of the pre-70 Gold Cup, the slide and frame fit are as good or better.
The barrel bushing fit on the Range Officer is definitely better. I really like the trigger design, and it works well enough for accurate shooting, though a little finesse from a good gunsmith to lighten it and make it crisper would help.
The Gold Cup’s trigger is a little better, but remember, it was the finest 1911 commercially available in 1969.
When shooting the Range Officer, the first thing I noticed was the sights. They are reminiscent of the wonderful BoMar sights that were probably the most popular addition to early 1911s.
The front is a partridge with no adorning dots, something I like. Dot sights are wonderful for novice shooters and defensive work, but they do little for speed and accuracy in competition.
The rear sight has solid and tactile clicks, and screw heads big enough for regular screwdrivers. While such sights may be a poor choice for concealment, they’re a boon on the range.
The Range Officer is loaded with features found on guns twice the price. There’s a large, extended beavertail on the grip safety and a healthy bump on the bottom for guys like me with sparse palms. I sometimes have a problem with the 1911’s grip safety, but this one is big enough to ensure engagement.
The mainspring housing is the flat pre-A1 style and well stippled, another feature I like. I would have liked the same stippling on the front of the grip frame as well, but it’s smooth. Grips are cocobolo with good checkering and the familiar Springfield Armory logo.
The hammer is skeletonized and large enough to easily disengage, in spite of the big rear sight, and there’s an extended safety lever.
The trigger is a long one with an Allen screw over-travel adjustment. The magazines are stainless steel and have witness holes. Almost every ergonomic feature you’d ask for on a 1911 target pistol is already there.
Inside, the Ranger Officer is old school. The barrel is stainless steel and is slightly larger at the muzzle end, but otherwise there are no new tricks. The Range Officer is well finished inside and out, and I actually like the old style short recoil spring guide.
Lots of ergonomic features can be found on the outside of the Ranger Officer, accompanied with basic 1911 interior parts. This Springfield gun is well finished inside and out.
Apparently, the old school internals didn’t have an adverse effect on accuracy. My first 10-shot string at 25 yards off the Ransom rest produced a right side flyer, a left side shot and put seven of the next eight shots in one hole.
I suspect the first shot was the gun settling into the grip adapter. Subsequent groups displayed about the same group size without the flyer, but none produced seven shots in one hole. Groups averaged around 2 inches with Remington 115 metal case ammunition, quite respectable for an entry-level priced pistol.
Standing at 10 yards, it was easy to stay within 11⁄2 inches. On plates, the Range Officer was really easy to shoot.
I like 1911s and it felt like an old friend in my hand. Recoil was soft, the sights were easy to see and the adjustable sights allowed choosing the sight picture I like to see.
At my level of competitiveness, I don’t believe the Range Officer would put me at any real disadvantage over a pistol twice or even three times the price.
It’s certainly accurate enough to clean all yards on a plate rack and wouldn’t give up much on the 50-yard shots in the practical stage of the Bianchi.
I do have friends who are much better action pistol shooters than I, and they were as impressed with the 9mm Range Officer as I was. After shooting a little over 100 rounds through it, one of them said, “I like it. I give it a 10.”
“A 10?” I asked. “That would mean it’s as good as your worked over STI.”
“I give it a 10 when you consider everything, including the price,” he said smiling. “My STI is a 10 when you don’t consider the price. When you consider the cost, this one’s a 10 right out of the box.”
Springfield Armory 9mm Range Officer
Caliber: 9mm Lugar
Capacity: 9 + 1
Magazines: Two stainless with witness holes
Barrel: 5” stainless steel
Sights: BoMar-type adjustable rear, partridge front
Frame: Forged steel
Slide: Forged Steel
Weight: 40 oz. with empty magazine
Dick Jones is a shooting instructor and competitive shooter. He operates Lewis Creek Shooting School in North Carolina.
This article appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Be sure to take advantage of Gun Digest’s free downloads to learn all about Gun Values, AR-15 Optics, Glock Accessories and Concealed Carry Holsters.