Friday, September 26, 2008

Guns: Range Report & Review - Springfield Armory Loaded Stainless 1911

This is an old review I once posted on THR. Unfortunately, the continued existence of THR has recently been put in jeopardy (you can read the whole tale at Oleg's journal page, linked at the right), so I'm posting it here to preserve it for future use.

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Well, I snagged a Springfield Loaded for $650 new recently, and I just shot it this weekend. Since there's always a lot of interest in 1911s, I thought I'd do a little review, from the perspective of a diehard CZ fan.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Loaded is a step above the Mil-Spec in the SA product line. I bought it because I wanted a traditional internal extractor and didn't want to fork over the money for a Colt. Made in Brazil, the gun has lots of MIM parts and the fit and finish, while serviceable, isn't as good as some other 1911s I have seen, even other Springer 1911s like the TRP. The gun has a two-piece barrel, a nonstandard titanium firing pin/spring, and comes with two seven-round magazines (Metalform?). The slide-to-frame fit is loose for my taste - admittedly, I don't have any other 1911s to compare it to. It has the ILS system, but as covered in other reviews, it's not too hard to replace.

The main thing I like about the Loaded over the Mil-Spec is the Novak LoMount 3-dot sights - they are definitely nice and to install them on a GI or Mil-Spec would cost a decent chunk of change. I wish they were tritium, though. The other "features" are okay, but I could do without the bump on the beavertail grip safety and the front slide serrations. The ambi safety might be important to southpaws, but it's useless to me. It snicks on and off positively, though. The grips are pretty good, and are probably slim enough for most people, but I'd like to go with even slimmer grips if possible.



DISASSEMBLY AND INSPECTION

I've never owned a 1911 before, so cleaning it was a harrowing experience. The disassembly was simple enough, even with Springfield's silly two-piece guide rod complicating matters.


I finally got the gun apart and realized I didn't have any .45 cal brushes. Arrgh - the perils of a new caliber...



The reassembly was a real PITA, especially getting the slide stop back in (though I did manage to avoid scratching the frame). I screwed up somewhere in the procedure and locked the gun up tight. I ended up cutting my left hand pretty badly getting the slide unstuck. I find my CZ-75B to be considerably simpler to field strip - I could probably do it in the dark, if need be.

AT THE RANGE

The Springer proved difficult to shoot well, at least for me. I think the trigger's a tad too heavy (5-6 pounds), but it breaks crisply. Through about 300 rounds of WWB, UMC, and Blazer Brass FMJs, the pistol never bobbled (not much of a test, I know, but .45 ammo is expensive).

When shooting for groups, I shot slow-fire, standing, at 15 yards. The gun is about as accurate as my CZ-75B, but the CZ was of course much cheaper.

The UMC turned in the best groups.



Blazer Brass was usually a crapshoot. This was my best group of the day, and there were some real embarrassing shotgun patterns that reflected on how much practice I need.



CONCLUSION

PROS
- reliable
- accurate enough for defense
- great sights, good grips, acceptable trigger and safeties
- relatively inexpensive with a good company backing it up

CONS
- not any more accurate than my CZ-75B
- so-so fit and finish, "Made in Brazil" on the dustcover
- a ton of MIM, some features/parts aren't to my liking

I really don't know. The pistol fits my hands well, but not well enough to justify the price. I really expected better than CZ accuracy, but I couldn't find it with this particular example. I like the history behind the design, I like that it's a .45, and that it has an amazing trigger reset, but the reassembly reminded me of how old the 1911 really is. If I keep it, I'll get rid of the ILS, get the trigger and action worked over, replace the critical 'near-steel' parts with quality stuff (Ed Brown Hardcore extractor anyone?), and perhaps get a dehorning job (the slide serrations are very sharp).

Is it worth it over the Mil-Spec? I'd say it depends. If you like the Novak sights, and want decent wood grips for your 1911, this will probably fit the bill. It's certainly worth $150 more than the Mil-Spec, which is what I bought it for. Like any 1911 on the market today, though, it probably won't be perfect for you out of the box.

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