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Springfield Armory EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 1911 Review

Springfield Armory EMP 4

I think I'm one of the few people on the team who carries a 1911 on a semi-regular basis. It's not a problem and I know the other guys own 1911s, but I'm one of the few folks who will trust my life to one on a regular basis. There is just something about the Browning creation, and genius if I'm being totally honest, that I love. And, the updated versions of this time-tested masterpiece are as flawless as one can expect from a self-defense weapon–most of the time.

Springfield Armory's EMP 4 in 9mm is one of those guns that I'd consider to be near-flawless. I've got countless rounds of ammunition through mine and can count the number of malfunctions on one hand. Come with me on this journey as I show you why I fell in love with this beauty, and why my wife claimed it as her own …

Serrated, skelotonized trigger

The serrated, skeletonized trigger breaks with a crisp, short pull to the rear with minimal take-up. And, being that 9mm isn't the hottest self-defense cartridge on the market, regaining sight picture with this 31 ounce gun and fiber optic front sight makes follow up shots a breeze.

Also available in .40 S&W for those of you who are of the opinion that you can't be a man unless your caliber starts with a “4,” the stainless slide, satin frame, and reddish Cocobolo grips makes this one of the most aesthetically pleasing guns I've ever had the pleasure of owning. Looks are, of course, an added bonus that always takes a back seat to functionality.

cocobolo grips

The barrel, as the name implies, is four inches long and is what I'd call a match grade, bull barrel that's accurate at all defensive distances and when pushed out to 25 yards–which is the maximum distance I've taken her. After firing countless thousands of rounds through this light-recoiling Springfield Armory EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 1911, I'm happy and quite pleased to say that a only a handful of malfunctions occurred. Those malfunctions, by the way, were due to a nasty, mucked-up firearm.

As a side note, it turns out Frog Lube isn't the best lubricant to shoot in extreme cold temperatures, and when used with a proper, high quality gun oil, she runs like Secretariat after rounding the last corner on the straightaway.

Lefty shooters will likely appreciate the fact that the safety is ambidextrous, but the ambi controls stop there, as it does with most 1911 pistols. Overall, this pistol feels like it belongs in my hand with controls exactly where they're supposed to be, and the grip's front strap “stippling” really helps it stay planted in my hand.

Ambi safety lever

The overall grip width feels thinner on this single-stack aluminum-framed 1911 (.40 is carbon steel), and the three Mec-Gar, 10-round 9mm magazines are likely enough to have most bad guys re-think their life choices. Having 10-round magazines, by the way, is a perfect number while traveling through less-than-gun-friendly states because 10-rounders are, for some reason, the magic number in magazine-restricted states.

Notice the partial dust cover, slide serrations and combat 2-dot rear sights.

I know from experience, because I drove from my home in Pennsylvania to North Carolina, only stopping to take this very gun off my hip through Maryland. Then, once back in America (in Virginia), I strapped it back on my person, and kept on trucking. In my LAG Tactical Defender, IWB gun holster in the 4 o'clock position, I barely knew this beautiful 1911 was even there.

With an overall length of 7.5″ this $1179 pistol isn't the easiest gun to conceal on your person, but if you're like me and prefer the grip angle of a 1911, when carried cocked, locked, and ready to rock–the EMP4 Lightweight Champion is a solid option for your EDC gun.

Ain't she purdy?

In addition to the branding Springfield Armory slaps all over this otherwise gorgeous pistol, the only other thing I'm not fond of is the fact that take down requires the use of a little “L” shaped tool. If you misplace things at the rate I do, you could also use a paperclip (which I've done before). Take down is easy enough if you're used to the disassembly of a 1911, the only difference is to insert the “L” into the guide rod's hole with the slide locked to the rear. There is no barrel bushing to rotate, and the rest is pretty much self-explanatory. (I've detailed the process more, below)

Overall, this light-recoiling 1911 in 9mm is one of the most beautiful guns in my collection. It also just happens to run like a champ, which makes me question … is this what Springfield Armory had in mind when they named it Lightweight Champion? I guess we'll never know, but with an MSRP of $1179, and the ability to find them out in your local gun shop for cheaper than that, I'd say this is a solid choice for anyone in the market for a 9mm self-defense gun, with a 1911 profile. While I don't carry it anymore, it's good enough for my wife, and that's good enough for me.

Do you carry a 1911 for self-defense? Let us know in the comments below.

Here is the take down process, detailed in a few photos:

Little “L” shaped too.


There's the hole you stick the tool into, to release spring tension.


There is the tool in the guide rod's hole.


Line up the take down lever as you would a regular 1911, pull it out and pull the slide and frame apart.


The guide rod and tool come out like so, then the barrel pops right out.


Here is a disassembled EMP 4. The tool can be popped out of the guide rod if the spring and rod need attention. To re-assemble, just reverse the whole process.

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7 Responses to Springfield Armory EMP 4 Lightweight Champion 1911 Review

  1. Terre April 10, 2018 at 4:27 pm #

    Joshua, thanks for your review of the Springfield Armory 4″ Lightweight Champion 9mm. I have the same gun, but I have not shot it a lot yet. We’ve had winter weather here lately although the calendar says it’s spring, so I will shoot it more very soon, I hope.

    I like the pistol a lot although reassembly has not gone well for me. I’ve had the hardest time getting the slide stop back in. I finally found a video where the gentlemen used a small screwdriver. I did the same thing and it went in okay. The other videos I’ve watched did not use a screwdriver, but I can’t seem to get the slide lock back in without a screwdriver.

    My favorite holster is the Alien Gear Shape Shift. I carry my Glock in it as an EDC. They haven’t made one yet to fit the EMP 4″, but when they do, I will get the shell for it and use the same holster I have now. It’s the most comfortable holster I’ve ever used.

    Thanks again for your review.

    • Joshua Gillem April 10, 2018 at 4:44 pm #

      Glad you liked it. I’m sure you’ll love this gun. Putting a 1911 slide lock back in isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Just be careful with that screwdriver not to damage your gun’s finish.



  2. Rafael April 21, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    I love mine in .40 cal (‘cause that’s the round I’m most accurate and comfortable with) and find this gun is the most amazing, comfortable, and accurate .40 cal I own. I carried it all winter in an Alien Gear IWB Holster and it was super comfortable.

  3. JOHNNY JOYNER May 21, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

    this is johnny joyner I just purchase a new springfield emp in 40 cal. I was wondering if the factory sights are any good. I have never owned one of these before. I read a lot and most folks prefer the 9 mm. any input would be great. thank you very much johnny.

    • Joshua Gillem May 22, 2018 at 7:18 am #

      Hey Johnny,

      Just so you know I removed your email address from the comment. Gun Sights tend to be a very personal thing, but the ones that came standard on the EMP4 work great for our needs. Thanks for the comment.


  4. Ken May 31, 2019 at 7:00 pm #

    Here it is a year later. I don’t find a Grunt Defender to fit a Springfield EMP Lightweight Champion. I was just on their site. Which model number did you get?

    • Joshua Gillem June 3, 2019 at 8:33 am #

      Hey Ken,

      If I remember correctly, they said any 4 inch 1911 Defender would work. It’s been a while, though and I can’t really remember because so many holsters pass through my fingers each month. I think the best thing would be to contact them directly.

      I hope this helps.


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