Thursday, October 18, 2012

Springfield Loaded (9mm)

Hmmm... where to begin?

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this gun. It's absolutely beautiful, feels great and gets admiration when people see it.
On the other hand it's been an unreliable beeatch.
Yet, I still keep it.

Let's get the interesting stuff out of the way before my long rambling review.
Caliber:   9mm
Barrel:    5" Stainless Steel Match Grade
Height:   5.5"
Length:   8.5"
Weight:   41oz
Trigger:    Long Aluminum Match Grade, 5-6lbs
Sights:     Low Profile Adjustable Rear, Dovetail Front
Capacity: 9+1

This was taken from the Springfield website so if the gun that you pick up at the LGS or gun show feels like it has a 3lb or 9lb trigger then please argue with them.

I'll start this off with the appearance of the pistol. The Springfield Loaded is a very attractive M1911. It's been a long time since I bought a beautiful handgun. I generally buy pistols with a more functional, businesslike look to them. Polymer and matte slides are my usual fare.
I do however like an aesthetically pleasing gun and not everything needs to have that black tactical kind of look that we see everywhere today. Most people would probably prefer an attractive looking firearm over something that looks like 3 Bubba's welded it together from old tractor parts.
So don't make fun of my going on and on about what a good looking handgun this is.
It shur iz purty.

Pretty only gets you so far. The question is how reliable is it?
If I had to judge it's reliability I would give it an, "Incomplete."
When I first purchased the Loaded it was the most unreliable firearm that I've had in  my entire life. I wish this was an exaggeration. It was impossible to get two shots off back to back without having to clear a malfunction. Failures to extract were the problem.
This pistol went back home to Springfield Armory. When it returned, I put almost two boxes of ammo through it before a different set of problems surfaced. This time I only averaged one or two malfunctions per magazine. Double feeds were the new issue.
Back to Springfield it went.
It appears to be OK now. I've only run about 600 or so rounds of ball through it since the last return and it's operated perfectly. No issues yet (Knock on wood). When I get 1000 rounds of ball through it and a few boxes of hollow points I'll begin to trust it. As things currently stand I've only used Federal, WWB and a little Tulammo (Just to see what it would do with steel cased ammo) since the last repair. Two brands of magazines have been used.
I know...that's not much of a test yet.
So I'm stuck deciding how to rate the reliability. If Springfield made it right (And that seems to be the case) then it's a reliable gun. Unfortunately the round count simply isn't high enough yet to erase the several weeks of constant double feeds and failures to extract.
It's earned an incomplete. I hope to get up to 1000 rnds before Christmas and I'll go back and edit in some more info at that point.

Edit:  It's been a month since this review was written and I've put another 200 rounds through the Springfield. No issues.


It's good but I expected a little better. In my opinion this gun just doesn't seem as accurate as my Kimber Stainless Target II or some of the other M1911's that I've owned.
Perhaps it's just me and I shouldn't constantly compare it to my Kimber which costs $300 more than the Loaded.
Maybe it doesn't like WWB which probably makes up 90% of what I've put through it. I plan on varying my ammo a bit in this gun to see if that makes a difference.
As I said at the beginning, accuracy is OK but  I'm not willing to rave about it right now.
One day (When blog money makes me rich) I'll get a ransom rest and take myself out of the accuracy equation.

Customer Service:
I briefly talked about reliability. Now it's time to discuss Springfield's customer service.
Their people deserve a pat on the back. They were professional, polite and the representative that I spoke with actually seemed to know a little about guns. Springfield Armory's customer service should be a model for how everyone is supposed to handle dissatisfied customers.
The return process was easy. Turn around was quick. It was back within one week the first time and two weeks the second time.
Kudos to the nice lady on the phone.


It would have been nice if my Loaded at least had the reliability of a Lorcin when I first bought it.
So what did Springfield do to fix it?
They fitted the barrel to the slide and the slide to the frame. They also drilled and pinned the ejector and replaced the extractor. That's a lot of work needed for a new $850 handgun.
So is it right? It seems to be but time will tell.
The customer service was pretty good even if it took a couple of attempts at repairs.

The sights are all black with an adjustable rear and drift able front. They are serrated to reduce glare and work well. I don't see a lot difference between these and a lot of the adjustable sights on other M1911's.  They work pretty good for me and I get a very nice sight picture. The amount of space on either side of the front sight is just about perfect when the sights are lined up on the target. My camera sucks so you can't see that.
Maybe Santa will help me out with that in a few months. If the picture quality improves and stops looking like a cave drawing you'll know why.

The Loaded comes with an aluminum match grade trigger and a claimed 5-6 lb pull. The trigger pull feels good when handling the pistol at the local gun store but seems a little heavy when compared side by side against other M1911's or when actually on the firing line.
I don't think that this gun has a horrible trigger. I wouldn't even say that it's bad. I just believe that it could be better than it is.
Perhaps the expectations are a little high when buying a Springfield or maybe I just spend too much time comparing this pistol to a gun that costs $300 more.
I plan on getting a trigger job in the near future. I usually don't do anything to my handguns besides shooting and cleaning them.
Draw your own conclusions.

The slide has a nice looking polished finish. The slide serrations are well done and provide an easy gripping surface. I've talked about it before. Not all manufacturers do a good job on the serrations. There are slide serrations at the front and rear of the slide. I'll probably never use the ones at the muzzle end but they look nice and some might like them.
The slide has a combination of polished and matte stainless surfaces that help make this such a beautiful gun. Springfield Armory has just enough information engraved on the pistol to look tasteful without going Ruger tends to do.
There is a lowered and flared ejection port and a loaded chamber indicator. This seems to be almost standard on most M1911's today unless you go with some kind of GI model. It's still worth mentioning though.

It's a full sized M1911 chambered for 9mm. Recoil is a joke. The gun kicks just enough to make it interesting. I don't believe that anyone would have a problem with it and this would be an easy gun for a novice to learn on.  The narrow frame would obviously be a benefit for those with small hands.

There's tons of videos on YouTube on how to take this class of pistol apart. There's manuals available. I won't go into a lot of detail.
The only thing that's different about this handgun is that it has a full length two piece guide rod. A 5/32 hex wrench is needed to take the guide rod apart before taking the gun down. That's a bit different from what I'm used to.
Standard, full length, two piece guide rods... I don't really care. As long as the gun works OK I'm not picky about what is used.
Some believe that the standard length guide rod is what should always be in a M1911. I can see some people wanting to go with the original design and I like the simplicity.
I do however wonder why most other modern handgun designs utilize a full length rod. I wonder what the competition shooters use? They have high round counts and fractions of a second can make or break their scores. What do they trust more? If I find some relevant information I'll come back and edit it in.

This Springfield comes with an ambidextrous safety. It's easily engaged and disengaged while remaining stiff enough that it should not accidently be taken off.  I don't have to shift my grip in order to operate the safety. I doubt that anyone will.
As a right handed shooter I don't really carry about ambi safeties but I'll take it if it's offered.
The grip safety works like you would expect on a M1911. No problems have been had using it weak handed and I don't notice it. That's as it should be.
I'm ambivalent about grip safeties. I know that some hate them in general but accept grip safeties on M1911's because of the gun's long history. I don't care if they're on a M1911 or a more modern design. As long as they work and aren't noticed then I'm fine with them.
The Loaded comes with an ILS safety in the mainspring housing. I've said before that I'm not a fan of having key locks built into handguns. You won't have your key handy if your gun is ever needed. Your fine motor skills will be shot if you ever have to unlock the weapon for self defense. Believe me, it's a little key and a tiny little lock. A little adrenalin and you'll find yourself fumbling with this system.
Then there's the 600lb gorilla in the room, if there's a key then a kid WILL find it.
Find a different locking method or better yet, get a safe if the gun needs to be secured.
The ILS no doubt satisfies the requirements of some of our nanny states and the company's lawyers.

Springfield Armory was good enough to replace the ILS with a standard mainspring housing during the second return.
BTW, I suspect that the ILS had something to do with the malfunctions previously plaguing this pistol. I reported my thoughts on it to customer service but nothing was covered about a ILS problem on the invoice. I guess replacing the mainspring housing covered that issue in regards to record keeping.
Sometimes it felt like the slide was dragging or hanging up when I would chamber a round. I would engage and disengage the ILS. The slide would then seem to move a bit easier and I would get a few more rounds off before a malfunction. Guess where the key was when I needed it on one range trip? At home.
So I improvised with a couple of staples and a multi tool. It took about 2 minutes to defeat the lock.

Everything is what you would expect from a M1911. The trigger pull is short and has almost no take up. The pull is a little heavier than expected.
There is a flat mainspring housing and a beaver tail grip safety. Slide bite will not be an issue with this gun.
The reach to the trigger is good. Only those with lilliputian sized hands will have trouble reaching the trigger.
The slide locks open on EVERY empty magazine. I find myself having to change my grip in order to engage or depress the slide stop. That's expected.
The magazine release is just about perfect. It's easy to reach without sitting out so high that it will be accidentally depressed. I do need to slightly shift my grip to use it but that's normal for me when shooting M1911's.
There is a slight bevel in the magazine well and mags drop free easily.
As with the slide, there is a combination of polished and matte stainless surfaces that contribute to the good looks of this pistol.
The grip panels are made from Cocobolo Hardwood and have the Springfield Armory logo pressed (?) into them. I love the looks of the grips. The checkering is good and I have nothing bad to say about them. They're definitely staying on.

Ah yes, the mighty Drudge Report in the background

This pistol comes with two Springfield Armory nine round magazines. They appear very well made and most of my shooting has been done with them since the last return. There's been no problems with the factory mags or the Kimber magazines that I've used.
Kimber magazine on top

The 9mm magazines were originally made for the .38 Super round (So sayeth the internet). As the 9mm is a shorter bullet something must be done to make up for the extra room in the magazine.
The SA magazines (Metalform?) have a rib that runs down the front of the mag. This helps to push the round further back into the magazine and allows a little more of the feed lips to engage the bullet.
The Kimber mags have a spacer that runs down the back of the magazine and this pushes the bullet a bit further forward in the feed lips.
Both methods seem to work well and I have no problems with either version. On several occasions I have however seen the top bullet come partially out of the feed lips when slamming a magazine home. This has happened a few times with the Kimber mags but not with Springfield's.
Springfield mag on the bottom
Something to think about.

Give this a look. It's a much better write up on the 9mm mags than I can do and well worth the time

The Manual:
I hate to use the work mediocre but it is what it is. It seems to be intended as a one size fits all kind of manual. I'm not pulling it back out to look at it but I know that it covers several different handguns. At least keep the pistols in the same size category as there can be a bit of difference between full sized M1911's and the 3" models.

Box O Goodies:
Like most of Springfield's handguns, the Loaded comes in a large black plastic case. Included with the firearm are 2 magazines, a holster, magazine pouch and a small bag containing the ILS keys and a couple of Allen wrenches. The usual literature is also present.
The case is easily large enough to use for a laptop case if you remove the middle layer of foam padding. Of course the very prominent Springfield Armory logo is on the outside. I suppose in some environments the thought of a gun case in public (With a possible gun inside?) may cause hissy fits and pants wetting. With that said, I doubt that I would use the case for a laptop in a professional or college setting.
The paddle holster is pretty decent overall but I doubt that I would pay $34 for it. I'd probably add a few dollars and get something a bit better.  This kydex holster is right hand only and will not work with weapon lights. It is adjustable for tension and an Allen wrench is included. The holster is fine for general use but I didn't like it when trying it out in a match. I don't like the forward cant and would prefer it to be more vertical. It's not a fast holster but I think that it would work just fine for normal use.

The magazine pouch holds two mags and has a rail down both sides. A weapon light can be carried on these rails.  Tension can be adjusted with the supplied Allen wrench and while I'd prefer the magazines to be carried more vertically I really don't have any complaints about the pouch. It retails for $24 on the Springfield website.

I like the way that SA puts these sets together. You get everything that you need at once (Other than ammo and a cleaning kit) and the gear is pretty good. The holster and magazine pouch may not be my first choice but I use them both and I think that a lot of people will appreciate having everything supplied at the time of purchase.
Well... everyone except for the wrong handed people that are stuck with a right handed holster.

Nearing The End:
I've been thinking about this review for a while. It was put off several times and I've gone back and edited this again and again (And the spelling and grammar errors are still there!).  I had some bad experiences with this gun when it was brand new but Springfield seems to have resolved the reliability problems. Time will tell.

I'm coming around and starting to like this gun after my initial disgust with the Loaded. I suspect that after a few hundred more rounds and a trigger job I'll be very happy with this handgun.
So would I buy it again?


This is the second M1911 that I've bought from Springfield that was unreliable and needed two trips back to the factory. A lot of years passed between the purchasing of the two guns but the quality level (Or lack thereof) remained the same.
No, there won't be a third one. My apologies to the Springfield fans and to the good people that worked to finally make this handgun right.  I'm sure that others have had better luck but If I send any more money to SA it will be for yet another XDM.

So I'll keep the gun, put a little more money into and no doubt enjoy it. When it comes time to replace it or add to the collection, I'll buy from someone that has a track record of giving me a working gun right out of the box.

In conclusion, this gun started out as a very expensive piece of junk. Springfield seems to have fixed it and they deserve praise for their customer service.  The Loaded appears to be a pretty decent gun overall but could be a little better.

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