First Look: Springfield Armory EMP 4″ Lightweight Champion 9mm Pistol
Though Springfield Armory is best known these days for its polymer frame handguns, the XD, XDS, XDM, XDE, and probably a few others I’m forgetting, it’s also a producer of traditional metal frame guns with external hammers and thumb safeties. I’m told they have introduced one of their metal frame pistols in a caliber called “10mm,” which is, coincidentally, the size of the wrench I can never find when I’m working on anything.
I was sent something a little smaller, a Springfield EMP4 Lightweight Champion in 9mm. When I first looked at the pistol, I didn’t find myself appreciating the EMP4’s slide to grip ratio. I felt the handgun would look better if it had a 5” barrel with correspondingly longer slide, and maybe also if they scaled the whole thing up and chambered it in some .42-.48 caliber pistol cartridge. We might have to give up some magazine capacity in the process, but I bet it would be a pretty popular pistol.
This Springfield EMP has a 4” barrel and what appears to be a full-size grip containing a single stack magazine which holds 10 rounds of 9mm. This puts it at a disadvantage compared to your average double stack pistol with a 4” barrel – say, a Glock 19 – which holds more ammunition in a shorter grip.
The EMP4, however, has one powerful advantage: it’s thin. The Glock 19 is not a pistol anyone would call svelte, but despite the EMP4’s grip length, it could easily be described as a slim handgun. Though it would print less if the grip was shorter, the EM4 is surprisingly concealable as-is.
I’m torn on the EMP4 after several range trips with the pistol. It’s certainly a well-made pistol, and it’s been perfectly reliable (albeit with a small round count so far) with a variety of ammunition that sometimes confounds other pistols, including frangible and JHP ammo. The sights are of good quality and design; the front fiber optic does a good job of catching my eye both before a shot and in between shots. The trigger is better than most pistols in the price range. The pistol shoots to point of aim and I can make small groups with it if I try.
Trying, however, requires slightly more effort than I’d originally anticipated. I was a little surprised that, despite its full-size frame and longer slide than the standard EMP, this EMP4 model was… Well, it isn’t snappy, but it isn’t as low recoil as I was expecting. That said, it does have an aluminum frame, and certainly exhibits lower recoil than a similarly sized and weighted .45 caliber pistol. However, if you’re picking up an EMP4 expecting it to have the same level of recoil as a truly full-size steel frame 9mm pistol, you’re going to be surprised.
Is this a fair criticism? I’m not sure yet. It’s meant as a carry pistol, not a range toy or competition gun, and in that sense it’s far more controllable and easier to shoot than most pistols of this type. But it’s also taller and longer than many small to midsize carry guns, and at 31 ounces unloaded it’s lightweight only in comparison with steel pistols. I’ll have to shoot it more to see how much these size and weight increases are offset by an increase in shootability. Look for our full Slickguns Review of the Springfield EMP4 soon.
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