Accuracy can be expensive. This keeps quite a few young people and interested shooters from investing in more expensive target-grade handguns. An affordable, accurate, 1911 handgun suitable for many forms of competition fills an important niche—if it can be done reasonably. Springfield recognized the market, and the need, and gave us the affordable, highly accurate Range Officer handgun.
After owning the Springfield Tactical Response Pistol and the Springfield Loaded Model Target, I can attest these handguns are indeed accurate, reliable, made of good materials and worth every penny you spend. You could spend more money and not obtain an appreciably better handgun. They cannot be faulted on performance—if you have the tariff.
The Range Officer is more like a handgun I have little experience with: the Springfield Trophy Match. My friend Nelson owns one and tells me is it a great pistol. The subject of this review is by repute based upon the Trophy Match.
Features of the Range Officer .45 ACP Pistol
You may spend money for an ambidextrous safety, beavertail grip safety and other features, and the only feature that enhances accuracy is a properly fitted match grade barrel and barrel bushing. The Range Officer exhibits excellent fit of the barrel and the barrel bushing. The barrel lugs lock properly into the slide and the barrel bushing is nice and tight. The Range Officer does not feature a foot-deep blue finish or stainless construction, nor does it have a checkered front strap. However, it features the aforementioned match grade barrel and excellent slide to frame fit.
This isn’t an inexpensive 1911, it is a 1911 that gives you the most performance possible for the price. The slide window is generous with the modern scalloped option that helps with positive ejection and administrative handling. The pistol features a lightweight trigger, beavertail grip safety and combat-style hammer. This light hammer should make for fast lock time. The safety is sensibly extended but not the gas pedal type. The Range Officer doesn’t come with forward cocking serrations. Forward cocking serrations are seldom used and are a tactical feature. The Range Officer could be tactical, and it is designed as a target pistol.
I mentioned the well-fitted barrel. The slide-to-frame fit is also excellent, with almost no vertical play. According to the RCBS registering trigger pull gauge, the trigger breaks at a smooth four pounds even. I think this is an ideal weight for all around use. There are few shooters who can take advantage of a trigger lighter than four pounds. (Individual handguns may vary, after all the 1911 requires some hand fitting.)
The 1911 features a straight-to-the-rear trigger compression and a fast trigger reset. The Springfield safety lock is present; which is a foolproof lock. It is located in the mainspring housing. A special key is turned, and a block rotates to prevent compression of the hammer spring. The Integral Locking System is a neat trick, which is mandated in some jurisdictions. Simple and impossible to activate as the pistol is fired, this is a laudable answer to problems both perceived and real.
The Springfield does not use a firing pin block or drop safety. The firing pin is a lightweight design and the firing pin spring is an extra power type. This prevents the firing pin from taking a run forward if the pistol is dropped. If you order spare parts, be certain you order a Springfield-specific firing pin.
The sights are similar to the legendary Bomar adjustable target sights. With Bomar now a memory, it is good to see another maker crafting first class adjustable sights. You simply have to purchase the Springfield Range Officer or Loaded Model Target to obtain them. My oldest son Alan is the finest shot I know; his personal handgun is the Springfield Loaded Model Target and he is well pleased with this handgun. The Range Officer uses the same sights. The sight outline is ideal for forming a precise sight picture free from shadow or glare.
The cocobolo grips are attractive and offer good adhesion. They are held in place by Torx head screws. The mainspring housing is nicely checkered. There is no front strap checkering. You can add the Wilson Combat front grip foil may be added later date if desired. As for my preferences, mainspring housing and grips offer sufficient abrasion for a good purchase on the handgun.
There is a lot of precision machine work evident in the Range Officer, including the dovetail for the sights, scalloped ejection port and frame cut for the beavertail grip safety. Springfield has done a good job in keeping costs down in this handgun.
Test Firing the Range Officer .45 ACP Pistol
The pistol was field stripped and examined, then lubricated before firing. The recoil spring is a full power unit so if you intend to fire light target loads be certain to order the Wilson Combat Spring Caddy. With rates from 22 to 10 pounds—the latter for powder puff loads- the Spring Caddy is a great option when you’re interested in target shooting and handloading.
I elected to test fire the piece with target loads, hardball and a good personal defense load. I envisioned the Range Officer as a go anywhere do anything pistol, not a handgun destined only for the target range and light loads. The pistol in some ways harkened back to the pre war National Match pistols. These were service grade handguns often carried by hard-bitten cops and outdoorsmen.
They were not delicate target guns and neither is the Springfield Range Officer. The handgun was well lubricated and taken to the firing range along with an eclectic selection of ammunition and a half-dozen Wilson Combat ETM Magazines. The supplied plastic magazine carrier and holster are OK for range use. They hold the gun and allow you to get the feel of drawing and using the .45, but something of a higher order would be needed for daily carry or critical use.
Initial testing was performed with a handload using the Oregon Trail 200-grain SWC and a modest charge of Titegroup Powder for 870 fps. This load has proven brilliantly accurate in a number of 1911 handguns. For a heavier load, duplicating military ‘Hardball’, the Sierra Bullets 230-grain FMJ was used over enough Titegroup for 790 fps. These loads were put up in new Starline Brass.
As may be expected there was a break-in period. During firing the first 50 cartridges, the slide did not completely lock into battery with every shot. This occurred perhaps 10 times during the first few magazines. This disappeared after this round count—SOP with a well-fitted target grade 1911. Frankly, we were pleased to see this break in period as it signified a well-fitted pistol. During bench rest testing, the 200-grain handload averaged five-shot groups of about 2.0 inches, which was encouraging. The 230-grain load gave average results for hardball in a tuned target gun, about 2.5 inches.
Next, I moved to a loading that has been a bit difficult to find during the previous ammunition crisis and current shortage. The Federal 230-grain MATCH is legendary for quality control and accuracy. A number of shots were fired from a solid bench rest to confirm the pistols accuracy potential. We were gratified to turn in an average of 2.0 inches for three, 5-shot groups including one exceptional grouping of five shots inside of 1.7 inches. This dog will run. This is as good as the author may fire any handgun from the bench.
Finally, I fired a number of the Speer 200-grain Gold Dot +P loads. +P loads are sometimes not the most accurate, other times they are brilliantly accurate. The use of a +P load is sometimes indicated for personal defense. When firing these loadings from a 40-ounce handgun, the weight is a big advantage in firing off hand. Recoil is there but not excessive. The Gold Dot +P load exhibited an average of 2.2 inches for a 5-shot group.
There have been no malfunctions of any type when firing these full power and +P loadings. The Range Officer gets a clean bill of health, and an enthusiastic recommendation. This is a first-class target gun with much to recommend.
Specifications and Features
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Action: Recoil-operated, single-action, center-fire semi-automatic pistol
- Frame: Hammer-forged 4140 steel
- Barrel: Stainless steel
- Rifling: Six-groove, 1:16″ LH twist
- Magazine: Blued steel detachable box, seven rounds
- Sights: Dovetailed, adjustable Bo-Mar-style post-and-notch
- Trigger Pull: Single-action; 4 pounds
- Stocks: Cocobolo
- Overall Length: 8½”
- Width: 15⁄16″
- Height: 5.5″
- Weight: 2 lbs., 8 ozs.
- Accessories: Extra magazine, lock, owner’s manual and plastic holster