There’s a bit of a paradox with ultra-compact concealed carry pistols. As they get smaller and lighter, handling and reliable function become more of a problem. Years ago, the engineers at Springfield Armory solved this challenge with a redesign of the iconic 1911 to make a reliable compact 9mm version. After design and implementation of 18 patented components, they launched the 1911 EMP series. Since that time, it’s earned a reputation as one of the best compact 9mm pistols available. Now, the Springfield Armory folks have taken the downsizing of single-action pistols to a new level with their recently released 911 handgun. I like the play on words. The 911 name indicates that you are always the first responder. I also have to wonder if there’s some meaning behind the idea of 1911 minus one thousand to indicate a small pistol. Who knows?

springfield armory 911 safety release
The safety levers are on both sides of the pistol, so it’s ready to go for right and left-handed users.photo by Tom McHale

A 1911, Sort Of

While the 911 is not a classic 1911 shrunk to fractional proportions, it does share some of the attributes that make the 1911 design so timeless. It’s a single-action pistol, meaning the trigger press does one thing only—it releases the hammer. The significance of that is a consistent single-action trigger press for every shot, unlike the first and second shot transition you’ll find on a DA/SA pistol.

Also, like a 1911 pistol, there’s a frame-mounted safety lever. Move it down with your firing hand thumb, and it clicks into the ready-to-fire position, meaning the gun can and should be carried cocked and locked.

The 911 has identical safety levers on both sides so right off the bat it’s ready for right and left-handed users or transitions to your alternate hand. The 911 also field strips like a 1911. Move the slide back to the designated spot, and the slide release lever comes out of the frame, releasing the barrel and allowing you to remove the slide from the frame.

springfield armory 911 slide release
The 1911 takedown procedure for cleaning and maintenance is similar to that of a 1911 pistol. The slide release lever pulls out of the frame, disconnecting the barrel.photo by Tom McHale

Frame, Slide and Grips

The 911 is all metal. The frame is 7075 T6 Anodized Hard Coat Aluminum with a flat black appearance. You’ll find an interesting texture pattern on the front and rear of the grip itself. Springfield Armory calls it Octo-Grip. It’s got horizontal cuts, but with a rounded shape on each so there are no sharp edges.

The frame also has a beavertail that prevents the hammer from impacting the web of your hand. I have large hands and didn’t experience any contact between the hammer and my skin, so the beavertail did its job.

The 1911: America’s Greatest Pistol
It was carried by American troops for over a century. Untold numbers of civilians own one. Why is the 1911 the greatest pistol in U.S. history?
The 1911: America’s Greatest PistolCourtesy Rock Island Arsenal

The slide is steel with either a black Nitride or brushed stainless finish, depending on which model you order. The slide has deep chevron cuts on the rear to provide a slip-free grip for loading and unloading operations. The barrel is stainless and 2.7 inches in length.

The grips are G10, a nearly indestructible material. They’re aggressively textured and look pretty cool as well with a black and gray pattern on the stainless model. The black Nitride version of the 911 has the same grips, only colored in a black and green pattern.

springfield armory 911 front sight
The standard front sight has a Tritium night sight insert surrounded by a larger photo-luminescent ring for improved visibility in transitional light situations.photo by Tom McHale

Sights

One of the reasons that the 911 costs a little more than you might expect is the quality sights it comes with. Rather than using inexpensive white dot or fiber-optic tubes, the company decided to equip the 911 for concealed carry right off the bat. Both front and rear “dots” feature Tritium inserts, so they’ll glow green in dark conditions.

On the front sight, the Tritium center is surrounded by a larger green Pro-Glo luminescent ring. Here’s why that’s important. The larger circle gives your eye an easier target to acquire in daylight conditions. It also absorbs ambient light and glows bright green for a period of time.

If you transition from daylight to darker conditions, like when entering a room or building, you’ll have a transitional “glow” to take you from daylight sights to night sight use. Think of the luminescent ring as being there to cover those transitional light situations.

springfield armory 911 flush magazine
The 1911 takedown procedure for cleaning and maintenance is similar to that of a 1911 pistol. The slide release lever pulls out of the frame, disconnecting the barrel.photo by Tom McHale

Magazines

The 911 comes with two magazines. The flat base is ideal for ultra concealment as it’s flush with the base of the grip, and it holds six rounds. With this magazine installed, I could comfortably fit my middle and ring fingers on the grip and tuck my pinkie underneath.

With the seven-round extended grip installed, I was able to get a proper grip with all fingers.

Shooting

We did all of our range shooting using higher-power, self-defense ammunition, so handling and recoil were about as much as you would experience with this small pistol. Here’s the bottom line. The 911 is shockingly comfortable to shoot.

Compact pistols can be less fun than cavity day at the dentist, but this one was actually a blast to shoot—a lot—no sting or sharp muzzle flip; no sore fingers or abrasions from the inside of the trigger guard. It was surprisingly easy to handle, even with normally snappy defensive ammo.

I didn’t do formal accuracy testing as that seemed a bit silly with a 2.7-inch barrel pocket gun. However, my range buddy and I went to town on steel plate racks from five to ten-yard distances. For me, this pistol shot right through the front sight dot, so I found it intuitive to aim and I had no trouble engaging plates at a fast pace.

As a subjective observation, I will say that I found it much, much easier to hit those six-inch plates with the 911 than with other compact polymer pocket pistols. The combination of the feel, easy shooting, manageable trigger, and great sights made it easy, and I was confident in my ability to get hits on target. I’ve had to work a lot harder on accuracy with lesser pocket pistols.

The author found the pistol easy to handle, even with normally snappy defensive ammo.
The author found the pistol easy to handle, even with normally snappy defensive ammo.photo by Tom McHale

Function

Getting an ultra-compact pistol to function reliably is difficult for a whole slew of reasons. At a high level, a semi-automatic pistol relies on a careful balance between weight, spring pressure, shooter technique, ammunition energy, and timing down to the millisecond. There’s less gun surface area to support, so it’s harder to provide a good platform on which recoil can operate.

Everything is smaller and therefore more finicky and less forgiving. With more overall sensitivity, variances in bullet weight and velocity of different ammunition types can also throw a wrench in the works.

If any factors are the slightest bit out of balance, the recoil process of extracting a spent cartridge case, ejecting it out of the port, cocking the pistol, stripping a new cartridge from the magazine, and loading it into the chamber will break down.

Most commonly, the empty case will get stuck while ejecting and cause a stoppage.

Forcing a Failure

The normal “fix” recommended by uber-compact pistol manufacturers is to use a rock-solid grip when firing. That gives every mechanical advantage to the pistol. However, in a self-defense situation, assuming a perfect isosceles stance with rigid hands and arms isn’t always possible. That’s why I like to test pistols with a deliberate flimsy grip, just to see how forgiving they are.

Two of us shot several mags of Federal HST and Sig Sauer V-Crown defensive ammo using the “two-finger” non-hold method. In other words, we supported the pistol with thumb and middle finger and virtually no pressure. It was actually challenging to press the trigger with such a ridiculous technique, but we persevered. Guess what? The 911 functioned like a champ anyway. With all my efforts to make it fail, I only was able to induce one malfunction on purpose. Consider me impressed.

Obviously, you’re not going to use this technique. However, you might find yourself shooting from your weak hand or from an awkward position. It’s good to know whether your pistol will run or not if you have to use it with less than perfect support.

Velocity

Generally speaking, the smaller the gun, the shorter the barrel. Less barrel length (up to a point) means less velocity. We wanted to see how ammo performed from the 911’s 2.7-inch barrel so we set up a chronograph 15 feet down range and measured velocity. Here’s what we found:

Velocity Tests

Factory Rated Velocity (fps) Actual Velocity (fps)
Federal HST .380 ACP 99 grain 1,030 926.4
Sig Sauer V-Crown .380 ACP 90 grain 980 969.5
Inceptor ARX .380 ACP 56 grain 1,260 1,282.7

Don’t read too much into variances between factory and measured velocity. You never really know whether the factory numbers come from testing with a longer (faster) test barrel or an actual compact gun common for the caliber in question.

The 911 weighs in at 12.6 oz.
The 911 weighs in at 12.6 ounces.photo by Tom McHale

Models

There are four different models available in the 911 series, or more accurately, two styles, each with two finish choices.

PG9109 Black Nitride Slide
MSRP: $599.00

PG9109S Brushed Stainless Steel Slide
MSRP: $599.00

PG9109VG Black Nitride Slide with Viridian Green Grip Laser
MSRP: $789.00

PG9109SVG Brushed Stainless Steel Slide with Viridian Green Grip Laser
MSRP: $789.00

The Bottom Line

I really like this little pistol. In fact, this family is ordering two of them - one for me and the other for my wife. The 911 redefines the concept of a pocket pistol.

Much flatter than a snubbie revolver, it even holds an extra round or two in comparison. While the 911 stands on its own just fine, it’ll also make a great backup gun for either a pocket or ankle holster.

Can you buy a polymer pocket model for less money? Yep, but like the satisfying click of a closing door on a fine automobile, the quality is apparent and well worth the extra bucks.

Springfield Armory 911 in .380 ACP Specifications

  • Caliber: .380 ACP
  • Length: 5.5"
  • Height: 3.9"
  • Weight: 12.6 oz
  • Barrel: 2.7" 416R Stainless Steel, Black Nitride Finish, 1:16 Twist
  • Slide: 416 Black Nitride, Loaded Chamber Indicator
  • Recoil System: Full-Length Guide Rod w/ Flat Wire Spring