Review: Springfield Armory Champion Operator 1911

   06.06.16

Review: Springfield Armory Champion Operator 1911

My favorite handgun design is the 1911, and my favorite 1911 variant is the Commander. Not necessarily the Colt branded Commander, but 1911 models that copy the Commander size: a full-sized 1911 frame with a barrel length of 4 to 4.5 inches. And the Commander-sized pistol we’re looking at today is the Springfield Armory Champion Operator 1911.

First, some specs:

  • Frame: forged aluminum with accessory rail, black anodized
  • Slide: forged steel with black Armory Kote finish
  • Height: 5.5″
  • Length: 7.6″
  • Weight: 31 ounces empty
  • Caliber: 45 ACP
  • Grips: Cross Cannon™ double diamond cocobolo
  • Barrel: 4″ lightweight, no bushing
  • Sights: 3-dot combat style night sights (tritium)
  • Trigger: aluminum match grade
  • Trigger pull: Advertised 5 to 6 pounds (mine measured 4.5 pounds)
  • Magazines: 2 7-round mags included
  • Full length guide rod
  • Dual recoil springs
  • Also includes a nice case, holster, 2-mag magazine pouch, cleaning brush, and instruction booklet.
  • Ambi thumb safety
  • Flat checkered mainspring housing
  • Skeletonized combat hammer
  • MSRP: $1050.00

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The barrel is match-grade and is fully ramped/supported and polished for sure feeding of any ammo. The gun balances nicely in my hand, too.

The only thing I did to my sample was add a strip of skateboard friction tape to the front strap. I do this on most 1911s, just to improve the grip in any kind of weather.

About the full-length guide rod, personally, I could live without it as it makes takedown a lot of work. You have to lock the slide open, attach a little plastic thing to the guide rod, slowly release the slide and take it off the gun, and then remove the guide rod. I’d rather see a short guide rod and plug.

The light/laser rail readily accepts any accessory designed to fit on a Picatinny rail, and this is another feature I could do without. I don’t like mounting things under the frames of my handguns. Plus, many 1911 holsters won’t accept one with a Picatinny rail. This gun does come with a pretty decent poly holster that fits it, though.

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I used to like an ambidextrous safety feature on a 1911, but I’ve outgrown that. I find that a single-side safety takes care of my needs, and when carrying an ambi-safety 1911, I find that the safety often gets switched off when I bump against something hard. But it’s there on this pistol, for better or worse.

My Champion Operator sample was fitted expertly. There was no looseness between the frame/slide/barrel and the slide moved smoothly on the frame rails. The manual safety snicked on/off with authority, and the grip safety released about 1/3 of the way down as you depressed it. Just right.

The Champion has a slightly beveled magazine well for faster and easier magazine changes. I’d like to see a slightly extended magazine release on this pistol, but that’s something I can change later on.

For once I had a great selection of ammo on hand for testing:

  • Black Hills 200 grain non-jacketed SWC
  • Black Hills 230 grain FMJ
  • Buffalo Bore 160 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP low recoil standard pressure
  • Buffalo Bore 160 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P
  • Buffalo Bore 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP low recoil standard pressure
  • Buffalo Bore 185 grain Barnes all-copper TAC-XP +P
  • Buffalo Bore 185 grain JHP +P
  • Buffalo Bore 200 grain JHP +P
  • Buffalo Bore 230 grain FMJ FN +P
  • Winchester 230 grain FMJ

In all, I fired more than 350 rounds over several shooting sessions. I had zero malfunctions of any type during testing. I was a bit concerned about the Buffalo Bore 160 grain Barnes all-copper low recoil standard pressure round, but the gun functioned just fine.

I used a variety of magazines in the Champion Operator, and all of them worked well.

I did my accuracy testing at 25 yards, using a rolled-up sleeping bag on the hood of my SUV for a rest. This Operator is a pretty consistent shooter in the accuracy department. Most loads stayed within 3 inches if I did my part. I had some flyers that opened up some of my groups to 6 inches–my bad!

The clear winner in the accuracy department was the Black Hills 200 grain SWC. This load is designed for target shooting and it was a pleasure to shoot. Next in line for accuracy was Buffalo Bore 160 grain Barnes TAX-XP low recoil standard pressure. Both of these rounds were hovering slightly over the 2-inch mark.

If you’re in the market for a new 1911 (and who isn’t?), take a close look at the Springfield Armory Champion Operator 1911. It might just have the features you’re looking for, and a few more.

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