Springfield Loaded Model and Lightweight Loaded Model

By Robert K. Campbell

There is no more recognizable handgun in the world than the 1911 pistol. While even the best eye may not always detect the maker of the particular 1911, the unmistakable image of Old Slabsides is a silhouette one isn’t likely to mistake for any other. Whether known as the Army .45 or simply ‘1911’ the brainchild of John Moses Browning served admirably in the last century and is well on its way to serving in the young arms of our soldiers in this century. While I hold the 1911 in great respect, we are not going to the same church if you believe all 1911 handguns are created equal. Some are excellent examples of the gunmaker’s art and others are ironmongery. Some are simply inexpensive – dare we say cheap – copies for entertainment value. But the 1911 was designed to be a fight stopper and a reliable fighting mans gun. It is the pistol’s true to the original premise that is most interesting. The 1911 may be a passing fair target pistol and can be suitable for concealed carry but the bottom line is reliability. The 1911 wasn’t perfect; just very good and while ironmongery exists there are good solid 1911s with significant improvements that are well worth your time and money.

Springfield Armory was founded in 1974 and quickly gained respect for serviceable workmanlike firearms. The Springfield 1911 quickly offered Colt real competition. Unlike the problematical Spanish pistols, the Springfield was well made of good material with attention to detail in the product. And unlike the Randall and a few other 1911s produced around the same time, the Springfield was in the game for the long run. Springfield made a home run with the original 1011A1 and then began to offer upgraded versions. Some of the options were as simple as rubber grips and high visibility sights similar to the King’s Hardballer. As time went on market pressure from other makers resulted in a competition to produce a handgun with good features at a fair price. The result was the Springfield Loaded Model. The Loaded Model typically features Novak Lo Mount sights, forward cocking serrations, a scalloped ejection port, wood grips in contrast to the GI version’s plastic grips, a skeletonized hammer, a lightweight aluminum trigger, ambidextrous slide lock safety and a beavertail grip safety. The pistol also features a full length guide rod. The pistol is indeed loaded with features. These features would have set the buyer back perhaps a thousand dollars at the custom shop a generation ago but today complete pistols with this combination of features may be found around the thousand dollar mark. While the Loaded Model is an attractive pistol, the features make sense. Additions to a handgun such as a beavertail safety do not add up to greater accuracy – but they are good to have. The only thing that makes a pistol more accurate is superior barrel fitting. In most cases the Loaded Model is well fitted in the barrel locking lugs and barrel bushing.

The pistol features a titanium firing pin. This lightweight firing pin and extra strength firing pin spring are a counter to the firing pin blocks of other makes. The lightweight firing pin eliminates the hazard of a standard firing pin taking a run forward if the pistol is dropped on its muzzle. This simple fix eliminates any chance of a firing pin block interfering with the pistol’s action. The dual safety levers are a must have for left handed shooters and desirable for anyone that may be in the tactical situation of firing with the non dominant hand. The safety levers are not competition type gas pedal safety levers but they offer good leverage. The proper fit and plunger tube tension is demonstrable as the safety indexes with a solid audible click. The beavertail grip safety with memory groove serves several purposes. The beavertail slightly lowers the already low bore axis of the 1911 resulting in less leverage for the muzzle to rise in recoil. The beavertail funnels the hand into the proper firing grip on the draw. Those of us that use the thumbs forward grip sometimes allow the palm to rise off of the grip safety when firing. The Springfield beavertail safety solves this problem. The trigger is smooth and crisp with little take up until you meet a firm compression of five pounds clean on most Springfield 1911 handguns. The scalloped ejection port is more than a cosmetic change. The original narrow slide window of the 1911 is fine for ejecting spent cases. When performing administrative inspection or unloaded the chamber a full length cartridge of 1.250 inches is more difficult to eject than the .900 inch spent case. The scalloped ejection port solves this problem and makes for more reliable ejection. For the same reason it is not a good idea to install the popular synthetic washers known as shock buffs on a service pistol. While they seem to inhibit wear from momentum to an extent, the shock buff also prevents racking the slide fully to the rear enough to eject a loaded round. Finally the Novak Lo Mount sights are an advantage in rapidly acquiring the sight picture. The sights on the authors personal LW Loaded Model feature tritium inserts. Self luminous iron sights feature tubes shock mounted into the sights with rubber washers as buffers. These sights offer a comforting green cat eye glow in dim light.

The Loaded Model is a good pistol offering a credible all around defense target and service handgun at a fair price. The Loaded Model is a little heavier than the 1911A1 largely due to the added features. The ambidextrous safety, beavertail safety and full length guide rod add a few ounces to the equation. This is a heavy handgun for concealed carry. Springfield answered the problem of increased weight with a novel pistol, a full size five inch barrel 1911 with an aluminum frame. The author’s favorite Springfield is the light weight Loaded Model. The story of aluminum frame 1911 handguns began in the late 1940s when World War Two aircraft grade aluminum technology was adapted to handgun frames. The Colt Commander features an aluminum frame and a slide and barrel 3/4 inch shorter than the Government Model. While the aluminum frame is generally durable in the sense that it will withstand thousands of rounds of shooting, there are serious concerns. Heavy handed disassembly such as prying the slide lock out during routine strip downs for maintenance can ruin the frame. Even snapping the slide lock into place too aggressively during reassembly can damage a frame. But worst of all is improper throating or polishing of the feed ramp in order to guarantee the feeding of hollow point bullets. The 1911 needs a 1/32 inch gap between the two parts of the feed ramp for proper feeding. Most pistols feed well if the feed ramp is properly dimensioned and the magazine well straight in the frame. Polishing the feed ramp with a Dremel can damage or remove anodizing of the aluminum frame. Worse, wide mouth hollow point bullets then began to gouge feed ramp resulting in a ruined frame.

Springfield’s answer is a ramped barrel that eliminates the two piece feed ramp. There are numerous advantages including insuring feed reliability, protecting the aluminum frame from damage and also affording better support of the case head. While the .45 ACP does not need +P loads or heavy handloads for wound potential, these loads are popular and the ramped barrel is an added safety measure. The barrel is well fitted. In my experience, match grade barrels often shoot to a lower point of aim and this is true of the LW Loaded Model as tested. The ramped barrel is a perfect match for an aluminum frame. This is a full length five inch barrel and slide coupled with an aluminum frame that retains the accuracy, feel and point of the Government length slide and barrel while offering a significant weight savings. The LW Loaded Model tips the scales at thirty three ounces, ten ounces less than the steel frame Loaded Model. This is a significant weight savings in day to day carry. For the majority of the time this pistol has been in service the handgun has been carried in an inside the waistband holster. The versatility of the handgun is evident in the wide range of holsters the author has deployed with this handgun. Presently the LHS kydex holster is in use as a belt holster, primarily for range use and for use under a long covering garment. The (Lhsholsters.com) Falcon holster has many advantages, including the forming of the body from .6 inch kydex. This material is impervious to oil, water or solvents. The draw is sharp; brilliantly so. This holster also features adjustable draw angle. Retention is excellent. The height and cant are adjustable but you cannot go wrong with the FBI tilt illustrated. This holster also features a retention adjustment screw – a rarity among kydex holsters.

Another holster that has been in use with the LWLM for some time is the Blocker ST 17 (tedblockerholsters.com). This holster is for inside the trousers carry. With the holster worn inside the pants, even a relatively long and heavy pistol may be concealed by a modest length covering garment. Even a T shirt is appropriate for concealed carry with the IWB holster. This holster features a strong J hook that takes a bite out of the belt, securely locking the holster in place. The Springfield is thinner than the Glock or SIG handguns and as a result concealment is excellent. The Springfield LWLM/Blocker combination is excellent for concealed carry. The author has also deployed the Springfield with the Blocker ST 16, a crossdraw design. For long trips and driving when seated, the crossdraw makes more sense than most holsters. This is good kit that makes for real versatility when deploying a defensive handgun.

For maximum concealment, Wild Bill’s (wildbillsconcealment.com) tuckable IWB is a rig well suited to the lightweight 1911. This holster may be worn as a standard IWB but the holster also allows the wearer to tuck the holster under a shirt. Of leather construction, this holster is a good option for those that cannot wear a covering garment.

The Loaded Model is often quite accurate. All quality handguns prefer one load to the other but the Springfield will usually be consistent with a wide range of ammunition, grouping most loads into three inches or less for five shots at twenty five yards. As the results illustrated show, the Springfield Loaded Model is more than accurate enough for any reasonable task. With 1.6 inches of frontal diameter the .45 ACP does not rely upon expansion for effectiveness. .45 ‘hardball’ creates a deep wound channel and a large exit wound that lets air in and blood out. Just the same in the interest of public safety and limiting over penetration in an urban environment as well as limiting ricochet, an expanding bullet is good policy. The following results were obtained with the steel frame Loaded Model and the LWLM. The Springfield Loaded Model is a fine service pistol well suited to the rigorous demands of personal defense.

Accuracy results, five shot group at 25 yards, average of two groups.

Steel Frame Loaded Model fired from a bench rest position

Black Hills 230 grain FMJ: 3.25 inches
Black Hills 230 grain JHP: 3.0 inches
Wolf Performance Ammunition 230 gr: 3.8 inches

LW Loaded Model

Black Hills 230 grain FMJ: 2.8 inches
Black Hills 230 grain JHP: 2.9 inches
Wolf Performance Ammunition 230 gr: 3.75 inches

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on January 24, 2014


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