The Good, Bad And Ugly of Carrying A Gun On Your Belt

Here’s an excerpt from our book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters. It’s available at

There are dozens of ways to carry a concealed handgun these days. You can carry in your pockets. In your undershirt. With an evening gown. Under your desk. Under your belt. Over your belt. Across your shoulders. Even in your underwear.

With all those options, most trainers still recommend good, old-fashioned belt carry. Is it right for you?

The Good

If you idolized John Wayne, Annie Oakley, or Roy Rogers in your childhood fantasies, all of your cowboy quick-draw fantasies come true with belt carry. While you may not be as rustic looking as Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter, you will be walking around carrying a real gun on your hip. And that’s gotta count for something in terms of living out a childhood fantasy.

Does this holster make me look fat?Waist carry methods — either inside your waistband or outside your waistband (more on that later) — give you fast and consistent access to your firearm with your dominant hand.

Waist carry methods also give you excellent control over your firearms — at almost all times. One noteworthy exception is when you’re predisposed on the porcelain throne. You have to plan for that particular quality time, so your shiny new gun doesn’t clatter onto the bathroom floor. This is especially embarrassing — and kind of gross — in public restrooms. Nothing will make you want to sell your gun faster.

The Bad

Driving a car with this carry method can help you discover new levels of pain and suffering from gun-induced kidney massage. And if you are wearing your seat belt like a good boy or girl, the strap relative to your body position can make it really difficult to get to your gun easily. You may want to keep the cigarette lighter charged as a last-ditch defense for close encounters of the criminal kind!

You’ll need what concealed carry commandos call a “cover garment.” In plain English, this is some form of upper body clothing that is untucked. It could be a shirt, coat or jacket, or better yet, a photographers vest. You know, the ones with just under 37 million pockets and zippers? Because everyone who wants to look natural and not out of place wears those. They fit in just about anywhere. Disney World, the mall, city parks, golf courses, and of course, Star Trek conventions. But as fashionable as they are, chances are, you will never be photographed by GQ or Glamour magazine while wearing a fake photographers vest. So give up that dream.

A serious opinion about photographers vests: Please note the key word, opinion. There’s a lot of internet commando debate about photographers vests. Many experienced veterans of not even one gunfight deride them as “shoot me first” vests. The idea is that “everyone” knows that someone wearing a photographers vest is carrying a gun. Here’s the opinion part. I’m not so sure about that. To those of us who are geeky about things like holsters (!) it is a clue that a person is carrying concealed. To anyone else? Doubt it. Think about all the people you encounter in your daily travels. Even the ones that aren’t performing the “walking while texting” interpretive dance. Are they really paying all that much attention to you? Even outside of New York City? Are they going to look at your wardrobe choice and make judgements about your armament status? Doubt it. If you like it, and it works for you, wear it!

The Ugly

If you choose to carry a gun with an ‘inside the waistband’ holster, you really need to buy pants at least a full size or two larger than normal. That means that the hot clothing salesperson on whom you have a secret crush will think you’re fatter than you really are. Just something to consider.

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - Now available at

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters – Now available at

Holster Review: Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster

The original design behind the Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster is way older than Don Johnson’s Miami Vice character. In fact, it was launched by the Famous Jackass Leather Company (Galco’s former name) in 1970. The original models were made for the Chicago Police Department.

But Hollywood does have a habit of latching on to cool things. In James Cann’s 1981 movie Thief, he wore an original Jackass rig. By 1984, a weird series of events led to actor Don Johnson carrying his Bren 10 (and later Smith & Wesson 645 and 4506) in a Jackass shoulder holster rig for the hit series Miami Vice. And the Miami Classic holster was born.

Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster

Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster shown with a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP

I’ve been wearing a Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster almost daily for several months and I’m starting to get spoiled. Wow. This is an incredibly comfortable setup — even for carrying a large, heavy gun like a full-sized Springfield Armory TRP 1911. And the design lends itself to carrying spare magazines with equal comfort and ease.

Galco Miami Classic II front

Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster in use

The Miami Classic II shoulder holster is really a holster system. A “spider” harness consists of a custom Kydex panel in the back with 4 swivel joints. Leather straps are connected to the Kydex plate. These leather straps form two “loops” that go around your arms. From the back, you see an “X” pattern of leather straps, but the front just has a single strap coming over each shoulder and disappearing behind each arm. The idea is that you wear a jacket or blazer that’s open in the front to hide the leather straps, holster and magazine pouches.

The gun winds up positioned in a cross draw position — horizontal with the muzzle pointed straight backward. The magazines hang on the strong side and are accessible with your support hand.

As this is a system, Galco offers interchangeable holster and magazine carrier modules. You can buy one harness system with different gun holsters and different magazine carriers. Our test model included a 1911 gun holster with a dual single-stack magazine carrier. The magazines were also positioned horizontally and we found access to be consistent and fast. As a side note, Galco offers a 4 magazine carrier option if you need to gear up.

Galco Miami Classic Belt Straps

The optional belt straps really increase overall stability.

Comfort with the Miami Classic II rig is outstanding, whether standing, sitting, walking, running, biking or driving. Having the gun on one side and magazines on the other resulted in a very balanced setup with all the weight easily distributed across both shoulders.

If you’re going to use this setup, there are a couple of things to be aware of. Muzzle and trigger discipline are the first. In the carry position, the muzzle points straight behind you. Also, when you do any sort of cross draw, the muzzle can cover people and things that are located on your support side. Practice with a muzzle down swing can minimize this risk. Just be aware of these issues before considering a shoulder or cross draw carry option.

Obviously you’ll need some type of appropriate cover garment for the Miami Classic II shoulder holster. Blazers, suits, and open jackets are perfect. We found that the Miami Classic II shoulder holster encouraged us to “dress up” a little more than usual. While you may not get scouted for a starring role in a new detective series, you’ll still look suave while carrying.

You can find the Galco Miami Classic Holster at

Galco International Miami Classic Shoulder System


Learn more about lots and lots of gun holsters in our new book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters, now available at!

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - Now available at

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters – Now available at

El Paso Saddlery Pocket Max Gun Holster

Here’s another fine holster featured in The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

El Paso makes an excellent pocket holster. Here’s why.

El Paso Pocket Max holsters

A pair of El Paso Pocket Max Holsters. Note the points that help the holster stay in your pocket during the draw.

The El Paso Pocket Max is constructed from horsehide, which tends to be stronger and more rigid than cowhide. It uses an inside-out construction so the rough side of the leather “grips” the interior of your pocket. This helps ensure that the holster stays in the pocket when you draw the gun. Not only is pulling a holstered gun out of your pocket less intimidating to most experience street thugs, it can be downright embarrassing. Talk about a total loss of street cred…

Another unique feature about the El Paso Pocket Max is the pointy leather tip at the very top edge of the holster. El Paso calls this the “grip tip” but that’s just a complex engineering term for “pointy thing.” The grip tip has an important purpose. It tends to catch on the inside fabric of your pocket when you pull the gun and holster upwards. This is a second feature (in addition to the roughed up surface) to help ensure that your holster stays in your pocket, where it belongs, as you draw your gun.

One last thing that we really like about the El Paso Pocket Max is the design of what you might call a stability flap. Note the “wing” that extends from underneath the barrel position. It’s made from a double layer of horsehide and helps to keep the gun in the proper upright position. This is particularly important for semi-auto pocket pistols where there is a lot of weight riding up high in the grip of the gun in the loaded magazine. With less sturdy pocket holster designs, this can allow your gun to torque, twist and turn while you’re going about your daily activities. Next thing you know, your pocket gun is completely upside down just when you need it most. The leather “wing” tends to keep things oriented in the proper direction — upright.

We highly recommend the Pocket Max. It’s functional, durable and reasonably priced for what you get.


The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - Now available at

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters – Now available at

Even A Fart Has Benefits: Dealing With Gun Control Arguments

Even a fart has benefits. Gun debate.

Now that civil debate has gone the way of Sony Walkman cassette players, just remember this:

Even a fart has benefits.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine something that has no benefit whatsoever. Mosquitos? Yeah, they’re part of the food chain and they keep the OFF! Deep Woods people employed. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner? Why he singlehandedly made Twitter interesting for at least a month. And apparently he’s going to be the gift that keeps on giving now that he wants to run for Mayor of New York.

The hysteria over gun control exceeds that of the first nine rows of floor seats at a Justin Bieber concert. (Tweet This)

And its only going to get worse as Congress has (at least temporarily) shelved Hypocrite of Epic Proportion Feinstein’s new gun and magazine ban legislation.

You’ll continue to hear “common sense” arguments, mostly from Piers Morgan, but also from some of the other Mouseketeers on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and CNN.

What you won’t hear, however, is the other side of these “common sense” arguments.

After all, someone smart and famous, like New Boy King Bloomberg once said something like “every action has a reaction.” Or maybe it was Bill Nye the Science Guy.

In any case, things tend to have two sides. Arguments, decisions, discussions, 45 single records and of course, politicians.

In other words, every decision has pros and cons to consider. Drawbacks and benefits.

Like a 45 record (for those of you younger folks, 45 records are kind of like harpsichords) every “common sense” gun control talking point has two sides.

Con: If a gun control measure can save just one life, isn’t it worth it?

Pro: What if some measure saves one life, but results in thousands more being lost? Oh never mind, that’s not a “what if” question. Somewhere north of one million people per year use guns to protect themselves from a violent crime.

Con: Guns killed (fill in the number of your choice) people last year!

Pro: Yeah, but most of them were bad. In fact, numerous studies find that upwards of 75% of gun related murder victims have previous criminal records. Perhaps that ought to be factored into the debate? You can also factor in the previous discussion point here. How many people were saved by using a gun last year?

Con: Guns only have one purpose! To kill people!

Pro: Seriously? Well it’s good to know that police carry guns for the sole purpose of killing people! Obviously this is not the case. But just for discussion’s sake, let’s suppose that’s true. Isn’t it intellectually dishonest to assume that a gun’s only purpose is to kill innocent people? Do you not consider the scenario of a gun killing someone who is trying to kill an innocent person?

Con: You want teachers to be able to carry a guns? What if one goes off???

Pro: Guess what? When teachers with concealed carry permits are disarmed at the front door, bad things DO happen. Can we have a rational discussion that considers evidence of “accidents” or concealed carry permittees suddenly going crazy versus documented uses that stop violent attacks?

We could go on all day about gun control arguments. The important thing is to insist on considering all sides of an issue before forming opinion, and especially policy.

Because everything has at least one benefit.

Even a fart.

The Real Story Behind The Invention Of The Flashbang Holster…

The Invention of the Flashbang Holster - From The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Shooting Tip of the Day: Is That A Laser In Your Pocket?

Shooting Tip of the Day

Are you a neon pants packer? Have you ever seen one in public?

If you do happen to see someone cruising around with a steady or intermittent glow emanating from their pants pocket area, it means one of two things:

  1. They have a really, really, really serious urinary tract infection.
  2. The laser on their concealed pistol is going on by accident.

Sound farfetched?

Nope, this has happened to us. The right pistol, laser, activation button placement and holster combination can in fact do this. In our incident, it was a combination of side-activated laser grip buttons and a common inside-the-waistband holster. Overall pressure from love handles and the gun resulted in a glowing crotch. While not continuous, certain body movements would cause the laser to activate on and off throughout the day.

In addition to looking really strange, it’s hard on the laser batteries.

Do you have a laser on your carry gun? If so, be sure to check it out to make sure it’s not lasering things inside your pants!


Half-Cocked: Obama Announces New Gun Control Plan In Hometown Chicago

Half-Cocked: Obama Announces New Gun Control Plan In Hometown Of Chicago

Going (Contract) Postal Because ACE Is The Place

contract post office ace hardware

Do Contract Post Office facilities have magical gun free zones?

I almost went postal today.

I think.

But it was a contract deal, so I’m not sure.

You see, I stopped by an ACE Hardware store near my home. ACE is the place. Ours sells everything from designer spackle to multi-color Post-It Notes to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I know this because the Reese’s are right in the checkout line display, where I will be sure to buy some every time I visit.

This particular ACE Hardware store has a United States Post Office CONTRACT facility in it. Right between shelves of office supplies and advent calendars, there is a large grey floor mat where you stand in line to mail packages, buy stamps, and tell the clerk you are not shipping anything fragile, explosive, or perishable. While I did notice the floor mat, I was not able to detect a gun free zone force field. Didn’t even feel any electrostatic buzz in the area. Nor did I get brain cancer while I was there, as far as I know. So really I’m only guessing that the floor mat designates a gun free area of the store.

So here’s the problem. If you carry a concealed firearm, you do not, under any circumstance, take it into an official, designated United States Post Office. You do not have it in your car in the parking lot of a United States Post Office. You do not wear a “Body Piercing by Smith & Wesson” t-shirt. You do not even think about next weekends gun show. Right, wrong, indifferent, or completely insane, every armed citizen should know this. Yeah, I think it’s nuts too, so write your congress critters like I do.

But this isn’t a United States Post Office. It’s an ACE Hardware store that sells Buck Knives, Carhartt Union Suits, and nifty deep fryers for turkeys (or road kill if you’re on a tight budget.) These things are all clearly consistent with gun totin’ right? On the other hand, there are stacks of Flat Rate shipping boxes scattered all over that one aisle between the stapler refills and front porch flags. Clearly Post Office type stuff.

So I’m perplexed.

Are certain areas of my ACE Hardware Store federal gun free zones?

If someone wants to commit armed robbery this particular ACE Hardware, do they get more prison time if they step on the grey floor mat area?

What if, in process of committing the armed robbery, they knock over a stack of flat rate shipping boxes? Is that now first degree littering?

Will Snookie have a boy or a girl? In either case, will the child come out of the womb spray tanned?

Were federal stimulus dollars used to buy up the square footage under that particular floor mat, thereby making part of ACE Hardware federal property?

If someone just wants to rob the Buck Knife display, and steps around the contract post office area, is that OK? Or do they have to leave their gun in the car?

Can legislators exercise any less common sense while legislating common sense legislation?

If a legally armed citizen is out shopping, on a tight time schedule, and has to buy a PVC to garden hose fitting and mail a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes entry, do they have to make two separate trips?

ACE is the place where you can legally carry a gun in this state, but is the contract post office also the place?

What say you? Is it legal? Will you end up in Club Gitmo if you carry into this particular ACE?

Our Interview With Massad Ayoob – He’s Not A Dancing With The Stars Contender

Massad Ayoob

Massad Ayoob

Recently I was invited to sit in on Massad Ayoob’s MAG-20 class. Lisa Marie and Tommy Judy run a great training business – B.E.L.T. Training – and were hosting Mr. / Officer / Instructor / Drill Sergeant / Coach / Counselor / Professor Ayoob’s four day MAG-40 class. They had space for me to sit in and observe the intense 2 day classroom portion which is separately offered as MAG-20. And when I say intense, I do mean intense. Ten to eleven hours each day. No breaks. No food. No water. Well, I might be exaggerating on the food, water, and break thing, but we didn’t dawdle and did in fact work right through lunch both days. So it was serious learning.

Here is where I would write many pithy and intellectual observations about the course and my experience with it. Or I could just be honest and tell you that this class scared the living be-jeepers out of me. And it did.

But in a good way.

You see, Mag-20, otherwise known as Armed Citizen Rules of Engagement, starts the process of preparing the student for legal, tactical, and aftermath management issues for the lawful armed citizen. The student is immersed in the frightening real-world scenarios that may result from even lawfully protecting yourself and loved ones. You’ll learn the difference between Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws. And much more. We’ll be doing a separate article talking more about the class experience. For now, let’s just say you need this type of training from a quality instructor. And you need it now. The fear this course generates is healthy and will inspire you to all new levels of preparation. That’s good.

Now back to the business at hand. Having read Massad Ayoob’s work in shooting, concealed carry, and training books, American Handgunner, Combat Handguns, and just about everywhere else, it was about time I was able to meet the man behind the mustache in person. Here’s what he had to say:

My Gun Culture: For those who are not familiar with your work, you’re a career cop, gun writer, self-defense and firearms trainer, legal adviser, expert witness, and competitive action shooter. So what are you going to be when you grow up?

Massad Ayoob: I was always a part-time cop, although fully sworn. That kept it fresh, and prevented burnout. When I grow up, I wanna be about six feet, maybe six feet two…

MGC: Oh I get it. You’re trying to out-wise guy me. I just want you to know that I’m a trained professional when it comes to being a doofus. Is a gig on Dancing with the Stars in your future?

Mas: Hell, son, at my age I’m grateful to WALK. If I ever look like I’m dancing, it’s probably only because I’m struggling to stay standing up.

MGC: Well, Buzz Aldrin did it! Then again, that was somewhat of a disaster… I just completed your MAG-20/Classroom – Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement class. It scared the living hell out of me. After a few days I managed to stop whimpering and get out of the fetal position, so I think I’ll be OK with some extra group therapy. For those new to self-defense and concealed carry, which of your dozen or so books would you recommend reading first to prime them for a live training class?

Mas: Damn…I failed you. We don’t usually teach shooting from the fetal position until the next level class… To prep for a MAG-40, I’d suggest reading Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry, Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery, In the Gravest Extreme, and Volume I of StressFire.

MGC: Just hypothetically speaking, if you are called as an expert witness, and Perry Mason is cross-examining the be-jeepers out of you, what strategy would you adopt? And no, begging for mercy is not an option. Nor is turning off the TV.

Mas: Same as always: by telling the truth as I see it, and explaining it to the cross-examiner and the jury. Wouldn’t happen, though, since Perry Mason (a FICTIONAL defense lawyer, remember) only defends the innocent, and I wouldn’t be speaking for the prosecution against someone shown by the evidence to be innocent.

MGC: So you caught trying a trick question. It’s my job OK? We ask all our interviewees this important question. As a respected self-defense expert, I think you might have some great insight on this question. Is the MK19 Automatic Grenade Launcher appropriate for home defense? Obviously a drawback is shrapnel damage to our home, and probably nearby neighbors. On the plus side, I think it has a great intimidation factor. What do you think?

Mas: Might have been awfully useful in Benghazi, but here…prolly not optimum.

MGC: Some of my favorite reads are “The Ayoob Files” in American Handgunner and “Self Defense and the Law” in Combat Handguns. While many are tragic, the real-life stories have powerful lessons. If you had to offer just one piece of advice to responsible citizens, what would that be? Yeah, I know, it’s a completely unfair question, but I am confident you can handle it!

Mas: Think about it to the nth degree beforehand, and be prepared…because when it happens, it will happen too fast to figure it out then.

MGC: Quick one. What was the first gun you ever owned? And do you still have it?

Mas: First very own gun was Eastern Arms 12-gauge single barrel. Still have it. First very own handgun was Ruger Standard Model .22 auto, age 11. Wish I still had it.

MGC: I wish I had your Ruger Standard Model .22 Auto also! You’re a busy man. What are you going to be most focused on in 2013?

Mas: Same as ever, one more year…what the year brings will impact the focus, as always…

We’d like to thank Mas Ayoob for sharing some time with our readers. He’s busy as always and devoting some of his precious time to serve on the Advisory board of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. This organization is a must have resource for all lawfully armed citizens – concealed carry holder or not. In 2013 Mas will also be one of the co-instructors for several of their CLE (continuing legal education credit) courses, geared for attorneys who handle deadly force/firearms cases. You can get more information on the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network here.

We’d highly recommend taking one of Massad Ayoob’s classes. He partners with a number of training firms around the country so you just might find a class offered in your neck of the woods. Get more information at

Gun Review: Springfield Armory EMP 9mm Pistol

Suggested Retail Price: $1,345.00

The Springfield Armory EMP – What’s in a name?

Springfield Armory EMP 9mm Enhanced Micro Pistol gold dot ammo

The Springfield Armory EMP 9mm Pistol

Contrary to popular belief, the Springfield Armory EMP will not generate a burst of Electro-Magnetic Pulse radiation, thereby knocking out any still-operational Chevy Volts on the eastern seaboard.

Nor is it named after the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, originally conceived to recognize the mind-blowing music of Jimi Hendrix.

It’s not related to the Emporia Municipal Airport (EMP) in Lyon Country, Kansas.

Some think that the EMP was named in reference to the Earth Microbiome Project, whose mission is to identify and catalog all microbial life on planet earth. Including those elusive cooties.

And no, the original Springfield Armory EMP design was not sketched out on a cocktail napkin at New York’s swanky Eleven Madison Park Restaurant.

While closer to home, it’s not an homage to the Erma EMP-35 submachine gun manufactured by Germany from 1930 to 1938. While it’s a 9mm also, the Springfield Armory EMP has no full auto selector. Nor does it have a 32 round magazine like the EMP-35.

Give up?

It’s the Springfield Armory EMPEnhanced Micro Pistol – chambered in 9mm or .40 S&W.

Springfield Armory EMP 9mm features

Springfield Armory EMP 9mm ambidextrous safety

The Springfield Armory EMP features ambidextrous safety levers

Like the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP we recently reviewed, the Springfield Armory EMP 9mm is loaded with custom features and extras. A dollar store handgun this is not. You will get what you pay for in feature set and quality of construction.

The Springfield Armory Enhanced Micro Pistol was designed from the ground up to function reliably with the shorter cartridge size of the 9mm and .40 S&W rounds. With a wide variety of 9mm ammo we tested (outlined in more detail below) we did not experience any function problems from the first round on. The Enhanced Micro Pistol demonstrated no ammunition preference in terms of reliability. Other small 9mm pistols have been known to require certain projectile weights or weight / power combinations in order to function, so we found the ammunition indifference to be a big plus with the Springfield Armory EMP.

Like the Springfield Armory TRP, the Springfield Armory EMP, or Enhanced Micro Pistol, features fully ambidextrous safety levers. Both are extended, but the right hand lever is ever-so-slightly narrower. Most likely to favor the majority of shooters who are right-handed. In our testing, we did not find the right hand lever to get in the way of holsters, nor did it hang up on clothing when carrying concealed.

Springfield Armory EMP does not use a barrel bushing

The EMP design does not use a barrel bushing. Barrel to frame fit is tight with no discernible movement.

The sights are steel and mounted front and back via dovetail cuts, so they are easily adjustable for windage. No adjustment was necessary on our test gun – with all ammo tested, windage was dead on comparing point of aim and point of impact. Like the TRP, the sights are manufactured by Springfield Armory, but are supplied with Trijicon tritium inserts. The ramped rear sight has two tritium dots while the front sight features a single tritium dot.

The magazine release button is checkered, and due to the reduced grip size, we found it easy to activate without changing our firing grip. Magazines drop freely from the EMP to facilitate rapid mag changes.

The trigger is aluminum and features three hole cutouts for a bit of weight reduction, but mainly to add to its sexy appearance. There is an adjustable over-travel screw. The EMP came from the factory with no detectable over-travel, but if you like a little, feel free to adjust.

Springfield Armory EMP accessories and case

The Springfield Armory EMP includes 3 magazines, holster, dual magazine carrier, a lockable hard case, and more.

The frame and slide are well-rounded and optimized for carry. The back strap is checkered, while the front strap is smooth. The EMP features and extended beavertail and the grip safety offers a memory bump that makes safety disengagement positive. During our testing, we had no issues getting reliable and consistent grip safety disengagement, regardless of grip style.

Springfield Armory does a swell job of providing lots of goodies in the box. You’ll get the pistol of course, You’ll also get 3 magazines manufactured by Mec-Gar for Springfield Armory. These are embossed with a large EMP logo to help you keep them straight from any other 1911 magazines you may have lying around. You’ll also find a kydex paddle-style belt holster and dual magazine carrier. And of course a cleaning brush, instructions, a coupon sheet for lot’s of discounted accessories like extra factory magazines, a couple of keys for the integral lock, and allen wrenches for sight adjustment and grip removal. All of this comes packaged in a custom foam-lined and lockable hard plastic case.

You look marvelous darling!

One of the things that drew us to the Springfield EMP 9mm for a full evaluation is it’s appearance. Yes, we’re that shallow. We’ll test just about any gun if it looks hot at the range.

Springfield Armory EMP frame front strap cocobolo grips

The Springfield Armory EMP 9mm is one great looking pistol. The cocobolo grip panels really complement the matte black frame and satin stainless steel frame.

The grips are a thing of beauty. We’ve always been suckers for nice wooden grips. The Springfield Armory EMP features Cocobolo hardwood grips. As everyone know, Cocobolo is a tropical hardwood derived from the heart of the dalbergia retusa tree. In fact, if you hold the grips up to your ear, you can hear the ocean and smell pina coladas. More importantly, Cocobolo is not only beautiful and sexy, it’s hard, durable and loaded with oils. The oils serve to protect the wood from water, sweat, cleaning solvents, and other abuses. The grips are checkered, except for smooth diamond-shaped areas around the mounting screws. There is also a really sooper dooper Springfield Armory logo embossed into each grip. Did I mention that these grips look marvelous?

The frame is constructed from forged aluminum alloy with a black-anodized hard-coat finish. With the 1,000 or so rounds we’ve shot and plenty of daily carry, we’ve not had any issues with scratching or chips.

The slide is forged stainless steel. It’s got a satin finish. In average Joe’s English, satin finish translates to not shiny.  We observed at least two practical benefits from the satin stainless finish. First, the top of the slide does not produce glare in sunny conditions. The front and rear sights are a black matte finish, so visibility in bright conditions is great. A second benefit is that the satin finish hides things that might detract from the EMP’s marvelous appearance. Fingerprints don’t show, holster wear will be nearly invisible, and micro-abuses will be subdued in appearance.

The aluminum trigger finish matches that of the slide, so it makes for a nice visual complement.

What can we say? The EMP looks marvelous!

Note: The Springfield Armory EMP is also available with the same frame and slide finish, but with grey-toned G10 grips for extra durability. The G10 model is also a fantastic looking gun – just a tad more tactical in appearance.

9+1 capacity

Springfield Armory EMP 9mm magazines

The Springfield Armory EMP ships with 3 magazines.

There are at least two benefits to having a 1911 platform gun chambered in 9mm. First, you can make it smaller, as evidenced by the Springfield Armory EMP. The smaller diameter and shorter overall length of the 9mm cartridge allows for a grip that is both shorter front to back and narrower side to side. The second bennie is that you can fit more bullets into the same amount of space, all other things being equal.

One thing to note, if you’re topping off the full 9 in the mag plus 1 in the chamber load, don’t be a sissy when you seat the magazine. Inserting a magazine full with 9 rounds into the EMP with a loaded chamber requires a vigorous spank. This is a good habit with any gun as many undesirable malfunctions are caused by improperly seated magazines. If your smack a full magazine into an EMP, it will seat with a satisfying and positive click, so no worries there. Just don’t coddle it. It’s a gun after all and designed to be handled with authority and confidence.

The EMP’s three included magazines are manufactured in Italy by Mec-Gar especially of the Springfield Armory EMP. One side is stamped accordingly while the other features a large EMP logo. One minor frustration with the EMP magazines is the lack of witnessing holes to see how many rounds are loaded in the magazine. Even one hole towards the bottom that allowed a quick visual confirmation of full magazine status would be nice to have.

Shooting the Springfield Armory EMP 9mm pistol

We headed to the range on several occasions to run the EMP through its paces. The velocity testing was done after two previous range trips where we had put about 200 rounds through the Springfield Armory EMP. As a side note, no cleaning has been done to date. Just because we’re curious to see how long it will go without getting finicky.

Here are the results:


Springfield Armory EMP
(3” barrel)

Buffalo Bore 9mm +P+ TAC-XP 95 grain 1,360
CorBon 9mm +P JHP 115 grain  1,228
Federal 9mm FMJ Round Nose 115 grain  1,097
Federal Hydra-Shock 9mm +P+ 124 grain  1,094
Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 115 grain 1,041
Hornady Critical Duty 9mm +P 135 grain 1,120
Remington UMC 9mm 115 grain 1,108
Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P Short Barrel 124 grain 1,159
TulAmmo 9mm FMJ 115 grain  1,106
Winchester PDX1 9mm +P 124 grain 1,147
Winchester Target 9mm 115 grain 1,069

We really like the handling of the Springfield Armory EMP chambered in 9mm. While we did a lot of general target shooting and good old-fashioned plinking, what was most enlightening was running through some simple practice drills. We shot the Dot Torture drill a number of times to get a more subjective indication of how the Springfield Armory EMP feels.

Springfield Armory EMP 9mm ammo left side

We tried a wide variety of 9mm self defense and practice ammo with the Springfield Armory EMP

If you’re not already familiar, the Dot Torture drill is a series of 50 shots at small targets placed 3-5 yards downrange. The sequence of shooting requires the shooter to fire two-handed, strong hand only, weak hand only, perform target transitions with single and double-tap shots, and perform reloads between targets. In other words, it’s kind of like a complete practice session in a box. Shoot a Dot Torture drill and you’ll spend a bit of time on a number of different shooting fundamentals. You’ll also get a good feel of how a handgun “feels” with several different shooting scenarios. We found it easy to complete the Dot Torture drill with the EMP.

Here’s why.

The 9mm chambering helps a lot, but what really makes the EMP a pussycat to shoot is the ability to get a full and comfortable grip. It’s a compact pistol, but none of our shooters had any trouble getting all fingers placed firmly on the grip. The result is a pistol that is very gentle to shoot and this made a noticeable difference with the Dot Torture double tap shot strings. It was easy to place multiple rounds virtually on top of each other at high-speed and with relative ease.

Springfield Armory EMP 9mm trigger

The EMP’s aluminum trigger features and overtravel adjustment screw.

The sight picture is excellent. The sharp cuts of the rear notch and front sight make for a crisp and fast to acquire sight picture. The tritium filled tubes are outlined in either white or metal (hard to tell) and stand out fine in daylight.

Just as a side observation, the beavertail grip safety allows for high hand placement. We found that one can shoot the EMP with the strong hand thumb either riding on top of the frame safety lever or below. If you choose to place your thumb below, you won’t risk advertently bumping the safety upwards. We’ve seen this on some 1911’s, but the contour of the Springfield Armory EMP seems to prevent this.

The checkering and grip surfaces are designed with carry in mind. While the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP we recently reviewed was clearly designed for tactical use with sharp checkering and heavily textured G10 grip panels, the Springfield Armory EMP achieves more of a balance between comfort and grip. The back of the mainspring housing is checkered while the front of the grip is smooth. The Cocobolo wood grips have mildly aggressive checkering, so you can carry the EMP using an inside the waistband holster without rubbing any nearby love handles raw. Even with the toned-down textures, we had no problem keeping a firm and stable grip through fast strings of fire.

How to field strip and clean a Springfield Armory EMP 9mm pistol

With a couple of minor exceptions, field stripping a Springfield is like field stripping any other 1911 design pistol. The Springfield Armory EMP uses a dual spring, captive mechanism which adds a bit of a trick to fully field stripping the pistol.  To relieve spring tension and make things a lot easier on the fingers, Springfield Armory includes a plastic takedown assist bushing piece that greatly facilitates ease of takedown. You can remove the slide with or without the takedown assist piece, but it will be hard on the fingers to remove the spring assembly and barrel from the slide without it.

Here’s how you do it.

Springfield Armory EMP takedown piece

First, after making double-secret sure that the gun is fully unloaded (chamber too!), pull the slide back to expose some of the guide rod. When enough is exposed, snap the takedown assist piece into place. That’s shown in the next photo.

Springfield Armory EMP takedown piece step one

The takedown assist bushing is designed to hold the spring in the right position for takedown, while being small enough in diameter to pull back through the slide opening. Now remove the slide just like you would with any standard 1911. Pull the slide backward until the round takedown notch is directly above the slide lock tab. Remove the slide lock lever and slide the slide off the front of the pistol.

 Springfield Armory EMP takedown piece spring

Since you used the takedown assist bushing piece in step one, it will be easy to pull the spring assembly out.

Springfield Armory EMP remove spring assembly

Pull the spring assembly out towards the back of the slide.
 Springfield Armory EMP takedown remove barrel Now the barrel can be removed through the front of the slide. As the Springfield Armory EMP has no barrel bushing, you don’t need to worry about that.

There you have it!

To put things back together, simply reverse the order. When you’ve got the slide back on and slide stop lever replaced, snap the takedown assist piece off and store it in a safe place for next time.

Closing arguments

Here’s the quick summary.

Springfield Armory EMP size with Springfield Armory TRP 1911

The Springfield Armory EMP is designed for the smaller 9mm and .40 S&W cartridge length. Shown here next to a full sized 1911.

If we could wave a magic feature enhancement wand, there are only two things we would change on the Springfield Armory EMP 9mm. First, it would be great to simplify field stripping. It’s not hard when you use the included takedown assist bushing, but chances are that thing is going to get lost at some point. Is this a big deal? Not really, as the EMP is not a finicky gun. We didn’t clean it at all until it had about 1,000 rounds through it – and we had no problems whatsoever with function. So it’s not a high maintenance gun that will have to be cleaned after every range outing. Second, we would love to have one or more holes in the magazines to easily check round count. The magazines are well made and solid as a rock, but you can’t easily verify that they are filled to maximum capacity.

The form factor is a great tradeoff between size and self-defense capacity. Overall size is smaller than a compact Glock 19, but it still provides 9+1 rounds of 9mm. It’s thin, well-rounded where it needs to be, and therefore exceptionally easy to carry. We used it a lot with various inside the waistband holsters and it virtually disappears.

Where the Springfield Armory EMP 9mm shines is with its handling. Simply put, it’s a joy to shoot. The combination of smooth grip panel checkering, backstrap checkering, and a smooth front strap provides for a firm grip, but without sacrifice of concealed carry comfort with inside the waistband holsters. The trigger is fantastic. Adjustable for over travel and crisp, it’s easy to hit things with the EMP. The ambidextrous safety levers are crisp and easy to reach. While we wouldn’t classify the EMP as a heavy pistol, it does a great job of soaking up recoil from full powered 9mm self-defense loads. Clearly the dual spring design has a lot to do with that, as does the near perfect contour of the frame.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! This gun carries, shoots, and handles like a dream. The grip, trigger, and sights achieve a balance that it makes it easy to hit your intended target. For all of its beautiful handling attributes, the real value of the Springfield Armory EMP is the confidence it inspires.
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