Sunday, January 13, 2019

Springfield Armory Range Officer Elite Champion .45 ACP 1911 (4" Commander)

I've been carrying a Walther PPS for deep concealment the past two years, alternating with a S&W M&P Compact. Both are fine shooting polymer-framed 9mm that have withstood the abuse of true daily carry in all sorts of conditions (including 30-40 mile bicycle rides).

Trusty -- and compact -- Walther PPS 9mm

I considered Kimber, then Dan Wesson (I see a Wilson Combat in my future -- just not immediate).

I decided on a Springfield Armory Champion for daily carry (since I simply can't miss with my SA Range Officer 1911A1 5" :angel:)

My excellent experience with the Springfield tipped the balance in favor of the RO Champion.

I ordered from Sportsmans Outdoor Superstore (Heath, OH) on a Friday.  A week later it arrived at local FFL (and bone fide hero) Charlie Smithgall's pharmacy Friday. I dutifully picked it up, cleaned it, function-checked, and replaced the stock greyish grips with more muted black Magpul G10s with the large thumb relief.

I packed up a couple hundred 200 grain LSWC Blue Bullet reloads and headed to my local club indoor range.

First, I was surprised by the force required to rack the slide. This thing is tight -- the recoil spring is serious and I was glad for the serrations (although my winter-dried hand slipped a few times during the range session).

But it was smooth, and tight will loosen up in time. The ambidextrous safety is also tight, with a satisfying click either up or down. The surface is treated and except for the "RO Elite" logo, understated and stealthy (my preference for this gun's ultimate mission). 

After a few shots with my full size 1911, I loaded the RO Champ. It felt considerably lighter than the full size Range Officer. Enough that I wondered if I would enjoy shooting it much.

I drew a clear bead on the 10 yard target, focused on the front sight and squeezed. Hard. A bit harder than I expected, actually. I had done about 50 dry fire trigger presses after the cleanup and function check but the pull-weight difference was still a bit surprising after shooting the standard Range Officer.

The gun finally went blam and I was delighted to see the front sight snap back in view. I aimed low to see if the aimpoint on this was set for 6 o'clock or point of aim and was happy to see it shot spot-on POA. I fired 6 more times then walked downrange to inspect:

Yeah, that'll do.

I blasted a few more index cards at 10 and then 20 yards using a mix of techniques.

It kept shooting just fine:

I had a few FTE, but I chalk those up to fairly light loads and a brand new firearm with a pretty hefty --and new -- recoil spring.

I'll give it 500 rounds before I consider it "broken in." Any FTE after that will warrant a trip to the gunsmith.

I'm also planning on trying some different combinations of projectile and powders as well as powder weight to see what feeds best (I'm guessing a slightly faster burning powder would help).

After a few more magazines through both firearms I called it a night and headed home for field strip and clean. While the FS 1911 was apart in seconds, the RO Champ stumped me. SA had not included either takedown tool in the box. After figuring out I had the type guide rod with a hole I made a tool from a heavy paper clip and finally figured out what to do to disassemble my new pistol for cleaning:

After clearing the firearm, rack the slide to slide lock, find the small hole in the protruding part of the guide rod, place the short end of the tool in the hole, and then gently release the slide, allowing it to go forward. The recoil spring will no longer be compressed. Remove slide from frame, turn slide over, and remove recoil guide rod and spring from the slide.

(I recommend Springfield Armory replace the current instructions in the manual with those words and save new RO Champion owners some wasted time.)

Once disassembled, cleaning was straightforward. Re-Assembly was easy also.

Follow up to initial report:

After a couple more trips to the indoor range and I'm much happier with the function of the RO Champion.

At this point I have about 200 rounds through the gun with no more FTE. But there's a consistent failure to lock the slide to the rear once the magazine is empty. I'm loading some slightly hotter loads to test this function next trip (6.0gr BE-86, 200gr LSWC).

I alternated the Champion and the full-size 1911A1. The weight difference is surprising, and yet the perception of recoil is nearly the same.

The shorter barrel doesn't affect accuracy to 20 yards (50 yard test will need the outdoor range).
The fiber optic front sight really pops out. This particular gun was set up well, as it hits just above point of aim at 20 yards (using the very top edge of the front sight post).

Post-range cleanup was far easier this time, now that I figured out the sequence (hold the slide back at slide lock, insert paper clip tool into guide rod, push slide back, push slide stop out, slowly push slide off the front, remove guide rod assembly, slide barrel out, etc).

I tested IWB carry for a few hours in a low threat environment (no ammo, just empty gun and holster) and found it comfortable to the point it was indistinguishable from my S&W M&P 9c.
Once functional consistency is tested and proven, the SA RO Champion will enter the EDC rotation.

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