Springfield .45s- The Loaded Model


by R. K. Campbell

Photography by R. K. Campbell

March 13th, 2005




Over the years I have used well over a dozen Springfield Armory .45 caliber pistols with excellent results.  However, there are variations among the pistols and it is well to understand these variations before choosing a pistol. As an example, in my hometown the average 1911A1 Springfield retails for about $450 while the special order Professional Model can easily reach $2000 or more. The middle of the road  Loaded Model is probably the best buy. The Loaded Model is simply a good solid 1911 with ‘loaded’ features not found on the bare bones 1911A1 type pistols.  The GI guns are well made, reliable, and usually feed a wide range of hollow point ammunition. The Loaded Model pistols feature special upgrades such as Novak sights, extended slide lock safeties, and custom beavertails. The Loaded Model often features front slide serrations. I recently found both long and short trigger variations and arched and flat mainspring housings straps in stock. 

If you wish to work up a full custom 1911, the GI model is a good base pistol. The frame and slide are of good quality, and the internal parts seem well made. On the other hand a Loaded Model with just the right mix of features may save considerable funds in building up a full custom 1911.  With that in mind,  I undertook a project to compare the performance of standard GI type pistols and the Loaded Model as well as a personal high grade custom 1911 that began with a Springfield Loaded Model as the base.  While each of these pistols are good examples of the 1911, well worth their price, the end goal of the shooter will reflect the true value for the money.  If you wish to be all you can be, then it is not an inexpensive project.

The Springfield Professional was once called the Bureau Model. The Bureau Model is simply the civilian equivalent of the single stack magazine pistol issued to the elite Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Rescue Unit. The Bureau respectfully requested Springfield not capitalize upon their good name, and the pistol became the Professional.  Just the same, the Bureau Model moniker stuck and those ordering the ‘FBI’ pistol know just what they want. Among the upgrades the FBI’s pistols include are Nowlin match grade barrels and a Smith and Alexander magazine funnel as well as the Wilson Combat beavertail and choice internal parts. These are high grade custom items adding considerably to the final cost of the pistol and worth every penny.

After some experimentation with mainspring housings and pistols, I have determined that the flat housing works best with the long trigger. Also, a larger beavertail works best with the flat housing. When adding a magazine funnel it is sometimes best to retain a more conservative beavertail. The short trigger works best with an arched housing. I find the short trigger works well for my average size hands but I can use a large trigger, given a flat housing and relatively thin grips. Keep in mind that the 1911 is unique in allowing such variation for different hand sizes and finger lengths. 

I managed to have obtain three Loaded Models for long term comparison.  One of these pistols is a more of less stock Loaded Model. This pistol features Novak low mount sights, a long aluminum ‘match’ trigger, a flat mainspring housing, and a skeletonized trigger.  The second pistol featured an arched mainspring housing and short trigger.  The first pistol features Kim Ahrends custom grips. These grips are the Tactical model. They are half serrated, giving an excellent purchase,  but have a half smooth component for ease of movement and gripping when firing a long string. There are no better handgun grips for all around use.

In the case of the second pistol,  I went with the grips specified by the FBI. These are Herrett Shooting Star grips. These are very nice checkered grips that give a good purchase when working with cold, wet or sweaty hands. The pistol received the FBI specified Smith and Alexander magazine well. This ‘funnel’ aids measurably in seating the magazine quickly without visual contact with the pistol. The funnel is generous and sure in feeding the single stack magazine into the magazine well.  Originally, this addition was simply to conform to FBI specifications but now the Smith and Alexander Magazine Guide is a preferred option for every custom 1911 pistol. 

The third pistol is a stainless Loaded Model. This is among the better fitted and finished handguns I have used. I simply believe that stainless versions are often subject to a little better fitting and finishing as they leave the factory. The Springfield pistols have a well deserved reputation for feed reliability. As long as the magazine tunnel is square in the frame and the ramp clean and free of burrs, a 1911 should feed well. All of the Springfield .45s featured in this report fed, chambered, fired and ejected a wide variety of wide mouth hollow point ammunition.  The trigger actions on each were pretty decent, with the unmodified handguns breaking four and one half and five pounds, respectively. I had Jack Hawkins (864-576-2236) bring my personal custom .45 to a smooth, clean 3 pounds. The Stainless Loaded Model also featured Herrett custom grips. 

The custom pistols’ main improvement lay in the Nowlin match grade barrel. This is a great addition to any 1911 and the one great improvement in the Bureau Model pistols. (I mean, Professional Models - well, as long as we are on the same page and know that we mean the pistol the FBI uses!)  I have used Nowlin barrels in both .45 ACP and .38 Super with excellent results.  In this example, we were not looking for theoretical improvement but a set standard imposed by the FBI. The FBI demanded that it’s pistols be capable of producing a 1.25 inch twenty yard group with quality ammunition. That is a tall order for any handgun. Some of the answer lay in hand fitting and some in choosing a first class barrel, but the 1.25 inch mark for a five shot group a high-water mark indeed for any 1911 pistol. I have carefully build numerous 1911 pistols with high grade parts and while a number will group right at the one inch mark at 25 yards very few will do any better and the majority will not meet this standard.

I used the Nowlin match grade barrel and also the slide tightening blocks from Alpha Precision that have given this user and so many others excellent results. With the combination of slide to frame tightening and a first class high grade barrel, we were able to achieve the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s accuracy standards. We didn’t quite have the FBI pistol, that would of required applying a modern Teflon based finish but for all practical purposes we had a superb tactical .45.

In the shoot off,  I elected to use proven ammunition and a new competitor in the marketplace. Cor Bon is well known for high velocity ammunition with more smash than comparable makes. However, Cor Bon also manufactures top end hunting ammunition and now, target type ammunition. Cor Bon now offers a high grade competition/target loading known as  the Performance Match.  Loaded to 800 fps with a consistent, accurate bullet, the Performance Match load gives a good clean powder burn and little to no muzzle flash. I used this load as the accuracy leader and was not disappointed.  The second load is the new DPX 185 grain JHP from the same maker. Using a special purpose Barnes all copper bullet at over 1100 fps, this load is guaranteed to penetrate to a greater depth than other 185 grain offerings while the petals of the Barnes bullet open up in stellar fashion. This is an intriguing load. I know the accuracy potential of the Barnes bullet and was not disappointed in the Cor Bon offering.

The third choice was a handload. I would be remiss indeed if I did not include at least one handload in the test program. I used enough Unique powder to propel a 200 grain Gold Dot hollowpoint to just over 900 fps. Not a full power load but just the kind of tack driving load we find comfortable to fire in long strings at the range. The final ammunition used was a surprise. Some time ago,  I found  a case of early issue 230 grain Gold Dot ammunition in the basement of the PD, literally soaked from rain, damp and mildew.  My orders were to use it up in training and testing new handguns. I had a single ragged box left, and this one was soaked again by leaving it in a corner for over two years! The box was so soggy it nearly fell apart. It is bad business to trust such mistreated ammunition but each and every round of the original case had fired off as designed.  Generic ammunition and a whole bunch of foreign produced ammunition do not have that type of primer and case mouth seal! I used the 230 grain Gold Dot in the final accuracy test, and each and every round fed, chambered, fired and ejected normally.

In the end, we proved three accurate and reliable handguns.  The custom pistol has well over 5,000 rounds in it and the standard blue finish Loaded Model perhaps half that. I have borrowed the Stainless Loaded Model on several occasions for a half dozen years or so and suspect it now has over 5,000 rounds. That is a piddling amount for a good .45 auto.

The modified Loaded Model performed beyond expectation. The accuracy was more than adequate for any reasonable task. Yet, the pistol is fast on target and controllable in rapid fire,  just as a good 1911 should be. Nothing was given up that detracts from the pistol’s ability as a fighting handgun. The other two are good solid 1911s, well above average. The performance of the stainless 1911 is especially impressive. Overall, the Loaded Model is a fine pistol just as issued but with the addition of the Nowlin barrel and a little judicious gunsmithing,  it can become a precision instrument.


Cor Bon 230-grain Performance Match results
Loaded Model #1 3.5 inches
Loaded Model #3 1.8 inches
Stainless Model 2.5 inches


Cor Bon 185-grain DPX results
Loaded Model #1 2.6 inches
Loaded Model #3 2.0 inches
Stainless Model 3.0 inches


Speer 230-grain Gold Dot results
Loaded Model #1 2.8 inches
Loaded Model #3 2.45 inches
Stainless Model 2.9 inches


Handload - 200-grain Gold Dot / Unique results
Loaded Model #1 3.25 inches
Loaded Model #3 2.15 inches
Stainless Model 2.75 inches


Accuracy Average
Loaded Model #1 3.03 inches
Loaded Model #3 2.2 inches
Stainless Model 2.78 inches



During the test period I used Wilson Combat magazines exclusively. These magazines have survived harsh use and downright abuse by the author for more years than I care to remember. Wilson Combat magazines present the bullet at a different angle than GI magazines, feeding the bullet practically into the chamber. They are arguably the front line magazine in current use and always perform well.  I am pleased to have these magazines on my side!


Nowlin Manufacturing

20622 Sout 4092 Road

Claremore Oklahoma 74019



Wilson Combat

2234 CR RD 719

Berryville Arkansas  72616



Smith and Alexander

PO 299

Garland Texas  75121


R. K. Campbell




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Click pictures for a larger version.


This is the author’s high grade Springfield. Note the extended slide lock and safety, the Herrett’s grips and Smith and Alexander magazine ‘chute’.  Shown with Ek Commando knife, courtesy Specialist Matthew Campbell.



Here are a pair of Springfield .45s, each ready to do the business. The upper .45 features a Nowlin barrel, the lower is stock except for Ahrends grips. Shown with Ek Commando daggers.



Like the original SAA .45, the new .45 auto features a short trigger action and a comfortable grip.



Author found the short trigger friendly to his handguns, well suited to rapid action drills.



The original small slide window or ejection port of the 1911A1 is greatly improved in the Loaded Model, making for better handling in loading and unloading and greater reliability of spent cases.



Here is a petal shaped Barnes bullet from a test medium. This is outstanding performance, even from Cor Bon!



This stainless Springfield .45 has proven first class in all regards over a period of time.  It is not to be overrated.



Matthew Campbell carefully loads a few rounds destined to eat out the center of a NRA standard target.



These are just a few of the bullet designs we found the modern Springfield will handle with complete reliability.



Uncle Mike’s shooting gloves, a good .45, magazines and plenty of ammunition—what more could we ask for?



The long forgotten and thoroughly mistreated .45 caliber Speer ammunition proved trustworthy after many months in storage.