The Springfield Emissary Goes Black: Full Handgun Review

By Paul Rackley, GunBroker.com Editor

The 1911 has been out for a very long time. So long, in fact, this handgun has received countless upgrades and enhancements over the years. Some shooters believe this iconic pistol can’t be improved anymore. Can’t say I agree. The 1911 keeps evolving with new features, price points and looks. And if I’m wrong it doesn’t matter. Companies keep bringing out really nice 1911s, just like the Springfield Black Emissary.

Springfield has been producing excellent 1911s for quite a while, with a few different models providing a variety of features for shooters. In fact, Springfield Armory introduced the Emissary a couple of years ago in both .45 ACP and 9mm. The Springfield Black Emissary is an expansion of that line. And the name pretty much explains how this semi-auto pistol looks out of the box. 

The Aesthetics of Black Cerakote 

Like most Springfield 1911s, the Black Emissary is aesthetically pleasing and functional as a linebacker. In most ways, it is the two-tone Emissary with a color change. In simple vernacular, the Springfield Black Emissary is a semi-custom 1911 with a really nice black Cerakote finish. 

However, this gun is actually more. With the Black Emissary, Springfield blended form and function to make one hell of a full-size defensive pistol. For this, the company included features that really make this pistol shine. 

Springfield started with a forged, heavy-profile bull barrel for accuracy. The additional weight should also help reduce muzzle flip. The company placed this barrel inside of a forged, stainless-steel frame and a forged, carbon-steel slide. On the slide, Springfield included an integral rail for accessories, as well as deep, forward-angled serrations for grip when racking the slide. 

Springfield finished this pistol with a skeletonized hammer, beveled magazine well, flat-faced trigger and slim VZ Grips. The company even cut a grenade pattern into the G10 grips, providing an aggressive texture for purchase when handling. 

Fit & Feelings Matter

Straight out of the included box and carry bag, the Black Emissary feels significant. It weighs a few ounces more than a standard 1911, but this doesn’t distract from the gun. In fact, it helps. Empty, this pistol is slightly front heavy, but levels out once a loaded eight-round magazine is inserted. It just feels like the weight would take up some of the recoil. 

Everything on this gun is tight, but not constricted. It doesn’t rattle, but cycling by hand is smooth and uninhibited. The trigger guard is square for those who place a support hand finger on the guard, and the guard is also slightly oversized for use with gloves. 

The beavertail is high, providing a high grip and ample protection from the slide. The safety is secure but not stiff; shooters can easily engage and release it via a thumb. Springfield made the frag-pattern grips aggressive to provide purchase, especially with gloves. However, the pattern isn’t too aggressive for bare hands. 

What’s really nice on this gun, though, are the serrations on the flat top and the combat sights. The serrations across the top help with glare in bright light, while the tritium front sight shines in the dark. In normal light, Springfield’s U-Dot system comes together quickly when aiming, while the flat-faced rear sight allows one-hand racking against tables, desks, etc., as well as a belt in a pinch. The only thing I was unsure about was the plastic trigger. While it feels nice and breaks clean, plastic just doesn’t provide confidence in durability. Of course, companies have been using plastic and polymer in handguns for decades, so it might just be a personal issue.

These features come together to create one heck of a defensive pistol in theory. Of course, theory often collides with practical. Sometimes interesting features don’t translate into the real world. And the only way to determine this is by putting rounds down range. 

Springfield Black Emissary In the Real World

The 1911 has long been popular with operators, such as special forces and SWAT. It also makes an excellent home- and self-defense pistol. Because of this, testing was performed at an IDPA range, leaning heavily toward practical shooting scenarios.

I started, of course, with several slow strings at 10 yards standing. This was to get a feel for the gun. The trigger broke crisply, while the sight radius of the 5-inch gun made aiming easy. Even when speeding strings up, the sights came right back into line for follow-up shots.

Accuracy was better than average, whether standing, from a knee or resting on a cover barrel. It has been my experience that most firearms are much more accurate than shooters, and the Black Emissary is no exception. And this was regardless of brand or type of ammunition. 

In addition to a variety of Federal ammunition, I ran through some reloads that were more than a decade old. The Black Emissary ate it all with zero functional problems, including Hydra-Shok defense loads. Federal Syntech 230-grain loads seemed to be most accurate overall, but since this gun wasn’t designed for benchrest shooting, I didn’t spend hours averaging five-shot groups with four different ammo types at way beyond self-defense range. In fact, I only measured a couple of groups from each ammo type fired at 10 yards. 

The smallest group came from Syntech, measuring 1.3 inches. The largest group would have been 1.8 inches with 210-grain Hydra-Shok if it hadn’t of been for a couple of flyers with the reloads. In any case, this pistol exhibited accuracy well within self-defense levels. In fact, its accuracy is well beyond the average shooter. 

 During drills, the U-Dot sights lined up easily, even when transitioning between multiple targets and drawing from a CrossBreed SuperTuck. Even during movement, the Black Emissary pointed well. The beveled magazine well also made reloads fast, with empty mags dropping freely with no effort. 

Even in .45 ACP, recoil was very manageable, easily allowing for fast follow-up shots, including double-taps and hammers with good accuracy. The grenade-style grips also provided plenty of purchase, without too much bite. The 9mm version, in either 5 inch or 4.25 inch, would be even more manageable, and even provides an additional round. 

Those Last Impressions 

The Springfield Black Emissary is a 1911. It is a very nice 1911, but it is still a version of a pistol that has been around for more than 100 years. The two-tone Emissary has actually been out for a couple of years, and the Black Emissary is mostly a cooler color on an already nice pistol. 

In simple terms, this pistol is a hoss. It feels good in the hands and hits where it is aimed. It is also reliable, running any type of ammo in its chambering. These are the three most important requirements for a gun. Everything else is pure opinion; some people like certain features, while others don’t. 

I liked the tri-top, the slide serrations and the sights. This includes the serrations between the sights, which really reduced the glare on a bright day. Another nice little feature is the small divot right behind the magazine release, which actually made hitting the button just a little easier. Of course, I’ve never had a problem dropping the magazine of a standard 1911. 

I have long been a fan of John Browning’s iconic pistol. And this is an excellent version of that gun, containing features that make it even better. So, the only question is, do you think black is beautiful? 

Springfield Black Emissary Specs

  • Action: Semi-Auto
  • Caliber: .45 ACP (tested), 9mm
  • Slide: Forged Carbon Steel, Black Cerakote
  • Frame: Forged Stainless Steel, Black Cerakote
  • Grips: VZ Grips Thin-Line G10
  • Barrel: 5-inch Forged Stainless Steel, Nitride, Match Grade, Bull (tested), 4.25 inches
  • Rifling: 1:16
  • Height: 5.25 inches
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Length: 8.4 inches
  • Weight: 43 oz.
  • Trigger: 4 lbs.
  • UPC: 706397935672
  • MSRP: $1,378

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