Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

It’s clear that the inventor of the 1911, John Moses Browning, had a good grasp of human engineering and mechanics. Browning was a genius by any standard. His enduring design is — still — one of the best shooting, best carrying handguns ever made.

The pistol we deploy today is a slightly different handgun in metallurgy and improved features, but any soldier of the Great War or World War II could easily use and shoot a modern 1911. And vice versa.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
The Ronin’s safety lever isn’t ambidextrous. That’s bad for lefties, but makes for a slimmer carry profile. (Virgil Caldwell for TTAG)

Some things are truly timeless. The 1911 features great ergonomics and a low bore axis, meaning the center line of the bore is located fairly low over the hand. This limits felt recoil and muzzle flip. The weight of the pistol helps there, too. The slim 1911’s cross section managed to fit most hand sizes well. If properly carried cocked and locked, there is no pistol that’s faster to an accurate first shot.

I have been carrying and firing the 1911 for more than four decades. I remember well when Springfield introduced their first 1911 handguns. Before Springfield we mostly had Spanish iron mongery, the Colt and little else.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

Springfield began 1911 manufacture by obtaining affordable castings from Brazil and finishing them in house. Today the product is manufactured here in the United States. Among the many accomplishments of Springfield is to win the FBI contract for a SWAT pistol and supplying special models to US Military teams.

The two-tone 9mm Ronin is intended to have a retro look. It resembles a class of custom handguns commonly available in the 1980s and 1990s. This isn’t a high-end pistol, but it certainly isn’t a budget gun either.

Springfield makes a range of Ronin models in 9mm, .45 ACP and 10mm. The review gun is the the 5-inch 9mm version which packs 9 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.

This pistol is stamped as a Ronin Operator but Springfield has since dropped that designation on these rail-less pistols. All Ronin models are simply Ronins.)

Fit, finish, and bluing are very good. The pistol features a blued steel slide with forward fore and aft serrations over a forged stainless steel frame.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

Springfield equips the Ronin with a “tactical rack” rear slight and a front sight with an orange fiber optic tube. That rear slide can be used to rack the slide one-handed on a belt, a table top, or any firm object.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

That orange tube makes for a very visible sight picture in almost any lighting conditions short of near-total darkness.

The Ronin’s beavertail is well designed and the slide lock safety is nicely fitted. The attractive laminated grips are partially checkered and provide a firm grip. They are slim line types which make for superior concealment and fit small hands well.

The real draw of the 1911 platform for most people — besides the classic lines and great ergonomics — is its incomparable trigger. The Ronin doesn’t disappoint in that area. The Springfield’s match trigger consistently broke at a hair under 5 pounds.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

The pistol features a ramped 9mm barrel. As many of you who handload realize, this raises some possibilities. A fully supported cartridge case head and long loading makes for an outstanding 9mm sporting cartridge. Factory loads are also interesting. After inspecting the Ronin, I lubricated the long bearing surfaces and began the test with several 9mm loads.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

I added a couple of Wilson Combat 9mm magazines to the single 9mm magazine Springfield supplies with the Ronin. The primary load used during the evaluation was the Black Hills Ammunition 115 grain FMJ. At 1160 fps this is a useful accurate and clean burning load.

I began drawing and firing the pistol at man-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards. Just because this is a 9mm and not a .45 doesn’t mean you don’t have to grasp the pistol properly and concentrate. Even with the lighter load, there is some recoil and there is some muzzle flip.

The Ronin comes on target quickly. Combined with that great 1911 trigger and some decent fundamentals, you will get hits. Double taps, controlled pairs and hammers are very fast with this pistol. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject.

In addition to various range loads, I shot a magazine each of the Black Hills Ammunition Honey Badger 100 grain +P and the Black Hills Ammunition 124 grain +P. These are first class defense loads that are well suited to the Springfield Ronin. There was more push than with the FMJ loads, but not uncomfortable.

Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol
Springfield’s Ronin pistols feature 20 lpi checkering on the grip’s rear, but not the bead-blasted front. (Courtesy Springfield)

The 9mm pistol is as fast to an accurate first shot as any good 1911 and very pleasant to fire. I also did the obligatory accuracy testing, firing five-shot groups at 15 yards. I used handloads with the Hornady 124 grain XTP and enough Unique Powder to produce 1315 fps…a stout load leaving little to be desired for effect.

I also fired five rounds of Black Hills 115 grain FMJ at the same distance. Each group was right at 2.0 inches. That’s plenty precise, what I call easy accuracy.

As you’d probably expect, 9mm Ronin is very pleasant to shoot. It functions as it should and the pistol is plenty accurate. With a full power or +P 9mm load the pistol is a fine all-around defensive pistol.

I used the Jeffrey Custom Leather Professional holster during the test. That combination doesn’t get any better for a carry and range pistol compliment. If you are able to wear a cover garment, the holster rides high and close and features an ideal mix of speed and security.

Specifications: Springfield 1911 Ronin 9mm Pistol

Capacity: 9+1
Weight: 41 Ounces
Overall Length: 8.6 in.
Height: 5.5 in.
Barrel: Five inches, hammer forged
Slide and frame: Forged stainless steel
MSRP: $849 (about $790 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability   * * * * *
Perfect. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject with a wide range of cartridges. Similar pistols from Springfield have given good results.

Accuracy: * * * * *
The pistol is more than accurate enough in slow fire and combat accuracy is very good.

Handling, ergonomics * * * * *
Come on…it’s a 1911. It’s one of the best handgun designs ever created.

Concealed Carry  * * * * *
As with most 1911 pistols, the Ronin is relatively flat and balances well. Concealed carry and efficiency are very high in a quality rig.

Overall * * * * *
At a retail price of right around $800, the attractive Ronin can almost be considered a bargain, assuming that you can find one to buy. The level of fit and finish is comparable to 1911s costing significantly more. In the Ronin, Springfield has packed excellent features and very good performance into a classic-looking, pretty affordable package that will take you back a few decades. And that’s a good thing.


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