The men and women who have saved lives with weapons are more worthy of study than the arms yielded. Just the same, few if any handguns have the background of the 1911 pistol. I come to each review without prejudice, as a slanted view leads to fallibility. That said, the 1911 is my favorite handgun — and one that I have carried professionally for more than 40 years. The pistol seems to have a bearing of conviction and business-like appearance that speaks volumes, especially when it comes to the Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 .45.

A Bit of History

The original 1911 was adopted by the Army in the year 1911 (go figure). The Colt pistol fired around 6,000 rounds of ammo (of less quality than modern ammunition) without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject. This was far superior to the standard of the time.

Features of a 1911 include a straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a low bore axis that limits muzzle flip, a handle that fits most hands well, a grip safety that prevents movement of the trigger unless the grip safety is fully depressed and a slide lock safety.

Safety First … Accuracy a Close Second

Close-up photo of the ambidextrous slide lock safety on the Springfield Loaded Operator 1911.

The pistol features a modern Swenson-type ambidextrous slide lock safety. (Photo by Bob Campbell)

The 1911 is safe when carried cocked and locked, hammer to the rear and safety off. The safety moves the sear from the hammer, and the grip safety keeps the trigger locked. There is no handgun faster to an accurate first shot than a properly carried, cocked-and-locked 1911 handgun. The modern 1911 is constructed to closer tolerances than the original, making it even more reliable. Anyone can make a cheaper gun, and there are plenty of cheaply made 1911 handguns.

The Springfield builds more on recent history than harking back to 1911. As an example, the original Springfield Bureau Model had to fire 25,000 rounds without a single failure while grouping five shots into 1.25 inches at 25 yards in the beginning and end of the test. That is even more impressive than the original 1911’s performance. The Loaded Operator reviewed here isn’t a Bureau Model, but isn’t far from that handgun either.

“Operator” simply denotes a Springfield 1911 with a rail. There are a number of choices, including the Marine Corps (MC), Long Beach and TRP Operator. The Loaded Model Operator, at just over $1,200, isn’t inexpensive, but it costs half as much as some high-end 1911 handguns. In my opinion, it gives up little to the more expensive pistols and performs better than the less expensive handguns. In short, it is a good value and among the best buys in mid-range 1911 handguns.

Side view of a Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 .45 pistol with the hammer cocked and locked.

The Loaded Operator’s combination of proven 1911 features and modern upgrades make for a formidable handgun. (Photo by Bob Campbell)

Springfield 1911 Specs

The pistol features Springfield’s Armory Kote finish. This is a durable finish: flat, non-reflective and all business. Armory Kote makes the pistol a bit slicker when one is drawing from a holster but perhaps a little too slippery for one to rack the slide well. The pistol, like all 1911s, is easier to rack for most of us by using the rear serrations and also features forward cocking serrations. The transition from the slide to the frame at the dust cover is handled very well, with a ball end cut usually found only on $2,000 handguns.

Caliber :          .45 ACP
Height:            5.5 inches
Length:            8.6 inches
Weight:           43 ounces
Barrel:             5-inch stainless-steel match-grade
Grip:                G10
Magazines:     Seven-round, blued-steel (2)
MSRP:             $1,308

Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 pistol with a TruGlo laser and light combination fitted on the rail under the pistol's barrel.

The Springfield Operator and TruGlo combat light (a combination light and laser) is an excellent combination for home defense. (Photo by Bob Campbell)

The pistol features well-designed G10 grips. The front and rear sections of the grip, viewed from one side, feature slightly different patterns. The result is excellent abrasion and adhesion. The Springfield Loaded Operator features a modern beavertail safety. This safety helps funnel the hand into the proper firing grip. A memory bump on the grip safety helps the shooter keep the beavertail depressed. A shooter practicing the thumbs-forward firing grip might raise his or her palm off the grip safety, deactivating the trigger. The Springfield grip safety with memory grip eliminates this concern.

This .45 from Springfield features an ambidextrous slide lock safety. The safety is well-fitted and very crisp in its indent. The pistol also features Novak Low Mount sights. Each is dovetailed in place, and the rear sight is adjustable for windage. The sights are properly regulated for 230-grain loads and the six o’clock hold. Trigger compression is 4.9 pounds and very smooth, with a rapid reset.

Close-up photo of the rear sight picture of the Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 .45.

Novak sights with tritium inserts make for excellent hit probability. (Photo by Bob Campbell)

Shooting Experience With the Springfield Loaded Operator

I’ve fired the pistol with a wide variety of practice loads and service ammunition, including lead bullet handloads and jacketed hollow-point service loads. Among the most satisfactory is the Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain LSWC load. This is an affordable, accurate and clean-burning combination.

In firing off-hand at man-sized targets from 5, 7, 10 and 20 yards, the pistol responds well to a trained shooter. The combination of good sights and a crisp trigger make for good control. Weighing in at little more than 40 ounces, the Loaded Operator is slightly heavier than most Government Model 1911 handguns.

I find the rail makes for good balance, resulting in good recoil control. The pistol is more accurate than most 1911 handguns I have tested. While control in off-hand fire and firing combat drills is most important, absolute accuracy is interesting and often reflects care in manufacture.

I have fired the pistol from a solid benchrest firing position and found the piece capable of a five-shot group of 2 inches at 25 yards. I chose the Black Hills Ammunition 230-grain JHP as my carry load. This load features a good balance of expansion and penetration, favoring penetration. The .45 ACP operates at modest pressure, and this load exhibits little muzzle flash — often just a few sparks, even in dim light. This is an efficient loading, well-suited to the Springfield Loaded Operator.

Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 .45 as a Concealed Carry Gun

As long as the shooter chooses a proper holster, carry with a 1911 isn’t difficult. The 1911 is long but flat. With the proper holster, the handgun rides tilted and close to the body. The DM Bullard inside-the-waistband holster is among the best-suited I have used for concealed carry.

A Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 .45 pistol fitted into a brown leather DM Bullard IWB holster.

The DM Bullard IWB holster is a well-designed holster for all-around concealed carry needs. (Photo by Bob Campbell)

The holster features two strong metal belt clips (offset on “wings”) that spread the weight of the handgun out across the body. (Be certain to wear a proper gun belt!) The rear rake holster makes the draw fast and natural. While I ordered mine in exotic leather, the holster is well-suited to hard use in natural leather as well. Choosing the proper holster is half the battle.

The Springfield Loaded Operator is among my most trusted handguns. It is as reliable as any handgun I have used and makes a solid companion.


DM Bullard:

About Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell is a writer for Concealed Carry Magazine with a degree in criminal justice. Bob has been a firearms writer for decades, writing for Concealed Carry HandgunsGun TestsAmerican GunsmithSWAT MagazineLaw and Order and Black Belt, among others. He has written 15 books primarily focused on handguns and training, including The Accurate Handgun from Gun Digest. In addition to serving as a peace officer and firearms instructor, he has also written curriculum at the university level.