THE PRODIGY IS NO LONGER JUST A ’90S EDM BAND, AND 2011S JUST GOT MORE AFFORDABLE
It’s somewhat ironic that the eight years since STI’s patent expired on their hi-cap 2011 design have been the company’s most profitable, due in no small part to their rebranding as Staccato and making a serious play for the LE market by marketing raceguns to cops.
That business success has attracted others to the field, the latest being Springfield Armory, which aims to bring their manufacturing and marketing horsepower to the platform.
As one of the U.S.’s biggest 1911 vendors, Springfield’s decision to add a widebody option to the stable was an obvious one, but getting 2011s to run reliably seems for whatever reason to be more difficult than their single-stack brethren; this problem is exacerbated in calibers that don’t start with a .4.
We got hands-on with a couple of their preproduction models to see if they can pull it off.
LIFTING THE HOOD
Coming to market in early fall with two base models, a Government and Commander version, Springfield is giving the consumer just enough choices to make things interesting while hinting at what’s to come. Both guns ship with two magazines, a 17-round flush-fit, and an extended 20-rounder that complies with the USPSA 140mm limit, and both are ready for optics right out of the box.
To appeal to the maximum number of users, a system of optics mounting plates will accommodate most MRDS footprints, while preserving iron sights as a backup. Our test guns shipped with a Trijicon RMR on the 5-inch barreled version and one of Springfield’s Hex Dragonfly red dots on the 4.25.
This shares a mounting pattern with Burris and Vortex, so fans of those sights are already taken care of, and we’re told a Leupold-pattern plate will be available shortly.
Both mounting plates are beveled to blend the MRDS body into the slide rather than leave an unsightly overhang, and old-school users are taken care of with fixed front and rear, suppressor-height iron sights, and the front sporting a green fiber optic.
BUIS height appears to have been chosen so that even with red dots with a thick LED housing, such as the RMR, there’s just enough rear sight notch visible over the red dot to be useful without resorting to stratospherically tall irons.
The arse-end of the slide below your chosen sighting device is resolutely old-school and conforms to the Series 70 pattern, with thankfully no trace of a firing pin safety to mess up the classic 1911 trigger pull.
A standard extractor is fitted and correctly tensioned, while the firing pin stop is radiused appropriately for 9mm loads. On both guns, the ejection port is lowered and beveled — no voodoo here, just well-established 1911 gunsmithing.
Forward cocking serrations mimic ones at the slide’s rear, and the usual ball cuts are almost completely absent, save for a vestigial notch that lines up with the almost full-length dust cover. This adds a noticeable amount of mass to the muzzle, which may or may not be your cup of Earl Grey, but there’s no denying the Prodigy’s slide-to-frame fit, which is as tight as many custom guns.
Both slide and frame rails are very well machined, with a silky-smooth action.
1911 purists will turn up their noses at the full-length, two-piece guide rod that’s retained by a reverse recoil spring plug, but they probably didn’t make it this far into the gun anyway, having been turned off by the lack of a “cause they don’t make a 46” caliber and polymer grip.
Their loss. Should anyone want to return to Browning’s original recoil spring design, there’s a slot in the slide to accept a barrel bushing, though this is probably to reduce the number of slide SKUs on hand, rather than an indication of future design intent.
The Prodigy’s barrel is massive, stainless, conventionally rifled with a 16 twist, and Nowlin ramped. One of the first tests we do on 1911s before hitting the range is check barrel to slide lockup, as without hand-fitting, it’s tough to ensure proper engagement between the barrel lug’s camming surface and the slide stop.
Some factories cheat by relying on the barrel link to push the barrel into battery, which works for a few hundred rounds but will eventually shoot loose, leading to sloppy lockup and vertical stringing on target. After hand-cycling the slide a few dozen times, we field stripped the pistols and found even wear on the slide stop across its mating surface, indicating that the barrel feet were making contact where they should.
Turning attention to the frame, controls are what you’d expect of a single-action handgun designed to span both competition and defensive roles. Ambi thumb safeties have zero play between the left and right levers, snicking into engagement with a positive click.
While the magazine release is slightly extended over a stock 1911, you’ll still have to rotate the gun in your hand to reach it, unless you wear a glove bigger than XXL, as the grip is slightly fatter than Browning’s original. That said, it’s nowhere near unmanageable, unless you think a G17 is unwieldy — the grip circumference is identical.
Using the same two-piece construction as an STI/Staccato/SVI means different grip modules can be added to the frame, should you get bored with the standard polymer lower. We have no idea if a steel 2011 grip will bolt straight up, as there’s considerable variation between existing frames in the marketplace, which may require the end user or their ’smith to be handy with a file. But if it does, SVI, Limcat, Cheely, Phoenix Trinity etc. will be happy to add about 7 ounces to the overall weight, while subtracting 600 bucks from your bank balance.
That said, it’ll probably be a while before you’ll want to swap anything, as all the usual modifications we typically do to a stock frame after it leaves the factory are already included — there’s a double undercut on the trigger guard, a soft-but-grippy stipple job and a perfectly executed, functional beavertail safety. Hinting at future accessories, there’s a rail at the grip’s lower edge, which is no doubt designed to secure a magwell in conjunction with the mainspring housing pin.
Compared to an older STI frame we had on hand, the Prodigy’s is approximately 2mm thicker through the dust cover area, adding non-reciprocating mass and burying the slide release, which is inlet into a machined pocket. This makes it slightly harder to engage for administrative handling but doesn’t affect the shooter’s ability to hit on a
reload with either the master or non-dominant thumb. In case you were wondering, the Commander-sized upper fits on the 5-inch frame, despite its 3/8-inch shorter recoil stroke, leaving room for a compensator should someone be so inclined. And we’d be surprised if a factory carry comp version weren’t high up on the agenda.
Bottom line up front — yeah, they can shoot.
Once we made a slight adjustment to the red dot and dialed its brightness all the way down, standing unsupported at 50 yards, the Commander version turned in a 2.25-inch, five-shot group with 130PF reloads consisting of Montana Gold 121-grain JHPs over WSF powder.
We’ve shot pistol-caliber carbines that struggle to get that kind of accuracy, so for a 4.25-inch barreled handgun to achieve it in the first 20 rounds of a range session is an indication of its potential. In the next 300 rounds, we replicated that performance numerous times.
The 5-inch Prodigy didn’t quite achieve the same accuracy as its little brother with the ammo we had available, but it’s one of the softest-shooting handguns we’ve ever encountered, aided no doubt by the amount of heft in the hand.
With a little time to tune ammo to the gun, we’re pretty sure it would turn in similar groups, but deadlines limit the amount of tinkering we’re able to do.
We’d be interested to see what a steel grip frame does to further damp out recoil, because adding a SureFire X300U keeps the front end down during rapid fire.
Slide velocity is noticeably slower than the Commander version — you can feel the pistol pick up a round from the magazine if you concentrate hard — but we couldn’t outrun it no matter how hard we tried during Bill drills.
Are these handguns we’d take right out of the box and stick in a holster for daily carry? Hell no, but then we’d hesitate to do that with a Glock or SIG as well. The difference is that we’d expect the striker-fired guns to run 100 percent during a brief familiarization and break-in period, while the 1911-pattern pistols might stutter. And so it was.
We had two failures to feed in the short gun, both with hollow points, and both on the penultimate round from a magazine. These occurred during the first range session, after which it ran without a glitch, but we’d want to shoot a case of ammo through both Prodigy models before pronouncing them fit for duty — it’s just the nature of tight-fitting 1911s.
If you want the awesome trigger, shoot-the-balls-off-a-gnat accuracy, and overall shootabilty, then you’ll have to put in the time to gain confidence in the system.
Double-stack 1911s aren’t beginners’ guns. For anyone starting out, we continue to recommend a good striker-fired, polymer-framed service pistol of whatever flavor you like best. But when you’re ready for an upgrade, Springfield have made the cost of entry to the 2011 world much more affordable, and once you’ve shot them, you probably won’t want to shoot anything else.
Springfield Armory Prodigy
- Caliber: 9mm Para
- Capacity: 17; 20 rounds
- Barrel Length: 5; 4.25 inches
- Overall Length: 8.5; 7.8 inches
- Weight: 37; 33.3 ounces
- MSRP: $1,499 without optic; $1,699 with Hex Dragonfly