Make Mine A ‘Trial’ Nine

Springfield Armory’s Open Carry Companion For The Field

As a wee lad, I lived often with my grandparents and three good-looking aunts, especially one, a tall Northern Italian beauty with long wavy reddish hair and bright blue eyes. My aunts were a magnet to the young men in the neighborhood. These fellows always played with me and told stories to ingratiate themselves to the three “girls.” One especially spoke as if I were grown up, regaling with stories of the ongoing war. Home on leave, he recounted a hair-raising experience where, out of rifle ammo, he was charged by an enemy, who must also have shot up his long-gun supply. Pistol in hand, the enemy soldier came on. Roland fired first.

The attacker’s sidearm flew into the air and the man hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. After capturing his prisoner, Roland inspected the hit. The bullet had struck only a thumb. Thinking on it today, a bullet in the thumb, even from a .22 rimfire, might cause a person to hit the turf. But my soldier friend assured me it was only because of his .45 that the enemy “went down in a heap.” Those sorts of legends still exist.

I remembered that for years and vowed my first semi-auto pistol would be a .45 ACP, which it was. Roland’s furlough up, he went back to the front. His parent’s house soon had a star in the window added to the already too many on our block. In later years, my aunt showed me a box of medals won by Roland. Unlike one of our fearless leaders, Roland had not written up his own honors. He was a hero.

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Any of the more accurate 9mm target ammo, such as
Black Hills 115-grain FMJ, will produce rabid coyote
close-range accuracy, as well as the meat-saving
delivery on small edibles.

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Typical of the self-defense “high power” 9mm factory ammo,
Federal Premium 124-grain Hyrda-Shok JHP can be counted on
to deliver both accuracy and energy unheard of when the
Mr. Luger came up with his cartridge.

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Notice on Federal Premium 124-grain JHP ammo with energy rating
out to 50 yards. Sam’s chronograph work verified advertised
ballistics on the ammo he tested. Notice a dead-on at 25 yards
puts the bullet negligibly low at 50 yards.

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Bullet efficiency is based on “mushrooming” or setback,
but also integrity that promotes penetration. Note
slits in bullet nose.

The .45 Alternative

The .45 ACP remains an ace among the three easiest-to-find semi-auto rounds at the gun store. But for an open carry companion make mine a nine. The 9mm Luger enjoys hundreds of different loads, sufficient to fill a small book. Consider Russia’s interesting 7N21 9×19 overpressure round, with a bullet designed to pierce body armor. The little nine thrives in the 21st century with myriad loads from numerous companies, surpassing anything Mr. Luger could have dreamed of in the early 1900’s, especially in the self-defense mode.

A need to know found me at the range chronographing 9mm loads of authority. All ammo met promises. As a single example, Hornady’s Custom 9mm Luger 147-grain XTP advertised at 975 fps ran 968 fps on my Oheler 35P chronograph with a standard deviation of 22 fps.

Since concealed carry was not the byword for me in my search for a 9mm trail gun, I scouted out “full-size” models. So many drew me like bees to the blossom I felt like Mozart when he tried on several beautiful wigs, wishing he had multiple heads to wear them all at once.

But I fell upon the Springfield Range Officer (RO) for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact His Editorship, Roy, recommended it. Springfield could not have created a pistol more suited to my specific requirements for a 9mm. The classic GI style recoil system with fully adjustable target sights, 41-ounce weight for light recoil; 5.5″ by 8.6″ dimensions and the fact the slab-sided RO rides close on the hip, made it perfect for my needs. Since I bought the gun, the sights have been replaced with Brownells’ 3-dot whites for low light.

Since in spirit I never got past nine years old, I had the RO spitting out bullets within an hour of taking the pistol home. Laser-like accuracy was beyond expectations with the 5″ match grade fully supported ramped barrel. The trigger broke at 5.6-pounds, crisp, with short travel and short reset for fast shoot-again. Reliability was promised with a forged steel Parkerized slide, and the same for the frame. Along with the 3-dot sight from Brownells, I added the EGW No. 10402 Tungsten Guide R Rod (for the 5″ gun, one-piece) also from Brownells.

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My new cat — my old cat was ‘et by a fox that took up
residence in our woodpile to house his family of wife
and 3 kits. I could not get up the killer instinct to
eliminate the family.

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Only a sample of the many “hot” 9mm loads available
today for the 9mm Luger cartridge.

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Showing bullets intended for “business.” Nose slits evident.

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Only a sample of some practice ammo for the 9mm Luger.

Out Of The Box Gem

The RO proved an internal diamond, a true gem out of the box, and most important to me — more go than show, with super tough sunrise to sunset reliability. Plus, I found the pistol more than fetching for my sensibility with exterior finish ideal for intended field use. For pretty, the grips were Cross Canon double-diamond cocobolo that settled firm in my hand. Best of all, I could depend on the RO to go wherever I do, and sometimes I go where I shouldn’t.

I find all semi-auto designs fine, but have a soft spot for the 1911 format. It works for me with my personal shooting habits and it breaks down readily for cleaning. If people were cookie-cutter clones, rules for shooting would apply across the board, but we are not. My combat shooting trainer gets frustrated. “No, Sam. Right thumb resting on left. Not interlocked!” That is the accepted way to be sure, but not for me with the RO.

I could shoot my 9mm for pleasure and practice (even more pleasure with the tungsten guide rod dampening recoil) as well as open carry with ammo costing less than .45 ACP. I ran across, for example, a super deal online — “cheap” practice loads proving excellent for the purpose. For open carry in the field, hot stuff would fill the RO’s magazine, such as Barnes TAC XPD 9mm Luger +P with 115-grain bullet, Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P, along with other high-power examples from Remington, Winchester, Federal — on and on.

For playtime, after the RO had digested about 300 rounds, I headed for a 100 meter range where I popped away on a jackrabbit-sized target with the very accurate Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P load. Head shots no, but a hare in the firing line might not be raiding Farmer Jones’ crop that night.

A word on failure. That word is none — not so far. Every magazine dumped its cargo like WW II B-17’s over the target. Springfield does not message its The RO proved an internal diamond, a true gem out of the box, and most important to me — more go than show, with super tough sunrise to sunset reliability. Plus, I found the pistol more than fetching for my sensibility with exterior finish ideal for intended field use. For pretty, the grips were Cross Canon double-diamond cocobolo that settled firm in my hand. Best of all, I could depend on the RO to go wherever I do, and sometimes I go where I shouldn’t.

I find all semi-auto designs fine, but have a soft spot for the 1911 format. It works for me with my personal shooting habits and it breaks down readily for cleaning. If people were cookie-cutter clones, rules for shooting would apply across the board, but we are not. My combat shooting trainer gets frustrated. “No, Sam. Right thumb resting on left. Not interlocked!” That is the accepted way to be sure, but not for me with the RO.

I could shoot my 9mm for pleasure and practice (even more pleasure with the tungsten guide rod dampening recoil) as well as open carry with ammo costing less than .45 ACP. I ran across, for example, a super deal online — “cheap” practice loads proving excellent for the purpose. For open carry in the field, hot stuff would fill the RO’s magazine, such as Barnes TAC XPD 9mm Luger +P with 115-grain bullet, Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P, along with other high-power examples from Remington, Winchester, Federal — on and on.

For playtime, after the RO had digested about 300 rounds, I headed for a 100 meter range where I popped away on a jackrabbit-sized target with the very accurate Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P load. Head shots no, but a hare in the firing line might not be raiding Farmer Jones’ crop that night.

A word on failure. That word is none — not so far. Every magazine dumped its cargo like WW II B-17’s over the target. Springfield does not message its message on the RO pistol’s accuracy potential. Just the opposite. Promised groups ranging 3.5″ at 25 yards were surpassed every time from a good bench rest, with 2″ to 2.5″ spreads. I found the hot stuff to give the best groups, such as Federal’s 124-grain Hydra-Shok JHP, another star in the 9mm sky, Black Hills power loads, and others.

On paper, the worst groups at 25 yards ran in the 2.5″ domain. On the other end of the spectrum, shooting freelance for practice and pastime, I waltzed through the nearby forest from home, encouraging dropped pine cones to do the cha-cha-cha with bulk 9mm ammo made in Serbia.

It is always dangerous to brag on one particular brand and load while bombing another when “testing” is by only one shooter firing under one set of conditions, including his or her mindset, steadiness of hand, beat of heart, even general health. Plus, we know that guns are individual in the ammo each one “likes.” An example of this was proved as I was readying my Kimber Caprivi .416 Remington for a long spell in Africa. My goal was one rifle for steenbok to elephant. For plains game, I had a 300-grain Barnes bullet exiting the muzzle at 2,900 fps, flat-shooting enough for my favorite Kwa Zulu Natal grasslands. For shoot-back animals, 400-grain bullets. As an old beaver trapper would say, “I couldn’t do no better” for accuracy with the 300-grain bullet. Until I cooked up a load for the 350-grain Barnes with an appropriate cargo of H-4895 that proved a keener bull’s eye puncher.

The RO was an exception to the rule because it cycled all ammo I had on hand in several different brands and loads.

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Open double magazine carry in Sam’s UTV.

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Sam’s muddy UTV — the RO will go along the many long ago
abandoned forest roads leading to interesting country.

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The RO rode flat at the side and entirely comfortable.

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One of Sam’s favorite packs with the RO riding firm and solid.
Riding in this manner, the pack can be slipped off in seconds
and the pistol put into battery. Ideal for the companion piece
when hiking into high country lakes or any other desirable
spot away from roads.

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Today’s 9mm Luger ammunition is the best the world has
ever seen. Black Hills loads in 115-grain bullet weight
proved super accurate, while the 124-grain bullet totally
destroyed gallon-size water containers.

Carry Thoughts

Carry proved uncompromising in a Triple K Style 211 Easy Out holster. In time, I added four magazines to the two coming in the heavy-duty RO case. A strong open style double-magazine carrier came with the RO kit. I adapted this to my UTV. I opted for 9 rounds loaded plus three 9-round magazines, for a cargo of a total of 36. For magazine carry a Triple K Mag Pouch. As an excuse to shoot the RO for fun as well as practice and preparedness, I ran a little drill, which included both boot-hiking and remote abandoned roads for UTV travel. The plan was simple. Dirt clods, stumps, the ever-present pine cone, twigs on the ground — all became rabbits and mountain birds. Result: the 9mm RO would provide campfire protein.

Summing it up, the RO 9mm proved ideal as my open carry companion with its light recoil for easy and enjoyable practice with affordable ammunition. While I confess I may carry my Smith & Wesson Scandium .44 Magnum on hikes into high country fishing lakes in Wyoming with the hundred-thousand-to-one chance I may not be able to coward my way clear of a grizzly recently jilted by his girlfriend. But the RO 9mm will rest at my side most of the time. It has sufficient authority and I can hit with it due to many hours of joyful practice and plinking.

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Overview of the Springfield Armory Range Officer in 9mm,
with appointments as outlined in the text.

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Close look at Black Hills 124-grain 9mm ammo —
always reliable and accurate.

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Sam found the 5″ barrel RO carried handily in the
Triple-K holster that rides close to body.

By Sam Fadala

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