Springfield Armory 1911 A-1 MIL-SPEC Part 3

Springfield Armory 1911 A-1 MIL-SPEC Part 3

Velocities vary

By Dennis Adler

The competition for the Springfield MIL-SPEC really comes down to one of these four variations of the 1911 as a CO2 model, the first blowback action 1911, the Umarex Colt Commander, the WWII style of 1911 which is represented here by the Air Venturi John Wayne model, and the two most modern of the 1911 CO2 designs, the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS (Rail Gun) and custom Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE, which like the new Springfield is the CO2 understudy to a current .45 ACP model.

You would think that if all these 1911 CO2 models share the same parts internally and variations of the same parts externally, and use the same CO2 BB magazines, that they would all shoot the same and have average velocities that are very close. But there are differences from the sights to the trigger designs and trigger pull weights. All of these can lead to differences in accuracy, as they should, that’s why 1911 sights, triggers, recoil springs, and slide and frame interfaces, have been improved upon over the years for centerfire models. A gun that is based on an early design, like the Tanfoglio Witness, Swiss Arms 1911 A-1, and John Wayne 1911 A-1 WWII commemorative have the oldest design features and those will have an effect on accuracy for most shooters. (I say most because there are some people who can pick up any gun and instinctively hit their target.)

Swiss Arms doesn’t make a .45 ACP 1911 and both the Colt Commander and John Wayne are more or less made up guns, while the Springfield Armory MIL-SPEC and the Sig Sauer WTP are based on existing centerfire models. That doesn’t necessarily make them better guns but certainly more interesting to those who may have the centerfire counterparts.

Internally the same basic parts are used for the CO2 firing systems because they are all using the same CO2 BB magazine designs, but there can be subtle differences in the air nozzles, air nozzle restrictors, magazine valve releases, and other parts. Technically, they should all be about equal. In my comparative tests of the five models shown in this series of articles, however, the average velocity has not been the same, close, but not consistent between guns.

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The John Wayne averaged 303 to 309 fps. The Umarex Colt Commanders average is 300 to 312 fps and average velocity for the Swiss Arms TRS is 304 to 309 fps, all pretty close but under advertised “up to” 314 to 320 fps claims (the TRS is listed as 314 fps). Currently the Sig Sauer WTP has consistently shot steel BBs at between 329 and 338 fps making it the highest velocity 1911 CO2 model with a factory claimed “up to” velocity of 340 fps. The new Springfield Armory has a factory rating of 320 fps and tested at an average of 314 fps, but is about the most consistent gun I have shot with 10 rounds clocking 314, 313, 313, 317, 315, 314, 314, 314, 313, and 314 fps, which puts it in second place.

Parts isn’t parts…because there are different combinations of parts that, while all looking the same, may have different levels of quality or construction and perform a little better. The emphasis is really on items like the air nozzles, air nozzle restrictors and magazine valve releases. I can’t say which ones are made differently without going to the manufacturers, but I can say through empirical evidence which ones work better, generate higher velocities, have better triggers, and are more accurate. And price isn’t always the reason.

Recap of velocity from top to bottom:

  1. Sig Sauer WTP 329 to 338 fps
  2. Air Venturi Springfield Armory MIL-SPEC 313 to 317 fps
  3. Umarex Colt Commanders 300 to 312 fps
  4. Swiss Arms TRS 304 to 309 fps
  5. Air Venturi John Wayne 303 to 309 fps

Now, the question is, do the magazines have anything to do with this? I put the new Springfield mag into the Swiss Arms TRS, which previously had shot a best 309 fps with the Swiss Arms magazine, and the gun delivered a velocity range of 313 fps to 318 fps with an average of, you guessed it, 314 fps, the same as the Springfield Armory MIL-SPEC. Now, what would the Sig Sauer WTP magazine (the gun with the highest velocity) do in a gun like the Swiss Arms TRS? Let’s find out. There’s a surprise. First, felt recoil on the Swiss Arms model increased by at least 10 percent over the Springfield and Swiss Arms magazines. Second, average velocity increased from 304 to 309 fps up to 310 to 314 fps; just a slight bump in velocity with a bigger bump in felt recoil. I put the WTP magazine (after 10 rounds through the Swiss Arms TRS) back in the Sig which broke its own previous record of 329 to 338 fps with a new high for a 1911 CO2 model of 338 to 348 fps. So, the best combination of magazine and gun delivers the highest velocity, and that appears to be the Sig Sauer 1911 WTP. But one last magazine swap, the WTP into the Springfield. The MIL-SPEC did the same 314 fps average as before, so the Sig magazine works best in the Sig, helps the others a bit, but it is not the magazine alone making a difference.

MSRP’s from the Colt to the WTP vary from $119.95 to $159.99 but actual selling prices tell the story. The Colt Commander sells for $109.95, the Sig Sauer WTP goes for an amazingly low $99.99, the John Wayne, with the highest MSRP (licensing rights to the John Wayne name and signature cost), actually has been reduced from $119.99 to a special discount of $79.99 (making it the best buy on a per dollar basis), while the Swiss Arms TRS sells for $109.95. The Springfield, which has not been officially released, will have to fall into that price range to be competitive between $99.99 and $119.95.


The same guns from the same design parts, when assembled to the specifications of their respective brands, are not the same guns in the end. Sig Sauer labored over the details of the WE THE PEOPLE to deliver a best in category gun against some pretty tough competition. The Springfield Armory MIL-SPEC, for its combination of features, comes in second overall for velocity. As a gun combining original Colt design, an upgrade in sights from military to white dot, and being a duplicate of a .45 ACP production gun (like the Sig Sauer WTP), it comes in a solid second to the Sig. It is a new contender but not a new champion until we see what happens downrange.

At the end of day three with the Springfield Armory 1911 MIL-SPEC, it has proven itself to be a solid competitor to the Sig Sauer WTP in terms of velocity, second best and better than the remaining three. It will now come down to handling and accuracy to pick a number 1 and number 2 between the MIL-SPEC and WTP.

In part 4 trigger comparisons and accuracy at 21 feet.

A word about safety

Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.


2 thoughts on “Springfield Armory 1911 A-1 MIL-SPEC Part 3”

  1. Is this going to be a gateway gun for Springfield, in that they will C02 their other models? I like the look of their FBI HRT model & the commemorative TRP they made for the Chris Kyle Foundation.

    • Would be nice to see Springfield offer a target sighted version, and true Commander and Officer’s sized 1911 pistols . Next airgun advance would be increasing recoil without losing velocity, like Colt did with the floating chamber in the 22 ACE and conversion unit

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