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Thread: A Brief Review of the Springfield Professional Operator

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    A Brief Review of the Springfield Professional Operator

    A Brief Review of the Springfield Professional Operator

    (First posted on Sigforum)


    So a few years ago, in 2001 I believe, long before 1911ís became all the rage at my police department, I was at the range when I was presented with a unique opportunity. I had a chance to shoot six beautiful custom/semi-custom 1911ís side by side. There was a Wilson CQB, a Les Baer Thunder Ranch, a Colt Special Combat Government, a Kimber Royal Gold, a Colt crafted by Bob Chow and finally there was a gun I had read about, but that seemed so plain yet so unique. The gun was a Springfield Professional.

    I shot all the guns, but their was one I didnít want to put down. One I didnít want to give back. It was a gun that made an impression on me that eight years later would still have me transfixed and cause me to spend more money on a factory-custom handgun than I ever thought I would. That gun was the very simple Springfield Professional.

    Flash forward eight years from that magical Saturday morning. I was made an offer by another forum member (thanks Whtwolf14!) that I couldnít refuse on an almost NIB Springfield Professional Operator. After selling my Sig 228 (I miss you!) and some other stuff and scrounging up every penny I could find the gun was mine. It make a cross country flight from Virginia to California, I picked it up in August and have now had it for a couple months.

    I planned to have around 1,500 rounds through the gun by now. That just hasnít happened. Not because I havenít had time, but because of our current ammo shortage. Thereís been a pallet of 45 ACP on order that should have been at my PD in July. We still have yet to see it. The gun only has around 500 rounds through it right now so I donít even consider it broken in yet. Thatís why this is going to be a brief review rather than a more in-depth one that I would have liked to do.

    So what is a Pro?

    I thought that most folks pretty much knew what a Springfield Professional was. I was wrong. It seems that guys ďin the knowĒ about 1911ís tend to know what they are, but the average guy on the internet often seems to confuse them with the Springfield TRP and other pistols. The Professional is not the TRP and the TRP is not the Professional. They are very different guns, but they often seemed to get lumped together.

    The Springfield Professional was initially called the Bureau Model. It is the gun that won the FBI HRTís contract for a custom 1911. That name was dropped and ďProfessionalĒ was adopted after the FBI was less than thrilled with their name being stamped on the gun. I actually think that Professional sounds better and cleaner. It is built to FBI HRTís specs. Some of the original Professional specs were as follows:

    -National Match Frame and Slide cut in Springfield Custom Shop
    -Nowlin barrel and bushing
    -Custom Shop hammer, sear, trigger and internals
    -Wilson Combat Ambidextrous Safety
    -GI-style guiderod and plug system
    -Novak Tritium 3-Dot Sights
    -S&A blended magwell
    -20 LPI fronstrap and backstrap checkering
    -Walter Birdsongís Black T finish

    One of the main specs was that the gun must shoot 1.5Ē groups at 25 yards with Remington Golden Saber 230gr, the issued FBI HRT ammo.

    The guns are handcrafted by pistolsmiths at the Springfield Armory Custom Shop under the watchful eye of master pistolsmith Dave Williams. They turn out some awesome stuff.

    Springfield Professionals were originally made for the FBIís HRT, but they are now in the holsters of some other Federeal LE agencies, such as the US Marshalls and DEA tactical teams, under the same purchase agreement. There are also Springfield Professionals riding in a countless number of municipal copís holsters across our great country.

    The Professionals are built every 45 days once a month at the Custom Shop and the Fed guns and civilian guns are built together with the smith never knowing which one will go where. The wait time for a new Pro is about a year or a little more.

    The gun has changed only a little bit over the years. The original guns had pinned ejectors, some of the guns made more recently do not, while some do. If your gun comes without a pinned ejector you can send it back to the Custom Shop and theyíll pin it for free.

    There are different slidestops seen over the years. All are forged from tool steel, but they have been made by different manufacturers and in different shapes.

    The barrels have changed recently. Apparently Springfieldís Custom Shop made barrels are just as accurate or more so than the Nowlins and all new Proís are coming with Springfieldís version.

    Guns based on the Springfieldís railed frame, known as the Operator, started appearing a couple years ago. The only difference between these pistols and the other Proís is the rail on the frame and the marking on the slide that says ďOperatorĒ as opposed to ďProfessional.Ē Both the railed and non-railed guns are currently being made and both are still ordered by the Feds.

    Finally the finish has evolved. This is not Springfieldís doing, but rather the late Walter Birdsongís. Iíve owned a few Black-T guns over the years and all their finishes have all varied slightly. The older Black T was slick and almost wet looking. Newer Black T is much more of a matte finish. I donít know squat about chemicals and such, but Iím sure the newest iteration of Black T is just as tough (or more so) than the original.

    Fit and Finish

    This is what folks usually look at first when it comes to a 1911 or any gun. It is the first thing you see and the thing that leaves you with an initial impression of what the gun is all about. So thatís why weíll take a gander at if first.

    Well, the finish as stated above is Black T. I love Black T and have had it on a few guns Iíve owned. Walter Birdsong passed away this year, but from what I hear his son is going to continue the company in the tradition of his dad. The Black T on my gun is not the wet black finish that was used in the past but rather a matte black almost dark gray. I like it and it is finished with the evenness and quality that weíve all come to expect from the late Southern Gentlemanís business.

    For what it is worth, one of the unique things about the Professional is the finish on the barrel. For whatever reason Springfield has the barrel hood finished in Black T as well. Most 1911 builders donít do this. It is just something kinda unique to the Pro.

    But the actual chemical applied is only one facet. The gun does not have tooling marks all over. This bad boy had the prep work done to make this gun near perfect prior to the finish being applied.

    How about dehorning? I canít find a sharp edge. This ainít no Colt. Nobody likes to get their hands and clothing cut up by their gun. Same time though I donít want a gun that looks like a bar of soap (I have a Kimber CDP...nice gun, weird look). The dehorning on this gun is perfect. The sharp edges are broken only enough to keep you from getting cut or scratched and from tearing up your clothes. It still has the traditional lines of the 1911Önot a bar of Dial.

    Fit? Ah the fit. Bank vault. Rock solid. I donít give a damn what you call it. This thing is friggin tight! Like I said, this gun needs to be broken in more, but damn it is tight. I personally like to have guns I can fieldstrip by hand. As of right now that just ainít gonna happen with this thing. I can barely remove the barrel bushing with the aid of the wrench let alone do it by hand.

    There are also little things like the alignment of the slide and frame. No gap, no overhang. They fit together seamlessly.

    Purely cosmetic, but I also like the markings on this gun. The left side of the slide reads ďOPERATOR CAL .45Ē while the right hand side reads ďSPRINGFIELD ARMORYĒ has their logo of crossed cannons and then has the Custom Shop logo. The frame is simply marked ďCAL 45Ē on the dustcover and has the serial number with SPRINGFIELD INC GENESO IL USA above it. No glitz. Not a bunch of stupid logos. Just plain and simple.

    Slide and Sights

    Letís take a gander up top.

    First off this is an all business pistol. There are no serrations on the top of the slide, no arrow point designs and no French borders. The slide itself does have ball cuts making for a nice blend between the railed the dustcover and the slide.

    The sights themselves are the standard Novak affair. The front sight is serrated and has the steel ring (no white plastic) surrounding the tritium vial. The sigh itself is blended in its dovetail. A nice touch.

    The rear sight again is a standard Novak Lo-Mount rear with Trijicon tubes set in steel rings. The rear notch is .125. The front of the sight is a slick slope as is standard on the traditional Novaks. There is NO GAP between the slide and the sight. The fitting is excellent.

    While Novaks work for lots of folks and has been doing so years, I donít care for them. I love the sight picture provided by a Bo-Mar with a .156 rear sight notch. The closest combat ready sight to the Bo-Mar is the Heinie so that is my preference right now. I also like a rear sight I can use to hook on my belt, holster or another object so that I can rack the slide one handed with ease for clearance drills and loading the gun one handed. I would prefer a Heinie Slant-Pro Ledge sight or something similar with a .156 notch and may still switch to that at some point.

    In case youíre curious, there are no serrations on the back of the slide. While it looks nice to have the rear of the slide serrated to match a nice set of Heinie or Bo-Mars, Iíve never found it to do anything for function (such as reduce glare) for me as Iím almost always staring at the front sight. Yeah, it looks nice when done right, but I donít think its necessary and it doesnít bother me one bit that this gun doesnít have it.

    The ejection port is lowered and flared as is now the standard of almost all combat 1911ís. It has a standard traditional GI style extractor and a typical steel 45 ACP firing pin. Nothing particularly standout. Just quality parts fitted the way they should be.

    The gun also uses the standard GI guide rod and plug. I like this as I have never seen the point of a full length guide rod and look at them only as an inconvenience in disassembly. The plug is the standard checkered variety finished with in Black T.

    The older Springfield Professionals were fitted with a Nowlin match barrel. My gun has Springfieldís own proprietary NM barrel. I could care less as the gun shoots incredibly well and I honestly think it makes no difference as their barrel seems to be just as good.

    So now on to the barrel bushing? Did I mention it was tight? Iím having to use the aluminum bushing wrench it came with to turn it and then pry it out of the slide. I canít tell who the manufacturer of the bushing is. It is not an EGW unit, but a standard Colt/ Brown/Wilson sized affair. It appears to be stainless steel and has been left in its natural finish. Did I mention it was incredibly tight?

    So this is going to get down to cosmetics and has nothing to do with function. I like the muzzle of 1911ís to be flush with the bushing. Further, I like the barrel to have a recessed crown and like a smooth GI plug (yeah, the EGW look). Yes, Iím nit-picking. But hell, weíre talking about a $2,000 plus gun. The Pro has a very standard GI or Ed Brown looking muzzle.

    Slide serrations are the wider more ďmodernĒ style and are the same style found on the MC Operator. I donít particularly care for them as I prefer the more fine serrations found on older Colts, Les Baers and on the Springfield Mil Spec. I wonít bitch too much because they do their job and Iím just happy they didnít add forward serrations as I have found those to be useless additions that just tear up my holsters. I grab the rear of the slide to do my press checks.


    The trigger itself is a standard long Aluminum three hole Videki-style with a serrated face and an adjustable screw overtravel screw. These are pretty standards and I wouldnít be surprised if the unit itself was manufactured by Wilson or Grieder. The Custom Shop dehorned the edges of the trigger which is something some gunsmiths forget to do. Again, a nice touch that can make the difference between a tore up finger after a long range session.

    I have not had a chance the weight the trigger pull of the gun, but if I had to guess it I would say it is about 4 lbs or so. This is a pre-Series 80 style trigger system (thank God) and there is very little takeup or lateral or vertical movement of the trigger itself. The break is nice and clean with very little overtravel and a nice crisp reset. I can honestly say this is the nicest trigger pull of any 1911 Iíve owned (and Iíve owned a few).

    Grip Safety and Thumb Safety

    The grip safety is a standard Springfield Armory unit. It Wilson-style radius unit that weíre all familiar with. This grip safety however has been hand fitted by someone that really knew what they were doing and it is obvious. The press the grip safety in and feel the top of the safety where it meets with the frame. Itís smooth. Feel the underside and it is smooth. Now donít press it and it is still smooth on both sides. No jagged edges. No gaps. Nothing to chafe your hands. The safety takes very little pressure to disengage and has a large (but not too large) smooth hump which means you wonít have any failures to fire from a loose grip.

    The thumb safety is Wilson Combatís Tactical Ambidextrous unit. It is fairly narrow on each side with the left side being slightly larger since that is where us right handers let our thumbs ride. This is a Swenson style ambidextrous style rather than a Kings and lots of you are familiar with it as its proven itself over the last few decades to work fairly well.

    The Custom Shop fit the thumb safety very stiffly so that it takes some force to turn it off or on. I like it!

    With some guns with high cut grip safety (like when an Ed Brown beavertail is used) cause a hole to be visible when the thumb safety is flipped up. This gun doesnít have this little cosmetic nuance.

    Plunger tube

    The plunger tube looks to be a Wilson Combat unit and looks to be crimped in place. Standard stuff again.

    Dustcover rail

    What makes this gun the Profesional Operator as opposed to just the Professional is the railed dustcover. SA calls all their railed pistols ďOperators.Ē Yeah, it is kinda cheesy, but heyÖitís better than having ďRail GunĒ stamped on the slide.

    The first railed Springfield 1911ís had a full length dustcover with Picattiny rail (named after the famous arsenal and now a standard) machined into it. The rail on my gun is not full length and has been shortened slightly to the more familiar 2.25Ē length as found on the Kimber Warrior and Caspain Recon frames. I like this length as I think it looks more traditional and reduces weight compared to the full length rail. It also makes it easier to find holsters. The end of the dustcover matches up perfectly with the ball cuts on the slide. Classy.

    On a side note, the Picattiny rail and the Universal rail are not quite the same. The difference between the two is the width of the cross cuts and where they are positioned. Sigs, M&Pís, Glocks and such all use what has come to be labeled the Universal cut. So if you have a Surefire X200 or X300 when you buy it from the factory it comes with a ďUĒ plate. If you have a railed 1911 you will have to switch it to the ďPĒ plate that comes with the light. I only bring this up because I had a co-worker who couldnít figure out why his light ďfit funnyĒ on his Kimber Warrior.

    Slide stop

    I canít tell who made it, but it is just a standard serrated unit. What sets this one apart is that it has been reshaped on the right side so that it is even with the frame although it does not appear to be countersunk. This modification reduces the ability of the shooter to index the pistol and accidentally push out the slide stop in to the left causing it to lock up the slide. Nice touch again SA Custom Shop!

    Frontstrap and backstrap treatment

    Hereís where we get interesting.

    For whatever reason the either the FBI or the Springfield Custom Shop decided to spec this gun with 20 LPI checkering. If youíve never played with 20 LPI checkering before then Iíll let tell you exactly what this means.

    20 LPI checkering is large, sharp and coarse. It does a damn good job of keeping the pistol solidly in your hands and works well with think gloves. It does not make extended range sessions a pleasure as it chews up your hands no matter how callused you get them. I have always preferred either 30 LPI or the newer 25 LPI checkering (a decent compromise) to the 20 LPI pattern. With that out of the way, the 20 LPI checkering on the Pro is nicely executed and appears to have been done by a machine (although I could be wrong) as it is totally uniform. It is applied to both the frontstrap and to the back of the MSH/S&A magwell (weíll get more to the magwell in a second). I especially like how the checkering ends on both the top of the frontstrap (abruptly) and on the bottom of the MSH where it the bottom of the MSH housing is beveled so the checkering wonít rip the inside of your clothes when the gun is holstered. Again, a nice touch.

    My biggest criticism and the criticism of most when it comes to the Professional is the lack of high-cutting the frame frontstrap. What the hell! Why would you spec and build beautiful pistols like this and NOT high cut the fronstrap? I can think of no good reason other than that it was overlooked or someone just thought it wasnít needed.

    I personally like the high cutting that Les Baer does on their pistols. Just keep it clean and allow the pistol to sit a little lower. It just feels comfy and lets a Surefire DG switch feel a little more natural. Iíd love to send this thing back to get the frame high cut, but Iíve learned the hard way not to fix what is not broken. Iíll just learn to live with it.

    Magazine well

    You never really realized what youíve been missing with a mag well until you try one. You can think they are frivolous and such all you want until you see just how faster it can make you reloads and then suddenly you find yourself a convert. Yeah, I like the ones by Stan Chen and Richard Heinie too, but theyíre expensive and harder to machine. The Pro comes with the easier to install Smith and Alexander variety.

    S&A mag wells are actually quite easy to install. Almost any boob can do it. They simply replace the mainspring housing right? Well, not quite. It takes a bit of blending to make them really com into their own.

    As I already stated, the backstrap of the magwell/MSH is checkered at 20 LPI. It is also seamlessly blended with the frame of the gun on the back of the frame, as well as into the magwell itself. When I say seamlessly I mean run your finger into the magwell and you wonít be able find where the S&A unit ends and where the frame begins. Good stuff.

    My one criticism with the S&A unit has always been the bulk that they add to the gun. Some guys like a little extra weight on their gun, I prefer less. I like how Vickers and Yam both modify S&Aís by adding bevels to the sides and rear. I wish this gun had it, but oh well, the Custom Shop did a great job of blending the thing.

    Grips and magazines

    The grips that came on the gun are wooden cocobolo with an orange hew and are fully checkered. They are grippy and kind of large, but donít feel to be of the greatest quality. They are flat bottomed to blend with the S&A magwell, but they hang of it a tad because of their width. I believe they are either Herretts or Ahrends. I donít care for them.

    All of my 1911ís get Hogue rosewood (non-laminate) double-diamond patterned grips because I think they feel great and look great. Iíve tried plenty of Striders, Alumagrips, carbon fiber and a few others and I just donít care for them. My guns wear rosewood. Period.

    The mags that came with the gun are not marked and appear to be either Metalform or some other knock-off of hybrid of the Devel follower in a Wilson 47D body. I havenít even used them.

    This gun is magazine picky. Wilson 47Dís, my standard mags, wonít lock the slide back reliably. Luckily I have a whole bucket of CMC Powermags that work just fine.

    Any gripes?

    Like I said before, the fronstrap not being high cuts doesnít leave me happy. I like to use a Surefire DG switch on my uniformed carry handguns and the standard GI frontstrap radius makes this a pain in the butt. It forces the switch itself to sit lower which leads to white light ADís, which is not good. It also makes the gun feel awkward in the hand.

    I like checkering, but I donít care for it 20 LPI. I can make due with it, but I prefer 30 LPI. 20 LPI was just fine back in 1981, but I think we have better options out there today. Based on the non-high cut frontstrap and the 20 LPI checkering, Iím gonna guess that an old IPSC shooter specíd this pistol and not a modern gunsmith or shooter.

    I donít care for the Novak rear, but that is easily changed. I already said I wished the muzzle looked a little cleaner, but thatís just nit-picky.

    My only other real bitch is the weight of this gun. Weight is just fine when you go shoot your guns on the range. Carrying a chunk of steel for 12 to 15 hours a day on a full duty belt for a couple weeks in a row without a day off can hurt. It suddenly makes you wish you had that polymer pistol back.

    I donít know if it is the dustcover or something with the slide thickness or what, but damn this thing is heavy. It makes my Kimber (also with S&A magwell) feel light and my Colt (no magwell) feel like a feather. Just the cost of doing business with a light rail I guess.

    So what does it all mean?

    I shoot this gun well. I mean really well. I think it could make a novice shooter look damn good. I totally believe the 1.5Ē at 25 yard claim. I have no problem shooting fist sized or small groups with this gun. I work graveyards and was driving up to the range and shining my sidelights at the steel plates and was knocking them down from the 50 yard line without any problems.

    I bought a Safariland 6280 for this gun and carried it at work for two weeks. I stopped carrying it because of the weight on my belt not from the gun, but from the mags. I have yet to figure out how to carry four extra mags without it causing pain on my lower back and hips. Iím gonna try a couple things, but the AE Nelson quad mag carrier I use right now is not ideal.

    Pansy or pussy you say? Try running for 2.4 miles on a K9 track with a handler and his dog. I just did that last Wednesday. Makes you believe in polymer pistols and lighter duty gear.

    Iím carrying my butchered Glock 21 at work for the time being and am anxiously awaiting the 226R 40 S&W thatís getting massaged by Bruce right now. Then Iíll really have a tough time deciding!

    Overall this is a great gun. I think at $2,000 it is a bargain for what you get, but Iím not sure if I would want to pay any more than that. Why? Because I could order a 1911 built to my specs by the Springfield Armory Custom shop essentially fixing the ďissuesĒ I have with this gun and I could get it for only a few hundred bucks more and with a shorter wait. But then again, it would be a Professional.

    Because pics speak louder than words...

    The traditional looking muzzle

    The blended Novak front sight

    Novak rear...blah

    The non-high cut fronstrap...common guys

    No FLGR...good stuff

    What makes this an Operator

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    North Georgia
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    Very well done review, thanks much. A very impressive pistol. I bought a TRP last year that's got 2K flawless rounds through it and I wish I hadn't waited so long (shooting 1911's since '81) to go above basic service grade. It was interesting to see what you approved or disapproved of. I really like the 20 LPI gloved or barehanded but an extended session of .45 acp for me is maybe 200 rds cause I'm primarily a Glock 9mm shooter.

    Hope that pallet of .45 ammo shows up soon.
    Last edited by JHC; 10-24-09 at 20:17.
    "Whatever it's for; it wasn't possible until now!!!" - KrampusArms

  3. #3
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    Jun 2006
    Peninsula, CA
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    I was at a Larry Vicker's course in July of 2008 where about 8 of the 12 shooters had Springfield Porfessionals. Most were beat-up, well-used duty guns. There were no malfunctions with those guns.

  4. #4
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    Dec 2007
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    nice write up. i've shot a few of these that were issued to some fed's, alittle beat up as they are duty weapons but they run with no issues.
    thank you

  5. #5
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    Sep 2009
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    Great write up! I'm looking forward to my Pro coming to my FFL next week
    "There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion." ó Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

  6. #6
    ToddG Guest
    Minor clarification: the Professional (nee Bureau Model) won the FBI SWAT selection, not HRT's, and the guns sold to the public are made to SWAT's specifications.

  7. #7
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    I'm pretty sure HRT spec'ed the guns and they were adopted by HRT as well as the regional SWAT teams. I know HRT had used P35's and later the Les Baer/Para combo guns. I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure the when the contract went out HRT was the source.
    Last edited by kaltblitz; 10-25-09 at 01:00.

  8. #8
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    Excellent review.

    There are certain guns that I own that I liked for a while but took a while to buy, often having to sell several guns to pay for them. The Springfield Pro is indeed one of those guns that was worth selling several guns to pay for.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the great write up! Looking forward to an update once you are able to put more rounds through the gun.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2007
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    SA Pro

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed review, with pics.

    The SA Pro guns are proof positive that correctly fitted 1911s (even very tight ones) can work 100%.

    20 LPI checkering is definitely hard on ungloved hands. I put a strip of duct tape over the frontstrap if I'm going to do much dry fire or live fire. This keeps my hands healthy (of course, cuts and scrapes in the hands are not a good thing if you're working patrol).

    A high-cut frontstrap would be nice, but this wasn't as common a few years ago when this pistol was spec'd. I believe the Bureau would have to ask for this mod before SA would do it.

    This would appear to be the same reason why this model uses a Novak rear.

    Fortunately, there are better options these days, and they are fairly easily installed, if one has just a little bit of skill with files and stones.

    (I just changed out the Heinie on my NHC/VT for a 10-8, and had to remove .007" of material from the sight)

    Of course, should you swap out the sight, good chance you'll degrade the Black T in the area of the dovetail.

    A few bits of info/opinion . . .

    A railed 1911 with a light is a heavy beast to wear every day, but you'll get used to it. A good belt system helps. I've found that an unintended benefit of converting my 6280 to a 6004 is that much of the weight was taken off my waist.

    I've been using SLS holsters for for quite a few years. Consider installing a hood guard to keep the SLS hood from inadverent opening.

    Recently read somewhere that Safariland now offers a 6360 for railed/lighted mounted 1911s. You may want to look into this.

    As to a mag pouch, I've had good results with the Eagle FB style 3 mag pouch.

    Magazines - for 8 round mags, CMC Powermags have worked better than anything else I've tried.

    Nice pistol. It should serve you well. Stay safe.

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