Review: Springfield Armory Ronin Operator 10 mm Pistol
It has been a real roller coaster ride for the 10 mm cartridge. Before it ever hit the streets, the 10 mm had the full endorsement of the father of modern pistolcraft, Col. Jeff Cooper. The caliber was to be housed in a pistol specifically designed for the new cartridge, the Bren Ten, also endorsed by Cooper. Unfortunately, the gun never really made it to full production, leaving the 10 mm cartridge homeless.
The caliber then made another ascent to stardom with its selection by the FBI as its chosen caliber. Smith & Wesson produced and delivered several 10 mm, duty-size semi-autos to the FBI before the Bureau changed its mind and selected a downsized, .40-caliber round/pistol for its issue sidearm. I had one of the early Model 1006 pistols and was impressed with several features on the gun.
At that point, the 10 mm languished and might have vanished had Colt not chambered its classic Model 1911 in the powerful new chambering. As 1911s go, Colt’s Delta Elite was more of a working handgun than stunning supermodel, but it did what Browning’s 1911 has been doing for more than 100 years; it inspired other 1911 manufacturers to begin chambering the new wonder cartridge in the classic warhorse, which brings us to Springfield Armory’s new 10 mm Ronin Operator.
The Ronin 10 mm is a nice blending of beauty and beast. With its forged, stainless steel frame and barrel, forged carbon-steel slide and sights and half checkered/half smooth cocobolo grip panels with the Springfield Armory crossed-cannons logo, the Ronin is a looker. Aside from that, practical features abound.
The blued slide has serrations both front and rear. Given the 10 mm’s power, the recoil spring is tensioned at 24 pounds, which is 6 to 8 pounds heavier than the spring in a 1911 chambered in .45 ACP and 12 to 14 pounds heavier than a 1911 in 9 mm. That’s not inconsequential; I can run the Ronin 10 mm slide manually even when I’m feeling weak or tired, but I seriously doubt I could get through 800 to 1,000 rounds in one of Gunsite’s 5-day pistol training classes. The Ronin 10 mm does have a conventional bushing system, which makes assembly and disassembly much easier since it doesn’t require a piece of paper clip to contain the new-style guide rod.
Both front and rear sights are dovetail-mounted in the slide and blend in nicely with the rounded slide top. Outside corners on the top of the rear sight are angled to eliminate the exposed sharp corners, something I appreciate in a carry gun, especially when it’s worn in an OWB strong-side holster. The metal portion of the front sight has sharply defined edges and a flat top that make for a precise conventional sight picture when utilized with the vertical sides of the rather deep notch in the rear sight. This is important if you need the extended-range capabilities of the 10 mm’s flat trajectory for a precisely placed shot during daylight hours. In other words, it works like the classic sights used by old-time bullseye shooters; it’s just not adjustable for elevation.
For fast-action, close-range encounters in ambient-light conditions, the sights are also equipped with a semi-conventional three-dot sight system with a red fiber-optic translucent filament installed in the metal front sight and two white dots in the wings of the rear sight. When used in daylight, the red tube is like a lighthouse beacon; it demands your attention. This is not a night sight. The fiber optic’s enhanced visibility comes from ambient light; no ambient light means no visible front sight.
The frame has a beavertail grip safety that completely engulfs the delta-style hammer spur and prevents the hammer from pinching or the slide from cutting the web of your shooting hand when the slide cycles. The grip safety also has a large bump at its base to ensure the safety is fully depressed with a proper shooting grip. There is a single thumb safety with serrations on the left side of the frame. Perfect. I see no advantage in having an ambidextrous safety, particularly if you might be in rough country where an inadvertent bump against a solid object could move the exposed outer lever. And, using the support hand to disengage a thumb safety in the event your right arm/hand is disabled is not difficult.
The flat mainspring housing is aggressively checkered (20 lpi) to prevent grip slippage from recoil when the gun is fired. This will help reduce shot-to-shot recovery time, but may cause blisters as the day’s shooting progresses. At Gunsite, the instructors carry Band-Aids in their pockets, and I’ve had to tap their medical supplies more than once while on the firing line with less powerful pistols. The Ronin’s frontstrap is smooth and works fine when you’re using a solid two-handed grip. That said, I did not make it through a full magazine without having to recover my grip once or twice.
Reliability was excellent. Early in testing and about midway through one magazine, the Ronin’s slide locked rearward despite the presence of more rounds still in the magazine. My bad. In adjusting to the 10 mm’s increased recoil, my support-hand thumb moved until it was pushing against the slide stop lever. There were no other malfunctions of any kind. Ammo selection was not mission oriented. I had sufficient DoubleTap on hand from a previous 10 mm hunting trip to fulfill the test requirements for this article plus enough other miscellaneous rounds to take a couple of velocity measurements. However, with just this selection of loads, I’d be quite confident in tackling just about any task with the Ronin despite the fact that my shot-to-shot recovery times would be slower. I would also look for a more economical training load that would allow more trigger time at less expense on the practice range.
The only problem I had with the test gun was the trigger pull; on my Lyman gauge, average let-off weight was right around 6 pounds. For me, that’s too heavy for a quality 1911, and during accuracy testing there was some straining and shaking trying to carefully break each shot when the sight picture was solid. I’m certain the expanded “flyers” in my largest groups could be eliminated with a lighter trigger pull. In my mind, this qualifies the Ronin for 25-yard head shots or 50-yard shots typically taken with a hunting handgun.
In the end, whether the Ronin 1911 in 10 mm is right for you will depend on your abilities and lifestyle. For concealed carry in an urban environment, I’m not likely to abandon smaller, lighter 9 mms. For possible use in urban/suburban environments where cooler weather allows the use of heavier, more casual garments, it becomes a viable consideration with penetration capabilities that can change the bad guy’s protective cover to concealment. For those spending a lot of time in rural areas where savage beasts come with either four legs or two, it is perhaps the absolute best choice for those who favor semi-automatic pistols.