Double-stack, 9mm and based on Browning’s classic design, the Springfield Prodigy DS ups the ante in the 1911 game.
John Browning’s 1911 pistol design might be more than a century old, but that doesn’t mean the design is archaic—or obsolete. In the 11 decades since his pistol made its debut, there have been plenty of subtle changes over the years. However, Springfield Armory has moved in a bold new direction with their latest take, in a design called the Prodigy.
That might sound like quite a statement for a single-stack, hammer-fired pistol chambered in .45 ACP—except the Prodigy is chambered in 9mm with a double-stack magazine, hence the DS designation in the product name.
The concept isn’t new. We’ve all seen pistols by companies like STI (now Staccato) and Cosaint Arms with this profile and even the older Para Ordnance 1911s. Yet the Springfield Prodigy DS offers a little something more.
This pistol is equipped with a single-slot Picatinny rail on the dust cover, ambidextrous safety, magazine funnel, optic and ingenious mounting plate system if you want to upgrade that optic. So, let’s look under the hood, so to speak.
Rather than go with the traditional barrel and bushing as per Browning, the Springfield Prodigy DS uses a bull match grade barrel and no bushing. Some shooters prefer the bushing, as it makes it easier to fit a replacement barrel, but more probably prefer that system out of tradition.
The heavy barrel adds a bit of weight to the front end of the pistol to help reduce recoil. There might not be much recoil out of a 9mm round, but if that impulse is tiny and you’re an effective competitive shooter, that minor reduction will help when performing at a high level.
Personally, a threaded barrel might have been nice for the addition of a compensator or a silencer. Perhaps it will show up on a future iteration?
This was the shorter “Commander length” version at 4.25 inches, as opposed to the full-length 5-inch version.
The pistol uses Springfield’s patented two-piece full-length guide rod that gets taken down using a 5/32-inch hex wrench … not a paper clip. Just make sure you keep that Allen key handy.
The frame is definitely worth talking about—in case you have been out of the loop for the past 30 years, it’s pretty amazing. The grip is polymer, like one of the polymer-framed pistols that have been out there since the 1980s, but the dustcover and upper part of the frame are made of steel. This eliminates frame flex, allows a wider magazine to fit more comfortably for shooters with normal-sized hands, and it allows for an extremely low cut beneath the trigger guard. The texturing is just right and not overly aggressive, so it feels comfortable with and without gloves.
Most significant is the full-length dust cover. It gives a very professional and finished look to the pistol reminiscent of their old Operator model from the early 2000s, and it sports a single-slot Picatinny rail.
Some might question the Pic rail addition to what, for many shooters, will be a race gun. In most competitive shooting sports, a visible white light doesn’t need to be mounted to the gun. However, something like the Mantis X or other training aids can use this same mounting setup. Either way, it’s a smart option. And, if you don’t care to add a light, laser or a Mantis X, there’s no law saying you have to use it.
Many Magazine Options
This is usually something to give you pause these days, as a new system means you might be stocking up on quite a few, and a prohibitive price can make you reevaluate that decision.
Having a few STI 2011 .38 Super/9mm magazines on hand made it a no-brainer to see if they would fit in this pistol. They do, and they work well.
Springfield Armory offers these magazines with 17-, 20- and 26-round capacities for $60 each: The pistol ships with a 17- and 20-rounder for plenty of versatility. A 10-round version isn’t available from Springfield Armory for the few U.S. states that still don’t respect the U.S. Constitution or the U.S. Supreme Court. However, a 10-round 2011-style magazine will work if you find yourself in that unfortunate situation.
Trigger And Controls
The trigger on this one breaks cleanly at 3.5 pounds with no mush or creep. This is about the pinnacle for a factory 1911. Sure, it can be improved, but straight out of the box, it’s a far cry from a typical factory piece from even 20 years ago.
An ambidextrous safety makes it comfortable for both left- and right-handed shooters, and it ensures the pistol can be manipulated with either hand if needed. However, if you opt to use a pistol like this as a personal defense weapon to be carried all day, you might want to replace it with an aftermarket non-ambidextrous safety. There’s nothing like glancing down at your carry gun and seeing the side of the pistol facing outboard with that safety disengaged from bumping against something … with a cocked hammer hovering over a chamber with a live round inside.
Springfield utilizes a “Series 70” type of safety system, so there’s no firing pin safety, which generally allows for a superior trigger pull. The upswept beaver tail grip safety is perfectly fitted, and in conjunction with the undercut trigger guard, it really fits the sweet spot in the grip department.
Springfield Prodigy Sights
This particular pistol came equipped with a red-dot optic from Springfield: a Hex Dragonfly. The factory iron sights are represented by a green fiber optic front with a blacked-out U-notch rear sight. You can co-witness these sights in the lower quarter of the Hex Dragonfly’s window.
Battery life on the Hex Dragonfly is said to last 100,000 hours, and the sight will power off at 15 hours. It’ll come back on at the intensity you set the dot for and will remember this setting.
The Dragonfly features an aluminum housing with a slightly extended hood in the front to protect the lens and a serrated rear to reduce glare. MSRP on this sight alone is about $250.
Springfield Armory went with the Agency Optic System (AOS) that allows the shooter to purchase different mounting plates to fit different sights. These plates retail for about $60 each from Springfield Armory.
A Modern Finish
So, it’s not blued, parkerized, hard chromed or stainless. No … this pistol is done up in a nice treatment of black Cerakote. As much as I love traditional hot bluing, case-hardening or electroless nickel and hard chrome, Cerakote really is the firearm finish of the modern age.
A trip to the range with 500 rounds of Belom 9mm, courtesy of Global Ordnance, was definitely in order. It’s 124-grain FMJ rounds made in Serbia—it’s good, clean ammunition somewhat reminiscent of offerings by Fiocchi or Sellier & Bellot. It was accurate, soft shooting and had zero failures.
As mentioned previously, this pistol shipped with a 17- and 20-round set of magazines. These magazines loaded up easily by hand without the aid of a loader. The 20-round 2011 STI magazine was used as well, and all delivered flawless performance.
The Hex Dragonfly ensured the group stayed small and ragged at 50 feet.
This one is destined to win the Bianchi cup or some similar trophy in the future. Once you pick one up, not only does it demand to be shot, but it demands that you shoot it fast and accurate.
While firearms seem to be constantly improving, you can still find a few flaws here and there.
If there’s a drawback, it’s one of aesthetics as opposed to anything else. One of the virtues of a classic 1911 pistol—whether you have a higher-end pistol made of stainless or Damascus steel, or a lower-end model with a black parkerized finish—you can dress them up with comfortable hand-fitting grips of quality hardwood, pre-ban ivory, pewter or G10 to transform their appearance. So far, with the Springfield Prodigy DS, this isn’t an option. It might be a very small thing, but it’s worth noting.
As a relatively new pistol, it’ll likely be hard to find the perfect holster … but this issue certainly isn’t unique to the Springfield Prodigy. As an owner of more than a dozen 1911s, and maybe five times that many holsters, only one would fit, and it wasn’t anything to write home about to begin with. This will more than likely be a timing issue as manufacturers gear up to support this new model. My best advice is to go the custom route, with a quality Kydex or leather craftsman, particularly if you opt to run a light.
With its phenomenal out-of-the-box accuracy and the fact that it’s loaded with upgrades, the biggest standout has to be the price—coming in much cheaper than its competitors. In some cases, about $1,000 cheaper.
Those other pistols may be close to custom shop offerings, and this is the greatest potential behind the Springfield Armory Prodigy DS. It makes for an outstanding base gun for a race pistol build.
Springfield Armory’s Prodigy DS is aptly named if you go by the definition that prodigy refers to a particular example expressing an outstanding or an impressive quality. This isn’t your grandpa’s rattle trap 1911. This is a fine-tuned handgun capable of great precision from the factory, and it’s one with great potential for a custom build down the line.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the 2023 CCW special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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