The Springfield Armory Ronin 10mm, should you bet your life on it? At last we got a chance for a quick range session with our new Springfield Armory Ronin 10mm pistol. We expected better.
We picked up a Ronin 10mm because we like 1911s and we needed a 10mm to round out our cartridge test program, which we will debut in coming issues and on YouTube. The 10mm, in particular, is slated to challenge both our ballistic gel “Frost Giant” test and our bear analogue test since the 10mm is a dual purpose cartridge used for defense against two and four legged problems.
Enter the Ronin
The word Ronin is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a vagrant Samurai.” Thus, here at LocaCarnivore’s sprawling headquarters, we’ve begun to call it the “Vagrant.” Although, I’m sure Springfield Armory’s marketing people would not find it as amusing as we. Ronin (pronounced Roe-neen, in Japanese) were Samurai who had lost their overlords in feudal Japan, most often upon the lord’s death in battle. Ronin were those who had not committed seppuku (ritual suicide) as their culture expected and they drifted about the landscape as, at best, mercenaries, and at worst, common criminals. The nearest English word which would best describe a Ronin is “brigand.” Again, we suppose Springfield’s marketeers would take a dim view if we named their gun the “Brigand.”
Culturally inept nomenclature aside, the Ronin line is a mid-level product in Springfield’s 1911 catalogue with models such as the Emissary at the top and the Mil-Spec at the bottom. The Ronin 1911s, however, are anything but ordinary. They are available in both full-size steel and compact alloy framed iterations, and have desirable features such as ultra-thin grip panels, beaver-tail grip safeties, upgraded triggers, and high–visibility sights. Most important, however, is a much improved feed ramp system available on both the full-sized, steel-framed 10mm Ronin and it’s shorter barreled, alloy-frameed .45 ACP Comander-style brother offered by Springfield–a major reason we selected it for our test program.
Most 1911s use the feed system designed by the gun genius, John Browning. The barrel is secured to the frame with a swinging link at its base. When the gun is fired, recoil pushes the barrel and slide rearward. The link pulls the barrel down which disengages it from the locking lugs machined into the slide’s top. At full recoil, the barrel sits down on the frame section which comprises the magazine well’s front. A feed ramp is machined into this frame section and the barrel’s chamber mouth has a much smaller ramp machined into it. As the recoil spring drives the slide forward, the slide strips off a fresh round from the magazine and slams it into the frame feed ramp. If all goes well, the round’s nose follows the ramp up and at just the right instant it hits the barrel mouth’s top surface. This cams the bullet nose downward—both the frame feed ramp and the mouth ramp act as a fulcrum—and the slide pressure on the case’s rim lines the round up for its short journey into the firing chamber. It’s quite a complex dance and if anything is amiss—barrel not flush with the frame, feed ramps were not machined quite right, barrel link worn and has slop, cartridge not quite to spec, ad nauseum—a 1911 can choke up worse than a toilet at O’Hare Airport.
Legend has it John Browning never liked this feed system, but wartime production necessity and other projects precluded a redesign. He and the engineers at FN in Belgium worked out a better solution over a decade later with the P35 Hi-Power. The Hi-Power has the feed ramp machined as one piece into the barrel mouth and is much less prone to mis-feed than the 1911.
Our Ronin has a feed ramp based more on the Hi-Power’s style, although it retains the ubiquitous 1911 swinging link. It’s this improvement which induced us to select the Ronin and we expected to have few, if any, reliability issues with the gun.
Enter PMC’s Ammo
The Ronin surprised and disappointed us. We handed the Springfield Armory Ronin 10mm to Nigel, our slightly better than average Ninja, for some range time and videoed the debacle which followed.
One thing about 10mm, unlike 9mm or .45 ACP, the ammunition is less prevalent on the market—and more expensive. Since we were more focused on the Ronin as a test bed for bear loads and self-defense loads, we neglected to pick up some fresh FMJ target loads, and instead spent our limited company budget on two offerings from Buffalo Bore and some Federal Premium HSTs. We weren’t concerned about this because we still had some PMC brand 200 grain FMJ rounds which we bought back in either the late 1980s or early 1990s and figured we’d use this for our initial range test and evaluation.
The PMC is “real” 10mm. Produced back when most 10mm met the original Norma specs: a 200 grain slug punched out the barrel at 1200 fps which gave you over 600 ft-lbs muzzle energy. Yeah, the way 10mm is supposed to run, not this watered down, .40 S&W clone stuff you see everywhere these days. We even planned a separate video with the PMC with chronograph data and gel tests to compare the righteous old-school Ten to the new, snowflake approved, ammo.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road, or Rather, When the Copper Jacket Meets the Feed Ramp
We stuffed both the Springfield Armory supplied eight-round magazine and a Wilson Combat nine-round magazine with the PMC fodder and let Nigel have at it. The first few rounds impressed. They flew true to the target and punched some holes which touched, or almost. So far, so good.
When Nigel hit the last round in the Springfield-supplied magazine, things came to an abrupt halt. The cartridge in question had bonked against the barrel mouth’s roof and stopped up the works. Nigel cleared the jam, inserted the round back in the mag, and popped it into the gun for another go. The slide stop wouldn’t release the slide, so Nigel wiped the slide back, released it, and the round did the same thing.
On the theory the factory magazine had issues, Nigel plunked the offending round into the Wilson Combat mag which had just five rounds in it. This time, the round fed and fired. The next round, however, jammed the same as the others. Nigel cleared, and fired again, and the next round hung up. Nigel cleared and fired. The next round jammed but not as bad and Nigel got things up to speed with a quick slap to the slide’s rear. At last, Nigel had three rounds in succession work in proper fashion. The fifth? You guessed it—smack into the feed ramp, again. Do you notice a pattern? We did.
Nigel fussed with this last round a few times and gave up in disgust. His exact words, “That’s disappointing.”
Upon Further Review…
At first, we suspected the PMC had sat on the shelf a bit too long and didn’t have enough power to cycle the slide with sufficient authority. Although Nigel reported the recoil seemed quite in line with how he remembered full-power 10mm felt in a full-sized gun. When Nigel tried multiple times to get the last round in the string to feed, without success, it became evident this particular Springfield Armory Ronin 10mm just didn’t like this particular ammunition.
Never one to quit, Nigel loaded up some other ammo we had brought along, just to see if the gun or the ammunition had the greater role in the debacle. We put four Buffalo Bore 220 grain hard cast lead into the Wilson magazine and all four went down range without complaint. We then handed Nigel four Buffalo Bore 190 grain copper solids, again in the Wilson mag, and they too ran smooth and straight.
While it will require further investigation, it became quite obvious the old PMC ammo and the Springfield Armory Ronin 10mm did not get along. We were impressed with how well the Buffalo Bore ran, however. Surprised, is perhaps the better word, since we had suspicions whether ammo from a small boutique maker, such as Buffalo Bore, would prove reliable.
Although we acquired this particular gun to perform 10mm cartridge tests, we had also hoped it might make a viable alternative for carry as a bear attitude adjuster when we’re out and about in the timber. However, given its initial performance, I won’t carry it until I’m assured it is bet your life reliable, which requires more tests.
Does this mean the Ronin 10mm is an unreliable gun, or Springfield Armory makes suspect firearms? No. It means this particular Springfield Armory Ronin 10mm does not like one specific lot of ammunition from one specific ammo maker. Does it make me hesitate to carry this particular gun for self-protection? Yes…and no. If it undergoes more tests without further problems, then I’d carry it. I still think this is a good gun. It is well made, accurate, and has a good trigger, but time will tell. Stay tuned for more.
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