Rock Island Armory’s Latest .45, the Tactical II

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Range Reports, Reviews

I have enjoyed good service with the Rock Island brand of 1911 handguns. The pistols are true to the original format and fire the authoritative.45 ACP cartridge. Armscor manufactures these handguns in the Philippine Islands. The original pistols were straight-up GI versions of the 1911, although there are also elevated examples with good features, including tactical-grade sights and improved grips.

Charcoal Gray RIA Tactial II, barrel pointed to the right, light on a mottled gray backgroud

Short, stout and powerful, the RIA Tactical II compact is a great defensive handgun.

The Tactical II handgun is one such example. Intended as an improvement on the original Tactical Model, at present, you have the choice of a GI pistol, the Tactical Model and the Tactical II. As features are added, the price goes up, as expected. The Tactical II is an all-steel 1911 handgun with a dark parkerized finish, and the particular example tested was an Officer’s Model. This frame size features a shortened slide with a 3.5-inch barrel with the frame shortened in the grip.

The original Officer’s Model shortened the grip frame and lost one round of magazine capacity. Today, there are still six-round magazines available plus improved seven-round magazines. The short slide and barrel result in a differing design for barrel lockup. Since the slide recoils comparatively further and the barrel must tilt at a greater angle, the Officer’s Model-type pistols eliminate the barrel bushing and use a bushing-less lockup. In addition, there are modifications in the barrel-locking lugs, which are necessary for proper function in a compact pistol. The idiom works well, and many believe it is the ideal size for concealed carry in the 1911 format.

Tactical II Features

The pistol has upgrades that enhance performance, including a scalloped ejection port for positive clearance of the spent case. That makes administrative handling, removing a fully loaded cartridge, surer. The front sight features a red fiber-optic sight. From time to time, these types of sights have lost their contact with the slide and taken flight; these seem firmly attached.

Dark charcoal RIA Tactial II with focus on the dovetailed rear sight on mottled gray background

Note the dovetailed rear sight. This is a good sight for a tactical pistol, allowing it to be zeroed perfectly for a given load.

The rear sight is an interesting fully adjustable sight, and the sight picture is excellent. However, I had to experiment some to properly adjust the rear sight. Windage adjustment is straight forward, with the pistol delivered with the rear sight set at its highest elevation (at 15 yards, the bullets were striking a good 6 inches high).

The adjustment screw refused to budge, although the rear leaf had some spring, allowing it to be depressed. Once you depress the rear leaf, the screw then freely turns. You simply have to understand the function. The pistol is accurate enough that these adjustable sights may come in handy.

The RIA Tactical II with focus on the beavertail safety

The beavertail safety, extended slide-lock safety and skeletonized hammer are good touches.

Both the trigger and the hammer are of the skeletonized shape. The beavertail grip safety is well designed and comfortable. Trigger compression is relatively light at 5.0 pounds. Compression is crisp with no creep or backlash.

The slide-to-frame fit it tighter than any other Armscor 1911 I have tested. The beavertail grip safety properly released its hold on the trigger halfway into the beavertail grip safety’s travel. The slide-lock safety is not a gas-pedal-type but is extended to a useful degree and fully ambidextrous. The indent is tight, and the safety moves into the safe position with a satisfying click.

The slide lock is a standard non-extended type. I like this better than the often trouble-prone extended type. VZ supplies the grips. There is nothing better for abrasion and adhesion when controlling a hard-kicking .45 automatic pistol. They are also quite attractive. There is an extended magazine well, and that Magwell makes rapid reloading much surer.

Silver/gray compact RIA and a reddish dirt background, muzzle pointed down and to the left

Tactical? A compact tactical pistol worth its salt is a rare breed. The Rock Island Tactical II is among the few that lives up to expectations.

I have experience with more than a dozen Rock Island pistols, and my experience has always been positive, so I was looking forward to testing this squat little 1911. I was not disappointed with the pistol’s performance. I began the test program with my personal handloads, using a 230-grain RNL bullet over enough Titegroup powder for about 800 fps.

I addressed the aforementioned problem with the pistol firing extremely high by adjusting the rear sight. If I had my druthers, I would have preferred a high-mount fixed sight in a carry gun. Short barrel .45s are often surprisingly accurate, and the counterpoint to my preference is that some shooters like to zero the pistol perfectly. The RIA Tactical II is accurate enough for serious shooting, and the sights are helpful in that regard.

The pistol came out of the box running, save for a single, odd malfunction. On one occasion, the extractor failed to extract a fired case from the chamber, resulting in the dreaded type-three malfunction, which was quickly cleared. A break-in malfunction? Perhaps, because at this date with 200 rounds through the pistol, there have been no further malfunctions.

I fired the pistol extensively with an eclectic choice of ammunition. I believe  you are best served in learning to hit small targets at varying range, at both known and unknown ranges. In firing off hand, the difference in accuracy between loads was not apparent. The pistol functioned with a number of good loadings, including Winchester’s 230-grain training load, the Winchester PDX 230-grain JHP and the Barnes 185-grain X bullet load +P load. Recoil was noticeable but controllable.

A 34-ounce, steel-frame, compact 1911 is just about the ideal balance of control and compactness, and the RIA compact gave good results on the range. As for absolute accuracy, a bench-rest session showed the pistol has promise. It is accurate enough for personal defense to 25 yards or so. It would serve for defense against feral dogs, coyotes and even the big cats at moderate range. Among the most controllable loads was the Cor Bon 165-grain PowRBall. Despite developing more than 1,000 fps, the PowRBall ran smoothly, and recoil was modest—a product of the light bullet weight.

Bench-Rest Testing

  • 15 yards
  • Two 5-shot group average
Manufacturer Group Size
Barnes 185-grain JHP +P 2.15 inches
Fiocchi 230-grain JHP 2.0 inches
Winchester 230-grain FMJ 2.0 inches
Winchester 230-grain PDX 2.25 inches

 

Man in dark navy jacket, gray hair and green hearing protection shooting an RIA Tactical II at the range, barrel pointed toward you as the viewer

On the range, the Tactical II lives up to expectations.

I carried the pistol in a Jason Winnie inside-the-waistband holster, which gives every advantage in concealed carry, especially since the holster snugs the handgun tight to the body. The design allows you to draw the pistol and then re-holster it with one hand and spreads out the weight of the chunky little handgun on the supporting wings of the holster—overall, a holster well suited to discreet concealed carry.

In short, the Rock Island Tactical II is a great handgun.

It has a value beyond the utilitarian and gives you considerable pride of ownership. I think you will find the piece useful in a worst-case scenario.


Have you tried the Rock Island Tactical II? Share in the comments section.

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SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (9)

  • Robbie Gee

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    ’ve had my Tac II for some time now and I am always amazed at how accurate it is for a compact, particularly at 7 yards to 15 yards. It’s a reasonably sized pistol with some weight from it’s all steel construction. I am partial to all steel construction as it does help with the .45 cal recoil. It is as well made as my Sig or SA Government 1911s. I really like the bull barrel and it’s very easy to disassemble and clean. Great gun for any reason, but for me, the best of carry guns.

    Reply

  • Ben Allen

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    I love my Tac II compact!!! Runs flawlessly, took one click up on the rear sight to get it on point and it has become my EDC!

    Reply

  • Hop

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    MSRP ?

    Reply

  • Alan Hall

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    Thank You! I order from CTD all the time and plan on visiting the business this year, have a friend that lives in Fort Worth. Great business you have.

    Reply

  • Lopaka Kanaka

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    I have a Rock Island Armory FS Taticial 1911 45 Super, 45 ACP. also a 38 Super GI model. My 38 Super shoots like a dream gun.
    On the 45 i have a 6 inch Fire Dragon ported barrel and had no problem out of the box. RIA guns are just a good as my two Springfield Armory 45 ACP. One is a 6 inch long slide that has been Magna Ported.. The other has a 460 Rowland 5 1/2 barrel with a compensator and they are enjoyable to shoot at the range.

    Reply

  • bob

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    Sir,

    all 1911 magazines fit the RIA .45

    Plenty right here at CTD

    Bob Campbell

    Reply

    • Cade Bennett

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      I tried a Ruger in my RIA full size and it did not work. When you put the ruger mag in the mag would not lock and would fall out of the gun when you racked the slide.

      Reply

  • Alan Hall

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    I have a Rock Island .45 a 2011 and need to get information on where I can get magazines for it, do other .45 magazines from other companies work the same? Would Remington, Kimber, Sig, others work?

    Reply

    • ERICK

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      Not all magazines will work. The ones that do work are Kimber, but they were pricey. I just went ahead and went to Greg Cote, LLC shooting sports supply and bought 3 more ACT-MAG magazines as they are the same magazine that comes with the pistol. They were cheap and shipped out quickly.

      Reply

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