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Range Review: Rock Island Armory FS 1911

RIA FS 1911 pistol with g10 grips .45 ACP right profile

Ask any shooter on the range. If they are worth an ounce of lead, they will sing the praises of the Rock Island 1911. Among the best buys from today’s 1911 lineup are the 1911s from Rock Island Armory.

Manufactured in the Philippines by Armscor, the Rock (as it is affectionately called by the many fans of this pistol) has steadily increased the quality of its offerings and Armscor’s market footprint.

Rock Island FS 1911 pistol with g10 grips .45 ACP right profile
Ask any shooter on the range. If they are worth an ounce of lead, they will sing the praises of The Rock Island 1911.

The original RIA pistol was a standard GI-type model. The sights were small, and the grips… the grips were just flat slabs. However, the pistol gave shooters with a tight budget a .45 Auto with solid function and reliability.

The Rock is simple to upgrade. Rock Island’s 1911s feature dimensions that are straight-up GI pattern. Because of this, aftermarket parts may be installed with minimal fitting. It has not been a surprise to 1911 fans that early successes have led to a number of upgraded versions of RIA’s 1911 models.

The FS (Full Size) features a 5-inch barrel, steel frame, Government Model pistol. At almost 40 ounces, the 1911A1 .45 ACP pistol is well balanced. It is comfortable to fire and an overall great handling firearm. One of the latest Rock Island Armory handguns is a pistol with considerably improved features compared to the earlier GI version.

Rock Island 1911 Features

The ‘bang! switch’ on the latest version is something you have to shoot to fully appreciate. The trigger compression was a silky 5.5 pounds. Like all quality 1911 handguns, the trigger reset was rapid.

close up of g10 grips on 1911 handgun
The G10 grips featured on the Rock Island Armory FS really add to the total package. Of course they look great, but the hand purchase they offer really makes them worth the price.

The barrel was properly fitted with the requisite 1/32-inch gap between the two parts of the feed ramp. The Rock Island Armory handgun fed all types of bullet styles without an issue. From lead models such as semi-wadcutters with a sharp, flat nose to open-mouth, jacketed hollowpoint bullets, the RIA 1911 ran like a champ.

The barrel-to-barrel bushing fit was tight. It did not require any tools for takedown.

As every 1911 should, the pistol featured a beavertail grip safety. The beavertail is one of the true wonders of handgun engineering. The design funnels the hand into the grip for enhanced accuracy and consistency.

The 1911’s bore axis is slightly lower than many modern pistols. As the grip safety is depressed, the safety’s grip on the trigger is released about midpoint into grip safety’s movement. The pistol also featured an ambidextrous thumb safety — something not always found on competitor’s models, even on many ‘considerably more expensive’ 1911 handguns.

ejection port on a rock island armory 1911a1 fs pistol
The 1911 FS from RIA features a lowered ejection port, which aids in administrative handling.

Author’s note: We often refer to these pistols as 1911 handguns. In fact, they are actually 1911A1 models. In 1928, improvements to the 1911, for military production, were codified to the 1911A1. These upgrades included finger slots in the grip frame to aid in trigger reach that also helped prevent the finger from lying on the frame during trigger compression, improved sights, and a slightly modified grip safety.

The fit of the ambidextrous thumb safety was good. The safety indented properly into place, ending with a positive click! The slide lock and magazine release worked as designed.

The sights were Novak type. This is a great all-around sight for target shooting, personal defense, and competition. The ejection port was scalloped, or lowered, in the modern fashion. This allowed administrative handling and unloading of the pistol in a manner that is superior to the GI-type slide window.

Rock Island’s new 1911 comes decked with G10 grips that are a great advantage over standard, slick, wooden slabs. The balance of adhesion and abrasion are easy to appreciate. The front strap isn’t checkered but features modest serrations to aid in achieving a positive hand purchase.

The pistol fits all of my holsters that were designed for the full-size 1911A1 pistol.


Ammunition Selection

Firing, the Rock Island Armory 1911 FS was a pleasure to shoot. The pistol’s two supplied magazines were loaded with Remington 230-grain jacketed loads. This is the original 230-grain ‘hardball’ loading. With a 230-grain round-nose jacketed bullet at just over 850 fps, the Remington UMC load offered excellent accuracy potential with a clean burn.

Lining up against man-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards, the pistol was quick to settle on target.

rock island fs 1911 pistol with slide locked back back on a wild boar paper target
In all accuracy tests, the pistol performed to the limits of the load and the author’s ability.

The .45 ACP round offers considerable wound potential, due to its frontal area and mass. The bullet doesn’t have to expand. Instead, it reliably cuts a full .451-inch hole. While there are loads that offer a good balance of expansion and penetration, the 230-grain hardball is a proven battle round and worthy of carry against those who would seek to do harm.

The Remington Golden Saber is among the most capable defense loads that may be chosen for personal or home defense. After firing 100 rounds of Golden Saber loads, I had a good grasp of the pistol’s performance with this loading. For personal defense, I have not found anything faster to an accurate first-shot hit than a properly carried, cocked-and-locked 1911. The Rock Island Armory FS 1911 is no exception to the rule.

For absolute accuracy, firing from a benchrest is always interesting. A pistol’s performance from a solid rest will reveal the true measure of the gun — far beyond the flowery marketing speak you’ll hear from most.

bob campbell wearing safety glasses and hearing protection while smoke bellows from a 1911 pistol
The Rock Island Armory FS 1911A1 tips the scales at a hefty 40 ounces, which was sufficient to handle the recoil of 230-grain self-defense loads.

Lately, I have been using MTM’s Caseguard K-Zone shooting rest. This is a handy, portable device that aids a great deal in accuracy testing. It is useful for rifles and handguns alike.

Range Report: RIA 1911 FS

For this test, I fired 5-shot groups using three different loads — Remington UMC 230-grain FMJ, Remington 230-grain Golden Saber, and a handload using a 185-grain SWC at 890 fps.

The Golden Saber was tested and adopted by FBI SWAT some years ago. So, it was no surprise when it ‘won the day’ by delivering the best group. The group measured 2.25 inches, which narrowly edged out the 230-grain FMJ (2.65 inches), and the respectable effort from the SWC handload (2.5 inches).

The pistol is clearly effective, reliable, accurate enough to be well worth its price.

What do you think of the Rock Island Armory FS 1911? Do you have a favorite 1911? Share your choice or review in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (20)

  1. With the 1911 being my favorite platform, I’ve collected a fair share over the years. My collection ranges from Dan Wesson, a Springfield TRP, 4 Kimber’s (in a variety of price ranges), a few customs, and two Rock Islands. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to grab a Rock Island to defend my family. They are very well built, and extremely reliable.

  2. I bought the Rock Island 1911a1 fs model, and wasn’t disappointed. I’ve owned A LOT of 1911s, and this one is just as accurate as my Springfield. I’ve carried 1911s since 1978, and have always been appriciative of them. For my money, you won’t find a better basic 1911!

  3. No issues with Armscorp or JM Browining but I’ll never understand the whole 1911 thing. Never have wanted one. I’ve handled and shot cheap ones, expensive ones… no thanks. Just like “Block Perfection”… why the h*** should I spend $500 or whatever just to turn around and have to dump more money into it order to “make it right”? Why not just buy something that actually works right out of the box like an M&P?

  4. Several years ago I purchased an RIA Ultra FS in 9mm. I wanted an M-1911 in 9mm because it would be cheaper to shoot than my Gold Cup. I tried a number of handloads and finally settled on the 125 grain Hornady HAP bullet (.356 diameter) and CFE Pistol powder. With the aforementioned load, I was able to keep up with my highly accurized Gold Cup in accuracy. The weapon comes with an ambidextrous safety and what amounts to a factory trigger job. The pistol is a dream to shoot. The only change or addition to the pistol has been Pachmayr signature grips and Wilson Combat magazines. I have put thousands of rounds through the weapon without a single malfunction.

  5. I bought my first Rock Island 1911 about a year ago in the 10mm caliber, Can’t say enough good
    about this Sweet Heart. I absolutely love shooting it, extremely accurate, very hard hitting, and just an all around pleasure to shoot. I will now start hunting Big Game with it, and have total confidence that it will take down anything i use it on. I like it sooo much that i decided to sell my Dan Wesson Patriot today in a 45 ACP, no comparison at all.

  6. Love my ria tac 1911, I have owned range officer 1911 stainless and non stainless, my ria is as tight fit, accurate and has been completely reliable as any of my past. Looking at double stack 10mm now in ria 1911 platform. You won’t be disappointed

  7. Picked up one in 10 mm and love this pistol, very well made ,all parts fit tight and RIA prices won’t break the bank,have the RIA GI model in .45 acp and besides the GI sights another well built 1911 that won’t break the bank again

  8. I recently became interested in finding a new double-stack 1911 to relive memories of a Para-Ordnance I had in the 1990’s. I found a RIA TAC Ultra HC FS in .45acp and really liked it. My first trip to the range I set the target at 15 yards and carefully fired my first shot. From that distance I was really sad because I couldn’t see a hole in the target, so I brought the target in to get a closer look. I had hit directly in the center!! I managed to make really nice groups. Really fantastic. I’m very happy with this purchase. If RIA makes it stainless, I’ll buy another 🙂

  9. I have 3 Rock 1911’s, A FS Tactical, Compact Tactical and a GI in 38 Super. The Compact Tactical has been my carry gun for 10 years or so. I enjoy shooting them all. The only problem I ever had was with my Compact not accepting a Chip McCormick magazine. I stick with the factory ACT mags and have had zero issues.

  10. purchased this gun several weeks ago and managed a 2.75 inch group with the first mag a little low and a little left. After adjustment mostly x ring hits. For the money it don’t get much better. If you get the chance get one.

  11. Bought the RIA 1911FS GI model and upgraded the internals, hammer, trigger, grip and thumb safeties with wilson combat parts and turned it into an absolute joy to shoot. Snobs talk down about RIA because they’re affordable for anyone not making loads of money to spend $1000+ on a pistol. They are the among the best bamg for the buck out there. I have my RIA, Para Ordnance and a stainless Tisas and they were all under 600 each. The RIA was the cheapest at 450 but it runs just as well as a Springfield at half the cost.

  12. I bought my Rock FS-Tactical (#51431), in early 2015, well before they came with the G10 grips. I’ve since added G10’s and added Wilson Combat magazines to compliment the original ARMSCOR mags that came with my slab side. I love this pistol!! It will run anything I feed it. I have to admit I did run into a feeding/stove-piping issue at one point but i eliminated the problem when i eliminated the Chip McCormick magazine I had purchased. For some reason my Rock didn’t like that mag. Several thousand rounds downrange later i can say this is my best shooting pistol!! I’d recommend this model to any first time 1911 buyer or seasoned owner wanting to buy a great gun!! If you can impress a Kimber snob at the range with your $485.00 Rock, well, that says it all!! And yes, that was a 2015 price…

  13. I too own a double stack RIA with full tac rail. After beefing up the recoil spring, I regularly shoot 45 Super out of this pistol. What dream to shoot and EXTREMELY accurate with excellent reliability! Here in North Idaho it’s a fantastic bear defense gun. It also easily cycles 230 ball with, again, extreme reliability. I can’t say enough good things about this pistol! I also own a Rock Officer’s model in 45 ACP. Same story. I do also own a Rock double stack 10mm with also excellent results. Great entry level priced 1911’s with room for upgrades if you wish …. And I have upgraded plenty. I carry a Rock MS Tac (commander) 10mm daily for all my ranch chores… my favorite carry gun!!!

  14. I bought my Rock Island Tactical Standard 1911 in .45 ACP. It was a little rough out of the box, with stovepiping, jams, etc. It smoothed out after only 100 rounds. It shot to the left too much ( all me, not the pistol). I had the trigger taken down to 3.5 pounds, and that solved the problem. I can now turn the X ring into one tagged hole consistently. Outside of the trigger issue, the firearm functions as well as any 1911 on the market. In my opinion, it’s the best value for a 1911 available.

  15. I own & absolutely love my RIA 1911A1FS Patriot Brown with Sunburst G10 Grips. I changed the front & rear sights on mine to TRUGLO Novak Night Sights. Also I purchased an extra pair of almost Olive Green Sunbrst Style G10 Grips to change the look a bit. In my opinion this pistol handles
    much better than many pistols I have used or owned in the past. I recommend every 1911 enthusiast to at least try The RIA 1911A1FS before they go blowing outrageous amounts of their hard earned dollars on just a NAME !!! You won’t be disappointed !!!

  16. Springfield Range Officer in 45. Got it Magna-Ported and using 17lb flat wire recoil spring. Felt recoil is reduced. This gun is a shooter. In my senior years i still do pretty good with it, many moons ago i know with better eyes and hands this 1911 would truly
    be an exceptional shooter for a non-custom build.
    Bought a used Kimber LW a few months ago (looks barely used), another fine shooter. But my Springfield is still my favorite.
    No matter shooting is always fun.

  17. I have one of these in 9mm. It’s the enhanced version.
    It shoots a ragged hole in the x ring with even cheap ammunition and I have never had a malfunction of any kind
    I got a great deal on it used and it looked like it was never shot.
    Great trigger, action slick as rubbing two pieces of glass together when you rack the slide.
    I have no regrets.
    I have owned high dollar colts and I still have a Ruger 1911 commander and as a shooter the rock is a solid 1911 worth owning.

  18. Got a COLT series 70 when they first came out. Also, over the years, had the chance to shoot many “non COLT” 1911s. Over ~50 years with my COLT series 70, I have been a devoted 1911 follower, With that said, I am a strong believer that every one should have a 1911, and learn to strip it down to the frame and put it back together. So I say that ROCK ISLAND is one of the 1911s that would be a great beginner or first 1911 for most folks.

    ROCK ISLAND sticks to the “G.I.” build, which is another plus. When I got my COLT, they were the only player in town, and I still had to spend time to remove machining marks and slick up the action. Back when I got my series 70, COLT 1911s in 9mm were a joke. Seems ROCK ISLAND 1911s in 9mm run as good as Mr. Browning intended his .45 to run, and the STAR BM/BKM 9mms are no longer available, Don’t want to get a .45 because you already have a 9mm, them a ROCK ISLAND 9mm 1911 is a viable option.

  19. I have two Rocks. a 22TCM/9mm double stack and a FS Tactical double stack 45ACP. Absolutely love them both. The 22TCM is ‘thunder and lightning’, amazingly accurate and easy to control. As a 9mm it is a tight and accurate pistol good for EDC, which is what I do with it in cooler weather. The Double Stack 45 has a full Accessory Rail (the tactical version) and with the exception of being a bit heavy fully loaded, is accurate and the extra weigh in the front means a quick recovery even shooting +P rounds. I did install oversized grips and oversized slide stops on both pistols. The 22 TCM also got an over sized thumb safety.
    These lower priced 1911 stack up performance wise to my Springfield, Para and Kimber which all cost several hundred more. They may be Plain Jane in the basic black finish, but they have lacked nothing in performance, accuracy or reliability.

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