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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.