After many years of shooting, training, and carrying the most effective handgun possible, I realized that many of my choices were not practical for the average shooter. There are many demands on their time and mastering a Commander .45, .357 Magnum revolver, or compact .40 is difficult. Compromises are inherent in the game. The happy medium between a service-size pistol and hideout derringer is often a quality self loader. The .380 ACP is a popular choice.
Recently, Rock Island Armory (Armscor) introduced the 1911A1 .380 ACP known simply as the Baby Rock. Rock fans and shooters everywhere are going to love this handgun. Most small 1911s are more 1911-like than true 1911. The Baby Rock features a plunger tube, slide lock safety, beavertail grip safety, low bore axis and straight to the rear trigger compression. This is a true small 1911.
There are differences, made necessary by the Baby Rock’s straight blowback design—such as the lack of a swinging link and barrel lugs—but in operation and field striping this is a 1911 pistol and handles like a dream. The Baby Rock is just over 6.5 inches long and 4.6 inches tall. The pistol’s slide is .75 inch in width. Like the full-size 1911, the grip fits most hands well. Rubber grips provide good adhesion when firing. The mainspring housing is rounded for concealed carry. The barrel is 3.75 inches long—longer than most .380 ACP pistols. As it turned out this barrel length gives the optimum velocity for .380 ACP loads.
The pistol loads, operates, and shoots like a full-size 1911. It also field strips like a 1911, so 1911 shooters will have no problem grooving into this pistol. The sights are good examples of combat sights. Unlike the bumps on the slide of some pistols in this caliber, the Baby Rock’s sights offer good accuracy potential, and accuracy can make up for power, but the reverse is seldom true.
The pistol features well designed cocking serrations including forward cocking serrations. It isn’t a GI gun but it has the look of a custom 1911. The slide lock safety is tight and snaps into place smartly—something you want in a pistol that is to be worn close to the body. The magazines are well made. During speed loads the magazines dropped readily when the magazine release was hit—allowing rapid replenishment of the ammunition supply. The Baby Rock comes standard with two magazines.
The Baby Rock was well lubricated before firing and came out of the box running. It never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The pistol has proven reliable with factory loads from Cor Bon, Federal Cartridge, Fiocchi, Gorilla Ammunition, Hornady, Remington, Speer, and Winchester. Most of the practice loads have been ball ammunition and quite a few JHP loads have been fired.
This wasn’t a one day project; the Baby Rock was extensively tested. One reason the pistol has burned so much powder is that it is a joy to use and fire. It is accurate and easy to use well and that means a lot in a defensive handgun. A reason the Baby Rock doesn’t recoil much is that it weighs 22 ounces. An all steel .380 ACP is a joy to fire but weighs almost twice as much as some of the pocket guns. And the Baby Rock isn’t a pocket gun unless you have deep cargo pants.
When firing, the Baby Rock wasn’t difficult to get a good firing grip. However, most who fired the pistol found it shoots low in fast shooting unless you pay attention to the front sight and get a good tight grip. Fast follow-up shots were easy. Using the affordable Fiocchi FMJ loading, I enjoyed a clean burn and good accuracy.
The surprising advantage of the Baby Rock is accuracy. The pistol is a tack driver for its size. Considering the weight of the pistol and the rigid fixed recoil barrel (the pistol is blowback operation although the barrel is easily removed) the pistol should be accurate. I settled on the Hornady American Gunner 90-grain XTP as a carry load. Although, if the warehouse is low on that round, I find Hornady Critical Defense loads more than acceptable.
Firing from a solid barricade standing rest at 15 yards, it was no mean feat to put an entire 7-round magazine into less than three inches. Best of all, I quickly gained confidence that the Baby Rock would work every time I pressed the trigger.
I am not going to give up my big guns, but the Baby Rock is going to ride with me a lot. When mowing grass, taking a quick run to the stop-and-rob, or during the morning walk, a light but effective handgun is appreciated. And when engaged in more serious pursuits, I think the Baby Rock will back up the Commander .45. Old habits are hard to break.
Primary or backup? How would the Baby Rock fit into your self-defense plan? Share your answers and experiences in the comment section.