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The 1911 Worlds Finest Handgun!

Rock Island Armory M1911A1 By Syd "The Sight 1911″

Posted by Gunner on February 11, 2008



I was determined not to like this gun – Colt/Kimber/Springfield snobbery at work, I guess. I went at it with the intention of finding fault. At the same time, I love M1911A1’s, and precious few gun makers are building true M1911A1’s these days. They may look like them on the outside, but inside, they’re polluted with a bunch of lawyer-friendly, California suck-up perversions of the design, like Swartz safety firing pin blocks, external extractors, integrated locking systems and other “answers in search of a question” devices that degrade the trigger and add unnecessary complexity to the design. Personally, I really like the M1911A1 design, which is sometimes referred to as the “Series 70” format (even though “Series 70” and “M1911A1” are really two different pistols). People use “Series 70” to mean 1911’s that don’t have firing pin blocks (or in Kimber parlance, Series 1). (Go here to get a complete description of the Series 70 Colt.) Kimber had taken to adding these “improvements” with an external extractor and a Swartz-type firing pin block, but the Marines rang their bells when they ordered a batch of 1911’s from Kimber, but specified that they should have no firing pin blocks or full length guide rods, and they should have internal extractors – in other words, they should be real M1911’s and not the lawyer friendly crap that has developed recently.  So, even though my Colt/Kimber/Springfield snobbery was blazing bright, there was some serious sympathy for an outfit that is still willing to build a true M1911A1, and RIA (actually Armscor of the Philippines through their subsidiary, Twin Pines) is doing that.

The RIA guns are being sold at extremely attractive prices. The “M1911A1” is selling for about $350-$370 and that price point is generating a lot of interest, especially when guns like the Springfield Mil-Spec are commanding $560 and most Kimber and Colt models are going for $800+.

There are some ways that the RIA M1911A1 is not a true M1911A1. The most obvious is that it has a flat mainspring housing. The G.I. M1911A1 has a curved mainspring housing. Contemporary 1911 shooters seem to prefer the flat mainspring housing which was characteristic of the older M1911 over the curved housing of the WW II era guns. The RIA pistol, like most modern production 1911’s, has a lowered ejection port with the scallop relief to the rear which is a good idea for reliability, but is not characteristic of the G.I. gun. It has a beveled magazine well and a somewhat enlarged thumb safety flange – again, modern modifications that make sense, but which were not found on the G.I. gun. It also has smooth wood grips rather than checkered bakelite. The RIA is like the M1911A1 in that it is parkerized, has the short trigger of the M1911A1, has authentic sights, short guide rod and spring plug, no firing pin block, and a mil-spec trigger of about 5.5-6 lbs.

   First Test
It shot really well close. At seven yards I got a ragged hole. At 25 yards I got a pattern the size of a cantaloupe 8″ low at 8 o’clock. (By way of comparison, I shoot a baseball-sized pattern at point of aim at 25 yards with the SA XD 9mm at this same range under similar lighting conditions). It could have been my eyes and those tiny sights in the indoor range. I’m not ready to blame that totally on the gun yet. Probably a bit more testing is in order. I did the “magazine from hell” test (running every weird old magazine in my collection through it for reliability testing) and it only had one problem – a no-name Chinese knock-off magazine failed to lock back on the last round. There were no failures to feed (FTF). I did nothing to prep this gun for the test. I just took it out of the box, wiped the packing oil off of the outside and fired it – no lube, cleaning or “fluff & buff.” The only real problem was that I got some bitchin’ hammer bite. I don’t usually get hammer bite with M1911A1’s but this one sure did. When I got home, there was blood on the hammer flange and beavertail. All in all, it was a pretty decent performance for a $350 pistol. It was better than I expected it to be.

Second Test
Without cleaning it, I took it to a training session. For this session the RIA performed in the second gun role, with the trusty Combat Commander as the primary. I shot about half of the session with it, around 50 rounds or so. Again, the RIA performed flawlessly; again there was bitchin’ hammer bite.

   Third Test
I remembered to grind off the sharp end of the hammer this time, but aside from a bit of wipe off when I took the hammer out of the gun, I still had not cleaned or lubed it. This session was at an indoor range and I ran 100 rounds of Winchester White Box through the gun. Again, it performed without a single bobble or hiccough. That made approximately 250 rounds of hardball through a new gun, without any cleaning or maintenance. All ammo was Winchester “White Box.” I have to admit that I’m warming up to the gun at this point.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and you would expect that certain corners might be cut in order to keep the pistol in the $350 range when most other M1911’s are bringing $800 and up. If you want to find nits to pick, you can. The sights are very authentic narrow blade sights like those used on the G.I. guns. In the dim light of the indoor range, they were hard to pick up. The smooth wood grips strike me as a little chintzy. Like many guns these days, the RIA has a number of MIM (metal injection molding) parts. If you look at the MIM parts with a 10x loupe, you will notice tiny surface imperfections like pits that appear to be the result of not quite enough polishing after the part came out of the mold. Also, a gun billed as an “M1911A1” should have an arched mainspring housing rather than a flat one. There seems to be a collective decision in the 1911 universe that we all prefer flat mainspring housings over arched ones. It really depends on an individual’s hand shape and geometry. Flat MSH’s aren’t perfect for everyone. The slide and frame are castings rather than bar-stock milling. I know for a lot of folks this is a negative, but you have to keep reminding yourself, “$350.” Last, if you look at a real government issue M1911A1, you will notice that the finish is dark gray with green and brownish tints. Like most “mil-spec” 1911 clones, the parkerization on the Rock Island Armory gun is black. Personally I like the black, but it’s not completely authentic.

What’s to Like?
Well, there’s price, price and did I mention price? For the money, I think this gun is an excellent value. The Rock Island Armory M1911A1 would be an excellent “first gun” for someone who wants to try out the M1911 platform without over-committing resources. Based on my testing so far, it has the reliability and accuracy to serve in the personal defense role. It might be able to go places with you where you wouldn’t want to take the “safe queens.” And, by the way, I still haven’t cleaned and lubed it, and it’s still running fine.

These gorgeous grips are from
Photo courtesy of MCPO a member of m1911 forum

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56 Responses to “Rock Island Armory M1911A1 By Syd "The Sight 1911″”

  1. Jeff said

    Great post as usual. Did you ever decide what to do about you HK that needed sights? I am curious if you tried that sight pusher. Keep up the great work.

  2. Gunner said


    Thanks I appreciate it! Yea, I decided to get some Heinie Straight Eight sights probably in a couple of weeks. I’m going to try the brass punch first. I called H&K and unlike some companies they don’t put them under a lot of pressure when they put them on at the factory. They said that probably a brass punch would work without doing any damage to the gun or the sights. I told them which sights I was going to use and the way they are made should be pretty easy to install.

    Take Care,

  3. […] market may support this.  Rock Island Armory has mastered this with a gun that is getting good reviews right now.   Along with Rock Island, TAURUS has started making a 1911 with all the bells and […]

  4. Gunner said


    They are both making a great product. You know the Rock Island reviews get more attention than any other subject on the blog. With good reason to!
    It’s hard to beat them with all the features and quality at that price.


  5. Charlie Jones said

    I bought a RIA tactical model last year. I was very pleased in the functional sense. The trigger was great, it functions flawlessly, and accurate as all get-out. So, now that my toy budget allows indiscreation, I decided to go whole hog and get a Kimber Raptor II. Very nice gun, accurate, with a trigger slightly better than the RIA.

    Now, other than the Kimber being much “prettier”, I find little practical difference. Expensive lesson, huh?

  6. Gunner said


    Pretty amazing 1911’s for the price or any price really! I’m glad you’re enjoying yours. The Kimber is prettier I’ll grant you that.
    There isn’t much difference practically speaking and oh boy was it an expensive lesson but one I’m glad I found out about:-)Love those “Rocks”.


  7. Richard Kerr said

    Hi Gunner,

    After I bought my RIA – 1911A1 I decided the grips had to go, for some reason they just felt “fat” and for me thats kinda’ funny because I have big hands! I was going to try and find some of the Pachmayer wrap-around like I had on my 70 series commander but came across a pair of Hogue wrap-around for $16.00 +TX. Evevn though they looked bigger in the box, once I mounted them I found I liked the looks of them and they fit like a glove. No offense to Pachmayer but I preferr the feel and handling of the Hogue’s instead, seems to spread the recoil out over more of the area of the grip. Because I have arthritis the recoil issue is a boon and makes shooting 230gr. a pleasure again (pleasure? – don’t worry its only the drugs!). But on the otherhand, easier recoil results in better scores because I’m not anticipating the pain and am concentrating more on sight picture.

    Tkae care Rich

  8. Gunner said

    Hi Rich,

    I like the Hogue better myself especially on revolvers. The are softer material than Pachs and just feel better. They may not last as long but hey they are cheap so it doesn’t matter that much!

    Have a great Sunday buddy,

  9. Charlie Jones said

    Sorry for posting this here, but couldn’t find reference to your e-mail on the site.

    I have had a recent gun-smithing experience that you might consider covering in your articles. IOWAGEAN at the Ruger forum sent me a instruction set that he put together for the GP100. He is a retired gun-smith, so I thought I would give it a try, plus installing a new set of Wolff reduced springs. To make a long story shot, I ended up with a revolver that will shame anything sold by the manufacturers today.

    As you know Rugers are extremely sturdy, but suffer from the lack of sufficent final finishing. I had a good looking gun that had a heavy, gritty double action pull and a so-so single action pull.

    I’m a smaller man and didn’t have the strength to fire double action without throwing the shots all over the target. Now, I can fire rapidly and keep all shots in the “kill zone” at 10 yards. Single action is as good as can be expected from a DA.

    Since I know that you value resonably priced weapons that can really do the job, I thought this might be of interest to your readers.

    Thanks for your ecellent blog. I check it every day!

    Charlie Jones

  10. Gunner said


    No problem posting wherever you want. I always answer any comments via email after replying here.
    I would like to read what he sent you to make the Ruger smooth up. I agree they are built like a tank but do leave a bit to be desired as far as trigger pull etc.
    I’m certainly glad it worked out well and the Ruger is shooting much better for you. Feel free anytime to send along his instructions and I’ll write something up and post it.


  11. Mike Ford said

    Thanks for the info on RIA 1911, I carried a mil. spec. for years in the navy. retired now and been looking for one. the price tag on auto- ord. and others is a bit scary. but if you say it preforms that well at that price then i’m sold. p.s. please clean that gun.

  12. Gunner said


    You are very welcome! I can tell you without any hesitation that the RIA is the best buy in a 1911 ever. It’s amazing that a company can make such a fine pistol at that cost.
    They not only make the GI model but a Tactical with Novak type sights that use a Novak cut so that you can change sights easily with any Novak cut sight set. Another is the one with fiber optic front sight and a Millett type adjustable rear. Also there are several compact versions one a GI type and another modeled after the Tactical. The Tactical version is between $425 and $450. The finish available is the phosphate as well as a newly introduced Dura-Coat. The GI also comes in nickel. You simply can’t go wrong with the RIA and customer service is the best in the business.
    Ivan who is the North American CEO is on the 1911 forum and answers a lot of questions as well as taking care of any very rare problems.
    Check this forum to get an idea of what people think of them.
    It’s the best 1911 forum and has some great folks on it.

    Take care,

  13. drfaulken said

    Hi there, I found your post after someone cross-referenced my review. Your review is MUCH more technically thorough than mine, and for that I am appreciative. I learned a lot about my RIA 1911 from reading your post, especially the differences between it and authentic Government models.

    I totally agree with you that the sights are worthless in low-light. My local indoor shooting range has poor lighting and boy was it hard to find the front blade sight. I wound up point shooting instead at about ten yards.

    Thanks again for your review, I really liked reading it.

  14. Gunner said

    That’s great I’m glad you enjoyed it and got some useful info from the review. I have since changed my sights with true Novak sights that use the gold dot on the front sight. It made a great deal of difference and is much easier to see.
    It seems like most indoor ranges have pretty poor lighting for some reason.


  15. Richard D. Allis said

    I have been looking to purchase a RIA 1911 for some time now. The thing that has held me back was research and talking to the Colt, Kimber, Springfield clans. I am a novice to the firearm, but I know what I like in the feel and looks of the weapon. Several times I have held one and inspected it’s detail and quite frankly, I feel confident it’s good enough this shooter. Oddly enough, though, I purchased a different .45 ACP at a local gunshow a year ago. It is the .45 ACP Hi-Point. Talk about a rattleing, brick. For all it’s lack of favorable shooters publicity, this thing is dead accurate right out of the box. Another weapon the clan’s advised me against.
    I qualify once a year with an H&K 9mm, and shoot occaisionaly at a local indoor range, I know what I like and I am hoping your review on the RIA will meet my expectations. Next gunshow, I’ll have mine.
    Dick Allis

  16. Gunner said


    You won’t be disappointed that’s a certainty!!!

    Thanks for writing,

  17. jim p. said

    i have RIA1911 for almost 3yrs already .its nice gun i try 700rounds of jam i experienced even i used reload ammo.tnx

  18. Gunner said


    It’s a fine pistol and that’s what I would expect from it. Good to hear!


  19. Bullitt1668 said

    Nice article! I got a Compact RIA and I absolutely love it, it’s my first 1911 and I want more! Next, I will get a Tactical RIA Government style.

  20. Gunner said

    Good for you! You’ll also love the Tactical. It’s a real tac driver and the Match version though hard to find is very nice.
    Glad you liked the article!


  21. Tom Arrington said

    I am close to a decision on the RIA Government vs the Colt but my local gun shop wants $439 for the Rock vs $799 for the Colt. I think the politcal environment has helped drive the prices up. Do you still consider the Rock a bargain, even at this price?

  22. Gunner said


    Even at that price I still am convinced it’s a best buy. The Colt may be a bit prettier but for the price difference the RIA is a better pistol.
    I’ve yet to hear anyone say they were disappointed with the RIA Tactical or government!


  23. Chris said

    I have a RIA Officer Model and I too love it. I own a Colt 1911 and Kimber Custom Combat II but I love the RIA. I have changed the grips to the Hogue wrap around and it does help the feel.

    My question here is sights. I want to change to night sights but do not know where to start. I was wondering if one sight will fit better than another. It looks like a standard dove tail rear and the small tennon front (I may have spelled that wrong).

    Could you offer some advice? I have looked at Midway USA but three must be a 100 or so for the 1911.



  24. Gunner said


    This is by far the best solution for changing sights. Novak makes sights specifically for the RIA and you can call them and discuss what you want then send the slide only which is much cheaper than sending the entire gun, You may have to adjust the rear sight but that’s pretty simple if needed.

    Good luck,

  25. S.Kimbrell said

    I traded my brother a Mossburg 500 for a RIA 1911,it is the officer’s modle with a 4 in barrel,skeleton hammer,trigger job & some black checkered handles all of which he had installed on the gun.I must say it shoots good,1.5 in. groups at 5 yards,3 in. groups at 10 yards.I like the gun.I was in the market for a 1911,not anymore,this one will do just fine.

  26. Charles said

    Just wondering where is the guide rod in the first picture on this page where you have the firearm in the slide stop position.

  27. Gunner said


    This model is the GI version which has the short guide rod. The GI guide rod is only about 2 1/4 inches long so when the slide is retracted it stays inside the slide unlike the full length rod which protrudes from the front with the slide locked back.


  28. how can i obtain an original owners manual for my HK P7 M13 any help please thanks Joseph

  29. Gunner said


    Manual sent by email:-)


  30. cmblake6 said

    I will freely say that my RIA .38 Super is one of my prime first choice weapons. Have I tuned it a bit? Yeah. Sights, beavertail, hammer, and that’s it. 100% reliable, stupid accurate, sweet piece. And did we mention $350?

  31. cmblake6 said

    Oh, and grips. Nice Philipine Mahogany. Period.

  32. Gunner said

    There ya go you just can’t beat them in any category. Certainly the best 1911 for the money ever! The 38 Super is my next “Rock”.

    Take care,

  33. Gunner said

    Mahogany is a great grip material!

  34. SkipE said

    I am hesitant to get it but man it feels great and only one shop said i shouldnt waste my money. But its my first pistol and a 1911 my favorite!just happens to barely be in my price range at $499 in san jose CA i need a licensed firearm friend : )

  35. Gunner said

    To be 100% honest with you that Rock Island Armory 1911 is the best pistol for the money you can buy. I know there are a few gun snob types or those who have not handled or shot an RIA and because of price they automatically dismiss it as junk.
    Those Rock Island 1911’s are forged steel and carry a warranty second to none in the gun industry. The USA branch handles any of the rare warranty problems and return your pistol or give you a new one within a week. Ivan Wolcott and his staff go above and beyond to help customers.
    There is a forum you might want to join called There is a thread there that is dedicated to Rock Island 1911’s and you’ll not find a more dedicated group anywhere. Good information and some nice folks. It’s worth checking out.
    Buy it you won’t be sorry:-) Oh I prefer the Tactical version with Novak type sights and some desirable extras. Cost is only about $40 more in most places.

    Happy Shooting,

  36. Mike said

    I just got my first hand gun.I wanted a Colt but settled for RIA 1911-a2. I like having the extra rounds in the mag. Where can i get a free set of cleaning instructions.Bought it second hand with no paperwork. Any more tips or info would help

  37. Gunner said


    Thanks for writing. Do you know how to take it down for cleaning would be my first question? If not I have videos on the blog on how to do that. I can give you that link but it’s on the first page of the blog at the top.
    Taking the slide off the pistol is as far as you need to go for cleaning. Let me know and I can write a longer response and direct you how to clean one. I’d be happy to help.


  38. Mike said

    Thanks for your help. Do you see a problem with the CCI shot ammo to shoot snakes as i live and fish in swamps of Florida

  39. Gunner said


    No not really. They can be kinda hard to find in 45acp and some guns have a little difficulty cycling them with the plastic tip they use. I’d shoot a few to make sure they function ok.
    Do you need the info on cleaning the pistol?


  40. Roblamont said

    My first expirence with a 1911 was a R.I.A. and I fell in love right away! I traded in my baretta 92 and bought a Taurus, but missed the R.I.A. Later I purchased a High Standard Compact Crusader. It was a fine conceal weapon, but my heart is with a full size. Now the friend that let me shoot his R.I.A. is looking to sell it and I have a great oppurtunity to own what will always be my first taste and one of my best tastes of what a 1911 has to offer. Needless to say I am picking up the R.I.A. in the morning.

  41. Hey I just bought a ria 1911 tactical on buds gun shop sight for 454. Ibwas going to go two tone but kept it original I prefer the looks. 45acp was a must and after doing tons of research ria was the only way. Buds was great and I am picking up the gun in a couple days runt down the road from my house can’t wait to shoot it. I was going to go with a raging bull .454 casull but didn’t like the ammo price and unpredictability plus my wife said that it’s like a 50 year old buying a corvette what’s he making up for? Thanks for the great review buds has a match grade 45acp ria for 644 on there

  42. Gunner said

    You are very welcome sir! I know you’ll enjoy it a lot!!


  43. Mike said

    I have a RIA 1911 A2 with the db.stack clip. First will standard grips for a 1911 fit on the larger grip. I am looking for extra clips but have not been able to fine any. Can you help

  44. Gunner said


    Most grips for a single stack 1911 will fit a wide body 1911. Just an idea but a slim grip from Chip McCormick will make the grip feel somewhat thinner. Brownells has a large selection of grips.

    As far as magazines when they are in stock you can get them from Armscor parent company of RIA.
    Here is a list of several sellers of double stack magazines–they do vary in price a lot. If you can get RIA mags at the link above they are cheaper.
    I hope this helps Mike. Feel free to contact me anytime.


  45. Billyraybobjim said

    I just picked one of these up and my range findings thus far in both accuracy and reliability are 100%. Absolutely sleeper 1911’s, really amazing when you consider how much they cost.

  46. Gunner said

    Your right on all points. There are a lot of us who really like these guns. They can’t be beat especially at that price range!

  47. Adam Slone said

    I just picked up a RIA 1911 and I am thinking about upgrading the sights. I plan on using this weapon for home defense, and would like to get sights for good low light situations. Do you have a brand that would best suit me.

  48. Gunner said


    Novak are my preferred sights. They have so many kinds to handle any situation. Turnaround time is only a week to ten days. Also RIA 1911’s use a Novak slide cut so no milling to fit them.


  49. Tim Call said

    Just bought my second 1911 – the first was a Colt Combat Commander back in the early eighties – should have NEVER sold it! I just purchased or should say traded a Colt American 2000 for a RIA 1911A1 with a few bells & whistles that don’t come stock (I guess). Right out of the box and to the range, 100 rounds of round ball lead were a “blast” to say the least. I love to shoot and have mostly revolvers in my collection of hand guns but this one has taken the top shelf of my gun safe already! Can’t wait to show it off to my gunning buddies!

  50. Gunner said

    Good deal Tim—glad to hear it!

  51. SHON said


  52. Gunner said


    Yes sir Novak indeed does have them. RIA uses a Novak slide cut but they usually need a small but of fitting. It’s best to have them install them for you. No they don;t break down for cleaning like most others. It’s more involved than that. If you look at the top of any page on the blog there is a link to a video on how to take them apart for cleaning. All you need to do for cleaning is remove the slide, remove the barrel bushing and barrel from the slide. That’s about it. Don’t go as far as the video does since it has you doing complete disassembly and you don’t want to do that.


  53. SHON said

    thank you sir! well i went and purchased the rock last friday and while i was there the guy at the shop showed me how to break it down for cleaning. man is that a process! about the sights, i agree with letting them install them. i get to pick it up the 27th (10 day wait) CA sucks! so would i just mail my slide to novak?

  54. Gunner said


    Videos are good but nothing like having someone show you. I’m really glad you did that and it will certainly help. Now as far as sights. It cost more to send the entire gun to Novak but they will sight it in for you where you send only the slide in and that will be up to you. It’s really worth it to have them sight it in and put the right sight on.
    Insure the gun and make sure you have that gun shop send it in for you. They are mist familiar with the requirements. It will be sent back directly to you if you want.

    Have fun!

  55. SHON said


    Alright so I love the gun, it shoots great and I can punch holes from a pretty good distance. BUT, two or three times now when I load a fresh mag in and rip the slide back it wont make it all the way forward. It looks like the first round is catching on the little “ramp” and not loading into the chamber, thus keeping my slide from rocking all the way back forward. Is this from the way the mag feeds the round into the chamber? I tore it down and clean it and oiled it, so its not from build. This could be pretty dangerous if Im ever in a tight spot where I need to dump and reload and be back on target quickly. Any suggestions or advice?

  56. Gunner said

    Hi Shon,

    Got a couple of questions for you. Is it the same magazine that’s doing this and do you pull the slide all the way back and release or use the slide release to chamber a round? I would start by using a different magazine and definitely not use the slide release. I stopped depending on the slide release a long time ago since they just don’t give the forward momentum a manual charge does.
    If these don’t solve the occasional problem I would advise having a local gunsmith polish the feedramp. In fact the first thing I do with any new gun is polish the feedramp. Don’t use any compounds because you don’t want to change the feedramp angle. I just use a Dremel with a circular buffer pad and run at medium speed until it shines. I do this even if there are no problems. I just think it’s a good idea.
    One last thing I use Tripp magazines in all my guns no matter the caliber. They are just super well made and last forever. They can be purchased from These guys don’t charge shipping either:-) Just get back to me and we’ll go from there.
    One last thing I use a Wolf 18.5 recoil spring to give me that extra power when charging a round.


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