Armscor/Rock Island Armory
The legacy of Armscor and Rock Island Armory goes back to 1905 in the Philippines. This long run family business began as sporting goods retailer Squires Bingham & Co. and was sold to the Tauson family just prior to WWII. During the war the business had to focus solely on selling clothing, but in 1952 they received firearms manufacturing licensing from the Government and began opening manufacturing plants across the island country.
In 1980 the Tauson family changed the name to “Arms Corporation of the Philippines”, thus shortened to Armscor. In 1985, Armscor Precision International opened an office in Pahrump, Nevada and later, acquired Rock Island Armory which was already established as a 1911 design and manufacturing company. Armscor and Rock Island have continued to grow and become an international developer and provider of ammunition and firearms.
RIA 1911 A1 Standard Full Size in 9mm
My one-word review for the Rock Island 1911 A1 in 9mm: “effortless”. This pistol is easy to handle, easy to shoot and packs a boat load of accuracy into this standard Government-style pistol.
While this pistol is built on the Colt Series 70 design, RIA did add some upgrades to the standard Colt Government pistol design. First are the sights. On Colt pistols, from the early 1900’s up through the late 1970’s, sights seemed to be somewhat of an afterthought. The front sight was a small half circle either forged or welded into the slide and the rear sight was a very rudimentary small affair with a shallow notch. The rear sight being dovetailed into the slide. The front sight was difficult to see and there was very little in the way of contrast to differentiate the rear sight from the front sight when trying to make precise shots. Additionally, there was no adjustment for elevation and windage could only be accomplished by vigorously hammering the rear sight in the appropriate direction to correct the point of aim.
The sights put on by RIA are much better, but the front sight is not great. The rear sight is an all-black anti-snag wedge apparatus that is really all you need in a rear sight. I do not like dots, triangles, goal posts or anything else on the rear sight that might distract me from quickly acquiring the front sight. The front sight is an all-black ramp that is dovetailed in (meaning it is replaceable) and is large enough to see quickly. The angle of the ramp catches the ambient light and provides a small amount of contrast between the front and rear. I could live with this sight arrangement but, for less than one-hundred bucks I could have a red or green fiber optic front sight installed.
Another upgraded feature not found on Colt Series 70 pistols are the over-sized ambidextrous manual safeties found on each side of the frames. These safeties "snick" on and off is a very positive manner. It would take a lot of effort to engage or disengage them accidentally.
The pistol includes a set of nicely checkered rubber grips that don’t add much pizzazz but perform their function quite well. Grips are easy to change, and the market is full of amazing looking stocks fashioned from different woods, exotic horn and pearl, as well as attractive and nearly indestructible composite materials. But here is my caveat: make sure what you are adding works at least as well as the rubber grips they are replacing. Additionally, the front strap is vertically grooved and the backstrap is nicely checkered. Between the grips, the grooves on the front strap and the checkering on the backstrap, this is not a pistol that you are going to drop during recoil. And while we are on the subject of recoil, in this pistol is it negligible. This is a large heaving pistols weighing in at two and a half pounds, unloaded. Working against this much weight and moving the RIA’s massive slide, the recoil of the 9mm cartridge pretty much peters out before it can affect you, your accuracy, and your follow-up shot.
I’ve already mentioned the rather bland appearance of the grips and that goes right along with the unremarkable appearance of the Parkerized finish on the rest of the pistol. Of course, you could have this pistol refinished into any color scheme you want but why waste the money. The color is not going to affect the inherent accuracy of the pistol and how you are able to make it perform. I am fond of saying that “the bling of your pistol makes no difference when it is holstered & concealed and, God forbid, if you have to present it to defend your life, the assailant is not going to be impressed with the pink and white “Hello Kitty” motif you had Cerakoted onto your handgun".
Now that the bland and mediocre elements of this pistol have been discussed (and admittedly, my critiques are rather petty) let’s get into what excites me about this handgun:
- The slide to frame fit. This is the best slide to frame fit on any production pistol and rivals those pistols that boast hand fitting on these parts. If you were racking the slide blindfolded, you would be of the opinion that you were handling a pistol with a price tag of at least $1700.00.
- The trigger-pull and reset. Again, you would think you are handling a $1700.00 pistol. The trigger-pull has just an appropriate amount of travel before coming in contact with the sear and then, on this specimen, breaks cleanly at just a smidge over four pounds. Over-travel is slight and there is an over-travel adjustment screw if you want to fine-tune it further. The reset is fast and very noticeable, allowing you to train for fast and accurate follow-up shots.
- Accuracy. Well, the photos don’t lie. While most defensive shootings take place at three to ten feet, I like to also test pistols at fifteen to twenty yards which basically mimics the range I might need to shoot in order to protect myself and others at my place of employment. This pistol will handle these distances with ease and could be improved upon with a more visible fiber optic sight that would provide a more precise sight picture.
This leave us with the price. While this pistol provides the functioning of a $1700 pistol, you should be able to find this on your dealer’s shelves for around $500.00. That is not a mis-print. There is a whole lot of precise manufacturing bundled up in the RIA 1911 A1.
In the one word review I gave this pistol in the third paragraph I described this handgun as “effortless”. Effortless to manipulate, effortless to shoot and a price that is effortless on the pocket (and will require less effort when you have to explain the purchase to your partner/spouse).
If you are in the process of saving up for that top-shelf pistol with the prestigious brand name, you may want to re-think that purchase. Rather than going out and spending thousands on a premium 1911, why not buy this one and spend the money you save on some private instruction and a couple thousand rounds of ammunition for practice. You’ll still have a passel of cash left over.