A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

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A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Combat Controller » Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:44 am

I have decided to retroactively review guns that I own or have owned to see how they stack up to use and carry.

I do this because for too long we have been subjected to reviews of guns right out of the box. Well that's all well and fine for a first impression, but how well is it holding up after 6000 rounds? I have had just about everything happen to my guns, especially my 1911's as I shoot them a tremendous amount. So I want to review those guns that I have thoroughly wrung out.

Pics are behind the title links.

This is a review of the Rock Island Armory 1911
Caliber: .38 Super/9mm
Time owned prior to review: 3 years
Round count: approx 150 .38 Super, 480 9mm
Condition at purchase: New
Carry Gun: No
Custom work: Yes

This is a gun I really want to like. I purchased it three years ago for a comparison test I was doing for my internet gun forum of .38 super vs a .357 sig. Retrospectively I realize I should buy a .357 sig barrel and put it in one of my Delta Elites so I may re run this test.

The gun had problems out of the box, it had trouble feeding two types of ball ammo and forget about hollow point. I swapped mags and lightly polished the ramp and no joy. Stymied in running my test I brought it to my gunsmith and asked him while he was at it to drop in a 9mm barrel so I had a cheaper plinker in the 1911 platform that I could use and my girlfriend could shoot, as she likes that combo. I ended up getting her a Kimber 9mm which I will review in a bit.

This is where the going got expensive. He polished it up and got it working with .38 Super, but he didn't like the look of the internals. He routinely fixes guns that don't meet his standards and I am fine with that, he has always been fair in his pricing as well, if not a little under for me. He tried to swap out the internals for the gun and after taking them all out he could never get any parts working right, the gun was pretty far out of spec. With a super human effort he could have got them running he told me, but why bother? It worked ok with the parts it had and if it broke just send it off under warranty.

Now, never casually tell your smith to just drop in a barrel if he is a master 1911 smith and persnickety, I escaped the cost of the fiddling to get it right but not the cost of the conversion. With a Clark Custom barrel, new bushing and new sear I have the most accurate 9mm 1911 ever made. Which throws brass right into your face. Or down your shirt, which is why I bought a Kimber for my lady as an apology. No matter what he did or I did could get the gun throwing brass to the right, and the solution was going to cost as much as I had in the gun.

Speaking of which, the conversion and reliability and feeding issue was $600! Ouch. Should have used the warranty, especially as how much good stuff I have heard about customer service. It's not the guns fault totally, I got it throwing just a hair over now, and it runs both ammo types but I am just disappointed that is was so far out of spec. Perhaps I ought to send it in and get the slide replaced or something, but then my 9mm might need to be refitted.

The gun is ok, it has great reviews, but I am not entirely happy about it, partly because I spent more than the gun on it, and partly that a renowned gunsmith gave up on it in disgust. That and the brass issue keeps me from having that warm and fuzzy feeling I have for many of my guns.
Winner of the prestigious Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года award for excellence in rural travel.

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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Cybrludite » Thu Jul 30, 2009 7:04 am

I ended up selling mine at a loss. (I'd already swapped parts enough to have voided the warranty by the time I gave up on it :oops: )
"If it ain't the Devil's Music, you ain't doin' it right." - Chris Thomas King

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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Combat Controller » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:12 pm

Did you have any problem swapping parts?
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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Cybrludite » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:02 pm

No problems with the swapping itself, but they still didn't help much with the reliability issues. On the other hand, the bits I swapped were the safety, slide stop, trigger, and the recoil, firing pin, & sear springs and the problems I had were with the feeding. In fact, the original slide stop wouldn't always lock the slide back with the original magazine, but the replacement one would. New magazines helped the feeding issues a little, but not very much. Even then, the bullets were still often mashed back into the case on loading. (instead of FTFing and getting mashed back.) Given the already hot pressures of the .38 Super, this wasn't really an improvement.

Lessons learned:

1: Don't buy cheap Phillipino 1911s.
2: Don't pitch the crappy MIM original parts until you're certain that you won't be needing that warranty. :oops:
"If it ain't the Devil's Music, you ain't doin' it right." - Chris Thomas King

"When liberal democracies collapse, someone comes along who promises to make the trains run on time if we load the right people into them." - Tam K.

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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Combat Controller » Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:17 pm

Yeah. I got an earful from the guys on the m1911.org board, they wanted me to do all kinds of proving that it was "out of spec". I did and the grousing mostly died down, but the folks on the board even admit a 33% return rate! The only thing going for the maker is they have an excellent customer service reputation. My gun was mis cast and has one wall thicker than the other, the MSH is too short and can't be replaced, the mag release is too small to be replaced, heck the whole gun is slightly smaller overall. But the maker is a forum sponsor and I get my ass jumped by one of the moderators who's tiny and fragile little ego is caught up in not having bought a piece of crap gun. His runs fine so I must be lying or something and this with a 33% return rate! The board owner lets him get away with this shit even after I bring it up to him. Then he gets on my case! I can understand backing up your claims but when I provide photographic and calipered proof the gun is not right I get told "all 1911's require fitting". Bullshit, the gun is waaaaay out of spec. It is visually out of spec!
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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby crazylegs » Sat May 08, 2010 8:20 pm

The very first gun I bought was a RIA 1911 in 45ACP. Wanted me a 45, and couldn't stand the hurt of buying something uber-nice at the time.

The mags it came with sucked, and were quickly tossed for Chip Mccormicks.
After about 500-1000 rounds the recoil spring went to hell, and was tossed for a Kimber spring.

The gun now works fine, but the frame is tight around the barrel link, it could use some polishing. When I take out the pin, the link is wedged in, and requires force to pull the slide and barrel forward off the frame. I got to see if its the frame, the link, the link pin, or the barrel that needs polishing.

I should probably eventually get that looked at, but its mainly for plinking, and it is way way down on my SD stack.

I'm quite partial to it. But that's mainly due to its sentimental value seeing as it was my very first fire arm.
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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Greg » Sun May 09, 2010 4:55 pm

CombatController wrote:[review snipped]

The gun is ok, it has great reviews, but I am not entirely happy about it, partly because I spent more than the gun on it, and partly that a renowned gunsmith gave up on it in disgust. That and the brass issue keeps me from having that warm and fuzzy feeling I have for many of my guns.


This is bizarre and you are a masochist.

I mean that nicely, but it's true. :lol: Or should I say "glutton for punishment". :lol: :lol:
Maybe we're just jaded, but your villainy is not particularly impressive. -Ennesby

If you know what you're doing, you're not learning anything. -Unknown
Sanity is the process by which you continually adjust your beliefs so they are predictively sound. -esr

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Re: A review of the Rock Island Armory 1911 in .38 Super

Postby Combat Controller » Mon May 10, 2010 9:33 pm

LOL, true. I was just trying to be fair.
Winner of the prestigious Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года award for excellence in rural travel.


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