Review: The Rock Island 1911
I like to hold onto a gun for a bit before I do a review. Take it to the range a few times, put a few hundred rounds downrange and then I feel I can give an informed review. I’ve had my Rock Island Armory for about…oh… 12 years now. After 12 years of heavy use, lots of 45 ACP down the barrel, and even a little competition time behind the gun has given me a very well informed opinion of this classic platform.
This particular model is the GI series 1911. It stands out in a world of Series 80 guns, ambidextrous safeties, extended beaver tails, matched tuned triggers, and more. What makes it stand out? The fact that it is the definition of no-frills 1911. It is essentially built to the standards of 1911s used in the second World War. This simple design is what our military used for decades and work it did. From French Beaches to Asian Jungles, and the Middle East Deserts, the 1911 just kept just kept killing. There is nothing too fancy about this gun, and if you want to what the GI’s of old used to rock, then this is it.
The gun consists of simple everything. A simple right handed safety, a standard beavertail, painfully small sights, and a real smooth and slim design. The grips are even made of wood. It doesn’t get more old school than that. I’ve put this thing through hell and the beat up finish shows it.
I’m not going to lie I have a lot of bias when it comes to this gun. I got it as a gift from my dad after years of dreaming about a 1911. The 45 ACP design has always captured my imagination, due to its actual history and somewhat due to Band of Brothers. To this day its one of my favorite fun guns. The 1911 trigger is always fantastic, with its light and short trigger pull and it’s tactile and audible reset.
The thin single stack grip fits most hands and the grip angle has long been touted as the superior ergonomic option. The 1911 is a graceful, and easy pointing gun. The Rock Island’s slide feels like it’s on well-greased ball bearings. It slides to the rear with ease and goes forward with some serious authority.
In the hand, it’s remarkably comfortable and easy to handle. With all this in mind, there is a reason so many companies produce improvements to the 1911 platform. One of the first is the fact you’re gonna catch some hammer bite. The aggressive hammer and small beavertail results in some hand hitting here and there.
The second issue I have is the super small iron sights. These are true GI iron sights and were made in a time where handgun fighting wasn’t taken seriously. The ultra-small sights aren’t combat sights and finding that small front sight in anything but brilliant sunshine isn’t easy.
The Good News
Now the reasons I love this gun are both performance-based and of course, there is some sentimental value. I can provide a little objective data anyway. The gun is exceptionally accurate, no doubt a high level of accuracy is encouraged by the ergonomics and excellent trigger. It was the first gun I ever felt I shot well.
It’s not a combat pistol, it’s a bit outdated for that. But it can run and chug through some basic combat drills without falling out. Close range double taps and controlled pairs are possible, but you’ll be faster with some larger, more visible sights.
When you can see the sights this thing is a little laser pointer. It’s easy to make small groups or ring steel. It comes with an 8 round Mec gar magazine that functions magnificently. With the amount of 1911 mag options out there it’s hard to pick the best, but Mec Gar comes close.
In terms of reliability, it really seems to prefer 230-grain hardball loads. It’s not bad with 230-grain JHPs either. It starts to stumble when you decide to load lightweight, reduced recoil loads. It stutters, jams, and will even stovepipe a time or two. I’d keep it loaded with the old school 230-grain hardball rounds. Those are the rounds it’s designed for.
The Rock Island Armory 1911s are value priced too. It’s an affordable entry 1911 for historical collectors, or those looking to start with a basic 1911 and build it up into a custom gun.
As I said above this isn’t a combat pistol. It’s a blast to the past. It shows us how far we’ve come with combat handguns, and what our grandfather’s used to beat back Nazis in their day. A pistol like this is a means to step back in time, for just a day and experience what the 1911 really was.
— Travis Pike