The Rock Island “Compact” 1911 .45
The Rock Island Armory (RIA) line of 1911’s is certainly not the first bargain-priced Colt knock-offs to come down the line. It’s sad to say, but an awful lot of them simply haven’t been all that good. Add to this with the fact that I’ve always been a GI Colt/Ithaca fan, and you’ll probably understand why I was a tad leery of these guns they first appeared. My brother Jim provided me with my first opportunity to shoot one in Berryville, Arkansas on Independence Day weekend. He had just purchased one of the mid-sized 4″ guns, and we were both anxious to run some rounds through it.
The previous evening I tore the gun down, polished the feed ramp & throat, tweaked the extractor tension a tad and polished the breech face. This gave me a opportunity to get a good look inside the gun- and the execution and assembly was better than I expected. The fit of the barrel hood was just right. The trigger wasn’t half-bad, either. We eventually ran about 100 rounds of my favorite .45 ACP reloads through it; these consisted of 200 grain H&G 68’s (SWC) over 5.4 grains of 231, and some Sierra 230 JHC’s over 5.8 of Universal. It was just a tad a little sluggish chambering the first round, (factory magazine, I think) but it never faltered throughout the shoot. It was pouring down rain so we only shot at about ten yards- but neither of us had any trouble keeping a full magazine in a two-to-three inch group. I’m sure that on a calm, sunny day, off the sandbags, that this little gun would shoot at least that well out to 25 yards. The gun shot a tad high for both of us, probably because of that teeny little front sight.
After the shooting session, I tore the gun down and checked the hood & barrel lugs for tell-tale signs of peening. I am pleased to report that there was absolutely no wear evident in either location. I do believe they got the heat-treating right on this gun, too.
Brother Jim is duly proud of his little 1911, and he has shot it some more since our little “monsoon range exercise.” He reports that it is still running like a champ. Considering that the gun has never had a single round of 230 grain hardball through it, that saying a heck of a lot! It will be even better once we get him some decent (spelled METALFORM) magazines for it. My end take on the RIA .45, is that it’s a surprisingly good gun for the money.