Rock Island 1911 Review: GI Midsize

Quick!  Rock Island Armory…what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Rock Island Armory 1911 GI Midsize
Rock Island Armory 1911 GI Midsize

For me it was…cheap 1911s.

And it’s TRUE.

But in the best possible way.

Follow me as I put their sub-$500 GI Midsize 1911 through the ringer.

About

Rock Island Armory (RIA) manufacturers their 1911s in the Philippines and passes on the savings to us.

When I ask people about RIA…words like “affordable” and “best bang-for-the-buck” always come up.

I’ve handled them in stores since it seemed all the local gun shops around me had them.  But my first chance shooting them was at SHOT Show 2017.

And boy was it fun…especially with their 6″ competition 1911.  Plus…they had one of the nicest crews out there.

RIA Pro Ultra Match 6"
RIA Pro Ultra Match 6″

But since I’m mostly in California…I had less choice to choose a test gun.  So I went with something out of the ordinary…a plain Jane GI (government issue) that faithfully reproduces what was issued as the WWII sidearm.

Except I chose the midsize which swaps out the full size 5″ barrel for a 4.25″.

Rock Island Midsize 1911 vs Fullsize
Fullsize vs Rock Island Midsize 1911

Who Is It For?

If you’re looking at a pretty faithful reproduction of the first generation of 1911s…you can’t go wrong with Rock Island.  The midsize is the original “commander” size.

Or if you just really want a 1911 but don’t have a lot of cash…the GI is a great place to start.

Fit & Feel

Of course when most 1911s are much more expensive (check out our Best 1911s article), you’re going to have to cut some things.

The parkerizing (black coating) was great and I couldn’t find anything that was too thick or too thin.

But you can see the machining marks at some angles…like at the curve of the slide top.

RIA 1911 Finish
RIA 1911 Finish

And personal gripe…it doesn’t have a bushing to contain the barrel and recoil rod so instead they have a thicker barrel that requires a paperclip to remove.  Lots of YouTube videos on it though…

RIA 1911 No Bushing
RIA 1911 No Bushing

And since it’s a GI model…they have GI sights.  Low profile and easy to draw out…but not the best.  Still…lots of options to switch them out afterwards.

Rock Island 1911 GI Sights
Rock Island 1911 GI Sights

How about the trigger?

On this RIA…it was awesome.  It averaged 4 lb 11 oz and with a glass rod clean break.  Note…the other RIA’s I’ve tried at gun stores were not this good.

Not saying that they polished up my trigger or anything…but it was better than my $1000 Springfield after I did a quick 1911 trigger job so it could be luck of the draw.

How Does It Shoot?

The .45 ACP round has some kick (Best .45 Ammo for Plinking and Self Defense).  And when you have a shorter barreled handgun…you’re going to feel it more.

So I expected it.

It wasn’t excessive…but it wasn’t fun either.  I don’t think I could shoot more than 100 rounds in one range session.

Rock Island with Ammo
Rock Island with Ammo

Accuracy

Now how about the accuracy?  I shot some Armscor .45 ACP along with some American Eagle at 10 yards off a benchrest.

10 Yard Testing
10 Yard Testing

Here were the results of the Armscor:

Armscore .45 Ammo Groups
Armscor .45 Ammo Groups

And the American Eagle:

American Eagle .45 Ammo Groups
American Eagle .45 Ammo Groups

Pretty respectable and definitely minute of badguy.

I had 3 other friends shoot it and they all had it go towards 7 o’clock…so it wasn’t me flinching.  If you need to brush up on some handgun…check out our Ultimate Guide to Shooting Accurately.

Recoil/Shootability

I’d estimate recoil was 30-40% more than a fullsize 1911 shooting the same rounds.  You’re going to feel it.

And for two of us (hi Ryan)…we experienced some “biting” from the GI hammer and beavertail due to our very high grips.  It’s just what happens from the design.

Bite Marks
Bite Marks

And afterwards…I realized the hammer was indeed hitting the top of the beavertail.  It made a decent dent in the metal itself.

RIA Hammer Indentation
RIA Hammer Indentation

Reliability was great after a 50 round break-in.

For the first few mags I had some double-feeds.  But once I loaded up the mags (mixture of factory and Mec Gar 8 and 10 rounders), and left them overnight…the 2nd range trip was flawless.

Specs

The box is pretty bare bones…and I might have gotten an extra mag for testing.

Rock Island 1911 with Magazines
Rock Island 1911 with Magazines

Action Type: Single Action

Barrel Length: 4.25″

Capacity: 8+1-Round

Cartridge: 45 Auto (ACP)

Finish: Parkerized

Front Sight: Fixed

Length: 8″

Weight: 2.38 lbs

By the Numbers

Reliability: 4.5/5

Some reliability issues in the beginning but fine after 50 rounds and magazine break-in.

Accuracy: 3/5

It’s not the barrel or the handgun…it’s the standard GI sights.

Ergonomics: 4/5

I love the feel of 1911s and this captures that.  The shorter barrel is also easier to move between targets.  But the hammer bite kind of sucks.

Looks: 4/5

Great parkerizing and you have to really nitpick to see the machining marks.  But remember…it’s under $500 for a reliable 1911!

Customization: 5/5

It’s a 1911 so the sky is the limit.  Check out our Gunsmithing section for ideas.

Bang for the Buck: 5/5

Again…it’s a reliable 1911 for under $500!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Conclusion

So…am I purchasing the RIA 1911 GI Midsize ($495)?

No…but if I could get one of their fullsize Tactical models…I totally would.

RIA Ultra FS
RIA Ultra FS

For about $100 more you’ll get a rail, better sights (fiber optic), and a more robust beavertail (bye bye hammer bite).

With the test of the GI Midsize…I’m sold on the quality and reliability of RIA.  And also learned that midsize is not for me.

Do you have an RIA…or are you planning on getting one now?  Let me know in the comments!

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17 Comments on "Rock Island 1911 Review: GI Midsize"

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alexander kovaloff
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HI
how do I go about buying the Rock Island handgun. I live in Canada …
alex kovaloff

scott
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i own 2 RIA ultra tactical ms pistols.. i love them. the grips are great ,and they have novak adjustable rear sights. after breakin, they are very accurate

MikeS
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Thanks…I have been looking at the Rock Island 1911’s for a while and liking what I saw. I have formed the same opinion as you did before shooting one and the results you got were just what I expected. I absolutely will be buying one of these guns (probably the “commander style” gun you reviewed here) soon. Thanks again for the great, no nonsense, just the facts review,

Mark
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Fortunately, here in Canada we have the option of the Norinco 1911; these can be bought new in both full size and “commander” and the fit and finish is way better than the RIA 1911. Price point is much better too, with the RIA selling up here for $695-$750 Canadian Dollars while the Norincos can be bought new for $369-$400 Canadian Dollars.

Unfortunately, since the Clinton Ban, these have not been available in the USA.

It’s good to be Canadian!

Gary B
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I own a RIA GI Officers mode (3.5″)l. It is reliable and accurate. I was used to three dot sights of some variety or a Fiber Optic front sight, all with wider front sight blades. I fired 1911’s in the Army decades ago and did not like the GI sights then. Now I think a little differently. These sights won a pistol competition way back when….. why is that? The answer is I think…aim small …. shoot small. In any case it is pretty accurate for me. I have considered painting the front blade rim a Zombie or Slime green… Read more »
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