Rock Island Armory M1911A1 FS Tactical – Used Pistol Review

In June of 2013, I purchased the Rock Island Armory (herein referred to as RIA) M1911A1 FS Tactical, and I have been carrying it as my EDC in a modified Black Arch holster ever since. Granted that there have been a few other pistols carried in that time, but the RIA has been carried most often.

I thought that this would be a good time to evaluate the RIA and determine how well it has held up over the years with about 5,000 rounds of ammunition expended, as many hollow-point projectiles leaving its barrel, and it being cleaned after every shooting session. This pistol has never been ridden hard and put up wet, as I have a tendency to take of those who take care of me.

Housed in a Black Arch IWB holster, this friend has been carried every time I went out the door to be out among the English. I really did not like it when it first came home with me, with its huge billboard adorning the left side of the frame, but it was the only game in town at that time and I was willing to endure the billboard for the cartridge that it carried, the .45 ACP, and it was stuffed as full of it as was allowed, with two spare magazines of eight rounds as companions. I never felt that I needed more.

When Armscor manufactured the “next generation” without the billboard and had moved their logo to just behind the serrations on the left side, I knew that my faithful companion would be relegated to the safe after I purchased one. But that never happened. Many 1911 pistols have come into the fold, but the RIA M1911A1 FS Tactical remains holstered on my side, with it and I ready to face whatever evil confronts us.

The original grips have been replaced by Hogue wraparound finger groove grips, the grip crews replaced with stainless steel screws, and most recently the mainspring housing has been replaced with an arched unit, my new requirement for a carry 1911 pistol. The Hogue wraparound finger groove grips had to be cutaway at the top of the right grip to accommodate the RIA ambidextrous safety lever. The front sight had to be filed down to correct a low POI. Some red paint provides a sighting surface while flat gray paint covers the top of the sight to keep it from rusting. Far short of a professional job, for sure. Finally, the recoil spring was changed out to a Wolf 18-pound spring.

Weighing in at 2 pounds and 14 ounces fully loaded with eight rounds of primary carry ammunition (Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain JHP), the RIA tactical is anything but light, and a set of Perry suspenders keeps things in place. Like a Glock pistol, the Rock Island Armory M1911A1 FS Tactical is anything but pretty, but it is exceptionally reliable and combat accurate. I really cannot ask any more than that and is the reason it still resides on my hip.

Recently, I watched an old video from Hickok45 who was comparing low-end with high-end pistols. The low-end pistol was an Armscor 1911 just like mine was in its beginnings. The high-end 1911 was an Ed Brown product. Although the Ed Brown was deserving of a high-end, the RIA was more than deserving for a low-end unit. Both pistols sent 230-grain fodder to the target. The Ed Brown required some break-in time; whereas, the RIA sent things flying without failure out of the box. The Ed Brown was void of MIM parts; whereas, the RIA would not be complete without them. Obviously, the build quality was higher with the Ed Brown, but even Hickok45 acknowledged that the RIA was a “service” pistol and not a showpiece that might be fired – if at all. The RIA was, and is, a common man’s pistol, as its predecessors were. The 1911 was designed for war, built for war, and proved its worth in war (world wars, prohibition gang wars) and it has served law enforcement and competition folks well. The Ed Brown 1911 is a man’s ego pistol, along with other high-end 1911 pistols such as Wilson Combat, Nighthawk Custom, and even some high-priced “custom” production pistols. Sometimes a man’s worth is measured by the friends and guns he keeps and what watch he wears. I have tried over the years to keep my ego in check, and I hope the RIA M1911A1 FS Tactical is proof of that. That does not mean that I do not have better and more expensive 1911 pistols, but simply I would rather the bad guy be impressed with what he was just shot with than the looks of the firearm that launched the projectile.

Then, there is the other thought that if I had to shoot someone in self-defense, the firearm that I shot him with would be removed from my possession and placed into an evidence bag with some case number on it. The question of having, cost-wise, a low-end pistol over a high-end pistol submitted into evidence is really a no brainer. The old saying about shooting the best ammunition through the best firearm that you can manage has some validity behind it – until you must use it and lose it. Actually, the match-up between ammunition and firearm is a bit more complicated than that. The “use it and lose it” part is straightforward, because whatever you use you are going to lose. I do consider losing a firearm to the evidence locker much less important than losing my life, my most prized possession. However, I do put a price on the tool that would be used to save my life, and that tool has just gone from a low monetary-valued firearm to one that is priceless and precious, to me.

Before I get too far off track, let me return to the RIA M1911A1 FS Tactical.

Externally, the wear on the RIA has been minimal although it has been slid in and pulled out of the Black Arch IWB holster more times than I can count. The ejection port has seen its share of empty cases expelled. The front sight paint is showing some wear, but that is easily touched up.

The Hogue rubber finger-groove grips, which have been on it since it was purchased, are holding up well with nary a sign of handling. The A1 rounded mainspring housing has really helped the pistol conform to my hand. I am pretty much convinced that all of my 1911 pistols, that would be carried, would have such an A1 rounded mainspring housing…except for “Officer” models.

The trigger over-travel adjustment screw has never been touched and did not need to be. The trigger over-travel was next to nothing from the factory and has remained so since. The trigger has broken in nicely and has an average trigger pull of 3 pounds 5.4 ounces (according to my Wheeler Professional Digital Trigger Gauge). The trip point is still crisp and take-up is still acceptable.

The ambidextrous thumb safety operates as well now as it did when new…positive click in both directions, although some wear on the right-side frame where the thumb safety lever can be seen.

The A1 rounded mainspring housing really helped the firearm fit my hand. Between the Hogue finger-groove grips and the rounded mainspring housing, the pistol has a very comfortable feel to me. I will probably run an A1 rounded mainspring housing on any 1911-based pistol that I carry…except for the “officers” model.

Moving inward, moving parts are showing no sign of excessive wear. Metal-to-metal contact points are easily identified, and I maintain a good coating of Wilson Combat Ultima-Lube II Universal oil on all metal-to-metal contact surfaces to keep wear to a minimum.

The barrel is still in excellent shape and is showing normal signs of wear and tear in certain areas.

I decided to run a Shok-Buf on the guide rod as more of an experiment than anything. I have run them before and have noticed some reduction in recoil, but not that much. 

I really don’t care about Shok-Bufs as long as the pistol is reliable and the RIA M1911A1 FS Tactical has been extremely reliable from the first range day. I realize that there are a lot of old timers here that haven’t used them and don’t need them. I respect that. But I have been using recoil buffers in a lot of my guns for years with no problems, so when I hear someone say that Shok-Bufs cause feeding problems of fall apart and jam-up their guns, I have to wonder why it’s never happened to me? Once installed, I forget about them, but I check them after every shooting session. My friend and I have been running them (his in an original M1911A1) for quite some time. Like FLGRs, if a 1911 pistol came with a Shok-Buf, I would not run it without one. It all comes down to is good for the pistol and not my likes or dislikes.

Wrapping it Up!

In June of 2013, I purchased the Rock Island Armory (herein referred to as RIA) M1911A1 FS Tactical, and I have been carrying it as my EDC ever since.

The RIA M1911A1 FS Tactical has been a reliable carry companion and I have no great expectations regarding its performance. It is not a target pistol and combat accuracy is more than acceptable, as it has been able to give me 1” groups at 25 yards when I do my part and runs Mozambique drills with aplomb. I am staking my life on this pistol and it has never let me down in practice – unless there was a magazine issue. I am still carrying the original flush-mount 7-round magazine that shipped with the pistol and carry two Mec-Gar 8-round magazines in reserve.

If you would rather have bragging rights carrying a Colt, Dan Wesson, Sig Sauer, or custom Wilson Combat or other custom 1911 that’s your prerogative. However, I recommend the Rock Island Armory series of 1911 pistols as an EDC for those who cannot afford a medium to high-end 1911. Sometimes they take a little tweaking (as mine did with the front sight), but these are MIL-SPEC pistols built to modern standards. The newer RIA 1911 pistols no longer have the “billboard” because Armscor opted to have a simple logo placed on the rear of the slide, which cleaned up the look of the pistol. The newer RIA 1911 pistols are as worthy of carry as mine and when I get the opportunity to upgrade my EDC, an RIA 1911 would be a top choice of mine, even though I have more expensive 1911 pistols that I could carry. But as a “duty” pistol, the RIA fits that bill nicely.

The RIA M1911A1 FS Tactical is not longer available; however, a ROCK Standard FS-45 ACP has taken it’s place. It would be my choice to replace my older version. See it at… with an MSRP of $592, I just might do that.

A step-up in the ROCK series would be the ROCK Ultra FS – 45 ACP with an MSRP of $722. With this package, you get a fiber front sight, fully adjustable rear sight, VZ grips, and magazine extension in addition to the other standard features like the skeletonized hammer and trigger with adjustable over travel stop, ambidextrous safety, and extended beavertail grip safety.

You can read my review of my “Ultra Happy Family” at This family of pistols have been excellent shooters for the money, but now you are nearing the Ruger, Kimber, Springfield Armory families of 1911 pistols.

Anyway, if you buy into the Rock Island Armory family of 1911 pistols, you will be making a good choice.


About Taurian

Taurian is a U.S. Army veteran and former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Taurian also has over fifty years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

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