View Full Version : Rock Island Armory 1911 A1-MS – Modifications/Range Report

09-29-2011, 3:19 PM
Earlier this year I acquired a used Kimber 1911 Classic Custom Target and a used EAA Witness, both in .45ACP. I’ve shot 1911s in the past but this is the first time I’ve owned anything in .45ACP. I enjoy shooting both of them and decided that I wanted to add a Commander clone 1911 to the mix. I recently acquired an unfired, new in box, Rock Island Armory 1911A1-MS 4” barrel in .45ACP. I chose the RIA because it had a decent reputation and was less expensive than other Commander type 1911s. In addition, I chose the RIA because I wanted the heft of a steel frame instead of one made from aluminum alloy. As you will read below, I had some initial issues with the RIA but have worked them out to my satisfaction. For those looking at budget 1911s for your next purchase the RIA is a good option. The fit and finish may not be as nice as my Kimber but at half the price and a little work my RIA is a keeper.

After handling the RIA in its original configuration I already knew that I wanted to replace the hammer, grip safety and maybe the grips. Before making any changes, I took the RIA to the range to test out its reliability and to shoot some groups as a basis for comparison. As many of you know, some guns require a break-in period. While some guns perform flawlessly during this break-in period others may need a certain amount of rounds fired before they can function properly and without any issues. During my first range visit with the RIA I took along the original ACT 8 round mag, a no-name 7 round mag and a Chip McCormick 10 round mag. The no-name mag and Chip McCormick mag had worked flawlessly in my Kimber shooting 230g Round Nose Winchester white box ammo and Winchester hollow points that I purchased from Walmart. In all, I’ve fired 400 rounds total using the Kimber and the two mags mentioned above without any issues.

Below are the results of the first 200 rounds fired thru the RIA using 230g Round Nose Winchester white box ammo.

1. Chip McCormick mag - slide locked open with 2 rounds in mag (1x)
2. No Name mag - slide locked open with 1 round in mag (1x); last round fired with brass stuck on mag feed lips upon ejection (2x); failure to feed(1x).
3. Original ACT mag - with the slide open and 8 rounds in the mag the round nosedives and hits the ramp without chambering when releasing the slide stop (all the time); with the slide closed and 8 rounds in the mag I can’t fully insert the magazine into the mag well (seems like the spring bottomed out); failure to feed (1x); slide locked open with 5 rounds in mag (1x); mag functions well with 7 rounds inserted in the mag instead of 8

Note: brass dings in front of ejection port. Did not adjust extractor and left it as is.


Hammer bite is annoying, distracting and draws blood.

Targets below have 5 shot groups at 7 yards. The black rings are about 4inches. The original grip safety prevents a high grip and the hammer bite messes with your shots.

09-29-2011, 3:20 PM
After my first range trip with the RIA I purchased the Wilson Combat (“WC”)drop-in beaver tail grip safety (part # 965-429-100 for $35.95), WC value-line hammer (part # 965-314-110 for $29.95) and Oxpho-blue Crème ($9.99) from Brownells . I chose the drop-in beaver tail grip safty (“BTGS”) because I didn’t want to alter the exterior frame. The other option was to purchase the standard beavertail grip safety and grind/file/polish the frame and refinish for a custom look.

I had some fitting issues when installing the drop-in BTGS because there was a raised burr/lump, inside the frame, that needed to be grinded down so that the BTGS would not bind. I also had to square up the rounded RIA hammer strut with my Dremel so that it would not rub against the BTGS. To be clear, the original hammer, strut and grip safety functioned fine. I just wanted to prevent hammer bite and get a higher grip which the standard grip safety prevented me from doing. I would also like to note that the WC drop-in beaver tail grip safety had some sharp edges that I sanded down and re blued with the Oxpho-blue.
The WC hammer is polished on the sides so I used the Oxpho-blue to make it black. It worked well but I think I will sand the sides of the hammer to rough it up and add more Oxpho-blue for a matte black finish. Next I replaced the RIA grips with the rubber grips from my Kimber.

Using my Lyman trigger pull gauge, the RIA originally had a 5lbs 7oz trigger pull compared to the trigger pull on my Kimber which is 3lbs 13oz. After I installed the WC grip safety and hammer I cut a half coil from the main spring which reduced the trigger pull to 4lbs 13oz (just to be clear it was a half coil only – NOT a full coil or cut “in half”). While I had the mainspring off I smooth out the sharp edges at the bottom of the mainspring housing and re-blued with the Oxpho-blue.

The standard GI sights are adequate and work well when the RIA is holstered (no snag). However, a three dot sight or night sight would be nice. Considering this is a budget gun I will resist the urge to change out the sights, trigger or anything else. Maybe skateboard tape will be added to the smooth front strap but I’m still thinking about it.

Here are some Youtube references I used for the drop-in beaver tail.



Here is a Youtube video for installing a custom fit beaver tail.

WC parts and original parts


Dremeled the Burr/Lump inside the frame.

Touched up the frame using Oxpho-blue.

Sanded bottom edge of mainspring housing.



09-29-2011, 3:20 PM


Next range trip firing 100 rounds of 230g Round Nose Winchester white box ammo.

1. No-name mag FTE brass on last round.
2. Purchased two brand new Mec Gar 8 round mags with plastic followers. I used both of the Mec Gar mags to fire the 93 remaining rounds with no issues. The only negative issue I had was that the brass began hitting me in the forehead. Looks like I'll have to adjust the extractor after all.



Targets below have 8 shot groups at 7 yards. The black rings are about 4 inches.

09-29-2011, 3:20 PM
I purchased a 4” Galco Skyops IWB holster for the RIA and a Galco Quick Slide holster to accommodate both of my 1911s. I also intend to acquire a 4” Galco Combat Master which I hear is a good holster as well.

4” Galco Skyops IWB Holster

Pros - Holds the RIA well and is very comfortable to use when standing and walking around. When sitting down in a chair it helps to have good posture so that the handle doesn’t push up into your side. The unique y shape belt attachment works well with the correct sized belt (1 inch I believe) and is designed for skinnier belts that are typically worn with dress suits.

Cons – Not designed to be a quick draw holster. The mouth of the holster is not designed to be holstered with one hand because there’s no wire or plastic support that would keep the mouth of the holster open.

Galco Quick Slide

Pros – Accommodates 1911s with different sized barrels. The holster is comfortable to use when standing and walking around. The gun draws quickly and can be holstered with one hand.

Cons – The barrel is not fully protected and can be bumped and scratched when sitting down in a chair.

09-29-2011, 3:22 PM
Ouch, I havn't seen hammer bite like that in awhile.

Good choice with the WC beaver tail. :)

09-29-2011, 4:43 PM
You might of had a bit better fit with the Wilson drop in beavertail designed for Commander models, other than that I'm glad its working out for you :)