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  #1  
Old 02-07-2013, 11:19 PM
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Default Tricking out a "starter" 1911 (RIA)

New to the boards and this is one of the sparking interests that got me here Good to meet all of you and I look forward to learning from you all.

I recently purchased a Rock Island Armory 1911 Tactical from the local shop (still havent picked it up yet.. gotta wait till the 15th.. god I hate waiting... lol) and I have heard tons of good reviews on them, read plenty online as well. I hear they dont really "need" much of anything to make them better, but I hear in general 1911's have some trouble spots and being a "lower end" model of the gun, the RIA could probably use a little sprucing up in those areas as well.

I hear lots of good feedback on the Wilson Combat line of parts, but being that this is my first 1911 I have no idea which parts would be a good idea to have and which would even make for a nice and easy "drop in" addition. Some of the parts I have been rolling around in my head are as follows:

Extractor
Guide rod (full length or short?)
Recoil spring (should I mess with increasing the resistance or just go for quality?)
Sear
Barrel
Magazines
Barrel bushing

So these are most of the parts I have considered getting from Wilson Combat over time to trick my gun out a bit and increase its reliability. Does anyone have any input on some good mods for these guns? What kind of problems can I expect to run into when trying to fit the parts? How much of this will need to be done by a gunsmith? Lots of questions i know lol but I want to know as much as I can about the platform and how to improve on it. I have always wanted a 1911 primarily because of all these little goodies you can add to it to make it your own contraption. I just want it to be reliable, because its going to double as a defensive backup if my shotgun runs out of ammo
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Old 02-07-2013, 11:25 PM
Brandon04GT Brandon04GT is offline
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Pretty much everything you listed except for the guide rod, recoil spring and magazines will very likely require extensive fitting and not something that should be attempted by a novice.

I would just maybe get a new coil and mainspring as well as a GI/short guide rod if you'd like. That is all you really need along with ammo to break it in.

There are things you can do to smooth out the internals that doesn't cost money and that alone can produce some noticeable difference if you're really inclined.

The bottom line is, just get ammo and shoot the thing. It aint some high end R/C car or something that needs a whole bunch of upgrades out the box.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon04GT View Post
Pretty much everything you listed except for the guide rod, recoil spring and magazines will very likely require extensive fitting and not something that should be attempted by a novice.

I would just maybe get a new coil and mainspring as well as a GI/short guide rod if you'd like. That is all you really need along with ammo to break it in.

There are things you can do to smooth out the internals that doesn't cost money and that alone can produce some noticeable difference if you're really inclined.

The bottom line is, just get ammo and shoot the thing. It aint some high end R/C car or something that needs a whole bunch of upgrades out the box.
+1 the extractor, sear, and barrel all need fitting and a trigger job should only be tackled by a very experience gunsmith with genuine 1911 expertise and my advice is don't go crazy. I suggest just shooting it as-is or dress it up with some pretty grip panels and once you've mastered it as-is get a good gunsmith to do a 4.5-5lb trigger job but no lighter.

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Old 02-07-2013, 11:29 PM
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I bought the same gun as my first 1911 and had the same ideas about upgrading it. My suggestion is to shoot it a lot before you jump in and start replacing parts, don't just replace them for the sake of doing it. Use the RIA to learn the platform and change out parts that you feel could use some work.

I've had mine for close to a year and have slightly more than 1000 rounds through it and the only thing I did to it that I had on my list was grips. I'm planning to change out the full lenght guide rod, but only because of preference.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do anything, but start throwing unneccesary parts at it and you'll quickly negate the lower price that probably made you pick the RIA in the first place.
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Old 02-07-2013, 11:33 PM
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I have the full rail model myself.

I wouldn't start changing out parts until you shoot it and determine what NEEDS to be changed. The factory barrel, extractor, and guide rod should remain stock as long as they work correctly from the beginning. The average shooter won't benefit from changing those parts.

The only things I replaced were grips, magazine (Wilson 10rd), and barrel bushing with built in comp.
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Old 02-07-2013, 11:59 PM
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IMO

I would break the gun in first and see what you like and don't like after you've shot it enough times. It's a 1911 and "if it aint broke, don't fix it"

1.You can upgrade the magwell with the clip on wilson combat magwell. It works great, is cheap, and easy to install.

2. Polish the feed ramp and get it throated if you want to feed more types of ammo

3. checker the front strap for a nicer grip

4. get night sights

5.change the grips

6. get an extended slide release

7. install a shock buffer

8. you can change the mainspring housing to a nicer one. maybe one with even a lanyard loop if you like or one that comes with a magwell. But that will usually involve fitting.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:11 AM
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Like everyone else has said shoot the gun to a reasonable break-in point and then decide what the gun needs; it's possible your gun won't need anything at all. My opinion is if the gun performs reliably then don't change a thing. What I've noticed, especially with studying people's experiences with 1911's, is that these guns are finicky and become even more so once you start trying to trick it out to make it better-sort of like a car.

On my RIA 'Tac, I've only put 200 rounds through it and I'm still experiencing malfunctions, but if everything settles down I will leave it alone except changing out those worthless wanna-be Novak-style sights...
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:21 AM
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I have shot a couple RIAs and think it’s a pretty decent gun out of the box.

I was thinking of getting a RIA as well… but only to have a project where I was going to refinish it…

I wouldn’t start changing all these things just for kicks… with all the money you spend on upgrade it may have put you into a nicer 1911 from the get-go…
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Old 02-08-2013, 6:03 AM
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Imo, shoot it/enjoy it as it is. If you want a better gun, save up and buy a better gun. You'll get more for your money. More resale value if you should decide to sell the other gun.
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Old 02-08-2013, 8:46 AM
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Unless you can explain a need to change any of the parts you mentioned on your pistol, leave it alone.

All a 1911 really NEEDS is reliability, good sights and a good trigger. Your RIA Tactical probably has all three and is a good value for the money spent.

Spending money replacing parts that aren't broken, aren't likely to break, and are coverred by a lifetime warranty even if they did is probably not the best course of action.
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Old 02-08-2013, 10:52 AM
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Solid advice from everyone here, and thank you all. The biggest concern I had was with the extractor. I have read a lot of people have had problems with the cheaper extractors. The rest was more of an optional thing to have done over months, if not years of ownership. But I guess ill just stick to magazines, grips, and a few other aesthetic tweaks like a stainless barrel bushing and some nice sights. Thanks guys
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:06 AM
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I have some stuff added on mine, wilson guide rod,recoil spring,egw bushing,front dawson precision fiber optic sight. Out of those things the bushing and front sight have made a big impact specially the sight, going from just looking at a plain black front sight to actually having something i see is way better and improved my shooting. I will probably go back to the original spring but keep the wilson guide rod in.IMO the trigger is awesome and if you want to get a trigger job done to it then maybe you should shooting something else. Get some reliable mags you should be fine, some guy on the 1911 forum has like 20,000 plus rounds through his RIA and has not had a single problem and its all stock besides his sights just a fyi.
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:32 AM
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They're nice guns... Congrats!!! Don't need change anything... But you'll hear a rattle noise... But if you change the recoil spring that rattle will go away....
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Old 02-08-2013, 4:16 PM
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Originally Posted by polo.45 View Post
They're nice guns... Congrats!!! Don't need change anything... But you'll hear a rattle noise... But if you change the recoil spring that rattle will go away....
I must've gotten a broken one then, because my RIA 'Tac is as tight as my 92FS. Personally, I'd rather have it combat "loose"...
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:45 AM
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you listed a few parts that I would swap out. 2 things that really stand out to me:A little bit heavier spring (17.5-18.5lbs) and defiantly some better mags. Wilson or chip mccormic. other stuff should be alright for now, aslong as everything is fitted/tuned correctly. check extractor tension, makesure your mags dont make contact with your ejector. two other things I would do out of personal pref is get a wilson extractor and ejector. thats just me.
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Old 02-08-2013, 1:26 PM
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I got the Tactical so I wouldn't have to change anything on it. It pretty much has everything on it that I paid extra to have installed on my Colt 80 series Gold Cup. One could debate the quality of the parts versus the non-MIM versions made by the big name accessorie suppliers like Wilson and Brown, but personally I would shoot it till something proves to me it needs changing.....I think you'll save money that way. Got my son the RIA Match and it has been great with no parts swapping needed after over 1000 rounds now. I still have not put a round thru my Tactical yet.
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Old 02-08-2013, 2:51 PM
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The only thing I felt needed changing on my RIA Tactical (not railed)

1) The front sight doesn't work for me
2) The plastic mainspring housing is a cheesegrater. I piece of tape fixed that
3) The stock grips suck and I'm not even particular. I don't mean they look ugly, I mean they are weird to hold.. BUT I think they are cheap on purpose because RIA knows everyone just tosses the grips for their own preference, so why provide nice ones?
4) I added a $30 Wilson clip on mag well because I used the gun for USPSA once.
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Old 02-08-2013, 2:52 PM
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Do not change anything until you shoot it first..
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Old 02-08-2013, 7:24 PM
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Thank you all for the advice =) I'm definitely confident three pistol will perform well. I gave it a thorough inspection at the store before purchasing it (without actually disassembling it of course) and i didn't notice anything alarming outside of the more "forgiving" tolerances in the construction that are inherent with just about any economic option. Looks good and may perform well but its no precision machined piece of perfection. But i can handle that. Its a gun. I plan to use it, not Sit it on a mantle and gawk at it lol and since I'm not using it for professional target competition, i don't really need that kind of precision enough to spend the thousands of dollars extra required to get it. I guess I'll put a few hundred rounds through it next chance i get, then post my findings here and see from there what steps i should take next. Maybe i get lucky and all i need is grips, A recoil spring and some eye candy =)

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Old 02-08-2013, 8:04 PM
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What did you notice that was more "forgiving?" As I said earlier mine is tight everywhere. As for the looks, I know this sounds stupid but I actually thought the RIA 'Tac, with it's old school, GI-issue loooking parkerized finish and wood grips looked better than the Kimber Custom II, Sig 1911 XO and the SA 1911 sitting right next to it...
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Old 02-08-2013, 9:08 PM
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I wouldn't say that the RIA is a "lower end" type 1911. The RIA is more cost effective because it's a no frills 1911. I shoot steel and uspsa with mine and has been 100% reliable with zero malfunctions with over 1200 rounds through it and mine's only a month old. Shoots as well as my Colt series 80 Gold Cup National Match.

I would suggest the Wilson combat spring refresh kit after 500 rounds as the factory springs are known to weaken prematurely. Everything else is preference, depending on what you "need". For example, I changed the grips next, added a magwell to help with reloads and bought adjustable white dot sights for faster aquisition.

The two best improvements I've made was the Wilson combat ultralight trigger to clean up the factory trigger slop and an EGW oversized bushing to help tighten groups. I also run a Wilson Combat compensator for steel matches.

Oh yeah, not sure what you mean about "more forgiving" but my RIA was super tight when I first got it, can't hear anything when you shake it. Like any gun it'll loosen up a bit once you start putting an number of rounds through it, but the spring upgrade kit tightened everything back up.

Last edited by soulbyte; 02-08-2013 at 9:16 PM..
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soulbyte View Post
I wouldn't say that the RIA is a "lower end" type 1911.
You're right, it's not "lower end", it's low end. Nothing wrong with that, but don't delude yourself. Instead of dumping a bunch of money into an RIA, just shoot it, and enjoy it for what it is. If you find yourself wanting more, then save up for a Springfield.
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jessegpresley View Post
You're right, it's not "lower end", it's low end. Nothing wrong with that, but don't delude yourself. Instead of dumping a bunch of money into an RIA, just shoot it, and enjoy it for what it is. If you find yourself wanting more, then save up for a Springfield.
If I save up for the money SA charges for a 1911 id buy a Kimber or other American made 1911. The fact that SA guns are made overseas was enough on its own to get me to look at other options, like "if im going to buy something not made in the US, might as well look for a cheaper way to do it". But I have no immediate need or desire to spend that kind of money in one lump sum on a gun by itself. The reason I got the RIA was to have something to slowly turn into my own little masterpiece over time, and honestly I like how the RIA TAC is kind of like a base model GI 1911 with a few twists into modern style like the commander hammer and beavertail safety. Makes them unique. Not big on slide grooves on the front of the slide or excessive checkering on the front strap or milling ontop of the slide. It looks cool, no doubt, but its not what I adore about the 1911. I like the simplicity of style that has held for over 100 years. The beavertail and hammer really only add comfort and reliability in my eyes. Didnt like the way the GI RIA felt in my hands. I have big hands and i could feel the grip safety hurting my hand even just holding it in the store

As for whether or not the one I got was "molested" in the store, im sure it was. But not excessively i dont think. The guys there were WAY low on stock of all their pistols and they said they sell out on the RIAs all the time. In fact, i went down to secure some ammo today and a guy was there and kind of upset that I had picked mine up, as he apparently had intentions to snag it but was too late lol So I dont think it sat on the shelf long enough to be manhandled. My observation on the "tolerances" are from the eyes of a person not really acclimated to the platform, so dont take it too seriously. I was just comparing to what I saw on other 1911's in the store and the pictures ive seen of other RIAs from other people. The areas in question all seem to be a smidge less than "matched". But this isnt necessarily a bad thing, and at $500 for the gun I couldnt expect a matched product. I have an auto paint spray gun that was $900 and its machined out to match all its parts. This is a paint sprayer... a pistol is no doubt going to cost a lot more money than that to be machined to those kinds of tolerances. just my 2 pennies.
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Old 02-09-2013, 5:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jessegpresley View Post
You're right, it's not "lower end", it's low end. Nothing wrong with that, but don't delude yourself. Instead of dumping a bunch of money into an RIA, just shoot it, and enjoy it for what it is. If you find yourself wanting more, then save up for a Springfield.
Who's deluding themself? I know what I've got. I also know how well it performs. I'm no stranger to 1911s.

I've always been a the "tinkerer" type. So I like "upgrading" everything and anything, just to see what works and what doesn't. Just for the sake of experimentation as well. Also, it's a great way to learn and know your firearm, and not be one those who brings their firearms to a smith for everything.

I think the consensus here it to enjoy your RIA, and change things as you see fit. It's your gun, and you're going to eventually modify it to fit your taste and personality. HAVE FUN with it!
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Old 02-09-2013, 6:00 PM
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Quote:
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Who's deluding themself? I know what I've got. I also know how well it performs. I'm no stranger to 1911s.

I've always been a the "tinkerer" type. So I like "upgrading" everything and anything, just to see what works and what doesn't. Just for the sake of experimentation as well. Also, it's a great way to learn and know your firearm, and not be one those who brings their firearms to a smith for everything.

I think the consensus here it to enjoy your RIA, and change things as you see fit. It's your gun, and you're going to eventually modify it to fit your taste and personality. HAVE FUN with it!
I definitely intend to have fun with it. Personally Id consider the RIA to be a "mid tier" weapon in the 1911 class, with Kimbers and other like brands being top level and Wilson combats and the like being categorized as "full customs". Ive seen 1911s as much as several hundred dollars less than the RIA for the same configuration, and that worries me considering the price of the RIA. Of what I have observed of my own pistol and what I have read other places is that RIA made these guns as a base model without all the costly little frills that other manufacturers add to their guns. Things like front strap checkering, expensive metals, fancy grips, front slide serrations and slide top milling, quality magazines, trijicon night sights, etc... This pistol is made using the bare essentials. It seems built tough enough to handle its job and uses parts that should do the job at least fairly well. Leaving it up to the user how much "extra" stuff they want to add to it. Or you can just spend all that money in one shot and get one already done up by another manufacturer, and instead of being able to say "hey check out what i built" you can now only say "hey, look what i bought". In my mind, building from a base model is always more fun than buying someone elses creation. If the RIA works and runs well with no problems and is accurate, why spend the extra cash on the big boys? I see no point unless the person already has a few 1911s and wants something "factory perfect" as a safe queen or wall ornament. I like to trick things out. Such as my Mossberg pictured below. This pic is a bit old, ive done a bit more to it since including adding a better light to it with a tri rail system clamped between the mag tube and barrel. I just like things to be personalized, and dont want to spend "top dollar" to do it.

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Old 02-08-2013, 10:09 PM
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By "forgiving" i simply meant some of the tolerances in the machining, such as the marriage between the frame and the grip safety which seemed to be a little looser than the Kimbers and SA's i handled, and the grooves cut on the slide that when viewed from the back resemble a set of "stairs", this section seemed kind of "sloppy" in how they machined it. Not a perfectly machined matched pairing is all. I didnt notice anything rattling or having too much excessive play (though the grip safety seemed to be a bit more sloppy than the other higher end models, but nothing id consider to be problematic) just little stuff about the machining that made you say "so this is why they dont share the same price tags as the big boys" type stuff. Im perfectly comfortable with it. Havent shot it yet, but if its reliable I wouldnt care less about any of the other stuff. Looks great, felt great, and if it works great ill be happy
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Old 02-08-2013, 10:30 PM
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Is it used? All of the new ones I've been looking at lately hasn't really shown the tolerances you've described. I'm not trying to be combative, it's just the tolerances on the one I bought was tighter than my colt. The RIA's and Citadels at my LGS are the same way.

That reminds me of a RIA 38 revolver I was looking at a couple of days ago. The thing was way problematic, wouldn't fire after cocking the hammer but didn't have problems firing double action, could've been because it was the display model and been molested a few too many times. I'm pretty sure your 1911 will be fine, but, there are a few reports of lemons out there too.

I would suggest to go out and learn your 1911 by using and shooting. But most of all enjoy it! You made a great choice, not many know they are the largest producer of the 1911 platform in the world. They also make parts to supply other 1911 manufacturers. Welcome to the club!
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:40 AM
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I have a RIA tactical with rail and night sights for about a year, with 1700+ rounds through it. It can use a stronger recoil spring and a better trigger.

Feed ramp polished, but still has feeding problems on the first round on top of most mags with round nose ammo. A stronger recoil spring helps it out.

The trigger had a lot of pre-travel and creep. Polished out the creep is mostly gone, but still noticeable. I'm definitely considering a new drop-in trigger, hammer and sear for it.

Extractor adjusted properly, but it ejects casings erratically. An upgrade there might be helpful. (A loose fitting firing pin stop contributed to the erratic ejections)

Quality control is hit or miss on these guns. Mine had a few other issues that needed taken care of. Probably worse than what you might expect for even an entry level 1911.
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Old 02-09-2013, 12:43 AM
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This is a good idea of the kind of styling im looking to go with. A few chrome/stainless appointments like the bushing and maybe some of the levers/trigger, a nice set of grips to my own tastes, nice sights, and a refinish in a color more to my suiting, and primarily just to get rid of the contrasting white lettering they put on the side. blend it in with the rest of the gun like this one is.
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Old 02-09-2013, 2:17 AM
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For the 1,000,000 time, SA guns with NM serial numbers are made in the USA of raw forgings from Brazil. RIA uses a cast frame and extruded slide. SA uses forged steel fires and slides. Wilson Combat uses forged frames and billet slides. Some of the finest 1911 customs in the world are built from SA's.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:23 AM
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Having been there, I'd strongly recommend shooting at least 500 rounds through it before changing a thing, except maybe grips or sights, if you really hate the OEM ones. If your 1911 happens to be reliable out the box, then many add ons are subjective to the user. But to answer your question, Wilson does make nice parts but some may need fitting in your particular pistol, while others may not. My tactical had a bad sear spring from the get go so that was a change I made ASAP. Good luck!
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Old 02-09-2013, 1:21 PM
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I took a file to my .38 Super about 5 minutes after I got it out of jail just because I'm a lefty and can't stand a 1911 without a beavertail, but if it had been available in the Tactical configuration I probably would have left it alone except for grips.
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Old 02-09-2013, 5:43 PM
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Honestly just smear some of this chit all over it and you should be good to go.
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Old 02-09-2013, 5:51 PM
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I have the same gun. Mine had major problems with slide binding. Sent it back and now it shoots great. The slide is smooth as glass. Like a custom gun. I changed the grips only. Picked up some great grips from Raasco grips. Mke sure you tell the guy that is RIAtactical. Looks perfect. Filed my ambi safety a little on the sharp edges. Touched up with blueing. I would trust my life to this .45.
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Old 02-09-2013, 6:18 PM
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only thing i changed on my RIA tactical was the sights, had the front changed to fiber, and the rear changed to white dot fixed tactical.

only other thing i would even consider doing for cosmetic reasons, would be to get the sides shaved a little to lighten / remove the rollmark and possibly get it cerakoted to make the finish look better.

shoot it, then decide if the 300 to 400 in work you did, wouldnt justifye just buying a RIA match model, where all the hand fitting has already been done for an additional 200 or so.
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Old 02-09-2013, 6:24 PM
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JaMail, how do you like the FO front and white dot rear? Bought these a while back, was thinking either or, but was interested in the white adjustable rear and FO front.

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Old 02-09-2013, 6:31 PM
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As ive heard, I can send my RIA in to the USA center and have them work the gun over for me. Perhaps this is the "match job" you are referring to. Going to have to look into that more once I actually get my hands on the pistol and put some rounds through it.

Soul, isnt fiber supposed to be a bad choice for defense? Same for adjustables? Fiber, as I know it, is useless in low light and adjustables leave room for accidental "adjustments" either from firing or just handling it sometimes, no? I was considering a nice pair of combat fixed sights in Novak style in either plain white dot, or trijicon. Any input on choosing between the two, or reasons to use the fiber over them?
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Old 02-09-2013, 6:39 PM
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My RIA is strictly my range and match gun, reason behind the sights. For home defense I've got my other colt, which will give me time to get to my AR, Mini-14 or preferred home defense, Remington 870.

Again, modify for what you need, and for my RIA, I need help with speeding up sight aquisition for steel and uspsa, hence white dot or FO. It's all preference really. If I need to, I'm sure I could use those sights to defend myself.
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Old 02-09-2013, 6:46 PM
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Definitely a nice RIA Soul Which magwell did you get for it and did you have to mod the inside of the grips to get it to fit flushly? Also, do you notice a drawback to using the Hogue style finger groove grips? I have heard people say those make the gun flex a bit when shooting and causes problems with having to readjust your grip. Have you experienced said phenomenon?
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Old 02-09-2013, 6:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slugz View Post
Definitely a nice RIA Soul Which magwell did you get for it and did you have to mod the inside of the grips to get it to fit flushly? Also, do you notice a drawback to using the Hogue style finger groove grips? I have heard people say those make the gun flex a bit when shooting and causes problems with having to readjust your grip. Have you experienced said phenomenon?
To answer your first question. When no one is home, practice clearing your home with the lights off or in low light. Regardless of FO, DOT or Trijicon, it'll still be hard to see. I hold a flashlight with my left hand and hold my pistol in my right, with the flashlight on the right side, resting my right forearm over my left. I practice at the range 2-3 times a week, one thing to practice is point of aim, without using the sights. 9 times out 10, in a close quarter home confrontation that's most likely what you'll be doing out of reaction.

The magwell is the cheaper wilson combat, I've had no issues with it during matches and works fine other than it sliding back a little after each trip. To remedy all i do is tap it back into place with my palm. I have a feeling I'll be switching to a Smith & Alexander one piece magwell/main spring housing in the future.

As far as grips go, I have the factory, hogue, and vz aliens as well. The Pachmyrs are my favorite as it best compliments the forward thumbs grip I use. I've never had a problem with them flexing, they are firm and extremely grippy at the finger grooves. If you have really small hands, i wouldn't recommend them, if you've got larger, then they're the way to go.
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