Rock Island Armory 1911 CS FDE, by Pat Cascio

Imported from the Philippines, this Rocky Island Armory 1911 CS FDE is one hot-selling, Officers-style 1911 handgun. And, it is a a bargain to be had.

More Than a Little Familiar With 1911s

Long-time readers will know that I’m a real sucker for a good 1911-style handgun. They also know that if a gun isn’t a bargain, a real bargain, I’ll pass it up. I’ve owned more than a few custom 1911s over the years, and they were fine pieces of work. They were super-accurate, with more accuracy than I could begin to squeeze out of them, and just a genuine work of art and a work of love. I’ve also owned more factory-made 1911s than I can begin to remember. Most were really good guns and well worth the money. So, I’m more than a little familiar with 1911s of just about every make and model. Additionally, the 1911 is one of my all-time favorite handguns to work on– gunsmith.

Policy to Think On A Purchase For a Day or Two

A trip to my local gun shop in Albany, OR revealed something new: a 1911 CS FDE Officers-sized pistol, in .45 ACP, of course. The price was just oh-so-right, too, but I had to think on this one for a couple of days, though. I asked the counter person if they had more than one in stock. I was told “yes”. So, there was a good chance I’d be able to get one, if I thought on this for a few days. It’s sort of a new “policy” with me as of late to do this.

I don’t really “need” any more guns, so unless there is something I can’t absolutely live without, I’ll think on a purchase for a day or two. This usually works out for me. However, I’ve lost out on a few guns that I wanted, though I didn’t need, with this policy.

A couple of days went by. I’d thought about it, and I made the purchase of this Philippine-made 1911.

Several Philippine 1911 Companies

In case some of you didn’t know, there are several 1911 companies in the Philippines that are turning out some outstanding 1911s and at great prices to boot. I’m not saying all the 1911s that come out of the Philippines are top-notch. Some are just plain ol’ shooters with a tolerable trigger pull, but they make for a dandy truck gun– one you can toss in your glove box and not worry about it getting used and abused. A gun like this will still go “bang” when you pull the trigger. However, many of the 1911s I’m seeing out of the Philippines are really great guns, in most respects. Yet, for some reason, many of these companies are installing steel triggers instead of aluminum or even “plastic” triggers. That doesn’t make for the best trigger pull, but this is easily taken care of in short order by installing a match-grade, light-weight aluminum trigger.

Rock Island Armory

The Rock Island Armory– imported by Armscorp Precision International in Nevada– are bringing in some great 1911s that are really affordable and great shooters. Yeah, if you look around, you’ll find some of their earlier imported 1911s that while fully functional didn’t have the best finish and had heavy trigger pulls. They were just “so-so” overall, but they still went “bang”, and that’s what counts.

The current crop of 1911s coming into the USA from Rock Island Armory are very fine handguns, period!

Specs of the Model 1911 CS FDE

A look at the specs on the model 1911 CS FDE is in order. First of all, as already mentioned, it is an Officers-sized 191. It has a barrel/slide length of 3.5 inches. The frame is shorter, too, by an inch, so it takes officers-sized magazines, which can be had in six or seven shot capacity. The gun comes with one 7-rd mag that worked flawlessly. Being a genuine series 70 1911, there is no firing pin safety to contend with. Yes! This makes the trigger pull all that much better. On my sample, the plastic trigger had a very crisp 4-lb pull, which is outstanding and about perfect for street-carry or self-defense. You don’t want too light of a trigger pull on a gun meant for these purposes. Of course, the trigger pull is single-action only!

The gun came with a Cerakote Flat Dark Earth coating, which is a dark sand in color. This color is what first drew my attention to this gun at the gun shop.


The sights, at least the rear sight, is a Novak-style combat number– one of the best. Many companies are copying Wayne Novak’s design, without paying him any royalties. It is the best rear sight, in my opinion. There are two small indentations in the rear sight. I would have thought that Rock Island Armory would have installed two white dots in those tiny indentations, but they didn’t. It’s strange. The front sight is a plain, serrated job, but there’s no indentation for painting a white dot on it. My aged eyes don’t see black-on-black sights very well these days. I painted the front sight with some orange nail polish, and using a paper clip I put some white paint in those two little indentations on the rear sight. It worked out better than I thought it would. This makes for a fast sight picture for me. Go figure.


Rubber grips come standard. I will be replacing those with some wood grips. If you’ve ever carried concealed with your handgun having rubber grips, you know that if your covering garment wants your handgun more than you do those rubber grips and the covering garment will rip the handgun out of your hand in short order. So, I replace any rubber grips, especially those on a 1911.


There is an extended beaver-tail grip safety that was perfectly timed. It is black in color, as is the main spring housing, and thumb safety. This really off-sets the look of the gun. It’s very nice.

The plastic main spring housing is serrated too, for a sure grip. The thumb safety snicked on/off with authority, perfectly fitted. The only “bad” thing is, it is not an extended combat-style safety. Well, that’s no big deal. I might replace it later on. By the way, the thumb safety is single-side only. I like that, as I don’t need an ambidextrous thumb safety.


The mag release is standard length and not extended, and it also is black in color. The slide stop/release is standard size and it too is black in color.


The trigger has an overtravel screw for adjustment; however, my sample didn’t need it. The trigger was crisp, and as mentioned it was dead-on at 4 lbs. I’d have to work hard to give a 1911 a trigger pull this nice.


The barrel is coated in something black. However, in short order, whatever the coating is, it started to wear off. It’s no big deal in my mind. We also have a bushingless bull barrel that is, once again, fitted perfectly to the slide. And, a full-length guide rod, which takes three hands to install a bent paper clip into the tiny hole that is required to field strip the gun for cleaning and a good lube. This is not a deal breaker in my book. Just be advised that it is difficult to get that paper clip installed in the tiny hole in the guide rod in order to take the gun apart. I’ve never had to break-down any gun in a fire-fight! LOL!

Slide Serrations

The rear of the slide has forward angled serrations that make pulling the slide back easy. These serrations are not fine; they are large. Once again, I commend the great job by Rock Island Armory.

Only Change

The only change I did to this gun is one I do with many 1911s. I installed some skate board friction tape to the plain front strap of the frame. This gives me a much better grip/hold on the gun. It is easily done. Just remove the grips, cut the tape to size, remove the backing on the tape, and press it in place, and then re-install the grips. It takes less than five minutes to do, and you’ll really feel the difference.

One Complaint

My one “complaint” with this gun is that it has an all-steel frame, making it heavy, instead of an aluminum frame. On the other hand, this steel frame will sure make the gun last a long, long time. It weighs in at 2.16 lb, unloaded. With the right holster, it’s not overly heavy to pack this gun. I have a favorite 1911 concealed carry holster from Safariland. It’s their belt slide model 527-53. This holds any 1911 high and tight to my side. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing this particular 1911 with an aluminum frame in the future. I’ll buy one. That’s for sure.

How Did It Shoot?

So, with all the great features on this little 1911, how did it shoot? Outstanding, once I got broken-in. I had several feeding issues during my first 75 rounds through the gun. This is just one of those “things” with some 1911s; they need a break-in period. No matter what ammo I fed it, it had some feeding issues. And, then like magic, the gun started perking along and fed, fired, and ejected everything I fed it. In all, more than 350 rounds went down range.

Ammo for Testing

From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had the following ammo: 160-gr TAC XP Low Recoil Standard Pressure load, which is an all-copper hollow point; 185-gr FMJ; also a Low Recoil, Standard Pressure load; 255-gr Outdoorsman, and this is a +P, Hard Cast FN load; 230-gr FMJ FN +P; and 200-gr JHP +P.

From the folks at Black Hills Ammuniton, I had their 200-gr Match Semi Wadcutter load; 230-gr FMJ; 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P; and their new 135-gr HoneyBadger load, which is an all-copper bullet that has flutes cut into it and is a very nasty round for self-defense. The HoneyBadger load will get the job done.

Accuracy Testing

Once the Rock Island Armory 1911 was broken-in, there were zero malfunctions of any kind. I restricted my accuracy testing to 15 yards, because of the shorter barrel on this 1911. All the above ammo shot about the same. If I did my part, I was getting groups about 2.75 inches, and that is outstanding. The overall winner, however, was the Buffalo Bore 200-gr JHP +P load. It cut several groups right at 2.25 inches. This is outstanding accuracy for a bargain-priced 1911, or for any 1911, if you ask me. I shot several groups with this Buffalo Bore load, because I couldn’t believe how well I was shooting. Usually, when I get a good group, I put the gun down! The barrel to slide to frame fit was impeccable. There was only a hint of movement between them. We are talking tightly fitted, and I’m sure that contributed to the great accuracy.

The asking price on this particular 1911 was $450; however, I got it for $20 less, and it was a bargain at the asking price. Check one out. I think you’ll be impressed.


  1. Being a bit of a gun novice, I used to ask my late friend Eugene Sockut, why he liked the 1911 in 45 ACP so much. I said I preferred a 9mm with a larger magazine capacity. He would reply, good luck you will need it!

  2. One Complaint
    “It weighs in at 2.16 oz, unloaded. ”

    Really? That would be awesome, but being that light would probably add to a LOT of recoil and kickback.

    But you know I’m joking. I’m sure you meant “pounds” instead of “ounces”.

    For that price, and that recommendation, I would pry open my dusty, creaky, wallet and buy one, now. I’d even fill out the Form 4473, and break my vow of private-only guns transactions.

  3. There are advantages to relatively “heavy” pistols beyond the reduced recoil, whether they be 1911 or revolvers. Aside from the plastic fantastic guns all makers have, the biggest advantage “all metal” guns have, is when you run out of bullets you can always get their attention by a good old fashioned whack up side the head. There, that’ll get their attention….

  4. Pat,
    I recently bought a Colt M1991A1 from a friend. Have you ever done a review of this weapon? If so where could I find your report? I’d be interested in what you have to day about it. For the record it only had 6 rounds fired through it since he bought it new. I paid $300.00 for it. I also got 12 magazines with it including the original that came with it new.

    Thank you very much for your posts, I read them first …

    Lt. Mike

    1. Lt. Mike,
      You have got to be kidding! Is he still your friend, or does he think you’re married now? That’s an outstanding deal! Due to repetitive wrist injuries I can’t shoot mine as much as I would like but I’ll never let it go. I’m THAT impressed with the Delta Elite!

      1. My friend passed away a few months ago. I suspect he knew he was not long for this world and gave me a great deal. He also left me his gun shop reloading gear and supplies in his will, and other items of great value. It really surprised me since we had only been acquainted for 8 years or so; however, we spent many hours working together, shared many common interests including survival, and shooting. He attended my commission ceremony, and often visited us at the armory during weekend drills. I always invited the public to attend drills and training when they could be allowed in, after all its taxpayer money supporting the National Guard units.
        I will alway keep this gun, and hopefully pass it down to my children. I am going to take the gunsmithing course that has been a subject of posts on this site. I have been a handloader for years, but never considered gunsmithing as a retirement income generator. I love my work in aviation, but I’m ready to move on to something that can let me work from my own home, and choose the work based on quality and craftsmanship not because I have to show up and punch a time clock.
        I figure my army retirement, social security, and 401K fund are sufficient for a very modest living, but since our FED RES funny money is almost useless due to inflation I knew I’d need some form of residual self generated income to continue.

    2. Lt Mike,
      Ride it like you stole it, because you did. A fine deal to say the lest. Sorry to hear that you friend has past. You two must’ve been tight to be worthy of such a deal.

  5. When my son graduated from college I gave him his own Rock Island Officers 45. Not only because they have been good guns (have a couple different models-great prices) but with him being half Filipino it was fitting. Some of his friends have even gotten a Rock Island gun because of using his at the range. So glad I started him shooting young and he still enjoys going out to shoot even with his old man.

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