Rock Island Armory GI Standard 1911, by Pat Cascio

Most folks don’t realize that more 1911 style of handguns are manufactured in the Philippines than are now being made in the USA. There are actually three main companies making most of the 1911s that come out of the Philippines, but there are a few other smaller manufacturers. Owning 1911s made in Philippines isn’t new to me. I’ve owned more than a dozen, and they came marked with various names on them. Today, we are looking at the Rock Island Armory 1911 GI standard model 1911. It is imported by Armscorp in Nevada.

For many years, I carried stock (full-size, 5-inch-barreled) Model 1911s, in various forms, and never gave it a second thought. My biggest complaint then, as now, is the tiny sights – front and rear. Now that I’m getting much older, my aged eyes have a difficult time focusing on the small sights, especially the front sight. The sights on the Rock Island Armory GI Standard 1911 are larger than the original Colt M1911 pattern. These are called the M1911A1 pattern. To be sure, these sights are rugged, and meant for war – the same sights have been on M1911A1s for many decades because they would stand-up against any kind of abuse.

This Rock Island Armory, GI standard 1911 isn’t quite all “GI”. Of course, we are looking at the full-sized Government Model, as it is called. We have a 5-inch barrel and full-sized steel frame. This is a big gun and it weighs in at 40-ounces unloaded. The finish is good ol’ Parkerizing – not the most durable, but it is functional. The slide has fine serrations on the rear of it (only). We have a standard GI hammer as well. Moving down to the frame, we have a serrated, not checkered, mainspring housing. The grip safety is also GI – no memory bumps or anything like that. This gun came with a nice stainless steel USA-made 8-round magazine – a nice touch. The magazine well is not GI. Rather, it is slightly beveled for faster reloads. The magazine release is all GI. I didn’t care for the plain wooden grips that came on the gun – they were smooth – not checkered. The slide release/stop is standard GI – not extended. The trigger is the short, GI style, but it broke at 5-lbs 2-ounces. This is a great trigger for street carry if you ask me. We also have the GI recoil spring set-up, nothing more, nothing less, and it works for me.

Here’s where we have some changes from the GI model, and the first thing I noticed was that the ejection port is flared and lowered, this is a good thing – makes ejecting empty brass or even loaded rounds more positive. Then, we move on to the barrel itself. The barrel is not GI – it has been very nicely throated and polished, as is the feed ramp on the frame as well. So I was sure this 1911 would feed anything I fed it. In the past, I throated a lot of 1911s barrels – opened them up – and polished the feed ramps. I found that it was time-consuming, and meticulous work, to say the least.

Nice Hand-Fitting

The frame/barrel/slide are expertly fitted, you have to really feel how tightly those three parts are fitted together, and this contributes to better accuracy. There is just a hit of “play” between the slide and frame, and no “play” between the barrel fit at all. Look, I’ve owned several high-end 1911s over the years, that were not this well fitted.

The first thing I did, before even firing this gun, was to replace the smooth wooden grips, and I also added my now-famous skateboard friction tape to the smooth front strap of the frame – for a sure hold under any circumstances. And, “yes” this does wear down over-use, but I replace it after a year, and it only takes a few minutes, and the cost is only about 25-cents to replace. I added a pair of my own designed “Code Zero” 1911 grips, made for me by Mil-Tac and they are the best feeling grips on the market if you ask me – then again, I’m biased. It took more than a year to come up with this pattern, with myself and the owner of Mil-Tac, Craig Sword working the computer design.

Before I attempted any shooting, I dug out my bottle of bright orange nail polish, and added a dab to the front sight – made a huge difference to my eyes – much easier to pick-up that tiny front sight, in the rear sight. I only fired 8-rounds of 230-gr FMJ Black Hills Ammunition through the gun as a function test. No problems and the gun ran just fine.

My Test Shooting

Things were really hot and dry in Oregon when I was testing this pistol it was the fire season. We had over a million acres of acres that burned in Oregon – not a good thing. So, I limited my testing to my own property, on my mini-range, rather than going to my regular shooting spot. As ammo is at a premium these days, I only fired 200-rds in my testing. Black Hills provided me with their 200-gr JHP +P, 185-gr Barnes Tac XP + all-copper hollow point, 135-gr HonetyBadger all-copper fluted round, and their 200-gr Lead Semi Wadcutter (LSW) match ammo, as well as the 230-gr FMJ ammo.

One of the first things I discovered was the outstanding trigger pull. As already mentioned it was 5-lbs 2-ounces…the pull as very crisp with no play at all – this is an outstanding trigger for any 1911 out of the box. I usually like a long, three-hole match trigger on my 1911s. However this shorty all-steel trigger was nothing I wanted to swap out – leave things alone if they work.

I don’t mind the all-steel serrated mainspring housing at all, it has worked for more than a hundred years. But many people insist on a checkered mainspring housing. Moving up, the grip safety – pure GI, with no memory bump or pad and it was working perfectly – no need to mess with that either. The GI long hammer, again, no need to change that out, if I did, it would be with a combat style hammer, and then I’d need to change out the grip safety with one that worked with the rounded hammer – and that involves milling the rear of the frame – a lot of work. And, “yes” I know, there are “drop-in beavertail grip safeties and I’ve tried them – they all sucked if you ask me. The GI grip safety is fitted perfectly, with just a hint of side-to-side play.

I’m not sure who makes the 8-rd stainless steel magazine that came with the gun, but it also has a stainless steel follower – tough stuff. The mag loaded easy enough, and I used a variety of other 7 and 8 round mags in my testing and they all worked just fine.

One thing I didn’t mention was the thumb safety – it too, is pure GI, and it snicked on/off with authority – better than on many higher-priced 1911s I’ve owned – I can live with this smaller safety. It usually takes more time and effort on my part to fit a different thumb safety – this is something I’ve been trying to master for years. At times, it only takes a little while to fit a new thumb safety, other times, it would take an hour or longer.

I restricted my shooting for accuracy to only 15-yards for this test on my range – didn’t want to chance any hot bullets going astray and starting any fires. I had one hang-up in 200-rounds of shooting, that was early on with the Black Hills Lead Semi Wadcutter load – one round didn’t fully chamber for some reason – just a slight nudge on the back of the slide and the round chambered fully. There were no other failures of any kind.


The 200-gr LSW load proved to be the most accurate, with several groups coming in slightly under 2-inches, once again, this was at 15-yards. All the rest of the ammo came in a tad over 2-inches. I was shooting on my two legs – no rest this time in my accuracy testing, so I know that this gun will tighten up the groups a lot more if rested over the hood of my truck. I’m guessing that, I can get all my groups around three inches or even less with the right load.

Keep in mind that Rock Island Armory, claims this is a “GI Standard” 1911 – well, it is, and it isn’t – the improvement with the flared and lowed ejection port, the throated barrel and polished feed ramp, and the outstanding fit of this gun, says it isn’t GI – not by a mile. At some point, I’ll dig into my 1911 spare parts box, and find a new front and rear sight – and see about fitting them. The rear sight is never a problem. Its finding a front sight with a small enough tenon to fit into the tiny front sight hole – that takes time and fitting, and either silver solder it or weld it in place. In the meantime, the sights are good enough to go to “war” with.

I just don’t see myself changing out any other parts that came standard on this gun, everything works better than I thought it would, While I wouldn’t shoot this gun in a match, not that I shoot competition any longer, I would carry it on the street and feel well-armed.

We are now in a severe ammo and gun drought these days, and it is next to impossible to predict what prices are when it comes to guns and ammuntition. Rock Island Armory says this gun retails for $525 and that’s a fair price. I paid slightly under $400 for my sample – but that is before the current crazy market prices set in. So, shop around, if you’re in the market for a new, but “GI Standard” 1911 – Rock Island sells 1911s in all configurations – from Officer-sized, Commander-size, and upwards. They probably have something that you like or need.


  1. Pat: Thank you for your continuing efforts to keep us informed about firearm and edged weapon matters. I recently bought the RIA 1911 model one step up from the GI model, it has the extended beavertail, rounded hammer, full length guide rod, ambidextrous safety and better sights. It’s been too cold to spend a lot of time at the range, and as we all know ammo is precious, so I’ve only run 100 rounds thru it, PMC and Blazer aluminum, both in 230 gr fmj. I was disappointed to have about 5 ftfs, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the weapon, it appears to be very well made, the feed ramp is mirror bright and smooth as you know what. Anecdotes from the always-reliable-internet indicate long break in periods for the RIA 1911s and possible magazine problems. I’ve ordered some SIG mags and we’ll see how they do. I’m quite sure with better mags and some more break in she’ll be a keeper. It shot low and left at 15 yds, I took .030″ off the front sight and drifted the rear .015″ to the right, she’s spot on now.
    Thanks again!

    1. In my opinion, Colt badly screwed up the 1911 with its Series 70 when they made the frame, slide and barrel fit tighter –allegedly for better accuracy — and hurt the reliability of the pistol. The military version of WWII , Korea, Vietnam etc was well known for (a) rattling with loose fitting parts and (b) being highly reliable.

      The frame has long rails on which carbon builds up — I’m no gunsmith but it seems to me one fix might be to cut slots in the rails to dump the carbon –look at the Glock.
      Back in the days of Mel Tappan (1980) there was a cottage industry of gunsmiths working on the stock 1911. Of course, Colt screwed it up even worse with the Series 80s. What you get when you listen to target shooters and lawyers instead of combat veterans.

    2. Same here…I bought an RIA 10mm..Very pretty and well fitted weapon. Could not get through a single mag without a feeding problem. I ordered additional stainless mags from Wilson Combat. They didn’t help either. That really created a confidence problem. Maybe if I had run 500 rounds through it then it might have begun to function ok. I took it into my gunsmith for him to take a look at it, then ended up selling it to him.

  2. I have had a couple of RIA 1911’s, GI model. Both solid performers for a good price. Flat mainspring housing instead of the arched mainspring housing of the A1, but no problem. Wooden grips are pretty, but too slick as you say. Front sight is tiny, like the GI issue. Thank you for this review.

  3. I only own one 1911. God blessed me with a RIA 1911. Thanks for giving my gun a fair review. I love my RIA 1911. (I know, don’t love something that can’t love you back, right?) There have been a lot of guys look down on this gun, but I love it. They usually do too after shooting it. Judging a book by the cover or the brand I guess.
    I am going to make one change to my RIA. I am going to buy some new Code Zero grips per your suggestion. They look sharp.
    Thanks again!

  4. Although I have bought and sold more handguns than I care to remember I never sell my Colt series 70 with many enhancements as Pat has so aptly pointed out in prior articles on 1911 style pistols. When I was competing this was my go-to pistol and it never let me down. Now is it my EDC? No. For that I have several other pistols/ revolvers that I carry to suit my moods and circumstances. But the Colt will forever be with me, at least until death do us part. Then my kids can decide who gets it!

  5. Another great article ,thank you sir.

    Love the look iand history of the 1911 . Just the low round count always put me off.

    If I ever get my hands on a double stack . . . . . 🙂

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