Rock Island Armory 1911 Government Model, by Pat Cascio

There are more 1911 pistols made in the Philippines than in any other country in the world – and that’s a fact. It wasn’t all that many years ago, when it was a real hit or miss, on 1911s from this country. And, as I understand it, there are three major companies that produce 1911s over there. Doesn’t matter what name is stamped on the gun – odds are real good that your Philippine-made 1911 came from one of those three makers. In the past, about the only thing you could get from the Philippines, was a bare bones, military-style 1911 – nothing more. All of that has changed in the past 10-12 years, though. Now you can get just about any kind of 1911 you want, and best of all, prices are more than “right” even during this latest gun/ammo drought.

My local FFL had just one 1911 for sale some time ago, and I took it, sight unseen – well, they sent me a picture of the gun, and I got it. It is a full-sized Government Model 1911 in .45 ACP. It has an all-steel frame and slide. The frame has a brushed nickel coating on it – very tough stuff. The steel slide, hammer, grip safety, trigger, slide release, and magazine release were all finished in Cerakote – gradated black to red, with a very attractive look. Those colors very nicely match the red and black coloration of the pistol’s checkered Cocobolo grips. I referenced the Rock Island Armory web site, and saw that this particular model variant wasn’t listed. So, I’m guessing that either it was a discontinued variant edition or that someone had the work done locally on the slide. The gun came to me out of pawn. (Whomever previously owned it, never paid off the pawn ticket, so the gun was put up for sale.)

The sights – the front is all-black, and the rear has two white dots and is a “combat-style” very nice indeed. I painted the front sight with some blaze orange nail polish – I may replace both sights with night sights – still thinking on that one. There is no Series 80-style firing pin safety – an I prefer that simplicity. The slide is lowered and chamfered for reliable ejection of loaded and empty brass. The barrel is all-black, and take-down is of the Government-style – no extended recoil spring guide to deal with.

The barrel/slide/frame fit is impeccable – just a hint of movement between those parts, so I knew the gun would be a real good shooter. The barrel’s chamber ramp is flared, so it will feed any kind of .45 ACP ammo you care to feed this gun. The feed ramp on the slide has been opened and polished – once again, to help the gun feed anything you want to stoke it with.

There is an extended magazine release, for fast reloads. The combat-style thumb safety snicked on/off with authority – very nice. The grip safety was “timed” just right, too – a little pressure on it, when you grip the gun, and the grip safety deactivates allowing the gun to fire. The mainspring housing is plastic and checkered, once again for a sure grip on the gun, and the trigger pull broke nice and clean at 5.-pounds. Whoever owned the gun before I did, had the trigger stop screw unscrewed all the way forward. I suspect that they thought is an adjustment for trigger pull weight – it’s not! It took a little tinkering, but I got that screw adjusted just perfectly so there was no overtravel and I Loc-Tited it in place. The magazine well is slightly beveled for fast magazine changes, too. And of course, we have the extended beaver-tail grip safety. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like on this gun – other than the price – it was as-new, but priced about a hundred bucks over what it should have been – but these days, you can’t talk down your FFL on any firearms – they are all in short supply, so they stick to their asking price – the gun was worth it, though.

My Range Testing

I had one volunteer shooter, helping me with testing this outstanding 1911 – and we made sure to use the so-called “social distancing” when we were out on the range – we didn’t wear masks, neither of us below in ‘em…I’m not allowing some tin-horned wannabe governor tell me what I can and can’t wear.

Luckily, we had a very good supply of .45 ACP ammo from Black Hills Ammunition for our testing so we did more shooting than we should have – burned through 200-rounds of ammo. We had the Black Hills 230-gr FMJ, 200-gr lead semi-wadcutter, and this is a match grade load. We also had some of their 135-gr HoneyBadger loads, and this is one dandy round for self-defense if you ask me – and the recoil is very light with this lightweight bullet. We also had a 230-gr JHP +P load, and even in this all-steel, 39-ounce pistol you could sure feel the recoil was stout. There were zero, none, nada, malfunctions, during our testing. We limited our accuracy testing to just one 5-round load from each of the above ammo – like I said, we are still in a terrible ammo drought – and we didn’t want to waste any more ammo than need be. Normally, we would have fired 400-500 rounds in our testing, and we had to force ourselves to hold back.

I had some loose .45 ACP rounds in a small cardboard box, and most were Blazer 230-gr FMJ loads, and they functioned just fine. In my experience, I’ve found that Blazer handgun ammo, is a little underpowered and doesn’t always function 100% of the time. So, it is a good ammo for baseline testing how well your handgun will function – at least that’s been my experience.

We tested the 1911 for accuracy, using a rolled-up sleeping bag, I keep in my e-box, in the covered bed of my Dodge Ram pick-up. One 5-round mag was loaded and used with all the ammo – usually I fire 3-5 mags of various ammo through firearms for accuracy testing. However, with the ammo drought, I didn’t want to waste ammo more ammo than I had to.

The Black Hills, 200-gr SWC load gave me the best accuracy, and I got a group that was right at 3-inches, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. All the other loads were right there at a little over 3.0 inches and once was at 3.5-inches. The shooting was done at 25-yards the Philippine-made 1911 didn’t disappoint in the least. The gun was rock-solid tight, when I got it and stayed that way during my test. I also did some informal on my small home range and targets of opportunity, after my “official” testing was over with, and I hit everything I aimed at – no problems at all.

I always know I have a really good gun when my one volunteer testers offers to purchase it from me. He wanted this 1911 – badly! I told him it was over-priced but he didn’t care in the least, and of course, the transfer would have to go through an FFL dealer, again he didn’t care. He just wanted this 1911 – he loves anything 1911. I broke his heart when I told him it wasn’t for sale. However, he said if I ever decided to sell this gun, to let him know – he would take it.

I wish I could report something negative about this Government Model 1911, from the Philippines, but the gun is everything a good 1911 should be – and then some. I rarely carry full-sized guns on a daily basis – just getting too old and weak I guess…most of my carry guns are smaller compact and subcompact 9mm pistols, loaded with some ammo from Black Hills Ammunition. And I always carry one spare magazine as well – hope you all do the same. Many malfunctions can be traced to a bad magazine, and if that happens, you can rip that bad mag out and use your spare for that fast reload. I also inspect every single round of ammo, I load into my magazines – just makes good sense. I once had some Remington yellow box 9mm FMJ and as I was shooting it on the range, in the box of 200-rounds, I found at least a dozen rounds of ammo, that had primers in upside down, or even crushed sideways in the primer pocket – obviously, no one at Remington inspects their ammo…the folks at Black Hills Ammunition, inspect every single round of ammo before it is boxed-up – that is why their ammo is so good.

This particular 1911 isn’t the first one I’ve owned from Rock Island Armory, and I’m sure it won’t be the last…they are outstanding handguns and as a rule, at very good prices. I honestly don’t know when or if ammo prices and gun prices will come down again. My advice is that you should buy all the ammo you can find and store it away. And, if you a looking for another handgun – or rifle – and the price is halfway “right” then you should buy – if you don’t – the customer next to you will snap it up, once you put it down – and I’m serious about this. My crystal ball tells me that, Sleepy Joe, will restrict how much ammo we can purchase each month – and there will be a background check done as well. “Oh sorry, Mister Smith, the computer says you bought 200-rounds of ammo a week ago, you’ll have to wait three more weeks, before you can purchase any more…” And, I’m serious – this is coming – sooner than you think.