Rock Island Armory GI Compact, by Pat Cascio

I’ve mentioned this before. However, if you missed that article, there are more 1911-style handguns made in the Philippines, than anyplace else in the world. Yeah, I know, there are a lot of companies in the USA that manufacture 1911s, but nothing compares to the Philippines for the sheer number of handguns produced there. And, there are three manufacturers there, so you know they produce a lot of 1911s – in just about any configuration you might want.

Some time ago, I did a review of the Rock Island Armory Compact 1911. This was one of their tricked-out versions and a very nice gun. I had a nice Cerakote finish on it – it was cream-colored, for lack of a better description. I did have a few very early feeding issues, but after only about 75-rounds through the gun, it then ran 100% with every type of ammo I fed it. If I recall, I paid $420 for it – out the door, brand-new.

Things have changed, with this virus situation. It is difficult to find a good selection of guns these days, not impossible, but difficult. Our local small box stores carries both the full-sized and compact Rock Island 1911s – both in the GI version – nothing fancy. However, they are running around $420 for them – a year and a half ago, they were $390 – not a huge increase in price, but still an increase. Speaking of increases, the Dollar Tree chain of stores has raised their prices to $1.25 and some products will be even higher – just a mention if you shop there. After all, a 25% increase is still a lot of money!

I love the 1911 design of handguns, they have been around for well over a hundred years now, showing no signs of slowing down. Matter of fact, the market is bigger than ever, with just about any kind of configuration you might want. No other handgun in history is showing signs of continued growth, like the 1911 is exhibiting.  The Glock now seems to have been around forever. However, they first appeared in the USA around 1985.

Over the years, I’ve owned 1911s in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 10mm – but the .45 ACP chambering remains my favorite caliber. It will get the job done – period! There have been quite a few wildcat calibers in the 1911 – but for the most part, it’s the .45 ACP that is the biggest seller.

The Specifications

The Rock Island Armory pistol under review in this article is basically their GI Model – well, mostly – it isn’t quite 100% GI when you take a close look at it. The gun has the tiny GI front and rear sights – that are next to impossible for my aged eyes to see. However, the hammer is a combat style, as is the extended beavertail grip safety – very nice. The mainspring housing is serrated – not a bad thing, though.

The thumb safety and slide stop/lock are also GI in nature. The thumb safety snicked on/off with authority – no slop at all. The recoil spring set-up is a long one – not the Colt factory style short recoil spring/plug set-up. The front strap is smooth – and I added a piece of skateboard friction tape to it – for a more sure hold on the gun. The trigger is a short one – USGI style, however it broke cleanly at 5.5-pounds – that’s outstanding in an out-of-the-box 1911 if you ask me. The slide has rear serrations only on both sides of the rear of the slide. The entire gun is  parkerized – a fairly tough finish that takes a beating. There is no extended magazine release. The stocks are smooth and some kind of orange-colored tropical softwood. Those will be replaced.

The one thing I dislike is that the entire gun is steel, I would have loved to see a lightweight version, with an Aluminum frame – as it sits, the gun weighs in at 34-ounces. While not “heavy” per se, however if I were to pack this gun on a daily basis…well, I just wouldn’t – I can carry any number of similar guns, that are similar in sized, that are lighter in weight. Guess I’m just getting weak in my old age, but I don’t like to carry any more weight on my belt than need be. The gun holds 6+1 rounds of .45 ACP – however, you can find reliable 7-round magazines – and I tested several of them in this 1911 – all worked great, plus I like the fact that most 7-round magazines have an extended bumper pad on them.

My Practical Tests

This gun has been in my collection for quite some time, and I’ve managed to put at least 500 rounds through it. I can’t find anything to fault – the gun never missed a beat – no feeding or ejection problems at all. The biggest problem are the tiny sights. I put some bright orange nail polish on the front sight, and it helped my eye to pick it up a little better in the rear sight – still, not a good solution for me. I don’t plan on spending any money to install highly visible combat sights on this gun – I should – but I won’t, because I won’t carry this gun, it will just be a “shooter” and it is a lot of fun to shoot.

For this article, I put 100-rds of various Black Hills Ammunition through it. I had their 230-gr FMJ, 185-gr Barnes Tac XP +P all-copper hollow point, and their stout 230-gr JHP +P – and the gun ate them all – never a bobble or stutter. My shooting was done at 20-yards, and I rested the gun over a padded rifle rest. I will say though, that it took me some time to get the sights lined up for each shot. Not a big deal when you’re punching paper, however, in a life or death situation, you need to get your sights on target as fast as you can.

I did place some self-healing targets out at 15-yards and tried my hand at hitting them as fast as I could. I could hit those targets much faster than a bullseye target – so that’s a good thing – when it comes to shooting for self-defense. I also managed to break quite a few fist-sized rocks with one or two hits, and any tree branches within 50 yards were an easy target.

In my accuracy testing, I was getting 3-inch groups if I concentrated – however, most of the time, the groups were about 3.5-inches – I could do better – but it was hard to concentrate on those little sights. Still, after all my testing, I don’t plan in replacing the tiny GI sights – I will replace the smooth grips, though. The gun otherwise looks great, and the factory grips distract from the overall appearance and feel of the gun.

I’ve been giving a little bit of thought, about getting another full-sized Rock Island Armory GI model – just because I presently don’t have a basic, full-sized 1911 in my collection. If I get one, I will replace the grips, and more than likely, replace the sights on it. I just want one.

Back in 1979, when I was newly married, I worked two, full-time security positions. One was Friday-to-Sunday 12-hour shifts protecting a warehouse. I was paid for 40-hours. The other was at the now gone Trojan Nuclear Power Plant outside of Portland, Oregon. Being newly married, we didn’t have much money, and the only firearm I could afford back then was a Rossi Model 68 – .38 Special snubby…it sure wasn’t suited for either of the jobs. I had a USGI 1911 back in Chicago, that for some reason, I didn’t bring with me when I moved to Portland. That would have been the gun to have for both of those security positions. The nuke plant – we patrolled on the outside – two of us, with dogs. However, if I would have been forced to take a shot at an intruder, the little Rossi would have been useless. A good ol’ 1911 would have been a better selection for those positions. I made do, with what I had, though.

Even today, I don’t feel under-armed if all I’m carrying on my hip is a 1911, with a “mere” 8 rounds on-tap. I have a lot of faith in this old workhorse, to still get the job done, that it might be called upon to do.

So, if you’re in the market, for a good “shooter” in a M1911, then check out the Rock Island Armory line of handguns – I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking – and if all you want is something to plink with or use for home defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better than the compact 1911 for the money. Check one out, I think you’ll really like that you will get a lot of gun, for so little money – in the way of a 1911. Highly recommended!