Pat Cascio’s Product Review: ARMSCOR/Rock Island Armory 10mm

There was a lot of ink back in the late 1980s, when the 10mm round became readily available to the public. Colt was the first mainline gun maker to come out with a somewhat affordable 1911 Government-style handgun in 10mm. It was called the Delta Elite. I jumped on getting one, and loved the gun. However, there were only limited types of 10mm ammo available at the time; one was the 200-gr FMJ round, and one was a 155-gr Silvertip round from Winchester. Still, I was extremely impressed with the 10mm. The power level was close to the .41 Magnum round, in a semiauto handgun. Yes!

I used my Colt Delta Elite for deer hunting one year. I fired at a deer at less than 25-yards away with the 155-gr Silvertip round, and it should have easily been a kill shot. However, the deer took the hit and ran off. I searched for hours; the blood trail was every place. The next morning, some friends helped me continue the search. There was lots of blood, but the deer was never found. We surmised it jumped into a blackberry bush, and we couldn’t see it.

The problem as I now see it is that the 155-gr Silvertip round wasn’t heavy enough, and the bullet expanded too rapidly without penetrating deeply enough to get the job done. I stopped carrying this round shortly after that.

For the better part of a year, I carried a S&W Model 1006, 10mm handgun, and I had to send it back to S&W three times. The adjustable rear sight kept shaking loose, and the gun simply wasn’t accurate. After the third trip back to S&W and its return to me, I sold it. The problem with the 10mm round was that it was a pretty violent offender in the recoil department, and many guns just weren’t able to handle that sort of mechanical recoil. My Colt Delta Elite also shook itself “loose as a goose” as they say! In short order, even though the FBI had been using the S&W Model 1076 in 10mm, it fell out of favor. When the FBI dumps a gun or a particular caliber, then everyone follows.

The 10mm fell out of favor with the shooting public in the early 1990s. It wasn’t until just recently that folks are rediscovering this outstanding round, both for self defense and for hunting purposes. I’ve always longed for another 1911 style handgun in 10mm, since getting rid of my Colt Delta Elite. The local gun shop I haunt got in a used Delta; however, as I feared, the gun was loose, very loose. Obviously a lot of rounds went downrange and the owner decided to sell or trade it off. After looking at the gun, I passed on buying it myself.

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Enter ARMSCOR and their line of 1911 style handguns, which are made in the Philippines. To be sure, they have a very extensive line-up of 1911 handguns in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45ACP, and 10mm. My local gun shop has been selling ARMSCOR/ Rock Island Armory for several years now, usually the bare bones, basic Mil-Spec type of guns in .45 ACP. They told me that no one has ever returned one of the guns for any problems. Finally, one day, my local gun shop got in an Rock Island Armory 1911 Government-style in 10mm– the Rock Island Armory model Rock Ultra FA-10mm. After looking the gun over and thinking on it for a couple of days, I decided I had to have this gun. It was super-tightly put together and seemed like everything I had been longing for in a 1911 in 10mm. A trip to the gun shop the next day revealed that they had left for Portland, OR for a gun show and took “my” gun with them. A quick text to the guys, and they set the gun aside for me to buy on Monday morning. It was a long, long weekend, waiting for Monday to roll around.

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The Rock Island Armory Rock Ultra FA–10mm has a 5” button rifled, bull barrel, with no barrel bushing, that is fully supported. The 10mm round really needs this added support. There is also a full-length guide rod, which I can do without. It just makes disassembly all that much more complicated. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, and the front sight is a red fiber optic one that is easy to see. It really stands out. An ambidextrous safety is there, as well as a beaver tail grip safety. The ambi safety, snicked on and off with authority, is very well fitted. The greenish, though they look gray in my pics for some reason, G10 grips are very aggressively checkered. This is something I really liked for a sure hold on the gun. RIA says the trigger pull is 4-6 lbs, though my sample was much, much lighter. I did a little work on it, and it broke cleanly at 4.50 lbs, which is just about perfect for a self-defense carried handgun. The magazine release is slightly extended, too. I like that, a lot!

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The front grip of the frame has serrations, but it wasn’t to my liking. So, I stuck on some skate board friction tape over it and now it’s nice! There is a plastic detachable mag well extension on the gun, which I removed too. It just was too cheap-looking to my mind. The gun is finished in a dark gray/black parkerized finish. However, it wasn’t evenly applied, but I could live with that. The full retail price on this gun is only $745. I paid $699 for mine.

The RIA only came with one 8-rd magazine. That wasn’t going to do, so I ordered up some more spare mags to have on hand. The gun fits in any holsters designed to hold a 1911 handgun, too. Unloaded weight of the gun is 2.49 lbs. Unfortunately, the only 10mm ammo my local gun shop had in stock was some from ARMSCOR, and it was the medium velocity 200-gr FMJ ammo. It is good enough for target practice and killing rocks and pieces of wood, but it’s not what you want for self defense or hunting purposes. Still, I bought all of that ammo they had and ran out to test my new “toy”. For whatever reason, during the first mag of ammo through the gun, the trigger stuck back and didn’t fully return forward. I had to manually force the trigger back to the reset position. However, the gun never had that problem again.

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I called long-time friend and fellow gun writer, John Taffin, and asked him about sending me some 10mm ammo. He had none on hand. Yikes! He turned me on to Double Tap Ammunition for a great selection of 10mm ammo, and they actually got their start in the ammo-making business by producing 10mm. The owner of the company, Mike McNett, couldn’t find any good source of 10mm himself, so he started loading for himself and his friends, and one thing led to another. He got into the ammo-making business, big time. I also contacted long-time friend, Tim Sundles, at Buffalo Bore Ammunition for some of his outstanding 10mm ammo.

From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I received their 180-gr JHP Heavy load, 220-gr Hard Cast Flat Nose loading, 200 FMJ, 155-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point round, and their new 180-gr Low Recoil Low Flash JHP load. From Double Tap Ammo, I received their 135-gr Controlled Expansion JHP load, 165-gr Bonded Self-Defense JHP load, 180-gr Controlled Expansion load JHP round, 200-gr Controlled Expansion JHP load, 200-gr Hard Cast loading, and their 190-gr Equalizer load. And, from Sig Sauer, I received their new 180- JHP load. Sig is now producing an ever-expanding line of ammo.

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So, as you can see, I had quite a selection of 10mm to run through this RIA 10mm pistol for this article; I had a lot of different loads. The good news is these are all full-powered 10mm loads, not the watered-down loadings that helped the demise of the 10mm in the first place.

One load in particular caught my attention, and that was the 190-gr Equalizer load. This is actually two projectiles– a 135-gr JHP with a 55-gr round ball load behind it. You get two hits with one pull of the trigger. Mike McNett says that at 10 yards the two projectiles will only hit about one inch from each other, and at 25 yards they will only be about 2.5 inches apart. I did my testing at 10 yards, and sure enough the two projectiles were only an inch from one another. This is a load you want in your gun, for use in your home. He also produces this round in several other calibers. Check out his website. However, McNett says not to use this round beyond 25 yards, as I’m sure the two projectiles will really start to spread out away from each other.

I will say that shooting all the above ammo– from Sig Sauer, Buffalo Bore, and Double Tap– was a real joy. They’re all full-powered loadings, even the Low Recoil/Low Flash loads from Buffalo Bore were full-powered loads. If you want to do a lot of shooting, I’d get some of the medium velocity loads that you can find at most gun shops and big box stores. Use that for punching paper and killing rocks, and reserve the full-powered loads for hunting and self defense use.

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Picking one load, from all of the above ammo, for self defense or hunting purposes would be difficult for me to do. Before, we didn’t have many different loadings for different purposes. Now we have a big selection that will take care of any of your 10mm shooting needs. For out on the trail, where you might run into dangerous game, one of the Hard Cast loads from Buffalo Bore or Double Tap would be my choice. For self defense, I’d pick one of the JHP loads, and for home protection, I’d go with that Double Tap Equalizer load. However, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the JHP loads above for self-defense purposes. I did like the Sig Sauer 180-gr JHP load; it was very accurate and full-powered, too.

During my testing, I did take some shots at large rocks that were out at 100 yards, and most of the time I was hitting them, if I did my part. The 10mm is a pretty flat-shooting handgun round, compared to many other handgun rounds. And, the 10mm is hitting with authority, too, at longer distances.

At 25 yards, using a sleeping bag as a rest over the hood of my pickup truck, I was getting groups under three inches most of the time, if I did my part. Picking a winner in the accuracy department was impossible. The Buffalo Bore, Double Tape, and Sig Sauer 180-gr JHP rounds were in a virtual dead-heat as winners, all shooting under three inches. Some groups, with different ammo, was giving me groups over three inches and some groups larger. I’m sure it was my fault. Over several days of shooting, I was getting tired. I put more than 700-rds downrange during my testing.

To be sure, I thought I’d mention that Double Tap has even a bigger selection of 10mm ammo than what was sent to me. I think there are more than a dozen different 10mm loads they offer. If you can’t find what you need in 10mm from them, then you don’t need it.

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Sig Sauer is also offering a 180-gr FMJ 10mm load, too, for target practice. It’s a bit less expensive than the JHP loads. Of course, Buffalo Bore (I do love their 220-gr Hard Cast FN load) would probably be my first choice for out in the boonies or hunting medium to large game. Yes, I wouldn’t hesitate to hunt Oregon black bear with this load. It would give me all the penetration needed to anchor one in our black bears. The same goes for wild pigs, any place in the country!

During all my testing, other than that one time when the trigger didn’t reset for me in the first mag of ammo, the RIA 10mm never gave me a hint of a problem. It just perked along with any and all of the different ammo I ran through it, everything! The gun was as tight after all my shooting as it was on the first day. The only change I made was to replace the red fiber optic front sight with a green one; that’s just my druthers!

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The 10mm is making a come back. That is obvious, by the big selection of 10mm ammo that is on the market these days. If you are a handloader, you can down load the 10mm, if that’s what you like, or load it up to full-power, too. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about my RIA 10mm 1911, nothing! The price was right, the gun was very well assembled, and it was plenty accurate, too. If you’re in the market for another 1911, because you always “need” another 1911 (at least that’s what I keep telling my wife) and you want something a little different, take a close look at the 10mm from ARMSCOR/Rock Island Armory. They even have one in a Commander length– a little bit shorter slide/barrel.

For survival purposes, the 10mm makes a lot of sense. It can be used for self defense against humans and dangerous game. The only drawback is that many gun shops don’t have a big selection of 10mm on their shelves, just yet. So, take advantage of what Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, and Sig have to offer. I’m sure you’ll find some ammo to your liking. Just stock up for the bad times. Things are getting bad these days. Make sure you have a good supply of 10mm on hand. For my purposes, I think 1,000 rds per gun per caliber is a good rule of thumb. If you get a 10mm handgun, then try to keep 1,000 rds of 10mm ammo on hand. The 10mm is a winner, once again, in my humble opinion.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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