Rock Island Armory M200 Revolver, by Pat Cascio

The good ol’ fashioned revolver is not dead, not by a long shot. However, the majority of requests I still get from readers are for articles on semi-auto pistols. My local gun shop has just one display case that is devoted to revolvers – everything else is semi-auto handguns. I recently ran into one great deal on a little known revolver, from Rock Island Armory, and its called the M200. We’ll take a close look at it, in this review.

I honestly never thought I’d reach the age where folks would start calling me an “old timer” – at least when it comes to firearms. Every now and then, the guys at my local gun shop, will show me an older model revolver, and comment that “you old-timers must have carried one of these back in the day…” Well, they aren’t too far off – my mind tells me I’m 27, my body tells me I’m way beyond my mid-60s though. Ugh!

I cut my teeth on revolvers back in the 1960s through 1970s – and somewhat into the early 1980s, when I was doing private security work, private investigations or in law enforcement. There wasn’t a whole lot of choices in reliable ammo for semi-autos back then – a majority of guys who carried semi-auto handguns, were stoking them with FMJ, and that’s the not best ammo for self-defense purposes. As ammo development advanced, so did people carrying semi-auto handguns for self-defense, or other lawful purposes.  I personally didn’t have any problem carrying a 1911 .45 ACP with FMJ ammo – it had been proven to be a very good manstopper over the years in combat. However, many 1911s and other semi-auto handguns just wouldn’t reliably feed JHP or SP ammo back then. Reliability has to be a number one concern with any handgun.

RIA 200 RevolverBack in the day, you either carried a S&W or a Colt revolver, if you wanted the best of the best. Oh, I experimented over the years, with other brands of revolvers, like the Charter Arms, especially in .44 Special. The only bad thing was, the commercial .44 Special ammo available was usually round nose lead – not the best for self-defense. I also liked and carried their little snubby in .38 Special – a larger selection of self-defense ammo was available back then. Most of my carry back then, was usually with a S&W or Colt revolver.

I spent some time in Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe — and I took both a 6-inch barrel Colt Python in .357 Mag and a Colt Combat Commander .45 ACP in satin nickel finish with me, and I alternated carrying the two when out in the Bush. I still remember, the head of security at the airport in Rhodesia, offering me twice what I paid for my Python. Back then, a new Colt Python would set you back about $350 – he offered me $700 USD…I wouldn’t sell it. Today, you will easily pay $2,000+ for a Colt Python.

Today we are focusing on the Rock Island Armory (RIA) M200 revolver. This is not the prettiest handgun I’ve ever owned, nor is it the ugliest. My local gun shop had this revolver in their display case, it was “used” but unfired – full-retail on this gun is only $220 – so the “ugly” part of this deal didn’t bother me…the shop had $190 on the price tag – that’s what caught my eye. Long story short, I got the gun for $160 out the door, with a box of unknown reloaded ammo that the shop threw in with the gun. Not a bad day gun shopping, at all.

The M200 is a 4.02-inch barrel revolver. It holds 6-rounds of .38 Special ammo. It is a single action/double action revolver, and the double action trigger pull was just a little more than 7-lbs – outstanding. However, the single action trigger pull was dead on, super crisp at 3-lbs. What? Yeah, you read that right, an inexpensive revolver with a single action trigger pull of 3-lbs and a double action trigger pull at 7-lbs…that’s unheard of – guys will pay gunsmiths a lot of money to get these kinds of trigger pulls on very expensive revolvers. These revolvers are made in the Philippines, and are marketed by RIA.

RIA 200 RevolverThe M200 is 8.78-inches long, 1.50-inches wide and is 5.43-inches high. As already mentioned, it is a typical SA/DA revolver, It has fixed sights – so no adjustments can be done – the sights were zeroed for 25-yards. The gun weighs in a 1.76-lbs unloaded, and it has “Combat Polymer” grips, that are rounded – the frame is a round butt. I don’t care for the feel of the grips, but there are no after-market grips available that I’m aware of – I would prefer some nice square butt rubber or wooden grips, but I’m not complaining too much – the gun was a super-steal of a deal. The finish is a dark gray, almost black parkerized method – it will stand up to some weather and abuse, that’s for sure.

The cylinder release is similar to a Colt – in that, you have to pull back on the release to open the cylinder, not push it, like you’d do on a S&W. There is no lock-up on the front of the cylinder – again, like a Colt, I much prefer the S&W when it comes to this – just makes the cylinder lock-up tighter. The head space on the gun was tight, very tight – that’s a good thing. There was a little bit of play when the cylinder is locked-up – not much, just a touch – but the timing was just fine.

RIA 200 RevolverAfter I fully inspected the M200, and lubed it, I headed out to the range with the 50 rounds of unknown reloads, the gun worked perfectly. It wasn’t until I started shooting single action, that I noticed the hammer is long and wide – not a bad thing, but I hadn’t noticed this when I bought the gun – not a deal breaker, by any means.

It wasn’t until a week later, I got back out to the outdoor area where I shoot, for some serious shooting. I had “killed” all the rocks in my first outing, so it was time for some serious accuracy work. I had the new Black Hills Ammunition .38 Special Honey Badger 100-grain ammo on-hand for this part of my testing. This ammo is rated as +P and Rock Island Armory says you can fire +P ammo in this revolver. Still, I would limit the amount of +P shooting – to start with +P is hotter and more powerful. Secondly, it is more expensive to shoot. Who wants to punch paper and kill rocks with spendy ammo? Not me!

Seeing as how the gun’s sights were regulated for 25-yards, I set my target out at the distance. The all-black sights were hard to see, so I added a touch of hot pink nail polish to the front sight. I already had the bottle in my gun box. This made all the difference in the world to my aging eyes.

I shot 6-shot groups, rather than the traditional 5-shot groups that I normally shot with a semi-auto handgun. This just seemed easier and smarter to do it this way. My accuracy testing was done via single-action, and I was getting groups slightly larger than 3-inches – outstanding for an inexpensive handgun…if I hunkered down, I was getting groups right at 3-inches – the gun showed a lot of promise! Double-action shooting wasn’t nearly as good – even though the trigger pull was outstanding. I don’t blame the gun or the ammo, it was me – I don’t do a lot of revolver shooting, and my groups were over 4-inches – I know the gun/ammo is capable of better than that – with more practice, I’m sure I could tighten-up those groups. Then again, I was shooting 6-shot groups instead of 5 shot groups.

I had an old generic ballistic Nylon holster, that fit the M200 perfectly, I put it on a Nylon gun belt, and added in two HKS speed loaders on the belt, in a double speed loader case – perfect fit. This set-up may just end up in my e-box in my truck – a person could do a lot worse out on the trail, for a hike or for self-defense than this set-up. Check out the RIA M200 at your local gun shop. They also make a snubby version, if that is your preference. It’s a lot of gun for the money!




17 Comments

  1. This is an excellent article about a revolver that works, and it’s inexpensive. A revolver can be a relatively safe, and easy gun for people without much gun knowledge, to use in an emergency. … The exposed hammer on a revolver is also a Safety ~indicator for everyone else.

    On May 18, 2019, SurvivalBlog had an article titled: “An Interesting Look at Urban Defense.” Within the article ‘loaner’ guns were recommended. = ~”Hi-Points have a street price of around $150, which is a lot more palatable for things you aren’t likely to see again.”~

    Not all emergencies are an End of the World disasters. Every year, there are local disasters such as Hurricanes, Tornadoes, huge forest fires, flooding and sometime large urban riots. = Maybe, if someone still owned a ‘Colt Python’ stored in a gun safe, they wouldn’t want to loan it out.

    An inexpensive extra gun can be hidden in a garage, or elsewhere in a home. … (Not many people would hide a Colt Python under a clothes dryer.) … The revolver would also have a potential use, other than just possible Natural Disaster/Emergencies.

  2. I’ve been looking for an inexpensive revolver to tote around on the ranchette during snake season and this sounds like it would fit that purpose very nicely.

    However, not for nothin’ would I use some unknown dood’s random handloaded ammunition. No telling how much of what kind of powder might be in those cases to cause a kaboom. Sorry to be critical, Pat, and thanks very much for an otherwise solid review. I’ll certainly end up buying one of these critters if I fine one with anywhere near that nice of a trigger!

  3. Great historical review of the sixties and seventies. I remember the old Super Vel .38 Specials that came out in the sixties (now revived under new ownership). In all the classes I’ve seen in the last 15 years, not a single revolver shooter has appeared. During a battlefield pick-up drill, my daughter picked up my .38 lying on the gun table and fired one round….it was empty. She got a very puzzled look on her face, as I had never taught her how to handle a revolver! She knew auto-pistols and military rifles very well, but the revolver stumped her. I was immediately exposed as a negligent dad! So John Farnam halted the drill and ran a ten minute impromptu lesson on revolvers…..and the drill proceeded. If you have revolvers around, be sure to teach the young about them. I like them for seed guns around the place. You never know. But I prefer 16 and 18 shooters for daily clothing. The light snubbies are great for non-permissive environments…..working in corporate businesses. Flash-Bang or Thunderwear holsters rule. No one gropes there to see if you are packing. Be sure to check out Federal’s new .38 Special 130 grain HST Micro loading on Luckygunner.com’s Handgun Ammo Test. Light recoil, consitant .72 caliber expansion in gel through four layers of clothing….from a 2″ barrel.

  4. Hmm, shooting someone else’s unknown reloads, hmm. iffy situation. Some yrs ago, a gentleman I knew of traded for a Marlin bolt gun with a replaced barrel and a bunch of reloads. After several shots being fired, the rifle blew up in his face and after looking a the injuries to his face, he was lucky to not have lost his sight in or more of his eyes.

    1. Similar thing happened to me. I was given some .308 reloads that were obtained from a recently deceased hunter, and the second cartridge “blew up” in my rifle, which was the exact same make & model as what the notes written on the box said they were meant for. They must have been loaded on the hot side, but the box didn’t mention it. The case expanded in the barrel and locked the bolt closed, requiring me to engage the services of a professional gunsmith with more experience than I have to remove it and inspect the action. Turned out okay in the end, but it was a good lesson about reloads.

      I retired the rest of the “unknowns” and pulled the bullets.

  5. Good review! The RIA M200 sounds like a bargain!

    For learning to shoot with a double action revolver, I was taught to balance a coin on the front sight and to dry fire until I could run the gun without the coin falling off. The great thing about revolver shooting is that it generally benefits your shooting with other handguns.

    Thanks for alerting me to this cool little revolver. It would be great if you could review the new Ruger Wrangler .22LR!

    Thanks again,
    Bob

  6. You noted the similarities to a Colt. When you’re looking for aftermarket grips, you may be able to make ones for Colt D-frames (like the Detective Special) work. They are the closest I’ve found. I’m still tinkering with my Pachmayer Compac grips to get them perfect.

    If your readers want to try the snubbie version, the wood grips that come with it are a complete POS, so have them throw in the polymer grips that come with the 4-incher. If I absolutely had to have a snubbie and couldn’t use the 4-incher, I’d even pay for a pair of the polymer grips.

  7. Great article about revolvers and their (continued) utility. I myself prefer a semi-auto like most modern gun owners, but there’s just something about a solid wheelgun that feels good in the hand and will never disappear. My full size frame .357 Mag always gets a nod or two from nearby enthusiasts whenever I take her out of the holster at the range. Mrs. Guesty learned on this one before eventually changing over to a Glock for her training classes.

    One of my buddies (with whom I went shooting a few weeks ago) is an original owner of a Colt Python, and is so protective of it that he’ll only take it out of the factory container and put a few rounds through it every few years. He won’t even let me hold it, no matter how much I’ve begged! 🙂 It’s worth a lot of $$$, but he’s keeping it as a family heirloom.

  8. Enjoyed the review. Thanks for reviewing a revolver. Have never seen this gun but will be on the look-out. I now have a point of reverence for this gun. Again , I enjoyed the review.

  9. I like revolver shooting for one particular reason. They don’t throw brass which is nice when you reload you own ammo. And it could be useful in other situations as well.

  10. This is a timely article as I recently bought one of these revolvers, and promptly had to send it back to RIA. It was out of time right out of the box. Brand new gun. Turned out the frame had a machining defect that would not allow the gun to time properly. RIA sent back a brand new gun. Though the process was a little slow, RIAs customer service was very good.
    I would also recommend the armscor .22 lr ammo. Very reliable in my Glock .22 conversion kit.

  11. I have been shooting revolvers since the early 80’s and have mixed it up with Auto’s as well. A good revolver in 9mm is the Alfa company, I have one and it shoots well. I also have revolvers in .45 Colt, .45 ACP, 44 mag 357 mag and 38 S&W and of course .22lr. Having a revolver in an auto caliber offers versatility and economy. Another good reason is no magazine fatigue. A revolver can be kept loaded indefinitely and so can the speed loaders/ full moon clips, a sure fit for a bug out bag or emergency stash. Add to that a break down carbine in the same caliber and you have coverage out to 100yds. Just saying>>> TTFN

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