“I want a ‘cheap’ 1911 with less recoil…” This was a statement a friend of mine told me one day at the range after he was shooting my Springfield Loaded 45 1911. Some nerves in his arm had been damaged by a road side bomb in Iraq and he was a little recoil sensitive do to that…
I had just what he was looking for. I initially bought the gun for my girlfriend who loves 1911s but not the 45 so I guess a lot of people are in that boat… The Rock Island Armory Tactical 9mm is one of my favorite range guns. My gun has been modified with a Fusion Fiber Optic front sight, ETM magwell, and a set of duragrips. I also polished the barrel for aesthetics. Other than that, it’s stock. I picked this gun up for $399 on centerfiresystems a while back but I’m pretty sure it’s still under $450.
: The gun as a decent slide to frame fit, no rattling at all. Overall the gun seems solid. The stock grips have no traction, so they're terrible for defensive use. I typically use duragrips on my 1911s anyway, so no biggie for me. The sights are 'novak style' but are all black. RIA doesn’t use a standard dovetail cut so you’ll have to modify any aftermarket sight you buy for them. If that’s an issue, you can just call RIA and send the slide out to them and they’ll install a set of Meprolights on there if you choose. I replaced the front sight because unless you're shooting at a light colored target during the day, it's hard to distinguish the black on black sights. That said, they're still much better than 'GI' type 1911 sights IMO. I view all of my guns as potential defensive handguns though so spending the $16 for a F/O sight on ebay made sense to me. The grip safety works fine, but when gripping the gun it doesn't feel like it's moving much to engage. My other 1911's have more travel in the grip safety, but as I said, it functions just fine. The finish is parkerized, which many people criticize but the US military found it to be fine for about 70 years so I think it will hold up well over time.
: I brought a mix of ammo, the factory mag, and two Wilson ETM 10 round magazines with me. Before shooting, I polished the feed ramp as I always do on low end 1911's that have machine marks, which this one did. If you don’t know much about headspace or the proper angles for a feed ramp on a 1911, I’d probably have someone else do this for you just to be sure you don’t ruin the gun with a ‘bubba’ gunsmithing project gone wrong... I’ve put over 500 FMJ (silver bear, federal cheapo, and blazer with aluminum cases) rounds and 20 +p+ Federal JHP I was given by a friend (I'm not a fan of +p+ ammo due to wear on the gun, lack of approved SAMI specs, and increased recoil but I emailed Ivan at Armscor and he said it would be fine to run in this gun so I went for it) through the gun with only one malfunction which occurred with the Wilson ETM magazine and a Federal JHP rounds. The malfunction occurred after about 120 rounds and the gun had a good bit of carbon on it and was still relatively new; both of which may have led to the stovepipe FTE. My girlfriend has also put approximately 100 rounds through the gun and she didn’t have any malfunctions of any kind. For a brand new 1911, I think the reliability was commendable; especially at this price point.
This gun was pretty accurate (I'm no sharpshooter; I posted a pic of two mags at 15 meters firing pretty rapidly). It's certainly accurate enough for defensive/IDPA purposes should you want to use it for that. The recoil was extremely soft. It may be the softest shooting 9mm I own (my steel EAA witness will give it some competition in that realm). Even with the +p+ ammo, the recoil was minimal and not an issue at all. Follow up shots were quick and accurate.
Final thoughts: I recommended this gun to my buddy. I have two other RIAs and I think they are a great gun for the money. The main competitor of this gun (entry priced 9mm 1911s) is the STI Spartan 9mm which I’ve also had the opportunity to shoot. Of the two, I’d go with the RIA again. The STI is about $200 more and the only difference your average shooter would notice are improved sights. I’d rather upgrade them myself and put the extra money toward ammo to practice with. This would also be a great gun for someone on a budget that wants to get into competition shooting. Very accurate of out the box and the trigger is pretty crisp for a $400 gun for sure.
The full review with a ton more photos can be found here: