I have owned my Rock Island Armory 1911 Government model handgun for about three months now, and I still love it. It feels great in my hand, is accurate, and is built like a truck. I was always curious about 1911s since firing one when I was very young, but now I understand why they still have a cult (Colt?) following almost 100 years later.
The problem with the full-size Government model is that it is, well, full-sized. I am six foot tall and fairly slender. I could conceal the Government model while standing, but as soon as I sat down I literally had the barrel in my pocket. I tried wearing the Government in “appendix carry,” which is inside the pants on the left-hand side. I got a lot of attention from the ladies (and a few dudes, I take what I can get), but it was downright uncomfortable while sitting.
I spent the next twelve weeks trying to track down the shorter 3.5″ barreled Officer’s model. It seems like everyone knows about the Rock Island 1911s and supplies are limited on the budget shooting iron of choice. I checked in with my local gun store several times — I had purchased my other RIA there — and they said it would be nigh impossible to order one or keep it in stock. I tried Bellshire Guns on Gunbroker.com on the advice of one of my readers, but ran into another problem: my employer was set to lay off 1500 staff, and I wanted to keep as many pennies in the piggy bank as possible.
I wasn’t laid off, but now that I felt good about spending money again the compact Officer model was sold out everywhere. I wrote to Phil over at Bellshire, and he suggested waiting until late March or early April. I scoured the rest the dealers on the Internet — they were either out of stock or were charging up to a $200 premium. Sarco is the main supplier of these, and when I called to place my order they informed me there was a 600 handgun backorder. Looks like I would be waiting until the end of March.
Phil made good on his suggestion, and I picked one up from him via Gunbroker.com. The handgun was easily transferred to my local shooting range, and the next thing you know I was launching ash trays at paper targets.
The majority of my handgunning experience comes from pistols built for concealed carry. My first handgun was a Glock 27, and I’ve been used to shooting uncomfortable “carry” guns ever since. The Government model is a dream in comparison. However, I expected the compact Officers model to shoot just as harshly as my polymer-framed arsenal.
I was in for a big surprise. Yes, there is more recoil and a louder report with the Officer than the Government. Yes, follow-up shots are more difficult with the Officer than the Government. However, by the end of my first 100 rounds I was pretty accurate with the shorter 1911. With more practice I will exceed my accuracy of my Glock 27, which I have carried for well over a decade.
I had warmed up with the red bull’s eye oval, so the “8″ was my point of aim. The two rounds to the left are from a different shooting exercise. Distance was ten yards.
So how does the Officer compare to the rest of my carry pieces? Let’s take a look.
From top to bottom: full-sized Rock Island Armory 1911 Government model, 3.5″ barrel Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer model, Glock 27, Kel-tec PF-9.
My well-worn G27 on top of the 1911 CS. The CS slide is a little longer, and the grip is longer. None of that really matters in most concealed carry setups, but the beavertail on the Rock Island has proved to be less comfortable while sitting than the Glock’s flat ass.
The slide on the 1911 is a little thinner than the G27. The big difference is in the grip, which is hard to tell from this picture. The Rock Island compact is a single stack, whereas the Glock 27 is a double-stack. I think the thinner grip is better for my delicate keyboarding fingers.
Officer model vs. Kel-tec PF-9. The PF-9 is the ultimate elf gun, much smaller and thinner than the 1911. There is no way I could put my 1911 in my front jeans pocket, but then again the PF-9 doesn’t chuck small planetoids, either!
Notice how much more thin the PF-9 is than the Officer. I really wish the Officer had a huge front blade sight like the PF-9. I don’t intend to win any marksmanship contest with the compact, but a larger front sight would help with target acquisition.
This isn’t a great comparison picture between the Government (top) and Officer (bottom), but it does show the longer grip and slide of the Government model. Some of the parts are interchangeable, but for the most part the compact 1911 has its own recoil springs, barrel bushing, and magazines.
Now for the nasty part: weight.
|Number of rounds||Loaded weight|
|Kel-tec PF-9||8||1 lb, 2 oz|
|Glock 27||11||1 lb, 12 oz|
|Rock Island Armory Officer compact 1911||8||2 lb, 9 oz|
Well, the weight of the steel slide and larger .45 Auto rounds have to factor in somewhere. At over double the weight of the PF-9, the 1911 isn’t going to win any awards at Weight Watchers. The weight hasn’t bothered me so far during appendix carry. I will probably try strong-side hip over the next few weeks, but I am concerned about the sharp beavertail snagging on my shirt.
All in all, I am exceptionally pleased with my Rock Island Armory Officer model. My total cost was $431, including the transfer fee. I highly recommend Phil over at Bellshire Guns. He stocks plenty of the Rock Islands, as well as other firearms.