By November 24, 2009

Rock Island Armory 1911 Government and Officer model wear and tear update

I like getting the most bang for my buck — and as such really like my 1911 handguns from Rock Island Armory. I own both the 5″ barreled Government model (my review), and the 3.5″ barreled Officer’s model (my review). I like the Officer’s model so much that it replaced my trusty Glock 27 as my routine concealed carry piece.

It’s been a little over ten months since I bought the Government model, and I bought the Officer’s model seven months ago. While not a long term test by any means, I thought you’d like to know how the Rock Islands have been holding up.

Rock Island Armory 1911 Government model

The Government is doing duty as a “nightstand canon” after I decide the full-sized frame 1911 was too big for my daily carry. I take the Gubbermint out of the gun safe when I get home from work and put it back when I get out of bed the next morning. As such, it has seen the least external wear and tear even though I have fired it the most (probably around 500 rounds).

That being said, the Duracoat finish isn’t holding up very well given the light duty the pistol has seen.

There is some surface scratching around the front of the pistol from moving it from the safe to the night stand and back:

The breech is worn something fierce; I didn’t see this type of wear until I fired several thousand rounds through my Glock 27:

Lastly, you can see some of the finish removed from the grip area. It’s a little harder to see in these photos; look between my thumb and middle finger:

Side note: the Rock Island finish doesn’t do well with “personal lubricant.”

Mechanically, the Government has been rock solid. I did have some failures to feed with reloaded ammunition sold by my local shooting range. Switching to factory ammunition (and even factory reloaded ammunition) was no problem. Despite some grumblings on the Internet, the Government fires Federal Hydroshock hollow point ammunition flawlessly. After five hundred rounds, the inside of the firearm performs just like it did when I fired the first round. The Government is a beast.

Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer model

I carry my Officer model “appendix style,” which means that it is carried in the front of my body inside of my waistband. I keep it in the same Blackhawk inside the waistband holster I use for my Glock 27 (my review). The Blackhawk is made out of a soft neoprene-type material. I was still worried that sweat would hurt the finish, especially in the hot and humid Virginia summers.

I was surprised to find that the wear and tear on the Duracoat finish of the pistol doesn’t seem to be moisture related at all. The Officer’s finish exhibits the same weaknesses as the Government, except that my regular carry routine has caused even more cosmetic stress on the exterior.

There are two inexplicable scratches on the frame near the recoil guide rod. I have no idea how these got here; if I used a slide-style holster I might expect this from banging the nose of my pistol against something.

The breech is worn, just like on the Government model. Estimated rounds fired from the Officer: 300.

It is really difficult to tell in this picture, but I have all kinds of tiny scratches and wear on the front grip of the pistol. I also have a deeper wear spot on the frame near the grip. I think it’s from the 1911 rubbing on the neoprene top of the Blackhawk holster.

Mechanically, the Officer’s model has never disappointed me. I mentioned earlier that the Government had problems feeding some reloaded ammunition my local gun range tried to sell me. The Officer’s model was even worse, and at one point I had a really nasty failure to feed. I switched out to professionally reloaded ammo and never saw another problem. The Officer also shoots Federal hollow point ammunition without difficulty.

My only complaint about the Officer is how hard it is to put the slide release lever back into the pistol during reassembly. However, it’s not nearly as bad as a Kimber and the crazy paper clip-like tool necessary to field strip their compact 1911.


In short, I don’t think the Rock Island Armory 1911 finish is going to last nearly as long as the finish on my Glock 27 that I carried for over a decade. This is the downside to shopping in the economy end of the firearm spectrum. I expected to give up some things like trigger crispness, grip quality, and sights. I am disappointed with how rapidly the finish has worn on my 1911s.

However, the Government model can be purchased for as little as $380 on from fantastic seller Bellshire Guns (see their auctions). The Officer’s model runs from between $420 – $500 depending on who you buy it from and if you opt for the Tactical model upgrade (I didn’t).

I think the Rock Island Armory pistols are the best value 1911s available, even with the soft Duracoat finish. I don’t expect my Officer’s model to look showroom quality in another nine years, but you don’t buy a workhorse to be pretty. You buy a workhorse to be dependable and get the job done.

Still strongly recommended.

Posted in: guns, review

10 Comments on "Rock Island Armory 1911 Government and Officer model wear and tear update"

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  1. Gremlin says:

    Heck, the finish on my PF-9 is holding up better than that. I was thinking about duracoating the little 9 for better rust resistance, but if it’s that soft, I guess I’ll go for one of the epoxy paints I’m seeing these days.

  2. metricinch says:

    i carry a springfield gi for most of my daily cary needs. i also use it for open carry on the KLR with a drop leg and a gemtech lanyard. it has a ton of wear. and i like it. living in seattle it is nice to have a 1911 for open carry while on the bike because it is easy to detail strip. i can have it broken down to a bare frame in minutes using nothing but what the weapon provides. thanks JMB for the great design!

    i have replaced the mainspring and its housing. upgraded all the internal springs to heavier springs from nighthawk and added a full length guide rod. speer gold dots in the 230gr flavor fed from wilson combat 8 rounders.

  3. Bug says:

    Rock Island Armory M1911 A1CS – mighty fine 1911. A little heavy for a compact, but shoots really well. No misfeeds or jams. For the money, you can’t beat it. Replaced wood grips with Hogue finger-grooved. Very comfortable, good control.

  4. Howard says:

    My rock island is an awesome piece I live the functionality of the pistol 100 percent as trust worthy as my colts but and/or abut 1500 rounds I experienced the same problems with the finish so I lightly sanded the slide and frame to just barely remove the finish and hit it with a powder coating of ” black chrome” and well let me put it this way I was offered 1000$ for the ” beast ” and I am now considering just buying then and refinishing them for some profit, so if you can I recommend investing in a powder coated ( about. 75$ from harbor freight) and refinishing you guns yourself ( just go light because powder coating is extremely easy to go to thick on and may kill the clearances on the slides and so forth) but this is by far one of my favorite 45s I own

  5. Bernard B says:

    Now that it has been almost a year since this post I was just wondering if your Rock Island was still working out well for you. I would be curious to know the difference in the “kick” between the 3.5″ Compact and the 4″ Commander. Any thoughts there? I also read somewhere that the trigger is plastic. Is that so or was I reading about another 1911?

    Thanks for your input and I greatly enjoy your journal!


  6. DrFaulken says:

    Hi Bernard! Thanks for the comment.

    I had a manufacturer defect with my Officer model, and I have relegated my Government model to range use for educating new shooters.

    Neither pistol had a plastic trigger.

    I still consider the 1911 to be a classic, and a lot of my friends like to shoot the Government model.

    If I had to choose again, I would investigate the 4″ barrel version. Officers apparently have some problems other 1911s don’t have, especially with the guide rod spring or certain ammunition loads.

    Good luck!

  7. mike m says:

    I have just bought this weapon today. 1911 Officers Model. Enjoyed the comments written here. Just asking about any do’s and don’t’s I should take with the weapon. To be carried as concealed with a mite more punch.

  8. TS says:

    I just recently picked up the 1911A1 MS (Mid-size), and felt I got a really good deal. But my first experience troubles me. After shooting 150 rounds through this “range trainer” I had bought from a local shop I had to tap the guide rod out of the slide. Inspection showed unusual wear where the guide rod mates with the slide. The guide would slide in from the front with no effort, but apparently things got warped where the guide actually fits. Anyone else have this issue?

  9. Russ says:

    Folks, these Rock Island 1911’s have a parkerized finish. You have to “season” the finish like you would a skillet. That means you take it apart, cover it in Vaseline and bake it for a few hours at 250-300 degrees in the oven. The grease gets into the parkerized pores and then you won’t have these finish problems.

  10. JeffD says:

    I bought the RIA Government model less than a week ago and have already put nearly 300 rounds through it, including 50 Russian made steel case rounds from TulAmmo. I have had no problems with this weapon at all, even when ammo dumping a mag (rapid fire at close range target). Excellent accuracy, and reliability doesn’t just come from materials however. I clean my weapon meticulously after every range visit. I would recommend to use only CLP and similar formulas of lubricant, unless the weapon will be utilized in sub zero environments on a regular basis. As a former infantry Marine I have carried over the nearly obsessive cleaning methods into my civilian life. I must say that the degredation of the chamber I saw in one of the pictures is distinctive of lesser lubricants as mine is still bright silver after 200 rounds of various brands and loads.