By May 18, 2010

Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer Magazine Release Catch Problem

Part of our annual trip to Tybee Island involves teaching new and novice shooters about firearm safety, culminating with a visit to an outdoor range.

I helped a few of the new shooters get acclimated before deciding to put a few rounds downrange myself. I am scheduled to take a multi-day handgun training course in August, and I intended to shoot my Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer model. I wanted to get as much practice time in before my August training.

My Rock Island was loaded with 230-grain, full metal (copper) jacketed ammunition manufactured by Wolf. I fired two rounds and then the slide jammed and the magazine fell out. I cleared a failure to feed and locked the slide back. The spent casing was cracked near the mouth. These rounds were from the factory and (to my knowledge) were not reloaded.

I put the magazine back in the Rock Island and dropped the slide using the slide release lever. The magazine dropped out immediately.

I thought that maybe the magazine was bad, so I put in another one of my magazines. The same thing happened. At this point I put the Rock Island away and continued helping others with their shooting.

When we got back to my friend’s house I took the magazine catch apart. I noticed that the locking cam on the catch was sheared and bright:

It was also shorn off at a weird angle:

Worse yet, the frame itself appears to have been damaged. There is a small groove inside of the frame. The locking tab on the catch is supposed to rotate within this groove and lock into place. This keeps the mag release button in place. There is a small deformity / chip out of the frame where the tab is supposed to go:

I tried using the locking piece from my friend’s Officer. While it fit, the gap in my frame kept the release from working properly. Things were not looking good.

I wrote Ivan over at Rock Island Armory last night at about 11PM Eastern on Monday. I sent him pictures of the release pin, my frame, and the cracked casing. Ivan replied by noon today saying he’d send a new locking mechanism.

When I replied stating that my friend’s Officer lock didn’t work, either and that I was concerned my frame was cracked, Ivan replied that Armscor (the folks who import the RIAs) don’t recommend shooting Wolf, and that he’d like to try the mechanism first.

I appreciate Armscor / Rock Island Armory’s quick response and willingness to help, especially since sending the frame in may be a pain in the ass. I am a little nervous that just the replacement locking catch won’t solve the problem, and that I may not be able to take my carry piece to my training in August.

Worse yet, I am now wondering why this happened, and if I should relegate the Officer to the safe (or sales bin) and pick up something else as my carry weapon. I was very confident in my 1911 Officer model before this happened, and now I am not so sure.

Stay tuned.

Posted in: guns

9 Comments on "Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer Magazine Release Catch Problem"

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  1. Brice says:

    Tough call. It’s a proven design, but industrial quality. All firearms eventually fail. How many rounds you got downrange? Clean the crap out of the gun with something that will oxidize if left on the gun. It’ll make cracks stand out. I like HCL.

  2. Jon Palmer says:

    If you cannot rely on your gun, why worry about carrying it? I would replace it with something more reliable (and maybe more compact) for everyday carry.

  3. DrFaulken says:

    Hi Jon, I totally agree. See my post from this morning. I should pick up my XD45 Compact tonight.

    Brice: I considered doing what you suggested, but I didn’t want to do anything that might compromise my warranty until I tried the replacement magazine release provided by Rock Island. Their new part seemed to do the trick, but the damage is done in my mind.

  4. Torrance Tom says:

    Ok, this is getting out of hand, I bought the G27 because you said so, I just bought a RIA Compact and haven’t even picked it up yet and now your telling me to sell it and get an XD45, and I suppose that love affair will last say about 6 months and it gets tossed to the curb. You sir are the George Clooney of Handguns!

  5. DrFaulken says:

    Aww damn I am sorry to hear about the handgun additions.

    In all fairness, I carried my Glock 27 for over a decade before switching to the Rock Island 1911 — which I would still be carrying if the magazine catch problem didn’t happen.

    Hopefully my RIA was a one-off manufacturing problem and you will enjoy yours as much as I did mine.

  6. Brice says:

    OK, where is the review of the XD45? I’m dying here.

  7. DrFaulken says:

    Brice — I’ve been traveling a lot recently and haven’t had a chance to put more than 100 rounds downrange with the XD45. Give me some more time and I’ll post my impressions.

  8. Shazzam says:

    Ack. I just purchased a RIA officer’s model.
    I have had sigs, glocks and most recently the two tone 4 XD45.

    The XD has been the best pistol I have owned. I probably have around 800 to 1000 rounds through it, never a malfunction.

    I grabbed up a RAI officer for a CCW, and until I found this threat, all I had heard was positive, except for the finish. I was going to get a Kimber, but didn’t want to drop $795 on a pistol. Maybe I should have…??

  9. Mark says:

    Based on the symptoms and cracked case I would venture a bet you suffered a case blow out. That probably forcefully ejected the magazine with gasses vented from the chamber after case failure. That may have sheared the mag catch and cracked the frame. I have seen even brass cases from (less popular ) manufacturers fail.