There are few pistols that are as recognizable, or have such a distinct place in world history, as the Colt Model 1911 handgun. It was the first handgun I ever fired (my uncle’s). When I turned 21 and bought my first handgun, my mind was on concealment. The 1911 was heavy, large, and expensive. I wound up with a Glock 27 — a very dependable pistol that I’ve carried ever since.
I purchased quite a few other handguns in the meantime: a North American Arms Guardian .32ACP, a Kel-Tec PF-9, two Tokarev TT-33s, and a CZ-52. No matter what, my mind always drifted back to the 1911. I think, for the most part, 1911s have a mystique about them that often pushes high-tech variants into the hands of true handgun aficionados. Extremely well-suited and extensively modified 1911s find their way into shooting tournaments and SWAT units a like. Accessory rails, improved sights, different frame sizes, triggers, grips, finishes, and manufacturers all combine to make owning a 1911 a very personal experience. And an expensive one. My friend Bond owned a VERY nice 1911 made by Kimber. I think the handgun now sells for about $800+.
I always thought a 1911 would be beyond my budget … until I discovered Rock Island Armory.
Here’s the most important thing to know about the Rock Island Armory 1911 series. They are pretty bare-bone. They represent your grand-father’s, or for some of you, your great-grand-father’s 1911. Their Government model is the barest of the bare. No skeletonized hammer or trigger. Standard grips. Standard beavertail. No stippling on the front of the grip. No accessory/tactical rail. Old school sights.
What does have, however, is a very low (comparatively) price tag. I paid about $400 out the door from my local gun dealer, and that included a holster and a box of Federal Hydra-Shok ammunition. It comes with an eight round magazine. Everything about the handgun is super macho and provides excellent feedback. The magazine catch clicks loudly and latches securely. The slide lock lever is firm; the slide rockets forward like a freight train when the lever is released. The thumb safety moves purposefully with a “snikt” up and a “snikt” down. Everything about the pistol is giant sized in comparison to my carry pieces, but the 1911 is the quintessential example of a combat firearm. Like my SAR-2 semi-automatic AK-47 clone, the over-sized controls are easier to manipulate under stressful conditions.
The Rock Island Government model is very heavy. It’s solid steel, and the .45 ACP rounds add even more weight when the handgun is fully loaded. The pistol is also very long, measuring almost nine inches from the tip of the barrel to the end of the beavertail grip. It is not very comfortable to carry concealed, and the slide is so long that the barrel sticks in the back pocket of my jeans. I found the best way to carry it is appendix carry on my weak side; meaning that the pistol is worn to the left of my belt buckle, with the handle pointing towards the right. Sitting down with a full-framed 1911 down your pants sure makes you sit up straight. Mom would be proud.
Here’s the 1911, my Glock 27, and my Kel-Tec PF-9 in a size comparison.
The 1911 is more thin than the Glock 27:
but is thicker than the Kel-tec PF-9:
I appendix carry my Glock 27, weak side. You can really see the difference in size between the two handguns here. It’s possible but uncomfortable to carry the 1911 in the same fashion:
The Kel-Tec PF-9 is the smallest pistol of the bunch:
So anyway, how does it shoot? Pretty well, and I’m sure it would do better in the hands of a qualified operator. The heavy weight of the pistol keeps recoil to a minimum as it the Rock Island spits out bowling ball after bowling ball at my paper target. The full-sized frame makes the handgun fun to shoot, although the trigger did hurt my finger after about fifty rounds. Here are my opening shots at ten yards:
Like I said, the pistol needs a qualified operator. I need more practice, but was still happy with my initial results. I was also pleased that the Rock Island Government model did not have a single failure to feed, and my two aftermarket Chip McCormick magazines. If ammunition prices weren’t so high (about $22 a box for 50 rounds at the range) I would shoot this pistol every day. It’s a lot of fun, and reminds me of shooting with my uncle almost two dozen years ago.
The Rock Island Armory1911 Government model is a great value and is very serviceable. You could use it as a base for future customizations, or use it as a good shooter right out of the box. Sure, it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles, but you can upgrade the weapon as you please. It’s too big and too heavy for use as a concealed carry piece, but it is now my #1 tool if I ever need to fight my way to my shotgun at home. I love shooting the .45 ACP cartridge and am looking for Rock Island’s compact model or a similar “carry-able” handgun to take over my Glock’s job.