By May 25, 2010

Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer Compact Magazine Catch Problem Update

A week ago I wrote about my problem with my Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer magazine release. To recap briefly, the magazine locking lever’s tab sheared off after about 1,000 rounds. This made the magazine catch very difficult to push and made it impossible to load a magazine in the pistol.

True to what I’ve read on the Internet and heard from other RIA owners, Rock Island’s customer service was great. I wrote to Ivan, the company’s sales manager, on May 17, 2010. He replied early the next morning asking for my address so that he could send a new magazine catch. No questions, no debating if I did something weird to the handgun, just an offer to send the part ASAP. That was awesome!

The replacement part beat me home, as I was in the middle of my trip to Georgia when my pistol malfunctioned. I dropped the new magazine release switch in almost immediately. Sure enough, it worked — everything seems back to normal.

So, on the customer service front, Rock Island gets an A+ from me. However, I am going to sell my compact as soon as possible and already have a concealed carry replacement on the way.

I know that many parts on a firearm get worn over time. The recoil spring, the barrel, magazine springs, etc are all put under stress every time the gun is fired. I even knew that the Officer had a reputation of needing replacement parts, like the spring, sooner than other 1911 models.

I am totally fine with that.

What I find completely unacceptable is that a non-stress item such as the magazine catch would fail in about 1,000 rounds. This isn’t something that you can recover from — my handgun was dead in the water and I could not fire another shot until a replacement part was procured.

This wasn’t a failure to feed or a stove pipe. This was a total breakdown of the weapon and had I been in an actual situation where I needed to defend myself the consequences could have been dire.

Before writing this post I attempted to find out if this magazine catch problem was common, and why it happened. By my research I was the first person to have this problem. I asked Ivan if he could explain what had happened, and offered to send the defective magazine catch back to Rock Island.

He replied plainly: “We have this happen from time to time.”

So while I couldn’t find anyone else on the Internet with my problem, apparently this has happened before. Has it happened enough to count for a statistically relevant number of RIA 1911s? Probably not — the Internet is famous for people critical about everything. However, that doesn’t change the fact I don’t know why this happened and can’t be sure that it won’t happen again.

I am going to give the Rock Island Officer Compact a final check-out shoot tonight when I pick up my new carry handgun and then list it for sale. I will keep the full-sized Government model because folks want to shoot a 1911 and it’s an iconic firearm.

Thanks again to the customer service over at Rock Island, but without more information there’s no way I’d recommend this handgun to any one for self-defense.

Posted in: guns, review

3 Comments on "Rock Island Armory 1911 Officer Compact Magazine Catch Problem Update"

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  1. Chris H says:

    I traded in my RIA compact after only 400 rounds. The side stop notch was getting peened so badly that it started to deform past the point where I could justify it as cosmetic.

  2. Brice says:

    It’s not exactly true that you couldn’t fire another round, you could have hand fed them, or teacupped the magazine. At least if I understand the failure correctly.

    If there are bullets coming my way, you can be sure I’ll find a way to return the favor.

    If you really want to carry a 1911, consider a Taurus or a S&W, or given an unlimited budget, a Colt.

  3. George says:

    If you were concerned about RIA parts quality then ordering a DPMS, Oly, Colt, Kimber, or Springfield mag release would have surely resolved the problem without tossing the firearm. From the peanut gallery, I say it deserved another 3000 rounds of confidence testing, checking wear and tear, before slaving it. If other parts broke down or showed excessive wear then you could replace those parts until you have a reliable firearm. If it is truly a POS then putting it back on the market to break down in the hands of someone else is not cool. You bought it, make it work, return it to the factory or chop it in half.