Rambling Thoughts on Rock Island Armory Firearms
by Greg Ritchie
[Official RIA logo (tm)]
I have always been a somewhat frugal person. Always tried to get the most for the least. A lot of my firearms have been milsurps ["Military Surplus" - Ed.] for that very reason. Several years ago, when I decided that revolvers just were not enough, I started on a quest for a 1911 to augment my 1917. The surplus market is where I started. I quickly found out that the surplus 1911's could not be had at Mosin prices!
Furthering my research for an affordable 1911, I came across a company called Rock Island Armory. I initially thought that it was a part of the United States arsenal, but further research found that the parent company was The Arms Corporation of the Philippines, or ARMSCOR (tm). I also found out that they were the world's top producer of 1911's.
Not long afterwards I found one of their full sized GI models at a local gun store. I liked what I saw. The only detractors for me were the billboard style logo on the slide and the smooth wood grips that gave me the impression of being unfinished and added bulk to the grip. But what I really liked was that it was affordable. For less than $400, I could live with the billboard, and the grips could be replaced. I took it home. By the way, the bill board has been replaced with a nice smaller logo on the rear of the slide.
[GI Standard FS - 45ACP - Stock Photo (c) RIA]
Once home, I stripped it, gave it a thorough cleaning, and replaced the grips with a set of plain wood checkered ones I had laying around. At the range it functioned fine with factory 230 grain hardball, but choked on the 200 grain flat nosed cast bullets I loaded for my 1917. Not a problem with the firearm, but just an issue shooting bullets designed for the .45 Colt in the .45ACP platform. It has since proven itself reliable with 230 grain round nose cast and my new favorite bullet for the 45 pistols, the 230 grain truncated cone.
My next experience with Rock Island Armory was their revolver. I especially like the M200, a 4 inch .38 Special Colt clone. At just over $225, this makes a very good general purpose revolver. Bedroom gun to plinker, I think this one is hard to beat. The M206 is basically the M200 with 2 inches of barrel and a smaller grip. The new ones I have seen are being sold with both the smaller grip, and the larger M200 grip. The M206 has a very nicely crowned muzzle, something I wish they would do to the M200. In the past year or so, the M206 has been available in a spurless version and a nice looking brushed nickel finish.
[M206 - .38 Special - Stock Photo (c) RIA]
Next experience was with the M5 shotgun. Ever bought something that you were happy with, then handled something that was somewhat similar, but you liked it just a bit better? That happened to me. I bought a budget shotgun, then handled the M5 just a week later. Wish I would have handled it first! The M5 is a HI Standard Flite King clone. It is a very smooth operating shotgun. So smooth that if you hold the shotgun in a muzzle up attitude and depress the slide release, the action will open just by the force of gravity operating against it! The M5 has a 4 +1 capacity with a 20 inch barrel, heats held, and polymer furniture. The one I handled had a black parkerized finish, but a look at their website shows it only in a parkerized nickle finish.
[M5 12Ga Shotgun - Parkerized finish]
A few other Armscor products I find interesting are the full size GI 1911 with a polished nickel finish chambered in .38 Super. This is my idea of the perfect BBQ gun. The compact size GI model would be a good carry gun. It does away with the barrel bushing and comes standard with a beaverton grip safety and a bobbed hammer. I wish it was available with the standard grip safety and hammer. My preferred carry method is condition 2, chamber loaded, hammer down, safety off. This means the 1911 has the same basic manual of arms as the revolver, but the beaver tail safety and bobbed hammer makes it a bit more difficult to cock. And saving the best for last, the Baby Rock. This is a scaled down 1911 chambered for the .380ACP. This is one that I have been looking forward to. However a recent look at their website shows that this one is missing. I hope it is still being manufactured.
[Baby Rock - .380ACP - Stock Photo (c) RIA]
Finally, my RIA wish list. First, a Colt 1917 clone. This could be offered with a standard 5 1/2 inch barrel and as a 2 1/2 inch "Bankers Special". And last, a 1903 Springfield clone. I would like to see this in both military main battle rifle dress, maybe even a sniper model, and a sporterized model for general hunting.