Monday, February 7, 2011

New addition to the family

I picked up a Rock Island Armory (Armscor) 1911A1-CS (that's the Officer model, 3.5" bull barrel) from the stupid California 10-day jail a week ago and took it to the local indoor range on Friday.

Took the pistol home and it was covered in protective grease. Not quite cosmoline, but close enough to be annoying. In the box you'll find a bunch of literature about gun safety, a warranty registration card, a couple of fire shell casings, one 7 round ACT-MAG, the pistol itself with GI-style sights and a cable lock.

Disassembled and cleaned and looked at the tolerances and finish. Overall the slide-to-frame fit was nice, the barrel lockup was good, everything felt smooth once I oiled the slide rails and cycled the slide a few dozen times and the trigger pull was OK. I estimate the pull in the 4-5lb. range, but I haven't measured yet. Not too much creep and a decent, but not great, break. The Kimber trigger is better, but it's also twice the price.

Since the frame is cast and then machined, there are some casting marks that aren't machined or polished out of the VIS, but the VIS itself seems to be properly relieved for allowing only the upper part of the lower lug to make contact on recoil. Ejector and extractor looked fine, all safeties worked, the feed ramp looked acceptable, and the first function check with dry-fire was good. Off to the range, then.

I put about 135 rounds of Federal and Winchester 230gr ball ammo through it. The factory ACT-MAG was flawless (to my surprise, I'd heard they were junk). I had 2 FTRB's on the 3rd round, once with a Chip McCormick 8 round magazine and once with a Kimber 8 round magazine. No clue why, but the slide was 1/4" out of battery. Removing the magazine and then slightly pulling the slide back showed the extractor had in fact captured the round, so I don't suspect an uncontrolled feed issue (i.e. it wasn't extractor "pushing"). Tapping the rear of the slide with my hand put the pistol in battery. Re-inserted the magazine and finished without additional issues. Odd that both FTRB's were on round 3 of generally good quality magazines, but both were 8-round units. Other magazines (2 Kimber, 2 other Chips, and a Springfield 7 round USGI) all ran fine.

My initial guess is that this is related to several factors - magazine spring tension, release of the round from the feed lips (abrupt vs. gradual) and momentum of the slide. When you take a 5" design and chop 1.5" inches from it and fiddle around with recoil springs and guide rods, everything has to be just right. The Officer-style is, to some purists, an abomination. To me, it's tinkering with a known-good design. Do it right and you get good results. Be half-assed about it and get junk. I think Armscor did OK in this realm, but I'll have to wait and see. For the record, I don't recall what the feed lip profile is on the two magazines in question, but I'll guess at hybrid for SWC-type ammo.

Then I put 25 rounds of Remington Golden Sabre JHP through the thing. I was a little concerned here, since a pistol originally designed for ball ammo won't always feed JHP very well without some work (usually due to the flatness of the bullet nose and the bullet ogive.) Whatever Armscor did, they did right in this regard. All 25 went through the pistol nice and easy.

Accuracy at 7 yards was good for a personal defense pistol, but things did open up a bit more than I like at the 12 and 15 yard ranges. Some of that was the pistol, some of that was the so-so USGI sights and some of that was me getting used to the gun. In defense of the pistol, at 12 and 15 yards, each round by itself would have slowed a bad guy, and the follow-up shots would have likely ended the encounter.

For the price, you can't beat this little gem. I'll probably white-dot the front post (a good method is to drill out a 1/16" hole in the front sight and fill with some white appliance paint), and install an extended thumb safety when time permits. If I ever manage to add a California CCW to my CCW collection, then tritium sights will be in order. The factory wood grips are smooth, and I can see that being a problem with wet hands, in the rain and so forth. The quick fix there will be a set of Kimber rubber grips, similar to what my TLE II wears. I like them and they work well.

About the only thing I don't like is Officer vs GI magazines. I like all the magazines for a "family" of pistols to Just Work, and obviously an Officer magazine won't run in a GI-style 1911. Even more concerning is if in an emergency you grab for a GI 1911 and an Officer magazine. Not good. Solution - a bunch more 7 round magazines and a few X-grip bumpers. But then you run into a similar problem where your GI-sized magazines won't fit GI-sized guns without first removing the X-grip. But it lets me have magazines that are otherwise fully family-compatible. Imperfect, but acceptable for now.

I'll post back after I get 500-600 rounds through this critter and see how it does long-term. For now, the Kimber will be what I carry in the woods. I prefer the heft of a full-size 1911 and in the woods I really have no need to conceal a pistol. Plus the holster-magazine holder-pistol combination was set up for the Kimber and it all just works for me. If I start carrying while fishing, the RIA will likely be the go-to choice, however.

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