The 1911. A classic with a design that goes back over 100 years. You’d think we would have moved on by now, especially with all the affordable striker fired guns on the market. It’s large, heavy, and doesn’t hold as many rounds as its counterparts. Yet here we are in 2020 looking over a 1911. Why is that? Well, the 1911 does a lot of things right despite its age. They’re ergonomic, soft shooting, incredibly accurate, and if treated right they are reliable. For many, the 1911 is still their go to and we can’t fault them for that.
Talk about a tough topic. Finding reliable 1911s that don’t break the bank can be a bit of a tall mountain to climb. They’re either lacking in features or are unreliable - sometimes both. We’ve all seen the bottom of the barrel G.I. 1911s that could rarely make it through an entire magazine without a stoppage.
That’s where Rock Island Armory comes in. They’ve been making value focused 1911s for the past 30 years and have really established a name for themselves in the US. They piqued our interest recently when they offered to send us one of their 1911s to test out. We grabbed a Rock Ultra FS in 9mm as it seemed to hit all those sweet spots we look for in a 1911.
Let’s take a look at the specs of this 1911. The Rock Ultra FS is part of Rock Island Armory’s Rock series of 1911s. This is a line of 70 series 1911s made out of 4140 ordnance steel. You can pick them up in 9mm, 10mm, 40 S&W, as well as 45 ACP for you traditionalists. The entire lineup comes with adjustable triggers as well as upgraded front and rear sights. There are a few variations within the Rock series with a few more concealable options as well as many 5” models.
The Rock Ultra FS that they sent us came with two 10 round magazines that appear to be from Mec-Gar. Additionally it has a 5” button rifled barrel, red fiber-optic front sight, adjustable rear sight, and an adjustable trigger. The G10 grips come standard on this model as well.
Fit and Finish
The Rock Ultra FS has a parkerized finish that is matte. It’s a very utilitarian finish that maybe doesn’t look as pretty as a blued finish, however the trade off is worth it. Parkerized finishes are much more resistant to corrosion as well as general wear and tear. There are no noticeable imperfections in the finish of this firearm as it seems to have a very uniform finish. The slide is tight to the rails and there aren’t any rattles to speak of. I’ve seen some 1911s have rattling grip safeties and luckily this doesn’t seem like one of them.
You can think of the Rock Ultra FS as a suped up G.I. model. It’s more of an homage to the G.I. styled 1911s with some well suited improvements. It’s got the appearance of a gun that is ready to put some work in and it doesn’t mind if you put a few scratches into it.
Shooting the Rock Ultra FS
We know. Some find our choice of a 1911 in 9mm to be particularly offensive, perhaps a betrayal to John Moses Browning himself. However, we must say that 9mm is so fun to shoot out of the 1911 platform. It shoots softly and it’s cheaper than buying .45. Despite the 1911 not being originally designed to run 9mm, this 1911 seemed to eat it up as fast as we could pull the trigger. We shot Federal 124 grain, Winchester 115 grain, and Armscor 124 grain out of it without any trouble. In fact, we just flat out didn’t have any malfunctions. Not even during the break in period. Throughout the 500 rounds we put through it, we oiled it once and never cleaned it.
The 1911 platform has always had great ergonomics. They always seem to fit a wide variety of hand sizes and the enhanced beavertail on this model allows you to get high up on the grip without the hammer biting you. Additionally the included G10 panels offer a sticky grip and have a nifty scallop to clear room for your thumb when reaching for the magazine release. Reloads are fast with the flared magwell however it does take a bit of practice to get the hang of single stack reloads. They are a bit harder to get a hold of, however that’s purely a training issue and can easily be worked out.
Our favorite part of any 1911 is the trigger. Single action triggers are always fun to shoot and allow you to make quick follow up shots. Rock Island did a great job with the trigger in their Rock Ultra FS, especially for a gun at this price point. Does it feel as good as a Nighthawk? No but it also costs $600. This trigger has a pretty clean break at about 5 pounds with a short take up. The reset is pretty tactile as well.
It isn’t surprising that this 1911 was easy to shoot. It’s a big chunk of steel with a single action trigger. Sending rounds down range in rapid succession is an easy task with this platform. The all steel construction lends itself to sapping up all that recoil and combined with a high grip the fast split times come with ease.
Overall, we are pretty impressed with this 1911. The Rock Ultra FS does what it sets out to do. Providing a lot of value without a huge price tag. It’s well featured for the price point and frankly it punches above its weight. The sights are fantastic out of the box and the trigger is good as well. Reliability was right where it should be as we didn't experience any malfunctions whatsoever. It seems as though it's a well rounded 70 series 1911 with a stellar price tag. It's certainly ready to put some work in.
Lastly, the 1911 makes a great competition gun due to the huge aftermarket support as well as fast single action trigger. If you were interested in running in Limited-10 or Single-Stack USPSA divisions, this would be a great pistol to consider starting out with. It’s easy to shoot, the tigger is good, sights are fantastic, and it’s been reliable for us thus far. We’d certainly consider it as the extra cash could be spent on holsters, belts, mag pouches, and most importantly the ammo.
You can check out the Rock Island Armory Ultra FS here