Tag Archives: 1911

First look at a Rock Island Armory Ultra FS in 10mm

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS 10mm

People tell me that 10mm is a fun cartridge to shoot, especially out of a 1911-style pistol. I’ll let you know when I get around to trying it, but for now I’m just going to give my first impressions an a used 10mm 1911 from Rock Island Armory. Rock Island Armory have no connection with the famed U.S. Army Rock Island Arsenal. This Rock Island Armory is a subsidiary of Armscor, and is located in Marikina, Philippines.

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS 10mm

Rock Island Armory (RIA) is known for making an affordable (read: cheap) yet reliable 1911 copy. In other words, it’s a good bargain, and if you’re buying something for only occasional use and which you don’t care if it gets beat up in a holster while hiking in the woods, then cheap and used are the way to go. Thus, the RIA Ultra FS 10mm you see here today.

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS 10mm

That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the RIA’s 10mm. Fortunately, reliability isn’t one of them, according to most reviews. What reliability issues I have seen reported appear to be what would normally be expected during break in of a new pistol using a very powerful cartridge. Finish, however, isn’t up to Colt standards. But, then, neither is the price. A new RIA Ultra FS 10mm comes in at around $300 to $400 less (street price) than the Colt Delta Elite. And for that cost advantage you get the added benefit of having a fully supported chamber, which may hold up better when firing full-powered 10mm loads. There are reports of catastrophic case failures with the unsupported chambers of some 10mm pistols such as the Delta Elite, but I’m not convinced that isn’t more attributable to home reloaders pushing the envelop on an already powerful cartridge.

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS comes with only one magazine

Another difference compared to the Colt Delta Elite is the addition of a bushingless barrel, which supposedly improves barrel-to-slide fit, thus increasing accuracy. The bushingless design also requires a wider “bull” barrel, which slightly increases mass and thus may reduce felt recoil. However, I doubt that the very slight increase in mass here would be enough to result in any real benefit in this regard.

Bushingless design

Note the wider bull barrel at the muzzle end

You can see from the following photograph this particular 1911 has a tendency to eject the casings in such a manner that they strike the upper portion of the slide behind the ejection port. Again, not something I’m very worried about, and I could probably remove those marks without marring the Parkerization.

Ejection marks

Rear sights are adjustable.

Adjustable rear sight

The front sight is fiber optic. Nice touch! Together, here is what you see looking down the slide:

Rear sight

Fiber optic front sight

Watch for a firing review after I get this thing to the range.

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An original Colt MK IV Series 70

Next week I begin another travel series — 54 days at sea on a trip that took us on two transatlantic crossings and a tour of both the Mediterranean and Black Seas. But for this week I’m returning to the subject that garners my highest audience, firearms.

An original Colt MK IV Series 70

It’s not often you come across a 36-year-old firearm in this condition. And according to the previous owner, the original Colt MK IV Series 70 has less than 100 rounds through it.

Colt MK IV Series 70 circa 1982

There are a few flaws in the original Colt satin blue finish, but I’d rate this pistol at around 98%. The wood grips also had some minor dings, as well, but also very minor.

Colt MK IV Series 70 original grip with Colt medallion

If you read my previous blog article on the new MK IV Series 70 (see: A Look at the Colt MK IV Series 70), then you know that the originals differed from the original in more than just the trigger. The original run from 1970 to 1983 also included a fingered “collet” bushing over a barrel with a widened muzzle end. This change was incorporated to improve the barrel-to-bushing fit in order to improve accuracy.

Series 70 collet bushing and wide-end barrel

The collet bushing held over into the Series 80 line until the late 1980s, but reports of bushing failures led Colt to revert back to the solid bushing which carries over to the reintroduced Series 70 pistols of today.

An original Colt MK IV Series 70 disassembled

The example here has a 70B prefixed serial number. That places this 1911 at the very end of the original MK IV Series 70 run, as the 70B serial number began in 1981 and ran through the end of production in 1983. The rest of the serial number leads me to believe that the actual year of production was probably 1982.

Colt 70B serial number places manufacture between 1981 and 1983

In my second article on the current Series 70 (see: Colt’s Series 70 Trigger Put to the Test — Series 70 vs. Series 80) I noted that the trigger was not all it was cracked up to be my Colt 1911 enthusiasts. I’ve since repeated my experiment (see video below) on side-by-side comparisons between probably half a dozen new Series 70 Colts and the current line of Series 80. Results were always the same. Out of the box, the current Colt Series 80 routinely beats the current Series 70 on every gun I’ve tried.

So, what about the original MK IV Series 70? Not so in this case. This truly the trigger I’ve seen praised. That’s not to say that the current Series 70 trigger is bad, as no Colt 1911/1991A1 trigger can be described as such from my experience, it’s just that the new Series 70 has more creep after take up and displays a degree of grittiness that simply doesn’t exist in any other Series 80 Colt I’ve tried.

Colt MK IV Series 70 slide stamp


Sights on the original Series 70 match the current crop. They’re nothing about which to write home. I much prefer the three-dot sights Colt uses on the current Series 80.

Colt MK IV Series 70 rear sight

Colt MK IV Series 70 front sight

Here’s a comparison between a new Series 70 and a Series 80 M1991A1 to illistrate what I mean:

New MK IV Series 70 left; new M1991A1 Series 80 right

Fortunately, both the original and previous owners of this pistol did something that far too few people do; they retained the original box and owner’s manual.

Colt MK IV Series 70 box and owner’s manual ©1981

Here is this original Mk IV Series 70 posing with the box it came in:

Colt MK IV Series 70 with original box

But the box has definitely seen better days, and the Styrofoam insert inside was partially melted away from gun lubricant. Fortunately, that didn’t mar the finish on the pistol.

Colt MK IV Series 70 box

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Firing Review — The stainless Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P

You may recall that I gave a first-look review of this intriguing weapon and caliber before.  I had no intentions of firing that weapon, and still don’t as it’s a pre-bankruptcy example of the venerable Colt M1911 design in a somewhat rare caliber.


What’s in the box

Fortunately I satisfied my itch to try the M1911 in .38 Super +P by acquiring a second copy.  As with the first copy, this one is also a Model 1991A1 in stainless, and outwardly it’s identical.  The only difference appears to be the included magazines, as the firing example came with rubberized footings screwed onto the bottoms.  See below for a comparison:

Rubberized footing on magazines

Rubberized footing on magazines

Previous magazine footplate

Previous magazine footplate

So, finally, I got around to firing this incredible combination — the classic Colt M1911 chambered in the powerfully exquisite .38 Super +P cartridge.  For an explanation on how this combination came about in 1929, and a brief history on the .38 Super +P cartridge, read my first-look review by clicking on the link below.  I’m sure you’ll find it both informative and entertaining.

The Prancing Horse

The Prancing Horse

Being the M1991A1, today’s Colt has the  Series 80 trigger.  For an explanation on that and a comparison with the Series 70 trigger go to these links:

Starboard view

Starboard view

And since I’ve covered the trigger on the Colt M1911 in those past articles, I won’t cover that again here today except to say that it’s what you’d expect from the M1911 design.  In a word — Superb.

Slide locked back

Slide locked back

As I’ve stated previously in the above articles, the Colt M1911 was originally designed around the .45 ACP cartridge.  Only in 1929 — when law enforcement had trouble going up against Depression-era desperados in thick steel-bodied cars and wearing body armor impervious to the .45 — did Colt get around to putting a bit more oomph through the Colt M1911.  That resulted in what is basically the forerunner to the Magnum load — the .38 Super +P, which would for six years reign as the most powerful handgun cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum revolver in 1935.  The .38 Super +P still beats the .40 SW, and even compares favorably with most commercial loads of the .357 SIG.

Slide forward

Slide forward

Considering the increased muzzle energy and higher velocity of the lighter .38 Super +P round, one would expect more recoil over an M1911 chambered in .45 ACP.  In actual practice it turns out just the opposite.  M1911 recoil with the much slower, quite heavy .45 ACP is very controllable, but it does have a “push” to it that gives some muzzle rise.  I refer to this recoil as a “push” because that’s the best way to describe what you feel.  If you read my article on firing the .45 ACP M1991A1 at the link below, you’ll find this description:

“In my opinion the 9mm has a sharper, quicker recoil whereas the .45 ACP imparts a steady, even, thrust-like reaction.  Recoil management is thus easy to accomplish and target reacquisition is very quick.”

Cocked and locked

Cocked and locked

If anything, the .38 Super +P feels more like the recoil one experiences when firing a standard locked-breech 9mm Parabellum when shot from a SIG P229.  The recoil impulse feels quicker than with an M1911 firing a .45 ACP, but the muzzle rise seems less and reacquisition on target is about the same.  There is one difference, however.  That’s in muzzle flash.  I shot this M1991A1 .38 Super at an indoor range with somewhat dim lighting.  The flash was . . . impressive.  Not .357 Magnum-out-of-a-two-inch-barrel impressive, but you’ll definitely notice a flash coming out of the muzzle.

Port view

Port view

My impressions after firing the .38 Super +P is that this is probably my new favorite handgun shooting round, and the M1991A1 in stainless is now my new favorite hiking piece except in brown bear country.  For that I’ll rely upon bear spray and shop around for something even more powerful as a backup to the spray, perhaps a Smith & Wesson .500 revolver with ported barrel.

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Colt M1991A1 .38 Super +P in stainless — A real winner

Yep, the Colt M1991A1 is simply that fun to shoot.  This is also an incredibly accurate combination in an very controllable package.

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