By Brian Connelly
You hear the names Rock Island Armory and Armscor quite often, and while they are most known for being the largest manufacturer of 1911 handguns on the planet, they have recently started what I consider a massive product line expansion.
Rock Island Armory has been shaking things up over the past few years, first with the release of the 22TCM pistols, then the rifle series, conversion kits, MAPP series pistols, the Baby Rock 380, the BBR 3.10 .45 double stack compact 1911, VR Series Shotguns which I reviewed earlier this year, and now with a new series of revolvers.
I was fortunate enough to score an early preview copy of the AL 3.1 .357 magnum from Rock Island.
Being a longtime owner of a Rock Island Armory M200 revolver in .38 special, I have always wanted to see Rock Island release a .357 magnum. I recall about five or 6 years ago begging for them to release one. I can say this gun was worth the wait.
The AL3.1 .357 Magnum is one of the Rock Island Armory Import weapons available, made by Alfa-Proj in the Czech Republic and Imported by Armscor into the United States for sale under the Rock Island Armory Banner. From the first moment I opened the box, I knew this was going to be a great gun, sometimes you can just tell by the way it feels in your hand, especially when you have owned as many revolvers over the years as I have.
The AL3.1 .357 Magnum revolver from Rock Island Armory gives you everything you want from a .357; 6 round capacity, stainless steel construction, spur hammer, comfortable rubber Hogue style grips, and a short 2” barrel for easy concealment. In terms of size, it’s similar to a Ruger 101 or a Smith K-frame revolver.
If stainless isn’t your style, RIA also announced the new AL3.0. It’s exactly the same revolver in a blued finish.
The gun has enough weight to tame the recoil of .357 magnum and is light enough for everyday carry. In the revolver world there are plenty of small frame, light weight revolvers meant exclusively for EDC, however a .357 Magnum snub nose is not something you necessarily want in a small light weight frame.
The recoil from a .357 revolver is enough reason to want more heft and size in this style revolver. The grip is large enough to assert some real control over the weapon as opposed to some smaller framed revolvers I own. At 1.5 pounds, you have a nice medium between the light weights and something like the GP100 from Ruger that weighs in over 2 pounds unloaded.
The trigger is crisp with a clean break and relatively short pull in double action with an 10 pound trigger pull. In single action it has a short clean pull weighing in around 4.8 pounds on my scale. The snub nose barrel is fully shrouded, the cylinder is mounted in a tilting console, and the cylinder timing is tight and perfect.
On the range I tested the AL3.1 from Rock Island Armory with Armscor .357 Magnum 125 Grain FMJ, Armscor .38 Special Ammunition FMJ 158 Grain FMJ, and for defense rounds, and .357 Mag Federal Hydra-Shok PD 130gr. HP Ammo. I ran 200 Rounds of Both Armscor Rounds, and 50 Rounds of the Federal JHP’s.
The revolver functioned flawlessly with all three ammo types, with no issues of any kind. I was pleasantly surprised in the recoil with all ammo types, I have to admit the 38 special recoil is preferable to .357 any day of the week, but even with a snub nose the weight of the AL3.1 makes it fun to shoot even with .357 magnum loads. There is a significant muzzle flash with the short barrel, however that is to be expected.
At 10 yards the average groups were better than expected for a snub nose revolver with fixed sights. With all three ammo types at 10 yards the grouping was between 1.6 to 2.2 inches from a 2-inch barrel. That’s a terrific grouping and accuracy for this type of weapon.
The guns ample grip, size and weight really allow you to stay on target with multiple follow up shots, much better than some of the smaller framed light weight revolvers I have fired in the past.
As far as using the AL3.1 as a carry gun, it’s a bit larger than most on the market that are billed as carry revolvers. However even with a slightly larger size and the weight I do believe that I could carry this everyday with no issues.
That being said I have long been a 1911 man, and to me this isn’t a large gun but its not in the range of an LCR or Bodyguard either. Having owned and fired the LCR and Bodyguard in the past, the issue with both of those guns is the light weight made recoil unpleasant at best and unmanageable for some at worst. The AL3.1 recoil, even shooting .357 loads, is very manageable and comfortable to shoot. Shooting 400 rounds in one range trip wan’t unpleasant.
To summarize my experience with the Rock Island Armory AL3.1, it’s great to see an all stainless steel .357 Magnum 6-round revolver from Armscor hit the shelves in 2020. This gun is a solid shooter, with great ergonomics, the weight and size to mitigate recoil nicely, and comes in with a decent trigger pull and weight.
The fixed sights are a little small for my aging eyes, however even with fixed front and rear sights I was still able to stay on target even with follow up shots. I highly recommend you guys check out this newest addition from Rock Island Armory, Rock On!
Specifications: Rock Island Armory AL3.1 .357 Magnum Revolver
Action: Double action/single action revolver
Caliber: .357 Magnum and .38 Special
Capacity: 6-round cylinder
Barrel length: 2.0”
Overall length: 6.75″
Weight: 1.5lbs (Unloaded) 1.72lbs (Loaded)
Grips: Black rubber mono grip
Sights: Fixed ramp front and Fixed Rear Sight
Finish: Stainless steel
MSRP: $699 (expect retail prices to be in the $525 to $550 range)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * * *
The AL3.1 Is a beautiful revolver with all the aesthetics that go with it. You can’t beat the classic look and feel of a traditional .357 Magnum snubbie.
Ergonomics (carry) * * *
Regularly carrying a .357 stainless steel revolver may be too much for some, but the size and weight is very manageable. It seems no different to me than carrying a compact 1911 which I do often.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
Firing this .357 magnum is tamed quite a bit by the extra heft of the all stainless steel construction, so it isn’t quite as snappy as you’d expect. Although the .357 Magnum cartridge still packs quite a punch.
Reliability * * * * *
This gun runs beautifully. More accurate than I expected from a short 2-inch barrel, cylinder timing is perfect, and it is a revolver! As the saying goes, if you want 100 percent reliability from a handgun, buy a revolver.
Customize This * * * *
It is what it is, a revolver, you won’t be adding any tactical gear to it but I am sure there are hardwood grips out there, and plenty of holster options. Other than that, it is a workhorse of a revolver, and if you are buying it for the intended purpose, there is no need to customize it further than a holster and grips.
Overall * * * *
I have owned around 20 different firearms from RIA and Armscor over the years and done some extensive testing of several. I can honestly say this gun lives up to the Rock Island Armory name. It packs a full .357 punch, carries well and functions flawlessly. If you are in the market for a snub nose .357 magnum revolver that is a blast to shoot, you owe it to yourself to check one out when it hits the stores later this month.
Kinda pricey for RIA…
Made in the Czech Republic. They tend to make decent quality guns. Which brings the price up some.
I thought they were made in the Philippines. Czech Republic is known for good steel and good guns.
Most of RIA’s guns are made by Armscor in the Philippines. This one is made by Alfa Project in Brno, but still pricey since Czechpoint was selling Alfa Project revolvers for $4-500 for .38, .357 and 9mm, less for .22.
At the moment the real bargain is foreign police surplus S&W .38s.
Don’t get me wrong. It looks nice, but … Uh… for $600 I can get a ruger SP101. For 650 a ruger GP100, or a S&W 60. For $700 a S&W 686.
All stainless. All 357mag.
I can get a likely as good or better Taurus for 3something…or less.
Ha ha! Good one.
Unless we are talking samba dancers, I would choose anything made in Czech Republic over the Brazilian equivalent.
I agree completely with your sentiment.
Expanding on your comment:
(1) .357 Magnum doesn’t make much sense with a 2-inch barrel because the short barrel severely limits the full-potential of .357 Magnum.
(2) Why not go with a Rock Island Armory model 206 revolver in .38 Special available on sale for under $200 instead? Or buy three Rock Island Armory model 206 revolvers on sale for that same $600?
Say what you will about .38 Special. All I know is that a LOT of sources indicate that .38 Special is a pretty dependable fight-stopper at close range when you shoot 150 grain full wadcutters or 158 grain semi-wadcutter hollowpoints.
I’ve seen chrono tests showing 357 hits harder out a 2 inch barrel than a 9mm does out a 4 inch barrel. 38 spl is always an option when you have a mag.
They’re definitely closely matched. From a 2″ revolver, you generally see the .357 full power loads with 125gr bullets, that had such a fearsome reputation as “manstoppers” back in the 70s and 80s, doing generally 1200-1250. The hottest 9mm +P+ ammo with 124gr bullets will do 1200-1250, generally, from full-size service pistols.
Within these constraints, the .357 has the edge in being able to use a bullet design with lots of bare lead up front not covered by a jacket, which used to indicate more reliable expansion, but a lot of engineering work has been done on handgun bullets since 1980, and even the Winchester White Box 9mm hollowpoitns generally expand pretty consistently, at least in gelatin, even after passing through heavy clothing.
The 9mm may have the edge in magazine capacity and speed of reloads, and might have better sights than a fixed-sight snubby revolver’s usual groove-and-bump. Recoil and muzzle rise may be a bit less as well, for faster follow-up shots.
Either one is going to be better than harsh language or a pointy stick.
Personally, I think snubbies should be .38sp and .357 should be shot with at least a 4″ barrel. That’s what I went with. The Security Six .357 has a 4″ and the 642 is the shorty. Of course 9mm and .380 have a CCW role to play as well.
Some data points:
357 does indeed offer a significant advantage over 38, even in barrels as short as 2”. However, terminal effects don’t factor in all the other effects that may influence your ammo selection, such as muzzle blast, recoil, and cost.
Love the recessed cylinder.
Thinking I will wait for the .500 S&W caliber version.
Make it in a 3 inch barrel option and I will seriously consider it
My check engine light says no
😳….Sorry, this is a $250 gun……to me.
Maybe I’m a revolver snob…..probably am.
I shot and M200 ….this looks better…so 250.
The machining and fit in finish is lacking for price. Like people say you’re in ruger, Smith, and twice what a comparable Rossi or Taurus would be.
Poorly finished pistol for $500. Can I say no? Yep I just did.
Maybe it’s just the pictures, not the pistola.
It appears that the front sight is removable, which means that either a night sight, Amer Glow, or fiber optic will become available for it. As far as buying a cheaper made in USA gun, your right, a cheaper made in USA gun at premium prices.
I like it, but with the news that Alfa Proj will be available stateside in 2020, I’ll wait
Now I am really starting to get scared. First SIG introduces a new military rifle ammunition and even creates a new consumer rifle for it, a BOLT-ACTION, the “CROSS Bolt-Action Rifle.” Now more than one manufacturer is introducing or bringing back wheel guns. I guess the manufacturers are gearing up for the Great Confiscation and ban of all things semiautomatic.
I think city’s are just getting tired of cleaning up shell casings
Lamenting the future loss my secondary source of income, recycling brass off the sidewalks. 🙁
Yeah I have to agree with the others here…You can score a Taurus for $350 all day even at $500, I mean you can still get a M200 around $220 you really need that street Price at closer to $250 If you want to even see them move off the shelf.
Taurus is a “score”? More likely “settle” or “stuck with”.
I’ve got a Taurus Model 85 in SS. Picked it up NIB 3or 4 years ago at a Taurus sale and Taurus reps were there. If I recall I think I gave just north of two bills for it. The fit and finish is very good, it locks up tight. It has never failed to go bang. It serves its purpose very well.
Let me know when they put a barrel on it, 3″ minimum, preferably 4″. For some reason, that spur hammer really bothers me, but whatev. I bet this would look better with a satin finish.
Pro tip for the writer. Don’t use a cellphone flash for up close shots. It makes for ugly gun photos.
It’s too bad that you didn’t get your work checked, because this is a unique article, and I did learn new things, and your testing was good, and you did tell the readers the things they need to know. But if you want smart people to respect you, you have to bother to use words correctly.
PLEASE HAVE SOMEBODY REVIEW YOUR WRITING BEFORE YOU SUBMIT IT.
Technical writing mistakes are not the worst thing about this article. Words are the worst thing about this article: You don’t necessarily use them.
You’ve left out words from pillar to post. This is a mistake which comes from incomplete thoughts, not imperfect grammar.
You also combine words incorrectly, and constantly, too.
You may feel like demanding examples of these offenses. Well,the writer shoud check the work, not the readers. Have an avid reader review this article with you, and things will get real clear real fast.
We all have our imperfections, and yes, I actually do understand that this fact means that I do too, but you can manage this one by just asking somebody to check your work. That is all.
Probably using voice text
Love the 80 grit sandpaper finish.
I just purchased an AL 3.0. Waiting on shipping. It looks to be not much larger than my S&W 340 but looks to be much more sturdy. 38+p and any .357 mag fired from my S&W 340 are a pain in the hand. I hope that the 3.0 turns out to be a much easier weapon the carry and fire. Since it is what it is ( a gut gun ) I am not very worried about it not having a picture book finish. I won’t be bringing it out to show everybody how “cool” it looks. I pray to God that I will never have to point it at another person let alone pull the trigger.
If I am ever unfortunate enough to have an armed confrontation and come out alive the weapon will more than likely get impounded for evidence and not seen again. It would be an easier pill to swallow than seeing a $1,500 + dollar brand name disappear. Stay safe. Any gun is better than none.
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