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.