According to F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are no second acts in American lives. The rule does not apply to Phillipino firearms. After the GI Standard FS’s abysmal showing during my initial review I sent the gun back to Rock Island for repair. They returned it pronouncing that the bargain basement 1911 had been “complete reliability tuned.” Although Rock Island’s guns are backed with a lifetime warranty, I’m not sure the company offers the exact same vaguely-worded comprehensive service to all their customers (see: bolded typeface below). Anyway here’s my review of their best effort to make the gun run . . .
Upon disassembly, it was clear the Rock Island Armory GI Standard FS 1911 had been thoroughly cleaned. I don’t know how much work they’d done on the breech and feed ramp but the bottom of the breech was much shinier and smoother than all of the other edges around it.
The GI Standard FS’s grip safety had also been smoothed out. It was still pretty pointed, but at least it didn’t have the same sharp edge as before. Looking at the gun’s grip safety, I noticed that it’s not actually square. The safety is clearly angled, one side higher than the other. (I don’t know if that’s the way it was originally.) I reassembled the 1911, doused her with RemOiled and headed to the range.
Rock Island had improved the FS’ ergonomics. During the first test, the gun’s grip sharp, shiny safety cut into the web of my hand. Within a couple of magazines, I was bleeding. During the remainder of the test I shot with gloves. Without the “new” gun, without hand apparel, the safety still cut me up. After 500 rounds, I was exsanguinating though two small holes on the web of my right hand, happy to call it a day.
This FS’ safety is in the style of the original GI safety. I called a Marine who served in the Korean War and then became a Corps armorer and a shooting instructor. I asked him if the 1911’s safety had been an issue. “That’s how we knew if you had the right grip,” he told me. “When your hand was chewed up by the safety, it was high enough on the gun.” I asked him if armorers or Marines filed down their safeties or bought some aftermarket part. He looked at me like I was an idiot. “We wore gloves.”
Whatever Rock Island did to the FS on TTAG’s behalf, reliability vastly improved. I ran the gun with STI and Wilson Combat magazines (the company didn’t return the original magazine). I shot mostly Winchester white box 230gr FMJs. I also fed it a hundred Blazer and Wolf FMJ’s and 32 rounds each of Remington Golden Saber 230gr HPs, Hornady Critical Defense 185gr FTX. And just for fun, I shot eight rounds of Speer 230gr TMJ rounds.
So how did that all play out? I had my first malfunction, a first round failure to feed, at around 100 rounds. Then again about 40 rounds later. Both of those occurred with the Winchester FMJs. I lubed up the gun again and had a few more failures, nothing round specific, with only one failure to return to battery that required me to drop the magazine.
The Remington Golden Saber performed well in the RIA GI Standard FS 1911. Unlike its previous outing, the cartridge seemed to feed more smoothly than any other round, including the FMJs. On the other hand, the FS detested the Speer 230gr TMJ. I had first time failures to feed and failures to return to battery issues. I’ve run that round in other 1911s. Some, like my Colt, like it. Some, like my Ed Brown, don’t. The Rock Island Armory GI Standard FS 1911 really doesn’t.
Looking at my notes, I only had four failures to feed or that failure to return to battery in 500 rounds. That’s not horrible considering the $475 msrp price point. That said, every four magazines or so, the FS’ slide was slow to return to battery. More than once it the gun needed a hard shake forward or thumb press to get the slide to return to battery. At the range, that’s fine. In competition or combat? Not OK at all.
What’s nice is that I was having a particularly good day at the range that day. Some days you’re on, some days you aren’t. This day I was on. Shooting the dueling tree’s plates at 10 yards, I was getting the fifth plate moving before the first plate had swung all the way over. At one point, the other shooter with me turned and asked, “How long did it take for you to learn to do that?” Farago’s heavily depleted ammo supply tells the tale.
The only time I had a hard time hitting the target: after I’d shot the white paint off the plates. At that point, the teeny tiny black blade of the FS’ front sight disappeared on the black background. Aiming turned into guessing. These are GI style sights; they perform as designed. The real challenge arrived the next day when I hauled the FS to the bench, using a front bag for accuracy.
It was overcast and raining intermittently. The range was well shaded. The targets were like antis: a bit dim. At 25 yards, shooting the Remington HP round off a front bag, my best group was still 5”. Most of the groups were closer to 6”. The tiny little black blade made it difficult to ID the target – in that environment and light. My 10 yard shoot off the bag is a better indication of accuracy, yielding groups around 1.5”.
F. Scott Fitzegerald cautioned us: never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. As you’d hope, as you’d expect, the factory-improved Rock Island Armory GI Standard FS 1911 (from the truth about guns!) was a lot better the second time around. It’s still not pretty and it’s still not perfect. After more than 1000 rounds and a Rock Island’s gunsmith’s best effort there are still reliability issues. But it is cheap . . .
Assuming you could purchase a new FS finished to this standard (or receive the same repair treatment afforded the world’s most popular firearms website), you might overlook the FS’ ho-hum accuracy and reliability. Or you could forget it, save-up and buy something much better straight out of the box. I think you know which way I’d go . . .
Weight: 2.47 lbs. (unloaded)
Price: about $475 retail
Ratings (out of five stars):
Appearance * * *
Cosmetically, it’s the same FS as before, with the sharp shiny edge on the safety removed.
Accuracy * *
I’ll give this an extra star this time. It still doesn’t perform how I would expect a full frame 1911 to shoot, but on the days I was shooting, that particular sight system wasn’t ideal.
Reliability * * *
Reliability is subjective. This heavily breathed-on gun had about a one percent failure rate. At this price, I say that’s reasonable. Assuming you could get it this well sorted at this price. Which is not a given.
Overall * * *
Compared with other 1911s, I’d give this gun two stars. But it’s dirt cheap. That low price point bumps it up into the mediocre bracket. After it was repaired.