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First email: The link pin of my RIA started drifting out just enough to make the barrel bind when removing for cleaning. I purchased a Storm Lake Stainless Semi Drop in Barrel as a replacement while the original barrel is in having the pin replaced. Anyway, interested in my first ever adventure in fitting a barrel to a 1911? (I’ll give away the ending: it’s a lot easier than I expected)  . . .

Second email: No pics, as I wanted no evidence if I screwed up a $180.00 barrel. (purchased from Midway, I might add) 🙂

Yeah, I know, putting a Storm Lake barrel in a Rock Island Tactical is somewhat akin to putting a Porsche engine in an AMC Pacer, but, it was the cheapest barrel Midway had on hand at the time of purchase. My 1911 is my baby and I couldn’t stand being without it while the barrel is out being repaired.

Anyway, I used 320 grit emery cloth and 600 grit EZE-LAP Fine Grit Diamond Needle File Set to do the fitting. (available from Amazon as was the emery cloth) I also purchased a caliper and micrometer set for this job.

Not many people can say they have a “custom fitted” barrel in their 1911. Little do they know that what “custom fitting” really means is “making it up as I go along.”

I used a file to relieve a little material on the padeyes for the barrel link pin. (binding just slightly when put the barrel on the frame without the slide) I also relieved some material on the barrel that was impinging on the extractor. Wouldn’t allow the barrel to drop down far enough for the slide to move back. I also had to take material off the bottom of the barrel breach (used emery cloth and a file) so the barrel could drop down far enough to clear.

I ran across some stuff on the internet that indicated chamber reaming was necessary when doing this kind of job. I dropped a round into my original barrel and checked how it sat and how easily the round fell out when I turned the barrel over. Did the same with the new barrel. Reaming didn’t seem necessary.

Went to the range and ran about 75 round down the barrel. Gun shot true, 1 failure to feed. (some moron didn’t seat the magazine properly when he was testing the gun) I had the gun looked at by someone with a bit more knowledge than I have before I shot it, and they thought the gun felt good, the slide was smooth, etc. Anyway, I took maybe a thousandth off the bottom of the breach and perhaps a bit more where the barrel was hitting the extractor.

Maybe my methods will give you a heart attack, but I swear, I compared the new barrel with the old constantly during the process. The gun is definitely tighter, but looks to be as reliable as it ever was.  I’m not sure if I’ll get a “ye gods, what were you thinking” or a “good job” on this little adventure.

Third email: Broke out the camera and took a few photos. Let me know if you need anything clarified.

Fourth email: Update, I got the price of the barrel wrong. $159.00 excluding shipping.

Fifth email: A little more about me: I was a welder for better than 20 years. I also did some private metal design and installation work. I currently work as a network/server administrator. I mention my past, as I don’t want anyone mislead into thinking I just got up one day and decided to do some metalworking on a firearm.

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  1. Cool! Everyone should be able to do some minor ‘smithing on their shooting irons.

    I have a Storm Lake drop-in barrel that converts my M&P from .40 cal to 9mm. Talk about drop-in! Zero fitting was required, which actually disappointed me a little.

  2. Thanks, Ralph.

    I thought about some pics of the practice targets, but I tend to think all the targets would show is my skill or lack thereof when it comes to handling my 1911.

  3. good job …but dress that thang up, perhaps with some Fusion fancy wood grips. Well, I did for my RIA 38 Super. You can find em on Ebite. A little natural bling goes a long way.

    “would show is my skill or lack thereof ” …cant be any worse than some certain Glock fanboys that post hereon…..can it?

  4. Congrats. It is a good feeling doing something new to a gun. I personally would have bought something cheaper to experiment with! Sarco has some for less than $50. IN fact, I think they may be built by Armscor. I fitted one to a Sistema last year. My first barrel fitting.

  5. To everyone who commented, thanks, much appreciated.

    One question though, show of hands: Who here is old enough to get the AMC Pacer reference? Without using Google or Wikipedia?

  6. I have been looking at a RIA just to add a 1911 to the plinking collection. The grips have to go, but other than that are these guns OK? The price just seems too good to be true.

    +1 to the Gremlin comment.

    • I’ve run JHP and +P Corbon rounds through my RIA with nary a hiccup.

      I did spend a few dollars on Kimber Stainless Mags. Well worth the money.

      The original ACT magazines didn’t hold up very well.

      I clean my 1911 after every use. The RIA is my every day carry pistol. I’ve gone a month without removing the pistol from the holster, went to the range, flipped off the safety and started shooting. I’ve done that several times, the gun has never failed to go “bang” under those conditions.

  7. I bought an RIA at a gun show several years ago , and like you I thought the price was too good to be true , but I love my 1911 , and it’s fairly accurate . Plus my budget can get tight so it was worth it compared to the much higher priced 1911’s . It has been problem free for me , but I always clean my guns after I’ve shot them

  8. Really informative. Kind of takes the magic out of my gun smith but I understand what I pay for a little better now.

  9. Nice to see someone upgraded a barrel on a ria. I’m planning on doing the same and was kind of skeptical about being able to fit it myself I’m good with my hands but not sure what all I needed to look for

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