How would I get the most bullseye accuracy out of a stock RIA 1911 9mm?


August 30, 2010, 08:54 AM

I want to begin a bullseye competition with an old friend, who is a long time shooter. I am pretty good with various platforms and have tried a SIG P226, Colt .45, RIA .45, SIG P228 and Beretta 92. I recently settled on a RIA 1911 9mm and am happy with it (mostly for price). Slightly better with a 1911 .45...which is probably expected...but for cost considerations...want to stick with 9mm. So, with price in could I get the most bullseye accuracy out of this gun?

Option 1: Sell it :) and start with another platform? Not sure a SIG P226 would be inherently more accurate. Wonder if a CZ SP-01 might be or perhaps, go with a Springfield 1911 9mm or STI....but wonder if the cost of several hundred to a grand is worth it.

Option 2: Upgrades. Would a match barrel really yield all that much of an improvement? What other upgrades would make a significant difference (besides trigger)?

Option 3: Optics. Yeah...using reading glasses thinking that a red dot might be good. SO....perhaps the most significant question....would a red dot be such an improvement in shooting accuracy as to out weight all the other options above? And if red dot....would a Burris Fastfire II mini mounted to the rear sight be as good as a larger red dot mounted to a mount that was fitted to the frame (as I see many competition guns have)??

Any combination of the above?

Thank you for any and all advice. I greatly appreciate it.



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August 30, 2010, 09:06 AM
Been a while since I bullseyed with a 1911 but IIRC your key areas to look at (may not need upgrade in all, but points to consider): Match barrel, trigger job, barrel bushing (gunsmith will probably recommend that with the barrel installation), slide to frame fit (either a tightener or have a gunsmith tighten it up), grips, and sights. Not familiar with your platform but usually the platform is not that relevant. In fact, back in the day, lots of people I know used to buy Llama 1911's. Reason: Cheap. And we used to throw everything but the frame away and start over anyway because all we wanted was a stripped receiver, and those were scarce.

Nowadays tho, it is possible to buy a nice auto with bells and whistles already installed.

Probably would be worth a call to Clark Custom to price upgrades and see about cost difference between a package vs. a Bullseye ready gun.

The Lone Haranguer
August 30, 2010, 09:14 AM
For informal bullseye shooting, all it really needs are better sights (assuming you started with a "GI" model) and perhaps some trigger tuning. If you want to get into serious competition where everyone else is using accurized guns, you will want to perform all the necessary upgrades. But this gun strikes me as something to be used and enjoyed as is, not really to make extensive upgrades to. Most gunsmiths who do this type of work will want to start with a forged frame and slide, I would think, especially for tightening the slide/frame fit, which requires reshaping and displacement of metal.

Jim Watson
August 30, 2010, 09:23 AM
If you are going to shoot bullseye you are eventually going to need a .45 to complete the match with smallbore (.22), centerfire (.32+), and bigbore (.45). Few people use a separate centerfire in 9mm or .38 like they used to, they just shoot the .45 twice. You would be better served with a .45 and a reloading press.

Of course if you are just shooting for lunch with your friend, get what you like.
Adjustable sights would be nice but if you are only shooting at one range, you can drift and file fixed sights to zero. A fitted barrel bushing will get the most out of the stock barrel at relatively small cost. A trigger job will help you get the best use out of the sights and bushing.

August 30, 2010, 10:51 AM
I'd venture to say that in stock form it's probably more accurate than most people can shoot it

August 30, 2010, 10:59 AM
Hi Guys

Thank you for the kind and helpful responses. I appreciate them.

I should have detailed the gun. It is a RIA 1911 framed 9mm, Tactical model. New. The fit and finish are excellent, as far as I can tell. Seems a very tight slide to frame fit...though of course....may not be on par with a truly high end, gunsmithed gun. Still, seems play at all that I can detect and seems even better than my friends Colt.

Trigger seems fine and i shoot well with it...but...point taken: Is there a good trigger I could order and drop in? Recommendations?

So...advice seems to be: use this platform. Yes?

And...get a match barrel and bushing? Is this correct? would this be helpful? Could I order one from Brownells, put it in myself and gain some improvement, or is this something a 'smith really must do to improve the accuracy??

Finally, sights. The sights on the gun are Novak type, black. I have painted them and that helps. I could get 3 dot night sights or fiberoptic. But....what about a red dot?

Great replies, looking forward to more advice. Thanks!


August 30, 2010, 11:24 AM
I have painted them and that helps.For bullseye, black would be better, especially with non-adjustable sights.

Colored sights tend to reflect light off of them differently as the sun angle changes. SO, your zero wanders during the day.

Match shooters blacken their sights with carbide lamp soot to stop reflection changing zero under changing light conditions during a match.


August 30, 2010, 11:42 AM

What size groups are you presently getting at 25 yards with the RIA?

August 30, 2010, 12:07 PM
Maybe it's just me but I tend to shoot the most accurate with the "GI spec" sights on a 1911. I'm not as pinpoint accurate with larger dots

But anyway, as far as the platform goes it'll be great. The 1911 is very accurate by design. Put it in a ransom rest and I'd be willing to bet it will shoot very tight groups at 25 and 50 yards right out of the box

However like has been stated, it may be easier to just use a .45 so you don't have to have two guns for two stages, just one for two. I'd still keep the 9mm around for practice though

August 30, 2010, 12:10 PM

I am pretty consistantly able to get 1.5" groups at 21ft off hand, 5 rounds, with this gun. This is using crappy range ammo (UMC 250 packs). Could do a tad better with the RIA 1911 .45 Tactical.

Can get 4.5" groups, off hand with no support or rest, at 50ft.

Have not shot to 25 yards on a rest...have not had that available on the range I go to.

I can get to about 80% of the above with the stock Glock 19 that I have. And have hit 1.5" groups with a Glock 26 (probably should have kept that one...).

I would like to do of my issues is seeing the sight picture. I am at that age where I need reading glasses. So....that is why i am thinking of a red dot. Or different sights. I do better with the Glock 3 dot night sights.

But...still want to make this gun as good as I can. If that includes a match barrel and trigger, I may go that route. Seems a decent investment.

August 30, 2010, 12:13 PM
Keep the gun, a 9mm 1911 pistol is pretty cool.

I think if you're going to modify it, you'll want a Smith who specializes in 1911's do it, and one who has worked on 9mm 1911's. I wouldn't try and just drop in parts to accurize it, I'd have a Smith work on the trigger, the bushing, and whatever other parts need work.

August 30, 2010, 03:06 PM
You don't know the gun is holding you back until you test. If no Ransom Rest is available, use bags and carefully, deliberately, shoot 20 rounds at 50 yards. Probably try a few different loads of 20 each as well (the load matters more in 9mm than it does in 45 - the latter are more tolerant of 'close but no cigar' than the zippier 9s).

Whatever the group you get, can you do approximately that well offhand? If Yes, think about the barrel upgrade. If No, then you'll benefit more from more rounds downrange than a new barrel. A well fit bushing is a cheap and effective upgrade - depends on the fit of what you have.

A trigger job (not a drop in where you hope the frame holes are well aligned and the kit mates well) is almost certainly a necessary investment. May as well do it on quality parts so junk the MIM, buy some barstock and have a knowledgeable 'smith do a trigger job.

Sights - depends on your eyes. I'd shoot irons if I could still see them ... a dot exaggerates your wobble and can be a real distraction. Unfortunately, I need glasses to put the key in the front door lock so, dot it is. UltraDot are the BE gold standard - tough and lifetime warranty for cost of mailing. A 1 inch tube is plenty - the 30 mm with adjustable dot are too big and more suitable to turkey shoots. 1 inch tube, fixed dot, variable brightness, all you need somewhere a little under $130.

Most BE shooters use slide mounted optics, not frame mount. Think about the nunber of tolerance interfaces - fewer with a slide mount, makes sense. Clark has a nice rib, Rock River sometimes has a great rib with iron sights built in but they're on and off with production.

Ammo matters a lot in 9mm - do some reading around; might want to try Atlanta Arms for some pricey but good rounds.

August 30, 2010, 04:11 PM
Hi Everyone

This was taken today. 10 rounds UMC 115 ball ammo (very cheap). 21ft.

Gun: RIA 1911 9mm Tactical model. New, unmodified (except for painting the sights and installing an extended slide stop).

Sorry for the bad pic...cell phone cam.

The trigger does feel a little mushy.
Barrel and bushing are tight as I can possibly tell. Seem very tight. Still recommend a match barrel and bushing?

I went back to my regular prescription contacts today and used +1.50 reading glasses to shoot. My normal reading glasses are +2.0. Felt much better, the sights were much clearer than when I use contacts that were +1.0 diopter less than my prescription.

Great suggestions. I think I will have to try a rest and see what can be done. Will see if the range has one...perhaps they do..I never asked.

So...maybe...not do the barrel right now (that saves $200+), put the money into a trigger job and perhaps slide mounted mini red dot. And...use better ammo?

Very interested in all comments. These are very helpful and seem spot on.



August 30, 2010, 05:01 PM
So...maybe...not do the barrel right now (that saves $200+), put the money into a trigger job and perhaps slide mounted mini red dot. And...use better ammo?
Yes - most stock barrels can outshoot their owners for years ... fitting is more of an issue than the barrel brand. It's not the item you need to start with.

Jolly Rogers
August 30, 2010, 07:06 PM
For the $ a tightly fitted barrel bushing is the biggest pay off IMHO. More money will be spent with any other changes for less benefit. See what your barrel can do first before you change it. Lightening up the trigger may help too but it will cost a lot more unless you do it yourself.

August 30, 2010, 07:24 PM
Getting a few rounds in it to settle everything together might save you some time an $$$$$....

August 30, 2010, 07:35 PM
I’d leave the pistol OEM with no modifications’. Target it at 25yds with your load of preference from bench rest. Adjust sights for POA as required. Stand up and shoot. Become proficient then tinker and tweek.

August 30, 2010, 09:10 PM
Don't take this the wrong way, but 21 feet is only 7 yards. This is considered defensive range. You have to establish a 25 yard, bench rested group before you do anything. You must have a baseline to gauge the benefits of each mod. This is the only way to know if you are on the right track.

August 31, 2010, 10:51 AM
Great suggestions. Thanks.

Do not think I will tinker with it too much right now. Might look at a trigger job and different sights.

Very good advice to bench test to 25 yards. I think there is a place locally where I can do that. I will see if they have a bench rest, they might. Should be interesting.



September 1, 2010, 09:43 AM
For the $ a tightly fitted barrel bushing is the biggest pay off IMHO. More money will be spent with any other changes for less benefit. See what your barrel can do first before you change it. Lightening up the trigger may help too but it will cost a lot more unless you do it yourself.


A tight barrel bushing is a must. Any play will affect the groupings. A crisp trigger break and you're good to go. Then get used to how your gun shoots with X ammo and dial it in. Anything more is overkill, IMO, and a waste of money until you and your gun become one.

September 1, 2010, 10:38 AM
Hi Guys

Thank you, that makes sense. How do I know that the barrel bushing is tight enough? I have checked it every way I can think of and it seems as tight as any 1911 I have ever handled (perhaps). There is NO play in it that can be managed by any amount of my leverage. Bushing to slide fit is tight (as far as I can tell), bushing to barrel is tight ( far as I can tell).

In observations are:

Cannot feel any movement with any amount of force that my hand can manage when the slide is in the forward, ready to fire position.

Slide racked back: front few mm of the barrel, the lube is worn off. Barrel play within the bushing seems less than 1mm. Bushing seems very tight to slide...cannot be moved by anything I can do with my hands.

Barrel black finish is beginning to wear (this is a new gun) in almost uniform rings from the first couple mm to about 1cm back or so. Might be able to see that in the pic I posted...not sure.

Should the barrel to slide fit be tighter when the slide is racked back, as mentioned above (1mm or less)? I would think that would cause the weapon to malfunction.

Appreciate any and all advice.


ps - still thinking: trigger, sights, optics (red dot)

And note: target shown was two separate 5 round groups, the second one shot after reloading.

September 1, 2010, 10:54 AM
Bushing sounds good ... bushing will be looser when out of battery since the barrel has to have clearance to link down - when in battery it's actually about 1 degree higher at the chamber.

Get some sights and load some good ammo - try a few different of the many standard BE loads and see what it likes. Practice, and maybe a dot, are the best investment. Trigger job if it doesn't smooth out acceptably after more use....trigger weight is a lot less important than a smooth, creep free pull.

September 1, 2010, 11:04 AM
It is very doubtful a stock RIA is going to have a truly properly fit barrel. The front barrel bushing is only part of the equation. Lower lug fitment, rear barrel/hood clearance, a properly fit lower link, headspace, and the barrel bushing are the holy grails of 1911 accuracy.

My guess is your going to get 2.5-3.0" groups at 25 yards. If so, this will not allow you to be competitive in true BE competition. A professionally set-up 1911/9mm can do an inch or less at 50 yards.

September 1, 2010, 12:22 PM
Seems a very tight slide to frame fit...

Frame to slide fit is good but a very small part of a 1911's accuracy. Schmecky actually said it best, simply put barrel to slide fit is much more important and will account for more accuracy in a 1911.

A personal opinion of mine is to get a trigger job, I prefer my trigger pull to weigh a little more than my actual 1911 (most of my 1911's weigh a little over 2 1/2 lbs so I like my trigger pull a little above 3 lbs.).

Also technique is very important, one in paticular that's very useful with the 1911 is once you pull the trigger and the shot is fired is to line up your sites THEN slowly release the trigger until the trigger resets. Now you have no travel in the trigger break.

September 1, 2010, 01:03 PM
Well, as far as RIA pistols go, I found this review of a RIA 1911 GI in .38 complelling:

(see Vol II, Issue 4, FEB 2007)

The reviewer demonstrated a 1.3" and 2.0 groups at 25yards with the GI version of the gun.

That pistol should be as close to my 9mm as one can get, without finding a 9mm review.

For serious BE competition, I think one must go to serious $$$. For $450, I am optimistic that this gun will serve me in friendly or even local competitions. I would like to make it as good as it can be for just a few $, if need be.

For shooting at 25 yards...I think, for me, better glasses will help more than a better side arm :) .... or a red dot. But...I might be able to get to a range next week to try.



September 1, 2010, 07:03 PM
A gold bead front and U shaped rear might help. The sights would need to be set correctly for height, with means a good smith.

September 1, 2010, 07:15 PM
It is very doubtful a stock RIA is going to have a truly properly fit barrel. The front barrel bushing is only part of the equation. Lower lug fitment, rear barrel/hood clearance, a properly fit lower link, headspace, and the barrel bushing are the holy grails of 1911 accuracy.

As the owner of a few custom BE guns, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the fit on several Rock Island pistols that I've handled or shot.

My guess is your going to get 2.5-3.0" groups at 25 yards. If so, this will not allow you to be competitive in true BE competition. A professionally set-up 1911/9mm can do an inch or less at 50 yards.

First you walk, then you run ... he's not trying to "be competitive" at 50 yards right off the bat - he hasn't seriously tried 25 yards yet!! If the gun from a Ransom or decent bag rest can outshoot him for now, that's more than good enough to get out there and practice.

September 1, 2010, 08:48 PM
Just remember that a movement of 1mm at the muzzle when the slide is in battery translates into about 6.5" group at 25 yards.

September 2, 2010, 01:27 AM
Canuck-IL has a good handle on this. I would take his advice, you can tell he shoots bullseye. I used to shoot bullseye a good bit, but now its mainly a practice discipline for me...and it is a good discipline.

On the vision issues, if the optics seem out of line with your short term goals and you have a decent shooting gun, and the RIA Tactical I think has high visibility sights. So you need pair of perscription shooting glasses.
Tell your favorite optometrist you need glasses for competitive shooting and need to focus at the distance from your eye to about 6 inches past the forward edge of your fist when your arm is straight out to the side (front sight distance). Better still, have a family member use a tape measure to measure from your eye to the front sight when you are holding an unloaded pistol in your shooting position. Then tell the optometrist this distance to correct your vision. I see one optometrist who will let me bring in a slide to focus on at the determined distance when in my shooting form. I found out he works with several shooters. Anyway, your optometrist will help you out ... or go left wing and say..."no, I can't do that". If they go commie on you, find another optometrist. I did.

September 2, 2010, 09:41 AM
Hi Guys

Thank you for the great advice. Yes, indeed, I am just trying to out shoot an old friend right now and continue to practice for my personal best. I am quite comfortable with this side arm and have shot quite a number of different ones over the years. Nothing serious though.

The idea is to have this one be a platform for moving forward, seeing what works to increase accuracy and precision...for as small a sum of $ as can be.

The first decision point is/was: is this the right platform. I think it can be and no one in the thread has suggested moving on to another one. It's inherent accuracy seems to be quite good. This really was the larger question...stay with the RIA 1911 or get something else (but cannot get anything too expensive).

The next decision point was the upgrades. Barrel, fit, sights, trigger. Great advice...seems that the gun is fine as is and needs nothing except perhaps doing the trigger. I took a critical look at the trigger again and it seems as creep free as any but a high end one could be. I thought it was mushy...but that was a misperception.

Finally: sights/vision. This really is perhaps greatest challenge (we agree on practice and experience...but those are not platform related issues...they are a given). Great advice on glasses. I use +2.0 diopter reading glasses and have +1.0, +1.25 and +1.5 for shooting. Still experimenting with those...but finding that seeing the sights most most helpful.

SO.....for distance shooting...25 yards...I have a suspicion that my challenge is going to be ...seeing the target clearly enough. At +1.5 or 1.25 will not be too fuzzy...but a bit. SO..... I am still thinking Red Dot.

And as far as Red Dots...had thought about going as cheap as possible...getting a simple grip mount and using the cheap one I have. Is there any utility in doing that at all..or ...would it be simply inevitable to go to a mini red dot, slide mounted? I am thinking I would have to go the latter route....but wonder if the grip mount would be serviceable?

Thanks discussion.

[Note to clarify...the less than 1mm play was with the slide locked back..and pic was two separate groups of 5 rounds each. Thanks]

September 2, 2010, 11:17 AM
The grip mount is cheap enough to try but you will upgrade pretty soon. I wouldn't skimp on the dot - get an Ultra-Dot 1 inch with their lifetime warranty ... they're about 120-130, buy once, cry once.

Astigmatism is an issue with vision correction and it can fool with the shape of the dot. When I shoot in evening matches I almost never see a round dot - more of an amoeba or comet with a pronounced tail. That's after 8-10 hours on a computer. Conversely, with early morning matches I get a clear, round dot. Eye fatigue + astigmatism is tough on precision shooting. I still work at irons for HP shooting and had an optometrist write a script for safety glasses with a point of focus at the front sight. As Magnumite suggested, I brought in the actual guns (if the eye doc is picky you can mount the dot or a set of irons on a block of wood that mimics the appropriate grip and eye-front sight distance) and worked from those measurements.

The target can be left blurry but, as you noted, not too blurry. It can take a few trips to the doc to get it straightened out. I used a bunch of the cheap Walgreen's reading glasses to get close but the script safety glasses have the advantage of allowing a different lens in the off eye so I can actually use my scope. If you don't now, you should also practice with both eyes open... makes quite a difference in eye fatigue over the course of a match. I still need to use one of the flip-down white blinders to partially obscure the image in the off-eye ... for rifle shooting where the flip blinder is in the way, I just put a layer of opaque scotch tape over the top half of the off eye lens.

Just more to think about ...

September 2, 2010, 01:13 PM
Hi Bryan

Thanks, your input is very helpful.

I think you are right about the mini red dot. One of the things that makes it ..somewhat... cost effective is that these can be used on any gun by just changing the base plate. And....since the RIA has a Novak type rear sight, I could use that base and then use it if I get any other 1911 with Novak sights. I think that is a good call.

And...would make it more fun, really. It would be nice to really be able to see both the sight image and target clearly...much less eye fatigue and ....more fun.

I may still look into custom shooting glasses, though I do feel quite good using the low diopter reading glasses. I could always knock out one lens...easy to try on a cheap pair (you can always find them at the dollar store)...or use different power contacts.



September 2, 2010, 08:20 PM
I would suggest you not spend ANY money on it. It is basically a very limited platform. If you want a dedicated centerfire gun, buy a S&W Mod 52. My 52 will consistently shoot 1.3" at 50yds and usually better if there is no wind. You will never get your gun to shoot anywhere close to that without investing 2-3 times the money in it that a Mod 52 would cost. You will need a good .22 and a really good .45 to compete in Bullseye. I use Ultradot 30mm red dots on all my guns and have been very happy with them for over a decade. They will definitely help your aging eyes and will allow you to use a center point of aim instead of the 6 o'clock hold that most use with open sights. Mine are all slide mounted and have held up with no problems. You will have to bump your powder weight a little in order to comensate for the added slide weight. Hope this helps and your 9mm would make a great bedside gun.

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