1911-Rock Island vs Springfield

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Jan 10, 2008
Looking to buy my first 1911, It should be great fun as well as something I've been longing for, for awhile.
I'm after something very practical and dosent break the bank too much.

Been to the local shop, they offer a Rock Island Armory GI and a Springfield Mil-Spec.. although they must order the Mil-Spec. That didnt come as much of a surprise as i've heard they are backordered from SA.

The RIA is $450 and the Mil-Spec is at $609
Now the main thing on the Mil-Spec that interests me are the three dot sights versus the GI sights on the RIA.
I'm not too thrilled about the slightly-too-thick RIA wood panel stocks either.
(both are blued, mil-spec might be parked, true?)

Further differences are that the Mil-Spec has a polished feed ramp, flared&lowered ejection port and high hand grip (forgetting anything?)

Other than the sights, Do the Mil-Specs factory mods really make it more reliable, or does a 'proper' basic 1911 with parts and tolerances to perfect spec simply matter more?

I'd appreciate anybody owning both of these models or either one to chime in and enlighten me as to the pros & cons.
Grip height will be the same on them - they both have standard GI style frame tangs and grip safety. You're getting the improved sights - significantly better, the lowered ejection port and SAs more established reputation along with their ILS locking system. Those lawyer parts can be removed for just a few bucks (mainspring cap, cap pin, mainspring, optionally a new Main Spring Housing for aesthetics only, to get rid of the little hole the lock used to use). Also, SAs are forged top and bottom, RIA are cast frame with an extruded slide.

In general, folks have been very happy with both. If upgrades in the future are likely, I'd go with the SA as they are somewhat more meticulous about getting all the frame holes and dimensions done to spec. Neither however are absolutely assured to be perfect on every gun...normal production line variances occ. stack up and one gets a lemon - uncommon but not unheard of. In that relatively rare eventuality, RIA is reputed to have good customer service, SA definitely does.

Either should be reliable out of the box, given say 100 rounds of initial break in. The 'polished feed ramp' is marketing crap - either should feed standard RN, SWCs and JHP equally well. The SA will retain value better if the need to sell it arises. 90% of feeding issues in 1911s are mag related so good mags are often the cure for apparent gun issues.
I owned 2 SA Mil-Specs, one parkerized, one stainless, and I had reliability problems with both (others have had very good reliability with their Mil-Specs). I recently bought a RIA, and thus far it has been 100% reliable with 250 rds. through it.

The Mil-Spec sights are better than the RIA sights. Otherwise I don't believe that the Mil-Spec has any advantage over the RIA. As far as the RIA grips are concerned, I traded out the factory wood grips on mine for some checkered brown plastic grips (similar to the WW2 1911A1 grips) from Numrich.


BTW, $450 for a RIA is way too high. I bought mine from these folks on Gun Broker for $360 (shipping included), and I was very pleased with my transaction with them:


Also, for less than $450 these same folks sell the RIA tactical which has an ambi-safety, extended beavertail, and much better sights:


But, I think Sarco has the very lowest prices for RIA 1911s:


+1 to RIA Tactical. Best value in a 1911 on the market now. Springfield "Loaded" features at "GI" prices and no "lawyer lock" parts.

Over 12000 rounds thru my oldest RIA.


IMHO it really depends on what you intend to do with the pistol.

If you plan to keep the gun for 20 years and shoot it a lot, get the forged Springfield, either one.

If you plan to upgrade the gun, get the Mil-Spec. Or even save a bit more and buy a 1911 already in the configuration you desire. You will spend less money in the long run.

If you intend for this to be a light duty gun, or an introductory gun into the 1911 platform, then the Rock Island Armory is a good deal.

Full disclosure, I own Colts, Springfields, Smith & Wessons, and a Kimber. I have not owned a RIA.
Will Sarco sell to individuals or do they only deal with FFLs? On their web site it says "Dealer Price." Does Sarco charge more if an individual contacts them directly to buy a gun and have it shipped to their local FFL?
Always have wanted a 1911 for casual shooting without paying an arm and leg and the RIA Tactical was what I settled for. Maybe if I had intended to do more with it I would probably would have bought the Springfield but to be honest, the RIA seems to be a much better gun so far than many would have you believe. Mine is a fine shooter and I'm well satisfied.
Got to agree on the "get the SA" for the long run, to make changes to, value, etc. RIA seems like it would be fine for a intro piece.
People can make all the noise they want, but a forged frame beats a cast frame every time. Yes, we have good castings and bad castings, but forged still wins.
SA also has a wonderful Customer service crew. RIA may be just fine, ut who really knows how long they will be around.
Everybody is a metals expert... The RIA tactical is a better comparison to the Springfield than the base RIA 1911A1. The springfield is probably the better built pistol, but RIA has a great customer service record. If the RIA tactical is $150 to $200 less than the springer, I'd choose the RIA. (I have both).I have not seen a broken frame cast or forged on a 1911 yet.
Forged-cast I say what ever I have seen and heard of many RIA 1911's with over 100k and a few 200k no frame or slide problems. Buy the Ria and have a local gunsmith put on the sights you like you should still come out at least $100 ahead of the stock springer. more money for mags and other "tune up stuff"
I own both. The SA is stainless and was purchased used. The RIA is parked. The feed ramp in the RIA is polished and looks just as good as the Mil Spec. Both come with the lowered and flared ejection port as well as a beveled mag well. The RIA has a flat mainspring housing stock, while the Springer's is arched (this was changed out since I prefer the flat housing). GI grips will fit the RIA so they can be changed to suit your tastes (somebody correct me if I'm wrong on that please). The sights on the Mil Spec are far superior the the RIA's GI type.

Both of these pistols have seen an equal amount of shooting, about 2k rounds. Neither functions and better than the other, only a small number of failures that were all due to faulty magazines or ammo.

Choosing between the two, side by side, cost not a factor, I'd take the Mil Spec, though I would not try to steer anyone away from the RIA by any means.
A big thank you to every one who has posted some insight.
I am watching this thread closely and I'd still like more opinions & thoughts on the RIA vs Springfield, It looks as though I'm not the only one who's got these two models in mind.

There are a few more questions I have.
Does the RIA come in both parkerized and blued or have I read something wrong?
Would the Novak style sights on the RIA Tactical be easier to switch out for something different, are the Springfield Mil-Specs sights harder to change?
In your experiences, Do the ambidextrous thumb safeties help or hurt? (snagged on clothing, too hard to engage ..ect)
Springfields two piece barrel VS RIA's traditional one piece, advantage to RIA?
Curved VS flat back of grips (mainspring housing?), In your opinion is it more difficult to hold, point or disengage the grip safety with the flat?
Beavertail grip safeties = less accidental limp wristing, or is this a non-issue?

And lastly but most importantly.. Your continued experience with the reliability and accuracy of these two handguns.
Reliability is a must for me.

There have been some helpful posts as to where to buy the Rock Islands, More suggestions help with the decision.
I think I heard somewhere that RIA slides are a bit out of spec, so if you want to put them on other 1911 frames, you have to do a bit of sanding. Not quite sure about this, but you should double check.
RIA comes with high polished chrome or parkerized only as far as I know(not sure on the tactical model) Sights depends on what angle the dove tails are cut at. Any gun smith can add almost any sights I had a fiber optic front and low profile bo-mar style rear on my RIA. I have no oponion on safties I have carried and shot both with no problems. Barrels again no diffrence that I can tell but 45 may be diffrent my oponions are based on my RIA in 38 super. Main spring housing.....shouldnt matter either way but I did replace mine with a built in moulded mag well. It makes a huge diffrence with reloading. Beaver tails more for comfort and recoil control to me. Reliability on any stock milspec 1911 is a toss up I sugest even with Kimber or any one else send it to a reliable gunsmith for a reliability package. when properly done not even gold dots should hang up.

I will add that I am a large handed guy and some issues for me just do not exist that some others have like the whole limp wrist theory. Other problema are caused though like gun bite which is why I chose the beaver tail I have. I also bought my gun as an experiment and a Idpa only gun but after I was done modifing it, It turned into my carry gun. I got mine on gunbroker for $289 before shipping and tax new.
Those lawyer parts can be removed for just a few bucks (mainspring cap, cap pin, mainspring, optionally a new Main Spring Housing for aesthetics only, to get rid of the little hole the lock used to use).
what are "lawyer parts"?
The price difference between a Springfield Loaded and the RIA Tactical is over $300 dollars.
Has anybody had any problems with their RIA pistol and had to send it back in, is their warranty service any good?
I think I heard somewhere that RIA slides are a bit out of spec, so if you want to put them on other 1911 frames, you have to do a bit of sanding. Not quite sure about this, but you should double check.

This has been my personal experience. My RIA has needed more time & effort to fit parts as it is slightly out of spec. My Springfields are quite easy to add parts to.

The fit & finish of SA is so much better than RIA -this is why gunsmiths have no problems customizing SA base guns. Never heard of a 'smith doing much more to a RIA other than a reliability package.
Has anybody had any problems with their RIA pistol and had to send it back in, is their warranty service any good?

There are a couple of 1911 related boards where reps from RIA (Ivan and Ray) post regularly. They have a very good rep for having people to send any problems in for repair, or sometimes sending parts if it's a simple fix. I have not dealt with their service personally, but judging from posts by those who have, their service is about as good as it gets.
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