RIA 1911 in 38 super...pros or cons?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by crowtalks, May 2, 2022.

  1. crowtalks

    crowtalks Member

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    For some reason, I have been seriously thinking about getting a Rock Island 1911 chambered in 38 super...and I really don't know why, but the thought of a 1911 in 38 super has been intriguing to me, though.

    I have owned tons of guns, but I have never owned anything in 38 super, even though I have a box of the ammo.

    I also reload but I may have to get super dies if I can't adapt my 38 special dies for it.

    Thoughts and/or experience?

    Jim
     
  2. Rock185

    Rock185 Member

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    Hello, I handled a RIA 9mm, and got to field strip a compact RIA .45. Both seemed like well made guns to me.

    As to the .38 Super cartridge, I've owned several 1911 type pistols chambered for this cartridge, and have reloaded it since the '70s. Obviously, I like the cartridge. It can be loaded to duplicate 9X19mm, or produce ballistics that safely exceed 9mm. This, especially with the 147 grain and heavier bullets. With 115-124/125 grain bullets, the advantage may quite as much when compared with 9mm +P and +P+ factory ammo and equivalent reloads. I prefer the integrally ramped barrels used by most manufacturers now days for the 38 Super, 9mm, etc. This due to feed reliability and superior case head support.
     
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  3. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    It’s a lot of fun in a 1911.
     
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  5. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    I would get it if I wanted a 38 super to fire- and had access to the ammo/reloading components.
     
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  6. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    I love my Colt Commander in .38 Super! For me it's just the right size and weight for the cartridge. You can also easily convert the .38 Super to 9mm. with a barrel assembly and 9mm. mags. No need to swap out the recoil spring or the ejector; the .38 Super parts will work with both cartridges.
    TKOQiby.jpg
     
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  7. Howland937

    Howland937 Member

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    Its a lot of fun, for sure. The only gun I own that never gets left at home when I'm heading to the range.
    I went the opposite way, starting with the 9mm. I swap out recoil springs though, but anymore I don't even use the 9mm mags. The 38 Super mags feed 9mm just as well for me.
     
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  8. bangswitch

    bangswitch Member

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    I've got a GI model RIA in .38 Super. It's fantastic. The pistol is as tight as any 1911 I own (five of them), and .38 Super is pretty low recoil on a full-size 1911, even on the upper end of the loads you can make. I've made some rockets using 90 grain bullets pushed with 6.8 grains of Bullseye, almost 1500 fps!. The better loads for "normal" shooting have been 125 grain using Power Pistol or Blue Dot, up to 1200 fps or so. Everything I've put through the pistol has run without issue. The grips on the GI are sort of blah, so I upgraded mine to ones from Altamont. IMG_1435.jpg IMG_1553.jpg

    If you decide to reload, use the Super Comp brass. The rim is slightly smaller than standard .38 Super Auto, it works well in the RIA. As for cons, I haven't found any yet.
     
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    What’s not to love?
    [​IMG]
     
  10. crowtalks

    crowtalks Member

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    Thanks heaps!
     
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  11. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    I have several Rock Island 1911's and they are all good to go. I was looking for the 38 Super version when I bought my last one but couldn't find any. I ended up buying the 9mm version and later bought a 38 Super barrel from RIA. It's nice to be able to shoot both 9mm and 38 Super with just a swap of barrels and magazines.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2022
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  12. LeftyRed

    LeftyRed Member

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    Pro-it’s a 38 Super
    Con-makes the rest, meh.

    My favorite 1911 chambering.
     
  13. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    38 Special dies will not work properly for loading 38 Super.

    38 Super is a great round in a 1911.

    Hopefully, the RIA headspaces on the case mouth and not the rim. Most 38 Super barrels these days are machined that way. Accuracy is much better.

    Up until the mid-1980’s to 1990’s, 38 Super guns headspaced on the rim. This gave lackluster accuracy and 38 Super did not have a stellar reputation for accuracy.

    As competition shooters wanted to use the 38 Super for their games, they found if the barrel was chambered to headspace on the case mouth, accuracy greatly improved.
     
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  14. Remington1911

    Remington1911 Member

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    It is one of those things that I always grab and fondle, I likely have not bought one as I am trying to be an "adult"......there is really no fun in that.

    I went through the same thing when looking at a heritage single action 22. At the time they hovered around $100. I bet it took me 5 years of waffling to buy the thing. Everyplace I went I always played with a few, put them back with an eh you don't NEED this silly toy. Fast forward to today and I always take that silly toy when I am going to shoot anything.

    I have a feeling the 38 super is going to be the same. I bet I have fondled the RI GI like the above poster has for at least 5 years, never buying it. I know I will one day.
     
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  15. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    38super is a fun round. It's more funner in a 1911 (don't ask me why, it just is).
    Pro: you have a cool 1911 in a fun caliber.
    Con: Factory ammo is absurdly priced.
    Oh, and, it's very hard to reload as much as you want to shoot, too [:)]

    Prices are all over the place. My LGS has an Armscor Gi just like @bangswitch 's top photo above, for $600. And, it's tempting me.
     
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  16. CoalCrackerAl

    CoalCrackerAl Member

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    My only GI model is a RIA 38 super. Im very happy with it.
     
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  17. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    Reloading the 38 Super is easy as long as you have the components. I already had a set of 38 ACP dies for reloading 9mm Largo so I am set there.

    Yes 9mm Largo, 38 ACP, and 38 Super all use the same reloading dies.

    It is crazy how manufacturers want more for a 1911 chambered in 38 Super versus one chambered in 9mm. It was definitely cheaper for me to buy my RIA in 9mm and then buy a 38 Super from them. I also made sure to get a couple of 38 Super magazines too.
     
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  18. whatnickname

    whatnickname Member

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    The 38 Super is an outstanding round that got low marks for accuracy back in the day because Colt head-spaced their pistols on the cartridge rim. Those that were converted to head-space on the case mouth were more accurate...the rim of the case was just too small and there were variances in rim specs. Slug your barrel. There were some barrels that were made for .357” bullets. My guess is that the 38 Supers that are being made today are for .355” bullets.

    If I were going to buy a 38 Super pistol today I would also buy as much ammo and brass as I could get my hands on. That cartridge is in low demand and ammo / brass is going to be hard to find for some time to come. Same goes for the 357 Sig and 45 GAP.

    RIA pistols? I’ve owned half a dozen. Some ran some of the time. Some ran all of the time, and some never would run. Good guns for the money? Depends on your personal experience. In the world of 1911 pistols, these are low end guns. I’ve traded all but one of mine away. The one I kept was the cheapest of the bunch...an older full-size gun that is nickel plated...shoots anything I put in it! If I were going to buy a 38 Super today, I would buy one of the new stainless steel Colt guns. The old adage that you get what you pay for has never been more true when it comes to guns. I went to 357 Sig to fill this niche. Ammo is more prevalent but it’s a pain in the butt to reload. Extremely easy to convert these to 40 S&W where ammo is no problem at all.

    Just my .02 cents!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
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  19. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    Ah, no, I meant "hard" in the sense of how you cut firewood in Canada--After you ave cut all the wood you think you need, go cut 3x more.
    Ditto loading 38super.
    It's easy.
    It's also easy to stop reloading too soon versus how many you want to shoot.
     
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  20. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    While slugging the barrel is not a bad thing, it won't tell you if the barrel is made for .355 or .357 bullets. Why? Because SAAMI specs for 38 Super, 9mm and 38 Special and 357 magnum are the same. Groove diameter of .355 + .004. Therefore anything between .355 and .359 is within spec. Of the 9mm, 38 Super, 38 Special, 357 Mag barrels i've slugged, their groove diameter is all over the place, but most are within spec. Some 38/357 barrels have been under spec - less than .355.
     
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  21. whatnickname

    whatnickname Member

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    A number of competitive shooters I’ve known ran .357” bullets in their 38 Super pistols. All of them slugged their barrels before settling on a bullet to compete with. If I had one under .355” I would not want to run .357” bullets in it. And, if I had a 357 Magnum with a barrel under .355” it would go back to the manufacturer if I started seeing signs of excessive pressure.
     
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  22. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    This person ran .357" bullets in a .3548" 38 Super barrel and did not report concerns.

    https://www.shootingtimes.com/editorial/super-accurate-38-super-loads/326242
     
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  23. bangswitch

    bangswitch Member

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    Brass is not at all hard to find for .38 super Auto, at least no more difficult than many other, more popular cartridges, in these days of shortages. Super is one of the most popular cartridges for competition, due to its low recoil and relatively flat ballistics. I would suggest to the OP, if he reloads, to buy the "Super Comp" brass; the rim diameter has been decreased to the diameter of the case head, which pretty much eliminates any issues with feeding and extraction. If you desire to use .357 bullets, definitely slug your barrel first, they may have chambering issues in the stock RIA Super. I loaded one case to see how well it would feed from the magazine, and my RIA 1911 invariably failed to go into battery because the cartridge would not fully seat. The .357 bullet (125 grain JHP) noticeably expanded the case mouth of the Comp brass. .355's are no issue, I use 115's and 124's, and have even loaded some 90's, which you can get almost 1500 fps from, with really manageable recoil.

    As for the RIA being a low-end gun, they are definitely less expensive than similar offerings from SA, Ruger, Colt, Kimber, etc, but mine is as well made as my Ruger and SA 1911's, actually a slight bit tighter fit. I bought the GI model, mainly because of its low cost, but I was impressed by the quality of fit and finish. My only complaint was the wood in the grips, they almost looked like pallet wood, but grips are widely available and compatible across the 1911 field.
     
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  24. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    An old retired “race gun” I got cheap because the owner had upgraded. It’s still one sweet shooting pistol.
    [​IMG]
     
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