Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm Review

One of the most recognized firearms manufacturers is Armscor, Arms Corporation of the Philippines and they have USA operations in Nevada and Montana. They have become world-recognized for value-priced quality firearms, especially budget 1911 pistols, and ammunition. They are an ISO 9001 certified compliant company. Col Ben gives his insight about their new Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS in 9mm.

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Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm Review
At the request of several carry readers, I chose to review one of Armscor’s most popular new, value-priced premium 1911 handguns, their RIA 1911 TAC Ultra series pistol. It is versatile, an all-around 1911, and the CS (Compact Size) TAC Ultra is a concealed carry size that comes in 45ACP, 10mm, 40S&W, and 9mm calibers. It is offered with extras like skeletonized hammer and trigger, full-length under-picatinny tactical rail, fiber optic front sight, adjustable rear sight, G-10 grips, and other upgrades as given below, for a very competitive price.

Brief History of Armscor

One of the most recognized firearms manufacturers is Armscor, Arms Corporation of the Philippines. Armscor began as Squires Bingham manufacturing in 1952 when they acquired a firearms and ammunition license in the Philippines. The headquarters of this parent company is in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines, but they have Armscor USA operations in Nevada and Montana.

Armscor opened its first production facility in the United States, an ammunition-manufacturing plant, in Stevensville, Montana in 2011. Their U.S. headquarters is in Pahrump, Nevada. Armscor acquired the Rock Island Armory (RIA) brand of firearms in 1985, exports to about 60 countries, and has become world-recognized for value-priced quality firearms, especially 1911 pistols, and ammunition. They offer over 20 M1911 value-priced pistol models for both first-time buyers and budget-conscious shooters.

The company was re-branded to Armscor Global Defense, Inc. in 2017, to emphasize its total defense solutions growth. They also produce revolvers, shotguns, and rifles. Over the years, they have produced guns for other manufacturers, like STI, Charles Daly, Auto-Ordnance, High Standard, etc.

Since 1997, Armscor-RIA is an ISO 9001 certified compliant company which manufacturers weapons using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) equipment to enhance accuracy. Armscor Ammunition follows the ISO, SAAMI, and CIP standards. All barrels are machined from 4140 solid bar stock steel The company has been led by various family members of the Tuason family for many years and began making firearms through their present corporation in 1952. The Tuasons bought the original company in 1941. Thanks to the two current Tuason family executives that I communicated with, who arranged for me to review the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS.

My RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS Review Plan

Earlier on this website and others, I evaluated several other sub-compact 1911s with less than a 4-inch barrel. So, I wanted to compare the RIA TAC Ultra CS to them. I wanted to see how this value-priced 1911 compared and see if it fit in my top 8 sub-compact 1911 9mms for carry. I appreciate them sending it to me, so I could test and evaluate it and offer my opinions to help you and myself. Some are included in my Top 21 Concealed Carry guns in the second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” Now with this recent RIA TAC Ultra, I want to analyze, compare, and rank it among my top 1911 sub-compacts for a recommendation or not.

I want to start my review by giving the specifications and features of the RIA TAC Ultra CS 9mm. Then, I will give my criteria and range test results for the RIA to help you analyze your handguns and make the best selection for yourself. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences. Below, I’ll suggest a quality, custom leather holster I like for this 1911 RIA 9mm.

Review Disclosure

I was very anxious to shoot the RIA 1911 and to compare it factor by factor to my other quality sub-compact 1911 9mms, to see if it ranked in my top concealed carry pistols and my top sub-compact 9mm 1911s. Know that I am not on the Armscor and RIA payrolls, have not been paid or compensated by them in any form for this review, and not given any gratuities nor influenced to say certain things about the gun. I want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the pistol to help folks sincerely. Based on my range test of the gun and my analysis, I want to give you my opinions with pros and cons and issues and/or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun or allow me to carry it.

Is this a gun I would recommend for concealed carry?

Would it make it to my top eight list of 1911 Sub-Compact 9mm handguns for concealed carry?

First, here are the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm specifications and features:

Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm Specifications:

Model Number#51700
Caliber9mm
Barrel Length & Finish3.62"; 4140 Stainless Steel; Bull; Bushingless
SightsFront: Dovetail; Fiber Optic; Rear: Windage Adjustable; Low Profile White Dots
Weight36 oz (empty mag)
Frame & FinishParkerized Matte Finish; Black
Slide MaterialStainless Steel
TriggerInternal Hammer-Fired Action
Trigger PressTo Be Reviewed
Trigger TravelTo Be Reviewed
Magazines / Capacity2 mags- 8 Rounds; Steel
Height5.12"
Width1.30"
Overall Length7.13"
SafetiesGrip Safety; External Manual Thumb Safeties
GripsG-10 Tactical
OtherLimited Lifetime Warranty; Picatinny Rail for Accessories
MSRP$786.00
© Col Ben

Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm Key Features:

  • Extended Beavertail Grip Safety
  • Full Picatinny Accessory Rail
  • Full-Length Guide Rod & Full Dust Cover
  • Ambidextrous Manual Thumb Safeties
  • Skeletonized Hammer and Trigger
  • Trigger Adjustable for Over-Travel Stop
  • Enhanced Mag Well
  • Wide Rear Slide Serrations
  • Hand-Fitted Assembly
  • Do Not Need to Press Trigger to Field Strip

Holster for the Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS

Kramer Handgun Leather makes a high-quality horsehide leather Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) Belt Scabbard holster custom fit for this RIA 1911 9mm. Kramer Handgun Leather says that this holster is designed for concealed carry use and has proven to be comfortable and effective. The gun is carried in this high-riding FBI forward tilt holster on the strong side hip. The pistol rides high on the hip, with the gun butt tucked snugly into the side, for maximum concealment. Kramer Handgun Leather says it is a flawless rendition of the “pancake” design, well suited to undercover and general concealment, as well as range use. This horsehide version is very durable with a low profile. It is available in black, mahogany, and tan colors, in various belt loop sizes, right and left-hand models, and for barrels up to 6 inches. It is also available in black cowhide.

Kramer Leather OWB Durable Horsehide Leather Belt Scabbard Holster with RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm
Kramer Leather OWB Durable Horsehide Leather Belt Scabbard Holster with RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm

Criteria And Considerations for the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS Review

Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion.

I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.

Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use.

My General Impressions: Ria 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm

The RIA TAC Ultra CS 1911 9mm is a very reasonably-priced 1911 pistol with very nice quality. Its extra features, very nice ergonomics, and budget price make this a value-priced gun for your concealed carry consideration. This 1911 is offered with some enhancements that others charge extra for. This RIA 1911 is a fine gun with the extras included at a very acceptable price.

But, does its accuracy and reliability meet my criteria? What about its weight for everyday concealed carry? Would it make my list of My Top 8 1911 Sub-Compact 9mms for Carry? I was anxious to shoot it to learn these and other things about it for myself and to give you my opinions to help you.

RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS with Fiber Optic Front Sight
RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS with Fiber Optic Front Sight

Initial Pros And Cons:

The small profile and sub-compact size of this RIA 1911 felt good in my medium-sized hands, was comfortable, and I could easily reach all controls. It was solidly built. It looked good, with the small, unobtrusive RIA logo in the back on the slide just below the hammer.

Would this pistol work for concealed carry?

Would it be accurate and reliable for such a small pistol?

I expected that the heavy steel frame and steel slide with its full-length guide rod and full dust cover would help with the recoil, but would it be too heavy to carry every day? The extras were obvious, like the skeletonized hammer and trigger, the easy-to-grasp hammer serrations to help with cocking, the extended beavertail to protect from “slide bite,” the wide rear slide serrations to help with racking, the full tactical rail, ambidextrous safeties, and the rear backstrap checkering. These were all very nice additions for this value-priced gun. It would be easy to takedown this 1911 9mm since there was no barrel bushing. It has a nice three-hole, curved trigger with over-travel stop. The slide was very easy for me and my wife to rack. The felt recoil and muzzle rise was very manageable, partially due to its heavy loaded weight.

My Wife’s Thoughts

My wife, also an NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, could easily handle its slide racking with her small hands and small stature, but it was a heavy weight for her to consistently and daily handle the almost 3 pounds loaded weight. She said for herself she would not every day carry this gun because of the weight which is her personal decision.

RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS and G-10 Grips
RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS and G-10 Grips

RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS Ergonomics

The RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS’ Beavertail is extended to help with a solid high grip and easy operation. The beavertail grip has a memory bump. The backstrap has fine-line checkering to help with a positive, no-slip grip. The front strap does not have fine checkering, but rather has vertical serrations. The tactical G-10 grips really help with a secure grasp of the pistol. They are precision machined from high-quality thermoset plastic laminate and have multiple layers of woven fiberglass filled with an epoxy resin binder to ensure they are long-lasting and very durable.

The mag release is checkered, and the slide stop release is standard size. The thumb safeties are on both sides of the gun and, while nice for lefties, made the gun wider and slightly hampered concealment. I prefer only a left-side manual safety. I wanted to get my hands on this 1911 RIA 9mm at the range and put it through its paces.

Below I will get into more specifics and my opinions for each of my criteria, after my range testing.

RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm - Accurate at 5 Yards with my Concealed Carry Drill - 15 HITS
RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm – Accurate at 5 Yards with my Concealed Carry Drill – 15 HITS

Range Test & Results for the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS Review

Armscor was nice enough to send 200 rounds of 124 grain FMJ 9mm ammo in addition to the gun. I also shot premium high-velocity Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP ammo in 115 and 124 grain weights and the new Sig Sauer 365 V-Crown JHP which is optimized for a 3.1″ barrel for concealed carry. I wanted to see how the gun performed with various hollow points for carry. Instead of the usual 500 rounds, I only fired about 300 rounds total to evaluate this gun to decide if I want to carry the gun or not.

Would this sub-compact 1911 handle the premium hollow-point rounds and the different brands of ammo without any malfunctions or stoppages?

I had the information I needed after shooting it. Below are my evaluations for each of my ten criteria for my concealed carry purpose. I wanted to put the gun through its paces with my Concealed Carry Drill with a mag change and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, and performance with premium, JHP and FMJ rounds. I want to thank Armscor and Sig Sauer for providing various fine ammo to test and evaluate the RIA 1911 CS 9mm.

After initially cleaning the gun, I used my standard “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” to test and evaluate it. You can use my Concealed Carry Drill to test and evaluate your handguns.

You can have my Concealed Carry Drill for FREE for your practice. Permission to Download, Print, and share “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” is granted when my website address and copyright are included and kept on it.

You can Download and Print “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and targets by clicking on the link at my website’s Home Page at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com

Also, you can click here on this site for a free download.

Range Results for the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS

I easily and quickly landed all 15 rounds (with a mag change) in the five various-sized circles at 5 yards. I skipped the 3-yard distance trial. First, I fired rapid fire with the Armscor 124 grain FMJ and all hit in their five circle targets and within the 20 seconds time limit… in 19 seconds with mag change at 5 yards. See above photo.

I found this Armscor 124 grain FMJ and the Sig 124-grain JHP to be the best performers for me with this gun. In my opinion, the 9mm was designed for the 124 grain round. What also impressed me was the new optimized 365 V-Crown JHP as a self-defense round. These hits were acceptable for me for closeup self-defense encounters.

BUT, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, and proficiency. Use my drill at various distances, e.g., 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20 yards to challenge yourself, as you progress. At first, do not time yourself but safely practice, until you feel comfortable and safe with the drill. Above are my hits for my 15 rounds at 5 yards fired rapid fire with a mag change with the RIA 1911 sub-compact 9mm. I shot 300 total rounds through it. Hope my drill helps you.

Opinions And Evaluations For Each Criterion

Here are my opinions and evaluations for each criterion.

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10

The accuracy of the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm was excellent for me and another instructor at close and medium distances of 3, 5, 7, 10, and15 yards. Despite my less than average eyesight and average marksmanship, this old geezer was able to shoot decent groups. No problem out to 15 yards, but I was disappointed in myself (not the gun) at 20- yards and my 3″ to 3.5″ groups.

I drew from my Kramer Leather holster and fired rapid fire. The stance I used was a Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and I shot various 115 and 124 grain FMJ and JHPs. I had NO problems shooting hollow points with the RIA 1911. Also, there were no feeding, ejection, or extraction problems at all and the gun functioned perfectly.

For the first 4 or 5 times I shot this gun, the MAGAZINE hung up and would not smoothly load. But after several more rounds, I had no more problems. Given my past experiences and my knowledge of 1911 9mms and extraction and feeding problems due to their short cartridges, I was certainly impressed with the value-priced RIA 1911 sub-compact’s reliability.

I experienced no malfunctions, stoppages, feeding problems, extraction nor ejection issues, with various ammo brands and bullet weights. This 1911 9mm was not at all finicky and digested every round smoothly. Accuracy and reliability were BOTH excellent with all ammo used.

2. Trigger Press – Score: 9

The trigger press out of the box averaged about 6.1 pounds for the Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm, with ten readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. While the readings were close to my desired maximum press range of 5 pounds for a 1911 single-action trigger pistol, it was not there. I hope the press gets down to near 5 pounds after more rounds downrange.

3. Trigger – Score: 10

The Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm’s single-action trigger was crisp, smooth and very good, with no creep, minimal takeup, with a short travel distance and short reset, so I could get off quick follow-up shots. The reset was very definite and identifiable. With this 1911, the shooter does not need to apply more pressure to get past the stacking resistance before the break. The single-action trigger was excellent and consistent shooting with pretty much the same press each time. I really enjoyed shooting this value-priced gun.

RIA 1911 Thick 3-Inch Bull, Bushingless Barrel
RIA 1911 Thick 3-Inch Bull, Bushingless Barrel

4. Barrel Length – Score: 9

The thick bull 3-inch barrel was stable, and recoil was minimal. The extra weight of the steel bull barrel helped. The stainless steel button rifled barrel was bushingless and was a thick bull barrel which helped dampen recoil. It also helps lighten the muzzle lift. There is a theoretical advantage of the bull barrel being stronger and more accurate due to the extra wall thickness which makes the barrel stiffer. But to me, this is only a slight accuracy advantage. Generally, the more weight you can add to the front of the gun, the less it will lift in recoil.

5. Sights – Score: 9

The factory red fiber optic front sight was very good. During the dusk time when I shot and handled this gun, it was easy for me to pickup the bright front sight. I do prefer a green fiber optic front sight because of my colorblindness. So, if I buy this pistol, the first thing I would do is replace the red front with a green fiber optic rod. The steel rear sights were two white dots and were adjustable. As with most factory dot sights for me, the dots were smaller than my failing eyes wanted. I like larger dots. For concealed carry, I consider fiber optic sights and/or night sights almost a MANDATORY accessory and my eyes need a bright, easy-to-pickup front sight.

TAC Ultra CS Review

6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 8

The stainless steel Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm weighed 36 ounces unloaded and was a heavy pistol for daily concealed carry. My wife had a hard time manipulating and handling it when it was loaded, with its almost 40 ounces or 2.5 pounds of weight. It has a tactical full Accessory Rail. The added weight did, however, help with managing the felt recoil for both of us. I had no problem at all handling its recoil. For me this was the biggest con, having to everyday carry this heavy a carry gun.

7. Caliber – Score: 10

The Rock Island Armory 1911 TAC Ultra CS in 9mm caliber was fun to shoot, easy to handle, and I managed the recoil well. Of course, shooting 9mm ammo is much less expensive. And modern ammo with improved ballistics, like the new Sig Sauer 365 ammo I used in this field test, is designed for short-barreled pistols and gets the job done.

8. Capacity – Score: 9

I liked the 8+1 capacity of the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm. One 8-round flush-fit stainless steel mag with witness holes is included as standard, although I prefer at least two as standard. The included mag was of high quality.

9. Ergonomics – Score: 10

The ergonomics of the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm were excellent, and I was easily and comfortably able to reach all controls like the thumb safety, slide stop, and magazine release. Its thinness felt good in my medium-sized hands, like most 1911s. This slide was one of the easiest to rack of many recent 1911 sub-compact pistols I have reviewed. I had no slide nor hammer bites, and it felt very good to hold the small profile pistol. The grip safety with its beavertail and memory bump was natural and comfortable to use. The slide-to-frame fit was very solid, and it was easy for me to rack the slide.

Hard Case with RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm Pistol, 1 Mag, Lock, Instruction Manual & Bore Flag
Hard Case with RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm Pistol, 1 Mag, Lock, Instruction Manual & Bore Flag

10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9

I easily disassembled and re-assembled the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm before I shot it. The guide rod and dust cover are “full length,” and no tools are required for takedown. The large bull barrel was bushingless, and its added weight helped me to control recoil, as well as help with takedown.

To field strip this 1911 Ultra, merely remove the magazine. Then check the chamber to ensure it is unloaded. Pull the slide back until the takedown notch is above the slide stop lever. Next, remove the slide stop. Now the slide, recoil spring, guide rod, and barrel will easily slide right off. The recoil spring and guide rod lift right out and no tools are required.

The nice hard plastic case included one mag, a lock, bore flag, and Instruction Manual. The parkerized matte-black finish on the frame and slide are nice, help protect from corrosion, and help its resistance to wear. But, this is a very plain, but functional, utilitarian gun. It will not win a beauty contest, but it is not designed to at its lower price point. This is, however, a very nice quality basic 1911 with some nice upgrades that is accurate and reliable. I will certainly consider adding this value-priced 1911 to my collection.

Total Points = 93 out of 100 Possible.

Conclusions

I RECOMMEND this value-priced RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm pistol, for home defense, personal protection, and certainly for fun plinking. This 1911 sub-compact is a little heavier than most others I have recently reviewed. I can carry it regularly, but my wife does not want to because of the weight. But this pistol has several strong features and, again, is accurate and reliable. So, I do rank this 1911 9mm in my top 8 sub-compact 1911 9mms for carry. In the next two weeks or so, I will compare it to the other seven sub-compact 1911s in 9mm in my top 8 guns. Stay tuned here for where it will be ranked on my list of my top 8.

What Impressed Me

I was impressed with its accuracy, short-term reliability after 300 rounds fired, and its controllable recoil for a sub-compact 9mm. My aging eyes liked the bright fiber optic front sight. Its fine features, upgrades for its budget price, and its accuracy and reliability are there for this very nice value-priced pistol.

Closing Thoughts

As always, these are my opinions, and you should try it for yourself. I hope this review of the RIA 1911 TAC Ultra CS 9mm has helped you gain some information for YOUR decision. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and using about 300 rounds of Sig Sauer and Armscor FMJ and JHP ammo in various grains, muzzle velocities, and muzzle energies. I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what’s important to you ahead of your range live-fire time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose. Try to use various ammo types and brands. Even try different magazines, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.

Continued success!

Contacts:

Armscor-Rock Island Armory & Ammo
1-775-537-1444
Pahrump, NV, 89060

Kramer Handgun Leather
1-253-564-6652
Tacoma, WA 98411

Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP-FMJ Ammo
1-603-610-3000
Newington, NH 03801

Photos by Author and Manufacturer.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2018 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Accuracy and Reliability
10
Trigger Press
9
Trigger
10
Barrel Length
9
Sights
9
Proper Gun Weight
8
Caliber
10
Capacity
9
Ergonomics
10
Miscellaneous
9
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"Col Ben" is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor.Ben recently wrote the book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at [email protected].