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The RIA 1911: History On A Budget

There are certainly times when “budget” is essentially a euphemism for “cheap POS.”

Then there are cases where, as with the--Rock Island 1911 and Taurus 1911, respectively--“budget” means quality and value come within reach for the average shooter.

Why should an affordable 1911 pistol concern anyone?

Mostly because no other pistol model is as integrally tied to American history or has the long-standing trust of the US military like the 1911.

Taking a look at the history of this piece will help in understanding what makes the affordability of the Rock Island 1911 and Taurus 1911 a thing to be grateful for.

"Family History" of the Rock Island 1911 & Taurus 1911

Part of the appeal of the 1911 is that it is a distinctly American gun with a uniquely American history. The 1911 is a single-action semi-automatic pistol that served as the standard-issue handgun for the US Armed Forces from 1911-1985.

Created by the famed American firearms designer, John Browning, the M1911 pistol accompanied soldiers into some of the most important conflicts in American history, including: WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war.

Preceding versions of the 1911 were developed largely in answer to a demand from the US military for semi-automatic firearms chambered in “no less than .45 caliber.”

Rock Island 1911 graphic 1

This came about due to the dissatisfaction of US soldiers with the stopping power of .38mm during the Philippine-American war. The Moros not only used drugs to inhibit the sensation of pain, but were also famous for suicide attacks.

Often, they’d continue to charge soldiers or throw themselves into bayonets even after being shot multiple times. One famous Moro warrior took 34 slugs before his juramentado rampage could be stopped.

After its success in WWI, the years leading up to WWII generated high demand as the US government realized the likelihood of entering the fight overseas. This led to production rights being contracted out to several manufacturers beyond Colt to keep up with production requirements.

Even including Singer--yes, the sewing machine company--turned out about 500 of these pistols. In fact, the Singer versions are some of the most highly prized 1911 models--even in poor condition because so few were made.

This expansion of contracting rights would eventually make it possible for use to access the Rock Island 1911 and the Taurus 1911. Long before “Glock” became a household name, the 1911 was essentially the pistol that proved that a semi-auto could match a revolver in reliability.

The 1911 "Modern Family"

In the 1970s, the US military began to consider whether it was time to retire the 1911 as its go-to handgun. The US Air Force ran a trial program to select a new standard-issue firearm using NATO standard 9mm parabellum rounds as the future chamber standard. These trials eventually led to the adoption of the Beretta M9 as the military standard-issue model.

Far from being abandoned, the 1911 remained in use by special units through 90s. Many soldiers of the time felt a connection to the piece as it had essentially been integral to their survival.

Rock Island 1911 graphic 2

Since it lost to the Beretta M9 due to modernity rather than reliability, the 1911 continued to be a favorite among law enforcement and special operations units. Civilian and competition shooters also revere it for its many tried-and-true advantages.

Taurus 1911 and Rock Island 1911 Pistol Features

The 1911 continues to be popular for its reliability, simplicity, and patriotic appeal.

What keeps this pistol at the top of gun connoisseurs' lists? And how does the Rock Island 1911 and the Taurus 1911 stack up against other makers?

Firstly, the trigger is designed to travel straight backward. This smooth motion helps with keeping sights in line, making it an incredibly accurate shot and extra appealing for competition shooters.

Secondly, the pieces that take after their steel-forged original model (at a higher price point than the one for the Rock Island 1911) soak up the recoil of the .45 cartridge like a saltine cracker in hot soup.

Third, it’s historical track record is superb. In the 1906 firearm trials that made it famous, this pistol continued to perform flawlessly even after being immersed in water to cool down. Not a single malfunction was reported in two days after firing 6000 rounds of ammo through it.

Ironically, the 1911 is perhaps most loved for the same reason it was retired: simple design. The fact that it is easy to care for in the field makes it continue to be popular with civilians and military.


Rock Island PT1911

The Rock Island Armory (RIA) 1911 is one of the most popular choices for a first-time 1911 owner due to its accessible price point and smooth operation.

A standard Rock Island 1911 sits just about $500. The parkerized finish may appear dull-looking to some, but it provides better protection against rust and moisture than standard bluing steel.

If you really don’t like it, you can always upgrade to a nickel finish, but then you’ll be bumping up into the $800+ range for that aesthetic.

The RIA 1911 can be chambered in any of the following calibers:

  • .45 ACP
  • 10mm AUTO
  • .40 S&W
  • 9mm Luger
  • .38 Super
  • .22 TCM

Rock Island 1911 graphic 3

Taurus 1911 Commander 45 ACP

Taurus has a reputation for producing inexpensive, but quality pieces. The MSRP for the Taurus 1911 series ranges from about $600-$800.

While that may not scream “budget-friendly” to many, this is still a significant discount compared to the average custom 1911’s that start above $2,000.

The Taurus 1911 comes in two calibers:

  • 9mm
  • .45 ACP

Rock Island 1911 graphic 4

Whether it’s because you’re a hardcore patriot, a penny-pincher, or a smooth operator, the Rock Island 1911 and Taurus 1911 serve as reliable options to own a piece from history (and peace of mind).

Once you’ve decided which one, we’ve got your ammo covered.

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