Rock River Arms’ 1911-A1s are back in full production. Nine different personal defense and target models are being offered, ranging from the competitively priced 1911 Poly to the Limited Match that retails for $3,600. All of the new pistols are .45 ACPs with 5-inch barrels. Three of them are defense guns, while the other six are intended for competitive shooting. One of these is the Carry model, which offers custom features at a price that is very competitive when compared to similar custom pistols from other manufacturers.
The Rock River Arms 1911-A1 Carry is an all-steel, .45 ACP pistol with classic lines that weighs about 39 ounces unloaded. Like other 1911s, it is about 8.75 inches long, 5.25 inches tall and 1.3 inches wide across the grips. It feels solid in the hand and points as naturally as the GI .45s carried by military and law enforcement personnel all over the world for just over 100 years. On the other hand, the Carry is a highly refined pistol that has many features that make it an even better fighting pistol than the legendary 1911 that performed so well for so many years.
These refinements begin with the finish on the gun’s metal and extend deep inside the frame. Starting at the surface, the Carry is Parkerized like many GI guns, but its color is a dark matte gray, which is more attractive and blends better into the civilian world than olive drab. The Carry also has attractive and hand-filling checkered, double-diamond, rosewood grips that offer a far more secure grip than the grips on military 1911s.
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When it comes to the slide, the Carry’s high-profile rear Heinie sight is a big improvement over the tiny factory sights that were mounted on .45 autopistols for decades. The front of the rear sight has a cocking ledge that allows a person trained in one-handed manipulation of the slide to keep running his or her pistol in the event that one arm is disabled. The front sight is a ramped RRA sight, which draws easily from the holster. Both sights have Trijicon lamps that form a “Straight Eight” sight picture in low light, which cannot be misaligned in the dark like traditional three-dot night sights can be.
When aimed at a target in daylight, the white outline of the Trijicon lamp on the front sight shows up clearly against the serrated black surface of the rear sight. This makes for truly fast precision shooting during the day. At night, just stack the luminous dots and you’re right on target. Two additional features of the slide include front and rear cocking serrations and a lowered and flared ejection port. I personally don’t favor doing a press check using the front serrations because it places the fingers close to the muzzle, however some people like this feature. The lowered and flared ejection port ensures reliable ejection and helps prevent the dinged case mouths that reloaders despise.
There are also a number of tactical refinements to the frame. These include 25-lines-per-inch (lpi) checkering on the grip’s front- and backstraps and a beveled magazine well for fast reloads. The Carry also has an extended manual safety and a raised, checkered magazine release that are designed for fast, reliable functioning. In addition, the long, aluminum trigger can be adjusted for overtravel, and the pistol’s high-ride beavertail grip safety has a “speed bump” to ensure precise functioning.
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Beauty is more than skin deep on this pistol as the internal fit and finish were excellent. The forged National Match-grade slide and frame fit together with no play whatsoever. The gun’s trigger-pull weight averaged 4.25 pounds and the break was very clean, which impressed the staff at the Florida Gun Exchange where I picked the pistol up.
In addition, the throated barrel locked up tightly and could not be moved when the slide was in battery. Sear engagement was rock solid, and there was no movement in the Commander-style hammer when the safeties were disengaged. The disconnector functioned just as it should, and the tuned extractor and extended ejector fed and ejected snap caps smoothly during a dry run at my workbench. Overall, the pistol appeared very well made.
Given its excellent sights, tight construction and fine trigger, the Carry was tested for accuracy at 25 yards. The gun comes from the factory with a guarantee of 2.5-inch groups at 50 yards using Federal 185-grain match ammo, but I don’t use a ransom rest so the pistol was fired from the bench at 25 yards using an MTM Front Sight rifle rest to securely rest the gun. That’s about as far as most people will ever have to shoot in self-defense. Even so, it’s still good to know that this pistol is capable of hitting a target at considerable distances. I chose four different loads to evaluate the 1911-A1 Carry on the range: Black Hills’ 230-grain JRN, CorBon’s 160-grain DPX, Federal’s 230-grain Hydra-Shok and Freedom Munitions’ 230-grain JRN Hush.
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Accuracy and velocity testing was conducted at the Big 3 Training Center and the Volusia County Gun & Hunt Club. Average groups ranged from 2.66 to 3.9 inches, which is acceptable for shooting from the bench. Best groups were all under 2.82 inches. The load with the best average accuracy was Freedom Arms’ 230-grain JRN load. This load’s bullet is double-swaged. Its lead core is swaged before its .003-inch jacket is plated on it. Then the bullet is swaged a second time after plating to ensure it is concentric and of the proper diameter. The result is a bullet that flies very straight.
Velocity testing produced results that were well within factory limits for the .45 ACP cartridge. The fastest load was CorBon’s 160-grain DPX all-copper hollow point. It averaged 1,130 feet per second (fps) and generated a hard-hitting 453 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. In recent years, some ballistics researchers have minimized the importance of muzzle energy, choosing instead to focus primarily on penetration as the major cause of stopping power. On the other hand, energy is the ability to do work and there’s a reason why Elmer Keith and others like John Lachuk and the .44 Associates experimented with the hot .44 Special big-game loads that eventually gave rise to the .44 Magnum. Increased energy doesn’t just cause increased penetration; it also produces greater tissue disruption and improves the chances of rapid incapacitation. The 160-grain DPX is not a +P load, but its velocity gives it +P levels of energy from standard levels of pressure. The 230-grain Hydra-Shok generated 393 foot-pounds, which is one reason for its excellent reputation.
The Carry is designed for personal defense, so I used it to shoot body-armor drills. Drawing from the holster at 5 and 7 yards, I fired two shots to the chest and one to the head. At this common tactical distance, the pistol showed a clear tendency to shoot tight groups and put a number of bullets in the same hole, indicating that the Carry is very shootable.
But it wasn’t just the pistol’s good trigger and sights that made it shootable; the controls were also very easy to operate. The manual safety was easy to flick on and off yet solidly locked in place. The extended mag release was easy to press and caused empty magazines to easily drop free of the grip. And the slide stop locked the action open on empty magazines every time, yet it was easy to depress and drop the slide when doing a speed reload. Finally, the gun functioned flawlessly with all of the ammunition used for the test.
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The Rock River Arms 1911-A1 Carry is a well-built and fast-operating full-sized .45 ACP 1911 pistol. It has good tactical accuracy and proved to be fully reliable with four different loads. Overall, the pistol performed very well.