Tuesday, March 29, 2011

RIA Tactical 1911: 2,000 Round Review, Part I

Last August I traded my RIA GI 1911 for a Tactical model.  The main differences are a commander hammer, beaver tail, and decent sights.  It was a very inexpensive gun, especially for a 1911.

What can I say?  I like the gun.  It's not perfect (I'll get into the problems I had with it later), but it works well enough that I don't feel any worries about carrying it.

Anyway, the first thing I did to this pistol was to change the grips.   I had a nice set I picked up at a gun show that I knew would look great on it.

I had a little issue with the ambi safety and the new grips.  The safety didn't want to completely disengage.  A little work with a sharp knife and a brown sharpie and the issue went away.

I got it out on the range and it ran well.  I had three failures to feed (FTF) that I was able to lay at the feet of the cheap factory magazines two hundred rounds or so in.  I replaced the magazines with Wilson Combat magazines and the FTF issue disappeared.

Initially I only fed the gun Winchester 230 grain FMJ.  Most of the 2,000 rounds I've put through the RIA have been this same round and I've had no issues with it that I can blame on the ammo.

Early on I put 20 rounds of Speer Gold Dot 230gr. GDHP.  I'd bought this stuff with my Kimber Ultra Raptor in mind, but wanted to try some JHPs in the RIA.  Two of the FTF mentioned above happened with this ammo, but also with one of the cheap mags.  Later testing with Winchester 230gr. JHP and Wilson mags showed that it wasn't the ammo causing the problem but the cheap mags.

Once I started using decent magazines I never had another FTF with JHPs, however I did start having another issue:  my slide wasn't locking back after the last round.  This was probably one of the single most frustrating issues I had with the RIA.  It took a while, but I finally decided it was the Wilson magazines.  I'm not sure of the exact reason (I suspect the plastic follower).

I switched over to Chip McCormick magazines and the issue largely disappeared.  It happened once or twice with the CM magazines, but only when the gun was extremely dirty.  I have not had this particular failure in over 800 rounds of shooting so I believe I solved the problem.

My only other issue with the gun has been failures to extract (FTE).  I had my first FTE between 350 and 450 rounds.  I had lubricated the pistol after buying it but following the advice I'd seen going around the blogs I had not cleaned the gun up to this point.  At 450 rounds I cleaned it for the first time.  I cleaned the gun again at 980 rounds.  I was still having the slide lock issue, but no other types of failures.

I had a second FTE between 1,100 and 1,200 rounds.  I had three more FTEs over the next three hundred rounds.  I cleaned the gun and switched from lithium grease to Hoppe's gun oil for lubrication.  Unfortunately, I had another FTE around 50 rounds later.  This happened with ball ammo just after I'd finished running 25 rounds of Winchester JHP and 15 rounds of Hornady TAP 230gr. +P through the gun (I'd decided to switch to the Hornady for my carry ammo).

At this point I went 300 rounds without another problem.  I lubed, but didn't really clean aside from wiping the chamber with a bore patch (paying special attention to the extractor).  My thinking at this point was that that the extractor getting gunked up was the problem.

Yesterday I shot 180 rounds.  Within the first 17 I had a FTE.  Later on I had a FTE and a FTF.  I had been hoping to get through my last five hundred rounds to 2,000 with no problems, but that wasn't the case.  I believe the my issues yesterday were a direct result of a dirty gun, but I can't be sure.  I've only had one FTE with a clean gun.  All the others have happened hundred of rounds after cleaning.  Still, that one gives me some doubts that lack of cleaning is the culprit.

I field stripped (I've decided to put off a detail strip until 5,000 rounds, especially considering it's already been done once) and thoroughly cleaned the RIA.  It was, quite literally, filthy.  I broke out the tooth brush and was literally pulling built up gunk out of the nooks and crannies.  It's well cleaned and lubed, and I'm going to see how long it takes me to get a FTE.  My hope is that I will make it 200 to 300 rounds.  I can live with that as a cleaning schedule.

Since I've put 2,000 rounds down range I'm going to replace my recoil spring.  This will be the first part I've replaced, and it won't be because I've had issues but rather a matter of scheduled maintenance.  

So far most of what I've talked about has focused on the issues I've had and how I solved them.  Obviously, there is still one ongoing issues but I'm hoping I have it whipped.  In Part II I'll focus more on the positives of this pistol. 

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