There is simply no other handgun like the 1911. In fact, no other kind of gun can claim the same level of popularity and continued production over the course of 117 years. There is no end of that popularity in sight.
The 1911 continues to thrive for a variety of reasons: the power of the cartridges (9mm, .38 Super, 10mm and .45 ACP), its comfort and feel in the hand, its reliability and its accuracy. It served as our primary military combat handgun for some 74 years, as a civilian self-defense and sporting handgun, and as a favored concealed carry pistol in its full size, medium size, compact size and even micro size.
The full-sized 1911, with its all-steel construction, is a fairly hefty handgun and weighs around 40 ounces in its original military-style .45 ACP guise. In comparison, the similarly sized Glock 17 weighs only 22 ounces. An 18-ounce difference in weight may not seem like a lot, but packing a full-sized, all-steel 1911 for an entire day can wear on you, even with the support of a police duty gun belt. Concealed carry permit holders or off-duty or plain-clothed cops who choose to carry a full-sized 1911 soon find out the same thing. In fact, I recently had to give up wearing my Iver Johnson .38 Super 1911 on duty for a number of weeks while I went through additional physical therapy for my back. I substituted my Glock 17 to lighten the load for a while.
There have been a few manufacturers over the years who have introduced polymer-framed 1911s as a way not only to save weight but also to reduce the price, thus making it much more palatable to carry and purchase a full-sized 1911. One manufacturer that recently added a polymer 1911 is Rock River Arms.
Rock River Arm’s 1911
Rock River Arms is probably best known for its excellent line of AR-15 rifles. Its line is quite extensive and is available in a wide array of calibers. Rock River has seven full-sized 1911s in its lineup, one of which is the RRA POLY 1911.
The RRA POLY 1911 came packaged in a lockable, heavy-duty, blue plastic case with two stainless-steel, seven-round magazines equipped with bumper pads. At first glance, the all-black frame appeared to be made of anodized aluminum rather than polymer. One of the salesmen, who was doing the transfer paperwork for me, was shocked to find out that it was not aluminum. This attests to the quality of the frame’s manufacture. There was also some fine checkering on the flat mainspring housing and the frontstrap.
The RRA POLY 1911’s frame is reinforced with a steel insert for rigidity. Unlike polymer-framed guns such as the Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P series, the RRA POLY 1911 uses actual grip panels held in with screws in the standard 1911 position. The grip panels are over-molded, soft rubber grips with a double-diamond pattern. Any standard 1911 grip panels or laser grips, such as those from Crimson Trace or Hogue, can be substituted.
When I picked up the RRA POLY 1911 from the box, I immediately noticed that the grip circumference was greater than that of a standard 1911. This is due in part to the over-molded grips and the greater diameter of the polymer grip frame itself. After handling it for a while, the difference in feel melts away. If the difference bothers you, you can swap out the over-molded grips with aftermarket, ultra-thin grips. The magazine well is beveled for easy magazine insertion.
What I also noticed right away was the reduced weight of the RRA POLY 1911. Unloaded weight is 32.64 ounces. While not as light as a Glock 17, it is 11 ounces lighter than my 1911 .38 Super, which is pretty significant.
The slide release and thumb safety of the RRA POLY 1911 are both standard size. While a standard-sized thumb safety works fine for me, I prefer an extended slide release. If I were keeping the RRA POLY 1911, I would swap out the standard slide release for an extended one. The magazine release is checkered. The beavertail grip safety has a memory bump and guards against hammer bite.
The extended, skeletonized, oval-shaped, Commander-style hammer makes cocking easier than a true rowel-type Commander hammer. The three-hole, aluminum speed trigger is adjustable for over-travel. There is about 1/4 inch of slack, and the break is very crisp. Pull weight is approximately 4.5 to 5 pounds.
The Rock River slide features angled grasping grooves at the rear only and is a Parkerized, matte black color. The 5-inch barrel is made of chrome moly steel and has a 1:16 LH twist. It is held in place by conventional barrel bushing. The RRA front and rear sights are grooved at the rear to reduce glare. The rear sight is curved forward to allow it to catch on a belt or boot for emergency one-handed reloading when the support hand is out of commission. I would have liked to have a white or colored front insert or a sight setup such as the new XS Sights F8, but the factory sights could be changed out by the owner.
At the Range
I took the RRA POLY 1911 to the range with an assortment of SIG Sauer’s Elite FMJ .45 ACP practice ammo as well as its 230-grain V-Crown JHP ammo. My “shooting neighbor” accompanied me to give me his take on it.
The RRA POLY 1911 performed flawlessly. Recoil was not objectionable at all even with the lighter weight. The slightly larger frame circumference distributed the recoil nicely through the palm of my shooting hand. I would not want a much lighter arm to launch a full-powered .45.
We ran our test fire at 40 feet from a two-handed standing position. The owner of the private range joined us to test the pistol out as well. Most of the groups from all three of us were around 6 inches. I was not thinking and used a black B27 silhouette target, which made the all-black sights difficult to pick up (at least for me). My neighbor fired the best group of the day using the Elite V-Crown loads. He dropped all seven rounds into an area that he could cover with the palm of his hand. All three of us were quite satisfied with the RRA POLY 1911’s performance.
The RRA POLY 1911 has an MSRP of $925, which is considerably less than the all-steel RRA 1911s. Like all Rock River 1911s, it is covered by the same RRA limited lifetime warranty. I have seen the RRA POLY 1911 available online for $825, which is a great price for a USA-made 1911. If you want to carry a fine full-sized, reasonably priced 1911 that lightens the load for EDC, check out the RRA POLY 1911 .45.
About Scott W. Wagner
Scott W. Wagner is a criminal justice professor and police academy commander from Columbus, Ohio. He has been a police officer since 1980, working as an undercover liquor investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, patrol officer, SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader. Scott is currently a patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. He has been a police firearms instructor since 1986 and is certified to instruct revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.