RIA Model 200 Revolver — Does the Quality Match the Price?

Rock Island Armory (RIA) is known for making 1911s at an affordable price. But did you know they have been making revolvers for several decades? The model 200 is one of those guns I just couldn’t pass up, with a sale price of just over $200 new. There was a time when I would have laughed at any gun that sold in the $200 price range. That price meant they were junk, but I have come to respect Rock Island for its quality. I picked it up at a farm & home store and headed out to the range to see how it performed.

Does the RIA Model 200 hold up to the same standard I am used to seeing in RIA 1911s? Keep reading to find out.

RIA Model 200 revolver 6-shot .38 special
The Rock Island single/double shot Model 200 is a basic 6-shot .38 Special revolver that sells in the extreme budget-friendly range.

The .38 Special Model 200 is a single/double action six-round revolver with a 4” barrel and an oversized rubber grip. It uses a spring-loaded, floating firing pin coupled with a transfer bar that is controlled by the trigger. It came in a hard plastic case with a foam insert, much like the 1911.

The Model 200 At a Glance

This is a simple revolver, which is expected considering the price range it sells for. The finish is like the 1911 models, which is a matte black finish. The company calls it a “well-polished,” parkerized finish. I’m not sure I would call it a well-polished finish as looks to me like it would start to wear after some use. But again, I was not expecting a high-end finish on a $200 gun.

The Rock Island 1911 and Model 200 have the same finish and are both reliable and well-built guns. For the price, you get more than what you paid for.

The revolver is made of chrome-moly steel and the action parts are heat-treated for added strength. The barrel is a half-shroud with a right-hand twist of 1 turn in 400mm. The cylinder release opens by pulling it to the rear as opposed to pushing on it.

 The cylinder is a little hard to open because the cylinder release was stiff. When closed, the cylinder did not have any play in it and all the moving parts felt sturdy. Because of the tightness of the moving parts on the Model 200, RIA recommends a break-in period of 500 rounds. Armscor offers a limited lifetime warranty on the revolver and even tells you what will void the warranty in the instruction manual.

The gun does not state that it is rated for +P and I could not find anything regarding +P in the instructional booklet. Several sources online said the Model 200 could handle a limited amount of +P ammunition but I opted to play it safe and stick with standard .38 special ammo.

cylinder on RIA Model 200
The cylinder on the Model 200 is released by pulling the release lever towards the rear of the gun.

RIA Model 200 Specs

  • Caliber .38 Special
  • Double Action
  • 6 Round Cylinder
  • Half Shroud Barrel
  • 4” Barrel Length
  • Fixed Ramp Front Sight
  • Combat Type Polymer Grip
  • Transfer Bar Safety System
closeup view of rifling on the Rock Island Model 200, right-hand twist of 1 turn in 400mm
The rifling on the Rock Island Model 200 has a right-hand twist of 1 turn in 400mm (16”).

On the Range with the RIA Model 200

The trigger felt like it was metal grinding on metal when dry-fired. After putting some ammo through it at the range, it smoothed out. I used CCI Blazer, Federal American Eagle, Remington UMC, and some Tul Ammo. The only issue I had was with the Tul Ammo. The shells swelled and did not fall freely from the cylinder. A firm push on the extractor was able to push them out. All other ammo I fired through it had no issues with removing the shell casings from the cylinder.

Jason Mosher shooting the Model 200 revolver at the range
The Model 200 calls for a 500-round break-in period when purchased new. The model 200 started shooting smoother the longer I shot it.

The sights on the Model 200 are very simple but served their purpose. I was able to shoot good groups at 25 yards and could hit an 8” metal target consistently at 50 yards with the revolver in single action. The added weight and length of the barrel helped reduce the RIA’s recoil. I fired the 500 rounds recommended for the break-in period of the gun and could definitely tell an improvement in how smooth the double action rotated the cylinder as I put more rounds through it.

Summary

The rubber grips are on the large size but made the gun feel comfortable to shoot. Wooden grips are available for this model if the owner decided they didn’t like the rubber grips. With the size of the Model 200, I probably won’t be carrying it concealed, but I don’t carry too many revolvers on me anymore. I like revolvers for keeping in a car, throwing in a backpack, or placing around the house for self-defense. When you need to grab a gun quickly when you’re not carrying, a revolver keeps it simple. You don’t have to hope it’s chambered, or the safety is off, you just point and shoot.

The finish may not be the best, but the RIA Model 200 was easy and fun to shoot. There were no timing issues with the cylinder and the trigger pull improved the more I shot it. If you are looking for a top-quality finish on a stainless beauty that will make the mob bosses drool, keep looking. But if you want a reliable revolver that will fire when you pull the trigger and you don’t have to sell your kidney to buy it, the RIA is a great option for an affordable gun. It can also be a complement to your Rock Island 1911.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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