The Rock Island Armory Budget Friendly Double-Stack M1911

The double-stack 1911 pattern platform is experiencing its time in the sun once again. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the rise of the 2011 and double-stack 1911. Once a decade since the 1980s, it seems to happen. That’s fine with me. Typically, these guns are pretty expensive, but Rock Island Armory has opened up the floodgates with a series of affordable, double-stack 1911 guns in numerous calibers. We’ve got our hands on the Rock Island Armory TAC Ultra FS HS in 9mm. 

That’s a big name, but it’s a big gun. This series of guns are not 2011s and use the solid frame of a double-stack 1911 instead of the two-piece 2011 grip design. This is the more affordable method to do these kinds of things and helps keep the RIA double stacks priced at less than a grand. However, even at that price, is it worth the cost? That’s what our goal today is to find out with a RIA TAC Ultra FS HC and a crate of 9mm in hand. 

Specs and Features of the Double Stack RIA 

The is dummy thick and not afraid to embrace the big bottom phenomenon. Throw a set of leggings on it, and you’ll have 100K Instagram followers by the next day. The gun is 1.3 inches wide. For me, it’s not a big deal as I have bear paws for hands. However, for other, smaller-handed folks, it might be an issue. 

The barrel is the standard government 5-inch, and the overall length is 8.74 inches in total. It swings wide and heavy with a weight of 2.7 pounds. It’s not light, and the thickness adds up quickly. Double-stack means double the capacity, right? So, how many 9mm rounds does she fit under the hood? You get 17, which isn’t bad, but I expected a few more to justify how thick this thing is. 

double stack grip on RIA
That grip is huge, thick enough to make it big on Instagram.

The name kind gives us an idea of what the gun is in Rock Island Armory parlance. The TAC portion of the name means it has a rail. A full-length rail at that. The HC means high-capacity, which translates to a double-stack design, and the “FS” stands for full-size. And lastly, “Ultra” means ultra cool, or at least it does to me. 

The gun comes with adjustable sights, but sadly, it isn’t optics-ready. Still, the installed LPA adjustable iron sights are great. Overall, the double-stack RIA is a pretty solid pistol and modern enough to be functional. 

The Purpose of Such The Big Guy 

What’s the point of the RIA TAC Ultra FS HC? If you go with a double-stack M1911 or 2011 gun, the weapon you typically want is one of those pricier, better-made options for that kind of role. It’s huge for concealed carry, and you can carry an X-MACRO with the same capacity at what seems to be half the size and roughly the same price. 

barrel of RIA double stack m1911
Double stack 9mm 1911s are so hot right now.

With that in mind, what’s the purpose of the RIA TAC Ultra FS HC? I could see it being fine for home defense. It’s not the best option. I still prefer a long gun, and in terms of handguns, I’d prefer an optically enhanced firearm with as long a magazine as I can shove in it. It could also be a great option for competition if you want to enter a division without optics. 

In reality, most of the guns we buy we don’t need. Once your defensive needs are taken care of, any gun after that becomes an improvement over your current gun or just because you want. If you just want a double-stack M1911, then the RIA series fits perfectly into that I want it, and I don’t want to spend duty-ready money. 

At the Range 

It was love at first shot. The RIA TAC Ultra FS HC has barely any recoil. Holy crap, is it soft shooting and enjoyable. Grip width often helps displace recoil and makes it less noticeable since it has a wider base to spread. I doubt that’s the only reason, and the fact it weighs north of two pounds helps. Regardless, the gun is super soft shooting and enjoyable to shoot. 

the Rock Island Armory handgun shooting form rear
Recoil? What recoil?

It almost seems like the slide is moving slower than most guns. I can’t say exactly why, but I can follow that front sight with ease. It’s right where  I want it to be after I press the trigger. Tracking the sight is easy, and this leads to fast and accurate follow-up shots. The trigger is light, as an M1911 design should be. It’s quick and easy to press, and the mix of fast sight tracking and large sights makes the gun natural for fast shooting. 

RIA front sight
The front sight is easy to easy.

The RIA TAC Ultra FS HC made me realize why people love these high-cap 1911s so much. It’s addictive to shoot and a blast to ring steel with. I ran several drills for the low ready and practiced clearing a series of gongs as fast as possible. Over and over, I got faster and faster with fewer misses. One drill called for me to hit a 25% sized IPSC steel target with two rounds at 25 yards. 

Rock island armory handgun aiming
The RIA TAC Ultra FS HC is a long name for a big gun.

I was able to do that in 1.18 seconds from a low-ready position. Admittedly, that was my fastest time, and I only achieved it after a few practice runs. While that’s my fastest time, I tend to land closer to the 1.3 time than the 1.18 time. 

What About Accuracy? 

Since I’m in the 25-yard range, let’s talk about the gun’s accuracy. At 25 yards, I can nail targets, both large and small. Hitting gongs, a full-sized IPSC, and even some classic FBI Q Targets is downright easy at this range. At 25 yards, it wasn’t much of a problem to do what I needed to do. I moved back to 35 yards and did pretty well. I hit more than I missed. When I got back to 50 yards, I started having some problems. 

adjustable rear sight
The rear sight is nice, and plenty adjustable.

I got super frustrated, more with myself than the gun. Frustrated and desperate enough to grab a table and backpack to use as a stand. I threw a seat down and even moved the biggest target over to where I could assume a good shooting position without much movement required. With all this in place, I could hit the ISPC target repeatedly, more than I missed. For me, irons at fifty yards can be tricky. Now, if we were talking red dots, 50 yards isn’t often that challenging. 

What about reliability? The gun runs rather well. I had four malfunctions in 500 rounds of steel-cased Monarch 9mm. Two just didn’t fire. I had one failure to fully eject, giving me a classic jam and round that didn’t fully load into the chamber. The projectile was pushed into the case. I’m not sure if that happened before the slide slammed it into the chamber. 

Worth It? 

For less than a grand, the RIA TAC Ultra FS HC is one helluva gun. It could be better, but it could also be a lot worse. It’s surprisingly reliable with the cheapest ammo I can find. It’s plenty accurate, but it is begging for a red dot optic. If you want to jump on the double stack M1911 or 2011 bandwagon, this gun makes it easy to do so. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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