The Rock Island Armory 1911 38 Super Full Size Pistol is a semi-automatic large-frame
pistol chambered in .38 Super. The 38 Super makes up a third of the full size line of Rock Island 1911 pistols, which use the famous Colt 1911A1 design. Like the original it has an all-steel construction, grip
safety, manual safety, it’s hammer fired and has a single-action only
trigger. The standard FSP is made of steel and has a Parkerized finish,
but the FPS is also available with a Nickel finish. Rock Island is known
for making affordable 1911s.
|1911 Super 38|
|Features:||Grip safety; manual safety; and GI style trigger|
When I was first introduced to the Rock Island Super 38 1911 it was by complete happenstance. I was shooting at my local range one day, which also rents weapons should one wish to. I hate to think of myself as a purist, but a 1911 is a .45 ACP. Period. However, the Super 38 intrigued the heck out of me, and so I decided to review it. I’m actually glad I did. What a neat gun.
When I first got it in my hands:
My first impressions of the gun were so-so, to be honest. I immediately noticed that the frame-to-slide fit was a tad loose, but that tends to be the way it is with .38s and 9mms, so I wasn’t too concerned. The gun worked excellently, however, and felt solid as, well – a rock.
The finish, as you can see from the pictures, was plain old parkerized black, and it featured wood grips that actually loosened over time, but for a rental gun I wasn’t complaining. We tightened them up and went on with our lives. Don’t sweat the small stuff, as they say. Other than those two minor things, the gun appeared pretty well made and felt, in my hands, just like any other 1911. In other words, heavy and down-to-business, just how I like 'em.
At the range:
Well, I guess you are wondering how the thing acted when the trigger was pulled. I was, too. This may come as a shock to some of you, as it honestly did too myself, but that Rock Island Super 38 1911 ending up being very accurate and comfortable. It put the bullet exactly where I aimed it, every time. In fact, I was more than impressed; I was downright happy. Being a rental gun, as I mentioned, the thing has seen endless hours of abuse, and seemed to be no worse for the wear. The shop owners said it was their most reliable piece – even above the Glocks. That’s right, folks, more reliable than the Glocks. Who knew?
The magazine holds nine rounds, which is something I don’t usually encounter. The recoil was negligible. It kicked less than my CZ 75, but I imagine that’s largely due to the solid 1911 platform. I never did pull the trigger very fast in succession, but every time I pulled it, a round was sent down range. The gun never jammed. But the magazine was a little picky going in sometimes, though, and it preferred to be inserted with the slide locked back. That was the only issue, though, through the fifty rounds I put down the barrel.
The sights were pretty standard, but they were dead on. The first magazine of nine all went into the orange (center) zone of the target at around thirty feet. I can’t even manage that with some of my own pistols. The Rock Island Super 38 1911 definitely gets kudos in that regard. To call it extremely accurate may be an understatement.
The trigger pull was crisp, and if I had to guesstimate I would put it at 4.5 pounds or so. The safety worked well, the slide stayed back after the last round, and the gun felt all-around comfortable. Again, it’s a 1911, and that design tends to be timeless for just that reason.
One thing I had slight issues with was that the casings were ejecting straight up, and many of them either bounced off my ball cap or landed in my shirt pocket. I think that could be fixed with a trip to the smith, but I just wanted you to be aware that it was my experience. Not so cool.
Why would we want a Super 38?
What is the Super 38 good for, though? Well, they push rounds out at approximately 1280 feet per second, which is a great speed for people-stoppers. In fact, the caliber itself was developed in the late 1920s to combat the powerful weapons that gangsters were carrying. It was intended specifically to pierce through the body panels of that era, because car chases were becoming commonplace. I wouldn’t recommend shooting a bear with one, but because the Super 38 is based on such a stout platform, they are very capable of firing really heavy loads without issue.
Another cool fact, that the super-nice guy at Dave’s Gun and Archery in San Bernardino told me, is that you can quickly change the barrel out to 9mm. The pistol can be had for around $400, too, which greatly adds to its appeal.
Of course, one has to wonder why the RIA can be purchased for $400, while the bigger name brands sell theirs for over twice that. Be ready to spend $1,000 for a Kimber or other higher-end name with the same caliber. While the RIA definitely did its job today, and apparently does it over and over, I still lean toward spending a few more dollars at the outset to prevent costly repairs later.
The RIA Super 38 is a pretty nice pistol. It is likely one of the best bangs for your Super 38 buck out there. The gun is heavy, it feels well-built, and it’s extremely accurate. It’s a base-model that has no bells and whistles, but gets the job done and gets it done well. I had a great time shooting it, and was very happy with it all-around. A quick trip to the gunsmith for a tune-up and some fancy grips, and you’d have a real nice pistol on your hands.