Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: Rock Island Armory’s 10mm Autos

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Mark Hampton, American Handgunner

As someone who keeps tabs on firearm trends, over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a steady interest in the 10mm auto cartridge. Several new guns chambering the 10mm have been introduced, as well as modified versions of existing guns. There are a lot of 10mm aficionados — like myself — who are glad to see this resurrection of a great cartridge. Rock Island Armory (RIA) has been extremely proactive in the 10mm arena and this past SHOT Show confirmed they intend to stay ahead of the game.

At the risk of wearing out my welcome at RIA, I requested five different 10mm pistols! Four of the new models were 1911’s in two different barrel lengths, with and without rail.

One of these new models is called the Big Rock. And it’s — well, big. It’s both impressive and intimidating. It looks like something the Navy SEALs would pack in their battery. It’s tactical-looking by all aspects. A 6″ long-slide in 10mm will gain your attention. As a handgun hunter, I liked the non-glare parkerized finish.

All of the models tested wore the same basic characteristics, with minor variations such as barrel length and a tactical rail. When I saw the grips of the double-stack I immediately thought they would be too large for my small hands. Fortunately I was wrong! Those G-10 grips provide comfort and a secure hold, plus they simply look good. I could shoot the pistol with high-octane loads and never experienced an issue with the grip being too large — something I’ve experienced with other high-capacity models.

Better still, the G-10 grips were not abrasive in recoil. Vertical serrations on the front strap complimented the full checkered 20 lpi (lines per inch) mainspring housing on all five guns. The slide on the Big Rock incorporates rear GI serrations with a new, subtle Rock Island Armory logo on the right side. The previous neon billboard on the slide has been replaced with, what I think, is a more professional appearance. Nicely done.


Mark was amazed at the variety of factory 10mm ammo available today.


Note the fully adjustable sights, extended safety, beavertail safety and rounded hammer. All standard.


Also located on the right side of the frame is the serial number and model designation. The pistols come with an MIM beavertail grip safety, ambidextrous safety, and MR3 trigger assembly. In contrast to the 1911 models, the Big Rock supports a Medallion Type A2 magwell. All the triggers on these five pistols have vertical serrations.

Like other 10mm followers, I appreciated the fully supported, ramp-type match bull barrel, and wasn’t the least bit concerned when shooting full-house loads I would use for hunting. The Big Rock — with those 16-round magazines — provides a lot of firepower and would frankly make a great defensive handgun too.

The 6″ model also wears an LPA target type rear sight complementing the dovetail-mounted orange fiber optic front sight. When target shooting or hunting, especially running a variety of loads for many applications, the adjustable rear sight is essential. A solid full-length dust cover with rail for accessories is standard. Serrations on the combat hammer provided consistent and sure traction for cocking. The overall fit and finish is good, especially considering these 10mm’s are not full custom semi-autos.

The 1911 FS-Tactical 2011 and the 1911 MS-Tactical II versions varied slightly by one having wide-angled slide serrations while the other exhibiting narrower, sharper cocking serrations. I had no issues manipulating the slide with either. The MS-Tactical 2011 models come complete with a tactical rail. Both 1911 models wear a 2-dot, adjustable rear sight with the high visibility orange fiber optic front sight. For 1911 fans, these guns offer a lot of value and come with a lifetime warranty. These models are available with either 4.21″ or 5″ barrel lengths.


Groups at 28 yards with the “Big Rock” and its 6″ barrel averaged in the 2″ range. Mark found the long sight radius and ergonomics
really made the gun shoot well.


While Mark enjoyed the “Big Rock’s” long slide and easy-to-manage hi-cap grip, he found the entire lineup of 10mm’s from Armscor/Rock Island to be great values — accurate and reliable.

Plenty Of Shooting

Not knowing exactly what to expect, my plan entailed running several hundred rounds through these guns for an extensive shooting session. The truck was loaded down with 10mm ammo ranging from factory offerings to handloads.

For handloaders, the 10mm is easy to load with a wide variety of quality components. My handloads consisted mainly of 180-gr. bullets from Hornady, Nosler and Sierra in quality Starline brass. With a Redding T-7 turret press, I actually enjoy handloading the 10mm for the sake of experimentation and flexibility. Hodgdon provides plenty of powder options along with reliable loading data.

At first I was reluctant to purchase any 10mm pistol for fear of not being able to find ammo. I was surprised to find there is an abundance of quality 10mm ammunition available for a variety of needs. When I looked in the truck I believe there were 13 different factory brands of 10mm, rounded up from several makers.

This year SIG has jumped on the 10mm bandwagon with two 180-gr. offerings, a FMJ and JHP. For target shooting or recreational plinking, Amscor provides a 180-gr. FMJ, and so do Federal and American Eagle. Handgun hunters looking for an efficient round for hogs or whitetail will find many options, including DoubleTap, Buffalo Bore, Cor-Bon, HPR, Underwood and Federal’s new 180-gr. Trophy Bonded Tip. This is all serious hunting medicine! I wouldn’t hesitate to tackle a big mean hog with any of these rounds. Winchester also provides a 175-gr. Silvertip that’s a perfect choice for self-defense. I tested bullets ranging from 135 to 230 grains.

In the shameless plug department, one of the neatest range accessories I’ve found for shooting semi-autos is Caldwell’s Brass Trap. If you have ever chased brass all over the range, never finding all the spent casings, you’ll appreciate this handy accessory. Those 10mm casings were ejected with authority and the brass trap saved a lot of time and effort.


Rock Island Armory’s new 10mm line-up includes long slide and standard and shorter slide lengths. All shot well.


After 600 rounds, shooting all five Rock Island Armory 10mm’s, I was convinced these semi-autos provide good value for the money. At 28 yards, many 2″ groups were encountered. Even with the wide variety of bullet weights and brands, no groups were embarrassing. While I prefer the longer 6″, those shorter barrels were nothing to sneeze at either. From 15 yards, groups really shined with them.

The pistols functioned well and were a delight to shoot. The Big Rock, weighing more than all the others, was extremely well mannered and handled recoil painlessly. This hefty piece was easy to shoot even with full-house, heavy 10mm ammo. I will definitely write RIA a check for this big guy. With an upcoming hog hunt, I know exactly what I’ll be carrying.

Whether you’re looking for a 1911 that won’t deplete your bank account, just for shooting fun, a pistol for personal protection or a hunting handgun, Rock Island Armory has a 10mm to cover the bases. Actually they offer a few more 10mm models than we covered here, but I was too embarrassed to request all the others!

This company is innovative, creating new and beneficial hardware for shooters and hunters alike. Did I mention the full lifetime warranty? For this 10mm junky, I’m most appreciative of their offerings in different barrel lengths and configurations. It will be hard for them to top this line-up next year!

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