March 04, 2013
Devotees of the 1911 have been asking for a single-stack polymer-framed pistol since about forever. And at last there is one, but perhaps not from the source they may have expected.
Rock River sent me its latest engineering exercise, a polymer-framed 1911, and I have to tell you it has definite possibilities. For those who have Rock River ARs in their rifle racks, I have to remind you that before it was exclusively an AR maker, the firm made primo "production-custom" 1911s. But when the world went crazy for the AR, the company shelved the 1911 tools and got even busier. The new Rock River Arms Poly 1911 takes advantage of the company's pistol-building skills and adds the polymer-frame twist.
On top, the Rock River Poly is your normal 1911: match barrel, Novak sights, a refreshing lack of forward serrations, and a normal (i.e., the way John Moses Browning designed it) recoil spring assembly.
A lot of the features of the frame are normal in appearance, too. The grip safety is the now-normal design — upswept with a speed bump — the trigger is aluminum with three lightening holes and an overtravel stop. Mag catch? Right where you'd expect it to be and working just as it has since March 1911.
The frame is polymer, cast to the shape of a 1911 metal frame, complete with frontstrap checkering and a heavily beveled mag well. It is designed to accept all the customary 1911 accessories. If you don't like the flat mainspring housing on the Rock River Poly, then you can swap that one out for the one of your choice. Ditto the rest of the internals because the frame is just like a metal one, except it's polymer.
How did they do it? Simple. Rock River makes a frame insert out of steel, and that is what the slide rides on. The insert also holds the safety, hammer and sear pins and has on it the serial number of the pistol.
On the left side, the metal insert holds the safety/slide stop plunger tube. Plus, the slide stop hole is bored through the metal insert, and the polymer frame is contoured to clear the slide stop. You can change the slide stop for any other one you want; there are no non-standard parts to the assembly.
Interestingly, the frame also has grips on it, just like the 1911. The top grip screw bushing are also the screws that hold the frame insert to the polymer frame housing. They aren't the only ones, but they are the major ones. So if you want to use other grips, you can take these off and replace them as you would with any 1911.
The polymer frame has relief cuts so the regular parts — including grips — will fit the steel insert.
The magazine well is heavily beveled, and the frontstrap and flat mainspring housing are checkered for a secure grip.
But, as with so many things, proof is in the testing.
If you didn't know the Rock River Poly had a polymer frame, you couldn't tell from handling it blindfolded. In weight and balance it is like an aluminum-alloy pistol.
The grips that are on it make it a bit bulky, but there are shooters who prefer a wide grip. I'm not one of those shooters, but I don't pretend that my tastes agree with everyone else's. The trigger is clean and crisp, the sights are clear, and as you'd expect from a Rock River 1911, they are centered.
The thumb safety is a low-profile 1911 style, which I think is a prudent choice on the part of Rock River. When it comes to thumb safeties, the prospective Rock River Poly 1911 shooter is likely have a pretty firm idea of what is the best. Better to send it out the door with a usable safety and let the owner swap it for the extended/oversized, tactical, whatever safety of their choice.
And just in case you were wondering, this gun shoots. The average was a lot better than mere "combat" accuracy, and I'm sure with a little handloading and experimenting/testing, you could find a load that delivers near-Bullseye accuracy. I can't guarantee that all Rock River Poly 1911s will shoot this well, but based on the past performance of the company's pistols, it seems entirely likely.
What I can guarantee is reliability. This pistol never failed to deliver, and Rock River has a reputation for knowing how to build a reliable pistol.
Who is this for? Well, for one, someone who wants a lighter-weight pistol. The Rock River Poly weighs more than an aluminum-framed, smaller 1911. But it weighs less than an all-steel Government model, as much as 10 ounces less. So you get a full-size 1911 for not much more weight than a compact, aluminum alloy, more difficult to shoot pistol.
One thing we have learned in the last few decades: Polymer does not rust, and it does not deform when dropped. As a pistol for a high-humidity environment, the Rock River Arms Poly 1911 shows definite possibilities.