Rock Island Armory Ultra FS at USPSA

It’s time to get busy. After a layoff of nearly two years, Sunday I headed out to Sioux Falls Practical Shooters to shoot a club level USPSA match. As it turns out, this was the best attended match that club has ever had, with 55 shooters, some driving up from as far as Sioux City to attend. How’d I shoot? Both better and worse than I expected.

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Photo of the day: A Dirty 1911

There are a lot of misconceptions about the 1911 floating around on the web. One of them is the idea that the 1911 is a delicate little princess that can’t function if she’s dirty. In truth, a properly built 1911 will run dirty if it has been properly lubricated. On Saturday I stopped by the excellent Elite Shooting Sports facility and in the space of an hour working on recoil control and sight tracking blew through over 450 rounds through my 9mm Wilson CQB. The picture tells the tale…this is no princess. She’s a very dirty girl.

It’s at the point now where handling the pistol leaves crud on my hands, so I’m actually going to break down and clean her up. Saturday’s outing pushed the round count through my CQB to over 4,000. That’s more than 4,000 rounds without cleaning. All I’ve ever done is properly lubricate the pistol with Wilson’s Ultima Lube¬†and occasionally wipe down the outside of the pistol to keep the black crud off my clothes.

A properly made 1911 will still run if it’s dirty. A spotlessly clean 1911 will shut down in short order if it isn’t properly lubricated. I’ve been on the line with a lot of 1911 pistols over the years, including attending courses dedicated to the 1911 pattern pistol. Most made the mistake of lubricating their 1911 like it was a Glock…meaning they use minimal or no lubrication at all. Invariably those people ran into problems inside the first 150 rounds. An all metal pistol, even one with a neat high-tech finish that provides some lubricity (like Wilson’s Armor-Tuff finish on this pistol) needs proper lubrication to function. Especially if you do crazy things like burn 450 rounds through the gun in an hour’s time because you happen to be near the range and have a case of ammo in your trunk.

Wait…you don’t drive around with 1,000 rounds of ammo in your trunk? What kind of heathen are you? (Note: this is a joke. If you write me claiming you were microaggressed by this statement I’m going to laugh at you with all of my friends)

To be clear, I’m not arguing that what I’ve done here is a best practice because it most certainly isn’t. Only cleaning your gun every 5th case of ammo is not really a good idea. I didn’t set out to do this because it’s a good idea or because I was trying to prove a point. I’ve just been too damn lazy to clean the gun. So now it’s time to be a responsible adult and properly clean the beast.

…although I kinda like the stripe pattern that’s formed on the muzzle.


The best drill for concealed carry

None of carry a gun because we’re optimists, that much is a fact. However, it’s taken me years to accept the fact that most people who carry guns aren’t going to invest the time and energy into becoming a proficient shooter. I don’t like that, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Most people would rather dink around with chrome plated Mausers or carry six different guns a week than buy one gun and learn to shoot it really friggin’ well.

So what should those people practice? I’ve longed believed (and still do) that the Bill Drill from concealment is the best choice for the average joe. For the newbs, a Bill Drill is a time 6 shots from the holster at either an 8 inch circle or a USPSA A-zone. The most common distance used is 7 yards, but you can practice them at any distance. I like to shoot 25 yard Bill Drills when I’m training up for Bianchi.

Let’s break this thought process down a bit. Assuming (I know, I know) that the “average” self-defense scenario involves a single assailant surprising their target, a drill that focuses on belting a relatively large number of rounds into their thoracic cavity as fast as possible seems to make sense. 6 rounds of 9mm in the chest is going to change your plans for the rest of your life, and definitely make you rethink whatever it was that made you decide to do crimes. There’s also the shock factor in case bad guy one has friends; which we shouldn’t rely on, but still. If you and Pookie were out doing crimes together and all of a sudden some dude ninja’d a gun into his hands and dumped half a mag into your best friend in 2 seconds, maybe you’d decide you had somewhere else you needed to be, like yesterday.

The real talk though comes down to the fact that Bill Drills focus on one thing: getting a lot of lead on target as fast as possible. There’s no guarantee a badguy is going to stop after the first, second, third, or even fourth shot. That’s the other reason I like the Bill Drill so much, because it trains you out of shooting controlled pairs or double taps or whatever you want to call them all day long. You need to work the trigger to shoot a fast Bill Drill; and to shoot one under 2.00 you need to get everything right, from the draw to your sight tracking and your trigger speed.

What do you think? Is the Bill Drill the best choice for the novice CCWbro to practice?

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The Rock Ultra FS 9mm is better than a Springfield Armory

Okay, so it might be a little early in the test to say that, but last night we kicked off the test of the Rock Island Ultra FS 9mm 1911 by running it through the 10-8 Performance Function Check. Which unlike the Taurus and the Springfield, it passed. With flying colors. Watch the Rock Ultra FS in action here. The Rock Ultra FS is just like the previous two pistols we’ve tested, a fullsize 1911 in 9mm. I has adjustable sights with a fiber optic front, G10 grips, full beavertail, full length guide rod, and unlike our two previous pistols comes from the factory with a magazine funnel (thank god).

For comparison, here’s the Springfield Armory 1911 running through the 10-8 Function Test, you can see it failed on the 2nd round of the “no magazine” portion of the event. Now, that doesn’t make the RO a bad gun, and it doesn’t actually mean that the Rock is objectively better, because the Rock hasn’t completed the test protocol yet. But I do want to point out that the Rock Ultra is the first 9mm 1911 that I’ve had actually pass the 10-8 test. Tim’s Wilson Combat did, but I would expect that from a Wilson.

Rock Ultra FS 9mm six shot group Critical Defense

This is a six shot group from the Rock Ultra at 15 yards, standing unsupported. It’s slightly longer than the OAL of the cartridge. There’s no question that the Rock Island and Hornady Critical Defense make an extremely accurate pairing. Standard FMJ also did pretty well, turning in some strong bullseye strings like this:

Rock Ultra FS 9mm 20 shots timed fire 25 yards

20 shots, timed fire (5 shots in 20 seconds) at 25 yards? I’ll definitely take that. Only two out of the black, and both of those were called shots.

Now before we get further, I need to talk about bias here. I said during the Taurus test that I wanted the Taurus to be good, because I wanted to live in a world where a 500 dollar 1911 could get a better grade than D. I feel the same way about this gun, but even moreso because I’ve had prior positive experience with Rock Island guns; and because the Rock Island/Armscor people I know are genuinely cool people. So I want this gun to be good. I’ll admit that I was wrong in the video about the price point, I can find them only for $650 but nothing like $500. That’s my bad. However, $650 makes it more affordable than the Range Officer by $100-$200 bucks, and that’s no joke.

Initial results? Positive. I’m pretty optimistic about where this test is going to go. We’re 256 rounds in with 1744 to go, and I’m genuinely excited about seeing what happens next.

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Springfield Armory Range Officer 9mm 1911 Review

It’s finally here, our final review of the Springfield Armory Range Officer 9mm 1911. Let’s first start off with the scoring system, which to refresh your memory starts all guns with a maximum score of 100 points, then deducts points as various things go wrong. The Range Officer had 7 failures that were counted against the gun, lowering the score to 93. It also failed the 10-8 Performance function test, dropping the score to 83. Finally, it had one armorer level repair issue, namely that the rear sight pin would walk out of the rear sight under sustained rapid fire. That gives us a final score of 78/100, making this a solid C+ gun.

What’s interesting about the tests is that while the Springfield did out-perform the Taurus, it didn’t do it by nearly the margin I thought it would. The RO costs as near as makes no difference 250 dollars more at retail than the Taurus, but I honestly didn’t see $250 worth of performance increase. Yes, the RO was more reliable, and yes it was more accurate to shoot groups with, but the RO brand new is a $750-$800 gun, and the Taurus is a $500 gun. If the RO had finished in the mid to high 80s, which is where I expected it to finish, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because $750 is a perfectly reasonable price for a B+ gun.

I did change the stocks out on the Range Officer during the test; obviously if you follow this blog or my Instagram you saw the issues with had with the factory stocks and the foolishness of the previous owner. I actually really like the Magpul 1911 grips, they’re grippy without being too aggressive, and they have a huge thumb relief cut to make accessing the magazine release easier. Plus, they’re affordable. $15 is a pretty good price.

One thing I did love about the Range Officer was how accurate it is. This gun shoots.

Springfield RO 25 yard timed fire group

That’s a timed fire group (5 shots in 20 seconds) from the Range Officer, shot at 25 yards a B-8 target. The “black” of a B-8 is 5.5 inches, and with the exception of that one little flier in the 9, all of those are 10s in the much smaller circle. This gun shoots well. The only real criticism I have of it is the tendency towards light primer strikes with hard-primered ammo like Tula or Fiocchi, both of which I had issues with. The easiest way to solve that of course is not use that ammo with this gun, which is exactly what I’ll do moving forward. With some minor tweaks to the recoil system, and the addition of a magazine well, this would make a pretty solid choice for USPSA Single Stack, and might even be decent if I pressed into service as a Bianchi Cup gun.

As it stands now, the Springfield Armory RO sits at a distance second place behind Tim’s Wilson Combat 9mm 1911, which scored a perfect 100/100 on our test. Up next is either the Armscor 1911 or the Dan Wesson, and to be honest I’m having trouble picking which one.

Springfield Armory RO 9mm 1911 malfunction

The 100 round challenge is a function test I came up with a while ago to see how well a gun would operate if you got it, well pretty hot. Shooting 100 rounds through a pistol as fast as you can load is a good way to do that, and it can also be a fun test of your endurance. Here’s video of the me running the Springfield Armory Range Officer through the 100 round challenge…which it failed.

At 3 minutes into the video I experienced an unusual malfunction, where the gun returned partially to battery, but not all the way. When the trigger was pulled, the hammer fell to the half-cock notch, causing me to believe I’d had a light primer hit. It wasn’t attended I attempted to clear the gun and it was locked up tight that I realized I had something else entirely. The round in question had the correct dimensions, and successfully chambered and fired after clearing the gun. This was the second time that range session I’d had issues with the gun not returning to battery. After conferring with a well known 1911 expert, he let me know that this problem is commonly caused by a slide stop that isn’t quite correct, and the best fix is to replace it immediately. I’ve ordered a new slide stop from Brownells, and as a precaution some additional recoil springs as well.

However, because this is part that needs to be replaced at the armorer level; it is a -5 deduction for the gun. That brings the 1911 RO’s current score down to 78/100, which is still a respectable C+. With just a bit over 500 rounds left in the test, we’ll see where things go from here.

Post-ignition recoil control vs. pre-ignition flinch

I guarantee one of the first comments on this video will be “nice flinch” – which was the entire reason why I posted it. This post is targeted more at new shooters than our experienced readers, so please feel free to share it with the filthy casuals new shooters in your life.

First, let’s take a look at both terms. What is flinch? To put it simply, flinch is when a shooter, for various reasons, attempts to compensate for the gun’s recoil before the gun goes off. The most common reason for this is fear of recoil/muzzle blast, and the result is usually to drive the shot low and to the left (for right handed shooters).

qualification target - you suck

Post-ignition recoil control is exactly what it sounds like. The gun has gone bang and you’re now using your body to control the recoil to bring the gun on target for the next shot. What creates confusion is that to an untrained shooter who is just learning the fundamentals of marksmanship, what I do in the video looks exactly like the flinch that they’ve been told is bad.

To put it simply:

Flinch: trying to control recoil before the gun goes off, bad.
Recoil control: controlling the recoil after the gun goes off, good.

In the video I posted, what happened was I was working on running the gun at speed from the holster. My brain tells my index finger to pull the trigger, and then tells the rest of my body to prepare for the loud noise that is supposed to follow. When the loud noise doesn’t follow, there isn’t enough time for my brain to say “don’t worry about it” so I act to control the recoil, causing the muzzle of the gun to dip. Doing this correctly is an essential skill for running a gun fast. If you spend time watching youtube videos of top pros, you’ll see that in the rare cases when they have a malfunction, their muzzle does the exact same thing.

With new shooters, what you’ll see is the opposite. As they’re pressing the trigger, they preemptively drive the gun down in recoil which causes the aforementioned missed shots. The best way to train this out is to train in dry fire, to get used to pressing the trigger and keeping the gun flat. Then as you get used to shooting, it’s time to start working on speed. Hopefully this post has helped you understand the difference between flinching (bad!) and controlling recoil after the trigger pull (good).

CCW game on point

Who says you can’t carry a good gun and look awesome at the same time? Now that the grip screw situation has been solved, I can set up my Springfield Armory RO with my red Crimson Trace 20th Anniversary Master Series grips. This grips…man they just look amazing. The best part is that they still perfectly perform their intended function as an aiming device.

Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 9mm: Halfway there

Last night I ran the Springfield Armory RO through another 350 rounds of ammo, bringing the running total to an even 1,000. As usual, I shot Dot Torture at 5 yards to open up, and because I was feeling speedy I tried to shoot it fast; ended up dropping 3 shots for a 47/50. What I’ve established with Dot Torture is that when I take my time and shoot it for max accuracy with this gun I can clean it on command. When I speed up and try to shoot it quick…things start to fall apart. It’s always in the same place, on the strings with transitions.

In order to work on my transitions, I spent the end of my practice time working on the iHack. This drill is hard, you’re shooting at tiny-ass little targets with a relatively tight par time. Even when you delete the timer and just try to self-pace yourself for a balance of speed and accuracy, it’s easy to mess this drill up. As you can see in the video, on three consecutive runs from the Safariland 1911 ALS I’m using I went 6/9, 8/9, and ohmygodwhy/9 on the final run. The best way to work up through this drill is to start aimed in on the targets, and if you can hit the par time from there, go to whatever ready position you use, and if you can hit the par time from there, go to the holster. Right now my skill level is in between low-ready and holster; I can pass the drill routinely from the low ready, and I’m about 50-60% from the holster. My issue is I’m slow on the first shot, so I then tend to rush the transitions to make up for lost time, and things kind of fall apart when you do that.

The gun itself had another malfunction on round 800something. This was a failure to return to battery during a SHO string of fire I was doing. Ammo was PMC 115 grain 9mm, corrective action was to spank the magwell like it was naughty. One of the things I’ve noticed about the RO is that it’s very sensitive to running without adequate amounts of lubrication, and for whatever reason this gun likes to have a lot of lubrication on it. Everything about this gun is, for lack of a better phrase, tight. It seems like this gun is the kind of 1911 that I’ll need to establish a regular lubrication cycle for. No points off for that, but -1 one point for the failure to RTB. Currently the gun’s at 85/100 with 1000 rounds left to go.

Springfield Range Officer 9mm 1911 Update

No video this week, as I was in Des Moines attending a defensive pistol class taught by Melody Lauer (more on that later this week). I did have one malfunction during the class, a classic stovepipe failure to eject during a weak-hand only string. It might be because I was limp-wristing the gun, but it also didn’t happen again during class, so I’m going to go ahead and count it against the pistol. The malf happened with PMC 115 grain FMJ, which I generally really like for practice ammo. It seems to be loaded light, which makes shooting it a lot of fun.

Here’s a quick breakdown on the gear I’ve been using with the Springfield. Unlike the Taurus, I’m carrying the Range Officer, so for EDC I’m using a Shaggy by Custom Carry Concepts. I do like to carry a reload when I run a single stack. When I do carry a reload, I sacrifice a little concealability to get the spare mag in quicker, so right now I’m carrying my spare mag in a simple Blackhawk single stack magazine pouch. While it doesn’t hold the magazine as tight to the body as some other pouches, it does make for a slightly faster reload. It works very well under an open front concealment garment.

One of my shooting goals this year is to take an Ernie Langdon class and take another run at getting a FAST coin. My last attempt for the record was almost four years ago now, and I finished with a 6 and change, which I know I can do better on. To that end, I’m doing most of my training with a retention holster, because if you game out the FAST, an open top retention holster is probably the way to go. Because I like to use the best possible gear, I’m rocking a Safariland ALS.

Right now the Springfield sits at 650 rounds, with a running score on our 1911 scale of 86/100. One thing I have noticed is that it’s much more sensitive to lubrication than the Taurus was. During the class I noticed that slide operation was getting really sluggish, despite having only digested 500ish rounds at that point. So, I lubed it up, and everything was hunky dory again. It’s an interesting data point. Without using actual tools, I can tell you that the SA subjectively feels like it’s tighter than the Taurus was. More shooting this week!