Once in a while, a firearm turns your head. This was the case with the RIA PRO Match Ultra 6″ which I was introduced to at SHOT, the mother of all firearm industry shows, earlier this year. This 1911 appealed to me for two major reasons. First off, I love 1911s. I like their balance, their ergonomics and when tuned properly, their accuracy. This model had another intriguing component, it was chambered in 10 mm.
What is it about the 10 mm piques my interest?
First off the ballistics are similar to the .357 and the .41 magnum, which are characterized by a flat trajectory. In other words, you can hit things accurately at a relatively long distance with this round. It packs a wallop—there’s a lot of kinetic energy possible with the 10mm so that you can bring down medium sized game (such as deer or hogs) with it.
Secondly, unlike the .357 and the .41 magnum, the 10mm can easily be utilized in a semi-auto handgun. While other 10 mm semi-autos are available for this chambering, the 1911, with its inherent accuracy, is a perfect platform for this round. Given its 6″ barrel, the Match Ultra is going to give you a smidgen more velocity and better range than the typical (5”) 1911. For someone like me, who likes to whack gongs at over 100 yards with a handgun, this is an invitation to the Silhouette range.
This is the first RIA gun I’ve ever spent much time with and its place of manufacture, the Philippines (where I once worked) fascinated me. According to my research, Rock Island Armory (or Armscor as it is known) traces its origins to Squires Bingham & Co, founded in 1905 in Manila by a couple of British expats as a photo print shop. The store later morphed into a sporting goods concern offering sporting long guns and ammunition. Later acquired by an American, Arthur Hileman, in the 1930s the new owner sold out to a local entrepreneur, Celso Tuason, shortly before the Japanese occupation.
Naturally when the Japanese arrived, the store’s firearms and ammo were confiscated but the company eked out the war by trading in clothing and men’s furnishings. In the years following the war, as the Philippines industrialized, the owner shifted to manufacturing firearms and ammunition. By 1980, the second generation of the Tuason family was running the show the company was renamed Arms Corporation of the Philippines or Armscor.
Armscor produces rifles, shotguns, semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. It’s most popular product, bar none, is its .45-cal M1911. The guns are sold in 60 countries around the world. The company has sold products both under their own label and as an OEM for many other firms such as STI Spartan, Auto-Ordnance and High Standard. Unbeknownst to most people, Armscor is currently largest producer of M1911 pistols in the world.
There’s more than a little historical irony here. The genesis of the 1911 was actually a direct result of the American experience in the Spanish American war, in the Philippines. At the turn of the 20th century US troops were embroiled in campaign against the Moros, a Muslim tribal people in the southern Philippines. American units used the then-standard Colt M1892 revolver, chambered in .38 Long Colt. This rather anemic caliber was both unsuitable for jungle warfare and couldn’t pacify the hard charging Moros who often used drugs to inhibit the sensation of pain.
Enter the 1911, developed specifically to make certain that American soldiers would have the stopping power they needed.
What about the quality for this Philippine-manufactured gun?
You can comb through the forums and get all kinds of opinions, especially about the older models, but I can only speak about the gun that was sent to me. When it comes to fit and finish I think you’d have a tough time differentiating the PRO Match Ultra 6″ from a Springfield or a Kimber.
The RIA 10 mm PRO Match Ultra 6″
This is a well put together, quality firearm.
Tolerances are tight, which no detectable “slop” between the slide/barrel and the frame. It has an adjustable LPA rear sight and a high visibility fiber optic front sight. It’s competition accouterments include a skeletonized trigger and factory 4- to 6-pound trigger with adjustable over travel stop. It comes in a fully parkerized finish with VZ grips, owners manual and two 8-round magazines.
The gun is test fired at the factory with two rounds in a small envelope, signed by the inspector.
RIA markets it as a is a target grade pistol ready for competition right “out of the box”. This is not an overstatement. Indeed I took the stock gun right out of the case and the very first target I got some very impressive groupings offhand at 25 yards, shooting Armscor ammo, which seemed to be perfect for this handgun.
I like this gun a whole lot.
Everything worked—there was no failure to feed or any kind of malfunction. The gun is really tight, as you’d expect from a competition model. Just racking the slide is a minor herculean effort. The 20 lb recoil spring is really heavy duty.
The frame comes with an ambidextrous safety and a MIM beavertail grip safety It also features fully supported, ramp-type match bull barrel, the diameter of which was massive compared to the barrel on my colleague’s Colt Delta 10 mm. It has an LPA target-type rear sight, solid black with two white dots on either side of the slot. This perfectly complimented the dovetail-mounted front sight which sported an orange fiber-optic.
Shooting the 10mm PRO Match Ultra 6″
If you’re used to shooting a 1911 chambered in .45, shooting a 10 mm version may be a bit of a surprise. This is one little cannon. The recoil is very comparable to a magnum load. This is the closest you’ll come to shooting a magnum load in a semi-auto.
Frankly it takes some getting used to. If you’re used to shooting bullseye style, one handed, you may want to adjust your way of shooting to two-handed. Even a milder 10 mm load is not wimpy. If you’re not willing to put up with the recoil, a 10mm semi-auto will not be your cup of tea. That said you can adjust your load somewhat with certain powders (if you load your own).
So what would I change about this gun?
The trigger breaks at about 4 lbs, which was too stiff for me. (The website says that the trigger is 4-6 lbs). I would have preferred the standard “wadcutter” target pull of 3.5 lbs and if I were to purchase this gun, it would definitely be tweaked to my specifications. The grips, while good quality were a bit too aggressive for my taste. I’d want something slightly more pleasing to the touch like the MOE grips from Magpul.
Of course it’s rare to buy a stock gun that’s completely to your liking (especially for a budget priced gun) and the fixes I think are needed to tweak this 1911 are not too expensive to rectify.
Speaking of 3.5 lbs, that’s how much this bad boy weighs. Better do your chin ups before hitting the range. The good news is that the weight does counteract the recoil.
This is an incredibly accurate gun right out of the box. As the name “Match” implies, it’s a target gun all the way. The first time I sighted it in I got a stellar group. I used Armscor’s 180 gr RN full metal jacket bullet to initially test the gun. They were perfectly suited for the task.
You could certainly use it for hunting or self defense (there’s rail for a light) but in my opinion it’s meant for the range. I would prefer that they eschew the rail, which adds a bit more weight to an already hefty gun.
The iron sights were easy to adjust and the red optic fiber front sight was a nice option. However, again, this is personal preference, but I found the front sight post to be a bit too skinny–there was too much daylight in the sight picture on either side of the notch. I would thus get a slightly thicker front sight.
The LPA rear sight was perfect, and looked to be a clone of the famous Bomar series. All I needed were a few clicks up and to the left and I was shooting X’s.
Field stripping it was a bit challenging. Taking it apart was no problem. Simply unscrew (the two-part) guide rod after getting the slide assembly off the frame. There’s no bushing on this gun. However reassembly was problematic because the recoil spring is really, really stiff and placing it back on the slide took some effort. (In a video provided to me by RIA, even the gunsmith Shawn Fairbairn made a pointed comment about the difficulty of this step in the reassembly!) That’s the only thing I really didn’t enjoy about this gun but there’s so much to like, it’s something I can get used to!
Developing a Load
Although the Armscor ammo is very accurate, buying factory ammo is by definition, expensive. Reloading is not only cheaper, but you can tailor your ammo to the precise application. I acquired a quantity of powder from a company called Western Powders which makes a line called “Accurate Powders” which I have used for magnum loads but never on a 1911.
My experimentation is not complete at the time of publication but I did manage to develop one great load from a powder called Accurate #9 which is particularly effective for a 180 gr JHP or a 180 gr FP (a bullet with a flat point that resembles a truncated cone). The photo above shows the results with 12.5 gr of #9 over a 180 gr (plated) Rainier Ballistics hollow point bullet at 25 yards. I also found Berry’s 165 gr flat point to be very accurate with 8 gr of AA #5 (see photo below).
I also experimented with Montana Gold Bullets and found them equally, if not more, effective at 50 yards. They are jacketed and hence have a slight edge in the accuracy department. You’ll pay a bit more for jacketed bullets over plated or cast.
For anyone considering loading for the 10 mm I would suggest checking out 10mm Firearms, a terrific forum with all kinds of info on the 10 mm platform and very helpful members.
In conclusion, this is a very competitively priced target gun, equivalent in many (but not all) ways to a high end, match-quality 1911. If you feel that that buying a gun from the Philippines is a no go, solely because it’s “foreign” or somehow inferior, you’d be wrong.
MSRP is $1168, but an ad on Bud’s Gun Shop listed it as $913, a really good deal. As my gunsmith, Brian Takaba of X-Ring Security in Waipahu said, “you get all the bells and whistles on this without breaking the bank. An equivalent model from Springfield would cost you about $2000.”
With a few inexpensive tweaks you can take an excellent gun and turn it into a custom 1911 for under $1000. That’s a great deal.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we’ll show you how to turn your stock Pro Match Ultra into a race gun (without a gunsmith) with some new products from Caspian Arms and C-More Systems.
Photos by Rob Kay
Rob Kay writes about firearms for All Outdoors Tech and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47 which is available on Amazon.
Questions? Comments? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Close-up images from the RIA product page: