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Harwood Loomis
3rd May 2018, 23:06
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Armscor Rock Island TAC Ultra FS 10mm
How Tactical is Too Tactical?

Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG

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My first exposure to 1911s from the Philippines came at least fifteen years ago, when I was visiting a friend in Pennsylvania and we went to a gun show near his house. Among other curiosities, I spotted a 1911 bearing the roll mark “Twin Pines.” Twin Pines was a roll mark used by Armscor either before they had settled on the Rock Island Armory name, or concurrently with it. The Twin Pines name is long gone, but Armscor is still around, still growing, and still selling firearms of good quality for surprisingly low prices. From a couple of models not too many years ago, their lineup of 1911 models has grown to now include six distinct series and a staggering 51 models in six different calibers. (And that doesn’t include the Baby Rock series in .380 ACP, which Armscor considers to be a 1911 and which the author does not.)

While John Caradimas, our own El Comandante, was in Las Vegas in January for the annual SHOT Show he sat down with Steve Evatt, Armscor’s review coordinator, and they hammered out a list of Armscor’s firearms that John wants to see reviewed in the digital pages of the M1911.org magazine. Two of the candidates (two of the three I would really really like to shoot) aren’t possible for me, unfortunately. The range where I shoot is an older, indoor range. Because of concerns regarding damage to the backstop, the range doesn’t allow shotguns (so Armscor’s new AR-15 style shotgun is out) or hyper-velocity handgun rounds (so the .22 TCM is out). The third Armscor model I’ve been hoping to review is the XT .22 Magnum. M1911.org is on the waiting list to get one of those for review, and I hope I’ll be the lucky recipient, but so far they haven’t been available.

In the meanwhile, John and Steve decided that I would receive a sample of the Rock Island TAC Ultra FS (for Full Size) in 10mm to keep me occupied until the XT .22 Magnum becomes available. After some exchanges of paperwork, a few weeks after the end of the SHOT Show I received a call from Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range, informing me that a test pistol had arrived. At the same time, I also received 250 rounds of Armscor brand 10mm ammunition to help get the testing started.


The TAC Ultra Series

We took a look at the history behind Armscor in a recent review of another of their pistols, the .380 ACP caliber Baby Rock. Those who aren't familiar with Armscor may want to read up on the company's background in that review, here. (https://ezine.m1911.org/showthread.php?240-Armscor-Baby-Rock-380-Review) Armscor has been refining, expanding, and repositioning their 1911 lineup in recent years. Not long ago, there were basically two choices of series: the GI Series, which had very basic, GI-style sights, a conventional grip safety, and no bells and whistles at all; and the TAC series, which upgraded from the GI series by adding a beavertail grip safety and a wedge-shaped, “combat” style rear sight. Each of these series were available in a full-size model (“FS”), a mid-size model (“MS”), and a compact model (“CS”).

Someone long ago said, “Nothing is constant except change.” That certainly applies to Armscor with their TAC Series pistols. Today the TAC series pistols (eight of them) all include a full-length Picatinny rail along with the aforementioned combat sights and beavertail grip safety. All models except one are now known as TAC Ultra. There are two double stack, high-capacity models, one in .45 ACP and one in 9mm Parabellum. Likewise, there are two TAC Ultra CS models, on in .45 ACP and one in 9mm Parabellum. And there are two TAC Ultra models in 10mm: one full-size (“FS”), and one mid-size (“MS”). Except for the TAC Standard FS .45 ACP, all the pistols in the TAC series are now TAC Ultras. The difference is that the TAC Ultra pistols also sport fiber optic front sights. The sole TAC Standard model has a conventional front sight blade. In addition, the single stack pistols in the TAC Ultra series are equipped with G10 grips.

The pistol we received for review is the Rock Island TAC Ultra FS 10mm.


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The test pistol as received


The TAC Ultra came in Armscor’s standard, clamshell pistol case, with eggcrate foam padding. In the case with the pistol were an inspection card, a fired case (for any states that still require those), and a hang tag. Retail pistols ship with one magazine; our test pistol included a spare magazine to facilitate live fire testing. Our test pistol appeared to have been used previously, and there was no owner’s manual in the case. Armscor acknowledged the oversight and promptly sent us the manual by mail.


What it is

What it is, is massive. The TAC Ultra FS is a full-size 1911, meaning that it has a standard, 5-inch barrel and slide but, in deference to its tactical orientation (which, of course, is what the “TAC” in the model name refers to), it has a light rail beneath the frame dust cover. And not just any light rail. The rail on the TAC Ultra extends for the full length of the slide. This means, of course, that the receiver itself also extends for the full length of the slide, and there are no relief cuts on the lower front end of the slide as there are on most 1911-pattern pistols. This gives the TAC Ultra a blocky appearance that fairly screams out, “I’m big and I’m bad.” All that extra steel adds weight, too. A full-size 1911 with no light rail typically weighs approximately 38 ounces. The TAC Ultra FS 10mm weighs 40 ounces. That’s only two more ounces—but the additional weight is all out front, toward the muzzle. This affects the balance of the firearm, such that the shooter is very aware of the change.

That extra weight up front is a help in controlling recoil and muzzle flip. Since the 10mm Auto is generally considered to be a “hot,” snappy round, anything that helps to reduce muzzle flip has to be a good thing. The only real downside to the full-length light rail is that finding a holster to carry this pistol in will require a diligent search.


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Naturally, one of the first things we did was to attach a weapon light to be sure the rail would accept it. It did. As the photo shows, the light installs all the way to the rear of the rail, allowing the ears of the switch to straddle the trigger guard, as designed. This leaves three slots in the rail unused, and two completely uncovered. That doesn’t mean they’re useless; there are accessories other than weapon lights that attach to a Picatinny rail. One is a laser, and some shooters might wish to mount a laser aiming device farther forward. (And then, of course, there’s the über tactical handgun bayonet, which would no doubt benefit from being mounted as far forward as possible.)


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The TAC Ultra FS with weapon light installed


Getting down to details, we found that the TAC Ultra FS comes with an Armscor beavertail grip safety. The profile of this beavertail is subtly different from most others that have passed through my hands, but it’s effective and not unattractive. It certainly does what it’s supposed to do, which is to protect the web of the shooter’s hand from hammer bite. The joint where the beavertail meets the frame is clean and uniform. It’s not invisible, as can sometimes be found on expensive, custom pistols, but the gap isn’t excessive, and it looks neat and utilitarian.

The thumb safety is a bi-lateral (or, incorrectly, “ambidextrous”) safety with elongated paddles on both sides. Armscor has chosen to use the type that has the right side safety retained by a slotted sear pin rather than the type with ears that extend beneath the right side grip panel. The pin type doesn’t require inletting of the grip panels. Each type has its advantages and its proponents. For no highly technical reasons, the author prefers the type with the sear pin retention. Score another plus for Armscor.


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Multiple details can be seen in this one photo


The rear sight is an LPA MPS1-type, wedge shaped “combat” sight. The type chosen by Armscor is adjustable; the windage (lateral) adjustment screw can be clearly seen in the above photo.

The same photo also shows that the grips are retained by hex-head screws. It seems to be a trend among manufacturers to use hex-head grip screws on all but the lowest tier models. That’s fine for expensive range toy guns, but a tactical pistol should be expected to be used in “tactical” (or practical) situations. That means on the streets, and on the streets things go wrong. The author’s strong belief is that, for “tactical” pistols, the axiom KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) applies. Not everyone carries the exact Allen key needed for these grip screws on a daily basis, but anyone should be able to find something that will remove a straight-slotted screw in an emergency.


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The rear sight is a white dot style, and is also adjustable for elevation

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Fiber optic front sight


The front sight is a fiber optic sight, set in a dovetail. This means that coarse windage corrections can be made by drifting the front sight, with fine adjustments made with the windage screw on the adjustable rear sight.

The TAC Ultra FS includes a mag chute to facilitate speed reloads. Both magazines that arrived with the test gun included rubber bumpers on the bases. The bumpers extend beyond/below the lips of the mag chute, allowing a shooter to easily seat the magazine when loading. They also protect the magazine base from damage when the magazine is dropped during a speed reload.

The front strap isn’t checkered, but it does have vertical serrations. Since I find checkering on front straps to be annoying and irritating, I prefer the simpler vertical serrations. (Although, to be honest, I would be even happier with nothing done to the front strap.)


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Serrated front strap


We’ve already mentioned that the Picatinny rail extends for the full length of the slide. The close-up photo shows just how massive this makes the gun look in profile:


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Full-length rail under the slide


The TAC Ultra FS is equipped with a full-length guide rod. We were a bit dismayed that no take-down tool was included. The owner’s manual describes how to bend a paper clip to make a take-down tool, but by the time we obtained a manual and read that—we had already done it. Curiously, with the take-down pin placed in the hole in the guide rod and the slide relaxed to bear on the pin, the slide stop isn’t properly aligned with the take-down notch in the slide and the slide release can’t be removed from the pistol. It’s not an earth-shattering discrepancy, but it makes field stripping the pistol more awkward and annoying than it should be. The way Armscor wants you to do it is to remove the slide stop, then remove the slide, barrel and recoil assembly together. Then you’re supposed to push the recoil spring guide forward until you can insert the takedown tool (bent paper clip) into the hole in the guide rod, after which the barrel and recoil assembly can be removed from the slide.

I found it easier to remove the slide stop, rack the slide far enough to insert the bent paper clip tool, and then remove the slide from the receiver.


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The full-length guide rod in battery

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The full-length guide rod with the slide locked back

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Barrel in profile


The barrel, as can be seen above, does not fit into a barrel bushing but locks up directly to the slide. Because the 1911 barrel tilts as the slide retracts out of battery, the barrel can’t be full diameter all the way to the chamber or there would be clearance problems. Thus, although in battery it appears to be a bull barrel, it isn’t. The barrels tapers toward the chamber, beginning a short distance back from the muzzle.

The G10 grips are aggressively patterned. The nature of the G10 material is that it’s very hard, so it doesn’t require much of a pattern to provide a sharp and aggressive grip. With the factory grips, this is not a pistol most people would want to fire 200 rounds through in a single range session. For tactical uses, though, where having a solid grip on the pistol under any and all conditions is crucial, the G10 grips are basically without equal. The version used on the TAC Ultra FS are relieved on the left side to provide better access for a right-handed shooter’s thumb to activate the slide release.


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Relief in the left side grip panel for access to the magazine release


Range Day


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I confess that I had never fired a 10mm handgun before shooting the TAC Ultra FS. From all I had read and heard, I expected something like a .500 Smith & Wesson. Consequently, I was mildly surprised to find that the recoil was nowhere near as severe as I had been led to expect. It’s “stout,” of course; it will never be confused with shooting a .22 rimfire, but it wasn’t overly punishing. Even with the added forward weight of the full-length light rail, though, I would describe it as “snappy,” with more and sharper muzzle flip than when shooting standard power or ever +P .45 Automatic ammunition.

We did a fair amount of plinking at a distance of 25 feet, just to become accustomed to the gun and the trigger, before mounting a fresh target and running it out to 25 yards to begin the accuracy portion of our testing. This portion of our testing was fired from a seated position behind a bench, shooting over a rest.

To be honest, my results disappointed me. From what I found in researching the 10mm Auto cartridge, it’s reported to have an excellent reputation for accuracy. Surfing the Internet, I had no trouble finding multiple people who claim they routinely shoot sub-1-inch groups at 25 yards, handheld, with the 10mm. I wasn’t able to come close to such results. My results are set forth in the table below:


Armscor TAC Ultra 10mm

Ammo|Avg. Group (inches)|Avg. Group (mm)|Best Group (inches)|Best Group (mm)

Armscor USA 180-gr FMJ-FP|
2.85"|
72 |
2.13"|
54

PMC 200-gr FMJ-FP|
1.88"|
48 |
1.25"|
32

PPU 180-gr JHP|
2.00"|
51 |
1.50"|
38

Hornady 180-gr JHP|
2.25"|
57 |
1.75"|
44

Sellier & Bellot 180-gr FMJ-FP|
3.43"|
87 |
2.75"|
70



Evaluation

My grandmother always said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That saying perhaps was tailor-made for the Rock Island TAC Ultra FS 10mm. It’s a very solid, well put together pistol, that has many options that many (maybe even “most”) shooters might look for in a pistol. It shoots well, and throughout our testing it was 100 percent reliable with several different brands and types of ammunition. While I had it at the range, several people asked to try it. I allowed them to do so, and they were all favorably impressed by the gun. My opinion is that it’s an excellent pistol, and very attractively priced at $806 MSRP.

However, from a personal perspective, I didn’t “like” the pistol. There is nothing wrong with it, but … now that I have had some time to shoot it, I have to admit that I simply don’t care for the 10mm Auto round. I think it’s more powerful than necessary for self defense purposes. In this author’s opinion, the most appropriate application for the 10mm Auto is handgun hunting, and I am not convinced that the TAC Ultra FS is the right gun for handgun hunting. That said, I would be willing to be convinced. Dedicated handgun hunters probably wouldn’t need to attach anything to the light rail on the TAC Ultra, but the additional weight forward by the muzzle would likely be welcome for helping to control muzzle flip when shooting.

In summary, we feel that the Rock Island TAC Ultra FS 10mm is a very good pistol, but it’s not a pistol for everyone. For those who have a need or a use for what it offers, it’s an excellent choice and definitely worth a look.


Acknowledgments

Our thanks to Armscor for the opportunity to review this pistol, and for providing much of the ammunition expended in our testing.

As always, we want to acknowledge Chris Dogolo, owner of Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range, for his unfailing support and assistance in allowing us to conduct our testing at his range.


Specifications


{colsp=2}Armscor/Rock Island TAC Ultra FS 10mm
Caliber:|10 mm Auto
Overall Length:|8” (203.2 mm)
Height:|5.5" (139.7 mm)
Barrel Length:|5" (127 mm)
Sight Radius:|4.75"(121 mm)
Sights:|Upright, Front: Fiber optic / Rear: LPA MPS1 Adjustable
Weight w/o magazine:|2.5 lb. (40 oz. / 1.13 kg)
Magazine Capacity:|8 rounds
Grips:|G10 composite
Finish:|Matte black Parkerized
MSRP:|$806


You may discuss this article in our Forums site, in this thread (https://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?110275-Rock-Island-TAC-Ultra-FS-10mm-Review&p=996902#post996902).

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Sources

Pistol

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Armscor International, Inc.
150 North Smart Way
Pahrump, NV 89060
USA
Tel: 1-702-461-9469
Web site: http://www.armscor.com

Range Facilities

Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
2458 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437-1398
Tel: (203) 453-1570
Web site: http://www.chrisindoorrange.net