Armscor Rock Island Armory Baby Rock
Why we should believe in reincarnation

Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG



Who are these people?

In the United States, Armscor has come to be known as the manufacturer of the immensely popular Rock Island Armory line of 1911-style, semi-automatic pistols. Pre-dating the Rock Island Armory brand name, Armscor 1911s have previously been imported into the United States under the name Twin Pines. In addition, Armscor has also been the manufacturer for several other brands of 1911 pistols sold in the United States. Just who and what is Armscor, anyway?

The enterprise that eventually came to be what is known today as Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor) was started in 1905 by two Englishmen, as a haberdashery and sporting goods store. After a couple of changes in ownership the company, Squires Bingham, was bought by Celso S. Tuason in 1941. During the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese in World War 2 all firearms were confiscated, and Squires Bingham survived solely on sales of clothing and related articles. When the war ended, Celso Tuason recognized that firearms had been a mainstay of the business before the war, and so he set out to manufacture firearms and ammunition locally in order to avoid import tariffs and controls. In 1952 the government of the Philippines granted a license to manufacture firearms to Squires Bingham Manufacturing, Incorporated.

In the mid-1960s Celso Tuason retired and turned the family businesses over to his sons. Squires Bingham was positioned as a holding company for the family’s various enterprises, and the firearms and ammunition manufacturing operation became Arms Corporation of the Philippines. Clearly, Armscor is not a newcomer to the manufacture of firearms.

Armscor has developed an enviable reputation in the United States for their line of affordable, 1911-pattern semi-automatic pistols. Armscor also manufactures a line of .22 caliber rifles, and a line of revolvers. Not very long ago, Armscor introduced the innovative .22 TCM, a proprietary bottleneck .22 caliber cartridge based on .223 or 5.56x45 brass, along with a line of 1911 pistols to shoot it and, more recently, a companion .22 TCM rifle. However, what Armscor was lacking was a small semi-automatic pistol. Their smallest 1911 model has long been the CS (for Compact Size) 1911 series, which are the same size and weight as a Colt Officers ACP.


Enter … the Baby Rock

Not content with offering three sizes of 1911 pistols, each in multiple choices of caliber, finish, and options, Rock Island Armory recently introduced a smaller semi-automatic pistol clearly aimed at concealed carry. Chambered for the well-known .380 ACP cartridge (also known as 9x17, 9mm Corto, and 9mm Kurz), this new offering is both smaller and lighter than the Rock Island CS (Compact Size) 1911s, with their 3½-inch barrels.

While awaiting the arrival of our test sample Baby Rock, I took the opportunity to read some other reviews on the pistol. All were favorable (most were highly favorable), but I was left with the distinct feeling that I must live in an alternate universe. At least half a dozen respected gun writers described the Baby Rock as a “scaled-down 1911 A1.” The problem with that is … it isn’t (at least, not in my opinion) really a scaled-down 1911. When I saw the first product announcement photos of the Baby Rock I thought it looked familiar, but it wasn’t until our test pistol arrived that I was able to confirm my suspicions.

The two external, visual clues that the Baby Rock may not be a 1911 are the angle of the grip portion of the receiver relative to the slide, and the slight outward curve at the bottom of the front strap. Once the pistol has been field stripped, the bigger clue reveals itself: the barrel doesn’t have a swinging link, nor does the barrel lock to the slide during firing. The barrel is fixed in place by the slide stop pin, and the pistol functions as a straight blow-back action.

Where have we seen all this before? In my younger days, when I religiously bought the latest copy of Gun Digest every year and spent hours looking at photos of guns I couldn’t afford to buy, one that always attracted my attention was a Spanish pistol made by Llama, the makers of 1911 clones that were infamous for not being quite fully compatible for parts interchange with standard 1911 pistols. Pistols bearing the Llama brand name were manufactured from approximately 1932 (by the company named Gabilondo and Urresti) until (according to some sources) 2005, when the company (by then named Fabrinor Arma Corta y Microfusion, S.A.) underwent a second bankruptcy and closed its doors permanently. A version of the pistol that gives every indication of being the inspiration for the Baby Rock was manufactured by Llama from 1933 until (again, according to some sources) 1954 as the model III-A, offered in .22 LR, .32 ACP, and .380 ACP. I haven’t been able to ascertain definitively if the Model III-A continued in production after 1954, but what appears to be the same pistol was in the company’s product line from 1998 through 2005 as the Micromax 380.

Once I had the sample Baby Rock in my hands, the more I looked at it the more I was convinced that it was a dead ringer for the now-defunct Llama III-A and Micromax 380. During a chat with Chris Dogolo, the owner of the range where I shoot, I mentioned this resemblance. Chris responded with, “I think I have a customer who owns one of those.” Chris agreed to ask his customer if we could borrow the Llama for a dimensional comparison, and a few days later I received a call from Chris informing me that the Llama was in the safe at the range and that I could inspect it any time I was ready. [Chris is amazing that way. Mention almost any handgun, and he either has one in his safe or he knows somebody who owns one.]


Baby Rock (bottom) and Llama Micromax (top)


The Baby Rock and the Llama Micromax are dimensionally indistinguishable


Both the Baby Rock and the Llama Micromax use an external extractor


Stripped, both pistols appear to be mechanically identical


My perception was always that the Llama III-A and Micromax 380 were lower-priced substitutes for the Colt Government 380. Assuming that to be the case for the Armscor Baby Rock, as well, I thought it would be informative to compare the dimensions. Just for good measure, I also threw a Browning 1911-380 Compact into the mix, because in a previous review we had concluded that the diminutive Browning might be a suitable substitute for the Colt Government 380. The tale of the tape is as follows:

MeasurementArmscor RIA Baby RockBrowning 1911-380 CompactColt Government 380
Barrel Length
3.75”
3.63”
3.25"
Overall Length
6.62"
6.88”
6.50"
Height
4.62”
4.83”
4.63”
Sight Radius
4.75”
4.75”
4.25"
Capacity
7+1*
8+1
8+1
* Armscor’s specifications for the Baby Rock list the capacity as 7+1. The magazine is capable of holding eight rounds, and has witness holes for 8 rounds.

It’s pretty close. Anyone craving a Government 380 and unable to find one (or unable to afford the one you found!) can find a very close alternate in the Armscor Baby Rock.


The Pistol

Our test pistol arrived in a standard Armscor clamshell pistol case. Inside, we found the pistol itself, two magazines (both bearing the Metalform logo—nothing shabby about that!), a chamber flag, a hang tag, an owners manual, and a trigger lock. As is to be expected with Armscor and Rock Island pistols, the entire gun was wet with whatever Armscor uses to protect against rust during shipping and storage. We don’t know how much lubrication this shipping oil provides, and we wiped it off as much as possible while photographing the Baby Rock next to the Llama Micromax 380 anyway, so before we started shooting we lubricated the pistol with a judicious application of Gun Butter on all the moving parts we could get access to.




The Baby Rock in the typical Armscor clamshell pistol case


Armscor’s web site lists the trigger pull at 4 to 6 pounds. Our test pistol measured exactly 6 pounds on multiple iterations using an RCBS analog trigger pull scale. That’s a bit heavier than we like, even for a carry pistol, but even six pounds is within specification for a USGI M1911 or M1911A1. And the reality is that a small semi-automatic pistol chambered in .380 ACP isn’t intended as a bullseye or target shooting pistol. It’s intended to be carried as a self defense pistol. The vast majority of self defense shootings occur at distances of 21 feet or less, many at “bad breath” distance. The Baby Rock’s trigger broke cleanly, with minimal creep or grittiness, so despite the 6-pound pull it would be well-suited to its intended purpose. In fact, for self defense purposes, as long as the trigger isn’t so heavy that it interferes with accuracy, a heavier trigger is preferred over a lighter trigger simply because it tends to head off accusations of having a gun with a “hair trigger.”.


The facts, Ma’am, just the facts

As mentioned above, Armscor regards the Baby Rock as a small 1911 pistol. While there are similarities, including not only the manual of arms and even the shape of fire control parts such as the thumb safety and the slide stop, we are more inclined to regard the Baby Rock as more “1911-ish” than 1911. There are several factors that (in our opinion) disqualify the Baby Rock from being considered as a full-fledged 1911. First, as noted above, the barrel is fixed and the barrel is not locked to the slide during firing. The Baby Rock operates on the straight blowback principle. The M1911 design is noted for the swinging link that allows the barrel to drop down out of lockup to the slide as the upper assembly recoils. With a fixed barrel, the Baby Rock doesn’t use a barrel link. The underlug of the barrel assembly has a single locating notch through it, which is locked into place in the pistol by the slide stop pin.


The exploded view shows that the fire control parts are laid out like a true 1911, but everything is smaller


The Baby Rock and Llama Micromax barrels. Note the lack of a swinging link and locking lugs


Second, the Baby Rock uses an external extractor. Yes, there are full-size 1911s from a few makers that use external extractors, and those pistols are generally accepted as 1911s. It’s not the external extractor by itself that matters, but the aggregation of deviations from the 1911 design.

Third, the shape and angle of the grip frame are different from the 1911. The front strap of the Baby Rock ends with a slight outward sweep at the bottom. The grip frame is slightly closer to perpendicular to the axis of the barrel … not much, only a degree or two, but it is different.

Internally, the fire control parts are very similar to those of the USGI M1911. There is certainly a close resemblance between the Baby Rock and the M1911. Ultimately, it will fall to each viewer to decide if the Baby Rock is close enough to be considered a scaled-down 1911.

The Baby Rock uses a horizontally sliding trigger, as in an M1911. The thumb safety is shaped like a scaled-down version of the “teardrop” shaped thumb safety found on many contemporary 1911s. The Baby Rock has a functional grip safety with a beavertail, and a Commander-“combat” style open loop hammer. The slide stop looks like a 1911 slide stop and functions exactly the same.

Inside, the Baby Rock has a barrel bushing, a recoil spring plug, and a short recoil spring guide rod. Although the details vary somewhat, in principle the recoil system is very like that of the M1911.


The Baby Rock uses a conventional recoil system, with a short recoil spring guide and a barrel bushing


Live Fire

If you have stayed with us until now, it’s time to (finally!) get to the point of any gun review: How does it shoot? The quick answer is: very nicely. Despite the size being smaller than a 1911, the Baby Rock fit my hands very comfortably and was easy to shoot. The sights are all black, which was a bit of a disadvantage under the artificial lighting of the indoor range where I shoot, but the sights are large enough that it wasn’t difficult to obtain a good sight picture.

Our normal test protocol at M1911.org is to test full-size and Commander-size pistols at 75 feet, and anything shorter we shoot at 25 feet. We consider that the Baby Rock is intended primarily as a self defense pistol and so we conducted our testing at a distance of 25 feet, representing a maximum distance for self defense type shooting. The accuracy portion of the testing was fired from a seated position, over a rest.

When Armscor sent us the pistol that is the subject of this review, they were also kind enough to send along 250 rounds of Armscor .380 ACP ammunition. Many people, even those who are familiar with the Armscor and Rock Island Armory brand names, are not aware that in addition to manufacturing firearms, Armscor also produces ammunition for handguns, rifles, shotguns, and rimfire firearms. There are two lines of ammunition; Armscor Precision ammunition is manufactured in the Philippines, and Armscor USA ammunition is made in Stevensville, Montana. The ammunition provided to us was 95-grain FMJ ball ammunition bearing the Armscor USA brand name.

With an abundance of ammunition available for plinking, we were able to engage in an enjoyable amount of freehand shooting with the Baby Rock before settling down to the serious accuracy testing. In the past, despite its reputation as being an under-powered cartridge, we have observed that the .380 ACP can be a bit “snappy” when fired through small guns with short barrels. That was not the case with the Baby Rock. Recoil was light, and the all-steel construction of the pistol absorbed whatever recoil there was very adequately. Because I am accustomed to shooting pistols with 4½-pound triggers, I felt the trigger pull was a bit on the heavy side and, if this were my gun, I would have to make an adjustment. But … this wasn’t my gun, so we proceeded.

In the freehand shooting, the Baby Rock was responsive and easy to shoot. One curious anomaly occurred, however: In conducting strong hand and weak hand exercises, I shot the Baby Rock much better with my weak hand than with my strong hand. That’s something that has never happened before, and I am at a loss as to how to explain it.

Once we felt sufficiently familiarized with the pistol and had fired enough ammunition to feel assured that we weren’t likely to encounter malfunctions, we set up the rest and sat down for the serious business of finding out how well the Baby Rock shoots (or, perhaps, how badly I shoot). The results are set forth in the table below:

Armscor Baby Rock

AmmoAvg. Group (inches)Avg. Group (mm)Best Group (inches)Best Group (mm)
Armscor USA 95-gr FMJ
1.19"
30
1.00"
25
Winchester USA 95-gr FMJ-FP
1.19"
30
0.88"
22
Remington UMC 95-gr FMJ
1.31"
33
0.88"
22
Magtech 95-gr FMJ
1.31"
33
0.88"
22


Can I carry it?

For carry, of course, most people will want a holster. I do know a couple of people who have always carried by simply sticking their pistol into the waistband of their trousers, but most people are not comfortable doing that … and with good reason. So most people considering the Baby Rock will probably want a holster. Are there any available?

There are a few, but not many. WE used the magic of the Internet to research holster availability. Virtually none of the major, “name brand” holster makers had anything listed for Armscor, Rock Island, or Llama. To our surprise, Sarariland (which is typically thought of as a law enforcement brand) had a leather shoulder holster and a leather IWB holster listed for the Llama IIIA, which would also fit the Baby Rock. They did not, however, have any belt scabbard holsters listed that would fit.

That left us experimenting with what we have on hand. First up was a DeSantis pocket holster designed for the Colt Mustang. The Mustang, of course, has a shorter barrel and slide. When the Baby Rock was inserted in this holster, it didn’t seat fully. The slide bottomed out in the holster before the trigger was covered, so this is definitely not an option. But the Baby Rock isn’t really a pocket pistol, anyway.


The same issue also applied to a Don Hume IWB holster made for the Colt Mustang.



Obviously, it was time to look beyond “brand name,” model specific holsters. Several years ago, the author wanted a leather holster to carry a Colt Pony .380 for summer carry under light clothing. I ended up buying a generic, semi-molded leather belt slide holster from a company called Bulldog Cases. These holsters are not closely molded to fit specific firearms; they are shaped more or less to a generic, universal outline. Thus, they offer basically three holsters, “small automatic,” “medium automatic,” and “large automatic.” Each is available in black or tan, and for left-hand or right-hand carry. The holster for the Pony .380 is the Small Automatic, and also fits the Baby Rock very nicely.


Bulldog Cases small automatic leather holster


Another generic holster from the collection was a black leather belt slide of unknown manufacture that was purchased many years ago, also for a Colt Pony 380, from The Sportsmans Guide Company. This also provided a very good fit for the Baby Rock, for those who aren’t troubled by having a significant portion of the muzzle end of the slide exposed. That company no longer carries the exact belt slide I have, but they do currently offer something very similar.



There are options available. By shopping around at larger stores where stock is available to try your gun in various holsters, it should be possible to find a good quality holster that will fit the Baby Rock without too much trouble. I prefer leather, but there are so many holsters available today in Kydex that this may offer a wider variety of potential candidates.


Evaluation

The Baby Rock appears to be the reincarnation of a proven design with a long history. Updated by Armscor for modern CNC manufacturing, and featuring all steel construction and magazines from one of the best-known makers of magazines, the Rock Island Armory Baby Rock looks like a very attractive choice for anyone looking for a smaller, solidly-built pistol in .380 ACP caliber. We put close to 300 rounds through the Baby Rock, with only one stoppage, which occurred with the Winchester USA ammunition. We attribute that to the flat nose profile of the bullets in that ammunition. With an MSRP of well under $500, and street prices certainly lower than that, the Baby Rock is essentially in a class by itself. We think it’s 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

Armscor/Rock Island Baby Rock
Caliber:.380 ACP
Overall Length:6.62" (168 mm)
Height:4.62" (117 mm) (per Armscor; 4.50” excluding sights)
Barrel Length:3.75" (96 mm)
Sight Radius:4.75"(121 mm)
Sights:Upright, Black, Combat-style (non-adjustable)
Weight w/o magazine:147 lb. (0.67 kg)
Magazine Capacity:7 rounds
Grips:Double diamond checkered, hard rubber
Finish:Matte black
MSRP:$460

You may discuss this review in this thread, in our Forums Site.


Sources

Pistol



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


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