Rock River Arms Poly RRA 1911
Rock River Re-enters the 1911 Market—with a Twist

Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG


Fully ten years ago, this publication reviewed an up-market 1911 pistol made by Rock River Arms, a company that was and is well-known for their AR-15 rifles. Not long after our review was published, Rock River dropped out of the 1911 market to focus on their AR-15 business. More recently, the company has once again begun offering 1911 pistols. The current lineup includes seven basic models, including models intended for carry, bullseye competition, and practical shooting. There are any number of competitors offering pistols that could fit into those market segments. This review covers a model that is rather unique in the 1911 market: a polymer-framed 1911 pistol. Rock River calls this model the Poly RRA 1911.

It’s a unique and interesting pistol.

The Poly RRA 1911

Our test pistol arrived in a standard Rock River Arms clamshell gun case, with real hinges, two snap-to-close catches, and provision to add a padlock for security (and to comply with federal regulations if flying with a firearm).

Inside the case, the pistol was nestled in a bed of eggcrate foam cushioning. It comes with an owner’s manual, two magazines, and a nylon barrel bushing wrench.

At first glance, the Poly RRA 1911 didn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary. It looks like pretty much any off-the-shelf, matte black, utilitarian 1911 pistol.

What you see on first look is an all-black, full-size 1911 pistol. It has an upswept, beavertail grip safety with a hump to ensure positive disengagement of the trigger block; a textured front strap; standard slide stop; teardrop-shaped thumb safety; and a set of plain black, double-diamond checkered grip panels. The hammer is an elongated loop, Commander profile hammer. The mainspring housing is the straight style but, like any self-respecting 1911, this can be changed to an arched mainspring housing with minimal effort.

All in all, nothing exceptional, except … hold on, there …

A second look shows that there is something unusual going on with this pistol. The trigger guard seems rather heavy or thick, and there’s something that looks suspiciously like a screw through the upper end of the trigger guard, just below where it meets the underside of the frame. That’s what people in the detective business call a “clue.” Gun makers generally don’t put screws into or through guns for no reason, so that screw must be there to hold something. What is it holding?

Once you realize that the outer material of the Rock River Poly RRA 1911 is, well, poly[mer plastic], you can understand what that screw is there for. A steel slide can’t run on polymer rails for very long so, as is the case for just about every “polymer” pistol on the market today, the real guts of the Poly RRA 1911 is a steel insert surrounded by a polymer outer shell that, in this case, takes the form of a 1911. The screw through the trigger guard is the forward locating point for holding the steel action into the polymer shell.

Where are the other screws? This is where the crew at Rock River Arms put on their thinking caps. The upper grip screw bushings are not standard 1911 bushings. They’re custom, proprietary parts that do double duty, acting as grip screw bushings and, at the same time, securing the steel action block into the polymer frame housing. Clever! While I’m not sure John M. Browning would have approved the use of polymer for his pistol design (although he might have), I feel confident that he would have approved the concept of using one part to perform two functions. That’s what we call “efficiency.”

Under the Hood

Field stripping the pistol showed a better view of the steel action insert. It extends forward to the full length of the frame rails upon which the slide operates. From that point forward, the dust cover/recoil spring tunnel is all polymer.

On the left side, the polymer outer shall is cut away around where the slide stop is fitted. This brings us to the second, more subtle, clue about the polymer nature of the Poly RRA 1911: the width of the frame. For a standard, steel (or aluminum alloy) 1911 the slide width is 0.918”, and the frame width is 0.751”. This means that the slide overhangs the frame by 0.083” on each side. To those of us accustomed to dealing in feet and inches, that’s almost 3/32 of an inch. What Rock River did was to make the steel frame insert to the standard 0.751” width, then wrap that with the polymer shell. This makes the overall frame width, for all effective purposes, the same width as the slide. When you look at it, this is what you see, and it explains why something looks different. But, it works. However, with standard grips installed, it does make the pistol feel slightly bulkier than other 1911s.

An advantage to the extra width at the magazine well is that it allows Rock River to provide a generously-beveled entrance to the mag well, facilitating insertion of the standard, straight-walled 1911 magazines.

In keeping with the rest of the pistol, the sights are utilitarian in nature. The front sight is an all-black, ramped blade. The rear sight is an all-black, upright style with the front squared off to allow using it for one-handed cocking by hooking the sight over a hard edged-object.

How does it shoot?

Since John Caradimas first started this on-line magazine over a decade ago, our standard for testing full-size and Commander-size pistols has been to shoot at a distance of 75 feet. Because I conduct my shooting tests at an indoor, underground range, I am totally dependent on artificial lighting. In a number of recent tests, I have found that the lighting at the 75-foot distance has been less than adequate for obtaining accuracy that’s representative of the guns’ potential. Accordingly, I have reluctantly had to abandon shooting at 75 feet in favor of using the 50-foot line, where (for reasons I don’t pretend to understand) the lighting is visibly brighter and more uniform. This test was shot at the 50-foot distance.

The first thing I noticed is that the Poly RRA 1911 didn’t seem to balance in my hand like a “normal” 1911. I was able to confirm this later, upstairs, by hanging the Poly RRA and an all-steel 1911 from a metal rod and noting the different angles at which they found their balance:

Poly RRA 1911 in foreground

The sights were perfectly visible, with the notch in the rear sight being wide enough to leave an optimum amount of daylight on either side of the front sight blade to ensure that the front sight is centered. The only difficulty I encountered was when plinking at targets with a large black area as the center. With the only source of light on the sights at the indoor shooting station being a single, incandescent light bulb behind my left shoulder, the all-black sights tended to disappear against the black target. This was not a problem shooting at the yellow target rings used for the accuracy portion of our testing, and it would not likely be a problem shooting outdoors.

The table below sets forth the results of our accuracy testing. As mentioned above, this test was shot at a distance of 50 feet. We shot from a seated position, off a rest. We shot five-round groups and discarded the worst round of each group. The averages are the average of three five-shot groups.

AmmoAvg. Group (inches)Avg. Group (mm)Best Group (inches)Best Group (mm)
Reloads: 185-gr. PLRN-HB
Remington UMC 230-gr. FMJ
Sellier & Bellot 230-gr. FMJ
Blazer Brass 230-gr. FMJ
Wilson Combat Match 230-gr. HAP
Ultramax 200-gr. LSWC

The pistol was comfortable to shoot, with acceptable accuracy. Trigger pull averaged 4-1/2 pounds, which in this writer’s opinion is just about perfect for a 1911. There was no grit and very little creep in the trigger. This is one 1911 that I would be happy to shoot just as it came out of the box, without feeling that the first thing it needs is to get a trigger tune-up. The two supplied magazines were Check-Mate stainless steel magazines, with polymer bases (what else for a polymer pistol?) and Check-Mate’s patented follower. During the course of our testing we did not encounter any stoppages. I should mention that our testing included Ultramax 200-grain lead semi-wadcutters not so much because of accuracy questions, but because a number of other 1911s we have tested choke on these bullets. The Poly RRA 1911 took them in stride, with no issues whatsoever.


The Rock River Arms Poly RRA 1911 is an innovative and capable 1911 pistol. It’s not the first attempt at a polymer single-stack 1911, but (aside from the little 85 percent scale Browning Black Label pistols) it is the only one we are aware of that’s currently on the market. There are too many arguments both for and against polymer-framed pistols to go into in the course of this review. Polymer pistols have advantages, and for those who like the 1911 platform and would appreciate being able to have a polymer pistol while being able to stay with the 1911 platform, the Poly RRA 1911 is a solid performer from a first-tier maker. It’s well worth a serious look.


First, of course, we wish to acknowledge and thank the M1911.ORG member who allowed us to use his personal pistol for this test.

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.


Rock River Arms Poly RRA 1911 
Caliber:.45 ACP
Overall Length:8.38" (212.7 mm)
Overall Height:5.19" (131.8 mm)
Overall Width:1.35" (33.3 mm)
Barrel Length:5" (127 mm)
Sight Radius:6.5" (165 mm)
Sights:White dot, Combat-style (non-adjustable)
Weight w/o magazine:33.0 oz (0.93 kg)
Magazine Capacity:7 rounds
Grips:Double diamond checkered, hard rubber
Finish:Matte black

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1042 Cleveland Road
Colona, IL 61241
Tel: (309) 792-5780, 1-866-980-Rock (7625) (Toll-free)
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Range Facilities

Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
2458 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437-1398
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