Reviewing this pistol has been a sort of a love/hate kind of a deal. How can I give the pistol good marks when I find so much about it to dislike. On the other hand, how can I say it is bad when I find so much about it that is really good. Maybe I should start at the beginning.
No, let me start before that. The 1911 pistol is unique in the fact that there are no two that are alike. This pistol is not the end result of computerized milling machines and hydraulic presses that churn out an endless chain of identical parts. Instead, the pistol is produced from a selection of over sized parts that must be hand fit by a gunsmith. Slide to frame, barrel to slide, grip safety to frame, and on it goes. Part after part must be sized, shaped, polished and fit together by real people. Therefore, no two guns are identical. This explains the love/hate relationship that people have had with this pistol ever since the first Yank carried it to war.
I dare say that every manufacturer of 1911 pistols has shipped a gun or two with problems. I guess the real difference between one manufacture and the next can be measured by the frequency that problems slip through and lengths they will go to guarantee a satisfied customer.
I had read many strong reviews about the full sized Rock Island Arms 1911 pistols. These pistols are manufactured by Armscore in the Philippines. When they came out with the Citadel pistols, I learned that they were, in fact, the Rock Island Arms tactical pistol with an enhanced slide and grips. I threw caution to the wind and brought one home.
This pistol seemed to feed ammunition well, but exhibited one problem that I just could not live with. About every twenty rounds or so, the gun would double. Bang bang as fast as the gun can cycle is too much excitement for me. Maybe I am not man enough to handle an intermittently fully automatic pistol. Call me a wimp.
I returned the 1911 machine gun to the gun store and arrived home with another. This pistol had another problem. It would regularly send a round nose diving into the feed ramp and stop the gun. More often than not, this would occur while loading the first round from a fully loaded eight round magazine. However, it would also fail from time to time even with nearly empty magazines.
I attempted to correct the problem by using Mec-Gar mags instead of the Act mags that ship with the gun. Changing magazines did nothing to correct the problem.
I contacted customer support in Pahrump, Nevada. Arnel Bernardo, master gunsmith for Armscor, suggested that I send the gun in. I asked if we could try a heaver recoil spring before I went to the expense of shipping the pistol. He quickly agreed and sent a Wolf replacement.
The gun continued to choke on ammunition even with the heaver spring. One afternoon, I got bored and completely tore the pistol down just to get a close look at the internal components. I found the ambidextrous thumb safety difficult to remove. The left and right sides join in the middle with a sort of tongue and grove joint. Separating the two halves was difficult at best.
Once separated, I decided to file a little material from the tongue so that the two halves would slide together without so much work. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to remove material than put it back? Yup, I took too much off. Sure enough, the safety was easier to install and remove, however, the right side of the ambidextrous safety was painfully loose and tended to flop around.
I called Arnel to confess my sin. “No problem”, he said, I will send you a new one… without charge. I asked if he would be willing to send the more traditional left-side-only thumb safety. He said yes and within a few days, the new left-side-only safety was delivered. With a bit of hand fitting, I was able to get it installed. It works and looks great.
I contacted Arnel again and informed him of the continuing feeding problem. He arranged to have Fed Ex pick the pistol up and Armscor paid the shipping. Arnel personally handled this attempt to get this gun up and running. It was returned to me in a timely manner, along with a free magazine. How cool is that?
Arnel replaced the stock barrel with a match grade variant… nice. He also replaced the extractor and recoil spring with upgraded versions. Finally, he tuned the feed ramp and barrel ramp.
Since it’s return, this pistol has been fed a steady diet of ball and defensive ammo. Man oh man, this thing eats everything! I have not experienced a single failure of any kind. Accuracy and shootability is now, and has always been, very good. The fit of slide to frame is absolutely top drawer. The slide has big grippy serrations front and rear that are really nice. The trigger is crisp and seems to be right around five pounds. The grips are standard 1911 wood with the double diamond pattern. I have rather small hands and, for me at least, the gun would benefit from a set of thin grips. I compensated by aggressively inletting the left grip to allow for easier magazine drops. The sights are adequate and deliver each round to point of aim. They are all black, which makes a good sight picture difficult in questionable light. I painted the front sight white and added white dots to the rear site. The paint helped significantly. Checkering on the front strap would be an awesome enhancement, however, this is normally only found on guns costing far more than the Citadel. The gun comes with a black parkerized finish. I carry it in a Kydex holster. Kydex is tough on most finishes and it literally stripped the finish off of this gun.
The people at Armscor customer support are without equal. They are dedicated to my satisfaction and simply refused to stop trying until they had it. One thing that really impressed me was the personal service. Before returning my gun, I got a personal call from Arnel, informing me of the work that had been completed and assuring me that they will keep trying until I am totally satisfied.
I am a lemon magnet. Those things just stick to me. I do not believe that my early experience with the Armscor pistol is at all typical. The reviews are far too positive for me to make any negative assumptions about the quality. The beauty here is that Arnel and his people took my lemon and made lemonade. And it is good.
Thanks so much. I would definitely recommend this pistol to others with the caveat that the 1911 is a unique animal and so it comes with a unique set of advantages and challenges.