The Rock River Arms 1911 Poly

Past Meets Present In Big-Bore Form!

The Rock River Arms 1911 Poly shot nicely with everything we fed it.
Hornady’s 185-gr. Critical Defense load performed particularly well.

Back in 1996, two brothers named Mark and Chuck Larson started a modest gun company in Cleveland, Illinois, devoted to building the finest 1911 pistols produced. They christened their undertaking Rock River Arms and vigorously pursued perfection. These hand-fitted custom 1911 handguns with National Match frames and slides developed a well-deserved following. Then something fundamentally shifted in the American psyche, and we gun nerds suddenly couldn’t get enough of Gene Stoner’s space-age wonder gun. Rock River Arms powered down their handgun line, ramped up to build black rifles, and rode the crest of the wave.

Nowadays both the US DEA and FBI use Rock River rifles, and the plant has grown from 1,800 square feet to 50,000. Rock River offers their wares in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes, and they provide them to military, civilian and law enforcement end users everywhere. Alas, they’ve come up for air after building untold zillions of AR rifles and returned to their roots. And the Rock River Arms 1911 Poly is an Information Age twist on a timeless design.

The 1911 Poly from Rock River has all the 1911 features you love, but in a lighter package.

Evolutionary Morphology

The beating heart of the polymer-framed .45 ACP 1911 Poly is classic John Moses Browning. Despite its synthetic frame, every single component of the gun is standard, so the pistol will accept any imaginable 1911 upgrade. The 5" 1:16 twist chrome moly barrel keeps the gun shooting straight, while the aluminum speed trigger, commander hammer and beavertail grip safety keep things fast.

The mainspring housing is flat and checkered, while the metal components are all Parkerized. The sights are steel and unadorned with dots. If you’d prefer something more sparkly, the sights naturally are dovetailed. The gun comes with a brace of 7-round magazines.

The left-sided manual safety and slide release are the same size as those of a standard 1911. You could swap them out for the longer sort if you wish, but I like these. There have been a few instances wherein I let myself get in a rush and inadvertently bumped an extended 1911 safety upwards, momentarily deadlining my gun. If I can do this on the range I suspect I could do it in scarier places as well.

What really sets the 1911 Poly apart is its polymer frame. Polymer-framed 1911 pistols are not terribly uncommon in American gun shops, but many to most of them are just viscerally ugly. Big, fat, oversized everything makes these guns look like a standard steel-framed 1911 in the throes of an allergic reaction to peanut butter. By contrast, the polymer frame on the 1911 Poly is about as trim and svelte as old John Moses’ originals.

To keep the strength up and the size down, the Rock River guys mold their polymer frames around a steel frame insert. This component guides the slide on its trek back and forth and provides rock-solid bearing surfaces for the wiggly bits. The end result is a full-sized 1911 combat pistol with all the bells and whistles riding nearly 1/2-lb. lighter than the ferrous originals. The 0.4 lbs. may not seem like much but take it from a guy who has packed a lot of full-sized 1911 pistols at work under scrubs — every little bit matters.

The Rock River Arms 1911 Poly is an Information Age rendition of John Moses Browning’s
timeless service pistol. Lighter than the original yet easier on the hands, the 1911 Poly is
the next-generation 1911.

Everything Is Physics

I’m man enough to admit running a conventional single stack 1911 pistol all day long can leave my mitts feeling a bit violated. It’s worse if the gun sports aggressive checkering on the mainspring housing. How brutalized you feel’s a function of recoil pressure.

Pressure, to the typical high school Physics student, is force per unit area. Distributing force out over a broad area can make mean stuff seem nicer. The ground pressure of an M1 Abrams tank weighing 136,000 lbs., for instance, is around 15 pounds per square inch (psi) because of its broad track system. The ground pressure exerted by a 105-lb. supermodel in stiletto heels is, by contrast, around 470 psi. Despite the remarkable weight disparity, the supermodel sinks faster into the mud because of her higher ground pressure.

In the case of the 1911 Poly, the frame is just a bit thicker than an original. The frame accepts all manner of standard 1911 grips and the front strap comes nicely checkered to complement the mainspring housing. The end result’s a gun filling the hand just a bit better than the skinny originals, without feeling as bulky as a double-stack .45. I find the end result quite pleasant. The extra width spreads out the recoil impulse without being excessively bulky.

All the controls you know on a standard 1911 are right in the same places on the 1911 Poly.

Range Work

Taking up the Rock River Arms 1911 Poly for the first time’s like shaking hands with an old friend. The gun slides into the web, and the memory bump on the beavertail safety deactivates without conscious thought. The slide racking force is what you’d expect from a new 1911 and my digits found the controls of their own accord.

The trigger is just divine. Light, terse, airy, ethereal, diaphanous, delicate, gossamer ... how many adjectives could there be to describe a really exceptional single-action 1911 trigger? Suffice it to say, the trigger breaks decisively at exactly the right time with an almost undetectable, weightless take-up. Everything about the 1911 Poly makes the gun shoot reliably, comfortably and straight.

The gun is about 6.5-oz. lighter than its steel-framed counterparts, so from the perspective of pure Newtonian Physics the recoil impulse will be a bit greater. Mass times velocity in one direction will always equal mass times velocity in the other. This isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law. However, the pressure thing we discussed earlier comes into play here and makes the 1911 Poly a bit more comfortable to me than is the case with a steel original.

Magazines naturally drop freely away, and all switches and ditzels run precisely the same as those of your grandfather’s 1911. The difference here’s the 1911 Poly is easier to tote and more resistant to scratches and dings. Hollow points, ball, solid copper or lead? The 1911 Poly didn’t care. The gun digested everything swimmingly despite a total lack of attention to proper maintenance.

The 1911 Poly is shown on the left next to a steel-frame Kimber 1911.
Note the 1911 Poly is a bit more portly.


In the Rock River Arms 1911 Poly, we see John Moses Browning’s timeless combat pistol rocketed into the Information Age. The end result is lighter and more aesthetically durable than the original while retaining quite literally everything that made those old guns justifiable legends. The extra grip width fits my hand nicely, and I found packing the 1911 Poly through my long 13-hour days at work to be more pleasant than was the case with a more conventional heater.

The 1911 Poly shot well everything we fed it. However, the Hornady Critical Defense 185-gr. FTX printed four out of five as a single jagged hole at 10 meters. The gun also remained quite a comfortable way to kill a lazy afternoon at the range. Wonderfully executed and dripping with cool, the RRA 1911 Poly is yesterday’s gun ready for continuing service today.

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