Tag Archives: RIA

Do you want replacement grip panels for your RIA A2 HC pistol? Check out Guuun Grips

In the first post, I told you about Stoner CNC for grips made from G10 composite, in the second I told you about a great option for wood – Browne Works and in this third post, we’ll cover a firm with a unique name and good grips.

The firm is called Guun Grips and they make custom G10 grips for bunch of pistol models and different styles of grips. You can find their offerings on their own website as well as tons of listings on eBay and Amazon. It’s my understanding that the grips are made in China and then sold in the US via Aurora, Colorado. So much is made in China these days that I’m not very surprised – it is interesting to note that when you search on them there are lots of satisfied 1911 and CZ.75 owners running their grip plates.

For the RIA A2 HC pistols, I could not find a listing on either Amazon or eBay but you can buy them directly off their store in either a black or grey color.

The grip plates are machined from G10 composite and available in either black or grey.
The back of the plates show good attention to detail. All edges are well formed and smooth.

Installation was very straight forward – unscrew the pair of grip screws and put on the new panel. I did need to do some light filing on the right side to get the G10 panels to sit flat and the holes to line up accordingly. Oddly enough, the left side went right on.

The plate does not want to sit flat or line up with the holes in the frame. These are indications that fitting is needed. It doesn’t take much filing to get them to fit.
The G10 files easily – use a dust mask as you really shouldn’t be breathing composite dust. Go slow and take your time – file, test fit and repeat until the plates sit flush.
The left two plates are the Guuun models and the right is the original RIA. You can see the slight differences in the number of divots and grooves as well as the depth of them. The Guuun grips actually feel quite good.
Once the plate is seated nicely flat on the frame the grip screws are reinstalled.
You know, I like the feel better than the original RIA plates. “Feel” is a subjective thing – but I do like the way the plate feels in my hand.
A closer view
And of the other side.

Summary

The Guuun grip plates are nicely made. To be honest, I didn’t expect them to be made very well but they are – the material, machining and finishing are all very good.

So, here’s another option for you whether you want to stick with black and have a different feel or opt for their grey color.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Do you want wood replacement grip panels for your RIA A2 HC pistol? Check out Browne Works

In the last post, I told you about Stoner CNC for grips made from G10 composite and in this one, I want to tell you a great option for wood – Browne Works, Inc.

Mark Browne is the owner of Browne Works, Inc., located in Pasadena, MD, southeast of Baltimore. He is a true custom grip maker and sands and finishes them by hand with a very wide offering for pistol models including the 1911, Beretta 92, Hudson G9, Llama, SIg Sauer and, of course, the Rock Island single and double stack pistols.

For Rock Island pistols he has a wide variety of offerings for the Ultra and Tac Ultra both FS and MS models. He also has them for the A2 HC (like I needed) plus the BBR. The pricing is very reasonable also and he has a variety of materials you can choose from – click here for his website.

The wood is Brazilian Rosewood. Mark added hardener and did a double diamond pattern on it. There is a satin finish sealant on them as well. I think they look amazing – the photos don’t do them justice.
Mark can do laser engraving if you want. He does engrave his logo on the back of each panel plus it shows you the attention to detail in terms of the finishing he does.

Installation was very straight forward – unscrew the pair of grip screws and put on the new panel. I did need to do some light filing to get the wood panels to sit flat and the holes to line up accordingly.

I did need to remove some off the bottom. I used a smooth file and would take a tad off in a straight line along the bottom and test repeatedly until the panel fit nice and snug.

Now I need to insert something here that Mark did that really helped me out. The photos in this post are actually of my second set. On the rear of the grip is a tab that covers a slot. I don’t know what happened but it cracked on my original right side plate. I contacted Mark and he told me he would make a new one and add hardener and use the cool double diamond pattern and he didn’t charge me! He had no idea who I was or that I planned a blog post – I never said anything. He took care of me and that speaks a lot about him and his customer service right there.

The grips look great!
And the other plate is fitted – the screws were next on the to-do list.
These grips are really nice. I never thought I would go with wood but I am leaving these plates on my pistol.
Both in terms of looks and how they feel, these

Summary

I’m not always a wood fan but to be perfectly honest, I like these – a lot. The checkering really gives you a nice grip without biting into your hand. They are staying on the pistol!

When it comes to Browne Works for RIA A2 HC pistols – I definitely recommend them based on my experience.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Do you want replacement grip panels for your RIA A2 HC pistol? Check out Stoner CNC

Because we sell customized magazines for the Rock Island A2 HC pistols – their staggered magazine pistols based on the Para design that hold 14-17 rounds depending on caliber – I am often asked if I make grip panels – the slabs that go on each side of the magazine housing. The short answer is no – I don’t make them. The next question is usually – do you know anyone who does and again, I’d answer no.

Well, if I get asked something enough eventually my curiosity perks up so I started digging. There are a couple of key things you need to know:

  • The Rock Island A2 HC pistols have very wide magazine wells so they use relative thin proprietary grip plates that are not compatible with regular 1911 pistols.
  • The bushings that are normally replaceable in a 1911 part of the A2 HC frame and can not be easily relaced. I don’t know for sure but I think they did this to keep the thickness down
  • They use unique screws – the screws are #10-32. Overall length is 0.205″ and the threaded shaft is about 0.145″. Advanced Tactical (the online retail business unit of Armscor) sells replacement screws and sometimes they pop up elsewhere. The key point is that they are not standard 1911 grip panel screws.
Here’s a good view if the integral bushings that are part of the frame. Probably to keep the overall thickness down, costs as well I bet, separate bushings were not used.

So who sells grip panels? Option 1: Stoner CNC

I found three vendors and ordered in panels for testing. I’m doing this first post on the first box I opened – no super secret selection crtieria. This first set came from Stoner CNC.

Matt Stoner is the owner of Stoner CNC located in Archbold, Ohio, and makes grip panels from G10 composite for just a ton of pistols – 1911, Kimber, Ruger, Springfield Armory, Beretta, RIA and more. I ran into one small snag – I couldn’t find any recent reviews, his Facebook page was last updated in 2019 and nobody answered emails from his website while I was searching. I kept digging and what I found out is that he also sells on eBay and on Amazon so I went ahead and ordered two sets of panels from eBay [Click here for the listing] and they arrived six days later — by the way, he also did reply to the email just before they arrived I think. My guess is that he’s like a lot of small businesses (including mine) – stretched thin trying to keep all the balls in the air – manufacturing, emails, Facebook, etc.

As of my writing this, he doesn’t have them listed on eBay or Amazon but does have the panels that you need on his website. He only offers one series of plates that he calls “Slash & Burn” under the 1911 doublestack listing on the main page. From there you can pick the color and specify what model frame the panels will go on. The RIA Short is for pistols with the factory mag well flare (the big bell bottom on the A2 HC pistols) installed and the Long model is if you have removed / don’t have the flare.

These are the “Slash & Burn” grips for double stack 1911s and they are for the RIA Short (Magwell) meaning the factory mag well flare is installed. He does offer a long cut if you do not have the magwell flare installed.
The machining of the G10 is nicely done. It seemed plenty strong from what I could tell.

Installation is very straight forward – unscrew the pair of screws and put on the new panel. I did not need to sand anything to fit. You’ll notice the holes are a little on the large side so you can move the panels a hair if you need to. If you must trim them to fit, look very carefully at the bottom at it may be hitting the flare and just need a bit of material removed. Again , mine went right on.

The far right plates are the Stoner Slash & Burn in Black. The middle plates are the originals from RIA and, of course, you can see the blue ones on the pistol.

Summary

They are well made, affordable and give you different color options. There is a little bit more of a positive feeling meaning I can feel the ridges and get more of a grip whereas the original RIA plates seem a tad smoother.

Bottom line, if you want something other than black then Stoner has you covered. If I had it to do over, I would have gotten another color for the second set other than black.

Would I recommend them – yes and I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



Are Rock Island Armory Double Stack 9mm 1911-Style A2 HC-series Pistols Any Good?

Rock Island Armory (RIA) is a brand name that is owned by Armscor Global Defense located in Marakina, Philippines. Armscor obtained a license from the Philippine government in 1952 to begin making firearms. In 1980 it became Arms Corporation of the Philippines (ArmsCor) and in the mid-80s they bought the US brand “Rock Island Armory” and began exporting firearms to the US. They have invested in quality improvement and automation to create their wide variety of firearms offered today. They also have opened plants in the US – one in Stevensville, MT, and the other in Pahrumo, NV.

In March 2022, a Philippine TV crew visited the Armscor factory in Marakina and produced this nice video that focuses mainly on their 1911 production area:

The reason I wanted to share this with you is that RIA pistols do have a long history and Armscor is not some fly by night company. This is my opinion – I would describe RIA 1911 pistols as being designed, built and sold to shooters who want an acceptable 1911 without spending a fortune. They are not claiming to turn out semi-custom pistols – instead, good enough pistols at an affordable price point.

In marketing, when you are trying to hit a certain price point to attract the buyers you are after, you have to figure out the features, the materials, and process combination to get you there. Now reliability and accuracy are features also so this needs to be factored in – the pistols need to be good enough but not necessarily over the top – even though we wish they were.

Ok, but are the 9mm HC 17 round pistols “good”?

So let’s go back to the question – are they good? For the price, yes. You can’t compare them to far higher end pistols such as Stacatto or Bul – it’s simply not fair. It would be like comparing a daily-driver economy model Ford or GM car to a BMW. Yes, they are all cars but the engineering and attention to detail during manufacturing in the BMW are going to be very different. They are for different markets comprised on people with different disposable income levels and tastes – and have different price points.

The two pistols I am discussing to be clear are the 9mm RIA A2 HC pistols – the 51679 Tac Ultra FS HC and the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC – by the way, FS means “Full Size” and HC means “high capacity” because they hold 17 rounds in staggered magazines.

The frames and slides are made from 4140 alloy steel via CNC and they do have QA steps. The barrel seems to be pretty decent but then the price point issue begins to creap in.

I bought four of the A2 HC 80% frames back when I was doing R&D on magazines for the 10mm/..40 S&W calibers (they use the same magazine design) and also the 9mm magazines. What not everyone knows is that these pistols also share a common frame. I installed the RIA magazine catch and ejector but they milled all of the holes and applied, as you can see, a very decent parkerized finish.
Here are two 80% frames with the top one holding a 10mm magazine and dummy red A-Zoom round. The bottom one has a 9mm magazine. The blue round is an A-zoom snap cap and I don’t use or recommend them any longer as the bullet is shaped very differently than a 115gr or 124gr FMJ round so you may think feeding will work when it doesn’t. I sure found that out the hard way.ĵ

For example, to keep costs down, Armscor uses metal injection molded (MIM) parts. I know through first hand experience, the extractors are MIM and they will not have the longevity of a forged part made from tool steel such as one from Wilson Combat *but* the extractors can be replaced if you ever have a problem so it’s not like you suddenly have a boat anchor and that’s one of the beauties of 1911-style pistols – there is a huge aftermarket parts industry and tons of websites/forums out there to help you sort out what is going on not to mention 1911 gunsmiths and that Armscor has good warranty service – I’ve had to avail on it twice – one on a 6″ 10mm Big Rock and also on a 9mm Tac Ultra that had failure to extract issues … and on that one, there was something seriously wrong because just replacing the extractor didn’t work. [Click here for a post I wrote about my extractor journeys with RIA 9mms].

The top is the original Armscor extractor and the claw snapped off. The bottom is a forged tool steel Wilscon Combat. If you run into an issue, read the post I wrote and upgrade to a Wilson.

They also use a parkerized finish and its applied very nicely. There is a but coming – but parkerizing leaves a rough finish and means they need to wear in more compared to other brands that use a different finish and/or have careful polishing and tuning while parts are assembled.

Every parkerized RIA pistol that I have seen has a very nice consistent finish on it. The left pistol is the TAC and you can tell due to the bushing, normal barrel and no checkering on the grip. The right pistol is the Match. It has a bull barrel, full length guide rod and checkering on the front of the grip. The rear sights differ but you can’t see them in this photo.
That’s an 80% frame with no modifications right next to it’s finished cousin – a 51679 Tac Ultra. Under the pistol is one of our tuned Mec-Gar P18 magazines with a Dawon +200 base plate. Click here for our 9mm RIA magazine offerings.

Conclusion

This is my way of saying they are good enough. You are buying an entry level pistol that has been on the market for many years and word would get around quickly if they were utter junk. Does the gun need wear in? Yes. Might there be issues? Yes. Do they have warranty support? Yes and they do stand behind and repair their pistols.

Would I recommend these RIA Tac Ultra FS and Pro Match Ultra HC pistols to someone looking for an entry level 17 round 9mm 1911 style pistol? You may find it odd but yes I would and I’d explain the above.

I hope this helps you out.

1/6/2023 Update: I’ve had zero problems since writing this post. Both pistols have cycled thousands of times during magazine testing (meaning rounds are cycled by hand but not actually fired) and the slides are smooth as glass. I took both to the range recently and they functioned just fine with both 115 and 124gr bulk FMJ – I think the 115gr was CCI and the 124gr was S&B if I recall right.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How to Load Our Old Second Generation 9mm RIA Mags For Reliable Shooting

7/25/22 Update: This only applies to our second generation magazines. With our current mags, we are using Mec-Gar P18 tubes that were designed to stabilize 9mm rounds so no extra work is needed. We now have 10, 15 and 17 round mags available.

To maximize reliable feeding from our second generation 9mm magazines, there is a process you need to follow. We start with a 10mm magazine and both narrow down the feed lips and reshape the top. This angles the cartridge correctly but we also need to ensure the cartridge is seated to the back of the magazine. Why? Well, let me explain a bit.

The RIA A2 HC pistols use an enlarged mag well to hold a staggered magazine – it’s not a true double stack because the rounds alternate going into the magazine and feed from a single position at the top. An important detail that not many realize is that the 9mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W and 10mm auto chambered pistols all use the same frame.

The same frame is used for a number of chambers including 9mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W and 10mm auto. Notice the bulged mag wells and that the grip panel bushings are integral with the frame.

Even though the frame is the same, there is a huge difference in the size of a 9mm vs. a 10mm round so the mags are subtly different as well. The magazine dimensions in terms of width and height are the same but the feed lips differ slightly plus the follower stabilizing guides that are pressed into the body differ as well.

These are A-Zoom snap caps that are made from solid machined aluminum. They are made to the dimensions specified by SAAMI for the 10mm Auto round (at the top in red) and the 9×19 Luger round at the bottom in blue. You can immediately see the difference in size.
Look at the difference in sizes in the mag well. The 10mm (Red on the right) is far longer than the 9mm (Blue on the left).
Here they are from a different angle – 10mm at the top and 9mm at the bottom
Left is a 10mm mag and on the right is a 9mm mag. In terms of stabilizing the follower look at the large diamond shaped depression at the top of the front magazine groove. The 9mm mag’s depression is deeper and longer.

A 10mm magazine body can stabilize the follower when feeding 9mm rounds but it takes a couple of tricks to do it. First, the magazine has a 10% stronger Wolff spring that is pushing the follower upward. Next, the cartridges must be loaded evenly and pushed to the back. Do you remember the old AR15/M16 magazines with the tipsy followers? These are very much the same. If you load the rounds by hand and push down too much on the front, weird things can happen with the rounds further down in the mag.

To compensate for the follower, use a good magazine loader so the rounds go into the mag relatively level and consistently. I prefer the MagLula Universal loader (sometimes called the UpLula). You can get into a quick rhythm where you load a round and keep it seated to the back with your index finger as your withdraw the ramp/tongue of the MagLula. If you don’t keep your finger there, the retracting ramp may pull the round forward out of position.

This is the MagLula universal loader.
When you go to load a round, you squeeze the loader shut so the steel ramp is closed as shown, you push down so the rounds below are pushed down as well and you then insert the new round.
Before you release the loader and the ramp retracts, use your finger to hold the round in place so it stays seated at the back of the mag.

The very last step is the tap the base of the mag on the table. You might need to push the first round back a hair with your finger but you will notice the top round is now firmly held in place and will not “tip” down when you push on the bullet. This is where the 10% stronger Wolff spring really factors in – it is pushing the follower upwards and in turn all of the rounds are held in position by the feed lips.

Once the mag is loaded properly, the cartridge should be held firmly in place and not want to “tip” down.
The Wolff spring and follower are pushing the rounds up against the feed lips thus holding them in place.

Yes, there are a couple of extra steps here – use a loader, push to the back and then tap the mag’s base on the table. It may feel awkward at first because you don’t normally do these extra steps but they get easier and faster the more you do them. If you do them, the mags are very reliable.

Click here to go to our 9mm RIA A2 HC magazine page.

If you have a new RIA A2 HC pistol, be sure to field strip, clean and lubricate your pistol. Then rack the slide back and forth a couple hundred times before your first range visit. If you do this, you are helping the pistol wear in and will have a much better range visit. If you don’t, you are going to get frustrated fast. Note, you need to shoot 200-500 rounds to wear, or break your pistol in. The need for the parts to smooth out and get to know each other is very common – just bear in mind the RIA pistols do not work smoothly right out of the box.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



PSA Has A Great Deal On RIA 52009 HC 16 Round 10mm Pistols Going On – You Better Not Wait If You Want One

I haven’t seen these at this price in the last few years – PSA has them for $649.99. I suspect they will sell fast at that price.

I have one of these 52009 Ultra HC pistols and it is rock solid. Magazine customers tell me the same thing. If you’re looking for a double stack 10mm on the 1911 platform, this is a really good deal:

This is from a range visit last year. My RIA 52009 is at the bottom. The pistol on the top right is a 10mm TRP Operator. I still have the 52009 and like it but sold the TRP.

Do You Need 10mm or .40 S&W Magazines

We make custom high reliability magazines for the 10mm and .40 S&W RIA A2 HC pistols if you are interested. Click here for our store page.

This is one of our 3rd generation magazines. We start with a Mec-Gar P14 .45 magazine tube and modify it to hold both the 10mm and .40 S&W rounds. We have tons of satisfied clients using both calibers.

Conclusion

Just a short post today. That’s such a good price on the 52009 that I figured it warranted it and hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



No, The RIA FS A2 Pistols Are Not 2011s – They Are Oversized 1911s

I posted about 9mm magazines for the Rock Island Armory (RIA) FS A2 pistols and a friend on FB, pointed out they weren’t 2011s. The difference being the 2011 has a modular grip assembly and the RIA pistols are just over-sized 1911s. It dawned on me that I really didn’t know the difference and needed to do some reading.

How “2011” originated

It turns out that Chris was right – there is a difference – a substantial difference.

From what I have read the original 2011 concept was essentially a modular 1911 receiver that could have the mag well / grip sub-frame swapped out to allow for more versatility. The 2011 design and patent was by Virgil Tripp and Sandy Strayer who together formed STI and then went separate ways and shared the patent,.

The design is really cool and the best way to help you learn more is to provide you a link to the original patent application that has written descriptions and drawing — click here to see the orginial patent.

Back to the Rock Islands

The RIA pistols are oversized 1911 pistols. The grip and mag well area are integral parts of the frame and can’t be separated plus they use thin grip panels.

At the top is my RIA 566459mm Pro Match. Below it is an 80% frame for that model. Note now the mag wel/grip area are all part of the receiver and that there are grip panels. It’s not modular in other words. This makes it an over-sized 1911 and not a 2011.

In Closing

So now I know a bit more about the differences between the 2011 and 1911 designs. The RIA pistols are oversized-1911 designs and not true to the original 2011 design concept.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



How Magazines Affect Reliability in Rock Island FS A2 9mm Pistols

This post reflects a journey I’ve been on regarding making and selling magazines for the 9mm Rock Island Armory (RIA) FS A2 pistols. These pistols are based on Para Ordnance designs that use a staggered magazine that can accomodate 15+ rounds in a fattened 1911 grip. Think of them as 1911 pistols on steroids with a fat grip the holds more rounds they hold more rounds so sometimes RIA calls them “HC” for high capacity.

These are my two 9mm test platforms. The top pistol is the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC (you can see the checkering on the front strap of the grip) and the bottom is 51679 Tac Ultra FS HC.

For over a year now, I’ve been making magazines for the FS A2 pistols chambered in 10mm and .40 S&W. The interesting thing is that 9mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W and 10mm all use the same frame. You’d think making the 9mm mags would be an easy jump – I did at least — maybe it was just me.

The 10mm round is bigger than 9mm – it is fatter and longer. You don’t think about that a lot until you are trying to get the ejecting case to hit the ejector – the 10mm round is a hell of a lot easier to make hit the ejector than the 9mm. Also, the relatively short 9mm round has a long way to travel before it goes into the chamber. I found myself having to kick out some assumptions I had for magazines in order to get the 9mm round to reliably work.

In general, I now understand why the 1911 community is so fast to cast suspicion on the magazines when feed and ejection problems are happening. John Browning was an absolute genius and the 1911 design shows it but it does need all of the parts to be working together correctly to deliver a reliabile pistol.

Oh yeah, the magazines can make or break reliability. Let me share with you some observations I’ve made so far about the magazine after making a few hundred of the 9mm models either modifying P18 magazines (.38/9mm) or P16 mags (10/.40).

What about feed lip length?

The feed lips are the part of the magazine that hold the top round down and at the right angle. If they are too short, the round tends to be presented at too high of an angle and if they are too long, the front gap may not be adjustable enough to support the feed angle needed.

The blue rounds are A-Zoom Snap Caps. I use them during magazine prototyping and testing rather than live ammo The magazine lips are long pieces of rounded sheet metal that are going up the sides of the cartridge and are both positioning and retaining the round. Note the plastic “shelf” of the follower that is on the left bottom edge of each magazine that is level with the metal body. When the last round is fed from the magazine, the follower rises and that shelf is what engages the slide lock lever to put upwards pressure on it. When the slides travels rearword with the extraction and ejection of the last round, the slide lock level pushes up and locks the slide open ready for the next magazine to be fired.

The original 1911 was designed for .45 ACP but we are feeding a little short round from the back of the magazine towards the chamber a mile away. How can we maintain control? The short answer is have longer feed lips on the magazine. These longer lips are what get the relatively small 9mm round from the back of the magazine all the way into the chamber.

“We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” were the famous words in “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed in the movie classic Smokey and the Bandit. The feed lips need to control the feeding of the cartridge all the way from the back of the magazine to the point the bullet engages the feed ramp and then starts to go into chamber. A 9mm Luger cartrdge is 1.169″ long. In comparison, 10mm Auto is 1.260″ overall. and .45 ACP is 1.275″. You might thing those differences are small but they definitely impact the design and operation of the pistol – they need to be planned for if you want reliability.

The reason I listed this section is that the length of the feed lips can vary depending on the model of pistol so if you are trying to use a magazine from another type of pistol you may find you need to trim the feed lips back. I didn’t have to change the P16 or P18 mags for the 9mm but I did need to modify the P16 Para mags to feed reliability in RIA 10mm and .40 S&W pistols.

What happens if the front feed lip gap is too wide? You tend to get a Failure to Eject (FTE) or the Slide locks open prematurely

The feed lip gap at the front of the magazine controls where the cartridge is going vertically – the angle towards the chamber. Increase the gap and the front of cartridge rises and decrease it and the angle goes down. But wait, there’s more.

If the front of the round pushes up too much, it will cause the extracting case to slide up the breech face and out of position thus missing the ejector bar you can see just above the rear of the cartidge. The tell tale is that you have the new round and the old case in the back of the slide at the same time.

Now here’s the first gotcha: The feed lip gap still controls the rise of the bullet in the front but if it goes too far, the bullet is going to interfere with extraction, pushing the extracted case upwards on the breach face of the slide and out of position to correctly engage the ejector and all of a sudden you have the old case in the slide, a new round trying to feed and you have a jam. If you go for a front feed lips gap of .305-.308″ you will be fine. Depending on your pistol once you get somewhere around .320″, you are going to cause the ejection problem I just mentioned

There’s an interesting design issue with all 1911 breech faces – they are flat. The extractor pushes the case to the right in this photo. The ejector bar is exiting its cut out from the breech face in the lower right but there is nothing to truly limit upwards travel.

I’ve spent a lot of time chasing this dimension because you tend to get better feeding the more the bullet is oriented towards the chamber but with the 9mm you have to be mindful of the impacts on the the ejecting cartridge.

By the way, in addition to interfering with ejection, a feed lip gap that is too wide can allow the follower to travel too far upwards and prematurely lock the slide open with one cartridge remaining in the magazine.

I should point out that the most likely cause of a failure to eject (FTE) is a faulty magazine. The second most likely is a worn or failing extractor. It probably is not the ejector bar.

What happens if the front feed lip gap is too narrow? You tend to get a failure to feed (FTF)

If you move the feed lips to close together, the new round that needs to be fed into the chamber comes in at too flat of an angle and smashes straight into the feed ramp. On one hand the 9mm bullet is rounded abruptly but the feed ramp is quite abrupt. I tend to find that somewhere under .302″ this happens but I haven’t done a lot of testing on this dimension because I have been more focused on wanting the cartridge angled up vs. down.

The round travels up the feed ramp but it needs have enough of an upward angle to ride the ramp up. If it is too shallow it will slam the bullet into the ramp and stop. Note that RIA did polish the ramp – that was an unexpected nice touch. In general, I’d recommend polishing the ramp smooth to aid in feeding. Also, look at the shape of the snap cap – it mimics a classic full metal jacket 115gr bullet. The curvature of the bullet will aid in feeding. Different bullet shapes can affect feeding in some pistols and you may need to tweak certain mags for certain rounds – it’s next to impossible to guess so test your pistol with certain combinations of cartrdiges and magazines to ensure they are reliable. You may find your pistol likes some and hates others. I’d probably just move to another cartridge if it were me and my pistol had issues with a given round.

Yeah, the lips have a memory

So the magazines are made of high carbon steel that is heat treated. The feed lip gap falls within a certain tolerance. If it changed either wider or narrower, the lips are going to move back towards their original positing anywhere from .002-.004″ so plan accordingly.

This is where experience matters with the mags you are working with. Once you have your dimensions figured out, you may find you need to bend further than the nominal dimension so when the sheet metal starts to relax it will stop in the range you want.

You may also find that the metal does most of its movement in some number of minutes after you do the initial tune and need to do it one more time. Some guys will wait overnight to do the final tuning. I wait at least 30 minutes.

What about left and right bends to the feed lips?

The more you bend the feed lips in one direction too much, the round will point that way and either glance the chamber wall or actually slam into the chamber and stop depending on how off you are. Try and get the cartridge to point into the center of the chamber in terms of left to right.

This is an 80% RIA frame that I used during prototyping. I’m not enough of a machinist to actually complete it but it really helps you see what is going on. If the right feed lip is bent too much to the right then the round will go in that directton – same for the left lip. You want to point the round into the center of chamber.

What about the follower?

It’s really interesting how important the follower is. On one hand it is pushing the rounds up againt the feed lips properly and on the other, there is a small “shelf” on the front left edge that pushes the slide stop lever up and locks the slide open on empty (unless you are using competition followers such as the Arredondos that purposefully do not lock the slide open).

The walls at the top of the 9mm mag really need to taper inward to properly channel the staggered round into the single exit position at the top. The follower’s sides need to be appropriately tapered and rounded as well less they drag on the walls. The original Mec-Gar followers have significant drag that you can feel when loading the mgazine so revising them made the most sense.

The Arredondo follower is on the left. It is more angled and rounded on the right side in this photo than the Mec-Gar on the right. The Arredondo was desined for competition is when you look at the bottom right edge of each you will see the Arredondo slopes down fast so it will not raise the slide stop lever. The Mec-Gar has a more elevated edge that will lock the slide open. Our modified Mec-Gar followers improve reliability by having more rounded edges but still can lock the slide open.

By the way, to make life more colorful, when you install the follower the spring tension will spread the feed lips wider by about 0.002-0.004″.

How about the spring?

The Mec-Gar springs are okay. How much spring is enough or to little really depends on how well it can keep constant upwards pressure on the follower to move the rounds up fast enough and keep them in position. With the drag on the follower reduced, the spring can do its job.

There is an exception though – if you add a magazine extension or base plate that adds capacity, the spring really ought to be longer so get a Wolff or Arredondo spring that can supply the pressure over a longer distance.

The top assembly has the a easy to identify blue Arredondo follower and longer spring. The spring is made by Wolff but is bent to properly hold the Arredondo follower. The black follower and shorter spring are the original Mec-Gar units.

Yes, springs can and do wear our so if you feel the follower is being pushed up sufficiently or is sluggish *and* the walls do not appear bent then you probably need a new spring.

What about lubricant?

Mec-Gar mags come with some lubricant all over the insides of the mags, follower, spring, floor plate and base plate. On one hand it protects against corrosion but on the other it can attract dirt.

I would recommend that you use a good dry lubricant film. I used to use Dupont’s Teflon dry lubricant film spray but they discontinued it over environmental and health concerns about Teflon. The company is now producing a dry film using a ceramic technology that I really like and find it does a remarkable job at lubricating magazines.

If you are in a marine environment and you need the corrosion protection the use the oil of your choice – you need to worry about rust, I get it. For me, the Dupont Dry Film Lube aerosol spray does a great job. The new followers and the inside of the magazine tubes coated with this enables remarkably smooth movement of the follower.

Number your magazines

A tip you really ought to consider is to number your magazines so you can keep track of them. I like stickers because you can readily remove them if you put a baseplate on a different magazine tube but there are plenty of guys who use a permanent marker or etcher to uniquely identify each magazine.

The benefit of doing this is that when you are at the range if you find that some magazine is having problems, you can write down or take a photo of the number and know what you need to work on. Face it, if you have a bunch of mags and they all look pretty similar it can be hard to keep track of them otherwise.

By numbering the magazines, I can track dimensions and performance over time.

We do sell the stickers if you are interested – click here.

I’m still learning

I don’t claim to know everything – let me right up front about that. I now know what people mean whey they say “The more I learn, the less I know”. In other words, as I learn more I am increasingly aware that there is a ton of stuff I don’t know.

Hopefully this gives you some insight about why one magazine will work great but then another one doesn’t. The above are things to consider.

My reason for writing this is to give you some idea of what we’ve learned and are building into each 9mm magazine that you buy from us – we aren’t just relabeling mags and selling them at a heck of a mark up.

What are are doing is ensuring the dimesions, doing the necessary modifications and testing teach magazine in one of our 9mm RIA pistols to ensure you get a reliable mag. If you have problems with a magazine from us, we will definitely make it right.

If you’d like to see our magazines, click here to go to our store.

We do have a new post about how to load our v2 9mm magazines to get reliable feeding. Click here for it.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.