Reviewed By: Tom C on 02/19/2016
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
I was looking for a basic .38 revolver of acceptable quality that I could recommend to my students in firearms classes who were looking for a more affordable alternative to better known manufacturers. Having lived in the Philippines for a few years while on a training contract, I was aware of Rock Island Armory, and before that name, Armscor. So, I finally decided to give one of their revolvers a try. I thought I would hand it to some students and see what they could do with it, after first testing it myself. I was particularly looking to compare that to my Colt Detective Special, which is far too expensive these days to use in classes.
The Filipino revolver showed up in a nice hard plastic case, and to my surprise, included both the small wood grips and a nice pair of finger groove rubber ones as well. The wooden ones were serviceable and more concealable, but the rubber stocks were more comfortable, so I opted to install those on the gun. The handgun was packed in a plastic bag and was soaked in oil. You should budget at least 30 minutes to clean it off when you get your firearm.
The finish of the handgun was evenly applied, and while not beautiful, it is completely functional and projects a business-like appearance. Sights are quite good, and the DA trigger pull, while not really light, was smooth. Single action pull was pretty good, and thumb cocking (if you choose to do that) was quite easy thanks to the most prominent hammer spur I've ever seen on a revolver. The firearm is also available in a spurless hammer version as well. Weight and balance of the revolver was good. The gun is far too large and heavy for pocket carry, but would be okay in a large jacket pocket, in the waistband, in a fanny pack, on the belt, in a purse, or on the ankle.
Next came dry fire practice, which is where I encountered a small problem. Each six pulls of the trigger in DA, the trigger failed to return to the forward position without my pushing it with my fingers. This happened on the same cylinder each time. Fortunately, after about 100 dry fire repetitions, this went away and has not returned. This highlights the need to ensure that your firearms functions properly before trusting it for self-defense.
I shot the gun with Remington 130 grain FMJ practice loads, Remington Golden Saber 125 grain +P JHP defense loads (which in my testing perform well from a 2 inch barrel) and some Remington 158 grain +P LSWC-HP defense loads. The gun shot all three loads well out to about 15 yards, but past that point both of the lighter bullet loads shot a couple of inches low. I don't consider this a big deal. The revolver was more comfortable with the lighter bullet loads, and were I to keep it loaded for carry, I'd probably stuff it full of Golden Sabers and not worry about it. The sixth shot available with this revolver was a nice feature.
Comparing this revolver explicitly to my last-generation Colt Detective Special shows that my Colt is much prettier and a great deal smoother, but it really doesn't show up to be much of a difference on target in defensive drills. In short, I was able to shoot DA groups at 15 yards that I could cover with my hand. The rubber grips supplied by Rock Island were much more comfortable than the factory wood grips on my Colt. The Rock Island revolver uses the same speed loader as the Detective Special, but the factory rubber grip does slightly interfere with the use of a loader. This is nothing that a moment with some sandpaper won't fix.
There was one area in which this Rock Island revolver was clearly superior to my much more expensive Colt. In packing up to go home, the revolver slipped off the table and took a fall onto concrete from about three feet. It picked up a small ding on the cylinder finish that would have been heartbreaking had it happened on my Colt, but on the Rock Island, I just shrugged and said to myself, "That's what this gun is for."
We will see how this gun holds up when placed in the hands of lots of students, but so far, I'm pretty impressed and I will probably buy the four-inch version as well.
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