The Best Rock Island 1911 Sight Upgrades — Reviews 2023

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Photo by Matt Holton / CC BY

The Rock Island Armory line of entry to mid-level 1911’s hardly needs introduction. Made by the famed gun manufacturer ARMSCOR of the Philippines, the RIA series of 1911’s are famous for quality construction, affordable cost and incredible out of the box performance. When I bought my first RIA 1911 (a basic GI style model), I was dumbfounded with its immediate quality performance.

Of course, since I had bought a GI model, I soon found myself lusting after the superior sights on my buddy’s more advanced tactical model. However, there are a few problems with upgrading the sights on your favorite RIA 1911. Many models use a proprietary dovetail that is similar to but not quite the same as Novak sights. You’ll need to have your slide or your sights modified to fit.

However, their GI model uses standard GI sights. We’ll take a look at a couple upgrades for GI-style guns, with the understanding that in some cases you’ll need the services of a gunsmith to install these things. Without much ado, here are our recommendations for the best Rock Island 1911 sight upgrades.

Truglo TFO Sights

If you are willing to pay a good gunsmith to install sights on your Rock Island 1911, you can’t beat the Truglo TFO handgun sights. They use the very popular Novak style .260 and .450 cuts for the front and rear sights. Novak cuts are well known and can be done by nearly any competent gunsmith. The Truglo TFO sights are designed to work well in both day and night conditions. These sights glow in the dark and are an awesome option for low light shooting.

At the same time these sights are bright green even during the day. This makes them a pretty solid choice for day shooting as well. The Truglo TFO sights are made from CNC machined steel and the glow portions are concealed from people on the other end of the barrel. They have a snag resistant design and will work with any standard 1911 holster. Hands down, these are among the best Rock Island 1911 night sights.

TruGlo TFO (Tritium Fiber Optic) Sights Review

Kensight Tritium Front Sight

Here is just the ticket for upgrading your Rock Island 1911 GI Model’s front sight. Using the older style narrow tenon, this sight gives you the power of a tritium powered front sight, while sparing you the need to replace or upgrade your rear sight.

For some shooters, this is a perfectly acceptable upgrade (see full specs), as one of the most common complaints of the GI style sights is their tiny little front sight post. Replace a century old design with something cutting edge and affordable to boot. For not much money shipped, you can make your classic style Rock Island into something a bit more modern. Sometimes, the best Rock Island 1911 sight replacement just needs the front part.

1911 Front Sight Staking

Sight Master Sight Tool

The Sight Master tool is designed for easy installation of both front and rear sights for a variety of handguns. Sight Master advertises this to be the last sight tool you’ll ever need. If you own a 1911, it surely will be. This tool can also work with Glocks and Sig sights. We came for 1911’s, though. As a front sight tool you won’t have any issues squeezing that hard, stuck on sights off.

You won’t mar or scratch your finish in the process either. This is a very simple tool and designs like it have been around forever. It works though, and it works well. This particular model is robust, well made, and still simple to use. It’s perfect for those tougher jobs.

Sight Master Sight Pusher Tool

Upgrading the Rock Island 1911 Sights

As I mentioned earlier, upgrading the sights on your Rock Island 1911 is a royal pain in the backside. You are stuck with either awkward to upgrade GI style sights or deal with almost but not quite Novak style cuts. GI-style sights at least have the saving grace of being standardized, but the proprietary sight cuts on the Tactical models will require gunsmith or factory modification if you want to buy your sights from anyone other than Rock Island. None of this should be taken as criticism of the RIA pistols. In fact, they are some of the all-time great bargains of the 1911 world.

The main reason you’ll want to upgrade your RIA 1911 is because, well let’s face it. GI sights kind of sucked in 1911, they sucked in 1945, and they still pretty much suck in 2016 (or whatever year you are reading this in). Nothing can make them anything other than “meh”, well, nothing except some of the best sight upgrades.

The biggest complaint most shooters have is the tiny little nub somebody in the 1910’s decided was acceptable for military use. No matter what, that awful front sight must go. The rear sight has the saving grace of being functional, albeit in a quaint sort of WWI kind of way. However, if you are going to spend the money to upgrade the front sight, you might as well do the whole thing right?

For the best Rock Island 1911 sight upgrades, I like tritium-powered night sights. They give unparalleled performance in low light conditions, and the painted dot designs are equally useful in daytime. The 1911 is an oddly nearly perfect gun out of the box, and has been for over a century. Sure, you can muck about with the hammer, and trigger and safeties, but the reality is, the quickest and best thing you can do to your Rock Island 1911 is upgrade the sights. With that in mind, grab a good set and get to shooting! Good luck!

  • Owner of, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.

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