Rock Island Armory BBR 3.10 right

The Devil’s Cross, as it has sometimes been called by the enemies of the United States, is not a pretty aircraft. Some might call it ungainly or even fat. But to U.S. soldiers pinned down, few things can be as beautiful as an A-10 Warthog on a strafing run. The “BRRRRT” of seemingly endless rounds ripping out of its main gun is a source of comfort for our troops and a harbinger of death for our enemies. How does the Rock Island BBR 3.10 play into that?

Rock Island BBR 3.10

Well, when I first picked up the new Rock Island Armory BBR 3.10, I thought it might be analogous to the A-10 Warthog. Even though it’s a 1911-style pistol, it’s short and squat. While both the barrel and grip length have been chopped, the frame is plump. Nevertheless, I like this gun a lot. And “a lot” is also what this gun carries—11 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition. That’s a whole lot of firepower from such a compact package.

First Impressions

Rock Island Armory (RIA) builds a range of good-quality 1911 pistols at very reasonable prices. I’ve had a chance to shoot many of them, from the GI Series .45s to the amazing .22 TCM pistols. Each was a reliable pistol with excellent accuracy and a respectable feature set. Compared to some of the very expensive 1911 pistols I’ve reviewed, the RIA guns offer a much better value for anyone wanting an affordable defensive pistol. Some people argue that RIA pistols are the best 1911s for the money, and it’d be hard to argue against them.

The BBR pistols are billed as compact, “no-nonsense” 1911s. Visually, these guns certainly look all business. In addition to the gun in this review, I previously reviewed the other BBR gun—the Baby Rock .380. It was an outstanding compact pistol with excellent accuracy and complete reliability. I remain impressed by that gun, so I was genuinely happy to receive this gun for review.

As I suggested at the start of this article, the BBR 3.10 is a short, stout handgun. Its overall length is shortened from that of a Government Model 1911, and the barrel is only 3.1 inches long. The grip is also shorter than a standard 1911’s. While I can just barely get my pinky—or at least some of it—on the front of the frame, someone with large hands might have to curl their pinky under the magazine baseplate.

Wide Body

The 1911 design features a wide body, filling the shooter's hand.

Unlike the other dimensions, the gun’s girth has obviously grown. Pick it up and you will feel the unusual width immediately. While this might be off-putting to some 1911 aficionados, it allows the gun to use short, 10-round MEC-GAR magazines. With a total of 11 rounds of the formidable .45 ACP on tap, this diminutive 1911 should be very appealing to many people. For citizens of states where their Second Amendment right has been abridged, a 10-round magazine of .45 ACP might give you the most potent combination of self-defense ammunition and capacity possible.

However, the gun is more than just its capacity. To help you hold onto the meaty pistol, RIA uses a set of aggressively textured grip panels made from G10. This is a fiberglass laminate that is very durable in this application. Multiple layers of fiberglass are stacked on top of each other while a strong resin binds them together. G10 has proven to be so durable that it is now one of the preferred materials in both gun grips and knife handles. G10 can be also machined like other materials, allowing RIA to use a texture that will help you hold the gun even when your hands are slick with perspiration.

Sights are another important feature of a defensive firearm. RIA outfits this weapon with a bright red fiber-optic front sight as well as a fully adjustable two-dot rear sight. In a stressful situation, your eye is more likely to see the bright red dot created by the front sight. This will help you get accurate shots on target quickly. Additional features of this gun include a Parkerized finish, a beavertail-style grip safety and a skeletonized combat hammer.

Balance, Finish

Unloaded, the gun is well balanced. When fully loaded with ammunition, the gun’s balance shifts toward its butt. While shooting, this didn’t cause any issues. However, it is something to be aware of when choosing a holster. A flimsy rig might not be up to the task since much of the weight is up high when the gun is carried. Make sure you get a quality rig with a dedicated gun belt for the best security with this gun.

Finally, my test gun had a very clean appearance. I saw no obvious machine marks or flaws in the finish. The slide moved smoothly on the frame rails, and the thumb safety clicked on and off without issue. Overall, the gun had a solid look and feel. I was eager to get it to the range.

On The Range

The Rock Island BBR 3.10 proved to be setup well for defensive use.

With good ammunition, I know the .45 ACP will do the job if I ever need it. The question always in my mind is, “Will the delivery platform be as reliable as the cartridge?” In the case of the BBR 3.10, that answer is yes.

My review gun handled and shot beautifully. For such a small gun, the accuracy was very good. In truth, most guns are more accurate than the shooter. That includes me and the majority of readers. However, the ergonomics, trigger and sights are just a few of the things that can increase my practical accuracy. To me, that’s far more important than the theoretical accuracy achievable only by strapping the gun into a mechanical device. After all, should I ever need to use the gun to protect myself, I won’t have one of those heavy tools available.

The gun does feel a bit fat in the hand. It doesn’t feel bad—just very full. With a solid two-handed grip, the gun was easy to control. Both the frontstrap and mainspring housing have aggressive texturing machined into the frame. That, combined with the grip panels, gave my hand a very secure hold on the pistol. The recoil was modest but not snappy like you’re firing higher-pressure rounds. While a novice shooter might not enjoy the pistol, an experienced 1911 shooter should have no problems with the recoil impulse or muzzle rise.

Fast to Target

The fiber-optic front sight was very bright in a variety of lighting conditions. This made it easy to get on target at both indoor and outdoor ranges. While I prefer a fixed rear sight for a defensive firearm, the one used by RIA never shifted or required adjustment. I shot it as it came, and the sight never moved.

The triggers on 1911s are generally considered good to great depending on the manufacturer. The trigger on this gun tended toward the good end of the spectrum. It has a fair amount of take-up with a clean break and no perceptible overtravel. I measured the pull weight at 6.43 pounds. That’s in the manufacturer’s specifications, but it’s still a bit heavier than I like in a 1911. I prefer something closer to 5 pounds. However, the slightly heavy trigger pull didn’t hinder my enjoyment with this gun.

I ran a number of different loads through this pistol, and all of the ammunition performed flawlessly. My groups were good, and the velocities were in the range I would expect from a 3.1-inch barrel. Some 1911s have problems with wide-mouth hollow-point bullets, but that wasn’t the case with the BBR 3.1. I recommend that everyone thoroughly test a pistol—from any manufacturer—prior to putting it to work as a self-defense gun. Testing should include an ample number of shots with your preferred personal-protection ammunition. However, I expect that you won’t have any problems with whatever ammo you choose for the BBR 3.1.

Ready To Fight

Rock Island Armory built the BBR 3.10 for a purpose: The serious business of personal protection. While I might not be enamored with the design aesthetics, I am impressed that this little pistol puts 11 rounds of .45 ACP into your hand without a magazine change. And if, God forbid, I was to find myself under attack, this little A-10 of handguns would probably be an absolute beauty. For more information, visit

Rock Island Armory BBR 3.10 Specs

  • Caliber: .45 ACP
  • Barrel: 3.1 inches
  • Overall Length: 6.85 inches
  • Overall Weight: 32 ounces (empty)
  • Grips:  G10
  • Sights: Fiber-optic front, adjustable rear
  • Action: SA
  • Finish: Parkerized
  • Overall Capacity: 10+1
  • MSRP: $699

This article is from the May-June 2020 issue of Combat Handguns magazine. Grab your copy at

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