Rock Island Armory M5 Review

by Travis Pike

February 15, 2022

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I love a good shotgun. I love expensive shotguns, cheap shotguns, pump-action shotguns, semi-auto shotguns, single and double barrels, the list goes on. I love them all. However, today we are talking about a shotgun I don’t necessarily love, the Rock Island Armory M5. 

Rock Island M5 Specs

  • Caliber 12 Gauge
  • Action Pump Action
  • Capacity 4 + 1
  • Barrel Length 508mm / 20in
  • Overall Length 1016mm / 40in
  • Weight 3.40kgs / 7.5lbs

Gun Background 

Armscor and Rock Island Armory are essentially the same. They import firearms from the Philippines and Turkey. The M5 has been known as the Rock Island Armory M5 and Armscor M5; either way, it’s the same gun. You can’t beat a pump-action shotgun for reliability, simplicity, and versatility. 

The pump-action M5 is a tactical shotgun. By tactical, I mean the barrel’s short, and the furniture is made from black polymer. That’s all it takes to make a shotgun tactical. The 20-inch barrel makes it easier to handle indoors and is better suited for home defense. The stock features a quasi Speed Feed like design. It holds two spare rounds in an internal tubular magazine located in the firearm’s stock. 

Top it all off with a heat shield, and it’s uber tactical. In fairness, it doesn’t take much to make a shotgun tactical. A shorter barrel and a repeating action make it a natural selection. The M5’s rock bottom price also makes it attractive. 

An internal magazine holds five rounds, and you can top it off with a spare in the chamber. It’s an odd choice. Import guns are restricted to five rounds, but I’m not sure why they went with a 20-inch barrel over the 18.5-inch option. Shorter is better in home defense. A 20-inch barrel would allow for another shell in the magazine tube, but it’s capped out at five rounds anyway. 

Armscor/RIA based the shotgun on the old High Standard Flite King. Although, the Flite King was a sporting gun. It’s a robust design but strange for a company to reproduce and import. Since no one’s fighting for the patent, I’m assuming that’s the reason the design was chosen.

Rock Island M5 Features 

Rock Island Armory M5 Features
1 Heat Shield 
2 Polymer Furniture 
3 Extra Ammo In the Stock 
4 Crossbolt Safety 

M5 Review – Our Take

The reason why pump-action shotguns work so well is the reliability factor. You manually cycle the weapon with the pump-action, so theoretically, you won’t have a cycling issue. Unlike other firearms, I typically advise that a cheap shotgun often works well. Sadly, the Armscor M5 doesn’t meet the standard for reliability. 

The issue comes from the shells making their way from the magazine to the weapon’s chamber. There seems to be some problem with the shell catch, perhaps. Sometimes it feeds fine, but other times, it may not feed at all. You work the pump, and nothing happens. A slap to the side of the receiver often clears the problem up. 

In addition to the feed issue above, sometimes the shells launch two rounds into the receiver instead of feeding one round–one often still half stuck in the magazine tube. This creates a complicated malfunction that’s a hassle to fix. There is something wrong with the shell latch or magazine tube. 

When the gun feeds fine, it fires fine. It extracts and ejects fine. However, the firearm’s reliability isn’t there for me to trust the M5 for home defense. 

The only other issue I had was that the heat shield moved forwards after a few shots. That however, was remedied quickly by tightening some screws. 

Pump Action Ergonomics 

The RIA M5 shotgun is pretty standard ergonomically. This includes the cross-bolt safety and rear-mounted pump release. Rock Island’s own pump design is surprisingly nice. The pump is heavily textured and very easy to grip. When you use the push/pull technique to fight recoil, you can grip the pump quite tightly. 

The stock isn’t bad. It suffers from the same problem lots of shotguns have, and that’s the long length of pull. The stock offers a long 13.75-inch length of pull. These long lengths of pulls make it tough to shoulder the firearm and assume a modern shooting stance. The longer length of pulls makes the weapon tough to handle for shorter shooters. 

I like the extra two rounds in the stock, but they are on the wrong side for a right-handed shooter. It’s tough to retrieve them with your off-hand without breaking your firing position. Overall, it’s not bad, just not well thought out. 

Shot On Target 

The bead sits directly on the barrel, which makes the weapon shoot high compared to where the sights lay. This is why shotgun sights sit on vent ribs or pedestals with a lot of guns. Mossberg’s, in particular, have this issue, and so does the M5. 

Once you learn the holdover, you’ll be fine, but out of the box, it’s worth blasting away a bit to learn your buckshot holdover. Aim at the belt buckle of the shooter, and you’ll hit them in the chest. 

All in all, recoil and muzzle rise are pretty average for a shotgun. I’m judging the M5 based on other pump-action shotguns. There can be stiff recoil, but it’s not exceptional or unique to this shotgun. The recoil will be stiff with full-powered buckshot and slugs. Reduced recoil feels nice, and the gun is controllable. 

The pump action is surprisingly smooth for a cheap gun. It glides rearward, has two action bars, and doesn’t offer much resistance. 

Saving Dollars 

The M5’s main benefit is the very low price point. They typically sell for around 200 bucks or so. That puts them in the same category of Pardner shotguns and Mossberg’s own Maverick budget line. Price-wise they are quite cheap, and heck, I’ve seen them on sale for 150 bucks every now and then. I can see the appeal for a budget-strapped person looking for a competent home defense shotgun. 

Rock Island M5 Pros and Cons 

  • Slick action 
  • Stock Holds Two Spare Rounds 
  • Low Price 
  • Unreliable
  • Long Length of Pull 
  • Bead Placed Too Low on the Barrel 

Report Card

Shootability

It’s average and nothing special. The weapon handles fine and recoils how you’d expect it to. It’s plenty shootable…when it works. 

B
Reliability

Sometimes it feeds, sometimes it doesn’t, and heck, sometimes it feeds too much. The type of ammo doesn’t matter, and it seems unpredictable in action. Not a gun I’d trust outside of plinking. 

F
Ergonomics

I like the pump, the safety, and the pump release. The gun loses points for the long length of pull. 

B
Accuracy

The bead sits low on the barrel, and therefore your shot flies high. It’s consistent and a common issue with shotguns, and it’s an issue on this gun. 

C
Value

Sure the price is low, but there are plenty of low-priced shotguns that perform, like the Maverick 88. That’s why the value takes a hard hit. If it were a 50 dollar firearm, then maybe the value would be consistent with the performance and price of the gun. 

C
Rock Island Armory M5 Grade

Our Grade

C

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

C-

Based on 3 Reviews

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Overall

The reliability issues that plague the M5 can’t get a pass from me. A gun that doesn’t run doesn’t matter and can’t get a passing grade. 

Rock Island M5 Deals

Ammo Deals

Winchester 12 Gauge Ammo

Winchester 12 Gauge Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Brownells $2.40

Shotgun Starter Pack 

Whether it’s the M5 or another shotgun, you want to make sure you have the appropriate gear to look after yourself and your shotgun. Below is a few items that you should consider, regardless of it’s a shotgun, rifle or pistol that you’ve invested in.

  • Ammo: Don’t forget to organise your ammo. You can pickup all your ammo needs HERE
  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Otis All Caliber Elite Range Box on Amazon or build your own personalized cleaning kit with premium components.
  • Shooting Glasses: All it takes it one piece of rogue hot brass, and you’ll learn the importance of shooting glasses. But not all glasses are built the same. See our recommendations for the Best Shooting Glasses.
  • Hearing Protection: Firing a gun without wearing proper ear pro can be very dangerous and detrimental to your hearing. Find out the best hearing protection for you in our full length review.

Maintenance

It’s always important to take the time to clean and maintain your firearms. We have a great video for you brought to you by Hoppe’s. Check out the video below on How to Clean a Shotgun.

Manuals

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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