Rock Island M206 Review | Budget-Friendly, Smooth-Shooting Revolver!

For anyone who wants a budget-friendly, smooth-shooting revolver (that doesn't feel like pulling a block of concrete across a rough surface when shooting), the RIA M206 is worth a closer look. But are Rock Island revolvers any good? Let's find out!

The gun is ideal for concealed carry, self and home defense, and even as a truck gun. In this review, you'll see the M206 revolver's features, a review of handling and accuracy, and more. So are Rock Island Armory Guns any good? Let's find out in this Rock Island M206 review.

Rock Island M206 Review: Are RIA Guns Any Good?

We were searching for a price-friendly (below $500), handy, simple-to-operate, and reliable defensive revolver. Just as we were on the verge of giving up, we landed on the RIA M206  revolver.

a handgun

M206 Gun Features

The aesthetics aren't that heartening, but the features, handling, accuracy, and concealed carry features won us over. Have a look at the RIA M206 features below.

Gun Configurations

The M206 configurations displayed a mixture of different influences, which made handling seamless, as you'll see in a few. The gun's frame, six-shot steel revolvers, cylinder, old-fashioned compact checkered Hardwood sights, compact wood grip, and pull-back cylinder release are like those of the colt detective special and charter arms.

It also has a shroud-squared ejector rod. The ejector shroud, seemingly borrowed from Charter Arms, is fully encased and burrowed in the down position for safety. And the 2-inch pinned-to-the-frame barrel has a beautiful crown.

The sights are typical snub nose revolver sights. First, it has a fixed front sight. Then you have a unit cut on top of the revolver to the back, making the rear sight. These sights made accuracy easy to achieve.

This gun has a spade-shaped hammer that is low-mounted. The hammer spurred this gun's double action. For starters, a double action trigger moves back when you pull them forth. That was unique, unlike any new modernized hammer we've seen so far.

Finally, the gun came with an in-built wooden grip and extra plastic grips, which I liked. But using a speed loader with the plastic grip made it rough because you could feel it rubbing on the frame.

M206 Aesthetics

The gun boasts a relatively attractive nickel Parkerized finish, although revolver enthusiasts with an eye for aesthetics may find that the M206 sacrifices outward appearance in favor of cost savings. Upon closer inspection, a slight line gap can be seen where the trigger guard and the frame align.

Personally, I wasn't particularly fond of the tool grinder marks present on the cylinder and barrel. However, it's worth noting that these marks didn't cause any malfunctions in the gun. Despite these minor imperfections, I find the old 38 detective revolver to be visually appealing, especially with its wooden grip.

Additionally, the nickel material used in its construction not only enhances its overall quality but also serves as an excellent heat conductor. I acquired my own M206 approximately 3-4 years ago, complete with a spur and well-fitting black grips. As my first-ever revolver, I've grown quite fond of it. I can confidently say that I've never experienced any Rock Island M206 problems, at least not major ones. Due to its compact size, it has become my go-to choice for carrying purposes.

Trigger Pull Review

I liked the smooth-faced, deeply-curved trigger housed in the gun's rounded trigger guard. It's safe when the gun bumps or drops because it doesn't fire.

The trigger on the RIA Model 206 has a smooth action and pull. In double-action mode, the trigger pulled smoothly, with a slight increase in force just before firing. However, with use, it smoothened out. In single-action mode firing, the trigger pulled smoothly and lightly compared to other revolvers.

Nevertheless, the single-action fire was not as pleasant as that of more expensive revolvers. Personally, I own an RIA Model 206, which is DA/SA. The DA trigger pull is fairly smooth but a bit heavy, while the SA trigger pull is fantastic at about 2 ½ lbs.

I bought mine used and although I'm not a fan of the small wooden grips, I really like the old-school vibe it gives off. Additionally, I have another model with a longer barrel, also DA/SA, which I purchased used as well. It has performed flawlessly with a few hundred rounds fired. For a budget brand, Rock Island Armory pistols seems surprisingly solid.

Review of Handling the M2O6

Budget-friendly revolvers often leave users feeling jaded with handling and usage. But not the M206's handling.

The cylinder release dropped smoothly without crunching in the ejector or the yoke. That's because it has no grit and the cylinder requires a modest pressure to push it out and inside the frame.

a person holding the revolver

Talking of the ejector, it moved back and forth effortlessly and snapped back in place easily when released. After shooting all six rounds, you only need a single stroke on the gun's ejector rod. The stroke emptied all the spent ammo cartridge cases.

a person holding the revolver


On the double-action trigger cycle, the trigger press was tractable. I found it handy for accuracy in the usual personal defense range.

Its fast reset allows for quick and accurate shots with all tested ammunition. At distances of 5-7 yards, I consistently hit the x-ring of my human-sized target when aligning the front sight.

The revolver performs exceptionally well with 110-125 grain defense rounds. This revolver is perfect for its intended purpose.

It maintains accuracy at 25 yards in double-action, holds six shots, and its 24-ounce weight makes it significantly easier to handle compared to my Airweight S&W, though it's still heavier than the S&W Ladysmith.

I personally own this gun, and it has proven to be reliable, accurate, and enjoyable to shoot after firing approximately 600 rounds. Cleaning the revolver brings out the shine of the parkerized finish.

In this Rock Island 38 special review, I must mention that I realized I need to fully release the trigger to reset it, even if I heard a click; a minor issue considering its solid and precise performance.

Unique Specs


38 Special

Barrel Length

2 inches


6 rounds

General Width

1.5 inches

General Length

6.75 inches

General height

4.67 inches

Unloaded weight

1.5 pounds

Trigger force

1.81-2.95 KGs

RI M206 Revolver Pros

  • It has manageable recoil because of its relatively heavy weight. It's not too light to cause a brutal recoil, nor too heavy.
  • The gun felt perfect for concealed carry or use as a truck gun. The kind of gun you use for self-defense.
  • It's a double-action revolver caliber 38SPL, which is budget-friendly for its features.
  • It fits in with many revolver holsters.
  • The gun is accurate on man size-targets for which it's made.

RI M206 Revolver Cons

  • The machine marks and the general appearance of the gun wouldn't win a beauty contest. But would the trigger cycle get impacted by that? No, the gun's trigger and overall functionality are in good shape.

What Frame Is an RI 38 Special?

The RI Armory M206 38 Special is a compact revolver. It comes in different variants offering different features. But the one we have reviewed has Parkerized and nickel finishes on the frame. And the frame is made of a steel alloy.

Where Are RI M206 Revolvers Made?

The RI M206 revolvers are made in Marikina, Philippines. It's part of the Rock Island Armory 1911 series of semi-auto pistols by Armscor. This gun's distributor in the U.S. is Armscor USA, whose principal office is in Pahrump, Nevada.

What Ammo Do I Need for an RI M206?

During these shots, I realized the rock island armory model 206 revolver worked well with 110-125 grain defense ammo. But with a load average of 130-grain Winchester train and 130-grain defend FMj 3.35 inches, the gun also worked fine. I also tried the +p 2.25-inches and 148-grain 2.25 Wadcutters, and they were okay but not as good as the 110-120 grain ammunition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is 38 Special So Popular?

The 38 model 206 is popular because of its features; it has a manageable recoil, and its weight is ideal for concealment. Also, the gun is different from other budget-friendly revolvers because it's more reliable and efficient in handling. They also offer the gun with a limited lifetime warranty.

Is 38 Special Enough for Self-Defense with the M206?

Yes, the 38 SPL bullet is enough for self-defense with the M206. That's because it's medium size and has a medium velocity, making it fit well with small guns. It's effective for personal defense, but you must be keen on selecting the ammo and placing it because the M206 has a short barrel length.

What Kicks Harder, 9MM or 38 Special?

The 9-mm kicks are more formidable than the M206 38 SPL. The 38 SPL has lower recoil than a 9-mm gun like the Luger 9mm. But both the guns have lower cartridge recoil than the 40 S&W.

What Has More Power, 357 or 38 Special?

The 357 has more power than the 38 special. 357 offers more energy, muzzle velocity, and terminal ballistics. That is why it is more potent than the M206.

In Conclusion to My Rock Island Armory M206 Review 

Finally, the M206 revolver from RIA offers a budget-friendly option for those in search of a reliable firearm. While it may lack the small wooden grips typically associated with this model, the factory-installed rubber grips provide a comfortable alternative.

However, it's crucial to remember that regardless of the gun's price point or reputation, thorough testing at the range is essential before relying on it for personal defense. Additionally, the use of Pachmayr's Colt Detective Special grips proves to be a compatible and effective choice.

Although the finish may show signs of wear, these guns exhibit remarkable reliability. It's worth mentioning that regular cleaning to remove lead fouling is necessary as it tends to accumulate. With approximately 1500 rounds fired, this revolver continues to function flawlessly. Lastly, my wife, who owns this model, prefers it over her S&W Model 19 for concealed carry due to the noticeably lighter trigger pull experienced in single-action shooting.

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