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John Browning’s justly famous 1911 pistol is now available in a new reincarnation. Rock Island Armory, an American importer for Armscor of the Philippines, recently introduced a version of the famed handgun that fires a brand-new cartridge: the .22 TCM.

At first glance, this bottlenecked cartridge looks a lot like a 9mm round necked down to .22 caliber. However, it’s slightly longer than a necked-down 9mm round would be. The brass walls are also thicker to contain the additional pressures the round generates.

The .22 Tuason Craig Micro-magnum (TCM) is a proprietary cartridge developed by custom gunsmith Fred Craig and adopted by Rock Island Armory President Demetrio Tuason. Based on the .223 case, the TCM’s overall length is slightly longer than a 9x19mm cartridge.

The result is a round that exits the pistol muzzle at a sizzling 2,000-plus fps. In penetration tests, the .22 TCM’s 40-grain bullet (which is far sturdier than a regular rimfire bullet) punched through 14 inches of ballistic gelatin—pretty much how most 9mm bullets perform. During these tests, the .22-caliber bullet expanded to 9mm diameter. It also penetrated a quarter-inch-thick steel plate that 9mm ammunition simply cratered against.

The loads I fired from my test gun had an average velocity of 2,058 fps, according to my chronograph, which was placed 10 feet from the muzzle. Surprisingly, the gun produces these velocities while generating little recoil. In fact, the .22 TCM is the softest-shooting, most mild-mannered 1911 I’ve ever fired (except, of course, for the .22 LR versions I own). The .22 TCM produces almost no muzzle flip, making fast follow-up shots possible with surprising accuracy. Also, the gun’s 17+1 capacity helps make it a viable defensive performer.

 

Gun Details

The Rock Island Armory .22 TCM pistol’s frame
and slide are made on CNC machines from 4140 chrome-moly steel. The .22 TCM 1911 tips the scales at 41.6 ounces unloaded. It has an extended beavertail, a Commander-style hammer and a skeletonized trigger. The Novak-style rear sight is fully adjustable, and the sighting notch is bracketed by a pair of eye-catching white dots. The front blade is 0.18 inches wide. The top of the slide is flattened, and both the frame and slide wear a Parkerized finish.

The trigger action is excellent, breaking crisply at 3.5 pounds. The magazine release button projects far enough to facilitate fast magazine changes. Press the release and the empty magazine falls clear of the gun. The magazine well is slightly beveled at the bottom, making quick reloads easy.

The beavertail grip safety sweeps gracefully upward, forming a barrier between the web of your hand and the hammer. It also helps position your hand for fast, accurate shooting. All 1911 handguns feature a very user-friendly grip angle. Like other 1911 designs, this .22 TCM model seems to point naturally on target.

The controls are identical to what you’d find on any 1911 pistol, including an extended thumb safety. This is a right-handed gun, with no ready means of converting it to southpaw use. A nice custom touch is the ejection port, which has been lowered and flared to facilitate throwing empty cases clear of the gun.

The gun is also offered with a 9mm barrel, recoil spring and extractor to allow for quick conversion from one caliber to the other. Swapping barrels and springs is fast and easy, but replacing the extractor is less so. My sample gun came with only the .22 TCM barrel, which is fine with me. The barrel is tapered, providing a snug fit when the gun is in battery—an important aid to accuracy.

Lacking a magazine safety, the gun can fire a chambered round if the magazine is removed. As mentioned, the gun comes with a double-stack magazine that holds 17 rounds—one in the chamber gives it an 18-round capacity. This makes the grip wider than you’d find on a single-stack 1911, but I found the gun very comfortable to hold.

The 1911 platform is relatively heavy, and the hand-filling grip helps spread recoil over a larger surface. The cartridge itself generates pleasantly light recoil, which also aids control. Because it’s not tasked with taming serious recoil, the pistol has a lighter (7-pound) recoil spring than is found on other 1911-style pistols. This means you encounter considerably less resistance when you manually cycle the slide. That’s a big plus for shooters with relatively weak hands. This includes me—I’ve developed a myopathy that’s gradually weakening my muscles. Because of this progressive condition, I’ve begun having trouble working the slide to cock my 9mm and .45 ACP 1911 handguns. Fortunately, the .22 TCM pistol is a cinch to cock for me.

 

Range Time

Double-taps (or even triple- and quadruple-taps) are easy to produce with this easy-handling, light-recoiling pistol. The .22 TCM cartridge generates a bright muzzle flash that’s really noticeable in low light-level conditions. That isn’t a problem for a defensive pistol typically used at close combat ranges.

You can fire a lot of rounds in a hurry, with accuracy only dreamed of with a .45 ACP or 9mm pistol. The gun’s 1911 grip and minimal recoil allowed me to recover quickly between shots. Firing off-hand at 25 yards, I was able to put five consecutive .22 TCM rounds into a cluster measuring just 1.38 inches across. I’m not accustomed to this kind of accuracy from a handgun.

When I fired 50 rounds in a hurry, the pistol was 100-percent reliable—no jamming or hang-ups of any kind. I would normally put a few hundred rounds through a new pistol before giving jam-free functioning a green light, but ammo was kind of scarce. Rock Island Armory provided only 150 .22 TCM cartridges when I received the test gun. I’m told ammunition will be more readily available soon, but for now I’m hanging onto the rounds I have left. Ammo is manufactured by an Armscor facility in Stevensille, Montana. Prices vary depending on the retailer, but count on spending around $0.50 per round. You’re not likely to find .22 TCM ammunition in every rural service station or convenience store, but most serious sporting goods stores should have it in stock. You can also buy it online.

My test ammunition was marked as 40-grain jacketed hollow points (JHPs), but the opening at the tip of the bullet nose was so tiny that I’m tempted to call these jacketed soft points (JSPs).

 

Final Notes

What is this high-velocity .22 centerfire best suited for? First, it’s great fun to shoot, whether you’re drilling targets or simply plinking. Its low recoil and excellent accuracy make the .22 TCM a great choice for hunting rabbits, squirrels or other small game. The effective range should be well beyond 50 yards, depending on your handgunning skills.

What about self-defense? Sure, this little .22 TCM would do the job, but there are better choices available. That’s what the .45 ACP, .40 S&W and 9mm were designed for. Still, I’d hate to be shot with a 40-grain bullet launched at better than 2,000 fps. This would be particularly true if I were on the receiving end of more than one of these fast-moving projectiles in rapid succession.

I predict that Rock Island Armory’s .22 TCM will soon gain a certain following. Who doesn’t like to show up at the firing range with a gun guaranteed to attract attention? Simply looking at this hybrid 1911 won’t do this, but as soon as you begin firing it, other shooters will soon cluster around, wondering about the gun’s lack of apparent recoil and pronounced muzzle flash.

And when they see the size of the groups you’re shooting, they’ll want to own a Rock Island Armory .22 TCM. The gun’s $650 price is affordable, and I’ve seen this 1911 advertised for even less.

For more information, visit us.armscor.com or call 775-537-1444.

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