Rock Island Armory’s high-capacity 1911-A2 .22 TCM & 9mm Luger convertible.
For the past two decades we have seen the development of super big-bore cartridges well above the .44 Magnum in muzzle energy culminating with the .500 S&W Magnum. A half-century ago we were at the opposite end of the spectrum, that is developing, or it may be more correct to say trying to develop, high-velocity varmint cartridges for use in revolvers. Both the .22 Jet and the .256 Winchester promised much, but delivered little.
The .256 Winchester was never offered in a revolver but only in the single-shot Ruger Hawkeye and the Marlin Levermatic rifle. The .22 Jet was offered in a sixgun but simply did not work in a revolver with full-power loads. However the 21st century version of the high-velocity .22 handgun cartridge is now available as the .22 TCM and this one works. It works because, thanks to gunsmith Frederick Craig, Armscor, and Rock Island Armory teaming up, this hot little cartridge is chambered in a high-capacity 1911. Would you believe a 40-grain bullet at 2,050 fps from a 5″ barrel? There certainly must be a better adjective than “sizzling” to hang on this but I can’t think of one.
The .22 TCM rides well and close in these hip holsters by Zach Davis.
The .22 TCM carries easily in this Tanker Holster by K Bar J Leather.
This .22 Works!
The .22 Jet was chambered in the Smith & Wesson Model 53 revolver and therein was the problem. Revolver chambers work best with straight walled or slightly tapered cartridges. The Jet was not just bottlenecked it was actually milk-bottle shaped with a .357 Magnum case necked down to .22. The problem was set back, that is to say when a cartridge was fired it slammed back against the recoil shield with such force it jammed up the cylinder which could not be rotated to fire the next cartridge. What works against the revolver works for a semi-automatic. When the .22 TCM cartridge is fired its rearward motion forces the slide back which ejects the fired cartridge and then comes forward to feed a new cartridge into the chamber. With the .22 TCM chambered in the Rock Island Armory 1911-A2 this works flawlessly.
The Rock Island Armory MicroMag Model 1911-A2 .22 TCM is a standard 1911 with a high-capacity magazine listed as holding holding 18 rounds. I say listed as my fingers got tired after inserting 14 rounds which is plenty for me. However, this is not all this 1911 delivers as it is a most versatile pistol. I have several sixguns with auxiliary cylinders allowing the use of multiple cartridges such as the Ruger Single-Six in .22 LR and .22 Magnum, the Colt New Frontier in .44 Special and .44-40, and the Freedom Arms Model 83 chambered in .454 with extra cylinders in .45 Colt, .45 ACP, and .45 Winchester Magnum. All of these have one thing in common and that is no matter what cartridge is used the barrel diameter remains the same. Not so with the RIA .22 TCM.
The .22 TCM is based on a shortened and necked down .223 cartridge; that makes it the same basic case size as a standard 9mm. Revolvers are not normally easy to change barrel wise; semi-automatics are. The .22 TCM and the 9mm use the same magazines and it is only necessary to change the barrel and recoil spring, a process that takes about 1 minute. The .22 version uses a 7-pound recoil spring while the 9mm requires a stiffer 12-pound recoil spring. In either case, with either cartridge, functioning was flawless except for the fact the slide would sometimes lock back with the last 9mm round still in the magazine. So basically what we have is a high-velocity varmint pistol, which can easily be changed into a high-capacity self-defense sidearm. High-capacity 9mms are very easy to find, but not on a 1911 pattern.
For a long time now I had wanted 9mm on a 1911. Don’t ask me why as there are so many excellent large-capacity polymer framed 9s. I simply wanted one. Original Colts chambered in 9mm are very hard to find and when located are quite pricey as collectors items. Well I was recuperating from my life-saving operation in the fall of 2010 Springfield Armory sent me an adjustable sighted 1911 chambered in 9mm and I think the fondling of it over several months help me to recuperate as I looked forward to shooting it in the spring. It was everything I had hoped for. Then earlier this year I received a Kimber Stainless Target II in 9mm giving me two excellent nines. But that’s not all as a couple weeks ago I walked into Buckhorn Gun and there sat a duotone Armscor 1911 in the standard 1911 configuration. The more I shoot this one the better it performs. So is there room for another 9mm 1911 at the Taffin Homestead? Absolutely and there is something quite fascinating about a high-capacity 9mm 1911.
With the 9mm barrel, the TCM becomes a high capacity self-defense pistol.
These targets were fired with wide variety of 9mm Luger ammo.
A Closer Look
Let’s take a general look at the Rock Island Armory Model 1911-A2 first. Being a target model this TCM has excellent fully adjustable Novak-style sights consisting of a slanted post front sight set in a dovetail matched up with a fully adjustable rear sight also set in a dovetail. The back of the rear sight is serrated to cut down on glare and both the windage and elevation screws are large and easy to adjust and also marked clearly for adjustments. This is hardly ever a problem with elevation adjustments however windage can go either way and this one is clearly marked with clockwise turns moving the groups to the right. The square-notch rear sight matched up with the post front sight gives a very clear sight picture.
Slide stop and thumb safety are standard 1911. The hammer is skeletonized and matched up with a lightweight short trigger. The trigger itself is excellent being creep free and measuring just slightly over 3 pounds. Rarely do you find such an excellent trigger on a pistol in this price range. The grip safety is a high riding beavertail with a memory bump and the flat mainspring housing is fully checkered. This is a wide-body 1911, which accepts high-capacity magazines. The slide and barrel are forged and hand fitted at the factory, and the slide is tightly fitted to the frame with cocking serrations on both sides of the rear sight. We find “TCM” on the right side of the slide while the left side is inscribed “ROCK ISLAND ARMORY” and also has the RIA logo. The top of the slide, rather than being rounded off, is flat-topped and very eye pleasing.
John found the one thing the .22 TCM delivers besides accuracy is noise and
muzzle flash (above). The TCM becomes a high-capacity, 17-shot 9mm (below)
by swapping barrel and recoil spring.
My test pistol arrived in the dead of winter so serious testing outside was out of the question. With the 9mm barrel in place I fired the MicroMag Target TCM indoors extensively and then as the weather began to improve I was able to move outdoors. As expected groups shrunk by about 30 percent when shooting in natural light. I appreciate having an indoor range when the weather is bad however my eyes match up with sights in natural light much better than the lighting afforded indoors. The 9mm version was tested with 17 different factory loads with excellent results, which are found in the accompanying chart. If only offered as a 9mm this pistol would still be desirable. In fact it is definitely a keeper and I intend to purchase it for my own use. With a 9mm barrel in place I use it as a hip holster pressing excellent leather into play from Davis Leather.
Zach Davis, a local crafter came up with two beautifully constructed holsters of exotic leather to carry 1911s. They ride high and close to the body and exquisitely exhibit the three necessary elements of holster making which are proper design, proper construction, and proper leather. Zach gets high marks for all three. The 9mm carries securely in either one of these custom holsters.
Varmints beware! The .22 TCM delivers a 40-grain bullet at 2,053 fps.
Switching To .22
Now we switch to the reason this pistol is called a TCM. Gunsmith Fred Craig came up with the idea of a hot .22 in a standard 1911. Personally I’ve never understood why we don’t have more custom bottle-neck cartridges for use in semi-automatic pistols and especially in the larger frame versions chambered in .44 Magnum and .50 Action Express both of which could be easily necked down to other cartridges. Fred started with the basic .223 case trimmed to length to fit a 1911 magazine and necked down to .22 caliber. My test ammunition carries a 40-grain softpoint bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,053 fps from the 5″ barrel of the TCM.
Handguns are useful for many things. The serious side is for hunting and self-defense while the fun side is simply that, fun. Shooting should definitely be fun whether it is plinking, informal competition, are most assuredly time spent with the family. The .22 TCM is one of the “funnest” cartridges one is likely to find. Recoil is almost nil, however it roars and belches fire. This is definitely a cartridge requiring quality ear protection.
The TCM started out as a completely custom pistol built in Fred’s shop, however, Fred managed to work out an agreement with the Philippine manufacturer Armscor to turn this into a production pistol. Takedown is standard 1911 and you simply need to swap the barrel and spring to change from one caliber to the other. Two magazines are supplied and each may be used as a .22 TCM or 9mm. Of course, the heavier 115- to 147-grain bullets of the 9mm shoot much higher than the tiny little 40-grain .22 TCM bullet, so the adjustable rear sight is absolutely necessary. I was able to adjust the rear sight so point of aim equaled point of impact with the lightweight .22 bullet, however with the rear sight bottomed out most 9mm loads shot 2″ or 3″ high which basically is of no consequence in a self-defense pistol.
Groups with the .22 TCM barrel in place ran right at 1.5″ at a distance of 20 yards. A Match Grade barrel is available at $195 and for use as a hunting pistol on small varmints might prove to be a good investment. I had hoped to do more varmint hunting with this pistol, however it has been a very strange year to say the least. We never received any moisture until January and the ski resort on the mountain I can see from my window although it is 16 miles away opened two months late. However, when the moisture did come it really did come and we wound up with a great snow season in the higher elevations and plenty of rain here in the Valley. Rain is always welcome, however it does make it more difficult to get around in normal hunting areas. Everything will dry out eventually. For our little ground squirrels, which are not much larger than the ordinary chipmunk, optical sights, even a red dot would work for me much better than the production sights. The problem for me is the sights are too good when shooting the 9mm or on paper with the .22 TCM to even consider changing them.
While I choose a hip holster for packing the TCM in the 9mm mode I switch to a different way of carrying the .22 for hunting. I recently received a Tanker-style shoulder holster from K Bar J Leather Company, which rides across the chest very comfortably and also out of the way when getting in and out of a pickup. The design, material, and construction of this most handy holster is excellent and I recommend it highly. Straps are adjustable making it easy to wear either over or under a coat where everything is protected from the weather. In addition to the Tanker Holster itself there is also a built-in magazine pouch on the strap. A most excellent rig.
The .22 TCM sells for right at $725 and for such a quality-built versatile pistol I would’ve expected a higher price tag. What about ammunition? Of course it is easy to find 9mm but I can just about guarantee if you walk into your local gunshop and ask for a box of .22 TCMs you will get a blank stare. However ammunition is definitely available from Fred Craig and at very reasonable prices. A box of JHP rounds will run $18.50 and this drops to $12.50 for reloading of fired brass. So far I have managed to retrieve every round fired and they are all candidates for reloading. Fred says brass is very long lasting. By the time you read this reloading dies and components should be available so we can roll our own. One final note: The TCM moniker comes from Tuason Craig MicroMag. Martin Tuason is the president of Armscor and of course, Fred Craig is the designer of the cartridge.
By John Taffin
MicroMag TCM Target
Maker: Armscor Precision International
Importer: Armscor USA
150 N. Smart Way, Pahrump, NV 89060
Fred Craig’s ATOMITRONX
Action Type: Single action, semi-auto, Caliber: .22 TCM, 9x19mm, Capacity: 18 (.22 TCM), 17 (9mm), Barrel Length: 5″, Overall Length: 8.5″, Weight: 41 ounces, Finish: Matte black Parkerized, Sights: Fully adjustable, Grips: Checkered rubber, Price: $725
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