Rock Island Armory .22TCM
Rock Island's Remarkable MicroMagnum
A pistol test and review by Steve Clark
Fred Craig (Fred Craig, Atomitronx) and Martin Tuason (President, Armscor) entered into a collaboration to develop a high-capacity 1911A2-type pistol to fire a 40 grain, .22 caliber bullet out of a highly modified .223 cartridge case. (Many separate articles have appeared stating that the cartridge is a necked-down 9mm, but the point is somewhat moot, as Armscor Precision now markets the .22TCM, and the ammunition is becoming readily available.)
Top picture, left to right Remington .223 55 gr. FMJ, Armscor .22TCM 40 gr. JHP, Armscor 9mm 124 gr. FMJ
Bottom picture, top to bottom Remington .223 55 gr. FMJ, Armscor .22TCM 40 gr. JHP, Armscor 9mm 124 gr. FMJ
Regardless of “how” the cartridge was first developed, the .22TCM (Tuason-Craig-Micromagnum) is a remarkable little centerfire round. Published reports place the velocity of the .22TCM at over 2,000 feet/per/second out of a 5” barrel. In addition, the cartridge is capable of exceedingly fine accuracy. Being a bottle-necked cartridge, functional reliability is also enhanced. More on this fine little cartridge will appear later in the article, but for the moment let’s concentrate on the Rock Island M1911A2.
The Rock Island .22TCM is a 1911A2 pistol, which with Armscor’s designations means a high-capacity, five inch barreled gun. The hard plastic clam-shell box has sliding latches with locking holes, and foam cut-outs inside to protect the contents.
My test pistol included one double-stack magazine, capable of holding 17 .22TCM cartridges, or 16 rounds of 9mm. Additionally, the package contained an instruction manual, 2 fired .22TCM cartridge casings, and a special instruction sheet for the installation and shooting of the 9mm barrel and recoil spring.
The pistol comes with a Parkerized finish and, as I’ve noticed with past Rock Island pistols, the frame and slide are ever-so-slightly of different shades. The photo also shows the roll mark on the left side of the slide.
The top of the slide is flat, with dove-tails milled for the rear and front sights. The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, and has two white dots on either side of the generous square-cut notch. The front sight has no dot, but is substantially large enough to provide a decent sight picture, with the barest amount of daylight showing on either side of the rear sight's notch.
The right side of the slide is unmarked except of a roll mark indicating “TCM”. This photograph also shows the "ball" cuts present on both sides of the slide where it meets the frame dust cover.
The fit of the slide to the frame is quite good, although a slight anomaly can be seen between the bottom slide rail and frame on the left side of the hammer. It appears a small piece of the slide is missing from this area.
The take-down and slide stop notches are correctly shaped, and engaged/disengaged positively with no problems.
The frame reminds me of the wide-body frames I’ve seen on similar Para-Ordnance hi-cap pistols. While wide enough to accommodate the double-stack magazine, the grip is not uncomfortable, and trigger reach was no problem with my smaller-than-average hands. The photo (above) also shows the upswept beavertail grip safety, checkered slide stop, and standard-style thumb safety.
Further proof of the excellent fit and finish of this pistol can be seen in the photo above. The thumb safety clicks on and off with authority, and the extended magazine release button is nicely serrated. The composite grips provide a solid platform when firing the gun, although it appears a medallion (of some sort) might have been intended in the rounded out area in the middle of each grip panel.
This photograph shows the extended magazine release button in detail.
The beavertail grip safety utilizes a “speed bump” to positively disengage the safety when the pistol is gripped.
Below the grip safety is the nylon/polymer mainspring housing. This unit is nicely checkered, which also aids in positively gripping the pistol while firing.
Finishing with the inspection of the grip portion of the frame reveals the non-beveled magazine well.
The double-stack magazine holds 17 rounds of .22TCM ammunition, or 16 rounds of 9mm ammo. As evident in the photographs, the magazine inserts easily, locks positively in place, and precludes the need for a beveled magazine well. Included in the last photo is the UpLULA magazine loader. Built for any single-stack or double-stack magazine in calibers ranging from 9mm through .45ACP, this very sensible accessory relieves the hand strain when loading multiple magazines. In my own personal use, the UpLULA loader takes mercy on my old hands when extended shooting sessions are undertaken.
The trigger on the Rock Island .22TCM pistol is nicely serrated, and has no provisions for an over-travel adjustment. This trigger displays approximately 1/16th inch of take-up before consistently breaking at 4.5 lbs. of pressure. These measurements were taken using both the RCBS spring-loaded trigger pull gauge, and a Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull gauge.
The Rock Island .22TCM pistol field strips just like any standard Government Model 1911. The photograph shows the slide, followed by the 9mm barrel and recoil spring, with the .22TCM barrel and recoil spring beneath. All other components are standard 1911 parts from Armscor. With the pistol field stripped, I noticed no unsightly tool marks within the slide or frame.
This photograph illustrates the appearance of the .22TCM barrel with the Rock Island pistol at slide lock. Obviously, the engineers at Armscor in the Philippines decided to enlarge the barrel at the muzzle to facilitate the use of the alternate 9mm barrel without the aid of a separate barrel bushing. This arrangement has no negative effects on the accuracy of either barrel during firing sequences.
The Firing Line
The fact that I only had 250 rounds of the .22TCM ammunition caused a minor alteration in my usual testing protocol. This meant that shooting an entire 50 round box of ammo to test for off-hand accuracy and functional reliability would have to be reduced to a couple of magazines. However, I shouldn’t have worried about the Rock Island gun. Accuracy was spot-on, with the pistol sights being regulated to point-of-aim for the .22TCM ammunition. Aluminum cans of soda, watermelons, and even several ping-pong balls were dramatically destroyed when hit with this ultra high velocity ammo. The longest off-hand shot taken during this brief session was at a plastic water filled half-gallon milk jug at 20 yards. The jug "exploded" with a satisfying geyser of water.
After the initial firing session, it was time to see exactly what the .22TCM is capable of, both in accuracy and velocity. At this time, the only factory load available for the .22TCM is a 40 gr., jacketed hollow point bullet. Velocities of this load vary according to which source is read or watched via television or YouTube. At the least, the .22TCM exceeds the velocities of the FNH 5.7x28, and does so from the five inch barrel of the Rock Island Armory pistol. The preceeding claim comes from a reputable source, namely Editor Roy Huntington of American Handgunner magazine. He was able to compare chronograph velocities between the RIA .22TCM and the FNH Five-seveN pistol.
I fired ten rounds through the screens of my CED Millennium Chronograph, and got an average velocity of 2,092 feet/per/second. Later in that same week, while finishing my accuracy testing, I was able to get another ten shot average of 2,045 fps. Both times I was fortunate enough to shoot during calm conditions, with low humidity, and temperatures in the low 90s Fahrenheit. The muzzle of the pistol was 12 feet from the screens of the chronograph.
As previously mentioned, the sights were regulated to shoot the .22TCM cartridge, although the black front blade between the two white dot rear sight gave me fits. Unless the outdoors light was perfect, I had a tendency to lose the front sight in the glare of the target. Nevertheless, I was able to consistently shoot five shot groups of two inches or less at 25 yards from a sand-bagged rest.
Switching the recoil spring and barrel for the 9mm, I experienced a profound difference. While the 9mm loads were all basically centered on the targets, the bullets were striking higher and, depending on the bullet weight, more randomly than the .22TCMs had. The .22TCM is actually a joy to shoot, as there is little recoil with the round, but plenty of “sound and fury”!
Firing the 9mm loads was different enough to make me realize that I had become complacent to the lack of recoil with the .22TCM. Rather than totally readjust the rear sight, I fired the 9mm rounds as best I could, and recorded the results.
In addition, I initially had some difficulties with the 9mm configuration. I was experiencing some failure-to-feed and failure-to-return-to battery problems with the pistol. I field stripped the gun, checked for any visible problems, and re-oiled the pistol. Perhaps I had done something wrong when first changing out the barrel and recoil spring, because subsequent testing went without a hitch.
|Ammo||5 Shot Group Inches||5 Shot Group mm|
|Armscor .22TCM 40 gr. JHP|
|Armscor 9mm 124 gr. FMJ|
|Winchester NATO 9mm 124 gr. FMJ|
|Winchester LE Ranger 9mm 147 gr. JHP|
|Federal HST 9mm +P 124 gr. JHP|
|Speer 9mm+P 124 gr. GDHP|
Despite the Federal and Speer +P loads having the most recoil, I was very pleased with the accuracy of both. I carry either of these two defensive rounds in one of my concealed handguns, and I've been pleased with the off-hand accuracy. This gun test provided me the opportunity to see how well the two rounds perform in controlled shooting.
In all, I fired 300 rounds of various 9mm ammunition, and 250 rounds of the .22TCM provided by Armscor. I much preferred shooting the .22TCM, although I ended my shooting sessions understanding why the instruction manual insists on regular cleaning and maintenance. The pistol became quite dirty shooting the .22TCM ammo. Regardless, I had no malfunctions of any kind when shooting the .22TCM rounds, and only a few problems (previously mentioned) when using the 9mm barrel and recoil spring.
I always get a “kick” out of shooting any new cartridge or gun that I’m not already familiar with. That is, as long as the gun isn’t too unfamiliar, or the cartridge too powerful for my old hands to deal with. While my small hands tend to have problems with bulky-gripped handguns, the Rock Island .22TCM was a pleasure to shoot. The little brain child of Fred Craig and Martin Tuason is a nifty cartridge, and I had tons of fun shooting it. The round is accurate enough for varmint hunting, if that’s your game, and the bullet would probably make short work of any animal up to the size of a coyote. Since I don’t hunt, the coyotes on my farm are still alive and well!
The small missing chunk out of the left rear of the slide gave me pause, but Rock Island has one of the best warranty programs in the industry. This small defect just goes to prove "we" at the M1911.ORG E-zine do not receive "specially prepared" T&E guns.
Likewise, the "missing" medallion in the center of both grip panels is something of a mystery to me. What's supposed to be there?
Were this pistol to stay here, I would have to do something about that front sight. It makes no sense to me to have a two dot rear sight with nothing but a black blade for the front sight. Too many years of concentrating on the front sight may have jaundiced my views on the subject, but that thing bugged me from the start.
Finally, in the instructions included with the pistol, mention was made of a dedicated extractor, which was to be used when firing the pistol with the 9mm barrel and recoil spring. None was included in the box, and my initial problems when I changed out the barrels made me think that I was going to have to contact Advanced Tactical in Pahrump, NV for the correct part. Luckily, this problem passed. Subsequent reading of several "tests" of this pistol make no mention of the extra extractor, so that issue must have been solved prior to my receiving the test gun.
One other point of possible contention is the whitened roll mark on the left side of the slide. I have read on the M1911.ORG Forum of complaints about this rather garish treatment of the slide. While I don't personally like the change, it is merely cosmetic and has no bearing on the function of the gun.
All things considered, the Rock Island Armory .22TCM pistol is a unique and satisfying piece of armament, which should do quite well in the marketplace. At the time of this publication, Armscor Precision is the only manufacturer of .22TCM ammunition, in the bullet weight and configuration presented here. However, the increasing supply of .22TCM ammo, at a competitive price, makes this pistol all the more desirable.
|Rock Island Armory .22TCM|
|Caliber:||.22TCM and 9mm|
|Overall Length:||8 9/16" (217mm)|
|Overall Height:||5.5" (140mm)|
|Overall Width:||1 13/32" (36mm)|
|Barrel Length:||5" (127mm)|
|Magazine Capacity:||17 rds. and 16 rds.|
|MSRP:||Approx $720.00 U.S.|
It goes without saying that the fine folks at Armscor U.S.A. and Rock Island Armory deserve a well-earned "thank you". Not only was the T&E pistol provided for this review, but Armscor made certain that I would have a sufficient amount of ammunition in both calibers to complete this test. Based on my other tests of Rock Island pistols, I expected nothing short of complete reliability and accuracy from this .22TCM pistol, and I was not disappointed.
To emphasize the "thank you" printed above, I always reserve a special note of thanks to Jerry, Todd, and Cheryl at Downing's Guns in Cleburne, Texas. For some time this fine home-town gun shop has featured Rock Island Armory pistols and revolvers. To those who are unfortunate in not having a local gun store to frequent, I can only sympathize with your plight. Cheryl and the Downings know what they're doing, and make every effort to provide their customers with the best products and service in the North Central Texas marketplace.
Finally, I wish to thank Heidi and all the gang at LuckGunner.com. On those rare occasions when the Downings can't fulfill a specific ammunition request, LuckyGunner is there to supply whatever I wish. Fast and efficient service provided by some of the nicest people in the industry are some of the reasons I recommend LuckyGunner.com to those needing internet-provided ammunition.
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Pistol and Armscor Precision Ammunition
Armscor U.S.A. and Rock Island Armory
150 N. Smart Way
Pahrump, NV 89060
Web Site: http://www.advancedtactical.com
Additional 9mm Ammunition
PO Box 32747
Knoxville, TN 37930
Web Site: http://www.luckygunner.com/