Rock Island XT 22 Magnum

They said it couldn’t be done

Reviewed by Harwood Loomis

I’ve been shooting 1911s since I was in the Army. That was more years ago than I care to think about … or admit. In civilian life, I have owned (and built) several 1911s, including a number of .22 Long Rifle pistols and conversions. Shooting a steel-framed 1911 with a .22LR conversion on it feels about the same as shooting a BB gun or an airsoft pistol. It’s fun, it’s cheap, and there’s no recoil to worry about. And maybe it’s the almost total lack of recoil that’s missing, because it just doesn’t feel like shooting a “real” gun.

As a result, for years I have been saying to anyone within earshot that it would be great if someone would come out with a 1911 chambered in .22WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire, or “.22 Magnum” for short). And the answer was always that it can’t be done, because the .22 Magnum round is longer than a 1911 magazine can hold. This is true. The SAAMI specified cartridge length for the .45 ACP round is 1.190 to 1.275 inches; the SAAMI specified length range for the .22 Magnum is 1.315 to 1.350 inches. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in mathematics to see that the shortest “in spec” .22 Magnum is longer than the longest “in spec” .45 ACP by .040 inches, and the 1911 was designed around the .45 ACP cartridge. That’s not even an interference fit; that’s an “it ain’t a’ gonna go in thar, no how, no way” fit.

With that in mind, you might be able to imagine my surprise and my excitement when, a couple of years ago, Rock Island Armory (Armscor) announced that they were coming out with a 1911 pistol chambered in .22 Magnum. I immediately contacted them and asked when I could get a sample to review, and the answer was that they weren’t shipping yet. I spoke with multiple people from Armscor at the SHOT Show in 2018, and I received the same answer. I wasn’t able to attend the SHOT Show this year (2019) due to illness but, awhile after the show, I received word that a Rock Island XT 22 Magnum was available for review if we still wanted to look at it.

Oh, yeah! Does the sun still rise in the east? Naturally, I responded in the affirmative and, after some exchanges of paperwork, I received an e-mail from my FFL informing me that the XT 22 Magnum had arrived and that “It looks really nice.” I had to see it for myself; after all, I had been waiting for years to see a 1911 in .22 Magnum.


The XT 22 Magnum arrived in one of Rock Island’s standard, clamshell pistol cases. The outer shell is hard plastic, lined with eggcrate foam to cushion and protect the contents. The case has two latches, and a pair of holes for inserting padlocks (not supplied by Rock Island) for when traveling where a locked pistol case is a legal requirement. Inside the case, in addition to the pistol, we found two magazines, an owner’s manual, a hang tag attached to the trigger guard, an inspection tag, a test target (folded and stapled to the inspection tag), a fired cartridge casing (for those jurisdictions that require a fired case), and a cable lock. All in all, this was fairly standard fare for handguns in this segment of the handgun price range.

The XT 22 Magnum is a full-size, single stack 1911 pistol. It has a five-inch barrel, and the barrel is the thing that immediately grabs your attention the first time you see one of these pistols. Unlike every other commercially-available 1911 of which we are aware, the XT 22 Magnum is unique in that the top of the slide has been removed, exposing the barrel, and the barrel (as with—as far as we know—every .22 rimfire 1911) is fixed. The barrel looks huge, and extends all the way from the chamber to the muzzle with no reduction in diameter.

The rear sight is a fixed, tapered wedge style “combat” sight, dovetailed into the top of the slide. There are no white dots, and no elevation adjustment. While windage is theoretically adjustable by drifting the rear sight, in the past we have found that Armscor/Rock Island used red Loctite®, which requires heat to loosen. The windage on the test gun was acceptable, so we didn’t attempt to drift the sight.

As I mentioned above, the entire upper portion of the slide is cut away forward of the breech face. This means that the fiber optic front sight can’t be mounted to the slide, so it’s dovetailed into the barrel.

However, as I delved deeper into what makes this unique pistol tick, I discovered a hidden secret. Upon first inspection of the pistol, it was immediately obvious that the chamber portion of the barrel moves relative to the forward portion of the barrel. “Okay,” I thought. “It has a floating chamber, like the Colt Ace.” I thought that was pretty neat … until I discovered that it’s not what’s going on at all.

Take down proceeds almost nothing like a standard 1911. The first step, removing the slide stop, works the same (with one exception, which I'll discuss later). The slide and barrel are then removed from the receiver as a complete assembly. Once the slide assembly has been removed, all resemblance to a standard 1911 disappears. It’s a completely different animal. I would advise new owners to read the owner’s manual before disassembling the pistol, but … take it with a grain of salt.

Field stripped – slide assembly removed from receiver

The XT 22 Magnum has a full-length guide rod and a dual recoil spring assembly. The recoil spring plug is not removed – it remains in the side. The parts list shows it as a separate part, but it’s not loose. I suspect that it’s threaded into the barrel, but I didn’t attempt to remove it to verify this. The instructions on disassembly don’t call for removing the recoil spring plug, so I didn’t.

Perhaps it would be best to reproduce the manual’s instructions for disassembling the slide and barrel:

  1. Press the magazine release and withdraw the magazine. Pull the
    slide backwards and check the chamber to ensure that the pistol is
    unloaded and safe.
  2. Pull the slide backwards until the shallow notch on its left aligns
    with the top rear of the slide stop. Remove the slide stop by pressing its
    pivot stud on the right side of the frame and pull out the slide stop on the
    left side of the frame.
  3. Pull the slide directly forward of its guide rails in the frame. The
    barrel, recoil spring, recoil spring guide and recoil spring plug will come
    out with it.
  4. With the slide clear off the frame, pinch the recoil spring stopper
    and pull back to disengage the recoil spring guide from the barrel lug
  5. Detach the barrel including the barrel shroud by lifting it from the
    open slide top while the spring and guide rod are disengaged from the
    barrel shroud lug cavity.
  6. Take out the recoil spring along with the recoil spring guide
    rearward of the spring tunnel.
  7. Remove the firing pin by punching out the firing pin cross pin to
    clear the firing pin hole and pull the firing pin & spring out at the rear of
    the slide.

It all goes as described until the step calling for disengaging the recoil spring guide from the barrel lug. That’s not easy – the dual recoil springs are a lot stiffer than I expected, and the shoulder on the guide rod is too small to get a good grip on. Disengaging the guide rod from the barrel lug was difficult. But that wasn’t the end of the problem. Even disengaged from the barrel lug, the guide rod was too stiff to move laterally far enough to allow removing the barrel from the slide. Unlike any other 1911, because of the open top slide the XT 22 Magnum barrel removes out the top of the slide, not out the bottom. I found that I had to fight the guide rod to free up the barrel lug so the barrel assembly could be removed from the slide.


Once the barrel was out of the slide, I got a surprise. What I had thought was a floating chamber is actually a floating barrel. The large, bull barrel that we see when looking at the XT 22 Magnum is really a barrel shroud. The outside diameter of this shroud (which looks like a full-length bull barrel) is 11/16 of an inch. The actual barrel is a full-length barrel, including the chamber, that fits inside this shroud, or sleeve. The barrel itself has an outside diameter of 7/16 of an inch. When the pistol is fully assembled, rearward movement of the barrel relative to the shroud is limited by a small underlug on the barrel that fits into a corresponding recess machined into the frame bridge on the receiver. There is a tiny, spring-loaded plunger that fits into a hole bored in the barrel shroud that pushes the barrel and chamber back when the slide retracts out of battery. With the barrel assembly removed from the slide, the inner barrel can be easily removed from the shroud. (Care must be taken not to lose the plunger; it wants to pop out and get lost.)

Detail of the barrel and shroud. Barrel plunger is at lower left.

Having completed our inspection of the disassembled parts and taken photographs, it was time to put everything back together. Oh, my! That proved to be even more difficult than the disassembly. The first problem is that the two recoil springs (and, especially, the inner spring) are longer than the guide rod. Getting the guide rod back into the hole in the recoil spring plug was difficult enough. Then, with the recoil spring assembly installed, it was even more difficult to put the barrel assembly back into the slide. In the end, I resorted to a home brewed method not contemplated in the owners manual: I compressed the recoil spring assembly until about an inch of the guide rod protruded beyond the muzzle. I then clamped the guide rod with a small pair of Vise-Grip® pliers to hold the recoil assembly forward while I replaced the barrel assembly in the slide. Once the barrel was in place, I released the guide rod, allowing the recoil springs to extend. The last step was to reengage the tip of the recoil spring guide into the recess in the underlug of the barrel.

If I were the owner of an XT 22 Magnum, I would certainly invest in two small Vise-Grip® pliers, to manipulate the recoil assembly when disassembling and reassembling the pistol.

Moving from the slide assembly to the receiver, the details are a lot more conventional. The XT 22 Magnum has a lightened trigger with an over-travel adjustment screw; a standard 1911 teardrop-style thumb safety (single-sided, not bi-lateral); an elongated loop, Commander style hammer; a beavertail grip safety with a grooved palm swell; and what at first appeared to be a standard slide stop.

Trigger with over-travel adjustment

Thumb safety and elongated loop style hammer

Beavertail grip safety with palm swell

I mentioned that the slide stop “at first appeared to be a standard slide stop.” Even before I had seen the pistol, the staff at the range told me that they had inspected the pistol on arrival and found that the slide didn’t lock open when racked with an empty magazine in the pistol. At bit of reading in the owner’s manual turned up the fact that this is intentional; the manual states clearly that the slide doesn’t lock open when empty.

Slide stop appears to be standard

A closer examination of the slide stop revealed that there is a distinct depression (it’s too deep and too sharp to be called a “detent”) machined into the aft end surface of the slide stop lever. This depression engages the plunger, which effectively prevents the slide stop from pivoting up to lock the slide when firing, and makes it difficult to lock the slide open manually.

Slide stop face is drilled out to engage the plunger

We reached out to the folks at Armscor USA in Pahrump, Nevada, to ask what this was all about. They quickly responded that early testing at the prototype stage showed that the magazine springs are light enough that the slide would not reliably lock open on empty. Armscor collaborated with Fred Craig (the ‘C’ in the 22 TCM cartridge) on the design of the XT 22 Magnum, and Mr. Craig decided that having the slide lock open on empty wasn’t important, so rather than have the slide lock intermittently they decided to make it so that it won’t lock open at all.

One final detail is that, like many (perhaps all, but I haven’t seen them all) rimfire 1911s, the XT 22 Magnum is equipped with an external extractor.

External extractor is not unusual for rimfire 1911

The reason why nobody has offered a 1911 chambered in .22 Magnum before this is simply that the .22 Magnum round is longer than the .45 ACP, and the .22 Magnum simply won’t fit in a standard 1911 magazine or receiver. In order to bring out the XT 22 Magnum, Armscor designed and manufactured a custom receiver that’s longer fore-to-aft through the magazine well portion of the receiver.

In order to quantify the dimensional differences, we took a tape measure and compared the XT 22 Magnum to a Remington R1 1911. The tale of the tape, based on our measurements, appears below. (At the end of this review, we’ll provide Rock Island’s specifications.)

MeasurementArmscor RIA XT 22 MagnumRemington R1 1S
Barrel Length
Overall Length
Grip Circumference
Grip width (fore/aft)
Sight Radius

The magazines are the width of standard 1911 magazines. This means they have a slight taper at the top, resulting in a magazine that holds the cartridges in a staggered array in the lower magazine body. Like the receiver itself, the magazine well is longer fore-to-aft than that of a standard 1911. The difference is almost exactly the thickness of two pennies, as illustrated by inserting the magazine from the Remington R1 into the XT 22 Magnum to show the dimensional difference.

How does it shoot?

Details are interesting, but the most important thing about any firearm is how well it shoots. We ran an assortment of .22 WMR ammunition through the XT 22 Magnum to find out. Armscor primed the pump by sending us 250 rounds of their own brand ammunition, in a 40-grain JHP configuration. To round out the testing, we also fired three other types of .22 WMR ammunition through the pistol.

The owner’s manual says that the pistol is designed for Armscor High-Velocity ammunition, and we found this to be the case. Three of the four types of ammunition we tried cycled the pistol successfully but the fourth, Winchester Dynapoint, was a disaster. It simply did not have enough energy to cycle the action, and our accuracy testing with the Dynapoint was all fired in single-shot mode, manually cycling the slide for each shot.

Out of curiosity, I tried shooting the XT 22 Magnum with a slide stop borrowed from the Remington R1 that served as the baseline for comparing the dimensions of the XT 22 Magnum to a “standard” 1911. With the Remington slide stop installed (with no depression in the end), the slide reliably locked open on empty every time. However, on the first and last magazine I fired using this borrowed slide stop, it also locked open on the next to last shot. I wasn’t able to determine why this occurred, and it happened only those two times.

At Chris’ Indoor Range, the light at each shooting stall is a single light bulb behind the shooter’s left shoulder. There are no lights directly above or immediately in front of the benches. This meant that there wasn’t enough light to illuminate the fiber optic insert in the front sight, so I had to shoot using a traditional post and notch sight picture. Aiming that way, I found that the XT 22 magnum group slightly below the point of aim at a distance of 25 feet, but shot pretty much to point of aim at a distance of 75 feet (25 yards).

The XT 22 Magnum is an all steel pistol. My own 22LR 1911s are all conversions, using aluminum alloy slides but on steel receivers. Overall, I think the XT 22 Magnum is a bit heavier than my 22s. Recoil was more than I have experienced with my own 22 conversion 1911s, but still very mild compared to .45 ACP or even to 9mm. Most .22 Magnum ammunition is optimized for rifle barrels of 20 to 24 inches in length, so it should come as no surprise that shooting .22 WMR out of a 5-inch barrel results in a significant fireball. I was somewhat surprised to see a fireball even with Speer’s Gold Dot Short Barrel ammunition.

The following table sets forth our results:

AmmoAvg. Group (inches)Avg. Group (mm)Best Group (inches)Best Group (mm)
Armscor USA 40-gr JHP
Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 40-gr JHP
CCI Maxi-Mag +V 30-gr JHP
Winchester Dynapoint 45-gr Plated LHP

Shooting was mostly uneventful other than two misfeeds, with two different ammo types, and the previously mentioned inability of Winchester’s Dynapoint to cycle the action. There was one other, more serious stoppage. It occurred with the last round of the last magazine I fired with the CCI Maxi-Mag +V. The slide stopped short of battery, and a gentle tap on the back of the slide did not seat the round. Attempting to retract the slide to eject the round also failed; the extractor slipped off the case rim, leaving the round stuck in the chamber. I was unable to pry it loose with the blade of my trusty pocket knife. Ultimately, I had to insert a brass rod into the muzzle (being careful to keep the muzzle oriented down range and my hands clear of the muzzle) and tap the round out. When the round was removed, this is what I found:

I didn’t notice a dent when I loaded the round into the magazine, so I don’t know if the round was defective or if it was deformed when I tapped on the slide to try to seat it. (I don’t think I tapped that hard, but perhaps I don’t know my own strength.) There were no other malfunctions even remotely akin to this one throughout the duration of our testing, so I am inclined to write this one off as an anomaly.


Despite the fact that .22 Magnum is extremely expensive in comparison to .22 Long Rifle ammunition, I have always had a soft spot for the .22 WMR. Consequently, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that I was ecstatic when I learned that Armscor had come out with the Rock Island XT 22 Magnum pistol. I have to admit that my initial enthusiasm was tempered somewhat when I first saw photographs of the pistol and I realized that it had an open-top slide. There’s nothing inherently wrong with open-top slides, and Beretta has been selling thousands of pistols with open top slides in both the commercial market and to militaries around the world. For better or for worse, though, I confess to being a hide-bound traditionalist. As a result, although I think the XT 22 Magnum is a very good pistol (as well as being the only game in town if you want a 1911-ish pistol in .22 magnum), I’m not quite falling over my own feet to plunk down my cash for one the way I would be if the slide were a traditional 1911 slide with a solid top—even if it was an alloy slide.

As it turns out, I don’t have to worry about deciding if I like the pistol well enough to buy it despite the open top slide. Unhappily, I live in Connecticut.

Irrespective of whether or not the pistol is on the approved list of handguns in states such as California and Massachusetts (it’s not), there is also the issue of states (and lower political subdivisions) that have imposed magazine capacity limits lower than the 15-round capacity of the XT 22 Magnum’s standard magazines. What states? 10-round limits have been enacted for California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey (sources regarding New Jersey do not agree; some say 15 rounds), New York, and Washington, DC. In addition, some municipalities and counties have 10-round magazine capacity limits. Therefore, unless Armscor releases 10-round magazines to fit the XT 22 Magnum, prospective purchasers in the states and localities with 10-round magazine capacity limits are simply out of luck.

And that unlucky group of prospective purchasers includes me. Problem solved. I can’t buy it no matter how much I might want to. Prospective buyers in states that don’t have 10-round magazine capacity limits, however, have a decision to make. What’s it worth to be the only kid on the block with a 1911 that shoots .22 Magnum? It’s a LOT of fun. It’s the same reason some of us buy Ruger Single Six revolvers with an optional .22 WMR cylinder. It’s hard to quantify the sheer fun factor of shooting a .22 caliber bullet that exits the barrel ahead of a huge ball of fire and creates muzzle blast that sounds like a centerfire. Being able to do that with a 1911 pistol? As the guy says in that credit card ad: “Priceless.”

Those who are curious can find the owner’s manual for the XT 22 Magnum on-line at the following link:

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Rock Island XT 22 Magnum 
Caliber:.22 WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire
Overall Length:8.5" (217mm)
Overall Height:5.5" (140mm)
Barrel Length:5" (127mm)
Sight Radius:5.7" (145 mm)
Sights:Rear: Black, Fixed, dovetail; Front: Fiber optic, dovetail
Weight (empty):40oz (1.13kg)
Magazine Capacity:15 rounds
Grips:Double diamond checkered, rubber
Finish:Matte black Parkerized
CA compliantNO
MA compliantNO


First, our thanks to Armscor USA for making this very interesting pistol available to us for review, and also for providing much of the ammunition we used in testing the pistol.

As always, we want to acknowledge Chris Dogolo, owner of Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range, for his unfailing support and assistance in allowing us to conduct our testing at his range.



Armscor International, Inc.
150 North Smart Way
Pahrump, NV 89060
Tel: 1-702-461-9469
Web site:

Range Facilities

Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
2458 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437-1398
Tel: (203) 453-1570
Web site: