A Fist Full of Firepower: The Rock Island Armory .22TCM
The familiar look, feel and function of the legendary 1911 pistol designed over 100 years ago are alive in this new offering from Rock Island Armory. For those who are followers or even “fans” of this beloved design, simply holding one brings a smile to their face. For this latest incarnation, the .22TCM by Armscor, everything remains the same – until it is fired for the first time. At that single point of contact between firing pin and primer, the interest of all surrounding shooters is evident. This is not so much about a new 1911 family pistol, as it is a new cartridge with a much higher velocity that draws the attention.
The frame of the Rock Island Armory 1911 A2 is a little wider than a traditional 1911, similar in feel to the other “double stack” frames such as the .38 Super and the Para-Ordnance high capacity versions. The first time the .22TCM is handled there will be a few noticeable things for those well versed in the 1911. The first is the light return spring and the second is obvious before even handling it, the much smaller bore than standard chamberings.
The mainspring is heavily stippled and the factory grips are rough enough in texture to ensure a positive grip without being sharp or uncomfortable. It has a steel frame and slide, weighted and balanced well. The extended beavertail safety is comfortable and ensures a proper grip height. The skeletonized trigger had a very short length of pull with a crisp break to drop the lightweight hammer at precisely the right time. The slide is serrated directly above the grip panels to assist in your grip for ease in charging and the elevation adjustable rear sights retain a low profile for standard carry or duty gear without fear of hanging up like a tall target sight.
The extended magazine release combined with the lightly beveled mag-well makes magazine changes fast and easy. The barrel bushing and guide-rod appear to be standard and the slide release, though standard and not extended in size, is stippled for easy manipulation. The takedown, maintenance, and assembly is standard as any other traditional 1911 series firearm.
Bring on the Performance
If anything differentiates the Rock Island Armory 1911A2 as tested, it is the chambering in the new .22TCM caliber. While the most common loading for the 1911 is the very effective yet slow-moving 230-grain .45 ACP, the .22TCM is far on the other end of the ballistic spectrum. At 40-grains and traveling at 2,200 feet per second (fps) with an 18-round magazine capacity, the experience is quite different than what we are used to. A single break of the trigger unleashes a loud report with an equally impressive fireball from the muzzle.
While the velocity is similar to what you may expect from a very short-barreled M4 or similar “Black Rifle,” this is being delivered from a compact, concealable and familiar platform seldom associated with such performance. The projectile weight is under the 5.56mm by 15 grains, but still within the small caliber high velocity quotients.
As of this writing the only load commercially available for the .22TCM is a 40-grain soft point. Ammunition is manufactured by Armscor and both the pistol and ammo is available from the normal chain of firearms distributers. With the development of smaller, lighter and faster rounds over the last decade this writer can’t help thinking the ammo line will evolve to match special purpose applications at some point. Later this year we are planning a “head to head” test comparing the .22 LR, .22 Magnum, 5.7x28mm and .22TCM. We will be testing for muzzle velocity, accuracy, penetration, weight retention, and overall performance. With the .22TCM and 5.7x28mm having similar weights and muzzle velocities we are looking forward to the outcome of the testing.
Added Bonus Features
The Rock Island Armory 1911 A2 MM (Mini Magnum) is a “duel use” firearm right out of the box. With a simple swap of a barrel, the powerful .22TCM is converted to a 9x19mm pistol with a magazine capacity of 16+1 using the same magazine. With a gentle recoil and easy to obtain NATO round, the 1911 A2 can be a useful tool suited for many situations.
Of the time spent on the range, we are pleased to report zero failures of any kind. Right out of the box the 1911 A2 functioned perfectly and never failed to feed, fire or extract at any point. The trigger is tight and crisp with a clean break. If there is anything that should be noted that sets it apart from standard 1911 pistols it is the large muzzle flash and sharp crack upon firing. The feeling was generally considered odd for all experienced shooters who fired it for the first time because the different noise combined with the absence of an equal amount of recoil seemed “different” at first. With no exceptions it was highly regarded and enjoyed after this first initial “oddity” was processed, and all who were asked to test fire to give impartial impressions during the function phase of the testing asked to shoot more. It is the opinion of this writer that several photos and videos of this pistol will be showing up on the Internet and in printed publications due to the “fire show” during each firing. While this can be a negative in tactical situations, it is being addressed by the manufacturer as well as by Dr. Philip Dater from Gemtech as he works on a suppressor design.
After testing for function and muzzle velocity, a practical accuracy test was conducted. It was fired by numerous experienced shooters at the same time as other examples including a standard .45 ACP 1911, a .22 LR GSG 1911, and several typical 9x19mm variants so everyone had something familiar and comfortable to base it against. All pistols were equally as accurate from a standing position at 15 yards. (When ballistic gel and water recovery data is collected in the next phase of testing, accuracy from a rest will be recorded and published).
Speed = Energy
While testing the .22TCM during our initial outing, there were other firearms and items undergoing similar trials at the Small Arms Research facility. One group was using a popular binary explosive target with some rifle exercises. Since we were almost ready to wrap up the day we asked if we could borrow a few targets to complete our day. When they noticed we were testing a 1911 variant they were hesitant, knowing that it is not typical of any pistol, especially one they thought was a .45ACP, to have the necessary energy to ignite one of these targets. We were delighted when the two targets we placed in the impact area both ignited completely and it raised eyebrows from onlookers involved in other projects.
The 1911 is a long-time favorite design of this writer so this test project was eagerly accepted. Since the attraction has typically been the large .45ACP round (or larger in some cases) the small diameter of the projectile it was chambered in left us curious at best. It was one of the few times there was no preconceived notion of expected performance and everyone was a completely blank slate before testing. Upon chambering and firing the first round however, it was immediately clear that this was no typical small-bore “practice” handgun like many of the rimfire loadings in full size frames. This pistol chambered in .22TCM has a place of its own and we look forward to continuing the data harvesting to report back with some solid performance reports. As for our initial impressions the Rock Island Armory 1911 A2 passed all tests in fit, finish, workmanship, simplicity and function and it is clear the round has the potential to stand on its own. With a muzzle velocity in the 2,200 fps area, combined with light recoil and a magazine capacity of 17+1 rounds in a very small package, we are certain it will be a very popular package.