By Pete Rogers
Every so often as an outdoor writer, we are fortunate enough to test some products that really shine. From time to time, we get products that we really can’t say anything good about and personally I adhere to the old adage: “If you can’t say something nice, you don’t say anything at all.”
When the notification arrived that a new Armscor Rock Island Armory gun arrived for me to test and evaluate, I drove to the gun shop soon after. Admittedly, I didn’t even open the case to look at the pistol until I got back home. Upon opening the gun case, my initial reaction was one of awe. The look and feel of the Armscor Rock Island 1911 TCM TAC Ultra FS HC Combo was impressive from the onset. Lifting the pistol from the case, I immediately fell in love with the feel of the gun. Coming in at 2.35 pounds, the gun feels great in my hand. It has enough weight to handle the job, but it is not too heavy to fatigue after a few hundred rounds. The G10 grips and parkerized finish were exactly what I personally look for in a workhorse handgun. But this gun didn’t look or feel like a workhorse, it looked and felt like a thoroughbred.
Further inspection noted that the gun came in .22 TCM and the case contained an extra barrel and recoil spring for the 9mm. It is a true combo package, built to handle both rounds – one magazine for two very different calibers and bullets. I was anxious to get to the range and see what it would do.
First, let’s look at this new .22 centerfire cartridge. The .22 TCM was created by custom gunsmith Fred Craig and originally called the .22 Micro-Mag. Craig’s reason for designing the new cartridge was that he wanted an American cartridge offering high muzzle energy that would work in the 1911 platform. Craig also felt the .22 TCM would offer a lower cost alternative to other ammo available in the 1911. His vision was to offer shooters a cartridge that was enjoyable and economical to shoot in their favorite pistol. Craig’s original design was named the .22 Micro-magnum. But while working as a consultant for Armscor, President and CEO of Armscor Martin Tuason really liked the design and together they agreed to rename the cartridge to .22 TCM an acronym for Tuason- Craig-Micro-magnum.
The .22TCM is designed to work in a standard 9 mm magazine and feed flawlessly through the interchangeable magazine. Even though it shares the magazine, that is the only similarities to the 9 mm. In fact the .22 uses the parent case of the .223 Rem. By shortening the case of the .223 Rem. and adjusting some diameters and making a bottleneck, Craig then packed in a 40-grain JHP bullet to limit overall length and thereby allowing easy feeding into the chamber. The result was a very high pressure handgun generating over 40,000 psi that pushes the .22 bullet over 2,000 fps. from a five inch barrel.
The model I tested was the TCM TAC ULTRA FS COMBO – 22TCM/9MM. This model comes with a 9mm barrel and an extra 9mm recoil spring. The pistol utilizes a wide-body 1911 frame that held a 10-round magazine. Since the .22 TCM and 9mm cartridges have very similar rim diameters and lengths, both were supposed to feed from the same magazine. Feed they did and without incident. I would say that loading the magazine to full capacity was very difficult. It got easier as the spring was beginning to loosen. But seldom was I able to get the full 10 rounds into the magazine without extreme effort and damage to my thumb. This however, was the only limitations to this fine handgun.
The gun came with a picatinny rail below the barrel and slide to attach accessories and a fiber-optic front sight and a fully adjustable LPA rear sight. Other features include and extended beavertail grip safety, something I personally really like. The gun just felt great in my hand. During testing I employed control shooting of one round at a time, three round bursts and a full magazine dump as fast as I could pull the trigger. Each time I did this, I noticed a prominent smile on my face. This gun was simply fun to shoot!
One feature that I loved was the blast from the muzzle. The flash was equivalent to much larger handguns without the recoil. It was loud, bright and accurate. Who wouldn’t enjoy shooting a gun that did all of this?
Switching between the .22 TCM and 9mm was simple. It only took a quick fieldstrip and swapping of the barrels and recoil springs. When shooting the 9mm ammunition, the same pattern was employed – controlled single firing, three shot bursts and full magazine dump. The gun performed flawlessly. After shooting a total of 500 rounds, consisting of 250 rounds of each caliber the .22 TCM and 9mm, I never encountered a single malfunction in testing. Everything worked just as one would expect.
I have to admit, shooting the .22TCM was far more enjoyable than shooting the 9mm. I am not sure if it was because I have shot thousands of rounds of the 9mm and it seemed a tad more anti-climactic compared to the .22 TCM. But the .22TCM in this 1911 frame was so fun, I couldn’t get enough. I wish I had more ammunition to shoot! I could have stacked up targets all day if the ammunition was available. I can honestly say, I have never had more fun shooting a handgun than I did with this little round. There is significantly more energy than the .22 LR and the loud blast and muzzle fire were equivalent to a much larger cartridge. It felt like the bullet was doing damage to the targets, but the holes in the target along with the recoil were miniscule.
Armscor currently offers this combo in nine different configurations in the 1911 frame. The model 51961 that was tested has a MSRP of $891 and is worth every penny for the shooter who loves the 1911 and wants an affordable alternative to shoot and practice with. It has an overall length of 8.75 inches with a barrel of 5 inches. The trigger pull was generous 4-6 pounds of pull.
Is the Rock Island Armory 51961 .22TCM/9MM a good protection gun? This is really a hard call and one I would prefer the individual make on their own terms. Personally I would opt for the larger 9mm barrel for personal protection. But again, I leave this up to the individual to make this decision on their own merits.
Factory ammunition for the .22 TCM is limited to that produced by Armscor, and the company’s website currently lists only a single projectile available currently. However there is plenty available and at affordable costs. It is currently sold in 50 round packages. Several packages are needed if you decide to go shooting this gem. Stock up on the ammo because you will need it.
Overall this handgun from Rock Island Armory is one of the finest I have personally ever tested. It did everything it needed to do and then some. The .22 TCM is a pure joy to shoot and should become a favored round to many shooters who love the 1911 platform but do not like the expensive and somewhat abusive rounds you have to put through them. The bigger calibers have their place, no argument here, but for plain fun shooting I challenge you to find one more enjoyable.