Rock Island 22 TCM / 9mm 1911 Pistol
I’m not what you’d call a 1911 super-fan. Though, I do own a few variations of John Browning’s masterpiece, even if they’re rarely fired.
So I’m not exactly a newcomer to the whole 1911 thing, but the 22 TCM pistol is entirely different than any other 1911 I’ve ever fired. It stands out to my mind because I was not expecting such a ball of fire from the tiny, little caliber.
It’ll forever be burned into my brain housing group. After all, this was the day I brought my nine year old girl to the range for the first time, as well.
It was a sunny day, and my little girl had just finished up shooting her little .22 Henry Repeater for the very first time. She did great, and built up some great confidence with her ability to hit her target and the not-so-loud .22 long rifle cartridges she easily cycled.
Sadly, that all went away once I stepped up to the bench with the 22 TCM Rock Island 1911. From the corner of my eye I saw her nearly hit the ceiling of the overhead roof on the first press of the trigger.
The blast and associated fireball was way more than she was expecting from such a little gun (in her mind as she compared it to her “much bigger” lever action rifle). Because of this, I pulled her rifle back out and sat her back down at the bench, to re-build that confidence I had nearly shattered.
Let’s take a closer look at this little cartridge.
About The .22 TCM Cartridge
There is quite a bit of obscurity regarding the .22 TCM cartridge, when it came out, what you can use it for, what are the ballistics of an Armscor .22 TCM is, etc.
It is a relatively new cartridge being only a few years old and is Armscor’s answer to FN’s 5.7X28. About one month ago, I was sent a Rock Island Armory 1911 combo, capable of shooting both .22 TCM and 9mm with nothing more than the swap of a barrel and spring.
.22 TCM’s lineage:
This quick little 22 handgun cartridge is essentially a shortened down .223 case. How short? Well, it’s about as tall as a .45 ACP with similar casing dimensions as a 9mm parabellum. Those similar casing dimensions allow for the .22 TCM cartridge and the 9mm Luger to use the same magazines when feeding your hungry 1911.
I do want to say here, that while they both use the same mags, the barrel and spring are totally different, for hopefully obvious reasons. You don’t want to confuse the two.
Many folks falsely assume that this cartridge is a necked down 9X19. While the dimensions are similar, it’s actually a shortened, necked down .223 Remington cartridge. As you can see from a below photo, the 9mm and the .22 TCM are about the same height with the 22 cal ammo edging it out just slightly.
What does TCM mean?
TCM stands for the people responsible for the cartridge. The T is from the Armscor company president Mr. Tuason. The C is for the guy who designed it, named Fred Craig. The M stands for Micro-Magnum.
It has earned its magnum status, too.
This little sucker is cruising at speeds in the neighborhood of 2,000 FPS at the muzzle. For reference, the average 9mm parabellum travels between 1,100 and 1,200 FPS at the muzzle.
How does 22 TCM shoot:
This was the surprising part for me the first time I shot one, because I wasn’t expecting the result. While felt recoil was minimal, the muzzle blast was effing atrocious for a 22 handgun. To say it was loud is an understatement. But as far as having a range toy is concerned, having the ability to shoot balls of flame from your 22 cal pistol just makes things more interesting from my own point of view.
That being said, if you can get used to the muzzle blast, and I assume you’re here because this stuff excites you, it is quite pleasant to shoot, considering the felt-recoil is minimal allowing for quick target re-acquisition.
Overall, besides the Coonan Classic chambered in .357 Magnum, this is some of the most fun I’ve had in a 1911 style gun.
What is the .22 TCM good for?
This is potentially the most interesting part of this article because I’m sure I’m about to confuse some of you. For certain people, the Rock Island .22 TCM guns will be a decent self-defense tool. Before you lose it on me for suggesting a 22 handgun for self-defense, hear me out.
There is a relatively large population of folks who are unable to pull the slide back on guns with a stouter recoil spring. Because the Second Amendment also applies to them, they, too, have the right to self-defense.
Once these poor people learn that they cannot pull a slide properly to the rear, they scour the WEB or the local gun-store for advice. What are they told?
To get a revolver with a long, heavy DAO trigger that gets rid of the slide, altogether. Is that the best advice for someone who has hands that are so weak that they can’t pull back the slide on a semi-auto?
Is it likely that their hands are also weak enough that they cannot correctly (and accurately) pull a long, heavy double action only trigger? I’d say the chances are good that they cannot. Especially when you consider that many of these revolvers kick like a mule with their small frame.
In other words, and in my experience with my wife shooting a DAO revolver, that’s not always the best way to go. Instead, finding a lower recoiling, easier to rack gun is what we did.
It may not be this one, because there are better options, frankly. But it could be.
Now, I would personally not use 22 cal pistols in self-defense, but if I had weaker hands that were unable to pull back the slide on a semi-automatic pistol or if I was tremendously recoil resistant, I would feel comfortable enough using a gun chambered in .22 TCM (or 22 magnum) for self-defense.
Again, the reason why is because the .22 TCM doesn’t recoil that hard, its spring is lighter and easier to manipulate, and it does decent ballistically.
On this Rock Island .22 TCM 1911, I can pull back the slide with one finger. That’s how easy it is. Of course, I can only do it with one finger when the hammer is cocked, but that still shows how light of a spring it uses.
Therefore, because it’s so light, I call this a great self-defense option for some people. After all, the gun you’ve got on you is better than the one you’ve got in your sock drawer.
Would it be my first choice since I am quite capable of handling recoil and can certainly pull back a slide with the man-mitts I call hands? No, not likely. However, the bullet moves at 2,000 feet per second out of the Rock Island Armory 1911 and transfers about 350 lb/ft of energy to your target.
I compare the 22 TCM and 9mm Luger ballistics here.
The skelotonized trigger on this Rock Island 1911 is exactly what I’ve come to expect from modern day interpretations of John Moses Browning’s timeless (and dare I say brilliant?) design. It is light and crisp with a short break and reset.
The gun handles well, the finish and fit are flawless, and the controls are exactly what you’d expect on this gun. No surprises there.
Overall, this gun is a blast to shoot and is great for plinking, target practice, and all around just having fun at the range.
The controls were exactly where they were supposed to be, and I’m sure the ambi safety will come in handy for you southpaws. Take down is as easy as any other 1911 on the market, and barrel swaps to make it a 9mm 1911 are a breeze.
22 TCM Ammo Options:
.22 TCM Ammo options are pretty much limited to what you can get from Armscor, the parent of Rock Island Armory. There isn’t even much support for re-loaders, as far as my research has brought me to conclude.
I’m admittedly not a re-loader yet though, due to space limitations in my abode. Therefore, don’t take my word on this one, and if you have any recommendations on re-loading .22 TCM ammo, I’m all ears.
Anyway, one of the great things about this particular gun, is that it comes standard from Rock Island with two barrels and two recoil springs. One for .22 TCM and one for 9mm. This helps make this nasty little bugger more than just a novelty, as you can run as much 9X19 through this 1911 as your little heart desires.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that the .22 TCM ammo isn’t exactly an abundantly found round. What I mean, is that most gun stores don’t stock it because most people have never even heard of it. Therefore, it can be expensive to shoot. I can say, however, that as expensive as it is, it’s also really fun to shoot.
Nothing is perfect. No gun is ever perfect. This gun is not mine, it is a loaner from Rock Island that I sadly had to send back when finished with my review. If I could afford it, I’d buy it.
The finish on the gun, while flawless when taken out of the box, has not held up quite as well as I’d hoped it would. The finish outside the ejection port is showing much more wear than I thought possible after only having 600 rounds of ammo through it. Not the biggest thing, and certainly not a deal breaker by any means.
And, who knows, maybe with the proper cleaning solvent the marring would wipe away. But, with what I’ve been using, it won’t come clean.
But the finish did get marked up from the ejecting brass hitting the slide on the way out.
Again, not the biggest deal, but certainly something to keep in mind.
This is a great gun that, in my opinion, should be added to anyone’s collection who is serious about 1911/2011 ownership.
Rock Island Armory makes great guns, and the .22 TCM is some of the most fun you can have at the range. Team that up with a double stack 9mm barrel and recoil spring, and you’ve got a recipe for self-defense that is also a head turner on the range.
Next, check out my list of what I consider the best 9mm handguns.
The above is an update to an article first published in April of 2018.