April 25, 2016
By Brad Miller, Ph.D.
Rock Island Armory (Armscor) now has caliber conversion kits for 1911-type and Glock (Generation 1-3) pistols to shoot the ultra fast .22 TCM. The kit turns your pistol into a low recoil, powerful, fire-breathing blaster.
The .22 TCM is bottlenecked centerfire cartridge based on the 5.56X45 NATO case that is shortened to fit in standard sized pistols. The cartridge was designed by Fred Craig and Rock Island Armory CEO, Martin Tuason. TCM stands for Tuason Craig Magnum. Armscor describes the TCM as ". . . Armscor's answer to the FN 5.7 and the HK 4.6 and has consistently tested higher in all categories when compared to the two." The .22 TCM is also available in a bolt action rifle.
As the name indicates, the round fires a .22 caliber bullet. It's the same .224 bullet you'll find in centerfire .22 caliber rounds like the .223 Remington, .22-250, and so on. The .22 TCM comes in two flavors. The standard .22 TCM has an overall cartridge length around 1.265 inches and requires a gun with a frame large enough for its length. This would include anything that would accept a .45 Auto, 10mm or .38 Super. Armscor offers several models of 1911-type pistols in the .22 TCM, both single-stack and double-stack varieties. Armscor .22 TCM series pistols include a 9mm Luger barrel, making them unique multicaliber, multipurpose guns.
A new version of the cartridge called the .22 TCM 9R is shorter, measuring about 1.150 inches long, which is designed to fit in 9mm-length magazines. The brass case is the same, but the 9R has a differently designed bullet and is seated deeper to make this possible. The 9R ammunition is intended for the Glock (Generation 1-3) conversions because they are for 9mm and .40 S&W caliber guns.
The two rounds advertise similar performance. The .22 TCM shoots a 40 grain bullet at an advertised 1,875 fps. The .22 TCM 9R advertises a 40 grain bullet at 2,000 fps at the Armscor website. My samples of these rounds both clocked more than 2,000 fps from a 5" barrel.
The box of 9R Armscor ammunition I have says a 39 grain bullet on the label. I pulled one bullet from each type for a quick-and-dirty assessment. The TCM 40 grain bullet weighed 39.9 grains and the 39 grain TCM 9R bullet weighed 39.2 grains. They contained 9.9 and 9.7 grains, respectively, of what appeared to be the same powder (some powder is inevitably spilled with my kinetic puller).
Both rounds sport hollow point bullets, but they differ in design. The .22 TCM bullet would be considered a semi-jacketed hollow point because there is exposed lead at the bullet nose. The 9R version would be considered a true jacketed hollow point because the copper jacket is the full length of the nose. At present, only Armscor loads these cartridges.
The 1911 Conversion Kit is a fully assembled top end that fits a full-sized Government Model. The kit includes a parkerized Rock Island Armory slide with fiber optic front sight and fully adjustable rear sight, full length guide rod, spring, bushing - the whole nine yards.
The barrel has a Clark/Para Ordnance integrated ramp which requires a corresponding cut in your frame. If your frame does not have this cut, a gunsmith can cut it for you, but then your old G.I. profile barrel will no longer function properly with the frame, so, as Armscor says at their website, "BE SURE YOU WANT THIS before you buy." This kit is intended for single column 1911 pistols and includes a 10 round magazine. They recommend a gunsmith to install it on your pistol. It has a suggested retail price of $473.
The Glock .22 TCM 9R conversions are for Glock 17/22 and 19/23 pistols, according to Armscor. The company's website says that the 17/22 conversions are available now, and "Kits for G19 and G23 models will be available in the first half of 2016, with additional kits planned for the near-term." It will be interesting to see what other pistol kits the company develops.
The Glock kit also comprises a completely assembled top end, which includes a slide, barrel and recoil spring assembly. No magazine is included, and information at the Advanced Tactical website indicates you can use the same magazine. The Glock kit is California and Massachusetts compliant. It has a suggested retail price of $431.
I came about a 'conversion kit' in a different manner. I bought a complete top-end from an individual who was selling the top assembly of their Rock Island Arsenal .22/9mm TCM TAC Ultra FS HC combo, so my slide has a slightly different cosmetic appearance than the kit offered by Armscor. The slide assembly fit onto my Para Ordnance high capacity frame with no fitting required. My Para Ordnance frame was already cut for the ramped barrel.
How Does It Shoot?
I clamped the pistol in a Ransom Rest for accuracy testing 25 yards. I fired both the .22 TCM and .22 TCM 9R ammo. This is an important point; a 1911-type gun with .38 Super magazines will shoot both variants of this cartridge, but a 9mm-sized gun, such as the Glock kits (or a 9mm sized magazine in a 1911-type pistol), will only fit the shorter .22 TCM 9R ammunition.
I fired three 10-shot groups with each type of ammunition for a total of six 10-strings. My accuracy results were interesting. During this testing, the point of impact 'walked' from the high to low as the rounds were fired. The last few rounds formed a cluster. This suggests that there is a barrel fitting issue that shows up as the barrel heats up during the 10-shot string. The last string with each type of ammunition was fired slowly to allow the barrel to cool between shots. This dramatically improved the 10-shot group with the 39 grain 9R ammunition, producing a 10-shot group of only 2.12 inches.
This type of consistent bullet point-of-impact walking is a gun/barrel/barrel fit issue, not an ammunition problem. While the majority of the 10-shot groups were large because of the walking behavior as the barrel heated, the good news was that the shots were not scattered in a manner that would suggest the ammunition was inaccurate. They tracked consistently and predictably,and they clustered when the walking stopped. In fact some of the last 6-7 rounds of the string were clustered in a 1.5-inch group. This suggests that the ammunition is inherently accurate, but my pistol has an issue with barrel temperature.
Velocity was recorded at about 12 feet with a Shooting Chrony chronograph and is the average of 15 shots. The 40 grain .22 TCM ammunition averaged 2081 fps, and the 39 grain .22 TCM 9R ammunition averaged 2128 fps from the 5-inch barrel. These velocities produce 385 and 392 ft-lbs of muzzle energy, respectively.
Why the .22 TCM?
The conversion kits are all about the .22 TCM and 9R version cartridges. What's so special about this round that you would want it? Here's what it does. It's fast. These .22 caliber bullets reach 2,000 fps or more from a 5-inch barrel. The average speed from the two types of ammo that I shot was 2104 fps. That's blazing fast for a pistol. A .22 Long Rifle round will run about 1113 fps from a 5-inch barrel, and a .22 rimfire Magnum runs about 1435 fps from that same barrel length. (Values are an average from 40 grain bullets and recorded velocities reported at Ballistics By The Inch from a 5-inch test barrel.) The .22 TCM offers roughly a 68 percent increase in velocity over a .22 rimfire Magnum.
What sets the .22 TCM apart from rimfire .22s is that it is a centerfire cartridge, which means it will always go bang when you pull the trigger. One downside to rimfires is their potential for misfires, which handicaps them from being a reliable round for self defense. The .22 TCM offers the reliability of a centerfire cartridge in addition to it's greater power.
It's powerful enough for self-defense. The round produced nearly 400 ft-lbs of muzzle energy from my 5" barrel. For comparison, a 9mm Luger with a 115 grain bullet at 1,200 fps yields 368 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. The .22 TCM shows good performance in gel tests with penetration more than adequate to consider this a viable defense round.
Like any handgun .22 cartridge, this one does not produce much recoil. It's certainly more than the rimfire rounds, but recoil is light, nonetheless. Calculations show that the ammunition fired from my gun produces about 1.88 ft-lbs of recoil (gun weight used for calculations was 2.2 lbs). It's far less than what a 9mm Luger produces, which runs about 3.19 ft-lbs with a 115 grain bullet at 1200 fps (driven by 6 grains of powder). This means the .22 TCM has about 41 percent less recoil than a 9mm Luger. Low recoil has plenty of appeal because you're less likely to flinch and can be a blessing to folks who are recoil sensitive. Less recoil is less likely to irritate joint pain in folks who have to take this into consideration. Simply put, less recoil often means more fun.
The low recoil also manifest itself with some spent brass just dribbling out of the ejection port. Reduced weight recoil springs are the usual fix. I had two feeding malfunctions due to what I attributed to low recoil impulse. The recoil spring that came with my top end was weak. I don't know what weight it was, but I would guess around 10 lbs. A lower weight or cutting a coil or two off might be required for more reliable function, or maybe it just needs more shooting to break in. The bottom line is that recoil is very mild with this cartridge.
Big Muzzle Blast
The .22 TCM has a lot of muzzle blast for its size. Well, let's face it, even with .22 caliber cartridges there is no free lunch. And if you want performance, it comes at a price, and the price for the .22 TCM is noise. With around 10 grains of gunpowder and an obviously supersonic bullet, it makes its presence known.
And it makes fireballs. Fireballs result from the type of powder. They use plenty, and it does not appear to have a flash suppressant. This is not unusual for some powders and cartridges. The .357 Magnum is also well know for big fireballs with some loads. It's part of the appeal of some calibers.
Some folks abhor fireballs, claiming the muzzle flash could temporarily impair your night vision if you shoot in low light conditions. That's true. On the other hand, some folks don't seem to be bothered by muzzle flash very much. If you're buying this as a fun cartridge (which is okay), then fireballs are mandatory! If you handload this cartridge, you can reduce the fireballs through appropriate powder selection.
Some 1911 shooters don't need the whole kit, just the barrel. That's the case if you have a 9mm/.38 Super slide and a frame cut for the Clark/Para Ordnance feed ramp. It appears that the Glock slide is lightened based on advertising photographs, and this might be necessary for those guns because of the round's low recoil. Maybe a much weaker recoil spring will do, so a simple replacement barrel might work for the Glock's, too. We'll have to see what Armscor offers in the future.
The .22 TCM is an interesting and accurate cartridge with sufficient power, light recoil and fun fireballs. Its performance spells versatility: fun range gun, self-defense, and various hunting applications. If you've been curious and want to give it a try, the Armscor conversion kit is a new way to experience this round without buying a whole gun.