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Fire-Breathing, Multi-Cal 1911: Rock Island Armory’s .22 TCM/9mm Combo – Full Review.

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The fire-breathing Rock Island Armory TCM TAC ULTRA FS HC COMBO is one of seven available 22TCM/9mm variants manufactured by Armscor in the Philippines.

Rock Island Armory handguns are manufactured by Armscor International in the Philippines and sold in the United States under the Rock Island Armory brand name. Armscor International also produces 1911 style handguns for other well-known US brands.  My initial experience with an Armscor International-produced 1911 was the STI Spartan 9mm I purchased as my entry-level IDPA competition handgun several years ago.  Though my interest in IDPA competition waned, the Spartan 9mm quickly became a favorite and has accompanied me to the range a great many times over the years.

The pistol is designed with competition shooting in mind and can be easily switched between .22 TCM and 9mm.

The Rock Island Armory TCM TAC Ultra FS HC Combo piqued my interest because I’m now considering competing in 3-Gun, USPSA, and Steel Challenge matches that local clubs have been holding on a regularly scheduled basis. Some of these competitions allow the use of “high-capacity” magazines and owning a single handgun that could be competitive in all the event types is preferable to purchasing multiple handguns. At least until I figure out which types of competition appeal to me.

The magazine well mates cleanly with the grip frame interior. Vertical grooves on the front strap, custom G10 grips, and the deeply checkered flat mainspring housing provide ample gripping surface and texture. Note the large, flared mag well.

The TCM TAC Ultra FS HC Combo (model number 51947) is one of five high-capacity .22 TCM/9mm combo models in the Rock Island TCM Combo lineup. This specific model includes additional competition-friendly features not found on the other four variants. I was most interested in using the handgun with the 9mm barrel installed for competition, but certainly appreciated the additional .22 TCM barrel that would allow me to quickly convert from 9mm to .22 TCM.

The combo kit comes with everything you need to fire both rounds.

The .22 TCM

The .22 TCM was designed by Fred Craig and started life as the .22 Micro-Mag. The cartridge was fully developed and commercialized by Craig and Martin Tuason from Armscor. When the cartridge came to market, the name had been changed to .22 TCM, which is shorthand for .22 Tuason Craig Micro-Mag. Armscor is currently the sole producer of .22 TCM loaded ammunition. They also sell .22 TCM brass and bullets for those that wish to try their hand at reloading .22 TCM using available Lee, Hornady, or Redding die sets.

The .22 TCM (center) joins a group of modern bottleneck cartridges that can be fired in handguns. On-hand comparison samples were limited to .32 NAA (left) and .357 Sig (right). There are several others.

The .22 TCM is an interesting cartridge. The brass case used to create the cartridge was originally derived from the .223 Remington rifle brass. The brass case is shortened, and given a bottle neck to accept the 40 grain .22 caliber bullet. The .22 TCM finished length is about the same as a .45 Auto, but it has the approximate diameter of the 9mm Luger. Running at pressures up to 40,000 psi, the .22 TCM leaves a 5-inch handgun barrel at velocities greater than 2,000 feet per second. The low bullet mass and high-velocity round generates kinetic energy very similar to 124 grain 9mm +P ammunition fired from the same barrel length. (For the purists, 381 ft/lbs for 9mm +P vs. 373 ft/lbs for the .22 TCM in my testing done for this review.)

Author’s previous terminal .22 TCM testing in gel media demonstrated impressive terminal performance.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to conduct some structured terminal testing of the .22 TCM when fired through various clothing barriers into Clear Ballistics gel. The testing was done with an early model Rock Island Armory single-stack .22 TCM/9mm conversion with a 5-inch barrel. All tested bullets expanded to about 1.5 times their starting diameter (.34 inches) and penetrated between 13 and 16 inches of ballistics gel. For some people, this terminal performance is satisfactory for defensive purposes. That’s a decision each one of us needs to make based on our own personal requirements so I will convey the facts and reserve my opinion of the rounds suitability for defensive ammunition needs.

The cost for a box of 50 .22 TCM 40 grain JHP cartridges is about the same as a box of 50 premium 9mm JHP cartridges from the bigger US ammunition companies that still sell their ammunition in boxes of 50. You can also find deals online from time to time. Expect to pay between $20 to $26 per box of 50 depending on where you shop.

SPECS

  • Chambering: .22 TCM / 9mm
  • Barrel: 5 Inches
  • OA Length: 5 Inches
  • Weight: 48 ounces
  • Grips: G10
  • Sights: Fully adjustable white dot rear, fiber optic front
  • Action: Single-action
  • Finish: Parkerized
  • Capacity: 17+1
  • MSRP: $960

As you can see here, the .22 TCM cartridge spits out a lot of fire from the muzzle.

REVIEW

The all-steel TAC Ultra frame and slide are finished with a dark Parkerized coating that’s almost black in appearance. The finish was even across the frame and slide with just a few light scratches in the operation area of the thumb safety. The overall fitment of barrels, bushing, and controls were tight, but not tight enough to bind during operation. Manual operation of the slide was smooth at the start and continued to improve as the round count through the pistol increased. I did notice a tiny bit of side play with frame and slide at the muzzle that remained constant during the duration of the review.

Previously, I mentioned some competition-friendly upgrades were added to this specific model before it ships from the factory. This combo model includes an ambidextrous extended thumb safety, magazine well, forward slide serrations, full-length dustcover with Picatinny rail slots, and fully adjustable rear sight. Skeletonized hammer, trigger with over-travel adjustment, extended beavertail grip safety, and fiber optic front sight are the standard equipment on all TCM pistol models. The spec sheet states a trigger pull weight of 4 to 6 pounds. The trigger pull weight on the sample pistol averaged 3 pounds 10 ounces with just a small amount of pre-travel.

The full-length dust cover includes Picatinny standard rail cuts for installation of your favorite accessories.

The pistol ships with one 17-round magazine that is fitted with an extended base pad to accommodate the additional grip length of the magazine well. Oddly, the magazines do not include graduated witness holes for visual verification of how many rounds are in the magazine. Just one hole near the top and another near the bottom. It didn’t take me long to accidentally discover that the magazines can easily be loaded with 18 rounds and still lock into the magazine well and function reliably. Probably not something you want to do all the time, but it was nice to discover. The same magazine functions perfectly with 9mm and .22 TCM ammunition.

The pistol arrives with the .22 TCM barrel and recoil spring installed. Also included is a 9mm barrel and second recoil spring for use with the 9mm barrel. Both barrels are fully ramped with a polish on the feed ramp.  Switching the pistol from .22 TCM to 9mm requires field stripping the pistol and reassembling using the 9mm barrel and recoil spring. No other modifications or adjustments are necessary to switch calibers.

A contrasting red fiber optic front sight works well with the windage and elevation adjustable white dot rear sight.

RANGE TIME

Heading to the range, I had a really good idea what was in store for me from the .22 TCM. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to shoot an early RIA 1911 .22 TCM/9mm combo pistol. The experience impressed two things upon me. The first was the lack of recoil generated by the cartridge in the full-size 1911. The second was the flash and volume of the cartridge were truly impressive. Doubling up on my hearing protection, I set up my budget high-speed camera and proceeded to capture the pyrotechnics on a nearly cloudless sunny day.

The author felt compelled to bench test at 25 yards along with offhand tests at 10 and 15 yards. Surprisingly the point of impact shift was small between 22TCM and 9mm.

After the filming fun, I got down to business with accuracy testing and chronographing. As expected, the .22 TCM easily surpassed 2,000 feet per second velocity from the 5-inch barrel. Recoil was negligible. Accuracy from the bench at 25 yards was good and off-hand groups at 10 and 15 yards were pleasingly small. Reluctantly, I convinced myself it was time to convert the pistol 9mm and revisit the .22 TCM on another day.

With an empty weight of three pounds, the TAC Ultra was a real pleasure to shoot with 9mm FMJ target loads. Upping the horsepower to 124 grain 9mm +P defense loads increased the recoil a little, but the wide-body frame, proprietary G10 grips, checkered flat mainspring housing, and vertical grooves on the front strap provided a 360-degree gripping surface with plenty of room for my support hand to participate in recoil control.

On target results were pretty good at 25 yards from the bench rest. In the hands of someone that frequently shoots from a rested position, the results may have been better than I could achieve. I was happier when shooting off-hand at 10 and 15 yards. The sights worked equally well for slow precision shooting or faster shooting at competition speeds.

With the ease of conversion from .22 TCM to 9mm, I was curious if the point of impact would change when switching between the two cartridges. Tested at distances of 10, 15, and 25 yards the 9mm did tend to hit the targets slightly higher and a little more to the right than the .22 TCM. Looking at the accompanying targets, I’m not sure the difference is great enough to justify adjusting the rear sight when swapping between the two calibers.

Armscor provided 250 rounds each of their 9mm and .22 TCM ammunition to use during the review. I so thoroughly enjoyed shooting this pistol that I ended up kicking in another 150 9mm rounds from my own stocks. Overall reliability was very good. I did have a problem with the firing pin stop dropping out of place and hanging up on the hammer when firing 9mm +P ammunition on my first range outing. After giving the pistol a thorough cleaning, the problem did not recur for the balance of the review even when firing rounds from the same box of ammunition that caused the problem during the first outing. I also had one failure to extract (stuck case) with the .22 TCM barrel that required pistol disassembly and the case to be pried from the chamber. With just a single instance of this in 250 rounds of .22 TCM ammunition fired, I would tend to put the blame on a faulty round of ammunition instead of a fault of the handgun.

17-round steel magazines can be used with both 22TCM and 9mm ammunition. Magazines include an extended basepad to accommodate the magazine well.

CONCLUSIONS

I had a ball with the pistol.  Sometimes you just want to make a big noise and the .22 TCM will do that without punishing you with magnum revolver recoil. You might want to pace yourself because it’s very easy to burn through a few boxes of .22 TCM ammunition in a single outing. From a more practical standpoint, I think the TCM TAC Ultra handgun would be a great companion pistol for the Rock Island Armory M22 TCM BA bolt action rifle. They can even share the same 17-round magazines.

The M22 TCM BA rifle can use the same 17-round magazines as the TAC ULTRA FS pistol and extends the effective range of the .22 TCM to 100 yards and beyond.

Configured as a 9mm, I would have no reservations using the TCM TAC Ultra for competition or home protection. The pistol ships from the factory with all the additional features I would add before using it for competition. I don’t think I would ever try to carry it concealed simply because it’s really heavy. It’s much better suited to outside the waistband carry with a properly stout gun belt. If the .22 TCM cartridge doesn’t interest you, the Rock Island TAC Ultra FS HC – 9mm has all the features of the handgun reviewed here without the additional .22 TCM barrel and recoil spring.

For more information, visit http://armscor.com/firearms/tcm-series/tcm-tac-ultra-fs-hc-combo-22tcm-9mm/.

To purchase a Rock Island Armory pistol on GunsAmerica.com click on this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.htm?T=rock%20island%20tcm&ltid-all=1&as=365&cid=34&ns=0&numberperpage=50&.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Norm Fishler April 25, 2017, 9:04 pm

    Initially I was interested, but that glow quickly dissipated. Looking through the jumble in my loading shop I found five .22 centerfires that I’m already loading for besides the .22 Magnum Rimfire. When the .22TCM gun & cartridge combo first came out I found quite a bit of the brass at our local range, but of late I have not seen a single empty case in a considerable while. This is as opposed to the 5.7×28 that seems to run in spurts. I have managed to accumulate almost a half gallon jug of the FN round & empties keep showing up regularly.

  • Duane April 24, 2017, 12:50 pm

    I would be interested in extended tests on the 22 TCM cartridge in the Rock Island platform.

    I was initially very interested in this cartridge offering, but then read many many reviews of users on the internet who had bought one of these and after a certain number of rounds found that because of the high impulse recoil (as opposed to the slow impulse recoil of the 45 – which the 1911 platform was designed for) that the firearm failed to function and Rock Island Armory after 3 attempts to repair it gave up.

    Again, these symptoms did not show up until a significant number of rounds were put through the handgun, but the number of users who reported these problems steared me away from this platform entirely until the bugs could be worked out, and until it became a truly viable product.

    As such, I went instead with the FN five-seven – a platform which has been around for approximately 20 years.

    I liked the theory behind the 22 TCM.

    But from what I have read on the internet thus far from those who own it and have shot it extensively – at this point at least – it is not a viable platform as produced by Rock Island Armory.

    I would be interested in hearing from those who have shot this platform extensively, and who have owned and used it under a variety of conditions for a significant amount of time!

  • B. Dalton April 24, 2017, 12:06 pm

    While most of us older (geezers) shooters find the .22 TCM has about everything we like in a firearm, be it ease to shoot, knock down power or just a well constructed firearm.However, agroup of us amounting to around 60 individuals, who call ourselves, “PIG PUNCHERS” find that only about one in ten of us have sufficient hand strength to load the Magazines for this round, especially the 5- round magazine for the .22 TCM rifle!! “These are definitely not “geezer guns” ARMSCOR has failed to deliver a gun package because they have failed to have available a Magazine loading Aid to load these Magazines!!!If you can’t load one you can’t shoot one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bruce Flemings April 24, 2017, 2:15 pm

      The Maglula UpLULA works great for the pistol magazines. For the 5 round rifle magazines, that’s a different story because they are so short. I’m wondering if a $3.99 Glock factory magazine loading tool for the 45/10 magazines could be trimmed down to work. If I had to have a magazine loader for the M22 TCM BA 5 round magazines, I would start with that low investment solution.

    • D.R. McDonald April 24, 2017, 3:36 pm

      I own a early manufactued tcm. I’m not sure what is considered to be extensive shooting. However, I’ve put between 2 and 3 thousand 22tcm rounds through mine. I have had some failure to extract. Very few overall. I thought the problem was caused by having to change out the extractor. I eventually had a second upper made up so I wouldn’t have to change out the extractor and could change calibers easily. Now I Read here that changing out the extractor is not necessary. Is this a change the manufacturer made? Please advise. As far as magazines go I
      Don’t see them any more difficult to load than most modern mags, other than glock mags maybe.

  • Mickey Rat April 24, 2017, 12:05 pm

    I first learned of the 22TCM in a Guns & Ammo add. I was in LUST! The next day I saw one in a gun shop and paid 570.00 for it plus 25.00/box for ammo. WHAT A GREAT ROUND! For gun nerds like me, it is great. HUGE ball of fire, HUGE noise, very accurate & no recoil. My favorite pistol. I reload (50 + calibers) and finally got Lee dies for it. Midway carries a Lee Factory Crimp die for it (highly recommend) that makes your reloads feed better. Para Ordinance 38 Super mags work for 1/2 the price of factory mags. I fitted a 7.62×25 barrel to it (mags only work with 5 rounds) for additional fun. Maybe a 38 super barrel next? 223 brass can be used so with dies you’ll always have ammo. Factory ammo is easy to find online @ 20.00-25.00. Be the first at your range (or only one) to have one. Shoot fruit? You have to see it to believe it. VAPORIZES oranges & such. Flat shooting & fun with the option to be a fuddy dud 9mm.

    • Mickey Rat April 24, 2017, 12:15 pm

      P.S. I bought the rifle they offer as well. Takes the same mags.

    • Duane April 24, 2017, 12:52 pm

      How many rounds do you have through your 22tcm and which specific model do you have?

      Have you experienced any failures to feed or failures to function? How reliable do you deem this platform?

  • Vanns40 April 24, 2017, 11:00 am

    It has never bothered me what gun people design or want to own, I consider all guns to be good guns. This comment is simply from a personal perspective; this appears to answer a question that has yet to be asked. If it’s for you, great, probably not for me.

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