By Sean Nolan
This was going to be a full review of the Rock Island Armory 22 TCM Standard. I’ve had this gun open and apart so many times and I have about 250 rounds through it. I’ve also had a few chances to talk shop with the nice folks at Armscor, and I have dealt with a couple pretty big hitches. So it could almost be a full-on review, but it is not. As comfortable as I am with this pistol, I haven’t had enough trouble free time with it and I will certainly post an update once I have the disposable funds to put another 500 through it. Until then, two problem free boxes simply isn’t enough . . .
At first glance, the gun looks great Parkerized with Rock Island’s (former) signature billboard roll mark on the slide. I always thought I would hate that look, but the color fill is a matte gray rather than a garish white. The reverse side of the slide has a simple TCM roll mark. When I got it, it was dripping in that petrochemical sludge RIA uses. Once that was cleared away it revealed a smooth, even finish.
The grips leave a bit to be desired, though. They’re somewhat ill fitting and made of black plastic. The image below shows some of the QC fail, but this is not a problem in functionality.
Thankfully, Armscor has a good supply of VZ Operators just for this gun, at an ok price too.
Visually, this is a fairly basic double stack 1911. It’s commander length, but Armscor dubs it, “Midsize” or “MS” because Colt apparently owns the trademark on the word “commander” when referring to 1911 pistols. While there’s no prancing pony gracing the slide, it is still a 1911. While she may be a little chubby where your hand goes, she’s still sexy.
Fit and Finish
The finish is good. Mine has a bit of peening evident at the slide stop notch, but I’ll get into that shortly. It didn’t come that way. The interior shows tool marks in inconsequential places. There’s some rattle, but not bad considering it’s a lower cost production gun. Everything goes where it is supposed to, fits as it should, and moves where it’s meant to.
Ease of everything
Again, this is, at its heart, a 1911 with can be a love/hate sort of thing. It’s also a double stack gun, which some people hate. I find that it fits my hand well, point naturally, and feel great. I do, however, have larger hands, so your opinion may vary. In testing, several people of both genders and many hand sizes fondled it, tried the trigger, and shot it. The only complaint was that smaller-handed folks have to change hand position to reach the slide stop. (Yes, I know. That’s another argument. I showed them how to slingshot it, yet some people insist on using the lever.)
Disassembly is slightly different from a standard 1911. The TCM MS doesn’t have a bull barrel, but it does have a reverse taper. There is also a full length guide rod, but not a reverse plug, so it comes apart the way a GI pistol does. The slight difference I mentioned? The guide rod plug has a rimmed hole in the middle. Tender fingers might find this a bit uncomfortable.
I’m not saying it again. You either know it, or you don’t by now.
The trigger is wonderful. I’m not a competition shooter so can’t compare it to a competition trigger. It should not be compared to one anyway. Factory spec says the trigger should break at 4-6 pounds. The trigger on my gun breaks at three. I’m not complaining a bit. It’s clean and crisp, without much — if any — take up. Over travel is non-existent on my gun, but there is also a set screw, should it ever crop up. The trigger is much more than expected on a gun at this price point and it makes up or the crappy grips.
Once again, the grips suck. They serve their purpose, as they are attached and grippy, but that’s about it. The grip panels aren’t fitted well and look sloppily made. They don’t, however, interfere with function or…grippiness, but they leave the hand wanting.
The sights are “meh” for lack of a better word.. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation and has bright white dots. Adjustment clicks are positive and easy to use. The front sight is a blade with no dot. This has the unfortunate effect of making the front sight vanish in low light, or against dark targets. It can be easily fixed with a bit of sight paint or nail polish, or a pin drill and a bit of white paint. Or by replacing it. RIA should have done this to begin with, pairing such a plain front sight with such a useful rear sight is a mistake. One way or the other would be better.
It’s like they want to sell you an upgraded front sight or something.
The gun came with a single magazine. It is, in reality, a Mec-Gar .38 Super mag with the feed lips trimmed. The follower is the same, and this caused issues at first. Until it’s broken in a bit, the follower trips the slide stop a little early. The problem is that the shelf on the follower is about a 32nd of an inch too high. This causes the slide stop to engage early, but not completely. After 150 rounds the problem solved itself, but the slide has a burr where the slide stop peened it. The reason this happens is .38 Super is a tiny bit bigger in case diameter than the 22 TCM. So the follower comes up just a hair higher.
This target was shot at 10 yards. Two magazines, rapid, brass for scale. Yes, it’s a zombie. My daughter picked it.
Ok, so I did drag out the chronograph. Armscor says their proprietary 22 TCM hits 2000fps out of a 4.25 barrel and maybe it does if you test your ammo in Nevada in August. Or if you let a round simmer a bit in a hot chamber. I had exactly one round break 2000 and it was sitting in the barrel for 5 minutes after a rapid string. There are two flavors of TCM ammo available commercially, Armscor Precision and Armscor USA. In my testing, I found them to be the same thing. The brass, primers, projectiles, and powder all appear identical, and the average velocities were so close as to make no difference. For what it’s worth, the Armscor USA branded ammo chronographs out a bit more consistently in my samples.
Low 1853 fps
High 2072 fps
Average 1932 fps
Extreme Spread 219 fps
Once the extractor was tuned, it ran beautifully. The thunderous boom and insignificant recoil are joyous, and you have 17 of those before you reload. It feels great and is accurate. I was shooting 12 Gauge and .410 shells at seven yards with ease. The zombie target below was shot rapid at 15 yards, off hand. I also took a couple 50 yard shots on milk jugs and at 4 inch dots. Jugs explode, and I do mean explode. So does fruit. And cinder blocks. So did the buzzard that was harassing my chicken coop. (Not as violently as the rest, but muscle and organ tissue are more durable.)
The grips suck. The sights… suck. Ammo availability sucks.
Mine came with an under-tensioned extractor. This lead to my first box being a string of FTEs and shouted profanities. I shot an email to Armscor regarding the FTE issue and received a phone call the next day. They gave me several things to try and then advised me to send in the gun. They were very helpful, very polite, and very prompt. And I ignored their advice.
I was not about to ship my new gun off to Pahrump without trying to tune the extractor myself. Now, this should be done with an extractor tensioner. You should use a gauge or something to make sure you are doing it right. You should just send it to the factory, or take it to your local gunsmith.
All that said, I pulled it out, stuck it 1/3rd of the way back in, and gave it a tug with the curve. Don’t try this at home, kids, it’s not the recommended method. It is pretty damned effective though, and the gun has run like a champ ever since. If you ignore my warnings and fiddle with your own extractor, remember that it’s a spring. You can add or relieve tension by bending it ever so slightly in one direction or the other. But seriously, don’t do it. If you get it wrong, you can weaken it, and cause a break. You only get so many tries before you weaken it to uselessness.
And for the price ($742 MSRP, $575 street) on this thing, and I only get one magazine?
What do I love?
It will set off Tannerite.