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By Sean Nolan

It’s like holding onto a fistful of thunder. Wrapped in the world’s most comfortable cactus. Yeah, I know. We’ve taken you down a similar road before. But there have been a quite few changes at Rock Island Armory in the past twelve months, and their Ultra MS Combo 1911 is one of them. RIA had introduced a single stack 1911 chambered for their their 22TCM. I picked up their MS model, (or Commander sized, if you don’t fear Colt’s lawyers). I thought it was the most fun gun I had ever owned. I was wrong . . .

Gun Pic

This gun is the most fun. It fires both RIA’s 22TCM round as well as standard 9mm parabellum. Hence the ‘combo’ in its name.

I’ll be doing this review a little differently than most. I’m leaving this gun bone stock for the next year while putting every bit of ammo I can get my hands on through it. I’ll be testing the long-term durability and quality of the gun, because so many people insist that a gun at such an affordable price can’t be any good. During that time, I’ll be posting updates about this gun, any problems, any warranty work, and a round count and whatever else I put it through.

There are several important differences between this gun and the one I reviewed last year. But what shines the most is one thing that didn’t change much at all. The price.

Last year, I spent a little under six bills on my double stack and I found several aspects wanting. I loved the gun, but I knew there were things I would have to change if I was going to enjoy shooting it fully. This year, I spent a little under six bills again. However, this time I found the weapon to be much improved. Better sights, better grips and a flared magwell add a great deal of value for the price of this gun. And sure, it’s chambered in a proprietary wildcat round. But the folks at Rock Island took that into consideration too, and included a conversion to 9mm that consists of a second barrel and recoil spring.

In the same price range as other gun makers’ entry level GI models, the Rock Island Ultra series includes upgrades such as a commander-style hammer, a nice wide beavertail and sights that are actually useful.

I’m not a 1911 purist. I appreciate the history of the design and may break down and get a GI one day. But I have no problem favoring modern convenience over a sharp-tanged grip safety. And GI grips? Cheapo plastic, both spikey and slick at the same time? No thanks. This is a much better option.


When I unwrapped the gun to inspect it at the gun shop when it came in, the first thing I noticed was just how much those G10 bit into my hands (in a good way). This sucker was drenched in oil, but there was no way I would have dropped it by accident.

The rear of the grips is a row of blades, while the front third of the grip is like a pincushion. The slightest squeeze is enough to leave sharp impressions. Sound painful? It isn’t. It’s the order and careful design in how every edge lays that not only prevents the edges from cutting, but also guides the gun and the checkered mainspring housing into your grip.

The front strap on this model isn’t checkered, with only a slight serration. The pincushion front third of the grip panels, however, function like a bed of nails. Hold on, and the gun stays exactly where it’s supposed to be. And the scallop to the mag release is perfectly smooth, so it will not wear down your safety callus. And down there at the bottom is a flared magwell. It appears to work just fine, though I admit I’m not a competitive shooter and haven’t practiced much with it yet.

You may have also noticed the checkering on the slide stop and extended safety. That checkering is aggressive and might require a lesson in not riding the slide stop for newbies. Otherwise said noobs might ride their thumb on the damned thing. I can hear it now: “Uncle Sean, your gun isn’t working.” In fact the only problems in function I have had with this gun were the result of exactly that. Riding the slide stop prevents the last round hold open, and rubs the slide, slowing it down and causing stovepipes.

I found the edges on the safety to be a bit rough…they could have been relieved just a touch more. But it’s a pretty common thing to find, and they will wear smooth over time.


There really is nothing like a good fiber optic sight in that magical hour before dusk. Plenty of diffused light to pick up. This is another of the improvements over RIA’s standard model. That fiery red-orange light pipe pull in all that light and directs it right at your pupils.

I’m cross dominant, a righty who shoots off his left eye. I grew up shooting rifles with one eye closed, and having multiple instructors in my childhood telling me to learn to shoot left handed. I also grew up shooting Weaver. Now, to utilize my left eye, I shoot isosceles and just move the gun or cock my head an inch or so. With a blazingly bright fiber dot out there, it makes sight acquisition easier than ever. I can’t say it’s improved my shooting, but I can pick up those sights instantly.

Sights Pic

The rear sight is the same adjustable sight as on previous models. It’s simple, it works, and it’s easy to adjust. Which is handy when you can fire two rounds from one gun with different points of impact.

And this is where my one gripe with the gun comes in. The one thing I want to change right now, is to add another slide. I want — I crave — a slide kitted up for the 9mm barrel with fixed sights. The reason that Rock Island doesn’t sell it that way already is because another complete slide would increase the cost of the gun quite a bit. But it’s the first thing I will be doing when my year is up. Thankfully, there are a couple places that stock the parts I need at pretty affordable prices.


One of the other things I love about the gun is the adjustable trigger. It’s not pull weight adjustable – it snaps at a sparkling clean 4.5lbs. The adjustable trigger stop allows you to limit the trigger’s overtravel keeping your reset as short as you like it. I have tested this, and it seems strong and effective. This may work loose after time, but we’ll find out.


The bark of the 22TCM is no little pop, it roars with an echo that carries for miles. The round has only been around for about half a decade, and commercially available for a little less than that. And yes, it’s proprietary. The 22TCM is only made by Armscor, who also happen to make the only pistols chambered in it.

With this kind of monopoly over a caliber, you might think that ammo would be hard to come by, expensive or in some other way problematic to acquire. And for most proprietary round, it is a very long road from wildcat status to the shelf at Academy or Wally World.

22TCM on the left, 9mm on the right


The 22TCM round was originally conceived by Fred Craig of Atomitronx, and fully developed with Armscor. Originally called the 22 Micromagnum, it’s now more economically called the 22TCM for “Tuason Craig Micromagnum”. The Tuason in this deal is the family that owns and runs Armscor and specifically the man in charge, Martin Tuason. Armscor has the round produced in factories in the Philippines as well as here in the US in order to ensure a steady supply of the cartridge. It’s sold online through most ammo suppliers now, as well as Armscor’s own online pro shop, Advanced Tactical. It’s even been spotted in some Cabela’s stores recently.

Magazines for the Ultra Combo are pricey at $40 a pop. There are several 38 Super magazines on the markets from makers like McCormick, Wilson Combat and such that I hear will function “most of the time” with the TCM round. But if you’re going to pay about the same price, you may as well buy a mag that was designed fro the round. Any full size 9mm 1911 magazines will work when you’ve dropped in the 9mm barrel, but more on that later.

I was disappointed that I only received one magazine with the gun. In today’s market, most gun companies are providing at least two mags. (From online scuttlebutt, RIA is starting to follow suit with other calibers, but the TCM mags aren’t standard mags, so for now they only come with one.)


But how does it perform? Based on my sample gun it performs wonderfully. The round pushes a 40 grain JHP round at roughly 2000fps. From this gun and its 4.25 inch barrel, it has been chronographing at a 1950fps average. With an average muzzle energy of 340lbs/ft we’re looking at 9mm levels of energy.

You may be questioning exactly what this is good for, and with good reason. I can hear “Solution looking for a problem!” coming from the comments section already. In the next post I do on this gun, I’ll be exploring the 22TCM round and its capabilities along with lots of 9mm fired from the gun, too. Expect wet, messy fun with things being penetrated while others explode.



Caliber: 22TCM/9×19
Capacity: 10+1
Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
Overall Length: 8 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Weight: Roughly two pounds
MSRP: $835 (retail is usually around $600 or less)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
I may have been able to tighten up the above group more, but the spread is all me. A little tweaking with the adjustable rear sight and I’d be right on center. Being able to ring steel at 50 yards is nice. It shoots fast and flat. This thing is like a lead-based laser beam.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
It’s quite simply a 1911. Browning got it right over a century ago. The beavertail and G10 grips are perfect for keeping your hand high and safe and secure.

Reliability: * * * * *
It just runs. You’d expect it to do so while shooting the only factory ammo that’s made for it. But when you consider that this is a fairly new, bottlenecked snowflake round being fired from what is often considered to be the most finicky platforms, that’s actually pretty impressive.

Trigger: * * * * *
It’s a series 70 1911. It’s crisp, clean and lacking any of the lawyer gear inside. The only way to make a series 70 trigger suck is to do it on purpose.

Customize This: * * *
There is no rail, and there isn’t much you can, or actually need to do to customize the Ultra Combo. There is of course a plethora of 1911 parts out there Replace and improve as you will. However, in the world of 1911’s, this is pretty much standard. Rock Island offers this same size gun in a railed version, if that’s your thing.

Overall: * * * *
I would like two slides for a convertible caliber gun. The points of impact are far enough apart that adjusting the sights is needed past 10 yards or so when you make the switch. But this would drive the cost of the gun up to a point where you could simply buy two base model RIA 1911s. It really is a great gun, in a great caliber. Well, two great calibers. Watch this space for a look at the 9mm side of things.

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  1. I’ve been on the fence for one of these for a while, thanks for making my choice easier. P.S. Sean, you have some lovely fingernails.

  2. I have one of the double stacks and love it.

    You can now purchase reloading dies and, I think, cases for the 22TCM if you want to roll your own and / or are nervous about your wildcat becoming an orphan someday.

    Re energy vs 9mm.. Kinetic energy is 0.5 m v^2, while momentum (and thus recoil) is m v. So a lighter projectile will give less recoil, go faster and have a flatter trajectory, than a heavier projectile with the same kinetic energy. Besides less recoil that also means the 22TCM uses a very light recoil spring, making it much easier to rack the slide.

    All of which by way of saying, one place I see the 22TCM is as a serious defensive round for older, weaker or more recoil-sensitive shooters, without sacrificing energy.

    • I have some ideas on how to test and show the different energy transfer between the TCM and the 9mm. That will be coming up in a later article.

      The only thing I see about it not being defensive friendly for some folks, is the gun size. Small folks might not be able to conceal a Commander sized gun and the TCM requires a 4 inch barrel for proper burn.

      Thank you for the added information, John. I really do appreciate it.

      • Given the high velocity of the TCM I suspect this will make it armor penetrating. It would be nice to see it tested against a level III vest.

        • There have already been test done on level 3 armor and it didn’t penetrate. I believe it is on YouTube. I have two of the double stacked models and the rifle they are a blast! Literally and figuratively!

    • I really enjoyed testing and writing it.

      Just wait until you get a chance to shoot one. After I did the review last year, I knew several people on the.fence about it. This year, with all new production guns (except the carbine) being 9mm combos, all but one of those has ordered a TCM.

  3. The .22TCM is interesting. I’ve seen that it’s ballistically superior to the 5.7mm from a pistol. Because of that, and Armscor’s well priced 1911’s, they have peaked my interest.

    I’ll wait and see how well the new .22TCM9R cartridge Armscor is making to fit in 9mm magazines for guns like Glock is going to be received. Overall though, it seems like Armscor is doing good business and making better decisions than Colt has been.

    • I expect the 9r to do well. It runs in standard 9mm magazines rather than requiring a modified design. I think Martin said we will see Glock conversions this year, XD next year, then either M&P or SIG P250/P320.

      You know how the 9r was developed? They loaded a TCM with the round inverted. It fit in a normal 9mm mag and functioned.

      And I agree… Colt could have brought back the Snakes and stayed afloat… or dropped prices to compete. That Prancing Pony on an entry priced gun could have done wonders as well.

    • I’m curious about how it would do from a 16″ carbine barrel, esp. compared to 5.7mm. Usually, light and fast rounds make more use of those extra inches. A Sub-2000 chambered in .22 TCM would be interesting.

    • Not many bullet choices for a reloader. Also, handloaded the 5.7 does much better than non-Elite factory ammo. Not saying it ain’t better than a 5-7 for many people though.

    • It’s giggle inducing. When I have to go to a range, I make sure everybody has ears on. I don’t wish tinnitus on anybody.

    • Yeah but I view that as a feature, not a bug. Especially when introducing a newcomer to shooting. It makes a great intermediate confidence-building step between .22LR and larger calibers.

      Start with a Ruger Mark III. Little to no flash, little bang, almost no felt recoil. Small hole in the paper. Confidence builds. What’s all the fuss about?

      Then move on to the 22TCM. B-I-G boom and fireball, but still almost no recoil, and a small hole in the paper. More smiles. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Let’s sort out the flinching.

      Then move to a nice .357 Magnum shooting .38 Spl. Boom, flash, and a bit more recoil. Larger holes in the paper.

      And so forth.

    • I have some 140 grain 40 SW reloads that made me flinch from the bark. Recoil was nill. So much fun!

  4. Thanks for the review. I was hoping for some numbers on the accuracy and reliability. What group size did it shoot at what distance in what position using what ammo?
    On reliability, how many round did you shoot between cleanings, and what, if any malfunctions where there, and did you try different ammunition or different loadings?
    Thanks, JWT

    • I was wondering where my range report went. If Dan doesn’t add it, I’ll put it up on my blog tomorrow.

      I have just over 800 through it now. I still haven’t cleaned it. Mixed 9mm and 22TCM. Best group at seven yards rested is just under 2 inches. Off hand at 50 I headshotted my steel 50/50, center m10/10.

      Oh.. and there is only one TCM commercial load. I’ll be going into the 9mm end in the part 2.

        • I can’t speak for the single stack, but my double stack – in the hands of a SWAT guy I !et at the range, not me – was putting entire magazines into nickel-sized holes at 10 yards.

  5. Yeah this is cool. BTW I HAVE seen 22tcm on the shelf at Cabelas-and it was affordable. I’d still rather have a Kel-tec PMR(for a fun fireball)…

    • FWW,
      I’ve seen it on the shelf at a few places locally, but usually running 30$ a box. I always ask about it, though without buying it, and have found that their source is the same as mine. Either Advanced Tactical, or Ammo Supply Warehouse. Or in the case of the case of ammo I have for this series… supplied by Armscor. Thanks Martin.

      I didn’t mention that in the article, though I should have. Armscor did provide me with ammo. No conflict of interest here for two reasons. One, Armscor is the only source, and they provided me both of the current offerings. Both are the same recipe, but one is loaded in the Philippines, The other in the US. The second reason, is that Martin insisted that I be honest, just like Farago does.

      I’ll have more on the ammo soon.

  6. As accurate and flat shooting as that .22 tcm is this thing would make a great gun to have on your hip around the back 40 or farm for coyotes and groundhogs. All the while still packing plenty of punch for 2 legged vermin… Now to convince my wife I need one!

  7. Interesting. I looked at one of the double stack full size .22tcm/9mms at cabelas but went with the full size 10mm instead. I look forward to seeing how well it holds up. Now to come up with the remaining money to pay off the layaway.

    • That is one of the reasons I’m doing this as a long term series. I want to see how well they hold up over time. RIA has a lifetime warranty, and Martin Tuason is the most enthusiastic company president I’ve ever seen about customer service.

      Going around to other gun forums, you see a lot of people respond to RIA with “You get what you pay for.” And I was somebody who agreed. Until I realized that it takes a 1200$ 1911 to perform as well out of the box as a 500$ Glock. I started paying more attention to the products than the price, and it opened my mind up quite a bit.

      About five years ago, I was another of the RIA haters. Then I started shooting them. And then I started buying them. Now, this could coincide with the improvements that Martin has been making with the company during that same time period, and doesn’t exactly reflect all of the guns they have ever produced. But RIA is making more and more people consider them as “affordable” rather than “cheap”.

      Now to go back to beating the crap out of this thing to see if I get to test out Martin’s CS brags.

    • I have seen it, but thank tou for sharing it here. There are some cast bullets that will work, but at the velocities it reaches, a harder alloy is needed.

      You can also use pulled 22mag bullets, so gold dots are an option as well, though a pricey one.

    • The safety is. The mag and slide releases are both on the left only. So if you are used to using your trigger finger on these… sure.

      I consider the 1911 controls to be payback for Sam Colt making the SAA for lefties.

  8. I’ve had my TCM since 2012 and enjoyed it immensely. There have been some failures to extract caused by case swelling and/or length issues but the gun has always pertormed well. My doublestack came with rather crude hard rubber grips and the lack of options turned me to Hogue wrap-arounds thai are very comfortable and secure without shredding my baby-soft hands. The 9mm alternative hasn’t seen much time on my gun’s frame except when a local indoor range banned TCM as “too hot” but it shot well and fairly accurately. You will enjoy your time with this gun!

    • Hi Dave,
      You can get G10 grips over at, Armscor’s online pro-shop. You can also use anything made for the Para double stacks, but you may have to modify the grip screw holes a little bit. The early model TCMs like yours actually came equipped with de-branded surplus Para grips. Also, VZ does make a grip that will fit perfectly.

    • Thanks, Dylan.
      I like the site, and the folks at your forum are top notch. I’m enjoying seeing the community grow.

      Dylan runs, folks. Just click his name up there. There are some pretty talented folks there with information on reloading for the pistols as well as the rifle.

  9. I seen your earlier review on the tcm a while back and was on the fence myself, but finally took the plunge and got myself one on the same day you published this review, had a few FTE on the first 100 rounds but it’s starting to run good now that I’m close to 250 rds I have the full size model and I’m thinking about using it for Self defense and carrying it in my backpack (new Mississippi law lets you carry without permit starts july1) do you think the .22 rd would work (for SD)as I can rapid fire all 18 inside of 4″ since there’s no recoil

    • Hi Jason, sorry I didn’t get back sooner.

      I’m on the fence about that. I’m confident that I could place headshots all day long at self defense ranges. On paper. Against a human, I think I would be going back to center mass. While I have every reason to believe that polluting somebodies cerebellum with 40 grain love would be effective, I’m not as certain on torso. I’m sure it’s just a mental thing for me, with 9mm being more established in this arena, and available in the gun.

      But I also waffle a bit. I’ve seen what the round can do to multiple species. Hard species like ‘dillo, to soft species, like raccoon. I know it will punch through steel like butter, so ribs and sternum are not an issue. And I know that should such an event ever come up, I will be shooting until the threat stops. And that isn’t even taking into consideration that basketball of fire and Odin’s Donkslap of Thunder that would likely send the bad guy packing right off.

      But mine has the 9mm bbl in it, and a mag full of XTPs. I may change my mind after I take a deer or larger feral hog with it. Now, that is all given the choice. If I leave the TCM barrel in the gun, and get a midnight caller, I would feel confident that the round would have the needed effect.

      In your case, I really don’t recommend backpack carry with anything. I figure if you have time to get the gun out of there, you had plenty of time to shoeleather express it out… or plenty of time to make the good shot where caliber doesn’t matter much.

  10. Hi, Sean. Since its proven that this cartridge produces minimal recoil, a pistol equipped with a tri-burst (or full auto) rate could be good for self defense because such pistol firing the TCM can potentially be more controllable hence more accurate. But I guess there may be some legal conflict to civilian use but maybe not to military and law enforcement. Just my honest opinion.

  11. So this has been up for a while, any updates? I’m curious how the 9mm is shooting, I’m trying to keep my caliber (for when I start reloading), but I want to try a 1911 as well. This weapon looks like a good fit.

  12. Sean,

    I’m glad you’re doing a long-term review of the RIA 1911 22TCM/9mm. I haven’t seen nor read any reliability reports on cycling 9mm defensive loads. 22TCM is intriguing from their M22 rifle. It takes the 17-round double-stack mags. Building a defensive/survival system with the M22 & the double-stack 1911 sounds promising, but only if it cycles 9mm hps reliably. Thanks for any info.

  13. Hi, this my first time here and I’m enjoying learning more and more about this new (to me) 22TCM round. I own a older RIA A2 45 acp. I love this weapon. I’m debating between getting a single or double stack 22TCM. My only problem is I have small hands and the A2 grips are a little fat. I took the plastic grips off my A2 and found that the bare metal frame fits my hands very well. So, here’s my question. Does anyone have ideas about making the grip part of the frame slip resistant without increasing the size?

  14. I bought my MS Ultra last September because it was the only Commander sized 9mm RIA had available and I was still trying to find what features on a 1911 worked best for me. I’ve made a couple of minor changes on mine, the first was ditching the Ambi-safety as the right side kept cutting into the top of my hand. A gunsmith friend also rounded the edges of the grip safety after we found that the frame would not accept the aftermarket Ed Brown or Wilson Bulletproof replacements we tried. The only other thing I plan on changing will be the VZ Operator grips, which I find to aggressive unless I’m wearing gloves.

    As far as performance goes I just used it in a 1911 refresher class with Steve Fisher at Ann Arbor Arms with the 9mm barrel installed. When I did my part my $600 RIA held it’s own in a class of mostly Wilson Combat and Nighthawk Custom pistols. I only had one double feed which was caused by the Chip McCormick magazines I was using. I also found that when I tried loading an empty CM mag I had to hold the mag release button down to fully insert the magazine. Steve told me later that was an issue he sees frequently with the CM mags and he recommended using Wilson ETM magazines instead, which I will try if I ever find them in stock.

    Overall I will say this: Yes there are prettier 1911’s out there made to tighter tolerances that are able to shoot better than I can but my RIA is not going anywhere, anytime soon. As for the 22TCM I think it would make a VERY nice varmint pistol. Say a 6″ long slide single stack with a 1/2 rail and a red dot optic? Just a thought.

  15. Just got my TCM back from Pahrump, or rather a new one at no charge. (Love Armscor’s lifetime
    warranty) haven’t had a chance to take it for a walk yet. My old TCM has a problem with FTFs
    due to weak strike on the firing pin in either .22 or 9MM. I called Ivan, got my shipping label and
    the rest is history. BTW, I own 8 other RIA pistols, and they all run well.

  16. I just got my Rock Island tcm and have only 200rds of 9mm and tcm with no issues. I also have a RI 9mm cs that I would love to have a tcm barrel and spring for. I know the 3″ barrel isn’t optimum for the tcm but the cs is a great for cc. Just wondering .

  17. Zimmerman,

    It has been a while since you have mentioned this gun much, even tough it doe some positive mention in your “guns to take to church” you-tube video.

    I recently had a positive reaction to the .22tcm pistol from my daughter (28). She is a very slight build and liked that the slide was easy to cycle due to the light spring. She also rated it very highly for the light recoil. I also mentioned to her that it would address her “over-penetration” concern.

    It seems reasonable that a very light, high velocity, round would loose energy in drywall and other building materials; this is a desirable feature. Are you aware of any construction material penetration testing of the .22tcm round?

    I am also interested in seeing a test of the RIA MApp series in .22tcm, are you planning to test any of those?


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