Rock Island Armory has released a convertible .22 TCM/9mm package. Calling it the capital letter-laden TCM TAC Ultra FS Combo, it’s not much fun say when you’re telling people on the range what it is. But it’s worth trying that string of letters because this pistol is a hell of a lot of fun to shoot.
For Rock Island Armory, the 1911 is nothing new. They cover every base in John Browning’s versatile platform’s aside from high-end custom guns. RIA makes smaller 1911s, larger 1911s, single stacks, double stacks, tactical, target and EDC pistols. If that’s all this pistol was, it would be a good gun, but not a particularly interesting one. But by chambering it in .22TCM, well, as they say, things just got interesting.
At first glance, I’d have guessed that .22 TCM is really a 9X19 or .38 Super case necked down to accommodate a .22. And, dimensionally, that’s a pretty good guess (but an incorrect one).
The .22TCM round is in fact a 5.56 NATO case cut way down and then topped with a .224 caliber round. It’s not a skinny 9, it’s a stubby 5.56.
That combination moves a tiny 40 grain round at a zippy 2,000fps from a five-inch barreled pistol. That’s screaming fast, but of course, it’s a very light round. When we look at the muzzle energy of the .22 TCM, we see that it’s right there next to most loads for the 9X19, producing 380 ft/lbs when fired from a full-sized pistol.
For those of you familiar with FN’s 5.7X28 cartridge, this may sound familiar. The relatively obscure FN round has in-flight ballistics very similar to the .22 TCM. The FN 5.7 actually gives up a bit of muzzle velocity and energy to the .22 TCM, with similarly weighted bullets.
Right now, Armscor — the owner or Rock Island Armory — is the only maker of .22 TCM ammunition, and one variety at that; the 40gr JHP. So when it comes to the terminal ballistics of the 22 TCM, you get what you get with that one round. Of course, given the components the .22 TCM is made from, seasoned hand-loaders could turn out some interesting recipes, with very different terminal results.
But you have to ask yourself, why? Why was this round created in the first place? What gap does it fill? Realistically, I’m not sure, but it provides alternatives to other commonly available cartridges. From a pistol, 2,000fps is twice as fast as a .22LR, but that energy is eaten up with such a light projectile.
Would it make an acceptable defensive round? Absolutely. But there are better, more commonly available rounds for that task. For hunting it would be acceptable for only the lightest skinned game, maybe as big as a coyote at fairly close range. So what’s the point?
From shooting the RIA TCM TAC Ultra 1911, the point is that it’s a hell of a lot of fun for anyone who gets their hands on one. The Rock Island Convertible is 1/10th of an ounce heavier than the original Colt Government 1911 in .45ACP, but delivers 70% of the recoil of the 9X19 NATO round in the same gun.
Although it produces an impressive fireball and is every bit as loud as its bigger bore cousins, the TCM TAC Ultra FS practically eliminates recoil with the .22 TCM round. Shooting this gun at three different ranges over the testing period, I got quite a few people to try it out. The reaction was always the same; surprise at how loud it was, and an even bigger shock at how easy it is to shoot.
One small-statured woman who showed up shooting .38 SPL +P rounds from a Smith & Wesson Airweight J-frame told me that she’d love the gun for everyday carry. Her reasoning? It was easy for her to shoot and shoot fast. And it’s big enough that she could put it anywhere in her purse and never lose it. I found her argument compelling, if not comical, but I got her point. The gun really is fun to shoot, and that 10-round magazine tends to empty awfully fast.
Part of the reason is the round, but a lot of that is due to the platform. The single stack 1911 has aggressively checkered G10 scales, with a thumb cut out so that I just barely have to shift my grip to hit the checkered magazine release.
The frame and slide are parkerized, and there isn’t anything shiny on the gun. The whole thing is a chunk of dark, dull grey. With an MSRP of $891, it’s not a particularly expensive gun, especially considering the two barrels you get with it.
With all of the Philippines-made firearm’s features, something has to give at the “value” price level. In this case, that something is the finish. There’s really nothing wrong with it, it’s simple and unadorned. I’m sure a GI carrying a 1911 marked “Colt” on it into the Philippines would have recognized and been grateful for that parkerized finish some 70 years ago.
But it’s a little too easy to wear. Through shooting, the brass marked up the finished just behind the ejection port. Careful scrubbing with a brass and then nylon brush removed most of the marking, but not all. Little marks, like underneath the thumb safety where it rests on the frame, appeared quickly and are permanent. This is a fun gun, but not a show pistol.
The slide-to-frame fit is acceptable, but just. There’s clearly some slop in the fit. Shake the gun and you can hear it. Push the frame around and you can feel it. And just look at the frame at any point on the slide and you can clearly see it.
Pull the muzzle end away from the frame and the gap grows quite a bit. That said, it’s about the same level of fit I find on the Colt M1911 currently issued to members of the USMC. I bet Uncle Sugar paid a lot more for those guns, too.
The back strap is well checkered and the front strap has five deep vertical serrations cut into it. I appreciate the front strap texturing, but the serrations aren’t quite even at the ends. Being a little OCD, that drives me a bit crazy.
The pistol sports a skeletonized hammer, and the ambidextrous thumb safety snaps on and off easily and surely. The steel trigger is lined as well, and all of the controls are the same dark flat grey as the rest of the gun.
The 4140 steel frame accommodates a full-length rail. That gives the gun a no-nonsense, squared-off look and it also adds a bit weight up front as well. That certainly helps to keep the front sight on target shooting an already light-recoiling round. The magazine well is slightly beveled and I never had any issue either loading or dropping mags on the TCM TAC Ultra FS.
As for the magazines themselves, the pistols ships with two 10-round sticks. Ten rounds are the maximum capacity for both the .22 TCM and 9X19 configurations, but there’s a clear difference between the two.
In 9X19, the magazines are fairly stiff, but not too terribly difficult to load. In .22 TCM, with a base difference of only .015”, it’s an entirely different story. None of the younger or smaller shooters who tried to load the .22 TCM mags were able to cram all 10 rounds in. Even larger, experienced shooters had a hard time with it.
In almost every case, that last round was loaded by getting it partly in, then banging the magazine on a hard surface to get it to sit all the way in the magazine. It was pretty annoying, but thankfully, that was the most annoying thing about this pistol.
Atop a tri-topped cut 4140 steel slide sits an LPA ramp-style adjustable two-dot rear site and a red fiber-optic front sight. Although most of the pistol has a tactical look to it, the sights themselves are much more at home on a target gun, which is really what you’re most likely to do with this pistol, especially when loaded with .22 TCM. The slide has large, deep serrations both fore and aft.
Withe the .22 TCM barrel and spring installed, that slide is so easy to manipulate that new shooters, the weak-handed, the arthritic or even one-handed shooters can manipulate it well. It’s so light that, holding gun in my right hand, I can simply reach up and walk my fingers back across the top of the slide to rack the gun, and then release it with the heavily textured slide lock/release. There’s just nothing to that spring.
The trigger pull is a little mushy prior to the break, and broke at 5 pounds. The reset is very short, but a little light. Nothing “broke like glass” but it also wasn’t the least bit distracting or troublesome to work with. Plus, that heavy front end kept the muzzle in place, giving an OK trigger some wiggle room.
When it came to shooting, the TCM TAC Ultra FS ran well, but experienced a few failures to completely return to battery. As usual, I sprayed Rogue American Apparel’s Gun Oil into the gun prior to testing and I had 300 rounds of Armscor .22 TCM ammo to put through the gun along with 200 rounds of Armscor 9mm.
Starting with the .22 TCM, I didn’t have any issues until after 200 rounds. At that point, I started to see the gun return only 90% into battery, requiring just a tiny push with my thumb to complete the cycle. The closer I got to 300, the more often this happened.
Guessing this was an issue with fouling, I picked up another 50 rounds, bore snaked and re-lubed the gun and ran that box through as well. After the quick range clean, the issue disappeared. Swapping the barrels and spring, I ran 500 rounds of 9mm through the gun with only one failure to return to battery and that one happened fairly early in the testing.
I used the provided Armscor ammunition (with the one failure), as well as JHP rounds from Remington and FMJs and XTP rounds from Cap Arms. The one failure to fully return to battery was the only issue I had in the 500 rounds of 9mm. I usually deduct a lot of points for any lack of reliability, but this gun was jut so fun to shoot that I actually had to look back at my range notes to remember the rounds that failed to return to battery.
When it comes to accuracy, the Rock Island TCM TAC Ultra FS scores a solid “pretty good.” In .22 TCM, my five-shot groups at 25 yards off bags averaged 1.8”. When switching barrels, the groups opened up to 2.0 inches on average using Armcor’s 9mm rounds. The best round tested, the CapArms147gr XTP 9mm cartridge, brought it right back to 1.8”.
I really enjoy my Wilson Combat 1911 in 9mm, but I have to say that shooting this 1911 in .22 TCM is a hoot. If this were my gun, I’d probably keep chambered it in 9mm, but would always be looking forward a range day to shoot that fast little round with all the sound and none of the recoil.
As a plus, even though Armscor is the only maker of the caliber, a 50-round box can still be had all over the internet for only around $20, and I can find them at my local Cabelas for not much more than that. All in all, this is a versatile, featured-filled gun at a very reasonable price.
Specifications: Rock Island Armory TCM TAC Ultra FS
Caliber: 22 TCM / 9mm
Capacity: 10 Rounds
Sights: Front Dovetail Fiber-Optic Front Sight
Rear: LPA MPS1-Type Adjustable Rear Sight
Weight Unloaded: 2.35 lbs / 1.07 kg
Length: 8.75 inch / 222.25 mm
Height: 5.5 inch / 139.7 mm
Frame: 4140 Steel, Parkerized
Slide: 4140 Steel Parkerized
Barrel Length: 5 inch / 127 mm (6 Grooves)
Trigger Pull Weight: 4 – 6 lbs / 181 – 2.72 kg
Ratings (out of fives stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
Overall the TCM TAC Ultra FS has blocky, tactical look…not what I generally prefer in a 1911. At the back end, where the controls are, nothing really flows together. No smooth lines, although nothing cuts or presses painfully into the hand either. The overall finish is well done enough at this price point with a dull parkerized finish. That finish will certainly show some wear.
Customization * * * * *
It’s a 1911. One that let you swap springs and barrels for two calibers without any tools. Like most 1911s, you can change just about anything you want on this gun, and there’s plenty of rail space for accessories.
Reliability * * *
In 9mm, the TCM TAC Ultra FS would get 4.5 stars because of that single failure to return to battery. The intermittent fouling hiccups in .22 TCM bring the score down a bit more.
Accuracy * * * *
In either caliber, this gun shot as well as or better than many guns with significantly higher price tags.
Overall * * * *
The TCM TAC Ultra FS isn’t a star, but it’s no middle-of-the-road 1911 either. The fun of the shooting experience and value of the interchangeable barrels make this 1911 a step ahead. Rock Island Armory surprised me with this one.