Back in December, I traded my Kimber Stainless Pro Carry II for a Rock Island Armory .22TCM/9mm 1911A2. I had initially been looking for an Officers or Commander-sized 9mm 1911, but this one just looked to good to pass up. Here’s my initial impressions of the weapon. After a month of living with the thing, and making a few important changes (for me), here’s my review of the pistol.

It turns out, this is one of the first runs of the TCM, according to the guys in Nevada, with a low serial number. The pistol had been worked on a bit before I got it. The previous owner polished the slide flats, giving it a Kimber Eclipse kind of look. (Good thing I live in the desert, or I’d have to be at this consistently to combat rust.) Fit and finish, otherwise, is better than the usual RIA Gi models, not as good as the higher end models from Ruger, Springfield, or Kimber.

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It came with Hogue wrap around grips with the finger grooves the first owner had dropped on it. Those came off as soon as I could get to it; I hate finger groove grips (your mileage may vary, and whatever god bless you for it, but I hate them) and the only real choice was the VZ G10 grips for it. Apparently, grips for the Para P-14 will also work, but might need work to get the grip screw holes to line up properly. I didn’t feel like dealing with that, so it was either modify the Hogue (still an option, I suppose…) or these.

If you do the VZ Grips, you may need to get a Dremel out and do some work. The tabs to cover the inner workings stick out a bit. I’m left handed, so they don’t bite me, but a few rounds shooting right handed showed the tabs are sharp and still out a bit under the safety switch. I’m going to sand them down to fit more comfortably, eventually. These grips flattened the cross-section of the grip so even my wife finds it not uncomfortable; without the finger grooves, I can index my digits more naturally. The result was a much clearer picture of the pistol’s capabilities.

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Not taking my time, a two inch group, spot on the target, is possible at 10 yards in 9mm; point shooting, old-school style, gives me similar accuracy, one or two handed. The groups are about half an inch tighter with .22TCM, but fall about two inches low inside 10 yards. Out to 25 yards, taking my time and unsupported, the rounds in 9mm drop about two inches from point of aim in a 2-3″ group. In .22TCM, it’s similar groupings, but with the right elevation at that range.

Part of the reason this was possible is an exceedingly good trigger, that broke at just a hair under 4 lbs., according to the scale of one of the competition guys at the indoor range I was at that first day. It really is a remarkably high-quality trigger and hammer combo.

The magazine accommodates 17 rounds of 9mm or 18 rounds of .22 TCM (Tuason Craig Magnum) and this pistol came with a flush fit, flat bottomed magazine. It’s good quality machining, properly finished so that the magazines slip in and out smoothly and function well. I’ve ordered another.

The reliability of the TCM with the 9mm barrel is tops. I’ve had one malfunction, and that was me knocking the safety on by accident in 600 rounds. The .22 TCM barrel, however, gave me two failures to extract the round from the breech in 150 rounds. This seems to be a common issue if you use the 9mm barrel regularly; the extractor spring isn’t strong enough. A quick email to Rock Island and they sent me a replacement extractor assembly for free. This supposedly fixes the issue. (The Rock Island has a lifetime warranty. Customer service, on a side note, has been pretty good with Rock Island so far.)

The wide body A2 is similar to the Para-Ordinance 1911A2, but the TCM is just a bit off from even Rock Island’s A2s for the grip screw placement. Also, it doesn’t seem to like a few of the standard 1911 holsters (a big surprise to me.) It will not lock into my Blackhawk SERPA for the 1911 Government model. I’ve yet to try others as this thing is heavy at about 41 oz. in 9mm (probably about 39 with a mag of the TCM.) It’s a bag/car gun, right now.

As to the .22TCM round. We chronographed it with an average of 2050fps in a 40 grain hollow point. That’s about 375 ft-lbs at the muzzle, which places it firmly in the 9mm range of energy. Good for self-defense? There’s plenty of chortling about small calibers and self-defense from the “if it don’t start with a four…” crowd, but statistics show just about every pistol cartridge until you hit the 10mm/.41 magnum range requires 2.25 rounds or so to incapacitation. This is a super accurate round, so shot placement and follow-up shots should be a breeze. I certainly found this to be one of the easiest guns to shoot accurately I’ve fired. And you’ve got 18 in the mag…

As for the longevity of the round, Rock Island has a new .22 TCM 9R round that will fit in a conversion barrel for the Glock 17. As with the TCM, you use the same magazines the pistol normally uses. They also have a bolt gun that uses the 17 round pistol mags coming, a single stack version of the 1911, and a few other small manufacturers are toying with semi-auto carbines for the .22 TCM. I’d say the chance of it sticking around is on par with the 5.7x28mm, which it is a definite match for, if maybe slightly superior to, FN’s civilian SS197 ammunition. I’ve so far been able to find the ammo reliably in several shops in Albuquerque, and it’s been in stock online for about $17 a box whenever I’ve checked, thus far. And if you can’t find it? It’s a 9mm.

Is the Rock Island worth the $600-750 price tag? Yes, unequivocally.

UPDATE: I did buy a new magazine for the Rock Island TCM a few weeks ago, and after ordering the wrong one — which Armscor didn’t just replace with the correct one, they refunded my money because of the error — I finally encountered an issue that turns up on some reviews and boards regarding the gun: it locks the slide on the last round. you can hit the slide stop and fire the last round with no issue, but it will lock open as if empty with one round left.

The issue was easy to diagnose putting the mags side by side. The follower on the new mag is flat and engages too early; the older one is shaved at the corner just a millimeter or so (I’ve yet to measure it), but that allows the weapon to function properly. It should be a few minute fix with a file, if it really bothers you.

So I got a hold of a Rock Island 1911A2 .22TCM today and had a chance to take it straight to the range for a break in. I only got 100 rounds of .22TCM and a box of 50 9mm through the gun, but it was enough to get some initial impressions on the weapon.

First, the look of the pistol is very nice. Unlike the usual natty RIA finish (very practical for a workaday gun), the TCM is beautiful with a nice black to the receiver, the underside and the flat top of the slide. The sides are polished and look a lot like the Kimber Eclipse, giving it a nice black on silvery gray two-tone. The fit and finish are premium quality — easily on par with much more expensive guns. It is a wide-frame, double-stack 1911. More on that in a moment. There are adjustable sights that work well, but a white or red dot on the front sight would have been a plus.




The grips. I know a lot of people like the wrap-around finger groove thing — I think it sucks. And blows. At the same time. Some complain about the look, but the fit was fine — they just make the gun a bit too wide for me, and the finger groove crap always messes with my natural hold on a 1911. There are almost no options for the pistol because the grip screws are just a smidge different from the Para-Ordinance A2. You can use the P-14 grips, but you have to dremel a bit on the screw holes, apparently. There are VZ Grips for the pistol, but they are available only in black through Armscor. I consider this a bit of a “lose” for the gun, but not enough to naysay buying one.

The upside to the double stack 1911: 17 rounds of 9mm or 18 rounds of .22TCM. The pistol is heavy — it’s not a great choice for concealed carry, but it isn’t a bad choice for backpacking, open carry, or the like. The magazines fit well, and mine functioned flawlessly. Another downside — it doesn’t seem to fit in a standard 1911 holster, or at least not the SERPA I have. Weight is about 41 oz., so about a quarter again heavier than, say, the Kimber Pro Carry II’s 35ish oz.

Function: Oh, but this is a great gun. For the $600 or so you’ll shell out for the TCM, you get one of the single best triggers I’ve used on a 1911, which means better than just about anything not costing you $2000+ (and even on par with some of those.) It broke at 3.5 lbs. nice a crisply with no creep at all. Reset is quick and loud enough that if you watch some video, you will hear it. The trigger and hammer are skeletonized, and there is a nice beavertall grip safety. The weapon ran all of the 150 through it with no malfunctions, save for me accidentally putting the safety on while shooting. (Lefty…)

Accuracy: 2 inches at 15 yards, free hand, taking my time in 9mm and .22. Better at 10 yards. The groups were amazing, but I consistently shot a bit low due to the finger groove grips. (Seriously…hate these things.) I suspect I can do better in another trip or two.

Ammunition: Armscor’s the only people doing .22TCM, just like FN was humping their customers on 5.7x28mm for the longest time. Seriously, Armscor, here’s your winning friggin’ proposition — do an AR in .22TCM. Yesterday. Why, you ask? Because you get the same performance as the 5.7mm out of a standard-size grip handgun. The rounds I shot were chronographed at 2000-2060fps by one of the other shooters who frequents the range. With a 40 gr. bullet, that’s about 350 ft lbs of energy, or the low end of 9mm. With almost zero recoil — the 1911A2 weighs enough you get less recoil than the FiveSeven, and more accuracy because the weight actually make your hand move less and the trigger is lightyears better than the FN’s. (And I love the FiveSeven — carried one for a decade.)

Even better, if you can’t find .22TCM (as low as $17/box online, usually $22-25 in town), you can swap the barrel and recoil spring with ease in about a minute, and shoot 9mm. I did not try hollowpoints this time out, just crappy Federal 115 gr. white box stuff. No issues. It shot well with little recoil. Armscor — make some kind of AR or carbine that uses the pistol mags and a swappable barrel and you have a winner. Just do it. Yesterday!

The two big complaints I have are the obvious grip screw, hard to find alternate grips thing, and the lack of an indicator dot on the front sight. Otherwise, this is a better functioning 1911 than the two Rock Island .45s my ex-wife had, better than the CDP 9mm and the Stainless Pro Carry II from Kimber, better than the Springfield Armory 1911s I’ve shot (with the exception of a friend’s Yost-Bnitz modified Springfield.) It’s got a superb stock trigger, good sights that a bit of paint on the front post would make great, CZ levels of ammunition in the magazine, and comparable accuracy to my CZ-85 (which is excellent.) Fit, finish, and frills are all high quality for budget 1911 prices. And you can shoot two different calibers.

So is it worth it? Not just yes, but hell yes.