The .22 TCM: Too Hot To Stop

There is something inside of me that loves it when a gun company does something new and different, even if there isn’t a ‘tactical’ need or demand for it. I like seeing people thinking outside of the box. A lot of the firearms community will take a chance to jump on anything new and just hate it. Look at .30 Super Carry. It was instantly disliked before anyone ever gave it a try. However, Rock Island Armory introduced a new round a few years ago, the .22 TCM.

The .22 TCM wasn’t just a new round that competed with 9mm or 5.56. No. Instead, it was doing something entirely different. The .22 TCM was originally released in both rifle and handgun formats. The .22 TCM handgun was developed for RIA’s M1911 design, and the rifle was a bolt-action system. The rifle never caught on, and to be fair, the pistols didn’t necessarily either.

22 TCM rounds
The little 22 TCM rounds look like someone compacted a .223 round.

Yet the .22 TCM persists. Rock Island Armory wisely chose to ensure their handguns could be easily converted to 9mm. All it takes is a swap of the barrel and recoil spring. This makes life much easier when the ammo is tougher to find. It also bears mentioning that the .22 TCM 9R exists. Rock Island Armory designed several conversions for Glock pistols, but the original .22 TCM was a bit too long. They trimmed the round a hair, and that specific load became the .22 TCM 9R.

What is the .22 TCM good for?

The purpose of the round is up for debate. It’s likely best used as a light game round. It will easily kill coyotes, groundhogs, hogs, and even deer with proper shot placement. It’s a moderate-range round that, from a rifle, likely works well within 100 yards. With a handgun, you probably want to keep your hunting inside of 50 yards, depending on your shooting skills.

TCM stands for Tuason Craig Micromagnum. Martin Tuason is the President of Armscor, which owns RIA, and Frank Craig is a custom gunsmith. The two developed the cartridge together. The overall length is about the same as a .45 ACP, so function in the 1911s wasn’t an issue. Building a custom bolt action rifle seemed only natural with the cartridge due to its speed potential.

22 TCM in mag
The 22 TCM rounds fit just perfectly in the magazines.

The .22 TCM is built to move. Tuason and Craig shortened a 5.56 case and fit it with a .22 caliber projectile. This allows for a nice bottleneck cartridge that can get moving. The .22 TCM weighs 40 grains and can move at around 1,850 to 1,900 feet per second when fired from a 5-inch barrel. If you’re unaware, for a pistol round, that thing is screaming fast.

22 TCM barrel
One of the smarter decisions RIA made was allowing for easy 9mm conversions.

When you toss the .22 TCM in a rifle-length barrel, the velocity amps up to 2,800 feet per second. That’s nuts for such a little round. The .22 TCM joins the ranks of rounds like the .22 Spitfire, the .221 Remington Fireball, and the oft-forgotten .224 Boz. It’s light, fast, and hits with a smack.

To the Range With the .22 TCM

With a Rock Island Armory TCM TAC Ultra Combo and a little .22 TCM, I hit the range. The .22 TCM cartridge looks like someone took a rifle round and used Photoshop to make it look shorter. The proportions are all over the place. Little rounds like the 4.6x30mm look proportional, but the .22 TCM looks, uhm, silly. Yeah, it looks silly. I love it.

22 TCM cartridges
The 22 TCM is an odd duck without a real home.

Rock Island Armory hates brevity, but I don’t, so from now on, the Rock Island Armory TCM TAC FS HS will just be called the TCM TAC. The TCM TAC comes with a 9mm barrel and recoil spring for cheap shooting. The .22 TCM cartridge isn’t terribly expensive. It’s roughly .38 to 40 cents per round. It’s cheaper than you’d think for such a novel design. The gun has 17-round magazines and is predictably a double-stack design.

With the TCM TAC loaded up and ready, I let loose. What I got was a very interesting experience. Have you ever fired a snub nose .357 Magnum? Like a true 1.87-inch barreled design? You get a good bit of flash and concussion, as well as hand-slapping recoil. With the .22 TCM through the TCM TAC, I got two of those experiences.

22 TCM fireball
The .22 TCM creates a huge fireball.

The muzzle flash was absolutely nuts. It was like firing an M44 Mosin more than any handgun. It was also super loud, and there was a noticeable concussion from the barrel. I almost felt like my hair was blowing in the wind. However, the recoil was less than that of a 9mm Luger. Every shot feels like it’s missing something, and that something is recoil.

Slapping Steel

A bright flash, loud boom, and tons of concussions make shooting the gun interesting, and I mean that in a good way. It’s a fascinating experience. The gun barks and yells but doesn’t have much bite. The fast-moving round slaps steel so loudly and sends a gong swinging almost off its rocker. The entire experience is downright amusing and enjoyable.

I took the gun back to 25 yards and later 50 yards. I rested the gun on a table and practiced my accuracy. At 25 yards, I could keep a 6-inch gong swinging. Even in the off-hand position, I could consistently hit my steel IPSC target. At 50 yards, with just iron sights, I could land shots consistently into the chest of an IPSC steel target.

Shooting handgun from rear
The .22 TCM offers you low recoil and an easy shooting design.

The flash admittedly makes you take an additional fraction of a second to recover and get back on target. The TCM TAC does offer a pretty solid single-action trigger and adjustable sights to really dial in your hog-killing power.

Where I ran into issues was with cases sticking in the chamber and failing to extract and eject. A rod was needed to punch a few out that were exceedingly stuck. It happened maybe once in a magazine, according to the internet, and that tends to occur with the overloaded ammo from the Philippines. Armscor USA produces .22 TCM, which seems to be problem-free, so double-check when purchasing ammo in the country of origin.

A Word on the Handgun

While we talked more about the cartridge than the gun, I think the TCM TAC Ultra HC FS deserves a little coverage. It’s a great big double-stack M1911 with 17-round magazines. The mags work for both 9mm and .22 TCM. I didn’t fire a ton of 9mm through the gun, but the little I did was problem-free.

Shooting gun front view
The .22 TCM is quite accurate and easy to handle.

With the TCM barrel and recoil spring in place, the gun is super easy to rack. There is very little effort required, and it’s more akin to a .22LR than a centerfire handgun. The trigger is nice for a budget-grade gun and punches above its weight and cost point. The sights are nice, easy to adjust, and work fine. I think making it optics-ready would expand its long-range potential.

The great big gun works well with the great long round. It’s a ton of fun to shoot and quite accurate. Reliability is so-so. The .22 TCM cartridge seems to be the bigger problem than the gun.

Crunching Numbers

The .22 TCM delivers a very light but extremely fast-moving round. It’s a ton of fun to shoot from a pistol. The little cartridge has limited utility but does scratch the inch I have for something new, different, and fun. If you’re a bit sick of the standard 9mm game, give the .22 TCM a look. It can spice up your Glock or 1911 nicely.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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