Saturday, June 28, 2014

Getting To Know the .22 TCM Through Clear Gel Testing

.223 Remington is the parent cartridge case for the .22 TCM.

A big thanks to Lucas for providing the test pistol, ammunition, and most importantly, motivation for this test.

Finding myself lacking knowledge about the .22 TCM, my first stop was Wikipedia for some background information on this cartridge.  From Wikipedia I learned the .22 TCM was designed by Fred Craig and started life as the .22 Micro-Mag.  The cartridge was fully developed and commercialized by Craig and Rock Island Armory.  When the cartridge came to market, the name had been changed to .22 TCM.

The .22 TCM is still a relatively new cartridge with Armscor producing the 2 semi-auto pistols and 1 bolt-action rifle chambered for the cartridge.  The firearms are sold under the Rock Island Armory brand in the USA.  The only commercial loading for the .22 TCM is produced by Armscor USA and Armscor Philippines.

The .22 TCM is an interesting cartridge.  The brass case used to create the cartridge is derived from the .223 Remington.  The case is shortened, and given a bottle neck to accept the 40 grain .22 caliber bullet.  The .22 TCM finished length is about the same as a 45 Auto, but it has the diameter of a 9mm Luger.  These finished dimensions provide some insight into why the pistols chambered for this cartridge are double-stack variations of 1911 pattern pistols.

The test pistol comes with a second 9mm barrel and recoil spring that allow a simple conversion from .22 TCM to 9mm.  
 Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:

My Thoughts on This Load:
I found the .22 TCM was remarkably light in felt recoil when fired from the full-size test pistol.  What the .22 TCM lacks in recoil, it makes up for with muzzle blast as shown in the accompanying picture.  We shot this test in full sun, but you could still see the down-range rings of fire produced by the cartridge.  The cartridge definitely lived up to the magnum part of  its Micro-Mag birth name.

This round will definitely be appreciated by the fans of fast and light ammunition.  The 40 grain bullets were crossing the chronograph at over 2000 feet per second and generating about 375 ft/lbs of energy.  For perspective, that's slightly less energy than a 124 grain 9mm +P round fired from a 4.5" barrel.

.22 TCM ammunition is only produced by Armscor USA and Philippines at this time.  The 40 grain JHP is the only commercial loading available.  Searching the web, the going price for a box of factory ammunition is hovering around $20.  For those willing to be early adopters and roll the dice on the longevity and commercial viability of the cartridge over the long haul there are some positive signs.  I found Lee and Hornady die sets, brass, and bullets for those that reload.  The dies and components are still on the expensive side, but prices may decline as production increases. 

Personally, I'd buy a .22 TCM conversion kit for a 9mm 1911, or other 9mm handgun I currently own, but I'm reluctant to add another pistol just to shoot .22 TCM.  Another thought was a KelTec Sub-2000 carbine chambered in .22 TCM might be pretty darn handy if it existed.  The cartridge may not have enough "oomph" to cycle the bolt with the Sub-2000 platform, but that's the first adaptation that crossed my mind as I was putting together the test report.  Armscor reports 2800 feet per second from the .22 TCM with a 22 inch barrel.  A longer 16" carbine length barrel will definitely improve ballistic performance of this round. 

Pick or Pan:
From a performance standpoint, this load is a pick.  It hit all the marks for penetration depth, retained weight, and expansion diameter that we look for in handgun cartridges.  It's rare to find a cartridge that consistently exceeds published velocity specification and our test box of ammunition easily exceeded the 1875 fps factory specification.

In the photo below, you can see that the clothing barriers did have an impact on the terminal performance of the bullets, but expansion performance was remarkably consistent across all three test scenarios.   

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.


  1. Excellent testing !!! You know you will receive comments from people that will say **IT IS JUST A .22 Caliber**. They seem to forget that their AR15 shoots the same caliber. I like this caliber and have been following it since it first came out a few years ago. There is a video posted somewhere on youtube that shows the penetrating power of thbis round through some mild steel against some other hand gun rounds and the 5.56. The only rounds that made it through the mild steel were the .22TCM and 5.56mm. I am hoping that some company would make some Glock conversion barrels.


    2. I foresee a pistol with semi, tri-burst and full auto select firing mode. This would be an accurate pistol due to its relatively low recoil.

  2. I am a HUGE fan of this cartridge. I think it's a logical alternative to .22Mag/5.7mm in a PDW gun, especially in something like the Sub2k as you mention or perhaps the CMR-30/RMR-30, or better still, a "pistol" length AR with the SIG PSB on it. It's easier to reload than the often-finicky 5.7mm, and I'm hoping other people besides Armscor add it to their line of guns.

  3. It would be interesting to see this cartridge in other arms. So far it looks like all you need is a barrel for a .45 pistol.... that should make it popular once the barrel makers can be convinced.

  4. I started shooting the .221 Fireball back in the 70's. I just got my 22 TCM and am looking forward to some enjoyable shooting.

  5. Had mine for almost a year, put an extended slide release and new grips. Love how it shoots. I'm glad someone did gel testing on it. Waiting on the bolt gun and wish they would make an ar type rifle for it.

  6. Great article. I have to say I love the 22 TCM pistol!

  7. hi dude! I'm really glad you ran this test! its pretty hard to find others being done. you probably know by now that the ammo is now made in the USA and kits are available for reloading. I wonder how it would work out of a short barrel pistol because Armscor has a concealed carry version of the TCM pistol as well as a full sized tactical one. Oh yeah, I also believe that a Glock 17 conversion is already in the works. That oughtta shake things up quite a bit!