A couple of years ago, a 50-round box of .45 ACP practice-grade ammo cost about $12. Now it’s twice that, if it can be found, which means you could save about $20 a box if you could shoot .22s instead of .45s in your 1911. To do that, you’ll need a reliable conversion kit like the one suggested to me by the folks at Brownells.
Tactical Solutions’ 2211 kit listed in the Brownells catalog consists of a slide and barrel assembly that mates with the standard 1911 frame. That’s part of the appeal. The kit is cheaper than a second gun, and you get to practice with the trigger, grip and controls of your main .45. Incidentally, the company also makes kits for Commander-size 1911s as well as wide-body STI .45s.
The conversion kit works on a straight blowback action. The 4140 blued-steel slide is serrated at the front and rear to assist in manual cycling, and the blued five-inch barrel has a 1:16 twist. Attached to the barrel by two screws is a Picatinny rail to which an optic can be mounted. Secured to the rail by a single screw is a fixed green fiber optic front sight (red and orange replacement sights are available). The barrel on my sample gun is threaded to accept a compensator, and the threads are protected by a muzzle nut, so you can use the gun without the compensator and not worry about dinging the threads.
At the opposite end of the gun, mounted to the Picatinny rail, is a fully adjustable STI International rear sight. Because the rail and sights are rigidly mounted to the barrel, accuracy is enhanced as compared to a standard 1911, where the sights are part of the slide and therefore move independently of the bore.
After making sure the gun is unloaded and the magazine is removed, take the slide and barrel assembly off the frame. Next, slide the conversion unit’s barrel and slide assembly onto the frame, insert the slide catch and lock it into place. Load the 10-round machined-aluminum magazine, and you’re ready to go.
To disassemble the unit for cleaning and lubrication, remove the slide and barrel assembly. Turn the slide upside down on a padded surface, then push the stirrup rearward until it engages the notches in the slide and can be lifted free. The recoil spring, buffer washer, guide rod and lug can then be separated and the barrel pushed forward to free it from the slide. Assembly is in reverse order.
At the Scottsdale Gun Club’s indoor range, I tested a variety of loads from Winchester, Federal and CCI. The gun exhibited no feeding problems and printed 11/2- to two-inch groups at 25 yards off a pistol rest. However, the gun was not without problems. Even after the 500-round recommended break-in period, the slide would not lock back reliably after the last round was fired (and sometimes on the second-to-last round).
Tactical Solutions advised that the problem was easily fixed. After a little filing and polishing where the slide catch contacts the plunger and the magazine follower, adequate clearance was obtained and the gun worked perfectly. Tactical Solutions advises that since 1911 manufacturing tolerances vary tremendously, it cannot guarantee that the 2211 conversion will work on all frames without some fitting. For example, the kit would not mate with a couple of Nighthawk Custom frames, but it would mount on an old Colt Series 70 frame.
Even if you have to engage the services of a gunsmith to fit the unit, it won’t take long to save enough money by shooting .22s to pay for the work.
And you might even remember how much fun you used to have with .22s.