February 06, 2019
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Photos by Michael Anschuetz
Listing at $530 (and some selling for less), Rock Island Armory (RIA) GI 1911s are about the most affordable of any quality shooter on the market. Armscor (RIA’s parent company) has figured out how to equip the world’s most copied pistol design with amenities and make it run reliably while maintaining an affordable price point.
In terms of volume of 1911s produced, climbing to the top was no small feat. Now they’re going after the full-size, polymer-frame market with its new MAPP series in 9mm and .22 TCM 9R.
“New” is a relative term, especially in the realm of firearms. New guns are often nothing more than a rehash of an existing design with, perhaps, a few minor adjustments. The same can be said for many new cartridges, which are often slightly modified versions of another round. In regards to current firearm and cartridge development, Rock Island’s MAPP and .22 TCM 9R are about as new and radical as guns and ammunition gets.
The 22TCM9R — or .22 TCM 9R, if you prefer — is an unusual subject. Developed by Armscor, its parent cartridge is Armscor’s .22 TCM, which is based on the .223 Remington. The .22 TCM is the brainchild of Fred Craig, a gunsmith who was working with Armscor at the company’s Marakina factory in the Philippines.
Craig set out to develop a high-velocity, low-recoil cartridge that could be fed through 9mm magazines and began experimenting with the .223 Remington. Why not start with the 9mm case? For starters, a .223 case is more durable than a 9mm when cut down, and the .223 offered dimensions close to those of a 9mm. Yet, it was capable of handling higher pressures than an altered 9mm. Craig would need all the extra strength he could get to handle the higher pressures from his new .22-caliber design. It was a design he coined as the “.22 Micro Magnum.”
The new cartridge caught the interest of Martin Tuason, the third generation of his family to hold the reins at Armscor, and Tuason wanted to chamber the round in one of the company’s firearms. The name of the cartridge was later changed to “.22 TCM” with “TCM” being short for “Tuason-Craig-Magnum.” After development, Armscor began offering a combination pistol in the RIA 9mm 1911 lineup that included a spare barrel and recoil spring necessary to convert the pistol from 9mm to .22 TCM and back. The conversion could be done relatively quick and in field environments with no need to alter the slide.
However, there was one hang-up. While the .22 TCM cartridge would feed fine in 1911 magazines, it would not run smoothly in many double-stack 9mm magazines (most notably those belonging to Glock pistols). Tuason knew that they were close to realizing their goal, so the design was tweaked by adjusting the shoulder length of the .22 TCM case to exactly match that of the 9mm. This would allow them to seat a 39-grain bullet deeper. This new cartridge became the .22 TCM 9R and offered a high-velocity, .22-centerfire option for 9mm fans.
“This is an exciting expansion to our wildly popular TCM series,” Tuason explained in 2015 when the cartridge was unveiled. “The new TCM 9R can be used in the upcoming release of a series of barrel and slide conversion kits that allow other existing firearms to enjoy the higher velocity of the TCM 9R round.”
Following the 1911A1 kit ($473), Armscor soon launched a Glock conversion kit ($431) for both the G17/22 and the G19/23 that appeared on the cover of Guns & Ammo in April 2016. All the while, Armscor was already working on a dedicated .22 TCM 9R pistol.
Rock Island MAPP Series
It may seem surprising that Armscor and RIA are being credited with launching an evolutionary new cartridge. RIA is, after all, most noted for the various 1911s the company continues producing. But the MAPP Series is generally based on another highly regarded and often duplicated semiautomatic handgun: the CZ 75. Like the CZ, the MAPP features a slide that rides inside the frame rails. And, while most .22-caliber pistols utilize blowback operation, the Rock Island MAPP TCM9R features a short recoil-operated design similar to John Browning’s P.35 Hi-Power and the CZ 75.
Two lugs lock the barrel and slide together when the slide is forward. Under recoil, the lugs disengage, and the slide continues rearward. A large external extractor mounted on the right side behind the ejection port holds onto the case as the ejector kicks the opposite side and sends empties flying with authority.
The lug on the bottom of the barrel is fixed and without a linkage such as you’d find in the 1911. The gun’s slide stop pin is inserted through the opening in the lug, and subsequently removed when disassembling the pistol.
The double-action (DA) MAPP pistol comes with a rounded, serrated hammer spur. The gun’s manual safety locks the sear when engaged, and there’s no magazine disconnect, which means that the MAPP can be fired without a magazine inserted. (MAPP pistols ship with a single, 16-round, double-stack magazine.)
The MAPP TCM9R’s dimensions are very similar to those of the CZ 75 P-01 9mm, and the two guns share a similar profile, controls and several design elements. The MAPP is also close in size to Officer’s Model 1911s, which come standard with 3½-inch barrels and typically measure a little more than 7 inches in length and 5 inches tall. If you’re familiar with those last two guns — especially the P-01 — you have a pretty good understanding of what the MAPP feels like in the hand and how easy it is to carry.
The polymer pistol grip is narrow and, notably, there’s a pronounced high-cut triggerguard at the rear that promotes a high grip for better control over the pistol across the board. This undercut is nonexistent on the Hi-Power and less defined on the CZ 75.
The texturing on the slab-sided grips looks like a busy blend of cobblestone, reptile skin and checkering, but the avant-garde look actually feels good in the hand. When shooting, the texture helps the pistol stay comfortably seated within your grip.
The magazine release is ideally positioned. When it’s time to press it, there’s no risk of an inadvertent mag dump.
The two-position safety is wide, long enough and serrated. When the lever is down, a painted red dot lets you know the gun is ready to fire. The lever on the MAPP TCM9R does not function as a decocker.
The slide stop is also wide and easy to reach. Despite its size, I never had any issues with unintentionally sending the slide home with an errant stroke of the thumb. There’s not much muzzle flip when shooting the .22 TCM 9R cartridge, so that likely helps prevent unintentionally sending the slide home on an empty magazine.
As with other slide-inside-the-rail pistols, there’s plenty of frame upon which to rest those forward-facing thumbs. However, as many have complained about the CZ 75 and its derivatives, the shortened slide depth makes the MAPP a little more of an effort to rack than other designs.
The slide is well rounded with few edges. The lack of material shaves weight and makes for a contemporary shape for concealed carry. The top rib and front sight are also machined into the slide, while a dovetail at the rear accepts the adjustable, Novak-ish ramped rear sight.
Underneath, an accessory rail is present for mounting lights or aiming lasers and included in the case is a 16-round, stainless-steel magazine.
The MAPP TCM9R retails for $430 (and can be found for less). At that price point, you’d expect a pistol to be rather austere. While the MAPP is indeed affordable, I found none of the deleterious signs of cost-cutting that plague some budget pistols. The steel slide comes with a durable Parkerized finish and both the slide and the polymer frame are black in color.
Two pistols were ordered for testing and G&A Editor Eric Poole fired 200 rounds through the first pistol to arrive. The second pistol came to me for performance and reliability testing along with the remaining 900 rounds of Armscor’s .22 TCM 9R 39-grain jacketed-hollow-point (JHP) ammunition. (A case of 1,000 rounds usually sells for $340, or $19 for a box of 50.) The bullet is different than the one in the .22 TCM round, which is a pointed-tip, 40-grain projectile.
The MAPP TCM9R’s grip design was comfortable and promotes a high handhold. There’s a just-right-sized beavertail at the rear of the frame, though the grip is thin for a double-stack measuring just over an inch wide. When unloaded the gun feels a bit slide-heavy, but its balance improves with a full magazine.
Controls were easy to access and operate, but pressing the manual safety lever up to engage the sear-locking safety required rotating the gun in my grip.
Adjusting the rear sight was simple, and there’s a tool provided with the pistol that simplifies the process. Turning the small screw on the right side of the rear sight counterclockwise moved the rear sight (and point of impact) to the right. To raise the point of impact, the larger top screw is turned counterclockwise.
Single-action (SA) trigger pulls averaged 5.1 pounds using an RCBS gauge, while the DA trigger pull was 10.4 pounds. There was considerable takeup in SA mode, likely a built-in safety feature of the pistol. Still, after shooting this pistol several times, the trigger was easy to predict when it was about to fire.
Recoil with the MAPP TCM9R was very mild. With the double-stack mag topped off and a round in the chamber, 17 shots went by quick. Muzzle rise was minimal and, even after hundreds of rounds fired, I encountered no hand fatigue issues.
Muzzle flash was, as you might expect, fantastic. Average velocity was clocked at 1,756 feet per second (fps). Obviously, that’s substantially faster than .22LR ammunition. Following the accuracy and velocity testing protocols, I began working my way through the mountain of .22 TCM 9R ammunition on the table.
I stopped only to reload, record notes and explain my actions to the handful of other shooters who curiously stopped by to see why I was shooting at such a fevered pace. One gentleman, intrigued by the pistol and the .22 TCM 9R cartridge, gave up after seeing the massive stack of ammunition I was planning to fire and went off in search of quieter quarters to shoot. Another club member, a .22 TCM reloader, inquired about the mountain of brass under the bench. He was hoping that he’d stumbled on a once-fired motherload.
My first failure occurred six rounds into my 900-round test. The rest of the magazine ran without a hitch, and there wasn’t another failure until round 68 and then another at 151. While those malfunctions are within the break-in period for most pistols, I believe that I can attribute the failures at 68 and 151 to my own error. I noted that the MAPP TCM9R doesn’t forgive limp-wristed shooting, and, in both those cases, I was shooting with my elbows on the bench.
From that point forward, I fired the remainder of the ammunition while standing and didn’t encounter another malfunction until round 455, the result of an issue with the magazine. One of the .22 TCM 9R rounds jammed between the magazine wall and the follower, leaving the spring compressed. Pressing down on the round and repositioning allowed the spring to expand and function returned to normal.
Over the course of the next 2 hours I fired the remaining rounds with no other issues. The slide stayed open after the last round was fired in most instances, but on three occasions (out of 90 reloads) the slide returned home after the last shot.
Other than a thin coat of yellow, sand-like debris from the ammo, there was surprisingly little fouling. The TCM9R was clean considering the number of rounds fired. Field-stripping proved to be a simple process.
I came away from the experience with a new appreciation for the pistol. It’s comfortable and fun to shoot, and it survived G&A’s 1,000-round test with few malfunctions. The best five-shot group from the bench measured 2.4 inches, and the average was 2.9 inches. At personal-defense ranges, the gun was plenty accurate, and the sights were sufficient. For close, fast shooting, the white-dot, post, front sight offers a solid aiming point and you can punch a lot of holes into a tight cluster very quickly.
This begs the question: Is the MAPP TCM9R suitable for self-defense? In my opinion, a .22-caliber, 39-grain projectile is, at best, light for personal protection. For those who are comfortable carrying a .22, this pistol delivers 280 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and offers fast follow-up shots. It’s probably the best .22 defensive option in a handgun. While the MAPP pistol isn’t as light or as small as some ultra-compact carry guns, it’s still concealable under light clothing and offers 17 rounds on tap.
The effectiveness of .22 handguns for defense aside, the MAPP TCM9R is billed as a fun gun and a low-recoil training option. In those areas, it clearly excels. With an over-the-counter price of less than $400, it’s also something of a bargain.
It’s rare to find a new gun that breaks new ground, but Rock Island’s MAPP does just that. The pistol’s design might be familiar, but the cartridge makes it innovative indeed.
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