By Miguel C. Gil
The recent introduction of the .22 TCM cartridge (Tuason-Craig Magnum) by local firearms giant Arms Corporation of the Philippines (ARMSCOR) left much to the imagination as far as its true ballistic potential. Initially chambered only in the company’s high-capacity 1911-style pistol, the brand-new all-Filipino cartridge instantly got the attention of a shooting public thirsty for something new yet something familiar. But early on, speculation was rife that Armscor’s proprietary cartridge would eventually find a home in a long gun.
That day has arrived bringing with it the Armscor .22 TCM rifle!
Armscor chief operating officer George Chua was kind enough to invite us for a sneak-peek firing session with this new bolt-action rifle ahead of its formal unveiling at the 20th Defense & Sporting Arms Show next week. We were informed, however, that while the TCM rifle would be introduced at the gun show, it will not yet be available for sale anytime soon. This is because only four (4) of these fine rifles have been made as of this writing—and is therefore technically still in the prototype stage.
Our look, touch and fire session with this new small-bore centerfire rifle took place on Friday, November 23 at Armscor’s firing range in Marikina City. A nice and very articulate fellow by the name of Joel Gatchalian was assigned to answer all our technical, historical and even marketing questions regarding the Armscor .22 TCM rifle (to be marketed simply as the TCM Rifle). He ought to know because he is a key member of the company’s New Product Design Department!
At first glance, the TCM Rifle looks like any modern bolt-action varmint rifle. Aesthetically, it did not come across as especially elegant but still is far from being plain-looking.
Barrel. What immediately identifies it as a “varminter” is its heavy 22 inch barrel. The barrel had no iron sights whatsoever which tells you that this was made from the ground-up as a scope gun. There were no weight-saving “flutes” on this barrel either.
Action. Gatchalian describes the TCM Rifle’s action as a “controlled-feed” Mauser-inspired design. He explained that this is not just an enlarged version of the company’s popular rimfire action but a new design altogether. It is massive when compared side-by-side to Armscor’s rimfire action—even the one meant for the .22 WMR. The designer told us that the action is constructed from 4140 steel with no aluminum parts to ensure durability.
Stock. The stock is finely carved from Pili wood. To our surprise, the Pili tree (from which Pili nuts come) can be polished to a beautiful reddish luster! The stock comes with an integral cheek rest and a thin recoil pad. The recoil pad need not be thick because recoil is not an issue in the .22 TCM. What sets this stock apart as a high-end product is that it was made to fully free-float the barrel! The barrel and the stock do not touch so the natural harmonics of the barrel is not disturbed when firing—thus optimizing accuracy.
Heft, Balance & Handling Quality
What would immediately catch anyone’s attention about this particular TCM Rifle was the serial number—P00002. This was the second TCM Rifle manufactured (only four exists) and the very unit that would be displayed at the gun show. We were told that the very first rifle made went to the private collection of one of the Tuason sons.
We estimate that the rifle weighed a little in excess of three kilos (about 7 lbs.) sans the scope and bipod. The high-magnification variable scope and the Harris bipod added substantially to its overall weight. However, because the gun’s weight distributed so well, and thus was very well balanced, it did not feel heavy at all, in this writer’s subjective view.
While rifles of this genre are expected to be shot from a bipod or some other form of sturdy rest, it seemed to point very well. Accurate off-hand shots with the TCM Rifle would not be far-fetched if the shooter does his/her part.
Unlocking the TCM Rifle’s bolt required a little more force than what we would have preferred. However, this could probably be attributed to the fact that it was still quite new and the issue would correct itself as more rounds are put through it. Once opened, however, working the rifle’s action was as smooth as could be! One could feel the tightness of the tolerances and the high quality of its manufacture just by working the action again and again.
Time constraints kept Home Defense Journal’s (HDJ) firing session with the TCM rifle informal but non-the-less revealing. Each member of the HDJ team had hands-on time with the rifle, and thus, these observations are more of a consensus.
We shot at spent shotgun shells and soda cans as well as assorted rubbish at Armscor’s 75-meter rifle range. Excitement led us to forget that we were shooting with a variable scope, and thus we went through 80 percent of our session with the scope turned to a low magnification setting! Yet with proper breathing and a conscious effort to pace ourselves, it was not too difficult to hit those small improvised targets. Turning the magnification to high, hitting the targets with the TCM Rifle became almost easy!
It should be mentioned that the trigger on the TCM Rifle broke crisply with 2 lbs. of pressure, according to Gatchalian. It could best be described as a single-stage trigger because neither creep nor over-travel was apparent.
An appealing and very practical feature of the TCM Rifle is that it can feed off the same high-capacity magazine (17 rounds) as the TCM pistol. This is in keeping up with the current industry trend of producing pistols and carbines that can feed from the same magazines for logistical simplicity. The TCM Rifle will, however, be supplied with a cut-down 5-round magazine that fits flush in the rifle’s magazine well.
The 40 grain .22 TCM cartridge develops a muzzle velocity in excess of 2,700 fps when fired from a 22-inch barrel, according to Gatchalian. This is a big ballistic leap from the less-than 2,000 fps muzzle velocity generated when the same cartridge is launched from a 5-inch pistol barrel.
While it is still way behind the .223 Remington when fired from a rifle barrel of similar length, the .22 TCM is narrowly ahead of the old .22 Hornet in terms of velocity. This would, therefore, make it an ideal varmint and small game cartridge.
The target that any gun manufacturer aspires to hit above all else is the target market! Just like any other product, the TCM Rifle’s future in the marketplace will depend on its ability to create consumer demand. So, what is the TCM Rifle’s target market?
Hunters. The TCM rifle is first and foremost a hunting rifle in design. But hunting is a dying sport among Filipino outdoorsmen. The liberal political climate frowns upon the killing of animals for sport—and we are not so sure that we disagree. Subsistence hunting among farmers and other rural folk remain strong but they will likely stick to their old .22 rimfires and shotguns for ammunition cost and availability reasons. The TCM Rifle will probably find its patronage among hunters overseas.
Competition shooters. The tastes of local shooters are becoming more sophisticated as evidenced by the increasing interest in Benchrest shooting. This is a gaping market niche that Armscor could potentially fill with its TCM rifle. We are confident that the TCM rifle will make a good Benchrest rifle with the addition of a few necessary accessories.
Law enforcement. A policeman watching our range session commented that the TCM Rifle can possibly make a good “secondary sniper rifle” for SWAT teams. He said it could be employed to settle urban hostage dramas wherein a shot can be taken within 100 meters. He explained that in some situations that unfold in densely populated residential enclosures, the 7.62 NATO and even the 5.56 NATO can present over-penetration issues. Armscor take note.
Home defense? In its current form, the TCM Rifle will not make an ideal home defense tool. But Gatchalian revealed that a carbine version is currently on the drawing board. If this envisioned TCM Carbine is made with iron sights and perhaps, a picatinny rail to mount CQB-appropriate optics, there may be room for it in home defense applications. There is no reason why a compact bolt-action cannot be employed successfully to protect the residence.
The TCM Rifle can potentially eclipse the 1911A2 TCM pistol in sales simply because it fills its intended niche better. We were informed that the rifle would eventually carry a suggested retail price of between Php 40,000 to 50,000. If marketed successfully in the Philippines and overseas, it can cement Armscor’s place as a firearms innovator and not simply as a mass-producer of established designs.
*SRP of Armscor .22 TCM ammunition (40 grain JHP): Php 31.00 each