By Miguel C. Gil
The introduction of the .22 TCM (Tuason-Craig Magnum) by Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor) over a year ago yet again proves man’s enduring fascination with speed. By all indications, it is also proving to be a big commercial hit for the Philippine’s firearms and ammunitions manufacturing giant. But is the perceived success of this new cartridge more attributable to marketing hype rather than the product’s ability to satisfy a real-world need?
Let us first walk down memory lane in a bid to answer that question.
There is nothing new or revolutionary about bottle-necked high-velocity pistol cartridges.
.30 Luger. In 1898 Teutonic arms designers Georg Luger and Hugo Borchardt jointly introduced the 7.65mm Parabellum (.30 Luger). It was unique from the predominantly big-bore pistol cartridges of the day in that the bullet was much smaller in diameter relative to its case, thus necessitating a tapered case (bottle-necked).
The .30 Luger reportedly achieved a velocity of some 1,200 fps in those early 20th century European pistols that chambered it. This is not unimpressive even by contemporary standards.
However, while military logisticians of those days preferred 30-caliber infantry rifles, this caliber was deemed too small for pistols. This concern was addressed by simply expanding the neck of the .30 Luger to form a straight-walled case and then inserting a .355 inch bullet.
The 9mm Luger (Parabellum) was born in time for the First World War. It remains the most widely issued pistol caliber to this day.
.22 Remington Jet Magnum. Otherwise known as the .22 Centerfire Magnum, it was jointly developed by Remington and Smith & Wesson to help satiate the shooting public’s seemingly insatiable demand for “magnums” in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was nothing more than the familiar .357 Magnum case necked-down to accommodate a .22 caliber bullet.
Its launching vehicle in 1961 was the Smith & Wesson Model 53 revolver. From that revolver’s 8.5 inch barrel a 40 grain 22 caliber projectile could reportedly achieve in excess of 2,000 fps, according to its manufacturers. The actual velocity was closer to 1,700+ fps according to other sources.
Smith & Wesson discontinued the Model 53 in 1971 for lack of sales. The .22 “Jet” soon died a natural death.
Belgian arms giant Fabrique National (FN) debuted its 5.7x28mm cartridge in the early 1990’s when consumer trends favoured subsonic pistol loads. It was introduced alongside the firm’s offbeat sub-machinegun (SMG), the P90. This combination was advertised as offering the shooter the best of both worlds—rifle performance in a compact SMG package.
The small and fast pistol cartridge represented an almost total paradigm shift from the big and slow direction other manufacturers were taking in both SMG’s and handguns. In the 10.5 inch barrel of the P90, the 5.7mm could reportedly achieve a muzzle velocity of 2,300 fps with its 31-grain projectile. In the 4.8 inch barrel of the FN Five-seven pistol which followed in 1998, the cartridge could still produce a muzzle velocity of some 2,000 fps with the same 31 grain loads.
There is little doubt that the 5.7×28 is both the market rival and possibly the inspiration for creating the .22 TCM.
The introduction of the FN P90 and its 5.7mm cartridge came to the Philippine gun scene as nothing short of an urban myth! We were told that it could almost breeze through steel plates and many layers of Kevlar. What was really news to us was that the 5.7mm was supposedly “superior” to the 5.56 NATO. Because we were much younger then, we believed every word.
We eventually learned that there is nothing that the FN 5.7mm with its 31-grain bullet and its 28mm length case can do that the 5.56 NATO with its 55+ grain bullet and its 45mm length case cannot do better.
The secret to the FN 5.7’s “magical” penetration is that it comes standard as an armor-piercing round. The most commonly-encountered 5.7mm round is the SS190, which comes with a steel jacket wrapped around an aluminum core (AP FMJ). Less penetrative loads are also available.
Didn’t you hear practically the same things about the .22 TCM as you did when the FN 5.7mm was introduced? We could swear that their proponents were talking about laser beams and not metallic bullets! But since we are much older now with many years spent as a professional journalist, we try to do our research.
The new kid
Based on published ballistic data, the .22 TCM appears superior to the FN 5.7mm in raw speed and power. Both achieve a muzzle velocity of around 2,000 fps from service pistol length barrels. But the TCM does this with a heavier 40 grain projectile as compared to the FN 5.7’s much lighter 31 grain bullet.
The ballistics chart in Armscor’s latest catalogue lists the .22 TCM as having a muzzle velocity of 2,013 fps. It also says that this velocity was derived from a six-inch barrel.
Since 6 inches is an odd length for a gun chambered in .22 TCM, we can infer that this velocity was taken from a laboratory test barrel. Test barrels usually have better gas seals than do production guns. This is because production guns inevitably have a little bit of gas escaping through the ejection port (auto pistols) or a lot more gas escaping through the cylinder gap (revolvers). This negatively affects velocity somewhat.
We can assume that the actual velocity of the .22 TCM from the 5-inch barrel of a commercial gun is just a little bit lower. Still, anything in the area of 2,000 fps from a pistol is quite impressive by any stretch of the imagination.
M1911-A2 .22 TCM
Armscor’s M1911-A2 .22 TCM is nothing more than the firm’s familiar high-capacity 1911-style clone chambered in its new proprietary cartridge.
It is a full-sized, all-steel pistol. This means it comes standard with a 5-inch barrel and has an empty weight of 1.03 kg (36.3 oz). It comes from the factory with a high beavertail grip safety, a skeletonized hammer and a skeletonized trigger. As a bonus it comes standard with Novak-style adjustable rear sights that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, in this writer’s view.
An export version is stamped Rock Island Armory instead of Armscor, but is otherwise identical. Representatives of Armscor report brisk domestic and export sales.
Initially, company marketing men harped on the gun’s penetrative capabilities (presumably with the 40-grain FMJ) in an apparent bid to attract military and police buyers. Government interest did reportedly materialize because of the TCM’s suitability in some highly specialized tactical assignments. But it was never in question that the 9mm Para and the .45 ACP would remain the generally-issued pistol calibers of choice for the foreseeable future.
Today, Armscor’s marketing efforts are clearly focused on the commercial market. The sports shooter, handgun hunter and personal defense segment is arguably where the M1911-A2/.22 TCM combination really shines!
In the Philippines, the government’s concern about the TCM’s over-penetrative capability has been addressed by banning any commercial sale of the 40-grain FMJ round. Civilians are limited to the 40-grain JHP.
Bob Sajot, manager of Armscor’s shooting range and outspoken gun rights advocate, sums it up by saying that the small JHP bullet travelling at nearly twice the speed of sound virtually pulverizes upon impacting with a solid target. A bullet with almost explosive expansion but limited penetration would indeed make an ideal round for legitimate personal defense.
The only real concern about employing the .22 TCM for personal/home defense is that it produces an enormous blast and attendant flash when fired from the short pistol barrel. This could prove nearly deafening and momentarily blinding when shot from a narrow hallway or from inside the car in a self-defense scenario. The caveat emptor principle applies here.
Home Defense Journal (HDJ) was recently given a rare opportunity by Armscor COO George Chua to test fire the .22 TCM Rifle ahead of its formal launch.
While there may be credible arguments against the .22 TCM pistol’s suitability for personal defense work, there is little doubt that the .22 TCM Rifle will make an outstanding varmint and small-game gun. From its 22-inch barrel, the cartridge reportedly achieves a muzzle velocity of 2,700 fps! HDJ tests affirmed the rifle’s accuracy potential while proving that the longer barrel eliminates the objectionable muzzle blast. The new rifle-cartridge combo evidently has a lot of commercial potential.
The genesis of a new class of weapon called personal defense weapons or PDWs (basically an SMG with somewhat enhanced capabilities) may provide the .22 TCM its future vehicle. The same can be said for the renewed consumer interest in pistol-caliber carbines. These cover both the potential government and civilian demand for the .22 TCM.
We certainly look forward to the day when the .22 TCM will become available in AR-15 type carbines. There is no reason why the Filipino cartridge cannot be adapted to fit the AR platform in much the same way the 9mm was in the Colt SMG. Numerous gun manufacturers have made pistol-caliber AR-type carbines and SMGs available to eager government and private buyers. Pistol-caliber conversion kits have also been made available for the immensely popular AR system.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Armscor today is how to convince other ammunition manufacturers to produce the .22 TCM cartridge. This may be the factor that decides whether or not we will see the TCM born and reborn in other incarnations in the future.
SRP of M1911-A2 TCM: Php 50,000 (gun only w/ two (2) magazines)
SRP of .22 TCM (JHP) cartridges: Php 31.00 each
SRP of .22 TCM (FMJ) cartridges: restricted to government sales only