(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
Dry Fire Practice
The integrated under Picatinny rail made it easy to attach my Mantis X10 shooting performance device to the Combo. In dry fire practice, I found that the sights lined up very naturally as I raised the handgun to a firing position. The trigger is not quite as crisp as the trigger on my Walther P99, but I do like the straight pull of the 1911 a lot. The grip is also not as ergonomic as the grip on the P99, but the angle of the grip is slightly better for me. I can easily see why so many love their 1911s.
With continued dry fire practice with the Combo, my average X10 scores trended upward as the trigger broke in, and as I became more accustomed to handgun. The fit of the X10 on the rail was somewhat snug over the Cerakote, so it was challenging to slide it on and off at first. This became easier with continued use.
The Second Range Session
On my next range trip, I took the Combo with the .22 TCM 9R barrel installed.
The provided Armscor ammo was 39 grain jacketed hollow point. The basic difference between .22 TCM and .22 TCM 9R is that the bullet is seated more deeply into the casing of the .22 TCM 9R. This makes the rounds shorter, allowing them to fit into a 9 mm magazine. The more deeply seated .22 TCM 9R bullet is more abruptly tapered, so that it remains in contact with the neck of the casing in spite of its deeper seating.
Like the .22 TCM cartridges provided by Rock Island Armory, these .22 TCM 9R cartridges had very pretty nickel plated casings. The shiny plating made it easy to find the empty casings at the end of the range session.
Both magazines loaded up well with all 17 rounds. I did notice that the mags seemed to hang a little loose in the mag well, so that they rattled if the handgun was shaken.
I used both ear plugs and ear muffs for this range session, since the .22 TCM 9R, like the .22 TCM, has a reputation for being noisy. That reputation was born out in the shooting.
The sights were evidently adjusted for the 9 mm barrel, and it took several groups to get them dialed in for the TCM 9R barrel. The firearm failed to return fully to battery on the eighth shot of my second group. I had no subsequent problems with reliability, suggesting that the firearm simply needed to be broken in.
Once the sights were adjusted, I fired five groups of 10 shots each off hand from 15 yards. I put an average of 72% of the shots within two inches of the center of the target. This was exactly the same as I averaged with the 22TCMFS in the first range session, and was not quite as good as I was averaging with my Walther P99 at the time.
The Third Range Session
I had a dry fire session over the weekend with the Mantis X10. Then Monday afternoon I went to the range behind my barn with the Combo with the 9 mm barrel installed. I was firing the provided Armscor 9mm 115 gr FMJ ammo.
It took me a while to get the sights readjusted. Once they were zeroed in, I fired a series of four 10 shot groups offhand from 15 yards. I averaged 77.5% of my shots within two inches of the center of the target. That was better than I shot the Combo with .22 TCM 9R, and about the same as I had recently been shooting my P99. I was not sure if I was just having a good day, or if I shot 9 mm better than .22 TCM 9R. Perhaps I flinch more from noise than I do from recoil. For my next session I planned to fire the 22TCMFS side by side with the Combo in 9 mm to get a better sense of which was the case.
The Fourth Range Session
After a couple of more dry fire sessions, I made it to the range to test the 22TCMFS side by side with the Combo in 9 mm.
I fired a series of four 10 shot groups from each handgun according to the following pattern: 22TCMFS, Combo, Combo, 22TCMFS, 22TCMFS, Combo, Combo, 22TCMFS. I did not have a particularly good range day, so it was good that I was firing the two handguns directly against each other for comparison rather than comparing the results of two different range sessions.
I put a average of 40% of the shots from the 22TCMFS within two inches of the center of the target, and 60% of the 9mm Combo shots. This suggested that I may be more sensitive to the louder noise of the .22 TCM than I am to the heavier recoil of the 9 mm.
The Fifth Range Session
During the next range session, I compared the performance of the Combo in 9 mm with my Walther P99.
I fired a series of four 10 shot groups from each handgun according to the following pattern: Combo, P99, P99, Combo, Combo, P99, P99, Combo.
I immediately noticed that the heavier Combo produced significantly less felt recoil than the lighter P99.
I also noticed that I probably could have profited from more dry fire practice between range sessions, since once again my performance was not especially good. I put an average of 70% of the shots from the Combo within two inches of the center of the target from 15 yards, but only 65% of the shots from the P99.
I was firing the provided 9 mm Armscor ammo from the Combo, and Winchester USA Forged from the P99. I had one failure to fire in the P99 due to a bad primer. I tried several times to get the round to fire in the P99, and then tried it in the Combo as well, to no avail.
Based on my experience to that point, it appeared that I could shoot the Combo in 9 mm better than I could shoot my P99. That led to the question, “Should I replace my P99 with the Combo?” The P99 is lighter and easier to carry. I like the DA/SA trigger and the decocker. I like the Tenifer finish on the P99 better than the Cerakote on the Combo. The Combo holds 17 rounds in the magazine versus 15 for the P99. I seem to be able to shoot the Combo slightly more accurately than the P99. I like the sights and the grip angle on the Combo slightly better as well. The option of shooting two different calibers was an added plus. There is also something aesthetically pleasing about the 1911 platform.
The Friend Test
When I am evaluating a firearm, I like to get input from my friends. The first range session that I scheduled for “the friend test” needed to be canceled due to a stay at home order from our governor related to the Covid 19 outbreak. When the order was extended two more times, I got desperate enough to read the fine print of the order. I discovered that it allowed for individuals to engage in outdoor recreational activity as long as they remained at least six feet from people from outside their own household. So I set up a round of stations on my range, each at least six feet from the others, and the range day was on.
“Bman”, “Glock 17″, “The Natural”, and “Welly” joined me to put a total of about 700 rounds through the FS and Combo, and share their thoughts.
Bman liked the nice smooth trigger pull, low recoil, good accuracy, good fit, and comfortable grip of the 22TCMFS. During the course of the session, he had one round fail to eject from the 22TCMFS. For him the 22TCMFS was “fun, fun, fun” to shoot. He found he was equally accurate with the Combo, and liked its grip as well. He was impressed with the way that both guns retained their accuracy as they became increasingly hot and dirty. He preferred the sights on the Combo to those on the 22TCMFS.
Glock 17 found the 22TCMFS to be an awesome fun gun, a very smooth shooter even when dirty, with easy to handle recoil, and he liked the ergonomics of the grip. On one of his shots, the primer blew out of the casing and lodged in the action, jamming the gun. This was, of course, a matter of concern. He was impressed with the accuracy and trigger of the Combo.
The Natural found the 22TCMFS to be very accurate, enjoyed the deep roar of the gun and the low recoil. He noted that the pistol felt good in his hand. He also liked the feel and accuracy of the Combo.
Welly noted that the 22TCMFS is pleasant to shoot, fits his hand well, and is a good looking gun. The slide failed to lock open after the last round of two of his groups. He found the Combo fun to shoot, likes the way it looks, and finds it comfortable in his hand. He was surprised to find that he shoots the Combo better than the 22TCMFS.
We shot some USA Forged steel cased ammo from the Combo. Over the course of about 150 rounds or so we had three failures to eject due to faulty ammo and one bad primer. I think that the coating on the steel cases may become a little sticky when the chamber gets hot enough. We were shooting enough that a heat haze began to rise from the slide.
Later on we decided to shoot a steel target. The first shot from the 22TCMFS dimpled the front of the 1/4″ AR500 steel target, and sent a big enough shock wave through the target to chip the paint off the back. We decided thereafter to stick to 9mm for shooting steel.
I found both the 22TCMFS and the Combo to be attractive, accurate and reliable firearms. I was not surprised to have some problems with USA Forged ammo (it tends to be of uneven quality), but was concerned about the one blown primer from the Armscor .22 TCM ammo. A check of the internet revealed that others have experienced this problem as well. Since Armscor is currently the only source for 22. TCM ammo, this is a matter of concern. The Armscor 9 mm ammo functioned flawlessly, and I would not hesitate to purchase more in the future.
Several of my friends and I noted that we were able to shoot the Combo in 9 mm better than we could shoot the 22TCMFS. I believe that the louder report characteristic of .22 TCM and .22 TCM 9R was enough of a distraction to interfere with our accuracy. So .22 TCM does not seem like a good solution for us for improved accuracy over 9 mm. However the reduced recoil might make it a good alternative for someone who needs something with lighter recoil due to arthritis or another physical challenge.
I liked the Combo so much that I was tempted to buy it to replace my Walther P99. If it was solely to be a range and home defense gun, I think I would have done so. But I wanted to retain the option of carry if necessary, and felt that due to its lighter weight, I would be much more like to carry the P99 than the Combo, and thus to have it available if I needed it.
The impact of the 22TCMFS on the steel target was sobering. If it ever becomes common for home invaders and other assailants to wear body armor, a handgun chambered in .22 TCM may be more effective than one chambered in 9 mm, especially if Armscor can get the primer problem ironed out. In the mean time, the larger hole bored by 9 mm will probably be more effective.
Rock Island Armory was kind enough to loan me two handguns and supply some appropriate ammo free of charge, for testing. I tried not to let their kindness influence my evaluation of the handguns and ammo, and believe that the processes that I laid out and the help of my friends enabled me to draw objective conclusions.