The .22 TCM: Beware of Solutions in Search of a Problem
By Gary Zinn
The historical trail of firearms and cartridge development is littered with castoffs, things that became obsolete or that simply did not catch on in the marketplace. Products come to the market that do not make sense, do not work, or do not fill a real need. These products are ultimately doomed to failure, but in the meantime some consumers will be drawn into buying them, sometimes at considerable expense. These things I call solutions in search of a problem (SISOPs).
I got to thinking about this after reading a recent article in a major firearms magazine about a new proprietary small-caliber centerfire cartridge that was developed for autoloading pistols and is also being offered in a bolt action rifle. I suspect that this, the .22 TCM, may be a SISOP and I will get to that shortly. First, a trio of other SISOP examples.
Perhaps the most spectacular SISOP in recent history was Remington's introduction of the Model 700 EtronX rifle some ten years ago. This rifle, which used an electronic ignition system in place of a firing pin and conventional cartridge primer, went nowhere. This is not surprising, because the ignition system that it would have replaced doesn't need replacing.
Another SISOP from about the same time involved a needless change in bolt action rifle design. Another firearms manufacturer announced a new rifle with a puzzling and unique feature. This was the means by which the bolt was removed from the receiver. If my memory is correct, removal of the bolt required that it be fully cycled to the rear, then moved forward a few millimeters, at which point it could be rotated upward several degrees and then be withdrawn from the receiver.
Why? How does this improve on the simple, thumb operated bolt stop/latch that has been a standard since the Mauser Model 98? The rifle with this feature went nowhere.
For a recent cartridge SISOP, consider the .45 GAP pistol cartridge. This one came about when Glock decided that the .45 ACP cartridge needed to be shortened.
Supposedly, the purpose of the .45 GAP was to match .45 ACP ballistic performance in a (shorter) cartridge that would allow a more svelte grip frame. Glock shortened the .45 ACP case about 1/8-inch and beefed it up some, in order to safely handle the hotter powders and higher chamber pressure needed to get .45 ACP-level ballistics from a smaller cartridge case. By loading bullets no heavier than 200 grains, the cartridge overall length was reduced by some 0.20 inches. All of this to trim less than a quarter-inch off the grip frame.
To me, the stated rationale for the .45 GAP was baloney. What percentage of big bore auto pistol shooters really find the grip of a .45 ACP pistol too large to hold? Pistols shooting the .45 ACP are very common at my home shooting range. Not infrequently, these are being shot by petite women and youth without any problems. I have seen exactly one .45 GAP pistol at the range and the owner was advertising it for sale in our club newsletter a year after he bought it.
Call me cynical, but I can't help thinking the Glock folks were indulging a vanity. They wanted a big bore auto pistol cartridge with the Glock name on it.
The .45 GAP got rave reviews in some of the print magazines that carried Glock advertising and a couple of other manufacturers jumped in and offered pistols chambered for the cartridge for a short while, but now only Glock chambers for the .45 GAP and it is pretty much a dead issue. The .45 GAP has proven to be a SISOP.
Now to a potential SISOP in the making, the .22 TCM cartridge and firearms chambered for it. The cartridge is a proprietary development by Armscor/RIA, available in their 1911 autoloading pistol and a bolt action rifle. (Information as of December 2014.)
The reported goal of the TCM project was to develop a cartridge that would match or exceed the ballistics of the FN 5.7x28mm cartridge and would fit in a 1911 pistol platform. The .22 TCM is based on a .223 Remington case shortened by about 3/4-inch and loaded with a slow burning pistol powder under a 40-grain JHP bullet. The result is a cartridge with an overall length of 1.265 inches, 0.010 inch shorter than the maximum COL for the .45 ACP. The .22 TCM cartridge looks like a half-size .223 Remington. Cute, but what can it do?
There is, to date, very limited independent data on this load's performance. What there is indicates that the round will achieve about 2000 fps muzzle velocity in a four or five inch pistol barrel and just under 2800 fps in a 22 inch rifle barrel. Muzzle energies are about 350 ft. lbs. in the pistol and 680 ft. lbs. in the rifle. The round is impressively fast out of a pistol, but the rifle ballistics are similar to the old .22 Hornet and clearly inferior to the 1960s vintage .221 Fireball pistol/rifle cartridge.
This data, although sparse, lead me to two conclusions. First, the TCM has no chance of becoming a serious rifle cartridge in a world where the .223 Remington exists. Conversely, there may be a place for a high-velocity, small bore, autoloading pistol round. This is a largely unfilled niche in the cartridge world, but I can't help asking: is it a niche that needs filling? The failure of the previous .22 Jet and .256 Win. Mag. revolver/rifle cartridges make one wonder. The answer to this question will, I believe, determine the fate of the TCM cartridge.
More generally, I am suspicious that the .22 TCM is marketing driven, rather than market driven. What I mean is, I have not heard shooters (the market) clamoring for a cartridge with the characteristics of the .22 TCM. Rather, my cynical alter ego suspects that Armscor/RIA is trying to expand the market for its 1911 type pistols.
Where does a bolt action rifle fit into this picture? It would seem that an autoloading carbine would make more sense for an autoloading pistol cartridge. However, Armscor/RIA doesn't have a centerfire autoloading rifle platform, so they had to settle for a bolt rifle to sell the idea of the .22 TCM as a dual platform cartridge. Again, a marketing-driven move with questionable market merit.
Will the .22 TCM be a bullseye or a misfire? Time will tell, but I am not getting in line to load up on TCM stuff just yet. Instead, I'll heed my own advise to beware the solution in search of a problem.
Copyright 2014 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.