Training with a full-sized 1911 in .22 has never been easier or more affordable. Brezny reviews the Chiappa 1911-22.
It sells for under $300, shoots like it is worth $600, and will make any handgunner a better shot in short order.
In most cases when turning to the .22 Long Rifle as a training replacement for a larger centerfire round like the .45 ACP, shooters will opt for something like a Ruger Mark III, or swap out the guts of the 1911 .45 ACP for a .22 Long Rifle conversion kit. Those options work, but now there is a third option, a dedicated pistol that looks and works just like a 1911, but fires the .22 LR. Chiappa Firearms makes this option affordable, accurate and dependable.
Chiappa Firearms has just introduced the new and innovative Model 1911-22. This is not a reworked .45-caliber weapon, but a handgun built from the frame up as a dead look alike to its big brother the Colt .45 1911 Government. Unlike some other replica firearms, the 1911-22 makes use of its own proprietary “Chiappalloy” frame and steel castings, which moves it well away from the plastic and pot metal guns that are floating around in some circles now a days. This handgun is a gun, and not a reworked paint ball system, or based on a plastic toy.
With castings built in many cases to the exact specifications found on the Colt 1911 .45 ACP the general feel and balance of this handgun stays very close to the real thing. The gun’s total weight empty is 32 ounces.
Using a soft slide return spring, the recoil mimics the .45, albeit reduced, and pulls the shooter a bit off the sight during the recoil process. Again, maintaining the reasonably close shooting effect (sight off target during firing) of the full-house .45 ACP round, but lacking the obvious perceived recoil.
The model sent for evaluation was the standard fixed sight pistol in a soft blued finish. This handgun carried lazer-cut walnut grips, which I found surprising in a budget handgun. Where was the plastic? The 1911-22 can also be had in an OD color or a tan and black configuration. Target sights will be offered on future production models. In the sighting department the basic 1911-22 makes use of an overly high front sight blade against the partridge style square rear fixed sight.
The owner should file down this front blade until proper bullet impact height is achieved. I found that during some group shooting the gun printed almost four inches low at 20 yards. According to the manufacturer, this low impact is right-on in terms of specifications, and to raise the impact point filing must be done. I elected to not file the front blade, but just understand where the gun printed. From that point on the 1911 .22 and I got along quite well.
In terms of controls the Chiappa is set up exactly like the 1911 Government. On the left side is the cocked and locked safety, and also the usual slide lock and release lever. The grip safety is built to look like the real thing, but it is a dummy system just to produce the correct grip feel of the 1911 frame design. The magazine release is right where it should be and is positive in operation and nicely checkered. The magazine is a 10-round polymer unit that functioned perfectly through the testing. From all outward appearanced Chiappa maintained the 1911 Government feel, look, and control surfaces with great detail.
The magazine on the 1911-22 includes a feature not found on the big .45 caliber weapon: a small stud protruding from the left rear that acts as a spent cartridge ejector. While this is not at all a standard feature on a 1911 magazine it speaks volumes in terms of how the pistol is designed.
Internally this is not at all a John Browning design. For starters, never remove the left grip on this gun. Doing so could damage the safety system. The manufacturer covers in great detail just how to change grips if it is required, and suggests getting the employing the services of a competent gunsmith for this type of project. Other internal differences include a fixed barrel, so there is no barrel link and differences in the trigger and firing mechanism.
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Live Fire Testing
Shooting the new 1911-22 commenced during late fall 2009 and as such the gun was subjected to some cold winter weather as it was being checked out. Even with some windy days on the local range the gun returned some good results with a wide sample of ammunition. Winchester 36-grain plated hollow points, and Supreme Xpediter 32-grain, 1640 fps hot shots, CCI Stingers, Federal Match Target, and general purpose 40-grain rounds were all pressed into service for the test.
At a distance of 20 yards the 1911-22 grouped five rounds in almost every case within .885, and when any flyers were present the problem was operator error not the gun. The largest five-shot group with Winchester 36-grain ammo was .921”, and the smallest was shot with Federal blunt flat-nosed game loads, which produced a very tight .779”. Shooting almost rapid fire, 10 rounds produced a controlled impact print of 3.19 inches, but again most rounds fell inside a 1.5-inch area.
This gun was very easy to control. Because the 1911-22 will lock back to an open slide, training speed reloads is exactly the same as it would be when shooting a 1911 in .45 ACP. This is a very important design application even though the 1911-22 is not built as a true .45 Government semi auto. With a spare mag included with the gun the shooter can train to drop magazines and slam home a fresh single-stack mag during basic handgun defense training. With budgets as they are now a days this is a major advantage when turning away from the high-priced full-house rounds .45 ACP.
A word in terms of the magazine performance needs to be noted here. Because the Chiappa 1911-22 uses a lightweight polymer magazine it sometimes will not drop clear by simply hitting the magazine release button. And you might have to strip out the empty mag with your off hand. It happens on occasion but not regularly. Keep the magazine well clean and the magazines in good shape and you should have no trouble. Because the magazine are specific to this pistol, it might pay to contact Chiappa and order some extras..
As an added safety the Chiappa has a locking system built into the right side of the slide just behind the upper slide and vertical grip serrations. A two-pronged key allows you to disable the firearm. Turning the lock a quarter turn raises a barrier that stops the hammer from hitting the firing pin.
Field stripping this handgun even with a fixed barrel is about the same as taking down a 1911 Government .45. The muzzle retains that very well known plunger and turning retainer that allows the slide to be released by lining up the side latch with the cut in the side. It took a bit of fiddling to get the slide retainer bushing out the front of the slide and the slide must be moved to the rear and then lifted off the front, but field stripping is no trouble.
In general modest cleaning is all that I have administered to the gun I have been testing, and to date even when run though an extensive torture testing regarding many rounds without cleaning, the gun has only failed and stove piped once. That was early in the test and it has never happened again. To date more than 500 rounds have been sent down the barrel of the 1911-22 without a hitch.
This gun will not go back to the manufacturer, but has a permanent place in my arsenal of snake killers and general-purpose handguns carried almost every day out here in the wild west. With the wide range of very effective ammo being produced today in 22 Long Rifle many tasks can be accomplished with the lower cost and cheaper ammunition. The 1911-22 is a perfect delivery system for the budget conscious shooter.
This article appeared in the March 29, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.