Handguns > Semi-Auto

1911 .22 Conversion Kits

Slide into long-term ammunition savings and tight-group target shooting with two well-made 1911 conversion kits.


Recently, a reader said out loud what none of us wants to think about too much: There is no such thing as inexpensive shooting anymore. Ammunition of every variety has gone up in cost, even doubling and tripling the prices of just a few years ago. Reloading components are more expensive as well. As a result, spending quality time at the range with your favorite 1911 has become an expensive pastime.

An enjoyable and affordable solution is to switch to shooting .22 Long Rifle. Some manufacturers are building .22 pistols that replicate the controls of the 1911, but let's be honest, it’s not quite the same as shooting the pistol you love. If you like the idea of keeping the same trigger and controls to which you are accustomed, while reducing your ammo costs by about 88 percent per shot, then it's time to take a look at investing in a .22 Long Rifle conversion kit.

Kimber's Rimfire Target Conversion Kit
At the heart of the Kimber conversion kit is a 5-inch, stainless-steel, match-grade barrel, fitted with a stainless match-grade bushing. The recoil assembly consists of an aluminum cylinder—to mesh with the bushing—a shortened stainless guide rod and recoil spring. These components work together to provide the feel and function of a full-length guide rod. The slide is aluminum with front and rear cocking serrations. It's machined to look the same as other standard-size Kimber slides, but it does not lock open when the last shot is fired. The metallic target sights are matte black with a smooth-faced front sight blade and an adjustable serrated rear sight. The Kimber slides are available in either a matte black or satin silver finish.

Marvel Precision's Unit 2 .22 Long Rifle Conversion
Marvel Precision provides two distinct choices of conversion kits for shooting .22 rounds from a .45 frame. The Unit 1 model features a slide-long integrated sight rail with the option of adding a compensator to the barrel.

The Marvel Unit 2 (tested) conversion kit includes matte black adjustable target sights, with a smooth-faced front blade and a serrated, adjustable rear sight. The matte black Tri-Cut 7075 aluminum slide is milled to produce a striking profile, including scallops along the top of the slide. The Unit 2 features a blued, bushing-less bull barrel and a full-length steel guide rod. One interesting feature of this slide is a hardened-steel breech insert, which creates a steel-to-steel contact surface between the slide and the barrel. Like the Kimber, the Marvel slide does not lock open on the final shot.

The Marvel conversion requires a specific set of ammunition to function properly, which is carefully noted on the first page of the owner’s manual. Federal ammunition is not recommended. Instead, the list includes three approved loads:  CCI Mini-Mag, Remington Thunderbolt and Remington Cyclone.

At the Range
The discussion of the range results has to be handled a little differently for this review. Most of the points I would usually make about the operation of the whole gun are irrelevant, since .22 conversion slides can be mounted on a variety of frames. In other words, overall results may vary depending on the frame you choose. So the results noted here will focus on the performance of the kits.

The Kimber Rimfire Conversion Kit is simple to install. After removing the .45 ACP magazine, slide stop and slide assembly, the .22 conversion slide assembly is placed on the frame and the factory slide stop is reinstalled. With the polymer .22 magazine loaded into the grip frame, the pistol is ready to shoot. The Kimber kit doesn't list any specific ammunition restrictions. However, since the Marvel unit prefers a specified, high-quality diet, I thought it was only fair to compare apples to apples during the formal tests of the Kimber by sticking to the good stuff.

The best single five-shot group for the Kimber was 1.25 inches, produced using Winchester Super-X 40-grain, copper-plated hollow points. All of the Super X groups stayed tight to also yield the best group average at 1.83 inches. CCI Stinger 32-grain, copper-plated hollow points came in second with an average of 2.00 inches, and the CCI Mini Mag 36-grain, copper-plated hollow points came in third with an average of 2.10 inches. With the formal testing completed, I went ahead and ran a few varieties of bulk ammo through the Kimber kit. As would be expected, the accuracy was not as good with the cheaper ammunition, but all of the rounds tested performed well and ran without any malfunctions.

The Marvel Unit 2 is also simple to install, but it requires an extra step or two. After the 1911 frame is stripped of the magazine, factory slide stop and slide assembly, the Unit 2 slide is set into the pistol frame. The factory slide stop is replaced by a Marvel slide stop specifically designed to work with the Unit 2. Once the Marvel slide stop is installed, the slide is moved out of battery just enough to expose the hex-head tip of the recoil rod. Using the provided take-down tool, the recoil rod is tightened to clamp the rod to the slide stop. This locks the barrel to the frame to keep it from moving while shooting. Load the metallic .22 magazine with the recommended ammunition, and you are ready to go.

I then proceeded to execute the gun writer's flub-up of the day. Even though it wasn't listed as one of the ammunition recommendations for the Unit 2, the Winchester Super X performed so well from the Kimber conversion that I just had to give it a try in the Marvel. As a result, I had the opportunity to experience firsthand exactly what the owner’s manual warned of when using non-recommended rounds, "Some of the symptoms that may occur are: failure to feed, stovepipes, misfires and light strikes." Therefore, I'm certainly not going to ding either Winchester or Marvel when all of the appropriate parties involved were duly notified ahead of time.

I swapped out the Wincher Super X for the CCI Mini-Mag, which is on the approved ammunition list. With the Mini-Mag work completed, I then moved on to two more CCI loads I had on hand. All three of the CCI test loads ran without any problems. The best single five-shot group from the Unit 2 was 1.50 inches, produced using CCI Mini-Mag 36-grain, copper-plated hollow points. The average group size for the Mini-Mag was 1.75 inches. The next best group average was 2.00 inches, produced using CCI Stingers 32-grain, copper-plated hollow points, followed by CCI Velocitor 40-grain, copper-plated hollow points at 2.25 inches.

To save money, many think we have to sacrifice features, functions or just plain settle for less. But, it's also true that not all conversion kits are created equal. So it was a pleasure to discover that both the Kimber Rimfire Conversion and Marvel Precision Unit 2 kits performed reliably and accurately. These affordable conversions will also expand the roles your 1911 can fill to include plinking, small game hunting and training new shooters. But before you buy, be sure to contact the manufacturers to verify that your 1911 frame is compatible. 

Manufacturer: Kimber kimberamerica.com
Model: Rimfire Target Conversion Kit
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
Slide: Aluminum
Slide Finish: Matte Black or Silver
Sights: Adjustable Target
Barrel Length: 5.00”
Overall Length: 8.70”
Magazine: Polymer, 10 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” RH 
Rifle Grooves: 6
1911 Frame Required: Most Mil-Spec Single-Stack 1911 Pistol Frames
Suggested Retail Price: $330.00

Manufacturer: Marvel Precision marvelprecision.com
Model: Unit 2 Conversion Kit
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
Slide: Aluminum
Slide Finish: Matte Black
Sights: Adjustable Target
Barrel Length: 4.80”
Overall Length: 8.70”
Magazine:  Metallic, 10 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” LH 
Rifle Grooves: 6
1911 Frame Required: Fits 1911 Government or Commander Single-Stack Frames
Accessories: Marvel Slide Stop, Take-Down Tool
Suggested Retail Price: $325.00

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17 Responses to 1911 .22 Conversion Kits

Casey wrote:
February 23, 2014

Are there any .22lr conversion kits that fit the Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911 C.

Josh wrote:
February 12, 2013

Will a Coversion kit for a colt 1911 work with a spring field armory 1911?

Mark wrote:
November 21, 2012

I have a Ceiner .22 kit for a M1911. I built the frame as a learning project. Got the Conversion before Brownell's quit selling them, along with two extra mags. Runs well and worth the learning experience.

tom wrote:
October 31, 2012

ciener 22 conv. for hipowers do not work. very poor fit and finish. my friends with 1911s, bought ciener 22 conv. and have similar problems. all different kinds of ammo were used.

Matt wrote:
January 18, 2012

I have a colt 22 conv kit but lost the bushing. Anyone know of a place I can purchase the part seprately? Calls to Colt have been unsuccessful. Hate to have to buy a complete new kit b/c I'm missing one small part.

Ernie B. wrote:
December 01, 2011

I have 2 Jonathan Ciener 22 conv. kits, One for my Springfield Armory 1911A1 with adjustable sights and another for my Taurus PT-99 with fixed sights. My Platinum Cup conversion kit has a Millet adjustable rear sight and comes with a 15 round metal magazine. I used this unit on my 1911 for a defensive pistol class with 4 additional magazines and everyone else was wishing they had this too. Accurate shooting, costs is way less than shooting .45 ACP. My cost for 500 .22lr rounds was around $20.00, their cost for 500 .45ACP rounds was $200.00! I love them!

Mario Henrique S Lins wrote:
November 01, 2011

I have a Ace conversion that works like a charm in my brazilian contract .45. N

Tom Musick wrote:
October 31, 2011

I really don't see the need to drop 350.00 on a conversion when I only paid that for a GSG 1911 22 that shoots as well or better and eats what I feed it with no problems

John P wrote:
October 30, 2011

I also agree with Pete. I have an RIA .45 ACP and a GSG 1911-22. The GSG has about 30 or so interchangeable parts with any .45 ACP. Maybe it's because I am not an Olympic match shooter like some folks here, but I love shooting both. They have similar weight and balance and their triggers right out of the box were pretty da*n good. If you like conversion kits fine, but for me I like having an extra gun to play with.

Charlie O wrote:
October 28, 2011

I have a Ruger SR1911 and bought a Tactical Solutions conversion. May cost a lil more but this is the best I have owned. I've had Kimber and Ceiner and they don't hold a candle to this one. Only conversion I know that the last shot the slide stays open.

Walt wrote:
October 21, 2011

A very misleading article. Typical of gun magazines who slant their articles to favor big advertisers. Marval accuracy beats Olympic pistols at 50 yards. Head shots on Squirrels size groups. My Marvel groups.496 @ 50yds. 1" w/Remington Golden Bullet HP. They make a cheaper (not much) model and this was used in this article. It eats anything I feed it. No conversion can come anywhere close in accuracy.

Robert D. Jones wrote:
October 20, 2011

I have owned a Colt conversion for more than thirty years. Less accurate, harder to clean, but I've been saving money for decades. I will continue to use it. I do have a conversion kit for my Glock 27 that provides the same savings and the same fun.

Les Sharf wrote:
October 19, 2011

I have a 3 year old Marvel conv. with both tops. Unit came w/test targ.of .73 at 50yds. w/ Fed.Gold Match from a fixture. curently using CCI Standard Vel. LIghter springs avail. from Marvel. About 1''at 25yds. offhand. Great unit, great support from Marvel.

Pete wrote:
October 19, 2011

Instead I would recommend a .22/1911 such as the GSG- 1911. Why mess around with a real 1911/1911A1 that performs the way you like it. The price is virtually the same.

Joe Arp wrote:
October 19, 2011

I have an Advantage Arms .22 Cal conversion for my 1911 that I like very much. Check the Advantage Arms website.

Charlie wrote:
October 19, 2011

Currently own Jonathan Cienar 22 conv. kit which has all features of kits in this article plus- 15 round mag.,10 second conv. time for 1911's,suggests 40 grain but I use 36 grain with no problem,and costs $100 less. Also make conv. for other makes and models. Check www.22lrconversions.com

Tim wrote:
October 18, 2011

While I currently don't have any of the products mentioned, I love the 22 caliber conversion kit for the high power, and I'm looking forward to a .22 conversion kit for the Keltec P 11. A great way to shoot your favorite guns and save a bunch of cash!