A recent addition to the rather short list of .22-cal. M1911s is the 1911-22 from Chiappa Firearms of Dayton, Ohio. All the components of the Chiappa guns are made in Italy by Armi Chiappa or in the United States.
The 1911-22 is a straight blowback pistol in .22 Long Rifle only, with a fixed barrel solidly attached to the frame. Major parts of the pistol, including the slide, frame, and some internals, are made of Chiapalloy, a proprietary zinc-based alloy that is durable, easily machined and readily blackened by an electrolytic process that produces a more durable blue-black finish than the painted finishes often used on zinc alloys.
Although steel is used in several critical areas, the pistol’s barrel, for example, is composed of an alloy shroud surrounding a steel liner button-rifled in a six-groove, 1:16-inch right-hand twist. Steel is also used for the firing pin, as well as the massive spring-loaded claw extractor set into the right side of the slide. Although guns of current manufacture feature Chiapalloy trigger components, these will be phased out in favor of a new steel trigger set.
Polymer is used for the magazine catch, mainspring housing, non-rotating grip safety filler, and the body and follower of the 10-round single-column magazine. Witness holes index the number of loaded cartridges. The magazine also has a unique feature: a raised tab on its right rear corner that serves as the gun’s ejector.
This combination of materials seems to work quite well, with test guns reportedly firing more than 25,000 rounds with no breakages. The Chiappa’s light recoil spring, with a rate of about 5 pounds, makes slide retraction extremely easy, enabling persons of even limited strength to use the pistol. But that spring weight can also allow the firing-hand thumb to induce a malfunction if it is allowed to drag against the slide during firing.
Safety features include the traditional left-side thumb safety and a gun lock on the right rear side of the slide. A third safety feature is the gun’s automatic trigger safety, which blocks the trigger until the slide is fully forward into battery. Finally, the hammer features a half-cock notch.
The initial version of this pistol to hit dealers’ shelves was the Standard Model with fixed sights and a standard trigger set, soon to be followed by a Target Model with adjustable sights, and a Tactical Model with no-snag fixed sights and a threaded muzzle. The Standard Model we received for testing gave us a number of surprises. The first was how closely the pistol resembled the appearance, feel and heft of its center-fire cousin. The rimfire retained the thumb safety, slide release and magazine catch of the original, omitting only the pivoting grip safety.
Also surprising was the gun’s performance. We tested the 1911-22 at 25 yards with CCI Pistol Match, Wolf Match and Federal Gold Medal .22 Long Rifle ammunition. Accuracy with all loads was quite impressive, with the CCI and Wolf ammunition grouping into slightly more than 1 inch at 25 yards. Even the worst-performing load averaged a respectable 1.68 inches.
While this is creditable, we are confident that the pistol is capable of better performance. The main obstacle hampering more precise shooting was the gun’s heavy, creepy 10-pound trigger, which felt more like that of a double-action revolver. According to the company, the alloy used for the trigger components work-hardens with use, eventually yielding a pull of around 5 pounds after 2,000 to 3,000 rounds. The new steel trigger components alluded to above will improve trigger quality to a range of about 3 to 3 pounds, 8 ounces.
Reliability was another of the Chiappa M911-22’s strong points. During an extended test-fire session of more than 300 rounds, using everything from subsonic ammunition to hyper-velocity loads, we experienced no malfunctions. Ejection with all loads was positive and strong, although brass from the more powerful loads flew farther out of the gun.
It is worth noting that Chiappa Firearms, cognizant of the brisk trade in aftermarket M1911 parts, will also be offering a variety of custom parts for the 1911-22, including a beavertail, a combat hammer, a target trigger with overtravel screw, a tactical light mount and more. Also, the Chiappa can accept a few original M1911 parts, such as grips and frame-mounted scope mounts.
The 1911-22’s accuracy, reliability and resemblance to the M1911 give it an unusual versatility. Given its level of accuracy, it would be as readily at home as an informal target pistol as it would as a plinker.