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10/11/2004 Archived Entry: "Range Report: Marvel .22 conversion kit"
RANGE REPORT: MARVEL .22 CONVERSION KIT
Blogispondent Ian here again. One of the nice things about the model 1911 automatic pistol is the wealth of aftermarket parts available. Among these is one particularly practical type of item: a replacement t that allows the weapon to use .22 rimfire ammunition. I've been looking at several such items for a while, and finally bought one. The conversion kits consist of a replacement slide, .22 magazine, and slide stop. They take literally only seconds to swap with the original slide, and you can switch back to the original caliber just as rapidly (the procedure is the same as removing the slide for cleaning). But why would I want to downsize my .45 to a puny .22? A couple reasons.
Primarily, money. Even my handloaded .45 costs me more than 5 times as much as .22. By being able to use .22 ammo, I can afford much more practice than I would be able to get using .45 ammo. Better still, a conversion kit allows me to get this practice with exactly the same grip, balance, and trigger as my .45 - which makes the practice all the more useful in improving my .45 shooting. It's not identical, as the .22 has less recoil and muzzle climb than .45 does, but at the same time that makes it easier to get techniques down perfectly (without having to worry about developing flinches). While not a perfect solution, I think the .22 conversion is a very useful tool for "serious" shooting practice.
In addition, the .22 caliber pistol is simply a very useful tool in its own right. They are good for recreational plinking, small game/varmints, and training new shooters.
After researching the various makers of such kits, I decided on purchasing from Marvel Precision, Inc. Their kits seemed to have the best reputation for accuracy, and are priced well (mine cost me $262, including shipping). If you want to do some comparison shopping, the other major makers are Ciener, Wilson Combat, Jarvis, and Kimber.
Marvel makes two different conversion kits. The Unit 1 is intended for use as a serious bullseye pistol. Their other kit, the Unit 2 (Practical) is what I purchased. It is less accurate ("only" capable of 0.5 inch to 1 inch groups at 25 yards), but fit my budget much better. Besides, it'll be a little while before I can outshoot this one.
Anyway, some product details. The kit came with fully adjustable sights, a single 10-round magazine, soft case, assembly tool (I'll get to this in a sec), and manual. It is advertised as fitting to virtually any 1911 frame, and I intended to use it on my Argentine Sistema. I was a bit concerned about slide-to-frame fit causing accuracy problems with the kit, as my frame was made to military specs about 40 years ago, and its regular slide is a bit loose. I put those worries aside, though, and made the order. I was told to expect delivery in 3 to 4 weeks, but got it in 2 and a half weeks. They shipped directly to my door, by the way, because the conversion kit is not legally a "firearm." There's no FFL paperwork required to get one, no matter where you live.
Upon assembly, I was disappointed to find that the slide was a really loose fit. I took it to the range, and some shooting confirmed my diappointment - from the bench, I couldn't get any better than two or three inches at 50 feet (17 yards). So I came back home, and called Marvel, hoping to return it. Well, to make an embarrassing moment short, the lady politely suggested I read the instruction booklet, and even more politely refrained from calling me a moron. Lo and behold, after mounting the .22 slide, you have to use that assembly tool I'd ignored to tighten down the guide rod. This draws the slide down onto the frame and holds it firmly in position. So I stuck my foot in my mouth, reassembled the gun, and went back to the range. Now that it was put together correctly, it shot much, much better (imagine that...). I got groups of about 1.25 to 1.5 inches at 50 feet, but that's about my limit shooting from the bench. I can't speak to the ultimate accuracy potential of the kit because I don't have a solid rest to test it with, but it can definitely outshoot me so far, and I expect that won't change any time soon.
There are some ammo issues to be aware of. The kit came with a note saying not to use Federal ammo, as it wouldn't work reliably. I confirmed this with some Federal I had on hand (of about 50 rounds, all fired but none successfully cycled the action). I also tried bulk Winchester and Remington from WalMart. The Winchester had a lot of malfunctions, but the Remington worked wonderfully. Fortunately, most of my .22 stash is Remington already. However, I did find a good use for the Federal: malfunction drills. Since they fail to extract or eject virtually every time, I can mix a few into my practice ammo and have random malfunctions to practice clearing.
Oh - one other thing to be aware of. Most 1911 conversion kits, including the Marvel ones, will not lock open on an empty magazine. This is because they are made of aluminum, and the steel slide stop would wear out the hold-open cutout on the slide. They can be manually locked open, they just won't do it automatically.
Overall, I am very happy with my kit. It shoots great, functions reliably, and simply does everything I hoped it would. I expect to get a lot of good use out of this piece of machinery. Kudos to Marvel for a great product!
Posted by Ian @ 02:38 PM CST