.22LR Conversion Units

| Winning Edge |
These Non-Guns Are Fun-Guns

By Dave Anderson

With a .22 conversion unit for your auto pistol, you can shoot .22 LR using the same grip frame, operating controls and trigger pull as your centerfire gun. That’s handy, since familiarity is important. A conversion unit will also likely allow you to add .22 capability at less cost than purchasing a complete .22 handgun. Since the conversion units don’t include a frame they are generally not defined as firearms, and so let you use another cartridge without buying another firearm. Hello California?

When a novice handgunner asks what’s the point of a .22 pistol I have to think about it. The obvious reason is a .22 is more pleasant to shoot, with virtually no recoil and a milder report than a centerfire. More enjoyable shooting means more shooting, which is how skill is acquired. Plus, well … doesn’t everyone need a .22?

Not so long ago one could say shooting a .22 rather than a centerfire would save money. More recently supply and demand — mainly demand — has resulted in higher prices, and on occasion, .22 rimfire shortages. Nonetheless with a little online searching I found .22 LR being offered for sale at prices from about 7¢ to 10¢ a round. The best prices I could find for centerfire handgun cartridges were from 35¢ to 50¢ a round. Handloading, of course, can bring costs down below the cost of .22 LR, especially if you also cast bullets.

With advancing years I value my time more than I once did. I find it pleasant to shoot a couple of hundred rounds of .22, sweep up the empties, dump them in the trash and go do something else.


Kimber’s Rimfire Target .22 LR conversion unit on a Spingfield Armory
frame. This is a typical 10-shot group from a rest at 25 yards. Dave’s
new Ranger shooting glasses from Tactical Rx with the Merit Optical
Attachment and ear protectors from Ear Shield.

Kimber’s Rimfire Target .22 Unit

At present .22 conversion units are available only for a few popular centerfire pistols. Ciener units are offered for 1911 style pistols, the Browning High Power, and some models of the Beretta/Taurus and Glock line. SIG-Sauer offers a conversion unit to fit several of their popular P-series pistols. Smith & Wesson doesn’t offer conversion kits for the M&P line at present but does offer a .22 LR M&P which looks and handles like the centerfire models. Marvel offers excellent 1911 conversion kits, as does Wilson Combat.

A kit I recently purchased and like very much is the Kimber Rimfire Target kit. It consists of a slide/barrel assembly including recoil spring and guide, recoil spring plug and barrel bushing. The adjustable sights are outstanding.

The rear sight has accurate and repeatable adjustments and is neatly dovetailed low into the slide. The front sight, a vertical post, is likewise dovetailed into the slide. Machining of the slide is smooth and precise; overall, quality of workmanship seems very good.

Installation on a Springfield Armory 1911 I had on hand took less than a minute. Remove the .45 ACP top end, slide the conversion kit into place and reinstall the slide stop. A polymer 10-shot magazine is supplied with the kit. It fit and locked in the Springfield frame and dropped free when the release button was pressed. It does not have a “ledge” to activate the slide stop when the magazine is empty, though.


Kimber’s .22 conversion unit comes with one magazine and a good quality hard case.

Can It Shoot?

The Kimber conversion unit functioned perfectly with most of the high-speed .22 LR ammunition I had on hand. Among these were CCI, Winchester, Remington, and two loadings from Federal, their “Champion” with copper-plated bullets and “Lightning” with lead roundnose bullets.

On a few occasions the Federal Lightning rounds didn’t have enough power to cock the hammer and eject. The hammer would be at half-cock with the empty case caught in the ejection port. I noticed, while thumb-cocking, this particular Springfield has a very stiff mainspring, which might explain things.

Accuracy proved very good, with 10-shot groups typically around 2 inches at 25 yards, this with the pistol hand-held on sandbags. I’ll say again, I really like the fine adjustable rear sight. At present the Kimber conversion unit has an MSRP of $339 in either black or silver finish and additional mags are $25.95.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index

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