How many Bianchi Cup competitors does it take to get a .22 conversion attached to a 1911 handgun?
Funny story, actually … let me start by saying Bianchi Cup is one of the most difficult matches in the world, focused on a brutal combination of accuracy, under a time limit. Those who compete are incredibly talented, dedicated and involved in the shooting community. Many of them have most likely swapped conversion kits for their semi-autos many times, but when it’s a BJ Norris’ “retired” Steel Challenge 1911, it’s an entirely different story. In fact, it took five Bianchi Cup shooters, a photographer, and multiple phone calls to Mr. Norris to complete the conversion!
You may know me as a revolver shooter, but Sunday, April 14, 2013, everything changed. I shot a BJ Norris’ semi-automatic pistol. And I liked it! At first, it might have just been the fact that the gun was B.J. Norris’s “Steel Master” winner, competing pistol/race gun. For one thing, I was excited to try a famous pistol and to see if I could “make it go” like my friend Mr. Norris did. The other shooters that day were even whispering about its “good voodoo” and “blessed nature.”
I was a little confused about where to put the moonclips in, frankly. Yet, there we were, the Tactical Solution’s .22 conversion kit (Model 2211) ready to go and preparing to open the case of the beautiful 1911. That was the first problem. Knowing the price of the 1911, and its prestige, we should have guessed that the case would have been everything but bullet proof. Lesson learned: dainty lady fingers may be able to pull triggers very well, but opening the case requires some extra help! With the help of my dad, we got the case open and — cue the angel chorus — it was beautiful. To elaborate, it had to be one of the snazziest guns I had ever seen — porting, scope, grip, everything. When I picked-up the pistol and wiggled it back and forth, it made clacking noises like it was talking to me, “Hi, I’m fast, hope you can keep up.”
But it was fitted to shoot 9mm ammunition. That had to be fixed. For one, I had no 9mm. For another, .22 ammo is a lot cheaper than any other caliber, so practice is a lot cheaper. That is the key reason for getting a .22 conversion for your 1911 — cost efficiency. As a competitive shooter, and an aspiring loan-less college student, the less money being spent, the better! A reliable .22 conversion is a fantastic investment.
Most people have issues looking at “.22” and “reliable” in the same sentence. For a long time, I did too. (Point one for revolvers!) There’s something different about the conversion kit I had though — it was a Tactical Solutions 2211. The technical aspects are also impressive. For example, the quality is superb. It has heat-treated steel rather than aluminum. Aluminum, though not ideal for the body, is great for magazines! Rather than a three-piece puzzle, the magazines for the 2211 are made entirely by computer-driven machines and from airplane aluminum.
I actually took a tour with Chet Alvord from Tactical Solutions before they moved to their new shop. It was fun to see the ballet of all the machines making barrels and conversion kits! Finally, competition and ballet combined, what a great day! Then, there are the elements of the 2211 which the competitor would notice. Two main points stood out for me. First, after shooting the final round, the slide will remain back. This makes it a LOT easier in the case where the shooter miscounts, and there is a locked forward slide. Second, after talking to Chet from Tactical Solutions about his product, he told me that’s because the “over travel protection on the trigger,” I could “dry fire as much as (I) want.” That means better trigger control and more practice … for an even lower cost! The best thing to Mr. Alvord though, was the fact that the 1911 conversions work. Period.
Of course, for regular people with regular 1911s which have not been turned into “serious race guns,” the 2211 conversion is a matter of “plug and play.” Sadly, I didn’t think to ask about what to do if the gun was, in fact, a very serious race gun. Luckily, if you are in a similar predicament and do not have BJ Norris on the phone line, you can send the firearm straight to Tactical Solutions and they will fit the slide for the frame!
Weight is also an issue, even with .22s! The .22 conversion weighs in at 18.6 ounces and can come in both threaded and unthreaded. If the conversion is being used as practice for a bigger caliber, I recommend going heavier or lighter depending on the weight of the regular upper. The realistic weight will only cause more benefit for practice.
Fortunately for me, and my friends at the Silverado Sportsman’s range, with B.J.’s encouragement and the extreme patience and kindness of the RO Bryan Brockway we secured the all important paperclip! Yes a paperclip, into a tiny hole which was partially hidden, all of which released the slide, allowing the group effort to install the conversion kit! For anyone else, it takes less than a minute to swap from centerfire to rimfire. The pistol clattered and went really fast, and kept spitting out the .22 cal rounds. IT was wonderful. Although a typical day at the range shooting a Bianchi practice match, once again the shooting community always has time to help each other out, provide encouragement and have fun sharing a famous pistol with the newest and greatest part attached to it. And as my mom says, “Brian’s just a phone call away.”
California teen shooter Molly Smith shoots for Team Smith & Wesson, and prefers a 627 Smith & Wesson iron-sighted revolver. She attends several matches each year, and loves to write about them at her column, "Millisecond Molly." View all posts by Molly Smith