October 23, 2012
If you like the idea of having a Model 1911 lookalike in a small caliber, the Chiappa Model 1911-22 might be for you. Chambered in .22 Long Rifle, it offers some neat advantages: It fits into any 1911-style holster; it has all the bells and whistles as the large-caliber gun; and the ammo is less expensive. In addition, since the gun checks in at a mite less than 2 pounds, it is a great field-carry gun for small game.
This Chiappa is made in Italy by Chiappa Armi Sport Limited. Presently, the Chiappa Model 1911-22 is available in basic black, a black frame with a desert tan slide, a Target version, and a Tactical model with Novak-style rear sights and a threaded muzzle.
Constructed from an alloy called Chiappalloy, my Target sample looked and felt like the real deal. While this alloy makes the gun feel much lighter than the original, some of the parts are steel and add to the overall heft of the gun. The 5-inch, fixed barrel is, of course, steel and is part of the frame.
The Target model offers the option of a compensator to reduce muzzle rise for really fast follow-ups. If you've ever been to a rimfire action match, you'll see the serious competitors have compensators because it speeds their target transitions. However, during my shooting sessions, the compensator on the Chiappa Target made no noticeable difference in muzzle rise, but I did notice an increase in noise while shooting on a range with an overhead canopy.
The mainspring housing is rounded and adds to the comfort factor of the gun. It's straight, not arched, and does not incorporate a grip safety. Safeties include the traditional left-handed thumb safety and the firing-pin safety.
There is also a key-operated safety on the right side of the gun. It blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin when turned to the nine o'clock position.
Chiappa advises against dry-firing the pistol because it can damage the face of the chamber or the firing pin.
On the left side of the gun, a polymer magazine release is in the usual position. I had little problem ejecting empty magazines or loading even though the mag well is not beveled.
The trigger is skeletonized and stylized, as is the hammer. The 7-pound trigger pull is not exactly good for deliberate accuracy trials, but can be managed once you get used to it. It reminds me of a two-stage pull with no overtravel adjustment, which is masked somewhat by the amount of rearward force necessary to allow the hammer to fall.
Topside on the slide you find a set of metal sights. The front is a common blade that Chiappa advises to file down to adjust elevation if necessary, although the rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. While the rear notch is a cut above okay, it could be widened just a bit for easier target acquisition. The rear blade is angled and serrated to eliminate glare.
The grip angle is the same as a modern .45 Model 1911, and laser-engraved, wood grips finish the gun.
The gun is easy to field strip because of the rigid barrel. After ensuring the gun is unloaded, the barrel bushing can be removed by hand, then ease out the recoil spring and plug. Cock the hammer, pull back on the slide, lifting it up as you slide it forward and off the frame.
When completely field stripping the gun, pay strict attention to the left grip panel, which, according to Chiappa, "is designed to retain components which include a few important safety features." Once removed you have to contend with the plunger and a small slide-safety tension spring. Losing either can put a halt to your shooting.
The company advises that you run at least 100 rounds through the fixed barrel before conducting accuracy tests. Chiappa also recommends CCI Mini-Mags for testing, which for me turned out to be the right call as this ammo turned in the best accuracy: 1.25 inches at 25 yards. By reasonable standards, I will take that any day, especially for small game.
After shooting the pistol for accuracy and velocity, I spent the rest of the morning shooting at targets, both paper and clay, at moderate ranges. There were no issues with extraction or ejection—no malfunctions of any kind.
In short, since it doesn't have the hefty recoil of the .45 ACP or even the .38 Super, the 1911-22 is fun to shoot, and for training younger shooters—or just for your own plinking—I highly recommend it.