October 02, 2020
Rock Island Armory is best known for producing reliable 1911s at a reasonable price, so it should come as little surprise that the company’s new .22 Magnum semiauto pistol bears more than a passing resemblance to John Moses Browning’s most influential handgun design. But the 1911 was never designed to function with mild rimfire ammo, so Rock Island has made a few engineering changes to the XT 22 Magnum to make it look and feel like a 1911 without sacrificing reliability.
For starters, the XT 22 Magnum features an open-top slide design that is reminiscent of another popular semiauto centerfire pistol: the Beretta 92. The open top eliminates some slide weight and allows the XT 22 Magnum’s delayed blowback operating system to function properly.
The XT 22 Magnum also features a clever two-piece barrel design wherein the chamber and feed ramp are attached to a steel inner barrel that slides into a larger barrel shroud. A small spring-operated plunger is housed within the outer barrel, and when the slide returns forward it compresses the spring and the inner and outer barrels lock together. The system is simple and, as it turns out, quite reliable.
The frame of the XT 22 Magnum looks and feels almost identical to a full-sized 1911, and both guns share similar frame dimensions and angles. Both the frame and the slide of the XT 22 Magnum are made of steel, and the added heft helps reduce recoil and gives the gun an unmistakably 1911 feel. If you’re a fan of the John Browning design, you’ll like the way the Rock Island handles and operates, making this gun the ideal practice pistol for 1911 .45 shooters.
The dimensions and specifications are also very 1911-esque. The XT 22 Magnum measures 8.54 inches long, 5.51 inches high and 1.3 inches wide across the controls with an overall unloaded weight of 40 ounces. By contrast, Rock Island’s Rock Ultra FS 1911 .45 ACP measures 8.75 inches long, 5.5 inches high and 1.3 inches wide and weighs within an ounce of the XT 22 Magnum. Needless to say, both guns will feel very similar in the hand.
The XT 22 Magnum’s profile and dimensions aren’t the only similarities between the rimfire and .45 pistols. Like the 1911 centerfire gun, the rimfire version comes with a skeletonized single-action trigger with an adjustable overtravel stop and a skeletonized combat hammer.
The XT 22 Magnum also gets the same extended beavertail and checkered rubberized black grips with diamond cuts you’ll find on the company’s 1911 pistols. Other key features include a checkered mainspring housing and a beveled mag well. The rounded frontstrap is smooth.
The XT 22 Magnum’s controls are also borrowed from the 1911. There’s a manual safety lever on the left side of the gun, a round magazine release button with checkered top just behind the trigger and a slide stop that travels transversely through the frame and must be pressed from the opposite side to be removed for fieldstripping.
The rear portion of the slide features the same vertical cocking serrations you’ll find on classic 1911s, and there’s a large external claw extractor.
Along the left side of the open top slide, you’ll find cutouts similar to what you’ll see on a full-size 1911 slide: a notch to accommodate the safety, a slide stop cut for locking the slide back and a small rounded notch that allows the slide stop to be removed from the gun for fieldstripping.
The front and the rear sights are both fixed and dovetailed. The front post sight is dovetailed into the barrel shroud, while the rear notch sight is dovetailed into the slide.
The gun I tested came with a fiber-optic front sight, although it appears production guns will get a white dot. The metalwork has a black Parkerized matte finish.
Fieldstripping the XT 22 Mag is easy and straightforward, especially if you’ve had previous experience with a 1911. With the gun unloaded and the magazine removed, simply pull back on the slide until the semicircular notch on the slide aligns with the tab on top of the slide stop. Using opposite-side pressure, push the slide stop free of the gun and move the slide assembly forward off the frame. The slide assembly contains the inner and outer barrel shrouds, the spring and the slide itself. Pressing forward on the spring allows it to be removed from the block on the bottom of the barrel shroud, and that allows the barrel to be pulled free from the open-top slide. The inner barrel sleeve then slides out of the shroud and the gun is ready for cleaning.
The process is simpler than stripping a 1911 with a bushing, but it’s important to keep track not only of the recoil spring but also of the smaller spring and plunger that act as a buffer between the inner and outer portions of the barrel.
The plunger and accompanying spring are particularly easy to lose or misplace, so pay special attention when pulling the two barrel portions apart.
Because the slide and spring of the XT 22 Magnum are lighter than those found on centerfire 1911s, the operation of the slide is light and easy. Even new shooters or those who don’t possess a lot of hand strength will have no problems pulling the slide back to chamber a round, and the provided 14-round steel magazines are robust, functional and easy to load.
I’ll admit I have reservations about shooting rimfire semiautos, especially those designed to imitate successful centerfire pistols. I’ve encountered some centerfire-lookalike rimfire guns that were finicky about ammo and unreliable. But the XT 22 Magnum is neither finicky nor unreliable. It’s just plain fun to shoot because Rock Island got the rimfire recipe right.
This is due in large part to the fact that the gun eats anything. I tested five different loads from five different manufacturers and found each one of them fed, chambered, fired, extracted and ejected as promised.
The Rock Island’s inner barrel has a cutout that allows the extractor to slide over the rim of the cartridge for reliable cycling, and there were never any hang-ups while firing more than 250 rounds.
A full magazine holds 14 .22 Magnum loads, and you’ll be surprised how quickly this gun can digest that much ammunition. You’ll also be surprised how much fun you’ll have burning through those rounds.
A rimfire pistol made from 40 ounces of steel doesn’t recoil much, and there’s precious little muzzle rise when shooting the XT 22 Magnum. Muzzle blast is considerably greater than what you’ll encounter when firing a .22 Long Rifle semiauto, but recoil is pretty much non-existent.
What’s more, the XT 22 Magnum’s trigger is excellent. The average pull weight was 4.5 pounds for 10 shots on a Wheeler gauge, and there’s very little take-up. It’s clean, crisp and target-gun good. On the range I managed groups as small as 2.1 inches at 25 yards, and that’s with the pistol’s relatively basic sights.
With so many rounds on tap, such reliable performance and such a clean trigger, it’s understandably appealing to send a few hundred rounds downrange with this gun. And unlike larger centerfire 1911s, you can burn that ammo without spending a lot of cash. Ammo for the .22 Magnum runs about a quarter a round, maybe less, so this 1911 clone .22 Magnum is a great option for anyone who wants a low-cost training gun.
On that score, the XT 22’s frame is a dimensional doppelgänger of a full-size 1911, which can’t be said for some 1911 trainers. Traditionally, .22 1911 trainers that mimicked bigger guns didn’t really match feature for feature with their centerfire counterparts, but the XT 22 does. And, as I mentioned, many of the rimfire 1911s I’ve worked with didn’t function reliably.
Aside from service as a training pistol, the XT 22 works fulfills a variety of other roles, and if you’re one of those people who believe every new gun purchase must have a higher purpose, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the XT 22’s versatility. It’ll work as a small game and varmint gun out to 25 yards or so, and it’s also a great farm or ranch sidearm for dispatching damage-causing critters.
The Parkerized finish held up well during the test, and the XT 22 fit into both 1911 holsters that I had (one Galco, one DeSantis) without issues, though at 40 ounces it does weigh more heavily on the belt than competing rimfires.
And while I won’t advocate that a .22 Magnum 1911 is a better personal defense weapon than a 1911 in .45 or 9mm, I will say the XT 22 proved accurate and reliable enough to place a lot of shots in the vitals of a torso target very quickly.
Ultimately, though, this gun is just fun to shoot. It’s accurate enough to make you feel good about your skills, reliable enough so there’s no wasting time clearing jams, and affordable enough you can shoot all day without the feeling of having just burned up a week’s wages. With a suggested retail price of just $598 and a street price closer to $500, your investment in the gun isn’t all that heavy in the first place.
If you’re a 1911 fan, your rimfire training gun has finally arrived. If you aren’t, this mild-mannered, affordable .22 Magnum just might convert you.
Rock Island Armory XT 22 Magnum Specs
- Type: Single-action semiauto
- Caliber: .22 Magnum
- Capacity: 14+1
- Barrel: 5 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 8.5/5.1/1.3 in.
- Weight: 40 oz.
- Finish: Parkerized 4140 barrel shroud and frame
- Grips: Black plastic
- Trigger: 4.5 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: Fixed notch rear, fiber-optic post front (as tested)
- Safeties: Grip, single-side thumb
- Price: $598
- Manufacturer: Armscor/Rock Island Armory, armscor.com
Rock Island Armory XT 22 Magnum Accuracy Results