Category Archives: AR-15

The hot new 22 TCM round, what is it and why would you want it?

Introduced just a few years ago with little press and fanfare, the .22 Tuason Craig Micromagnum cartridge is fast taking the world by storm with chamberings available for 1911, AR-15 and Glock platforms. Why the buzz on a .22 caliber round? Well, about that…

RIA rock island 22 TCMOrigins of the cartridge

First off, this is absolutely not a .22 rimfire of any kind.

American custom gunsmith Fred Craig designed the .22 TCM. Craig, using the moniker “22 micro-mag” cut down a .223 Remington rifle case from 45 to 26mm, added a 40-grain .224-caliber bullet to the top, and called it a day. This wildcat gave supersonic performance (2100fps) which imparted something on the order of 400 ft./lbs. of energy downrange in a 5.56x26mm bottlenecked centerfire cartridge with ballistics similar to the 5.7x28mm FN cartridge. If it sounds like a mini-5.56 round, you are correct. Mini enough to fit in a pistol sized handgun as a matter of fact.

9mm (left) and 22 TCM compared.

9mm (left) and 22 TCM compared.

Craig shopped his design to Armscor in the Philippines, the same mega-company that makes RIA, STI, Auto Ordnance and other 1911 style pistols for both local consumption and export. With some minor tweaks, the round became the .22 Tuason Craig Micro magnum with the Tuason part belonging to the head of Armscor. Most users report a very mild recoil, something on the order of a low-powered 9mm, that is offset by a large muzzle flash, which has earned it as reputation as a “Flame Thrower.”

Ballistics tests of the .22TCM

This hot and spicy round, introduced in 2012, is gaining a number of platforms to use it.

TCM 1911s

armscor ria tcmArmscor is currently offering a no less than nine 1911-style TCM series pistols, all Rock Island Armory marked guns. These range from single stack magazine models like the Ultra MS Tactical with a full-length guide rod and 10-shot magazine to the Standard series with a 17-shot double stack mag. The neat thing about these offerings is that they typically come with a 9x19mm parabellum (Luger) barrel that can be swapped out and used for lower cost practice.


The guys over at Modern Weapons Systems have been burning lean muscle tissue into the night for the past several months coming up with a TCM AR platform that uses a 35-round stick magazine. Dubbed the ION system, they had several on hand at last month’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas and have been chronicling the development and testing of these interesting offshoots on their social media account.

mws ion
If a more traditional varmint and small game hunting rifle is wanted, Rock Island Armory is also pushing their new series of bolt-action mid-range rifles in the same caliber. While they ship with a 5-round mag standard, they will accept the same pistol mags as their 1911 TCMs.


TCM Glocks

Don’t get too excited just yet, Glock isn’t making a .22TCM. However Armscor/RIA did unveil at SHOT a TCM 9R (shortened a few millimeters to fit a 9mm sized weapon) chambered conversion kit that will fit Gen 1, 2 and 3, G17 and G22 Glocks. The kit, which just replaces the top half of the gun (slide, barrel, spring, rod), is set to start shipping later this summer for about $399.

“We think this is the start of something big,” said President and CEO of Armscor / Rock Island Armory, Martin Tuason in a statement obtained by University of Guns.

“The enthusiasm we’ve seen around the TCM has only grown over time as new shooters discover what it can do. Imagine giving anybody that owns a popular 9mm pistol the same ability to experience the blazing performance of our favorite cartridge, we’re on our way to making that dream a reality,” said Tuason.

Moreover, we are inclined to believe him.

4 legal ‘thing that goes up’ stabilisers for pistol AR builds

AR-style pistol with SIG SB15 Brace.

AR-style pistol with SIG SB15 Brace.

Super-short AR-15 guns that legally fall under the ATF’s definition of a pistol have been around for decades. However, in recent years these guns have been given a phenomenal jump in popularity due to the Bureau’s approval of a number of non-buttstock braces that can be fitted to these handguns to give the user the ability to fire the gun from a more supported position. We take a look at some of the better designs on the market.

Why these are needed (a crash course)

According to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (the NFA), arms that the government thought to be too dangerous for over the counter sales, such as machine guns, suppressors, and short barreled rifles and shotguns, were regulated with an obscene $200 tax and special requirements to obtain one of these registered devices. When you take into account that $200 in 1934 is some $3500 in today’s dollars, you can see why this was thought so unachievable.

In regulating short-barreled rifles, the NFA states that any rifle less than 26-inches overall had to be registered and so regulated. However, as long as a pistol did not have a buttstock, and was made from the beginning as a handgun, it could be shorter than this requirement. That’s where these braces come in at.

The Sig Sauer SB15 brace

Perhaps responsible for the spark of this current trend, Sig’s SB15 Brace, a simple upside-down U-shaped device that could be fitted to the buffer tube of an AR-style pistol and enable the gun to be fired while the SB15 steadied on the forearm of the shooter through use of a Velcro strap.

In 2012 the company submitted their design to the ATF’s Firearm Technology Branch who concluded that the brace was NFA-compliant, “Based on our evaluation, the FTB finds that the submitted forearm brace, when attached to a firearm, does not convert that weapon to be fired from the shoulder and would not alter the classification of a pistol or other firearm.”

Then earlier this year, the use of it even as a shoulder stock of sorts was deemed OK:

2014 atf letter

MAC weighing in with a SB15 brace on a SIG pistol.

Even when fired when resting against the shoulder, the $139 SB15 provides the basic third point of contact while allowing somewhat of a cheek weld on the pistol– thus enhancing accuracy and control. On the downside, it’s a little pricey and the U-shaped brace itself is on the clunky side. In addition, it usually requires a buffer tube cover such as the Phase 5 or KAK to fit properly (more on those below).

The Thordsen Customs Pistol Builder’s Package

thorsen brace1

For $117 and in a choice of black, OD green or dark earth, Thordsen Custom’s offers their AR Pistol Build package. Consisting of a buffer tube, tube converter, adapter, saddle kit, recoil buffer, castle nut and mounting hardware, the package has a unique cover to the tube that gives a wide a sturdy platform that translates into an instant cheek weld when needed. Certainly svelter than the SB15, it also does not have the side-benefit of being a forearm brace if needed. Moreover, yes, its ATF approved as well.

The Phase 5 Tactical Pistol Tube

phase 5f

Although designed to work with the Sig SB15 brace, with its cheek-friendly soft foam covering, the AR-15 Pistol Buffer Tube Complete Assembly (PBT-CA) by Phase 5 can be a standalone “thing that goes up” for your gas gun build. Consisting simply of a CNC-machined 7075 aluminum billet buffer tube with a Mil-Spec end plate and castle nut wrapped in a NPVC-constructed buffer tube foam pad, it allows an overhang that can be used to achieve that oh-so-elusive cheek weld on an AR pistol. Best yet, its only $69.

KAK Gen 2 Tube

Designed to be used in conjunction with a SB15 brace, the KAK Industries produces a buffer tube that extends some 7.125-inches from the butt plate. Coated out the outside with a peanut fluting, the enhanced tube can be used on its own much like the Phase 5 tube. Cost? $40.


While there is no perfect solution, odds are by this time next year the offerings for NFA-compliant AR pistol tube-based stabilizers will double or even triple.

And we can’t wait.

My $600 Six Pound AR-15 Build

Ever since Eugene Stoner’s innovative AR designs of the 1960s, the species has been manufactured using at least some plastic parts. Today those legacy plastics have given way to revolutionary carbon fiber polymers that have all the strength of forged steel with the benefits of cost and weight. One of the latest companies to take advantage of this material is New Frontier Armory in Las Vegas, Nevada who has introduced a new polymer AR lower: the LW-15. I decided to take a low cost approach to building my own AR from one of these lowers while going light and low cost.

LW-15 $590 build left

Polymer it not new

Polymer lowers are not new to the market. The use of polymers itself in a firearm frame was pioneered by Mr. Gaston Glock’s work in the 1980s. Bushmaster, Plum Crazy and CavArms have been making polymer AR lowers for almost 20 years. However, previous designs have been in an evolutionary development stage with manufacturers largely using the consumer as beta testers. Some of the issues reported on past examples have included breaking in the rear buffer tube threads and cracks in the pivots. It is not impossible to develop a rugged and durable polymer lower. This is proven by FN’s polymer lower equipped SCAR rifle platform, which has been lusted after by spec ops units everywhere. If it’s good enough for the Special Operations Command, why not the rest of the world?

The LW-15 lower itself

NFA LW-15 Complete lower

From the information available, it seems the LW-15 is an improvement on the old Plum Crazy design that had mixed reviews and issues with cracking. The LW-15 has redesigned pivot and take down pins in addition to a beefed up polymer recipe to increase the failure points on past designs by other companies. In a series of torture test videos released by NFA, they show the LW-15 crush tested on the magazine well exceeding that of a forged receiver, cycle the polymer fire control group 75,000 times in 115 minutes with an average “rate of fire” of 652 rounds per minute, and toss an assembled rifle around in the desert to simulate rough field conditions. To reflect the company’s faith in their product they offer a lifetime warranty standard on the LW-15.


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NFA advises that the lower will accept all standard Mil Spec complete uppers as well as lower part kits.


Weight is one of the primary selling points of the NFA LW-15 lower. Overall weight is at 1.68-pounds loaded with a 6-position stock and their 4.5-pound trigger pull equipped composite fire control system. This is about a half pound lower than in a forged lower. If the company’s torture tests are to be believed, then the loss of weight does not necessarily equal loss of strength.

Low cost is a secondary selling point with the LW-15 complete lowers available for around $109. This can drop the building cost of a reliable AR down and free up that hard-earned cash for more ammunition and magazines. Note that if you shop around, you can find these for less than on NFA’s site.


Even thirty years after polymer firearms first came on the scene they are still stigmatized and looked down upon. Many shooters will thump their chest and loudly say that plastic has no place on a ‘real AR’ even when they already use polymer magazines, forearms, stocks, and other furniture. Past perceived issues with ‘plastic’ lowers will undoubtedly still haunt even the most advanced designs– no matter how reliable they can be produced.

Low-cost aluminum lowers can closely approximate both the size and affordability factor of the LW-15s. For instance, SAA sells complete 7075 Aluminum lowers that weigh just over two pounds and costs about $179. However, it must be pointed out that this remains both ounces and dollars short of the NFA comparison.

Sample low cost, lightweight build

For a real-world demonstration of the pros of the LW-15 lower, (low cost, and light weight), take my following build for an example.
Using a NFA LW-15 complete lower with 6-position stock and polymer trigger LPK ($109), a complete SAA M4 16-inch AR-15 Forged 7075T6 A3 Flattop Upper Receiver with 1:9 Chromoly 5.56 NATO barrel ($299), Tapco Intrafuse AR carbine hand guard, generic vertical grip, Magpul PMAG and flip up sights, a workable AR platform was assembled.

LW-15 $590 build right

The all-up total cost for this example was $590 including shipping of all the components and a total weight of 6.37-pounds (with loaded PMAG inserted) according to my postal scales. A lighter bolt-carrying group could possibly shave a few more ounces from this modest off the shelf rifle. This is hard to duplicate in most modern sporting rifle builds. Even compared to legacy designs this is impressive, for instance the M1 carbine comes in at 6.1 pounds

I could have ditched the Tapco and gone Magpul, or just settled for a generic military handguard. That’s the beauty of one of these builds.

NFA themselves makes a complete LW-15 rifle with Magpul MOE hand guards shipped direct from their factory for $599.99.

As NFA keeps moving forward with their designs, you can be sure the market will be watching. For me, I have another AR in the closet that is light enough for the kids or wife to want to play with, and tough enough to take on the next hog hunt in the swamps of the Pearl River.

Watch this space for that update.