Chiappa 1911 .22: A Review

I've long wanted .22 conversion kits for my Glock 17 and my 1911 pistols. Let's face it, while 9mm and .45 ACP ain't as expensive as it was a couple of years ago, it still doesn't approach the affordability of .22 LR. With a conversion kit, I could get a lot more trigger time with my favorite guns.

Fast forward to the gun show a couple of weeks ago, where I found this baby for little more than I'd pay for a .22 conversion kit:

First, the vital statistics:

Caliber: .22 LR
Action Type: Blowback, SA semi-auto
Frame: Cast and machined Chiapalloy (apparently a proprietary term meaning "pot metal")
Barrel: Fixed 5", alloy shroud with steel liner
Rifling: Six-groove, 1:16" RH twist
Magazine: Polymer, 10-round mags (ships with 2)
Sights: Ramped front post; fixed rear, drift-adjustable for windage
Trigger: Single-action, 10-lb.,1-oz. pull, fitted with overtravel adjustment scew
Grips: Stippled hardwood
Overall Length: 83⁄8"
Width: 13⁄8"
Height: 57⁄16"
Weight: 33.5 ozs.
Accessories: Hard case, cleaning brush, gun lock tool, owner’s manual, extra magazine

It was a week before I got to take it out to the range and try it out, but here are my impressions:

Appearance: A. I wanted a dedicated 1911 trainer. It looks like a 1911, and with the exception of the grip safety (of which it has none), duplicates the weight and balance of a 1911.

Fit and finish: C. The pistol looks good out of the box. Machining marks on the slide and frame are faintly visible if you squint real hard at the pistol in the right light. The company says that their pot metal Chiappalloy frame and slide are finished with an electrolysis coating that is much more durable than the black paint used to finish other zinc alloys. That may be true, but the finish started chipping off the muzzle crown of my pistol before I had shot 100 rounds through it.

Reliability: B. With the caveat that I find it a bit silly to assign a reliability grade to a firearm before it's properly broken in, I experienced no malfunctions with the Chiappa through the 200 rounds fired through it. I was using a mixed lot of CCI Stingers and Mini Mags, and will likely continue to do so for the next 1000 rounds or so, before I try using any of the cheap bulk plated ammo. There were no failures to feed, fire or eject, even when I tried to limp-wrist the pistol.

The polymer magazines do, however, leave much to be desired. Oh, I had no issues with their feeding, and they seem fairly robust, but neither mag drops reliably from the pistol when the magazine release button is depressed. One mag drops right out with the slide locked back, while the other must be plucked out with the fingers. I could find no visible burrs or bulges on the offending magazine, and neither mag seems to want to drop out with the slide in battery.

Accuracy: No Grade. The various on-line reviews of the Chiappa 1911 .22 report groups roughly approaching 1" at 25 yards, no doubt achieved through slow fire, using a Ransom rest. I had no such critter available to me, and my shooting was done using my normal shooting stance, slow fire at 30 feet. This is the best group I could do:

 

Now, there are a couple of fliers in there, but it shames me no end to post a target like that. I mean, I'm no Todd Jarrett, but I'm no Jay "Minute of Berm" G., either. However, that's the best I could do with this pistol at 30 feet. I am reasonably sure the pistol is capable of greater accuracy, with the greatest hindrances being the sights and the trigger. The sights are drift adjustible for windage, but that's about the best that can be said for them. If I keep the pistol, they'll be replaced with a set of decent aftermarket sights in short order.

The reason I said "if I keep the pistol" lies with the greatest barrier to accuracy and shootability of the Chiappa 1911 .22, and that is the:

Trigger: F. Now, why would I assign the trigger an F grade, you ask?

Because they don't have a G, that's why.

The Chiappa trigger (at least on my weapon) is fitted with an overtravel adjustment screw. What it should come with is a written apology from Chiappa Firearms, and a $100 gift certificate to a reputable gunsmith.

The various on-line reviews of the Chiappa describe the trigger pull as "stiff." I beg to differ. Engaging the safety on a Mosin Nagant 91/30 is "stiff." The trigger on a Chiappa 1911 .22 is in an entirely different realm.

The trigger pull is heavy, but so is the DA pull on an out-of-the-box S&W revolver. In the Chiappa, it's at least 10 pounds -and feels like considerably more – with more creep than a singles bar. It's so heavy, in fact, that I am forced to alter my finger position on the trigger to shoot it, which makes it absolutely useless for me.

A good trigger, even with a heavy pull, should break crisply, like a glass rod. The Chiappa breaks like a green stick.

The pot metal Chiappalloy trigger components supposedly "work harden" with repeated use, eventually yielding a trigger pull in the neighborhood of 5 pounds after 2000-3000 rounds. Sorry, Chiappa, but I can't afford to practice bad habits for another 2000 rounds while I wait for your sucktastic trigger to magically transform into an adequate one. And while all that "work hardening" is going on, what's happening to the slide, which is made from the same alloy?

Either this thing gets a trigger job that won't double the price of the firearm, or it becomes trade bait at the next gun show.

With this trigger, I can't in good conscience recommend this firearm to anyone else. It's that bad. If you happen to see one in the case at your local gun shop, and are sorely tempted to buy one, just think of it like a supermodel with an STD: nice to look at, but not so much to play with.