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Old November 14, 2011, 01:40 AM   #1
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1911 conversion to 22lr, or 45ACP reloading bench?

Greetings all.

I'm a new pistol owner and am in need of some insight and advice. I have owned my Kimber Custom II for about two months, and have run about 600 rounds through her. I've been practicing every weekend that I wasn't on call, and shooting 45ACP FMJ is getting a bit expensive in comparison to how often I'd like to shoot/practice.

I've been considering getting the Kimber 22lr conversion kit but am concerned about failure rates and whether or not the conversion kit will allow me to practice effectively despite what is reported as less of a recoil.

My other option is to begin handloading my own ammunition. This would allow me to practice with full-power ammunition for approximately half of what i'm currently paying, albeit with a lot more labor involved.

I can see there are pros and cons to both methods. I'd like to know everyone's opinion, as well as support or arguments against either one.

Which would you purchase if you were in my position? Cheaper cost but more labor intensive? Virtually no labor, cheaper ammo, but reduced recoil/higher failure possibility? Possibly a third option that I'm overlooking?

I'd post a poll, but I'm much more interested in hearing the reasoning behind each opinion.
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Old November 14, 2011, 10:21 AM   #2
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IMHO you'd be better off buying a stand alone .22 pistol, like a Ruger 22/45, then save for reloading equipment. If you get a progressive press reloading a couple hundred rounds won't take very long.
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Old November 14, 2011, 10:35 AM   #3
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It really depends on the main thrust of your practice.

If it's mainly for fun and slow, accurate shooting, to improve your trigger control, then the .22 conversion makes sense.

If it's mainly for fun and improving your speed shooting accuracy, the reloading setup makes sense.

The .22s will not have the same recoil impulse, so measuring improvements in your follow-up shots, or split times isn't gonna translate to the center-fire.
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Old November 14, 2011, 10:35 AM   #4
Billy Shears
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Save your brass, buy Berry's plated bullets from a bulk supplier like Powder Valley, get a Lee Hand Press for about $25 and a set of Lee dies for another $25.

You can be up and running and rolling your own with very minimal up front expense and shoot a lot more big bore for less money. You don't need a $500 press to enjoy reloading.

And like Tom said above, save your money for a dedicated .22 caliber pistol rather than a conversion.
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Old November 14, 2011, 10:36 AM   #5
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Second Pistol

I would agree. Often, .22 conversions cost as much as a complete pistol. Reloading is the way to go. Lead or plated bullets are considerably less expensive than jacketed bullets and in the .45 ACP. may be safely driven to street load velocities. I'm not up on every gun variation. However, there's a prohibition against using lead bullets in any barrel with polygonal rifling, such as Glocks.

Reloading: A progressive press is the way to go. However, too much can go wrong for a beginner. I would strongly advise that you enlist the aid of an experienced reloader who can explain the various stations or stages, show you what can go wrong and how to avoid it. With a multistage press, it's so easy to throw a double charge should you give the handle a second pump because you did not feel the primer seating at stage one. My practice is to stand while reloading at my Dillon and I look into EACH AND EVERY round as it leaves the charging station on its way to the bullet seating station. A shell without powder will lodge a bullet in the barrel while a double charge can blow the gun.
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Old November 14, 2011, 10:49 AM   #6
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I did both.

I have a Ciener .22LR conversion kit mounted on a junk 1911 receiver. I could just as easily have run it as a conversion, but I'm happier to leave it set up as a dedicated plinker. (The Ciener is virtually the same as Kimber's conversion.) There are two major problems with using the .22 conversion for serious practice. First: The slide is aluminum and does NOT lock open after the last shot. The same applies to Kimber, and most other .22 conversions. So the manual of arms is slightly different when shooting .22. Second, on a steel frame, there is no recoil. It's not "negligible" -- there isn't any. It is much TOO easy to squeeze off an entire magazine with NO muzzle flip and NO time lost getting back on target. The shooting experience is fun -- it's a hoot! -- but it in no way reflects practice for shooting .45 Auto. The Kimber Rimfire pistol, with aluminum slide AND aluminum receiver, doesn't even feel like shooting a real gun. I have airsofts that feel more like shooting a 1911 than the Kimber Rimfire.

So for affordable range time with "real" ammo, I ventured into reloading. I don't shoot enough that I need the output of a progressive press, nor do I need the aggravation of keeping one running (and, make no mistake about it, even the vaunted Dillons occasionally give the user heartburn and headaches). On the other hand, I immediately found that the nuisance factor of repeatedly having to set up each die in a single stage press was more than I wanted to tolerate. (This would also apply to the suggestion for a Lee hand press. You can buy a Lee single stage, bench-mounted press for the same money.) I settled on a Lee 4-hole Turret Press. You can buy it in a starter kit from Natchez Shooting Sport for $100 or less, with a powder measure and a simple but usable scale, add a set of dies, and you're off and running.

There probably won't be a "failure rate" for the Kimber kit. Any problems I've had with my Ciener conversion have been dud rounds, and that's endemic to .22LR ammo.

If your goal is realistic practice with your new 1911, IMHO you should be shooting "real" ammo. Considering that you can get set up in reloading for considerably LESS than the Kimber conversion will cost, I respectfully suggest that's the way I think you'll get the most bang for your buck. Start saving your brass now. I started collecting my brass a few months before I finally took the plunge and ordered my press. And I still scrounge brass. I like Winchester brass, so anytime I see someone at the range shooting Winchester USA, I ask if they save their brass. Virtually nobody at my range reloads, so it's rare when I don't come home with more brass than I arrived with.

Last edited by Aguila Blanca; November 14, 2011 at 10:56 AM.
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Old November 14, 2011, 10:55 AM   #7
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Get reloading set up first. I don't like the idea of a hand held press as a first press. Find a kit with a single stage bench mounted press.

I like .22 conversions, I've had several and I'm buying another one for my CZ 75, but there's no substitute for being able to produce your own ammo.
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Old November 14, 2011, 11:01 AM   #8
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IMHO you'd be better off buying a stand alone .22 pistol, like a Ruger 22/45, then save for reloading equipment. If you get a progressive press reloading a couple hundred rounds won't take very long.

I have a Ciener .22 conversion for my Kimbers.
It's ok - but - it's not what I expected.
The recoil is - well - funky...

OTOH -the Ruger .22/45 far exceeded my expectations.

Also - it doesn't take all that much to get into reloading/handloading.
I bought a Lee turret press for a whopping $69.00 back in the late 1970's & have loaded who knows how many thousands of rounds of all different calibers with it.

The .38spl and .45acp are ideal calibers to reload.
There's no mystery at all to an accurate load in either & the brass will last a long, long, long time.
Since the .45acp is a fairly low pressure round, there's not a lot of strain put on the equipment during the sizing operation.
It's not necessay to even use FMJ bullets in the .45acp.
I use cast and/or swaged lead.
Whichever - just make sure they use a "dry lube", not the clay type lube that's supposed to go in between the driving bands. I've never found any of that type that the lube stays put. It always falls out.

The big wide case is "slower burn friendly", meaning you can use a slower burning powder to the keep leading down or eliminate it altogether.
Countless thousands of lead reloads has me convinced that fast burning powders blowing past the bullet base are what cause leading - not high velocity as so many are inclined to think.
I've proved this over and over and over shooting soft swaged lead .44's that lead when I use Unique, but don't when I switch to 2400 - at higher velocities.
Even if you do get leading, clearing it out of the barrel of a 1911 is simple.

You'll also know more about how bullets & ammuntion behave, from an informed and experienced perspective. Handloading take a lot of guesswork, conjecture and good old fashioned BS out of things.

Prime example - a .38 spl, 158 gr. round nose lead.
Stock, that load/bullet clock mid 800's from my 4 5/8" Ruger Blackhawk.

A question was posed once of what would happen to the velocity of that load if ~ half of the bullet was cut off. IIRC, five or six other people - none of which had ever reloaded a single round in their lives - all guffawed me and called me nuts when I said the velocity would go down not up - as they claimed.
Well,,care to guess how many FPS slower it can be?

They all feel it's faster. I know it results in a loss - but I knew that in the beginning. It wasn't until I clocked them at 500-ish that I knew by how much.
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Old November 14, 2011, 01:39 PM   #9
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I have conversion kits for my 1911's ...and I reload .../ so in my opinion:

a. Conversion kits work ok / but I'm not aware of one that will lock the slide back when the mag is empty. I have Kimber and Wilson kits - and both of them run best on CCI Mini Mag ammo. In my area - Mini Mag is around $ 10-$12 for a pack of 100 rds. Even with Mini-Mag ammo I still get an occasional FTF or a dud ...say less than 5 rds in a block of 100 rds. If I use the cheap bulk ammo ( remington, etc ) ...I probably get 40% failure rate on FTF issues and it gets really aggravating. There is a difference in the kits as well - with the Wilson kit (made by Marvel) locking up a lot tighter on the gun ..and it seems to run better than the Kimber kit. I also have a conversion kit for a Sig 226 ...and it runs well / but it runs way better on Mini-mag than on the bulk ammo.

Conversion kits replace the top end on the gun ...and there is a big difference in the way the gun feels with the kit on it ...its way lighter...

b. reloading - I reload .45acp with a prem bullet for about $ 9 for a box of 50. Because I reload / the same amount of money I dedicate to ammo - allows me to shoot way more. Retail .45acp in my area is around $ 20 for a box of 50 vs $9 for my reloads. A press will cost you some money up front ( I like Dillon equip ) ...but if you go with a progressive press like Dillon 650 it easily cranks out 1,000 rds an hour so labor isn't a factor - and its an investment that will last many generations. Reloading to me is part of the hobby - I like it /I like customizing my rounds ---I like the quiet time .../ I like teaching the kids and grandkids how to reload... If you have the attention to detail - that it takes to do it right - its very satisfying / if you don't have attention to detail - its not part of the hobby you want to jump into.

What I do for training....I have identical 1911's ( 5" stainless guns) one in 9mm and one in .45acp. I shoot the 9mm version 75% of the time / and the .45acp version a lot less - and carry the .45acp version - same holster, same feel, a little less recoil. I can reload 9mm FMJ for a little under $ 5 a box I shoot way more ( weight is the same, controls the same, etc ) 9mm has less recoil / but its an easy transition to .45acp in the same platform.

I don't use the .22 conversion kits because at $ 10 - $12 for a box of 100 rds I can reload and shoot a gun in 9mm for less money ( and still get some recoil for training ). I thought I would shoot the conversion kits...but I really don't. I will occasionally shoot a stand alone .22 like a Browning Buckmark or even a revolver.../ its fun ...its just not good training because there is no recoil.

The conversion kits have become a novelty ....where the young grandkids like to shoot the "big frame" guns with a conversion kit.. like their older brothers and sisters ..shoot in 9mm, . 40 or .45 acp .../ but since I picked up the Brownig Buckmark with a red dot sight on it ...its way cooler to shoot than any of the conversion kits my kits have not been shot in at least 2 yrs....eventually I'll give a couple of guns with the kits to one of my adult kids that live out of my area they'll have some good guns / some good .22's ...but they weren't a very good training investment for me.

Last edited by BigJimP; November 14, 2011 at 01:48 PM.
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Old November 15, 2011, 04:17 PM   #10
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22 conversion or 22 pistol.
and I would skip kimbers 22 conversion. pick up marvels or someone better.

while reloading sounds good on paper, and you can get into it cheaply with a lee kit or something like it, it will never be as cheap as shooting 22.

trigger time period makes you a better shooter. full power loads only matter if you are doing double taps and even then, on a 22 it can be challenging if you make it a small enough target.

for 9 bucks a box reloading 45, is 50 rounds. for 18 bucks I can get 500 rounds of 22.
not even a choice.

now you can still pick up reloading later, but I don't think you will get as much shooting time as the 22 would let you do cost wise.

shooting cheaper plated vs fmj bullets, vs carry bullets also makes a bit of difference.

barry's while a fine bullet, does not reload as easy as a fmj. the crimp/resizer at the end gets a bit tricky if you set it wrong. the bullets fall out when you set it wrong. since the lead doesn't spring back like the copper.

point of impact can be different vs felt recoil for factory vs your reload using a cheaper bullet and powder to save a buck to shoot more.

not saying you can't fix it with trial and error, just saying other factors to consider.

once I get my stuff setup, on a single stage lee, I can proabably turn out 200 rounds in a day for 45. say again on the cheap as 36 bucks.
again, that is vs 18 bucks for a brick of 22. but I doubt my reloads are that cheap, since I use fmj rds.
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Old November 15, 2011, 04:59 PM   #11
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After watching a couple of people struggling with their Kimber conversion kits, I’d tend toward a separate .22 pistol. If you continue to shoot the .45, you will likely get into reloading. A .22 may help you master some of the basics, but you will need to work with the .45 to master the blast. What do you need most at this time?

One warning – you will not save money by reloading! You will only get to shoot much more.
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Old November 15, 2011, 05:04 PM   #12
Don P
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You have asked and the members will advise, you need both. We can never individually own enough guns and by saving all that money shooting 22lr you will have bunches more money for reloading and you will get to shoot twice as much
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Old November 15, 2011, 07:30 PM   #13
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I am a firm believer in conversion units, like reloading they let you do a lot more shooting for the same money. I am not familar with the Marvel unit (and the Cieners may soon become collectors' items!) and I see a market for a conversion unit that "does it all"-locks the slide back, simulates recoil and has the added heft of steel. The conversion units make transition to centerfire smoother, the controls and feel of the pistol are all familiar.
I have gotten away from reloading, will probably get back to it this winter. I learned on a Lee Loader, then a Lyman 310, finally an RCBS JR. A hand press will allow you to master the basics and the mechanics of reloading and the dies will fit into a bench mounted press. And they are relatively inexpensive.
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Old November 16, 2011, 07:17 AM   #14
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.22 Conversion Kit's

I like my Wilson/Marvel kit just for plinkin'. It is not going to replicate the whole .45 experience, but can provide alot of fun for not so much $$. Most kits can be bought used in the $200 range. I wouldn't buy one at new, retail $$. I'd just get a used Ruger MKII.
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Old November 16, 2011, 07:39 AM   #15
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After having reloaded thousands of various calibers the past couple years, I can wholeheartedly say you should just get a basic reloading setup. It won't save you any real money, but allow you to shoot three times as much 45acp for the same cost. You can even go lead round nose for your 1911 and save even more.

I use a Lee Hand Press. It's basic and somewhat slow, but forces you to triple check your work and functions very VERY well for just about any normal cartridge. Heck, I even reload 30-06 for my Garand with it. Plus I can reload while watching the Packers game from my easy chair.

I'd show you the 700 rounds I have loaded up, but the picture site isn't working today.
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Old November 16, 2011, 10:53 AM   #16
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Having done both and also being fairly new to reloading (been at it about three years) I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

Round for round, you'll never reload .45acp as cheaply as you can buy .22lr. On the other hand, a .22lr conversion will feel like a different gun, even if it's on the same frame. Sights will be different, point of impact will be different and the recoil will be about nonexistent. What way you go just depends on how you want to shoot.

I'm a purely economical reloader, I really don't do it for fun or to make a better load. I'm in it to save money.

When I go out and shoot, I still put way more .22 downrange than anything centerfire but that's more for plinking than real practice. I think that there's merit to both use cases for certain, it just depends on what you're expecting to get out of your range time and how much time you want to spend at home in front of your reloading bench.
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22lr , 45acp , comparison , conversion kit , reloading

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