Springfield .22 Rimfire 1911 Conversions at James D Julia

Unnumbered Slide
Slide #24

Almost immediately after adopting the Colt/Browning Model 1911 pistol, the US military requested a .22LR conversion for training purposes. In 1913 Springfield Arsenal developed a conversion, but it was woefully inadequate. A better solution was submitted by a man named J.H. Carl, whose system matched the weigh and balance of the .45 caliber 1911 and also duplicated its functions, including locking open on empty magazines. Carl submitted his design to Springfield, which began to make a small batch for testing in 1915.

World War One interrupted the process, and it was put on hold until late 1918, at which point a series of trials found ongoing nagging reliability issues. Ultimately the project was put on indefinite hold in 1924 when Colt’s plan to market a commercial .22 conversion of the 1911 were discovered, as that was deemed a more cost-effective solution than having the Arsenal perfect Carl’s system.

Only a few dozen of these .22 Gallery Practice Pistols were made and only a small handful remain today, as they were officially scrapped in 1938.


  1. The system that you call “woefully inadequate” would that be the ACE conversion with the floating chamber?

  2. These are very interesting development pistols, but the magazine proves again the difficulty with stacking rimmed cartridges. Has anyone ever developed a .22 automatic cartridge? I would think this would be a more reliable cartridge in semiautomatic .22 caliber firearms. What are your thoughts.

  3. So much for gallery shooting. I would think that simply asking Colt for a .22 version of the 1911 from the very beginning of this period of time would have been the best choice. I’m not saying that it would be better to pay more in royalties but if you have exhausted all other options (if conversions or private developments by third party developers don’t work by a particular deadline), pick the one that makes the most sense: talk with your supplier of pistols. Did I mess up?

    • When the government heard Colt was working on a conversion kit they sat back and waited. The ACE conversion replaced only the barrel and magazine.

      • I don’t believe there are any of the existing conversions that ONLY replace the barrel and magazine. Because of the low impulse of the .22RF as well as rimfire vs centerfire and a plethora of other reasons, they all replace the entire upper half of the gun, the slide, recoil spring and other attendant parts as well as the barrel and magazine.

        I personally developed a conversion that actually does ONLY replace the barrel and magazine and provides full function (including last shot hold open)but I haven’t been able to generate much interest or even idle curiosity about it so it’s probably actually not such a good idea after all in the grand scheme of things.

        • Do you have access to a copy of Hatcher’s Notebooks? Describes and has diagrams of the “floating chamber” used in the ACE that allowed a rimfire cartridge to work the full-power recoil spring.

          • The floating chamber, which is basically a coaxial gas piston, will indeed extract sufficient energy from the .22rf to cycle the slide and full power recoil spring. The Colt Ace still had to replace the slide to address issues like an off center rimfire firing pin location,an extractor for the smaller cartridge, a narrow feed rib on the slide to fit between the feed lips of the smaller magazine, provision for the ejector etc. Much more than a simple barrel and magazine replacement.

  4. I own and shoot a Colt ACE conversion kit. Mine replaces every thing above the frame as well as the magazine. The barrel bushing and slide stop are dimensionally identical with the USGI 1911 / 1911A1 parts and will interchange with them. Colt also made the ACE as a complete pistol. I’ve handled one but never had the opportunity to disassemble it.

    Wafa Wafa, Wasara Wasara.

  5. I remember in the 1960’s guns and ammo had an article on a colt conversion made for and by the marines target team that used a fixed slide(sic) and side mounted mags like a sten

  6. How do you get around legal requirement that a firearm has to be serial numbered… I would guess they qualify as “Curio and Relic” items, but I thought they needed a SN h/just like any other weapon.

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