Ammo costs money. For those who train often, the price of quality rounds can make you want to cry. The thing is, putting rounds down range is what hones a lump if metal into a straight razor. Nothing reinforces proper weapon manipulation like the applied use of live fire in multiple situations.
"Demo" Dick Marcinko, the frogman who founded Seal Team 6, stated in his book Rouge Warrior that one of the reasons ST6 was so good was that they often shot day after day on the range. Furthermore, he says that in the 1980s the 200 operators of his unit fired more rounds in a year than the entire 179,000-member Marine Corps combined. That is a lot of rounds. But when the chips are down and you have to send one downrange to save a life, you want to know that it should not be any different from the thousands of rounds you have already fired safely in training.
At a minimum, you need to put 500 rounds through a firearm to become proficient in its use. Once you before proficient you will need to shoot a minimum of four times a year (or once about every 90 days) just to maintain some sort of muscle memory. Of course shooting more is better. However, one thing that keeps many of us down is the cost of ammunition.
To put it country simple, sub caliber conversion kits take your standard firearm and convert it to fire rimfire (22LR) ammo. Usually on a pistol, most kits replace the top slide/barrel/recoil spring, and magazine. On rifle kits (for the AR15 usually) the bolt and magazine are replaced as the 223 barrel is fine to shoot the .22LR through it.
- CMMGs Alpha kit, replaces the piston system and magazine of your AR in minutes, letting you rock and roll with 22LR for training and plinking. Beats shooting up a case of green-tip anyday. Save that for the Zombies (photo by CMMG).
There are hundreds of conversion kits out there. The most popular flavors are for the AR-15 platform and M1911 45.
The upside of rimfire kits
Rimfire kits cost anywhere from $150-$400 depending on manufacturer. This price is soon absorbed however in ammunition saving. For instance, 1000 rounds of 45ACP is going to run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 (and that is not even the nice neighborhood). Contrast this to a 1000 rounds of 22LR at about $25 and even expensive kits are paid for in the first 1000 rounds. Everything after that is gravy.
A bonus in using a conversion kit is that it allows introductory training for a new shooter without having to buy a dedicated 22LR just for them. My 14-year-old daughter loves putting 2-3 boxes of CCI minimags through my 1911 with the rimfire slide on it every time we go to the range.
The downside of rimfire kits
Some do not allow for use of your weapon controls or require extensive modifications. Look for easy on/easy off kits that you can change out with no gunsmithing in just a few minutes.
One thing to keep in mind when practicing with a rimfire kit on a 1911 is no 22 can duplicate the recoil of a 45. In addition, when using a kit on an AR platform, the 22 is not going to duplicate the 223's accuracy after 25meters or so. However, trigger time is trigger time but just keep these facts in mind in your training schedule and plan accordingly.
JA Ciener and company have been in the business of making rimfire conversion kits for decades and have churned out thousands of them. The good side of Ciener is that they have unique models to fit a huge selection beside ARs and 1911s including Glock, Mini-14s, Browning Hi Power, AK47s, and Berettas. The downside of Ciener is that some users have complained both about the kits themselves and on their customer service. However, as with anything, shop around and ask questions before you buy.
CMMG produces an entire series of AR sub caliber kits. Ranging from $180-$300 they are sweet little things. They allow the use of all of the weapon controls and recoil is similar so a round fired through a CMMG device equipped AR is about as close as it gets at close quarters. My local SRT unit uses these and swears by them.
- Kimber 22LR kit installed. The price of the most expensive 22 ammo still beats the cheapest 45 ammo. Photo by Kimber.
A few dedicated 1911 mills turn out their own, kits like Kimber and STI. While they often are not the cheapest Conversions on the market, they work and work well
No matter what you choose, if they make a sub caliber training kit for your favorite semi auto, it is hard not to at least think about getting one.