As a low-cost training option, trail companion or plinker the GSG-1911 is a reliable little pistol faithful to its big brother the .45 ACP. Scott Wagner provides a 1911 review of this affordable pistol.
It seems the latest trend these days for firearms manufacturers, licensee manufacturers, or sometimes totally independent entities is to provide realistic replicas of modern combat/tactical firearms in .22LR versions, especially since centerfire ammunition has been in short supply or so expensive that actually shooting any of it is cost prohibitive. Therefore shooters have been turning to the modern wave of “understudy” firearms to be able to have something they can actually shoot, in a realistic replica version of the gun they would really like to be shooting.
This has resulted in the introduction of some outstanding firearms that at first glance can’t be distinguished from their full power siblings. I can’t really say full size, as these are full size weapons, mimicking the weight, balance, ergonomics and handling of their full power relatives. And usually, not only is the ammunition for them much less expensive, but so are the guns themselves, being rimfire, blowback versions of the “real” thing.
Now, this has been a great thing, especially for those of us who remember the first of the .22LR “replica” (boy was that term a stretch) AR-15s from companies like ERMA. Their gun had about as much in common with a real AR-15 as the toy Mattel M16 rifle from 1969 did. This new generation of replica guns is outstanding and long overdue. But one of the best of this new breed isn’t an AR-15 or MP-5 replica. It’s a 1911, one very nicely done by German Sport Guns in (you guessed it) Germany, and imported by American Tactical Imports: the GSG-1911.
To put it mildly, this is a great pistol for anyone seeking a .22 for whatever reason. It is a 1911 after all (albeit with a few design modifications). As such it has so much more to offer over standard .22 pistols that look like, well, standard .22 pistols, especially considering its price. Even the Ruger .22/45 — which has a grip frame designed to feel like a 1911 — isn’t a 1911.
It still clearly looks and handles like a .22 target type pistol, its grip only feels a bit like a 1911, but it certainly doesn’t look like one. The GSG-1911 IS a 1911, and as such it offers the shooters all the shooting advantages of its full power relatives without the recoil. And believe me, although they won’t admit it, there are plenty of folks out there that would like to shoot a 1911 without the noise and recoil of the .45 ACP round. So let me detail what those advantages are, particularly in terms of this particular 1911.
In terms of construction, the GSG-1911 does exhibit some differences as compared to a true 1911. First, the slide of the GSG-1911 is aluminum and the frame/receiver body of the pistol is cast Zinc #Z410 (Zamak), which gives it a heft that totally absorbs the miniscule recoil of either standard or high-velocity .22LR rounds, making it an ideal gun for new shooters. While some of you may be put off by a 1911 frame that is constructed of zinc as opposed to aluminum or steel, you won’t know it is zinc by the appearance, which is a pleasant matte gray. It took me awhile to figure out what the frame was made out of. I finally emailed the factory. You won’t recognize it as Zamak, at least externally. Where you will notice the Zamak construction — if you are a 1911 aficionado — is in terms of weight distribution.
The GSG is grip heavy, enhanced by the light weight of the aluminum slide. Here’s the thing though — because of the materials used in its construction, you can purchase this pistol for about $339 retail. Sure, they could make the frame out of steel, but that would shoot the cost up by at least $200 a copy. Considering the low pressures involved with the .22LR cartridge, there shouldn’t be any significant wear and tear on the frame. The slide is marked .22LRHV but the owner’s manual advises that the gun is set to work with either standard or high-velocity rounds. For what I envision the uses of this pistol are, I would stick with HV loads when running it. The grips are nicely checkered walnut colored wood of the traditional Colt style “Double Diamond” pattern. They are held in place by flathead screws.
The extended thumb safety is ambidextrous — again a nice touch for the new left handed shooter, or a shooter who wants to use this pistol for self-defense (steady now, I will get to that part). There is a magazine safety, which, for a house defense gun, is a nice touch. In a household with young children, a round can be kept in the chamber of the gun, ready to rock with the safety on and the magazine kept in a separate location. Should the need arise the homeowner can grab the gun, slap in the magazine, and the pistol is ready to go — no need to even rack the slide, just snick the thumb safety off (from either side).
Speaking of charging the pistol and retracting the slide — and here is where I find a huge advantage for certain shooters who wish to use this pistol for self defense – the aluminum slide and lightweight recoil spring of the blowback action takes almost no effort to pull back and retract. In fact, when holstering in a tight fitting holster, you will want to make sure the slide is cocked and locked, or held in place by your thumb as you holster as it will not take a whole lot of rearward pressure to take it out of battery. This characteristic makes the GSG-1911 ideal for those with hand strength issues — the small-statured, the elderly and others.
The sights are adjustable — but not adjustable in what I would term the traditional sense. In fact, and I hate to admit this, but I had to read the directions to figure them out (not being a mechanical rocket scientist myself). The rear sight can be slid back and forth in its dovetail after loosening the set screw that holds it in place to adjust for windage.
Elevation is a different story. The pistol, along with the instruction manual and cleaning and disassembly tools, comes with two spare front sight blades of different heights to change elevation. Loosen the set screw on the front sight and slide it out of the dovetail. This is an important feature as the GSG-1911 I tested shot about 2 inches high and 2 inches right when using the 36 Grain Federal Hi Speed Hollow point ammo. Changing the blade to the tallest choice and adjusting the rear sight to the left did the trick — it was a relatively simple procedure and the pistol shot dead on. You may want to make this adjustment after you pick what will be your standard “duty” load.
Speaking of directions, keep them handy, while the GSG-1911 looks exactly like a 1911, it doesn’t take down like one, so read the directions first. Yes, it is fairly close, but there are some minor differences between it and a full power 1911. The slide release is standard size, the grip safety is of the beavertail variety and shields the web of the shooter’s hand from the skeletonized hammer and trigger. All these items are constructed of steel, along with the barrel liner. The guide rod is polymer, but so are the guide rods on Glock pistols. In my book, just about everything on this pistol makes it suitable for a wide variety of shooters. Now, let’s take a look at those who would benefit the most from owning or using a GSG-1911.
I was not the first to get to fire the GSG-1911. I took it out on a Saturday to introduce a father and his two teenage sons to the world of shooting, and the GSG-1911 seemed a great place to start. Again, let’s see, great sights (easy to explain), lightweight trigger in the four-pound range, and the excellent 1911 safety system, and, oh yeah, zero recoil, little noise and no blast. Definitely a recipe for success. Ammo was Federal’s bulk pack 36-grain high-speed copper plated hollowpoints — the main .22 load I had in stock.
Of course, it worked out exactly as I planned. The boys and their dad took to the gun like ducks to water. They handled it with aplomb and enjoyed the experience.
Using the GSG-1911 allowed them to easily transition to a Glock 17 and Wilson Combat ULC .45. But it was the GSG-1911 that taught them sight alignment, grip, and trigger management.
Ok, most of us agree that the 1911 is an excellent, if not the very best combat pistol extant. Part of the reason for that belief is due to the .45 caliber round it was designed for. The other reason is because of all the ergonomic qualities I have been pointing to throughout this article. But the problem with a true 1911 pistol is that not everyone can handle the recoil of the .45 ACP.
Yes, I know the 1911 is available in the milder recoiling 9mm, too, but I would submit if you can’t handle a .45, then a 9mm could be a problem as well. Maybe cost is a factor. There ain’t nothing cheaper to shoot than the .22LR, right? And yes, yes, I know, the lowly .22 LR is not considered to be any sort of proper self-defense caliber, but, 10 rounds of .22LR HV HP out of a five-inch barrel sure beats a clenched fist or mean words — particularly if that fist is restricted by strength issues! Besides, the .22LR has probably accounted for more non-military/police civilian deaths than any other caliber.
Add to this the fact that the person who is standing on the business end of a determined civilian pointing a GSG-1911 at them isn’t likely to notice that the bore is “only” of .22” diameter. They will likely think something along the lines of “crap-that #@$%&+ is about to shoot me with a .45!” Let me tell you, when I get to the age where I physically have problems handling “full power” cartridges for home defense I feel that the GSG-1911 would be perfect for me. If you are to use it as a self-defense tool, pick out the hottest loads the GSG will cycle with 100 percent reliability. You might want to consider high velocity solid loads like the Remington Viper 33-grain truncated cone round for deeper penetration on human or larger animal targets.
Another area that the GSG-1911 shines is as a trail companion, at least in areas where a .22 would suffice. I have taken to carrying it in a Gould and Goodrich belt holster with thumbreak when walking the dogs in my woods, a task formerly relegated to my former duty revolver, a Model 67 Combat Masterpiece .38. I’m not likely to encounter anything larger than a dog in my area (or a coyote) and a 10-shot .22 should suffice in most any situation I would encounter. Even if I was going camping or hiking for example, in a place where a larger gun was needed for animal defense, the GSG would be nice to have along as a camp gun. Great for potting small animals or plinking with, and of course additionally available for defense.
As you can see, the GSG-1911 really does it for me. I hope I have given you some ideas for its use that you may not have thought of. I can tell you, I will be sending a check, rather than the gun, back to ATI.
For more information, visit americantactical.us or call 800-290-0065.
This article appeared in the August 15, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.