One hundred years ago, on April 6, 1911, the NRA’s Arms and the Man magazine pronounced the 1911 “the greatest pistol in the world”. In 1931, Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, capitalizing on the popularity of the 1911, first offered a modified 1911A1 chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Colt named the pistol the Ace, and despite the economic downturn of the Great Depression, the Ace enjoyed steady sales. In 1938, realizing a marketing opportunity to appeal to 1911 owners, Colt introduced a conversion kit that allowed a 1911 to be converted, without gunsmithing, to fire .22 Long Rifle ammunition. For the next seventy years, Colt Ace pistols and .22 conversion kits were almost the only choice for shooters who wanted a 1911 chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Neither was ever manufactured in large numbers, and over the last twenty years, the prices on both have risen steadily.
Although the 1911 has always had a devoted following, the design has become increasingly popular over the years, with recent sales of 1911-style pistols skyrocketing. Coupled with the 1911’s growing popularity is an increasing demand for 1911-type pistols chambered for .22 Long Rifle. Over the past decade, several manufacturers have introduced 1911s chambered for .22, and one of the most recent offerings is the GSG-1911. Manufactured by German Sport Guns and distributed in the United States by American Tactical Imports, the GSG-1911 is billed as a mil-spec 1911 .22.
Although not precisely mil-spec, the GSG pistol is mighty close, and most mil-spec parts will fit the GSG-1911. Other than the differences required for the caliber, there are other slight dimensional differences:
The GSG-1911 is a well-finished pistol available in three variations: the Standard model, with plastic grips, the Tactical model with plastic grips and a MIL STD 1913 type tactical rail on the dust cover, and the Wood model with wooden grips. Prices range from about $325 to $350, and the fit and finish of the gun that I tested are very good. The muzzle is threaded for a suppressor adapter, and comes with a thread protector cap. The sights are three-dot Patridge style and made of plastic. The rear sight is reminiscent of the Novak Lo-Mount™, and is drift-adjustable for windage with an Allen-head set screw. The front sight is also secured with an Allen-head set screw, and the gun is supplied with three user-interchangeable front sights of varying heights to adjust for elevation. The model that I tested was supplied with handsome checkered wooden grips, and their finish is impressive for a gun in this price range. The hammer and trigger are skeletonized, and the grip safety is a beavertail design. The trigger is user-adjustable for overtravel, and the pull is light and crisp with almost no creep. Safety is clearly paramount with GSG; in addition to the manual and grip safeties, the pistol has a firing pin block, and a magazine disconnector. The manual safety is ambidextrous, and has extended tangs in the style first popularized by the late Armand Swenson. The frame and slide are aluminum, and are finished in a matte black coating that looks like a phosphate finish. Disassembly is textbook 1911, with the exception of a barrel-retaining screw and a friction-fit barrel pin that attach the barrel lug to the frame. One ten round aluminum-bodied magazine is supplied with the gun, and it appears to be very well made. The gun is also supplied with Allen wrenches for the trigger overtravel screw, sight screws, and barrel-retaining screw, and a 12 mm wrench for the muzzle-thread cap.
The feel and controls are instantly familiar to any 1911 shooter, and the advantages for a 1911 owner are weapon-handling practice, and target practice at a fraction of the cost of shooting .45 ACP. For the novice shooter, or those unfamiliar with the 1911, this gun will be just plain fun to shoot. If desired, an after-market flat mainspring housing, and after-market grips can be fitted. These two features make this pistol potentially suitable for a variety of hand sizes.
According to GSG, the pistol is factory-tuned for rounds ranging from standard velocity to high velocity. I shot a variety of ammunition through the gun, and had no ammunition-related jams, or failures to feed or extract. Accuracy was very good with all of the ammunition types that I tried, and shooting CCI Mini-Mags™ two-handed at fifty feet I was able to shoot three five-shot groups of about 2.75”. Impressively, shooting Remington Thunderbolt high velocity rounds, also at fifty feet, the gun shot to point of aim right out of the box. I suspect that the pistol is capable of tighter groups from more practiced hands.
All in all, the GSG-1911 is an impressive package that looks great and shoots very well. It’s a good value in a .22 pistol, and comes stock with some impressive extras. GSG’s web site address is www.gsg-waffen.de.