Recently, my grandson and I enjoyed firing a top grade 1911 handgun. The pistol features a beavertail grip safety, crisp trigger, high-profile sights that are not only excellent examples of the type but adjustable, a light rail, and an ambidextrous safety similar to the Les Baer. The pistol handled well, proved quite reliable and more accurate than we would have guessed.
Best of all, the entire piece cost less than $400. Sure, it is a .22, but who says a .22 should be cheaply made? Quite the opposite is true. The better the gun, the more you will enjoy using it. Made in Germany by German Sporting Guns, American Tactical Imports distributes the pistol within the United States, and Cheaper Than Dirt! sells the pistol. Intended to be an understudy to the .45 caliber 1911, the GSG 1911 in .22LR would be a good choice for anyone wishing to own a good .22—even if it is the only handgun you own.
Although my son and sometimes co-author, Alan, is a first-class handloader with great experience, we never seem to have enough ammunition to go ahead while working on the latest book project or in training. So, a good .22 is essential to our development as marksmen. While Alan enjoys handloading, it is better to be shooting than loading. I own a couple of good .22 conversion units for the 1911. A .45 and a conversion unit is still just one gun. The 1911 .22 and a .45 is two guns and few conversions run as smoothly as this pistol.
For training purposes, a .22 caliber doppelganger should mimic the .45 as closely as possible. This .22 does that in weight, balance and handling. As long as you engage in realistic practice mimicking the rate of fire of the .45 and using the same grip, the .22 practice is beneficial. Attempting to run faster with the .22, or using a slack grip, will not help centerfire marksmanship. A number of .22 rimfire pistols have little to nothing in common with the centerfire handguns they resemble in outline.
The GSG .22 is a different matter. It has about the same relationship to the .45 1911 as a K 22 once did to the K 38 revolver, within the limitations of blowback and locked breech operation. The GSG gun allows training without the blast recoil and expense of the .45. That’s not a bad thing in any shooter’s book.
The Slide and Frame
The GSG .22 features an aluminum slide and a frame of Zamak, a type of cast material. I would not worry about wear from the light jolt of the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. The finish is dark and tactical looking, which most of us like. The grips are well-designed rubber grips with checkering. This gives good adhesion in practice. Trigger compression is a crisp 5.25 pounds with little creep and no backlash. The short slide—of this 3-inch barrel version—is attractive with good features.
The sights are adjustable, which is something I really like to see in a .22 pistol. And make no mistake, this pistol is well suited for informal practice and small-game hunting as well. Sure, it is a pistol most of us think of as best suited for tactical practice, but it is accurate enough for small-game hunting. I have never felt comfortable carrying a hammerless .22 chamber loaded. The GSG gun, carried cocked and locked in a proper holster, is a different proposition.
The pistol has a threaded barrel for those wishing to exercise their right—in most states—to own a sound suppressor. The pistol comes with a fake suppressor. The fake suppressor serves no purpose but after playing with the thing for a few days, I find that it is way cool and harms nothing. Like a semi automatic version of the Thompson SMG, the fake suppressor has a value far beyond the utilitarian. It is just fun to use. The look is impressive.
The GSG 1911 .22 is also supplied with a light rail. I fired the pistol with the NC Star tactical light mounted and found this inexpensive light rail a good fit with plenty of practical utility. The GSG 1911 .22 has a feature I really like—the light rail is easily removed. Once you remove the slide, use a screwdriver to remove the rail. I used my Wheeler screwdriver kit.
Do not use anything but a specialist set of screwdrivers and bits for your firearm and you will be much happier and your guns will not have a 10-thumbed handled look. If you wish to carry the pistol in one of the many good 1911 holsters available this is a great option. I carried the piece, sans the rail.
The “Better Than a Paddle” design features a strong snap attached to an over the belt loop that is fast on and off but secure. This is an excellent holster for field use or concealed carry. I would put any 1911, of any price, in this jewel. For general range use, the Don Hume belt slide is affordable and allows easy draws and reholstering. I used both holsters extensively during the evaluation.
I mentioned the sights and controls are well designed. Not the least of these is the ambidextrous safety. Another good feature is the magazine. The magazine isn’t cheap and tinny, or polymer like many .22 magazines. The design is similar to the original Colt .22 conversion unit magazine. This is a well-made magazine and while it is comparatively expensive, this magazine isn’t likely to give up in hard use.
This is a pistol that is chock full of value and it shows in the accessories supplied. There are three Allen wrenches, a screwdriver, and two extra sight blades. A taller sight blade will allow the shooter to cure a problem with the pistol shooting high while a shorter sight blade allows the shooter to raise the point of impact. Coupled with the adjustable rear sight, there is no reason this pistol could not be perfectly sighted in at any reasonable range. And the pistol is accurate enough for a trained shooter who wishes to properly sight the piece, say, for squirrels at the top of the top of the tree.
A word to the wise; there are plenty of tools and small parts in the kit supplied with the pistol. Be certain to keep them properly secured just in case you decide to change sights or to use or not use the light rail. They would be easy to misplace.
Cleaning and Care
Disassembly is neither difficult nor tricky. Once the slide stop is pressed out, the barrel pin may be pressed out to the left as well. Use the supplied Allen wrench to remove a disassembly pin. More difficult than a 1911 .45, perhaps, but less trouble than most .22 self-loaders. Not over engineered, but German engineering at its best in my opinion. This rigid lockup just may be one reason the GSG pistol is so accurate. Once you remove the slide, the pistol is easily scrubbed and cleaned.
On another note, if you are looking for upgrades for this handgun there are first-class compensators, 15-round magazine conversions, and competition-grade recoil spring guides. This market would not exist if the pistol did not deliver good performance. While not expensive, I must stress again, this isn’t a cheaply made gun. This is a top-grade handgun in .22 rimfire and well worth adding a few features.
The .22 Long Rifle’s high velocity has enough gas to work a compensator and the difference in firing the pistol is quite noticeable. The aluminum base pad for the magazine is well designed and takes the worry out of dropping the magazine during a speed load. First generation GSG guns in particular will benefit from the guide rod. The 15-round conversion—you must have your own magazine—is among the best tricks I have seen in some time. Using a high-grade follower and premium recoil spring, this conversion is easily done and very reliable.
At the Range
The firing tests were uneventful. Some makers disgust me as they state their pistol will run with only one type of ammunition. A .22 pistol should run with any good quality high velocity .22 Long Rifle.
The base line is this: the Ruger Standard Model. They have gotten it right for over 60 years and the guns work. You cannot always find the first choice in ammunition.
There is plenty of quality .22 Long Rifle ammunition including Federal, Speer, Winchester, Remington, Wolf and Fiocchi. Your 1911 look alike should run with any of these. And so should SIG or Smith & Wesson look alikes. To err on the side of caution, I used the famous CCI Mini Mag, rumored to be the only round that is completely reliable in the notoriously finicky SIG Mosquito.
The GSG 1911 .22 ran like a champ. To extend the test program I also fired a good quantity of Fiocchi high velocity as well as Wolf .22 caliber ammunition. There were no failures to feed, chamber fire or eject in firing 350 rounds. The pistol was well lubricated but never cleaned during the break in period. That is impressive performance.
The only slight bump in the road occurred when I had to shove the slide forward after releasing the slide via the slide lock during the first few magazines. This slight inconvenience disappeared after the first 100 rounds. The grandkids and I had an excellent time at the range and found the pistol to be a joy to fire and use.
The accuracy demonstrated by this handgun is good to excellent. And it should be. With a straight blowback action and fixed barrel, along with a smooth trigger compression, the pistol should be a tack driver. In respect to the short sight radius, the pistol was tested fired at 15 yards instead of 25. As you can see the pistol is well suited for informal practice and training. Don’t kid yourself and train only with the .22, of course, as the need for fast follow-up shots and recoil control dictate the use of the .45 for much of your training. But for marksmanship training the GSG 1911 is a great choice.
There are quite a few handgunners that own only one handgun, and that handgun is often a .22. I have been asked if the .22 is enough for personal defense many times. I have remarked that I would just as soon have a .22 as a .32 or .380, but that is damning with faint praise. The .22 does have the needed penetration, but bullet mass is far too light.
The real problem in the .22, in my opinion, is that the cartridge itself may be problematic. I have experienced 10 failures to fire or more with the .22 for every dud seen with the centerfire, probably more. Just the same those that cannot handle the .45 may have problems with the 9mm as well. SO, if I had to deploy a .22 for defense this would be the one.
The GSG 1911 22 is simply a great gun that I like a lot.
Accuracy results: three, 5-shot groups, 15 yards, measured in inches-from center-to-center of most widely spaced bullet holes.
|&CCI Mini Mag 40-grain||1.3 inches|
|Fiocchi 40-grain High Velocity||.9 inch|
|Wolf Target Match 40-grain||1.2 inches|
|Winchester M22 40-grain||1.25 inches|
What do you think of 1911-style .22 caliber pistols? Tell us in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.