American Tactical (GSG) .22 Caliber 1911

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.

Accessories Included

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.

Range Report

Accuracy results: three, 5-shot groups, 15 yards, measured in inches-from center-to-center of most widely spaced bullet holes.

Round Group
&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.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. I had just bought the GSG 1911 for myself to start shooting 22LR matches. I took the firearm out to the range and shot 200 rounds through it. I didn’t have any high velocity or mini mags so I shot just regular standard velocity ammo. The firearm shot really well to my surprise using standard ammo. I love this firearm now I want to buy another one to trick out into a competition firearm. The only problem that I’m having is that the firearm is shooting high. I put the tallest front sight on it but it still shoots high. I have to aim real low to hit center mass. Do you have any ideas or comments that would help me out. thanks.


  2. Hello , I just wanted to thank you for this post . I have a GSG 1911 22 I open carry . This has been the best gun I have had . I also have a 40 cal. it is a compact size . This 22 is more accurate than my 40 . I practice with it often , and I feel very secure with it , I have been trying to get more magazines for it . But I have had a problem finding them . To the makers of this gun, I just wanted to let you know keep up the good work , thanks .

  3. I couldn’t agree more with the author. I have had mine now for over a year and fired just over 1K and it is the best (or most fun to be sure) .22lr handgun I have followed closely by my Bersa Thunder .22lr which mirrors the Walther PPK. While the Ruger Mark line owns this market I think as the author suggests this is the single best option on the market today for those looking to practice/train with a 1911A1 environment absent the costs. GSG makes some very fine guns in addition to the 1911-22 so one can rest assured that quality and support will be top-notch.

  4. I purchased one of the first GSG 1911-22 available. I liked the fact that it is “old school” 1911 commander size (4″barrel) and no rail for accessories. I agree that the pistols quality is definitely top grade with the exception of the sights (particularly rear). I had the sights replaced and no problems since. It is the most accurate of my four pistols/revolvers. The 4″ barrel version is somewhat particular on the type of ammo you use. It must be 1280 FPS or won’t cycle and feed.
    I have had people at the shooting range handle the GSG and without looking at the end of the barrel thought it was a .45ACP. Can’t ask for more of a compliment than that!

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