German Sports Guns — .22s for Practice and Fun

American Tactical GSG-1911 and GSG Firefly

The idea of using .22s to keep your shooting skills sharp has long been a recommended practice by instructors. It’s also a subject that has been written about a lot, some of the writing by me. I believe in it.

Recently, I came across a couple of .22 handguns that fit right into my training program, because they faithfully replicate centerfire handguns I shoot regularly. The two handguns are made in Germany by German Sports Guns (GSG) and imported by American Tactical, Inc. They are readily available in the U.S. market. One of them is a 1911 and the other is the FireFly, built in the likeness of the SIG P226.

GSG FireFly with a used paper target and bow of Aguila Supermaximum ammunition
The FireFly was not disappointing in its accuracy, producing this target offhand at 10 yards.

GSG is owned by SIG Sauer’s parent company, and for many years GSG manufactured the SIG Mosquito. The FireFly is the same gun rebranded and with some improvements in reliability. I owned a Mosquito a few years ago and suffered many feeding issues. Those problems have been resolved in the FireFly.

Although I couldn’t find any reference to GSG building SIG’s .22 1911, the two guns appear to be the same. They are also priced similarly, with the SIG’s MSRP being only slightly higher. Both GSG guns are available in a variety of color schemes. As I write this, you can buy them both for what you might commonly spend on one medium-sized carry pistol.

GSG FireFly

I’ve had the FireFly the longest, so I’ll cover it first. I picked this gun up as a result of attending a writer’s conference in which ATI was a presenter. It offered me a .45 ACP Moxie. When I placed the order, I added this one to it. ATI shipped it to me gratis. I had owned a SIG Sauer Mosquito several years earlier, and it was very finicky (ammo-wise), so I didn’t keep it.

ATI worked with SIG Sauer to take that same design, work out the ammo issues which were apparently recoil spring-related, and they built this gun under license to SIG. It comes with two spring sets, one for high-velocity and the other for normal ammo. I’ve shot both types of ammo with the standard spring and found it to be reliable. It’s a fun plinkin’ gun.

As I indicated before, the FireFly comes in several colors. Mine is FDE. The frame is made of a wear-resistant alloy. It has black, mildly textured grips that wrap around the back. The front strap has what appears to be 30 LPI checkering. Together, these features make for a comfortable grip.

ATI GSG FireFly - a scaled down SIG Sauer P226 clone chambered in .22 LR
The GSG FireFly is a ¾-sized P226 in .22 LR, developed under license with SIG Sauer to replace the SIG Mosquito.

Although the FireFly is made in the image of a P226, it is a scaled version approximately ¾ size. There is an accessory rail ahead of the trigger guard in the usual position. The slide is also made of the same zinc alloy as the frame with cocking serrations at the rear. The gun is 7.2 inches long and 5.3 inches high. It weighs 24.6 ounces.

The FireFly is hammer-fired with a double-action shot for the first round followed by single-action shots. A decocker on the left side of the grip will lower the hammer, should you wish to you stop shooting in the middle of a magazine or otherwise need to de-cock the pistol. The thumb safety is ambidextrous, the sights are a 3-dot model, and the rear sight is adjustable.

The gun shipped with three different front sights, so you can adjust the vertical pattern of your shots. The front sight is easy to replace, but the owner’s manual assumes you know how to do it. It’s simple when you know how, but I had to go to YouTube and watch somebody do it before I figured it out.

Fieldstripped GSG FireFly
The FireFly is easy to disassemble for cleaning or to swap out the recoil spring for standard-velocity ammunition.

In the box, along with the two extra front sights, is a recoil spring you can swap out to work with less than high velocity ammo. Don’t do it. Just stick to the high-velocity ammo with a muzzle velocity over 1,250 fps. Also in the box is a device that can be used as a key to turn an integral safety lock on or off. One 10-round magazine is included. You can get a FireFly with a threaded barrel but mine is not so equipped.

GSG 1911

The 1911 also comes in a variety of colors. I’ve had a solid black one for several years, but recently they started offering one with a polished slide that has really caught my attention. I came by the black one in an interesting way. I used to own a gun store which my youngest son managed. When we decided to shut it down, a pile of gun parts made its way to my house. I discovered a .22 1911 in the pile missing some parts. Turns out they were standard 1911 parts, so I managed to get the gun reassembled. It’s got a Ruger stainless steel ambidextrous thumb safety that is doing the job just fine.

The guns are reasonably priced, so when they introduced a new stock number with a polished slide, I purchased one. I’m sure glad I did. This is arguably the most fun .22 I have. Well, maybe three stars in the polymer handgun world — the Taurus TX-22, Glock G44, and SIG P322 are almost as much fun, but I sure love shooting these GSG 1911 .22s.

The GSG 1911 .22 with the same look and feel as a full-size M1911
The GSG 1911 .22 has the same look and feel as a full-size M1911. It has an ambidextrous thumb safety and extended beavertail safety grip.

The GSG 1911 .22 has the same look and feel as a full-size M1911. It has an ambidextrous thumb safety and extended beavertail safety grip. As I’ve experienced, it is compatible with many standard M1911 parts.

The length is 8.5 inches, height is 5.5 inches, and it weighs 34.4 ounces. The magazine capacity is 10 rounds. The frame is made of a zinc alloy and has a black anodized finish. The slide is made from CNC machined aluminum and has a black anodized finish that features polished sides for a stainless look.

The gun comes with a low-profile fixed rear sight and the same low, medium, and high front sights as the FireFly. The grips that came on the gun are black poly with the familiar double-diamond pattern. I swapped mine for a nice set of G10 grips that I had on hand. The barrel is threaded.

Range Time

I took both guns to the range for this report, along with six types of ammunition with advertised velocities exceeding 1,250 fps. The ammo types were: CCI Mini Mag, CCI Stinger, Blazer, Winchester Super X, Remington Golden Bullet, and Aguila Supermaximum. I alternately filled the 10-round magazine for each gun with a different brand to see how they performed.

Field stripped GSG .22 LR 1911 with additional parts not found on a traditional .45 ACP 1911
Takedown for the GSG .22 1911 is very similar to standard 1911 takedown except for two extra parts you won’t find on the centerfire guns. The first time you do the disassembly, the author recommends consulting the manual for these minor differences.

The FireFly was not finicky about what ammo it liked. It did have one failure to feed and one light strike. They were both with Remington Golden Bullets. It’s new and this was its first time out, so that may get better. Likewise, it was a little dry — my fault. The 1911’s only failure was a failure to lock back after the last round a couple of times. Otherwise, it performed quite well on all six of the ammo types I had with me.

As far as accuracy goes, I shot them out to 10 yards, and they both shot to point of aim and produced pretty tight groupings. I couldn’t help but feel if I shot them from a rest, they could do well out to 25 yards and at 10 yards produce exceptional groups. I’ve bounced a 7.5 ounce soda can all over the yard with my older GSG 1911 wearing a suppressor — fun! These are both very accurate, and they’re inexpensive guns that exhibit excellent German workmanship.

GSG .22 1911 with paper target shot for accuracy with a box of CCI Stinger .22 LR ammunition
The GSG .22 1911 does not disappoint when engaging in target practice, making it a great substitute for practicing with 1911s of any caliber.

If you don’t have a .22 handgun to add as a low-cost addition to your training or just for fun, I would recommend either of these guns. Cruise on over and search for GSG on the CheaperThanDirt! website and you’ll see several options of each. Oh, wait. I just looked and now I want a tan GSG 1911!

Have you fired any of American Tactical’s recent offerings? What is your take on using small caliber (clone) guns for training? Share your reviews and answers in the Comment section.

  • Field stripped GSG .22 LR 1911 with additional parts not found on a traditional .45 ACP 1911
  • GSG .22 1911 with paper target shot for accuracy with a box of CCI Stinger .22 LR ammunition
  • ATI GSG FireFly, right profile
  • The GSG 1911 .22 with the same look and feel as a full-size M1911
  • GSG FireFly with a used paper target and bow of Aguila Supermaximum ammunition
  • ATI GSG FireFly - a scaled down SIG Sauer P226 clone chambered in .22 LR
  • Fieldstripped GSG FireFly
  • American Tactical GSG-1911 and GSG Firefly
  • ATI GSG-1911 handgun chambered in .22 LR with a black with a polished stainless-steel slide.

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (2)

  1. Just a few suggestions here for .22LR’s: First, If you happen to have one where the manual specifically says DO NOT DRY FIRE, as snap caps can be kind of expensive, a substitute from a local hardware store, you know those wall anchors? Plastic Ribbed Anchors size #4 – #6 X 7/8 inch, come in a box of 150 count for like $6, and work great. Especially in revolvers, and after several “snaps”, change them out. Second, CCI Copper ammo (that is what they are called), come in 50 count, are kind of like a solid copper bullet, so at the end of the day at the range, run a couple of these down the barrel to clean out any possibility of lead in the barrel. These are 21 grain, and 1850 FPS velocity. They may not fully cycle a semi auto, but still worth running a couple at the end of the day, in all of your .22 firearms. Third, if you get a Glock 44, and it comes with a stainless steel cleaning brush (the only Glock that comes with a metal brush) do yourself a favor and immediately throw the SS brush away so you won’t be tempted to use it and risk ruining your barrel, use a couple rounds of the CCI Copper instead. Anyone else with suggestions?

  2. Isn’t U-tube great! LOL. At my age I am renewing my interest in .22’s. The tack driving Ruger MK 22/45 controls emulate the 1911, and maybe even the weight, but that’s about it. The Glock 44 on the other hand is a Glock all the way, including the take down, as the slide, the barrel, and the guide rod, are all just like it’s big brother/sister, in that unlike a lot of .22 pistols, the barrel is not fixed, but rather comes off with the slide, just like a Glock. Other than being a feather weight, it pretty much mimics a Glock 19. A word to anyone who happened to get one of the very first Glock 44’s, seems many of these (to be nice) had a much LOWER bar for perfection, than Glock’s centerfire perfection. If you have one of these, give Glock a chance to correct it. I had one of the first ones, and it was pretty sad, with leading the barrel to extreme, fireballs out the port, and many function issues. On the third round with Glock they gave me options, and the third options was a new replacement G44. Happy to say the replacement G44 is every bit a Glock. It just runs, and runs, no issues at all, decent accuracy, easy to clean, a lot of fun. Also be sure and watch the Glock video on how to load a G44 magazine correctly to avoid Failure To Feed issues, which I have found also applies to other gun manufactures. With the cost effectiveness of .22 ammo compared to centerfire, I think we may see more replicas in the future.

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