November 18, 2022
I have to say that I have loved the 1911 ever since I was kid. Back in the 1970s, the snub nose was king as far as police shows, and it seemed that every detective, special agent, or undercover cop was carrying either a Colt Detective or Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special, but there were refreshing exceptions. You could always depend on a WWII movie or an old TV show like The Untouchables to see some 1911 action.
From the late 1970s until the early 1980s, my firearms pursuits were anything military-styled and in semi-auto: AR-15s, Mini-14s, M1 Carbines, MAC-10 and -11 pistols, Valmets, Thompsons, and the like could be found in my gun cabinet, or on my wish list. I liked handguns, and had some, but besides a Sterling .380, a Baby Browning, an RG38, Taurus .22 (lookalike S&W Model 29), a Charter Arms AR-7 pistol, and an inherited Hi-Standard Model GD, there weren’t many other handguns in my world. Then, in 1980 or ’81, I saw The Hunter with Steve McQueen. McQueen was one of those tough guys that boys my age grew up looking up to, along with John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, and Clint Eastwood. Their characters were “all American,” patriotic, and conservative – and they kicked butt when they had to. McQueen played a bounty hunter, and if you never saw the movie, I won’t spoil it by giving away anything but just rent it – it's a great film. McQueen carried a 1911 .45 in a shoulder holster, and when he pulled it and blasted away, I wanted one almost as much as an HK91A3, or whatever semi-auto rifle was on my “list” back then.
A couple of years went by and still no 1911. (Hey, UZI Model A Carbines came out in 1981 – I had to have one of those!) Then, on my birthday in 1982, I had a choice: a Valmet M-62 (which I have drooled over at Miller’s Rod & Gun in Struthers, Ohio, for years), or a Universal M1 Carbine and a 1911-type Llama .45 ACP pistol. Since 7.62x39 was only available at one dollar per round (this was years before the cheap Chinese-made ammo imports), I sadly passed on the Valmet, and got my second M1 Carbine and the Llama. That day, I had watched the 1950’s version of The Thing, and the movie had a bunch of G.I. carbines and 1911s in it, so I think that this also helped me go with the two “WWII guns.” Although I wish I had that Valmet M-62 now, I don’t regret the choice I made. That Llama .45 changed my life a bit.
I ended up firing thousands of rounds of .45 ACP out of the Llama at The American Range in North Jackson, Ohio. Luckily, I worked part time for a small ammo manufacturer and got my ammo cheap. After doing a trigger job myself, I entered a regional “modified IPSC” indoor match in 1984. To make a long story short, at 17 years of age, I won first place in the marksman class, and I got to shoot alongside a world-champion shooter named Steve Nastoff, who took first place in the expert class. The guys that told me, “Hey, when you grow up, you can get one of these” as they patted their Colt Series 70s and Detonics pistols, ended up losing to me, and one only qualified for novice class. Anyway, the competition made me more of a lover of 1911s. Later, I learned a lot from Nastoff, as he was one of the best 1911 pistol gunsmiths in the world (actually, still is).
Practicing is something one must do to get better at anything, and a .22 LR conversion would have been great to cut down the cost. Although learning to deal with the muzzle flip of a .45 ACP isn’t something that a .22 LR 1911 conversion would help much with, trigger control, practicing drawing from a holster, and general marksmanship skills can still be greatly improved with a .22 LR 1911 conversion. There were a few conversions available back in the mid-1980s, but none would work with my Llama. I ended giving up on the .22 LR conversion idea for cheap practice and later got totally sidetracked with the S&W second generation wave of 9mm double-action/single-action pistols around 1988.
I have wanted to get back into 1911 shooting, as I am very “rusty” compared to my earlier days when I got my first .45 auto. (Wow, is it really getting close to 40 years ago?) I started shooting my .45 ACP pistols again and rediscovering how great they are, but I want a cheaper way to practice. That’s where the GSG-1911 comes in, and I have American Tactical to thank for importing it.
The GSG 1911 is a full-size 1911 pistol in .22 LR and features an ambidextrous thumb safety, extended beaver-tail grip safety, dovetailed front-dot sight with two extra of different heights (low, medium, high), a rear dovetailed dot sight, and an M9 x.75 (metric) threaded muzzle with thread protector. (For $24.95, ATI does offer an adapter so you can use ½” x 28 sound suppressors.) Available finishes are polished black, black, green, and tan. The slide is made from zinc alloy and the frame is machined aluminum.
I first saw the green-finished version at the 2019 NRA Show when American Tactical owner Tony DiChario showed it to me. My younger son Matthew really took to the green model, so that is what I requested. This green color is not really a typical OD green color, but more like a sage color, and it looks great. Checkered walnut-like polymer grips, with the classic double diamond, were included with my gun.
So, how does it shoot? In one word – fantastic! During the first couple of months of having the pistol, my son and I put about 2,000 rounds through the GSG 1911 (with my son putting most of those rounds downrange). Loading is easy with the help of an external assist on the magazine that lowers the follower as you load. The pistol is accurate, reliable, and a joy to shoot. The trigger has a bit of creep, with short travel and reset, and breaks at about five pounds -pretty good.
Small-game pistol hunting has been a favorite of mine since the 1970s, and I typically carry the High Standard Model GD mentioned previously. Although I haven’t had a chance to take the GSG 1911 out into the woods to dispatch some rogue squirrels on my property, my son Matthew did do some hunting during the Ohio small-game season and took out a rabbit. If you have never gone small game hunting with a .22 LR handgun, I would recommend that you try it sometime. This type of hunting can also help you with your self-defense skills, as acquiring small, moving targets, many of them appearing as a surprise, can enhance those split-second target-acquisition senses.
Does the GSG 1911 work with all .22 LR ammo? No, it does not. The American Tactical website states that in order for the GSG 1911 to function properly, use only: “22LR (Long Rifle) High Velocity (HV) with a minimum of 1,250 Feet Per Second (FPS).” I found that this is absolutely correct. My sons and I fired mostly Remington .22 Thunderbolt with a lead round nosed (LRN) 40-grain bullet, Winchester Wildcat 40-grain HP, as well as Federal Champion 40-grain LRN. Those loads run the pistol perfectly, but any low-powered .22 LR ammunition, typically the economy loads, will not. The same thing goes for any subsonic rounds. Winchester’s “White Box” 40-grain LRN worked much of the time, but the occasional light loads, which were obvious, did not properly cycle the pistol, but this ammunition is known for light loads. There were no malfunctions at the fault of the GSG 1911; any issue was an ammunition issue.
Accuracy? This was what I wanted to find out since most of our shooting was just plinking. I started at 21 feet/seven yards from a shooting bench position, assisted by a sand bag. I had three new .22 loads to test three groups of five shots each group. First up was Federal’s BYOB 36-grain hollow point. It was apparent that this was a very lightly loaded round and the results were many failures to cycle. Again, not the fault of the GSG 1911, these rounds are not high enough velocity. My best group was .78 of an inch and my largest group was 1.47 inches. Next up was Armscor 36-grain hollow point with a half-an-inch group and that group without the flier was only .22 of an inch! Armscor .22 LR ammunition is nice and hot and really accurate. Armscor made the GSG 1911 very happy – it functioned perfectly. Last up was CCI’s Blazer Value Pack, the name gave away the results I would experience, as this load, while a little hotter than the Federal BYOB, would not function well in the pistol. Although, it did work more reliably than the BYOB. My smallest group was .78 of an inch and the largest was 1.18 inches. Great accuracy.
I then took the winner, Armscor, out to 50 feet from the same rested bench positon. The results were great with the smallest group at .91 of an inch and the largest at only 1.44 inches. This is a nice pistol, and Armscor seems to be the right ammo for it. Enjoying the GSG 1911/Armscor ammo combo, I started shooting some steel at 50 yards, a 12”x 20” steel silhouette from ShootSteel.com (see FirearmsNews.com for the video). It was very easy to hit the plate every time, even from a standing position.
As far as cleaning and take down, the GSG 1911 disassembles much like a standard 1911 with a couple of differences. In addition to removing the slide stop, which retains the barrel link on a standard 1911, there are also the additional steps of removing a pin as well as a hex head machine screw (see photos for more detail). The recoil spring guide rod also incorporates a buffer as well as a round collar. Besides those differences, it's basically a 1911-type pistol. I didn’t give the pistol a cleaning, and besides a squirt or two of oil, there was no cleaning or maintenance for over 2,000 rounds. It kept shooting.
Be sure to use Winchester Wildcat 40-grain HP, Armscor 36-grain HP, Federal Champion .40-grain LRN, Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain LRN, or any true high-velocity .22 KR ammunition for reliable shooting of your GSG 1911 (I just know you will buy one). The GSG 1911 functions perfectly with the proper ammunition, and it's a fantastic and accurate pistol.
If you are looking for a great .22 LR handgun to supplement your 1911 .45 ACP practice, then the GSG 1911 from American Tactical is just the pistol. It's very affordable and I have seen these sell for less than $240, which is much more inexpensive than many 1911 .22 LR conversions. Many newer shooters do not even own a .22 pistol, and if you are one of them, you need to check out the GSG 1911 and join the “Plinking Fraternity!”
GSG 1911 Pistol Specifications
- Caliber: .22LR (high-velocity ammunition only)
- Operation: Semi-auto, single action
- Safety: Ambidextrous thumb safety and extended beaver tail grip safety
- Sights: Three-dot dovetailed front and rear
- Weight: 5.5 Inches
- Length: 8.5 Inches
- Weight: 34.4 Ounces
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- MSRP: $319.95
- Contact: American Tactical, (800) 290-0065, AmericanTactical.us
The Art of Plinking
Since “tactical shooting” has been all the rage for the past 20 years, many of you younger guys never discovered the “Art of Plinking.” Also, many of you older guys may have forgot how much fun that was. I’m here to tell you that plinking is probably the “most funnest” type of shooting out there. Find a big back stop and step back about 30 – 50 yards. Throw a few soup cans in the middle of the shooting area and blast away with any type of .22 LR. It’s a lot of fun to chase the cans across the range after ever shot, and this is probably the cheapest reactive target you can get. It builds great skill as well, and it can be done with any firearm. Most formal shooting ranges will not allow this kind of shooting, so you will have to find some quarries, woods, or land to do this on. The GSG 1911 is definitely a great “plinker.”