GSG 1911 AD OPS Review
German Sport Guns Introduces the Ultimate Tactical 1911 in .22 LR
Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG
As we have commented on in other reviews and articles, in the past two years or so we have seen a tremendous upswing in interest in 1911s (and handguns in general) chambered for the ubiquitous .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) cartridge. Many of the "name" manufacturers of quality self-defense and duty handguns have introduced copies or very near copies of some of their mainstay centerfire pistols in .22 LR. And, although .22 LR conversions have long had a niche in the marketplace, in recent years sales of conversions (again, for both the 1911 and for handguns in general) have really taken off. It wasn't too long ago that the M1911 Pistols Organization, recognizing this trend, reorganized its web forum site (http://forum.m1911.org/forums.php) to offer a single discussion area dedicated completely to what's available in the way of .22 LR pistols and conversion kits for the 1911.
Three years ago, the author attended the last SHOT Show to be held in Orlando, Florida. One of the pistols that caught our eye was a very nicely executed 1911 at the booth of ATI (American Tactical Imports). At first glance, it appeared to be just another basic, bare-bones Government model 1911. Then one of the guys from ATI casually mentioned that it was a .22! We thereupon examined it closely, we liked what we saw, and we asked to be sent a sample pistol for review in these (virtual) pages as soon as they became available. Time went by, our contact person at ATI apparently left, and for the longest time we had no idea when we might receive a pistol for review ... or even IF we would receive a pistol for review.
All that changed just before Christmas, when a call came in from Chris' Indoor Shooting Range to let us know that the shop had just received a pistol from ATI, with "M1911.ORG" as the recipient. The timing, naturally, was terrible. I was scheduled for hand surgery a week before Christmas; the operation supposedly went well (according to the doctor ... as if he might say anything else), but there has been considerable pain as the incisions gradually heal, and the hand has been essentially useless. So, other than a quick stop at the range shop to look at the package and say, "Gee, that really looks nice," there wasn't much we could do with it until recently. In fact, the hand is still not very useful and I have to go gingerly to avoid tearing things up under the skin, but physical therapy to restore movement has finally started, and I felt that I could at least handle shooting a .22 off a rest on a bench. So, off we went to the range to check out the GSG 1911 AD OPS.
The GSG pistol we saw at the SHOT Show in Orlando was the original M1911-22, which (as noted above) is a fairly basic clone of the 5-inch Government model or M1911A1. And that was what we expected to receive for testing. To everyone's surprise at the range, when we opened the case we found a .22 LR 1911, but it had an Picatinny rail under the front dust cover. And packed in the clamshell case with the pistol was a nicely executed (but fake) silencer.
Along with the pistol and the "silencer," we also found an owners manual, a standard cable-type gun lock, and a kit that included two Allen wrenches (hex keys), a flat, open-end wrench, and a small zip-lock bag containing two replacement front sight blades in different heights (for use in dialing in the point of impact to coincide with point of aim, depending on distance and ammunition choice). The case itself is a fairly standard plastic, hinged case with foam plastic inserts, plastic latches, and an eye for inserting a luggage-size padlock (not included) for security or to comply with any applicable gun lock laws.
The pistol and the faux silencer are finished in a matte black. Since the metal is not steel, the finish can't be blued. Accordingly, we surmise that it is a sprayed-on coating, but we have not obtained confirmation of this from ATI or from GSG.
Perhaps befitting a "tactical" model, the test pistol came with a Picatinny rail, an upswept beavertail and double-diamond checkered, black plastic grip. Overall, it certainly looks the part of a no-nonsense, "git-er-done" tactical firearm. Let's move in for a closer look.
The original .22 LR 1911 was the Colt Ace, which was set up with a floating chamber intended to make the tiny .22 LR cartridge more closely replicate the recoil of a 1911 firing standard, 230-grain .45 caliber ammunition. The problem with the Colt floating chamber, as some readers already know, was that it was easily fouled by dirty .22 LR powder, and therefore couldn't be used for extended range sessions without cleaning. The GSG .22 LR 1911s have nothing like a floating chamber to complicate their operation. The barrels incorporate an integral feed ramp, and an ejector is built into the left side of the barrel. There are no locking lugs on the top of the barrel or under the barrel hood; the GSG operates as a direct blowback pistol, like all .22 caliber 1911s and conversion kits of which we are aware. Also like all other .22 1911s we know of, the barrel does not link down for feeding like a "real" 1911. The lug under the barrel is held firmly in place when the pistol is assembled and fired.
1911s in .22 caliber (and blowback pistols in general) have an advantage over locked breech semi-automatic pistols because there is no need for the barrel to drop down for unlocking. In the world of .22 caliber 1911 complete pistols, at least two other manufacturers have elected to take advantage of this by making the barrel an integral part of the receiver, thus enhancing accuracy. Those conversions that have crossed my path, on the other hand, have all had separate barrels with the barrel retained in position by the slide stop pin. German Sport Guns chose to follow the route of a separate barrel, but they used more than just the slide stop pin to anchor the barrel firmly to the receiver. In the GSG 1911 there is an additional pin aft of the slide stop pin (retained in position and concealed by the slide stop when the pistol is fully assembled), plus a hex-head set screw forward of the slide stop pin. Apparently, the folks at German Sport Guns don't want the barrel to move.
What this means is that field stripping the GSG 1911 is not performed strictly according to the procedure used for a "standard" 1911. Here's how the owner's manual tells us to do it:
First (not stated in the owner's manual) remove the magazine and verify that the chamber is empty. Then as with all 1911s, move the slide to the rear until the take-down notch is aligned with the slide stop lug, and remove the slide stop.
With the slide stop removed, the head of the barrel retaining pin is visible. The pin is pressed from the right side of the frame and removed from the left side (like all pins on all 1911s).
After the barrel retaining pin has been removed, one of the hex wrenches supplied with the pistol is used to remove the hex-head retaining screw.
With the slide stop, barrel retaining pin, and barrel retaining screw all removed, the entire slide/barrel assembly can be slid forward and removed from the receiver.
At this point, if desired, the barrel bushing can be rotated in the usual manner, the recoil spring plug removed, and then the barrel bushing can be removed from the slide.
With the recoil spring plug and barrel bushing out of the way, the barrel can be removed in the conventional manner. With this done, the parts lay out much as for any centerfire 1911 pistol.
The ejector is not part of the receiver, but instead is built into the left side of the chamber. This leaves the top of the receiver essentially flush to the tops of the rails on both sides.
The slide itself is lightened inside, but nonetheless incorporates a firing pin safety plunger.
The operating controls are all of a type and design that can be found on many different brands and models of centerfire 1911 pistol, which helps ensure that shooting the GSG 1911 replicates as closely as possible (for a .22 LR handgun) the experience of shooting a 1911.
Standard design slide stop, and 3-hole trigger
Double-diamond checkered grip panels, with an arched mainspring housing and conventional grip safety pad
Upswept beavertail, extended thumb safety, and skeletonized "combat" hammer
Wedge-shaped rear sight, complete with tactical notch for racking the slide one-handed
Front sight is dovetailed nicely into the slide
3-dot "combat" sights provide an easy to see sight picture
When we first opened the hard shell pistol case for our first look at the GSG 1911, we immediately noticed an object wrapped in white mesh, nestled in the foam insert adjacent to the pistol. Since we didn't think GSG or ATI would be shipping pistols accompanied by either cheese or sausage, we cleverly deduced that it was more likely something non-perishable. And it was. Removing the object from its cocoon, we found cradled in our eager hands a nicely executed (but totally fake) suppressor can (or "silencer," as they are generally referred to in the vernacular). And why not? The test pistol has a "tactical" rail beneath the front dust cover of the receiver. What good is a tactical pistol without a suppressor? No true mall ninja should be without one, so the folks at GSG thoughtfully provided one.
The small open-end wrench in the tool baggie under the foam insert fits a pair of flats milled into a muzzle/thread protector on the end of the barrel. This can readily be removed, and the provided faux suppressor screwed onto the end of the barrel. With the "can" in place, the SGS 1911 looks deadly enough for the likes of James Bond, Arnold Schwartzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone.
The rail is a Picatinny standard rail. Although at first glance we thought it was an integral part of the receiver, that proved not to be the case. In fact, the rail is a high-quality add-on rail, attached to the receiver with screws:
The rail readily accepted our tactical light:
One "feature" we found difficult to love is that the GSG 1911 is equipped with a magazine safety. The magazine must be fully inserted into the pistol or the trigger cannot be pulled. We understand the reason for this: California (and possibly other states, as well) now requires that all firearms must be equipped with a magazine safety in order to be added to the list of firearms approved for sale in the state. California is a populous state, so to introduce a new pistol without a magazine safety would mean giving up a significant pool of potential buyers. We can't fault the manufacturer for building what the law requires, but we don't have to like it. At least for this writer, the problem is that the introduction of a magazine safety radically changes the manual of arms for the firearm.
What happens when you have shot the last round in your magazine? The slide locks back. For most 1911 shooters, the sequence then is to drop the magazine, inspect the chamber to ensure that it's empty, bring the slide forward, and then lower the hammer. This can't be done ... in this sequence ... if the pistol has a magazine safety. The same problem applies to the Browning Hi-Power, and is the sole reason I have never tried shooting a Hi-Power in competition. With a magazine safety, after verifying that the chamber is empty and bringing the slide to the in-battery position, the shooter must them reinsert the empty magazine into the pistol in order to lower the hammer. For shooters accustomed to the 1911 manual of arms, it forces a different and unfamiliar sequence. For shooters who don't have a long familiarity with the 1911 (or similar firearms), of course, a detail such as this is of no consequence.
And now that we have all the boring details accounted for ...
How does it shoot?
In short, we were impressed. Because the pistol has a 5" barrel and our M1911.ORG protocol calls for 5-inch pistols to be tested at 25 yards, that's what we did. Candidly, there was some soul searching involved and we almost decided to abandon the standard protocol and shoot for accuracy at 25 feet, but then we remembered that we have tested other .22LR 1911s at the standard 25 yards, so we had no choice other than to continue in order to fairly compare the GSG 1911 against other .22 pistols we have tested previously.
We received one surprise before we even began shooting. Most .22 conversions make it clear that they are calibrated for high-velocity ammunition and may not function reliably with standard velocity fodder. We test with an assortment anyway, of course, but we expect some issues in cycling with the lighter, slower loads. The owners manual for the GSG 1911 states that the pistol is set up to function with both standard velocity and high velocity ammunition. We don't know how they accomplish that, but our reaction was, "Hey! How cool is that?" So we assembled a motley assortment of .22LR ammunition ranging across the spectrum from standard velocity loads to a couple of different types of CCI High Velocity Mini-Mags.
Here are the results of our accuracy testing. We shot a series of 5-shot groups off a rest on a shooting bench, while seated. The group size represents the best four out of five shots (worst shot discarded in all cases). To make our results of more interest, for this test the results include both the best single group, and the average of the best three groups.
Ammo Avg. Group (inches) Avg. Group (mm) Best Group (inches) Best Group (mm) CCI Standard Velocity 40 gr. (1070 fps) 2.16" 55 2.13" 54 Remington Thunderbolt 40 gr. (1255 fps) 2.52" 64 2.19" 56 Federal HV Match Velocity 40 gr. (1200 fps) 1.68" 43 1.11" 28 CCI Mini-Mag HP 36 gr. (1260 fps) 1.77" 45 1.68" 43 CCI Mini-Mag HV 40 gr. (1235 fps) 1.59" 40 1.26" 32
In shooting the GSG 1911, we found that the trigger of our test pistol had noticeable creep, and that the pull did not seem to be consistent from one shot to the next. A trigger like that is not conducive to accuracy. The internal fire control parts are all standard 1911, and so we have little doubt that the trigger pull could be cleaned up and lightened very easily. However, it isn't good etiquette to start filing and carving on a borrowed firearm, so we shot it as it came out of the box. Even with the less than ideal trigger, the accuracy was very respectable.
Anticipating that someone would wonder if attaching the faux suppressor changes the point of impact, we also checked that for our readers. The answer is: No, it does not. And, since the "silencer" is truly a fake, this is not surprising. Not only is it not a functional suppressor, it is also not a barrel extension. From the threaded portion forward, the inside diameter is a half an inch ... slightly more than twice the diameter of the bullets. We fired a series of 10-shot groups at side-by-side targets, in each pair shooting the left side without the "can" and the right side with the suppressor in place. Within the limitations of our marksmanship, the point of impact appeared to be unchanged.
Comparison target. Left target shot w/o suppressor, right target shot w/ suppressor
A very pleasant surprise was that, throughout our entire test of this pistol (accounting for a few hundred rounds), we encountered NO malfunctions. No failures to feed, no jams, no failures to eject ... not even a single failure to fire. We were impressed, especially considering that the ammunition we used ranged in velocity from a sedate 1070 fps up to 1260 fps. In addition, the GSG 1911 didn'r appear to be as "picky" about ammunition as some .22 firearms can be. If there was no one ammunition choice that really stood out as head-and-shoulders better than all others, at the same time the pistol shot acceptably well with all the ammunition we used, meaning that an owner can anticipate a decent day of plinking regardless of what ammo he can find available.
We liked the GSG 1911. It has much of the heft of a "real" 1911 and, other than the virtually total lack of perceived recoil, reproduces well the experience of shooting a standard, centerfire 1911. It is easy to shoot, acceptably accurate, and more reliable than a .22 semi-automatic pistol has a right to be. The finish is not a classic Colt or S&W high-polish blue, but the visible surfaces are all even and the finish is uniform. We didn't have the test pistol long enough to really bang it around as a test of its resistance to wear and tear, but we didn't manage to put any significant dings in it through a couple of photo sessions, two or three rounds of disassembly and reassembly, and multiple range sessions.
The GSG 1911 is priced competitively with competing pistols, and actually costs less than some of the high-end .22 conversions for 1911 pistols while providing a complete firearm rather than just a slide and barrel assembly. For plinking, firearms instruction, affordable range time to maintain trigger skills, or for a "truck gun" the GSG 1911 should certainly be on the "Let's look at" list. Perhaps the one venue for which it is less than well suited is bullseye competition. The accuracy may not be quite up to par for serious competition, and it doesn't have adjustable sights. For all other purposes, we suggest that the GSG 1911 is worthy of consideration.
Please go to this thread on the M1911 Pistols Organization discussion forum to discuss this pistol and this review: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=98456
GSG 1911-22 Tactical Caliber: .22 Long Rifle Overall Length: 8.63" (219.2 mm) Overall Height: 5.63" (143.0 mm) (w/ magazine) . . . 5.19” (131.8 mm) (w/o magazine) Overall Width: 1.31" (33.3 mm) Barrel Length: 5" (127.0 mm) Sight Radius: 6.50" (165.1mm) Sights: 3-dot, Combat-style (non-adjustable) Weight w/empty magazine: 40.0oz (1.14 kg) Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds Grips: Double-diamond checkered (Black Plastic on Tactical, wood on standard) Finish: Matte black MSRP: $399.95 (w/ tactical rail & faux silencer $369.95 (w/o rail or silencer)
American Tactical Imports
100 Airpark Drive
Rochester, NY 14624
Web Site: http://www.americantactical.us/home.html
Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range
2458 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437