Text & Photos by Jeff W. Zimba
Whether plinking, practicing, competing or training, a .22 LR alternative is financially desirable and very beneficial. While there have been several .22 LR pistols over the last century to choose from, there have been very few factory full-size versions that share fit and function with the original gun. Of the few that do, they are typically expensive. The ATI GSG 1911 .22 LR pistol mimics the size, weight feel and function so closely it can be used with the factory .45 ACP 1911 gear, and at an affordable price.
We received the GSG 1911 for testing and evaluation several months in advance of this scheduled article. While we like to bring our readers the “latest and greatest” as soon as we can, we wanted to put some time in on this one and perform a mini endurance test before going to print.
Since the primary subject matter of Small Arms Review is NFA Firearms, we only thought it made sense to test it as a platform for the numerous small and effective rimfire suppressors available today. We immediately ordered a thread adapter from Gemtech as well as a Gemtech Outback II, a Bowers Paradigm and a SilencerCo Sparrow.
Although we have had the opportunity to handle several of ATI’s (American Tactical Imports) other offerings in the past, they have all been based on military-style rifles and carbines and we didn’t know what to expect with a 1911 pistol. This is a gun many of us “cut our teeth” on and most shooters have a deep appreciation for this design so we knew expectations would be high and criticism in any flaw whatsoever would come easy out of familiarity.
The day it arrived it didn’t take long before we needed to hit the test range and do some initial function and performance tests. Given an MSRP that we consider quite reasonable, we didn’t have high expectations for the cosmetic features, but were quickly and pleasantly surprised. Right out of the box we were extremely impressed with several characteristics. The most noticeable at first sight were the checkered wooden grips. Our test gun had dark checkered grips with a large diamond pattern over each grip screw. Further examination revealed an extended beavertail safety, an enlarged ambidextrous safety, a combat hammer and an adjustable trigger. The rear of the slide is heavily serrated to the rear, and the finish is dark and uniform on all parts. The sights are a popular 3-dot style, drift adjustable for windage. To adjust for elevation, 3 different front sights are included each with a gradual increase for point of impact/point of aim synchronization.
Though the magazines hold 10 rounds of .22 LR, they have been built to simulate the weight and feel of a standard 1911 .45 ACP magazine. They are very heavy and rugged and even fit standard magazine pouches. A magazine has to be inserted in order to drop the hammer, even on an empty chamber as is very common with many imported pistols. The only real key that it was chambered in .22 LR and not the usual .45 ACP was the very light tension of the slide spring. If it were gripped like a normal heavy .45 ACP and returned to the rear, it would immediately be obvious that it was not.
On to the Range
The first order was to just test fire the gun as it was shipped before altering anything. This is a “must do” as changes and additions can alter performance at times and we wanted to start from the beginning and just fire for function. There were several shooters on the initial day and we ran several hundred rounds of ammo in rapid fashion.
Not a single malfunction was observed and it was time to adjust the sights. Since all shooters were shooting at 15-25 yards and consistently hitting high, we changed the front blade to the highest sight provided. Every group thereafter was placed in its intended spot. No windage adjustment was necessary.
After several more magazines to “proof” the sight adjustment we immediately installed the Gemtech thread adapter with the included wrench and started running it suppressed. The first candidate was the Bowers Paradigm followed by the Gemtech Outback II and the SilencerCo Sparrow. While all ammo continued to run with great success it was the opinion of this writer that the Federal Gold Medal Match ammo really shined through.
After numerous boxes of ammo, several targets and all combinations of sound suppressors the GSG 1911 continued to draw praise from the test shooters.
While .22 LR guns are often associated with inexpensive shooting and generally an all around inexpensive alternative to “real” shooting, the mix of test shooters this first day found an entirely new reason to not only want, but “need” to purchase one of these guns for themselves. There were 3 or 4 shooters who immediately decided to purchase one or two at that first outing. All the test shooters are firearms instructors for Alpha Group, LLC and though they all have specialty classes in different disciplines, we are all also NRA Basic Pistol and Personal Protection Instructors and assist people in basic firearms introduction and training on their road to advanced gun ownership and obtaining their concealed carry permits. Since many students are adults, including many grown men, a full-size pistol with little to no recoil or noise can be extremely beneficial. When working with younger shooters and more timid students, the loss of a loud noise in training greatly assists them in focusing on the basic principals while ratcheting down the intimidation factor several-fold. This helps from developing a flinch that they need to work hard to lose in the future and just makes the overall experience much more pleasurable.
Since the timeframe was wide from delivery to the publishing of this article, the GSG1911 was used in numerous scenarios not usually available in a more time conscious deadline period. At the time of this writing, the GSG1911 has been part of the authors gear bag in his capacity as a licensed ADC Agent. Several calls a year come in to deal with small and large game animals involved in human interaction that have to be rectified. Some are in urban areas where the use of a larger caliber creates concern and confusion and the suppressed .22 LR GSG 1911 excelled. Even more important than sound reduction is pinpoint accuracy in these situations and with the Federal Gold Medal ammo it was not only extremely quiet, but cycled every time and extremely accurate. At this point it has replaced the previous suppressed .22 LR pistol in the ADC gear bag and has yet to disappoint in any situation.
Also as assumed, the GSG1911 was used for training in several shooting courses from basic pistol classes to entry-level shoot-house runs and even rimfire competitions. It always ranked as the most requested firearm in these entry-level classes and has found a home with several more instructors as of this writing. To our surprise, even some of the female shooters with smaller hands have been more comfortable and had a better shooting experience with the full-size GSG 1911 over many of the smaller and very common .22 LR pistols offered in the same classes.
While the price point is extremely attractive on the GSG 1911 .22 LR, please don’t let that fool you into believing you are buying a substandard firearm. Several shooters who use their firearms in a professional capacity have had the opportunity to test the GSG 1911 .22 LR and all have had a favorable impression. Many have even purchased their own after testing the T&E gun sent to SAR. I can’t think of a higher endorsement than that.
While the first impression of a standard .22 pistol is generally a plinker, the GSG 1911 has proven useful in several other areas. As a training tool it has been an extremely successful addition and has been handled by dozens and dozens of students with favorable impressions. If your interest in this firearm is for plinking or target shooting it will not disappoint. If you are one of several die-hard 1911 fans who just want a break in the noise, recoil or ammo expense without sacrificing valuable training and practice, you may find a great value in this pistol and have the added bonus of using your standard holsters, mag pouches and carry rigs. If you want a gun that feels like a gun as a suppressor host it has even more appeal. As someone who has the opportunity to use firearms in several capacities on an almost daily basis, this writer has added a GSG 1911 to his gear bag in a permanent fashion.
As a long-time shooter, every once in a while something completely unexpected really exceeds any preconceived notions and the GSG 1911 may be as valuable a find for you as it was for this writer. At the MSRP of $359.95 it is a small gamble to take with the potential for a large payoff.
American Tactical Imports
Available at dealers Nationwide
GSG 1911 Thread Adapters
& Outback II Silencer