The folks at SIG have done it again. Not content to have one of the classic designs in police autopistols in their "P-series" double-action models, they have rocked the boat by introducing their own 1911 platform.
Unlike any other family of SIG pistols, the SIG GSR (Granite Series Rail) is entirely made in the USA, from American parts, in the state of New Hampshire-the Granite State. Get it?
Working closely with some American makers, SIG was smart enough to get Matt McLearn, top IPSC champion and custom pistolsmith, to bring experience to the project. McLearn was the driving force behind SIG's new 1911.
And his influence brought some interesting innovations. For example, McLearn immediately decided to lose the full-length guide rail common on all too many 1911 pistols today. He also decided to dispense with the just as common forward cocking serrations found on most contemporary 1911s. An aside here, I actually like the forward serrations, since they allow a shooter a solid purchase during press-checks, but the GSR is certainly no less a pistol for being without them.
When I was first teased with the idea of a possible 1911 from SIG, I was told-in the deepest secret, double-dare, finger-in-your-eye confidentiality mode-that the "slide would be very SIGish, if you get my drift?" I wondered what that meant at the time but, once I saw the final result, the drift was obvious. A clear-thinking machinist took a cut out of the slide on both sides that sort of mirrors the look of the P-series autos. And yes, it looks very SIGish. If you ask me, it's a handsome touch, and it lends a nice family resemblance to the GSR. Well done.
Other design features include the GSR's integral light rail, the "R" in GSR. The rail is compact and it looks as if it grew organically out of the gun's overall design, which it did. At 39 ounces, the GSR is a bit lighter than a comparable 1911 with a rail, and still legal for International Defensive Pistol Association competition, if you're so inclined.
Quality In, Quality Out
Not needing to reinvent the wheel, SIG elected to go with Caspian Arms frames and slides that met SIG's rigid specs for design and manufacture. Other components of the GSR read like a "Who's Who" of quality 1911 parts. These include: Grider Precision slide stops, magazine catches, and plunger tubes; EGW sears and bushings; Performance Engineering hammers, grip screws, and bushings; Wolff Springs to make it all run; Storm Lake barrel, stocks by Herrett's or Falcon; ACT magazines; and Novak Sights.
This mix goes into a shop headed by McLearn where six skilled pistolsmiths assemble each GSR. That's why SIG's GSR is as close to being a full-house custom 1911 from a major maker as you can get, without going to a smaller shop for even more personal attention.
Frankly, the test gun (a production gun) showed a degree of fit and finish more commonly associated with a custom 1911. There was no slop, play, or gritty feel anywhere. Trigger pulls are mandated to be between 4.5 and 5.5 pounds and our test gun measured almost exactly 5 pounds, and was very consistent.
When I first saw a model in pre-production stage at a trade show, it was beautifully fitted. I wondered if the production guns would be the same. I don't wonder any longer. SIG has maintained the standards, and the final fit is to be complimented. The 20-line-per-inch checkering on the frontstrap looks custom but is part of the frame package from Caspian, and the entire gun is slightly "melted" to rid it of sharp edges and things that poke.
The fit and finish of the GSR reminds me of the quality that people expect from a luxury car maker like Mercedes. The SIG GSR simply feels right, and operates with an authoritative snick and clack that instills confidence.
At The Range
With that pesky light rail, the SIG GSR is limited in holster selection, and some CCW and even tactical rigs might not fit, so keep that in mind.
Holster selection aside, our range time showed the GSR to be a real shooter, seemingly anxious to show us what it could do. Our selection of ammo consisted of Black Hills 230-grain HPs, Federal Tactical, Winchester USA generic "ball" ammo, and some Speer/CCI Gold Dot. The GSR ran fine with the lot, delivering slightly under two-inch groups from the bench at 25 yards.
Fast work, just for fun, didn't yield any surprises and the GSR handled with aplomb. The positive "snick" of the safety and cut of the beavertail allowed a high, comfortable grip that offered a substantial degree of controllability. Simply put, the GSR felt just fine and performed well.
One design feature on the GSR that 1911 purists won't like is the external extractor, but the design is winning approval among many 1911 enthusiasts and SIG's version worked fine. More and more pistolsmiths are admitting the external extractor may be more consistent and offer more engagement than a standard 1911 version. I would certainly not mind if my pistol were equipped with one.
In this age of attorneys, SIG elected to equip the GSR with a passive firing pin safety, like the Colt series 80. According to McLearn, SIG tested the system with well over 10,000 rounds with no changes and no malfunctions. It works just fine and does add another level of "just in case" if the pistol takes a plunge onto a concrete walkway some stormy night.
The other typical 1911-style safeties are also present on the GSR, and our evaluation found that both the grip and thumb safety work positively and securely. The moderately extended thumb safety is not so big as to be unwieldy, nor too small to find, and it provides a comfortable rest for your gun-hand thumb when shooting.
Having said all that, I think it's important to note that, like any other single-action auto, you have to keep your brain in gear when handling this gun. But that reliable, predictable single-action trigger allows breath-taking accuracy when you need it. That's a fair exchange for a higher level of personal awareness when carrying the GSR.
With the current explosion in interest in the 1911 platform, the SIG GSR bears a close look. At only around $1,050 or so at retail, the price is right, considering you're getting what is essentially a custom pistol at a "factory" price.
SIG offers the choice of a stainless steel finish (all GSRs are stainless steel), a "Nitron" dark finish, a handsome two-tone Nitron and stainless look, or even a simple blued look, so the GSR looks as good as it shoots. And the finish holds up to the rigors required of a duty gun. The SIG GSR is a tough-as-nails option for officers who want to and are permitted to carry 1911s.
Granite Series Rail 1911
Caliber: .45 ACP
Overall Length: 8.65 inches
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Width: 1.37 inches
Sight Radius: 6.5 inches
Weight: 41.6 ounces
Mag Capacity: 8 rounds
Price: $1,050 (approx)
Roy Huntington is editor of American Handgunner magazine and a member of the Police Advisory Board.