January 09, 2024
Nestled in the low rolling Chaparral of Central Arizona sits one of the most iconic facilities in the firearms world. Gunsite Academy, originally founded in 1976 as the American Pistol Institute, is the oldest and largest firearms training facility in the United States. The brainchild and passion of Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Jeff Cooper, Gunsite is committed to teaching people everything possible related to firearms. Colonel Cooper was adamant about training and gave us a phrase that still resounds today: “Owning a piano does not make one a pianist any more than owning a handgun makes one a good shooter.” Cooper was a devotee of the 1911 and to this day Gunsite is seen as a haven for the 1911. The instructors today carry a variety of pistols, including modern polymer-frame, optic-equipped semiautos — not unlike the Gunsite Glock Service Pistol — a classic 1911, or several, still show up in nearly every class. Because of this legacy and love for the 1911, and understanding that it remains a solid defensive pistol, Gunsite has made a major announcement. After more than a 20-year absence of production, a 1911 is now being built by the on-site Gunsite gunsmith – Finks Custom Gunsmithing.
Based on the specs directed by Jeff Cooper, Finks’ Gunsite Service Pistol (GSP) 1911 has many distinctive characteristics. The pistol is based on a forged frame and slide and Series 70-style internals. Without getting into the weeds, these guns are 1911s as John Browning intended, no unnecessary internal firing pin safeties. The barrel is a 5-inch hammer-forged match barrel with a recessed target crown and a well-fit bushing. Finks’ “Duty Package” springs care comprised of an 18-pound recoil spring and 21-pound mainspring, tuned to ensure reliable operation with a wide range of bullet weights and ammunition velocities. On the left side of the slide, the gun is engraved “Gunsite Service Pistol” in distinctive lettering. On the top of the slide, the designers opted for a Wilson Combat Battlesight rear paired with green luminescent and tritium-powered front night sight, mounted in a Novak-style dovetail.
Moving down to the frame, for stocks, Finks has gone with black-and-tan G10 Super Scoop grip panels. The pistol uses a Wilson Combat single-side tactical thumb safety that moves smoothly and cleanly. The triggerguard is deeply undercut to promote a high shooting grip. It pairs well with the extended beavertail grip safety which includes an ample memory bump for sure activation. A three-hole skeletonized match trigger is tuned to break around 4 pounds, 4 ounces.
Additional features include the lowered and flared ejection port, a beveled (though not extended) magazine well, forward and rear slide cocking serrations, and the entire gun has received a thorough dehorning — as all carry guns should. The item that catches your eye, however, is the custom cut hammer featuring the Gunsite raven silhouette.
I was excited to not only get a detailed look at the new pistol but to get some range time with it as well. And what better place than Gunsite itself? Ken Campbell, CEO of Gunsite, was kind enough to reserve some range time for me, along with a GSP 1911 for some testing.
The GSP is a gunsmith-crafted Government-size 1911 and is really a beautiful gun. I have a special place in my heart for a gun with classic lines and a respect for a simple design. These guns are uncluttered and simply gorgeous. They are made in the classic style, albeit with modern modifications to improve function and accuracy. When I picked up the GSP, the first thing I noticed was the absolutely perfect fitting that had been done on the gun. There was no play in the gun at all and lock up was real. The barrel and bushing were hand fit to the gun and it screamed accuracy. I was excited to hit the range.
While I don’t normally bench handguns, the GSP was just begging for it. I set up at 25 yards with a sandbag and ran three different types of ammunition through the gun. My .45 ACP test loads included American Eagle 230-grain Syntech, Hornady 185-grain XTP, and Winchester 230-grain White Box range ammo. Of the three I tested, the Hornady XTP load won the day with a group measuring just 1.25 inches. All three flavors of ammo beat the 2-inch mark for groups, and I believe I could have shot even better if I had used a weighted sled or other stabilizing device.
Once the academic work was done, it was time to get into some defensive handgun drills. I ran a series of Failure-To-Stop drills, as well as timed head shots, and the GSP never flinched. The gun was very comfortable to run, and I found the design allowed me to get a nice high grip which minimized muzzle rise and recoil. The pistol has great ergonomics, refined even from John Browning’s original masterpiece. The high-swept beavertail grip safety work in tandem with the relief cut at the juncture of the frame and trigger guard. The pair allows me to get a nice high grip on the gun, with my hand close to the bore axis for maximum control.
The part that made me chuckle was that, in all the shooting I did, I didn’t experience one malfunction. I know the meme makers on the internet are freaking out right now, but it’s a fact.
The Gunsite GSP 1911 enjoys a custom-built design and feel at a production gun price. The GSP retails for $1799, which is shocking considering the craftsmanship that is put into the gun. No, it is not $500 like a polymer grocery-getter, but this is not just a utility piece. Finks and Gunsite have managed to produce a beautiful serious shooter at a great price.
It's true that 1911s aren’t for everyone. It was once said that there was a way to know if you were a 1911 person: Simply go outside and look at your lawn mower. If it is covered in grass and just pushed off in a corner, you may not be a good candidate for a 1911. If your mower is well maintained, however, you have the personality to own and maintain this classic firearm design. Yes, 1911s need a little more attention than polymer guns. But if you keep them oiled they will serve you reliably. The Gunsite Service Pistol 1911 is an appealing gun and an exceptional performer on the range. If you are a fan of this classic design with ties to Gunsite, or just looking for a great pistol, you need to take a long look at the GSP.
Gunsite Service Pistol 1911
- Chambering: .45 ACP
- Capacity: 8+1 rounds
- Barrel length: 5 in.
- Overall length: 8.7 in.
- Sight radius: 6.6 in.
- Height: 5.6 in.
- Width: 1.3 in.
- Weight: 40 oz. (w/ empty mag.)
- Price: $1,799
- Manufacturer: Finks Custom Gunsmithing, 928-756-8916, finksguns.com
- To Order: Gunsite Academy Pro Shop, 928-636-4565, gunsitestore.com
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