Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Walther GSP .22LR Competition Pistol

Walther GSP .22LR Competition Pistol 

In the world of competitive shooting, few firearms have achieved the status and acclaim of the Walther GSP .22LR semi-auto pistol. Manufactured by the renowned German arms company, Carl Walther GmbH, the Walther GSP made its debut in 1968 and quickly gained a reputation for its exceptional accuracy, reliability, and ergonomic design. With its numerous iterations and improvements over the years, the GSP has remained a favorite among both professional and amateur shooters alike. This article explores the history, features, and performance of an exemplar 1973 Walther GSP .22LR version of the pistol, shedding light on why it continues to be a timeless classic in the shooting community.

History and Development 

Walther first made the groundbreaking magazine forward rimfire pistol with its 1961 release of the OSP models. The OSP was the frontrunner to the later GSP model, but the OSP evolved greatly in a short period of time with many original OSP models incompatible with the next. As a more refined and standardized next generation, the GSP was introduced in 1968. The Walther GSP marked a significant milestone in target pistol design.The development of the Walther GSP began in the late 1960s to cater to the growing demand for a high-quality target pistol suited for precision shooting disciplines. 

Taking the lessions learned from the OSP development and feedback from experienced shooters into account, Carl Walther GmbH sought to create a pistol that would meet the requirements of competitive shooting events. Since its inception, the GSP has undergone several revisions and improvements to enhance its performance. One of the notable design features of the GSP is its forward positioned detachable single-column magazine, available in various capacities ranging from 5 to 8 rounds though 8-round magazines are very rare. Other very unique features are ergonomic grip, a single cam lock take down removal of a keyed-in upper serialized receiver and cartridge style drop in trigger. Some triggers were designed as upside down designs to offer additional improved trigger feel. All these were absolutely cutting edge features that set the GSP apart. The pistol operates on a simple blowback action system very similar to a Ruger 10/22 and has delivered extremely high reliability and durability. 

The late 1960-1977 models were almost completely cross compatible to the point of being able to swap most bolts, parts, triggers, barrels, grips and complete uppers. In 1978 a change was made to make the GSP design compatible with a centerfire .38 SW Long cartridge used in certain competitions. Many aspects of the gun were changed such as the bolt components, the magazine was slightly enlarged about .03” and the taper from the barrel shank was removed. Overall though, the newer models still could share magazines and trigger packs and in some case still swap barrels. Notably 1978 model to current production should all have cross compatible components, but if in doubt call Earl’s Repair who specializes in these unique guns.

Features and Ergonomics 

The Walther GSP boasts exceptional reliability, ergonomics and features that contribute to its reputation as a top-tier target pistol. Designed to provide maximum comfort and control, the GSP ensures a comfortable shooting experience for a wide range of hand sizes and shooting styles. The wooden grip panels are ergonomically shaped to conform to the shooter's hand, enhance stability and help mitigate recoil.

The pistol's grip angle, weight distribution, and grip size have been meticulously engineered to optimize handling and improve overall performance. These ergonomic considerations play a significant role in reducing shooter fatigue during extended training sessions or matches.

The GSP's trigger system is fully adjustable, allowing shooters to fine-tune the pull weight and take-up according to their preferences. This level of customization ensures a consistent and precise trigger pull, crucial for achieving accurate shots. The trigger guard is generously sized to accommodate shooting gloves, ensuring comfort and ease of use in various shooting conditions.

The Walther GSP features a fixed barrel design, with a barrel length of 45. inches. The barrel is crafted to exacting standards of precision, contributing to the pistol's inherent accuracy. The combination of the fixed barrel and high-quality manufacturing enables the GSP to deliver exceptional shot-to-shot consistency, resulting in tight groupings and improved overall performance.

Performance and Reliability 

The performance and reliability of the Walther GSP .22LR pistol are truly outstanding even with ammunition like CCI Mini-Mags which just happen to be a favorite tight grouping round of my 1973 Walther GSP model. One of the most well regarded features has been the reliability even when dirty. Its inherent accuracy, coupled with its excellent trigger system, and reliability make it a top choice for competitive shooters participating in precision-oriented disciplines such as Bullseye shooting and Olympic-style target shooting. Even in my hands, my GSP pistols consistantly achieve un-supported single-handed sub-½-inch 25-yard groups.

The simple yet robust design is simple to disassemble and maintain. ensures smooth functioning and consistent cycling, even with different types of ammunition. The pistol's high-quality materials and craftsmanship further enhance its reliability and durability, ensuring it can withstand the rigors of frequent use.

Chambered in .22 Long Rifle (LR), the Walther GSP offers a favorable balance between recoil, affordability, and availability. The .22LR ammunition is known for its low recoil, making it an excellent choice for shooters of all skill levels, particularly beginners. All this has lead to a great design that is still evolving today with performance that still remains class leading. With the exception of my scoped TC Contender .22LR 10-inch Match barrel, my GSP and FN 150 pistols are by far my most accurate handguns I own. Watching ten out of ten golf balls explode at 25-yards shot single handed is just fantastically fun. The pistol is clearly designed for this shooting and the refinement even on the 1970s and 1980s version I own. Prices have steadily increased over the years even for the pre-1978 models and now regularly sell for over $1200 even in somewhat poor condition. Thankfully the GSP has a reputation as durable long-running pistols that seldom require replacement parts.

That was the good news. The bad news is that if you find a great deal on a pre-1978 and do need parts, you likely are out of luck even from specialized repair places like Earls. Though these early GSPs are some of the best deals, obtaining a firing pin usually means a long and expensive hunt. In my case I found someone selling a spare complete bolt assembly. Most competitors cite changing a spring or firing pin after tens of thousands of rounds which are all contained in my spare bolt should they be needed. Both my GSPs have been amazingly problem-free though thousands of rounds. One notable required DIY upgrade is to add a silicon cabinet door bumper to the inside of the rear spring bolt as a bolt bumper. This prevents the early model from developing a frame crack from the charging handle banging into the frame.

Final thoughts. The GSP is an amazing pistol which in the right hands and the right ammo is the closest thing most will get to shooting a laser. For those that want to jump into an exceptional high tier precision firearm - the GSP is like no other.

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