What do you get in a 1911 that sells for a little over $500? Metro Arms says everything you need. The Metro Arms series of 1911s is being imported from the Philippines, a country familiar with 1911 manufacturing, and the 1911s shoot exceptionally well. I’d go so far as to say that the American Classic II is the most accurate 1911 I’ve shot in this entry-level price range—ever.
Let’s back up a bit. I’ve always had an appreciation for the $500 1911s, but they aren’t much to look at. They’re often made with cast frames and slides. They’re simple, and rough around the edges. They rattle. They will shoot straight, but not too straight. That doesn’t really matter. These are guns that are meant to be tossed into toolboxes, tackle boxes, and shoved under truck seats. They’re almost primitive. And nobody is pretending otherwise.
When the Metro Arms American Classic II arrived, I wasn’t predisposed to like it, much less rave about it. I had no working knowledge of the company. I shoot a lot of 1911s, some of which are worth more than my car. And I don’t cotton to two-tone guns. I’ll accept two colors of paint on a Cadillac made before I was born, but not on a gun. Still, that’s an opinion, so feel free to disagree. The two-tone on the Metro Arms still seems a bit too much to me. In fact the gun has a couple of accouterments that are designed for aesthetic purposes. The all-stainless version and the blued beauty both have ornamentation that struck me as overreach on what I had assumed was sure to be a truck gun.
Then I shot it. I can’t capture the smile on my face here in print, but I’m going to try. I had been carrying around the American Classic II for a couple of weeks, and still hadn’t pulled the trigger on it. There always seemed to be more pressing things I needed to get to. When I did pull the trigger, the gun shot to point of aim, exactly. There wasn’t any feeling it out, or walking it in. I didn’t have to guess how to best align the sights. In stead, I pulled the trigger eight times and watched one ragged hole grow bigger. And I didn’t even try that hard.
I then handed the gun to Jacob Epstein who was helping me with the reviews that afternoon, and he ran a magazine through with similar results. This gun shoots way above its class. It shoots so far above its class that I can’t point to a 1911 that sells for under $1,000 that shoots this consistently. And there I was judging the gun by its pretentious looks. What a fool am I. The American Classic II is anything but pretentious. If anything, it isn’t pretentious enough. Let’s break it down.
Caliber: .45 ACP, 9MM
Overall Length: 8.375”
Barrel Length: 5”
Weight (empty): 37.28 oz.
Frame: 4140 Steel
Slide: 4140 Hammer Forged Steel
Novak-Style Rear Sight
Dovetail Front Sight
Flared Ejection Port
Extended Slide Stop
Beavertail Grip Safety
Front & Rear Serration
Extended Thumb Safety
Throated FORGED STEEL Barrel
Front & Rear Slide Serration
Checkered Hard Wood Grip w/ Diamond Cut
8-rd/9-rd Magazine w/ Bumper Pad
Finish: Deep Blue, Hard Chrome, & Duo-tone
What you see in this list is typical to the 1911 platform. Even the 9mm 1911 is becoming more common. There’s nothing in that list to account for the way this gun shoots. In fact, some of what’s missing could easily hinder the way it performs. The front strap isn’t checkered. The grips are wooden, and cut in a scaled pattern that offer a decent grip, but nothing more. The sights are not target sights. They are simple and utilitarian and designed for a gun that’s meant to be carried.
The slide is serrated front and rear, which is a great touch. It suggests that someone deep inside Metro Arms sat down with a calculator and started crunching numbers in a practical way. Slide serrations. A beaver tailed grip safety. The throated barrel. These make a 1911 easier to use. I’m not as sold on the scales, but I’ll learn to live with them (or replace them with something with more aggressive texture). The only aspect of the gun’s design that truly leaves me scratching my head is the odd cut out in the hammer. This tiny decoration really seems over the top. Yet now, after shooting the gun, I’m willing to accept it. It earned it.
Once you’ve got all of these various parts, you have to fit them together. And that’s where you start to see big differences in accuracy. This gun is tight. There’s no rattle at all. The forged barrel fits snugly in its bushing, and the frame had to have been fitted to the frame by hand. While the edges of the slide are still sharp, the fit is way better than any pistol I’ve ever come across in this price range.
I’ve shot this gun on five separate range trips now. I’ve used bulk .45, reloads, really good JHP from SIG and Hornady. I’ve run Winchester White Box and a mess of random rounds I’ve had kicking around in a coffee can. I shot flat nosed FMJs, JHPs, ball…. I’ve passed it off to friends on three separate occasions and let them run it. The American Classic ate everything. It ejected everything. I’ve yet to clean it. I bet we’ve put close to 1,000 rounds through the gun and it still hasn’t hiccuped.
So what does it need to be perfect?
I feel foolish asking that question about a gun that shoots like this, but the question remains valid. In almost every situation like this, I’m asking myself “what would I do to make this gun shoot better?” But this time it is the opposite. I want some more aggressive texture on the frame. The trigger’s actual texture is fine, and the mag release works well. The thumb safety is large enough to use reliably. But I want some texture on the front strap, at least.
Below that, I’d like to see the magazine well flared a bit. Even a bit of basic file work would knock back the sharp edges on the mag well. The trigger breaks at 4.2 pounds. It has a typical take-up, and a clean enough break. There is a bit of creep, but not much. Yet I’ve grown accustomed to really efficient and effective triggers and I always want more there.
I’d like to see some more finish work on the slide. Knock down some of the rough edges. If this were my gun, I’d prefer a more rugged finish. Cerakote, perhaps. And I’d swap out the wooden grips for G10.
But why bother?
The American Classic II is selling for $525 in some places. I can’t imagine how they are bringing these to market at that price. I’ve been shooting 1911s for more than 20 years now, and I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that Metro Arms had produced a gun that shoots like this for $525. Yet here we are. If you are a college student wanting to get into single action shooting, this is it. If the money is tight, and yet you still want to shoot, this may be it. If you want a knock around truck gun that shoots like a high-end custom pistol, here you go. If you want a fun gun to shoot while that house-payment-of-a-1911 gathers dust in your safe, look no further. This gun is going to win some bar bets. It could even win some competitions. And it is going to make a whole slew of 1911 makers here in the states answer some difficult questions. Metro Arms. Check them out.