My Nemesis: By Atlas Gunworks

I have a problem; a nemesis if you will. No, it is not with having too many guns, as that is easily solved, but more of a personal issue with me buying and subsequently selling off really high-end guns! 

The Nemesis from Atlas Gunworks!

My “issue” started some time ago (1998) shortly after I landed the 18th spot on the United States Practical Shooting Association’s (USPSA) Grand Master (GM) list. Why then? Because it was then I folded to the temptation that a new state of the art handgun would be a great reward for that lifetime accomplishment. The temptress in question was the then-new Briley “linkless” barrel system on full capacity, custom-built 2011 in 40 smith.  That gun was IT man! It ran flawlessly, it was accurate and very soft-shooting. It had every bell and whistle available in the late ’90s and for a short time, it was mine! Short time? Yup! While I could do no wrong with this lovely competition blaster, it just wasn’t right…for me.

Nemesis Steel Slayer from Atlas Gunworks

Somehow this fine specimen was too good, too good for the likes of me and I sold it off a few months later. You see, I am a bit of a Scotsman when it comes to spending money on myself and frankly, I earned my Grand Master rating with an ugly ass Para-Ordnance 45 that I built and that is really all I “deserved”. I repeated this cycle several more times over my shooting career with custom shotguns, rifles, and handguns. I’d save up and lay down the green for the best of the best only to feel like I have not earned the “right” to own something so good.

That brings us to today and a new nemesis, which actually is a Nemesis! It says so right of the side the of the light-weight shortened 1911 Gov’t model slide! Yes shooters, check out the photos of this heavyweight handgun hewed of splendid steel! Could this Atlas Gunworks custom persuade me to actually keep a perfect pistol? Let’s find out….read on my friends, read on!

Rather than pontificate on the masterful assemblage of this exquisite ballistic tool (which I will share with you in a bit) let’s get to the meat of the all-metal 3.5-pound masterpiece with some hard facts about what it does!

Accuracy: Some gun reviews lack this info and more often than not for good reasons. Asking any human to shoot a handgun in order to prove its mechanical accuracy potential is a daunting and difficult task. While a “machine rest” can do a far better job (you better know how to run one of those well to collect good data!) “we gun writers” are fraught with naysayers on both sides complaining that either our groups are too good or not good enough! But…I will not offer a complete review without giving you my best shot at accuracy testing.

My methods and techniques have evolved over the decades and my current efforts are thusly. I shoot off a simple sandbag set-up. With one each under my forearms to rest on and one taller bag for the knuckles and trigger guard to sink into. I try to have my head upright so I can see a clearly front sight through my Rx eyewear. With care to use the same grip tension for each shot, I shoot enough groups at 25 yards to get a “feel” for what the gun/ammo (and me) combination can produce. The “feel” is based on my shot calls and then taking the best 5 of 6 or 7 shots fired per group. “We” are trying to test the gun, seeking its intrinsic accuracy…not my ability to produce them. More often than not I end up with two groups using the best 5 with each ammo type. Depending on how well-stocked I am for ammo that usually provides for 5 pairs of groups. In the case of the Nemesis, I repeated this series twice netting “us” a total of twenty-seven 5 shot groups! >Jeeze Patrick can ya get to the F’ing point?<

Check the photos. This gun liked to produce groups! The average group of all 135 rounds placed on paper was 1.44” at 25 yards! The smallest group was 0.71” and the largest was 2.80” and none of the ammo was anything I’d call Match Grade. I am confident proper hand-loads would shrink groups to under 1”. If the editor (hey man you reading this?) will let me, I would like to come back with a Part 2 long term test review where I can run the crap out of the Nemesis and let you know how it holds up and develop some accuracy hand-loads.

The trigger is OUTFREAKINGSTANDING! It breaks perfectly at 1 pound and 12 ounces with great repeatability! I had several (ok a couple as Covid-19 made it more difficult to get more hands-on the gun) other shooters standing with their mouth agape as they dry fired and then demanded to live fire this most delightful trigger! Since you can’t feel it I will offer up these data points: the trigger moves 0.050” in take-up. Hits a hard stop wall.  The sear trips at 28 ounces. Trigger finishes its remaining travel of 0.025”  The shooters only feels the wall and break, nothing else. It is truly a thing to experience!

28 ounces of trigger perfection!

Sights are what is now the proper standard for high-end practical competition handguns. Fully adjustable (Bo-Mar style) rear with flat serrated face and square notch. Upfront is a fiber optic rod equipped front blade. Options with regard to front sight widths and rod colors are available. What you should have noticed and must note is that that front sight is attached to a “sight block”. This is a “what’s old is new again” kinda deal. Back in the day (yeah I am old) blocks of steel were threaded onto the barrels of 1911 (in JMB’s caliber 45acp) in order to reduce muzzle lift. It worked and eventually the blocks were found to be a good place for the front sight and later still various holes were added to make “compensators”, but that is a whole ‘nuther story. 

Now the block itself (as any weight would) helps to lessen muzzle lift, it also lets the savvy gunsmith change the slide weight/recoil spring relationship in order to reduce muzzle lift, improve accuracy and soften the recoil impulse. How? Removing weight from the slide and adding it to the barrel changes the how long (in time) the barrel and slide are in lock up (“stalling it” if you will). The longer the barrel is in lock-up as the bullet exits, the better the accuracy. It also changes the recoil impulse characteristics (for the better) as the now lightened slide offers a lesser impact to the frame bridge. Tuning this barrel weight, slide weight, recoil spring rate, set-up, really makes for a wonderfully pleasant shooting experience. Hot 40 cal loads are lowered so close to bunny fart levels that I now want a Nemesis in 10mm!

While we are talking about barrels let me just state for the record that the barrel fit is perfect! Lock and unlock timing, duration, and fitment are spot on! This coupled with absolutely every movable element is flawlessly crafted to work in perfect alignment and harmony.  

Check the photos showing the side-to-frame fit both with and without the barrel in battery. Now I must offer you that slide-to-frame is a lesser element of accuracy especially when the sight system is on the slide, but when one mounts optics to the frame…you are effectively aiming the frame at the target and then fitment is much more important. But because “we” all wiggle and jiggle the frame and slide of every 1911 we handle and then push down on the barrel hood with a nod of approval or a frown of disappointment, it has become a data point that I explore more closely. 

Horizontal movement with the barrel in lock up.
The Atlas Nemesis would only yield 0.003″ MAX at the muzzle end!
Horizontal movement with the barrel removed.
Just about 0.002″ at the rear and 0.004″ at the muzzle end.

 The Atlas Gunworks Nemesis is fit so well I had to come up with a better way to show what little “play” there was in the frame-to-slide! Normally I would lock the frame into a vise and use a dial indicator in the X and Z axis. Then with my fingers push the slide to and fro, up and down noting the total indicated movement. With this gun this pushing and pulling felt like I was working against a heavy spring! This gun wanted to stay true and not move unless real force was applied! So I decided to employ a spring scale and apply #5 of force. 

ZERO movement in the vertical with the barrel in lock-up.
Still a ZERO at the rear and 0.003″ with the barrel removed.

That level of fitment can be seen and felt at every point on this shooting machine. The machining of front and rear grasping panels on the slide is remarkable as is the beautifully shaped and fit thumb safety that goes on and off in a smooth and predictable manner from either side! The sight block mates to the slide and frame with just a proper sliver of daylight between the frame face and the rear of the block. (note: that sliver is required as the slide and block (or comp) should not make contact for longevity and consistency) From the “melted in sights to the grip safety to the trigger shoe and magazine well, every element of the Nemesis has had careful attention paid to it. Even the magazines themselves were given a perfect tuning and polish! And I have never had any magazine so easy to load…even to 20 rounds!

Smooth and clean.
No need for an “Easy loader”.
A Magwell ya can’t miss!

I spent a goodly amount of time on the range with the Nemesis shooting various drills. Several “Bill Drills” were done, MGM steel targets were rung and I even shot a few “El Presidente’s” for good measure. In total, about 600 rounds were sent downrange just for the sheer joy of shooting the Nemesis!  40 S&W never felt so soft, controllable, and enjoyable! Oddly I spent more time shooting strong and weak-hand-only than I have in quite a while, and that alone had me well pleased with the handling characteristics of the BIG beautiful ballistic bullet launcher! 

I had planned on sharing the virtues of this gun with some other shooters at a formal match or two, but sadly the “Beer” virus thing put a stop to that! I did, however, get a few local police officers to run the Nemesis and while all shot it very well, my buddy “Mr. Roberts” waled with it! I mean like kicked-ass with the thing! You can’t tell me cops can’t shoot!

Officer Roberts with a well-earned smile!

All said and done it is my opinion that one would be hard-pressed to buy a better full house competition 40 cal blaster. So I am hoping the wizards at Atlas Gunworks will sell me this masterfully crafted 21 round, 40 Cal, highly accurate, superbly smooth, flawlessly functioning, competition-crushing handgun…but I do have a track record of not keeping such wonderments of custom pistol building prowess! Perhaps they would rather I send it back.  You will know how that plays out if you see a part two of this review! Thanks for reading! PK.

The Nemesis is available in both 9mm and .40 S&W.

MSRP – $5500

For more information visit Atlas Gunworks website.

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About the author: Patrick Kelley is a champion shooter, noted competitive shooting authority and brand ambassador for several companies. He loves to share his extensive knowledge of guns and his competitive shooting experience (which spans several decades) and runs the entire gamut of the shooting sports.Patrick has earned numerous first-place finishes at major matches in 12 U.S. states and Canadian provinces, including two Gold Medals at the Pan American Shotgun Championship in 2013. He has mastered several shooting disciplines, from NRA Bullseye and Metallic Silhouette to the world of Practical Shooting. Patrick is also a member of the NRA 2600 Club and was ranked in the USPSA’s top twenty early in his shooting career. Patrick’s deep-seated interest in firearms has led him well beyond the basics of routine maintenance into gunsmithing and competition tuning.Mr. Kelley is also a respected and prolific outdoor communicator. His articles on shooting and firearms, as well as his photography, have been published in Shooting Illustrated, Outdoor Life, 3-Gun Nation, USPSA Front Sight and most recently GunsAmerica. His YouTube channel features instructional and exhibition shooting videos, as well as his very own “Out of the Box to the Match” gun reviews. This very popular format has Patrick shooting guns for the very first time at shooting competitions around the Pacific Northwest.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • J Franks June 4, 2020, 11:46 am

    Only the inexperienced and idiots believe or feel like they have to “earn” their way to owning the best tools for their hobby or profession. Buy and use what you want to and if anyone tells you that you didn’t “earn” the right to use what you’re using kick ’em in the nuts (or ovaries) until they puke, yourself included.

  • Bill May 25, 2020, 1:44 pm

    As one of those that Patrick allowed to handle and shoot this pistol, I really appreciate this article. I love double stack 1911 style weapons. Of all those I have handled over the years, this one is a step above. Nothing else has been close. The slide moves as if it is on ball bearings. There is NO discernible play, though as Patrick notes he was able to measure a few thousandths using very sensitive tools. Shooting this was the finest .40 experience I have ever had, and I like .40 and have several pistols in the caliber. It shoots factory ammo like a house afire and if you didn’t know you were shooting full house .40, you would swear you were shooting powder puff loads. I loved the weight in my hand and if there are better 1911’s out there when it comes to trigger and fit, I hope to see them one day! Great article for a superlative pistol!

    • Patrick Kelley May 26, 2020, 12:19 pm

      Thank you Bill. We have shot enough together that your opinion adds much to my work!

  • Joe May 25, 2020, 10:51 am

    Why do you prefer 180 grain over 165 grain bullets?

    • Patrick Kelley May 26, 2020, 12:18 pm

      I do not prefer so much as I used what I had on hand.

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