A Contender for the 1911 throne

No handgun has generated such a loyal, almost cult-like following in the past one hundred years as the 1911. From its early utilitarian version intended for the US military, the design has since been refined, and then refined some more. Despite the string of upgrades, however, John Moses Browning’s iconic Government Model remains unchanged where it counts! But we will not go into history.

The Philippine gun market has shown no buyers’ fatigue for the 1911. While modern polymer-framed double-action pistols are readily available to civilians at competitive prices, the demand for 1911 clones remain high, according to both manufacturers and retailers.

There are three major local manufacturers of 1911’s—Arms Corporation of the Philippines, Shooter’s Arms Manufacturing and Metro Arms Corporation. All three firms export a large percentage of their 1911’s to the United States and other territories that have a seemingly insatiable appetite for this design.

Best seller: The Firestorm Contender .45 is sold in the US as the American Classic II. It is available in hard chrome (shown) or basic blued. (Photo by IGG)
Best seller: The Firestorm Contender .45 is sold in the US as the American Classic II. It is available in hard chrome (shown) or basic blued finish. (Photo by IGG)

The subject of this article is Metro Arms’ basic full-sized all-steel 1911, tagged the “Contender.” It is, of course, chambered for the much-sought-after .45 ACP. This pistol is sold locally as the Firestorm Contender but the export version is stamped American Classic II. All the major components of this pistol are made in the company’s manufacturing facility in Barangay Moonwalk, Paranaque City.

We refer to it as “basic” even though it incorporates all the refinements one may expect from a modern-day 1911 such as the beavertail grip safety, commander-type hammer, extended safety lock and Novak-style rear sights. This is because in today’s market, 1911 clones without these rudimentary refinements are often advertised as “G.I. style.”

Our sample gun came straight from the assembly line and, to our knowledge, was unfired. Before any live fire tests, we thought it prudent to inspect the gun thoroughly. Our first impressions were:

Fit. The slide to frame fit was tight. There was no rattling sound even when we vigorously shook the gun. We could feel no play in any of the major parts even as we gripped the gun tightly as we tried to wring it.

Finish. After we wiped away the excess oil in our basic blue sample gun, it was clear to see that it was finished to a surprisingly high standard. We could see no obvious tool marks in the exposed surfaces. There were also no sharp edges that could snag in clothing or cut flesh.

The gun was taken to the very cramped quality-control firing range, where new guns are tested for defects, reliability and basic accuracy. The management of Metro Arms was kind enough to give our team a generous supply of ball ammo and Teflon-coated reloads for our informal tests.

Reliability. Any gun is not worth the steel from which it was made if it does not function reliably. This particular brand-new Firestorm Contender ran continuously without stoppage for over 50 rounds. While the number of rounds fired was insufficient for any serious testing, it was enough to make a favourable first impression.

Accuracy. The quality-control range did not allow for serious accuracy tests but suffice it to say that the gun shot where it was aimed. Shot offhand at about 10 meters, it was easy to put all eight rounds in the single stack magazine in a group of around 4 or 5 inches across. When bench-rested, the group shrunk to a tightly packed group which looked like one big ragged hole.

Plant tour: MAC VP for Operations Jessie Salientes gives HDJ Team a tour of the company’s production line. (Photo by IGG)

After the informal testing, members of the Home Defense Journal (HDJ) team who took part in the Metro Arms plant visit agreed that the Firestorm Contender .45 was well-made, reliable and reasonably accurate. It offered neither surprise nor innovation, however. But by all indications, this is an aesthetically pleasing and serviceable 1911 which we feel can suitably fill the home defense role.

Contender SRP: Php 23,800 (gun only)


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