Metro Arms American Classic II
Could the Best Inexpensive 1911 Pistol be Philippine?

By David Tong

Metro Arms American Classic II
Metro Arms American Classic II. Photo by David Tong.

A little known firm in Manila, Philippines, known as Metro Arms, introduced a 1911 in .45ACP at the 2008 Shot Show. A conventional, non-firing pin safety “Government Model” with 5” barrel and carbon steel construction, it comes out of the box with the following features:

  • “Novak” style fixed, three-dot dovetailed sights. (More on that later)
  • Extended magazine release button.
  • Extended slide stop.
  • Extended single-sided speed thumb safety.
  • Extended and widened beavertail grip safety.
  • Skeletonized Colt Commander type hammer.
  • Long steel trigger with over-travel stop.
  • Flat, grooved mainspring housing.
  • Italian “ACT” 8-round magazine (private branded by Novak’s .45 Shop)
  • Slightly extended ejector, lowered and scalloped ejection port.

The pistol also came with an excessively wide pair of light-colored hardwood stocks in the “double-diamond” checkering pattern.

What it didn’t come with was the currently popular full length recoil spring guide rod and hollow plug, which in my opinion just adds weight, while making field-stripping for cleaning problematic without a barrel bushing wrench.

Out of the box, the pistol was noticeably smoothly machined and finished. The sides of the slide and receiver appear to have been surface-ground and polished, while the rounded areas were sandblasted and the entire pistol hot dip blued, looking very much like a late model Colt.

After field stripping, the detail finish work again was impressive. The interior of the barrel channel of the slide showed no machining “chatter marks,” indicating that whatever tooling Metro uses is new and precise. The locking lug recesses were smoothly cut and their edges broken, as well as the barrel lug’s edges. The breech face was also quite smooth and extractor tension seemed to be correct.

Both slide and frame rails were smooth, again with no noticeable chatter marks. The frame’s feed ramp is polished and left in the white, while the barrel’s was polished and lightly throated, correctly. The barrel’s feed ramp sat properly ahead of the frame’s, as it should be, and it was not excessively “throated” into the chamber, which could compromise case head support.

Trigger pull was nothing to write home about, at least initially. At over six and one-half pounds with a trace of creep, I knew that with a bit of adjustment to the three-leaf spring and some Tetra Gun Grease on the sear and hammer notch, it would be more than passable and the result was a five and one half pound pull with the same trace of creep. Not outstanding, but okay for an out of the box 1911 these days.

Matter of fact, this is what I’m getting to: feature for feature, this Metro 1911 matches most deluxe product and ditches the recoil spring guide rod system and the firing pin safety, eliminating three parts and allowing the use of any standard 1911 firing pin (I would change the firing pin spring to a heavier-than-standard weight Wolff spring to provide a better measure of drop safety assurance were the pistol mine). The barrel is a one-piece forging and the nicely-fitted hood to slide means there is little initial slop to reduce accuracy at the breech end.

Obviously, without submitting the pistol to Rockwell testing, I cannot determine whether the metallurgy used is sufficiently hard to provide long wear and impact resistance during recoil cycles. I do know that the pistol shoots right to point of aim at ten yards, as a brief test fire and function session at the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club range confirmed my initial findings about the fit and smoothness by working with both ball and jacketed hollow point ammunition without failure of any kind. I shot it with my usual Chip McCormick 8-shot magazines, his 10-shot Power Mags, as well as the supplied ACT magazine. Empties fell into a three foot diameter circle about seven feet to the right rear.

The sights proved to be well-regulated as well. From a sandbag rest, rounds went point of aim, point of impact with boring regularity, with five- shot groups running between 2 and 3 inches. This figure will no doubt improve as the trigger lightens and smoothes out some with some shooting.

I made a few small changes to the pistol to fit my smaller hands. The grips were changed to standard width items, the trigger was changed to a short “1911A1” type and the mainspring housing was changed to the A1 arched type with lanyard loop. I have always found that the arched housing in particular provides a way for the pistol’s butt to index correctly in the heel of my hand and remain locked solid under recoil, while the flat housings generally squirm a bit. This is a personal matter and the great thing about 1911's is that one CAN change nearly every interface between one’s hands and the pistol to personalize it exactly as you prefer.

Now the best part: this pistol retails for about $400-425! This undercuts the much less accessorized “G.I.” or “Mil-Spec” models from Springfield, which were pretty much the standard in the lower-priced 1911 world.

While there are some manufacturing shortcuts present, such as the use of metal-injection-molded parts (hammer, safeties, slide stop, sear, disconnector), this is no different from what other manufacturers also use, so the obvious cost savings is in labor.

I might interject here that the Novak sight is U.S.-patented by Wayne Novak and it is one of the most preferred, snag free sights one can fit to a 1911 or Browning Hi-Power. There may be a patent infringement here, though the top of the rear sight is cut to a very shallow “V” instead of dead flat as in the original Novak, which might be one way to circumvent this. In addition, the foreign manufacture may not be subject to Mr. Novak’s patent. They might also complicate fitting the pistol with genuine Novak sights with tritium inserts for low-light shooting, if the dimensions aren’t identical.

As long as we’re picking nits, while most of the exterior edges are "melted," the forward edges of the slide and frame could be beveled more to make re-holstering smoother and less damaging to the leather.

While there are many 1911 fans who prefer a very basic pistol such as a G.I., M1991, Colt or Mil-Spec Springfield, the features that have been added do provide a measure of shooting comfort and make the Metro Arms American Classic II much more usable if one wanted to take it to an IPSC or IDPA single-stack combat style match, right from the box.

I am considering its purchase, because at first blush this appears to be the best value of any inexpensive 1911 with which I’m familiar. If the metallurgy proves sound and the slide, frame and barrel fits remain constant over several thousand rounds, it is a good buy indeed. The Metro Arms American Classic II is in short supply at this time (November, 2008), as none of the normal distributors have any in stock. If you're hankering for a Colt 1911 style pistol, it might be worth waiting for!

NOTE: See the Product Reviews page for a review of the Metro Arms Bobcut 1911 and the latest full review of a MetroArms American Classic II pistol.

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Copyright 2008, 2013 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.