Companies both big and small have been making guns in the Philipines, primarily for export, for nearly 100 years now. Probably the best known of these brands is Armscor, producer of the Rock Island Armory brand of pistols. There are likely as many as 200,000 guns produced by the Pacific Rim archipelago under an innumerable number of brands.
Based in Manila, Metro Arms is a relative newcomer, at least compared to Armscor, but has quickly grown into one of the major Filipino producers, turning out 1911-style handguns. Their brands imported into the U.S. include the Firestorm and American Classic lines. They only seem to have been selling their budget-priced 1911s here in the U.S. for the last six years, and I’d never fired one of their guns prior to this review.
Taking the gun out of the quality plastic case it came in, I was pleasantly surprised. The American Classic II looks far more impressive than a $450 gun.
Reminiscent of the classic GI 1911, the finish appears to be hot dip bluing. Although hot salt dipping is both common and traditional, there are certainly wide degrees of quality in the execution of the process. The bluing on the American Classic is well done, even and black throughout the gun.
The polishing, a skilled craft in and of itself, is both even and uneven. That’s because there are clearly two different sets of polishes on our test gun. It’s clear that someone polished up the flat areas fairly well, applying a not quite mirror shine. All of the rounded areas, however, didn’t receive this treatment.
Throughout the slide and the frame, the flats are shiny and the rounded spots are dull. The finish is also dull inside the cuts, such as in the GI-style cocking serrations on both the front and rear of the slide. Considering the price tag of the gun, that’s actually better than I’d expect. Something has to give on a budget-priced 1911, and hand polishing of the externals is probably the best place to cut those corners.
The grips themselves are a variety of hardwood I can’t identify, with fish scales cut into them, along with the Metro Arms logo. Taking the grips off and looking at the grain, I think it would have made a more attractive grip to leave them unadorned. As they are, they’re perfectly serviceable.
The grips are a little on the thick side, with no thumb cut-out for the magazine release, so even with my size large mitts, I had to shift my grip to hit the knurled release.
The ACII’s hammer is an odd aesthetic choice. Rather than sticking with a traditional skeletonized hammer, they’ve cut what appears to me a Metro Arms logo into it. If the stars on a Cabot trigger upset you, this might just going to drive you crazy. On an otherwise minimally adorned gun, this kind of embellishment doesn’t really belong. The slide is engraved with the Metro Arms logo behind the rear cocking serrations, and the American Classic II script is discreetly cut into the left side of the slide.
The slide lock/release is too long and oversized. I get the value of an extended slide release to aid in the speed of bringing the gun back into battery, but this one is so long that with my thumb resting on the extended thumb safety, I’m also depressing the slide stop. People with smaller hands won’t have this problem, though they may have a problem with the width of the scales.
The slide lock presses up a little too much, coming into contact with the hollow in the slide for the take down pin. Pulling the slide back slowly, the gun wants to lock there, instead of farther forward on the slide where it’s actually cut for the slide lock. Simply shaking the gun a bit will bring the slide back forward, but it was something I thought I’d have to keep an eye on throughout the review.
Other than the slide lock, all of that is really pretty small stuff. This is, overall, an attractive pistol, that feels good in the hand. The front strap is smooth, but the flat mainspring housing is grooved. Most of the controls are quality and well laid out.
The extended beavertail safety is beveled into the frame, but is slightly inset. That inset is enough to leave a bit of an edge, but not enough to make shooting painful or even uncomfortable. It also never failed to release, even with a high one-handed grip on the gun.
The metal trigger is cut with the frequently seen three holes, and is well textured. I’ve grown to appreciate a polished trigger face for my revolvers, but I’m still debating weather or not I like textured triggers on my 1911s. Speaking of the trigger, there is a bit of pre-travel, followed by a small amount of creep, and then a hard break. My EDC 1911 has a 2.5 lb trigger, and the other 1911s I’ve been shooting fall around the 3.5 lb weight. This one measured in at 5 lbs 4 oz, a bit on the heavy side, but not enough to pull you off sight after a little practice.
The one-piece forged barrel appears well made and nicely polished. The barrel-to-bushing fit isn’t bad at all. Really, the gun locks nice and tight, far better than I would have expected at its price point.
There are no gross tool marks anywhere on the gun, meaning that it is being made with new, or at least not worn out tooling, and some real attention to quality control. I’ve seen more expensive guns that were worse on the interior than the American Classic II. Even more surprising was the short guide rod and the correctly tuned extractor. There’s no firing pin safety, a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Of course, if you drop your American Classic II from a height of greater than four stories — and it lands just right — there is a theoretical chance of a negligent discharge.
After being impressed with the quality of the internals, I was expecting good things when I got to the range, so I sprayed Rem Oil throughout the gun and headed to The Range at Austin.
I was disappointed the second I released the slide on a freshly loaded magazine. Using the factory supplied eight-round magazine filled with Cap Arms 230gr FMJs in a lubed gun, I had a first-round failure to feed. The slide came forward and closed about 80% of the way, requiring a hard slap to the back of the slide to get it to go into battery.
After that, all eight rounds fired just fine and the bolt locked open on the empty mag. I then inserted the same ammo in a Wilson Combat ECM magazine…and had the same result. First-round failure to feed. In fact, using the factory magazine, as well as STI and Wilson Combat mags, and using several different types of FMJ and hollow point rounds, I had consistent FRFTF’s on every single mag for over 300 rounds.
After that I had intermittent FRFTFs, but it was still more common than not. The Sig Sauer 230gr HP defensive load in the STI magazine seemed to have the fewest problems, but even then, it occasionally hung up. That was the only malfunction in firing I had over 500 rounds of testing. Once the first round loaded, they all ran through the gun reliably.
There’s no beveling on the magazine well at all. Even a little bit of file work would improve that situation. But even after insertion, if any pressure was put on the forward edge of the magazine it would get caught inside the mag well. Another quick bump would solve that problem as well.
The ACII manages recoil well, and the familiar Novak style sights got me on target quickly. This isn’t a light gun, weighing in at 2 lbs, 4 oz with an empty magazine, and combined with the traditional lines of a 1911, the gun soaks up recoil from the .45ACP caliber well. Even with simple grips, and no checkering of the front strap, I never had a problem with the gun slipping in my hand. Also, just like every GI-style gun, it drew well from the holster, pointing naturally and putting rounds downrange quickly.
Those rounds went pretty much where I wanted them to. Accuracy was acceptable. Nothing extraordinary, but probably as good or better than the 1911s many U.S. servicemen were issued. From a bag at 25 yards, I scored an average of a three-inch five-round group for 25 rounds with Cap Arms 230gr XTP round, and 3.5 inches using Blaser 230gr FMJ rounds. My best group of the 10 fired measured 2.5 inches with the Cap Arms XTP.
I was very disappointed with the first round failure to feed issues with this gun. It spoils what would otherwise have been a good budget 1911 that shoots far outside of its price range. If you can try one before you buy one, an American Classic II would be a great first 1911 to to add to your collection.
Specifications: Metro Arms American Classic II 1911 .45ACP
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 8+1 rounds
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Finish: Matte blue
Grips: Custom hardwood
Construction: 4140 steel frame, 4140 hammer forged steel slide
Weight: 36.96 oz. (without magazine)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
The bluing is basic, but even and well done. The weird hammer is out of place and the mix-and-match polish job takes some points off.
Reliability * *
The first round failures to feed were annoying, and happened across a wide array of magazines and ammunition types. Things improves slightly as more rounds were put through the gun. Once the first round got in, all the rest fed, fired, and returned to battery as expected.
Accuracy * * *
Three-inch groups from a Government 1911 is about as standard as it gets. Not bad at all.
Overall * * *
The failure to feed stuck with me, but given the very low price for a 1911, this isn’t a bad buy.