As someone who writes about technology and reviews gadgets and other products for a living, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about my first and current firearm. And in case you haven’t noticed in my previous posts, my personal weapon system/emergency rescue equipment is the MetroArms Firestorm Contender .45. I’ve spent about 3 weeks with her now, and put a total of around 600-700 rounds through her so I think I’m qualified to talk about this wunderkind made right here in the Philippines in MetroArms’ factory in Paranaque.
I had a general idea what kind of firearm I wanted from the outset. It had to be a full-size, 5-inch 1911, preferably locally made and would not be more than Php 30,000 in price (that’s $725 for you folks in the US, guns are much more expensive here than there).
Typically when new shooters on a budget ask for advice about what gun to buy, old-timers and people in the local shooting community almost always answer the same thing: get an Armscor (that’s Rock Island Armory for you folks in the US). Which actually makes sense – they’re relatively inexpensive and are good, dependable guns – I’ve shot my fair share of Armscor guns before (which includes the awesome .22 TCM) so naturally that’s what I initially wanted to get for my first firearm. A buddy of mine changed my mind though – he told me to get a Firestorm Contender instead. At first I was a bit skeptical since the name of the people who make the Firestorm – MetroArms -was unknown to me. But since the gun received such glowing reviews from my friend (he has his own Firestorm Contender) I was curious and did a cursory search for it in Google. What I found really surprised me – I couldn’t find a single negative review of the Firestorm Contender. None. Which kinda surprised me a bit because if the quality of the firearm was as good as everybody says in the US, it’s kind of odd that it’s not as well known as Armscor here in the Philippines. What surprised me more was that MetroArms is based here, in Manila, Philippines and has a plant right in Paranaque.
Because of my friend’s endorsement and all the glowing reviews of the firearm around the net, I decided to take a plunge and make one my own. After handing cash to purchase one (about Php 28,500 which included processing the license) I waited for about two weeks to get my hands on my very own Firestorm Contender.
After the requisite waiting period, I finally picked up my own 1911. My personal unit was a 5-inch, full-sized 1911 chambered in .45. The Firestorm Contender comes in two finishes: blued and chrome, although be advised that chromed units of the Firestorm Contender are priced higher than what I paid for it. I wasn’t really a fan of chrome finishes so I opted for a blued one instead.
The overall appearance of the Firestorm Contender was fantastic. The Firestorm Contender looks and feels great, as the pistol was obviously smoothly machined and finished. The slide to frame fit is very good, and had no play whatsoever. The top of the slide looks to have been treated with a bit of bead blasting, though I couldn’t be sure. The left side of the slide has Firestorm Contender prominently engraved in it. MetroArm’s company logo is also present in the area right behind the rear slide serrations. The slide is serrated in the front and in the back of the slide to help operators get a firm purchase when chambering a round.
The pistol comes with a bunch of features right out of the box. While enhanced models from other companies already include a beavertail grip safety and snag-free Novak-style sights, the Firestorm Contender does one better by adding an extended slidestop which allows you to manipulate the slide easier from a slide-lock reload. The pistol also came with wooden fish-scale grips with MetroArms’ logo in the middle.
MetroArm’s logo also appears in the middle of the oval hammer as metal inserts. The pistol uses a flat mainspring housing with serrations. The gun comes with two, 8-round ACT mags and a nice carrying case.
The pistol comes from the factory with the barrel throated and the feed ramped polished to facilitate cycling of hollowpoint ammunition. The barrel’s feed ramp was correctly ahead of the frame as well, in the prescribed distance.
The trigger of the Firestorm Contender is a 3-hole deal with an overtravel screw installed in the bottom. Initially when I got it the gun had a horrendous 6-pound trigger, but after the initial 100 round break-in that trigger softened up to about 5 to 4.5 lbs.
After I got her, it was time for my initial range trip. 100 rounds of factory FMJ ammo (Armscor 230 grain FMJ) went through her with nary a hitch. Succeeding range trips pretty much was the same thing – no issues at all, aside from failure to return to battery problems that I attribute to bad range reloads. All of the factory loads that I put through her fed, fired and ejected without any issues. I’ve tried to get my hands on all types of ammo that’s available to me in this side of the world, which includes a couple of hollow-point rounds which includes Hornady’s Critical Defense 230 grain JHP rounds, Remington HD Home Defense 230 grain BJHP and Prvi Partizan 185 grain SJHP. I’ve also fed this thing some locally made .45 hollowpoints and still it fed, fired and ejected properly with boring regularity. Clearly, I wouldn’t be able to practice malfunction drills on my new gun.
As far accuracy is concerned, the Firestorm Contender performed well.
Shots taken from 20 feet away (about 6.6 yards) were all grouped pretty well together (about 3 1/2 inches). If you account for my general lack of skill, I’m pretty sure you could tighten that group up some more.
Shots taken at 30 feet (10 yards) were around 4 1/2 inches (if you take the flyer out of the equation). The gun shoots point of aim, point of impact each and every time. Like I said, with a better shooter behind the trigger, the gun will definitely be able to shoot tighter groups.
Of course, there are some things I don’t like with it, chief of which are the rollmarks on the gun. Though I understand the importance of branding in any firearm, the logos in the Firestorm Contender are bit too much. I’m also a bit disappointed that the fish scale grips on my gun didn’t have some kind of wood treatment on it – I had to put on 2 to 3 coats of varnish myself on the thing so it wouldn’t discolor with use. The front of the grip did not have any kind of checkering at all, so I had to put some grip tape on there to help me get a solid purchase on the pistol.
Overall, I’d gladly recommend the MetroArms Firestorm Contender to anyone who are looking to get an inexpensive 1911 that can run with the big boys. The inherent accuracy, excellent fit and finish of the Firestorm Contender belies the fact that it’s mostly a budget pistol. Other, more experienced shooters have shot a mag or two with the Firestorm Contender, and it has never failed to put a smile on their face when they shoot it. That feeling of pride is only surpassed by the incredulous looks I get when I tell them how much they sell for here. With around 700 rounds in the gun so far, I can safely say that I fucking love this gun.
I want to give a big shout-out to my friend Mark who helped me put this review together. You da man, Mark!