Iver Johnson Trojan
A gun test by Steve Clark (Rio Vista Slim) SteveClark@m1911.org
The original Iver Johnson And Company was in business from 1883 until 1993. During this time in the company’s history, many different types of firearms were manufactured and sold. The company was best known for reliable, yet inexpensive revolvers and shotguns. From 1984 until that company’s demise in 1993, an M1 Carbine was also produced and marketed. Rather than belaboring this review with a long history of those firearms, I will introduce the reader to the new Iver Johnson Arms, Incorporated, which premiered several 1911-style semi-automatic pistols at the 2010 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
These new pistols, per Iver Johnson’s web site, “are completed in the Philippines, but they are made to our spec and our design, using our parts.” Sporting Arms Manufacturing is the Filipino manufacturer used by Iver Johnson Arms for the completed pistols.
Chad Holwerda, Sales Manager for Iver Johnson Arms was contacted, and a few days later my friend Todd Downing called from Downing’s Guns to tell me the test pistol had arrived.
The Iver Johnson Trojan is a 4.25 inch barreled 1911A1 chambered in .45 Auto. The pistol was housed in a black clamshell case, lined with gray egg-crate foam. Included in the case were the instruction manual and a key operated cable lock. The gun was wrapped in plastic, and literally swimming in oil. This fact was not lost on Todd Downing, who understands, as I do, that a trans-Pacific crossing in ocean-going cargo containers can be very hard on unprotected metal surfaces. More on that oil in a minute!
The entire pistol (including the barrel and feed ramp) is finished in matte black, and is accented with double-diamond wood stocks with the Iver Johnson “owl head” logo in the center of each panel. The gun comes with one Mec-Gar 8 round magazine, which is equipped with a plastic extended base pad.
The Iver Johnson Trojan appears, at first glance, to be a dead-ringer for my Colt Model 04691 Commander, so I detail-stripped the Trojan to find out. (I also needed to do this to remove all of the aforementioned oil.) Subtle differences include the ejection port, which is not lowered (as on the Colt) or flared, and some internal parts, which are metal injection molded on the Trojan. My personal experiences with weapons manufactured in the Philippines have shown me that the use of MIM parts is of no consequence in the reliability of those guns.
This rather poor photograph shows the similarities between the Iver Johnson Trojan and the Colt Model 04691 Commander. Modifications to the Colt are a Wilson Bulletproof Slide Stop and a Wilson steel, checkered flat mainspring housing.
Starting from the top of the slide, the Trojan comes with highly visible, plain fixed sights. The rear sight is dove-tailed into the slide, while the front sight is staked. These sights are more robust than those found on my Colt.
The left forward side of the side has the “Iver Johnson” and “owl head” logo roll mark, while the front of the right side has “Trojan”. As with my Colt, there are 19 straight cocking serrations at the rear of both sides of the slide. The front of the slide is devoid of any cocking serrations. There is no firing pin safety on this pistol, nor (in my opinion) is one needed.
Moving to the frame, a few more subtle departures from the Colt become apparent. The thumb safety is patterned after the original USGI thumb safeties. The slide stop is serrated, as is the magazine release. The front strap is smooth, as is the grip safety. One major difference between the as-issued Colt and the Iver Johnson Trojan is the use of steel in the serrated trigger and vertically serrated mainspring housing. In fact, every part of the Trojan will attract a magnet, except for the wooden stocks!
The rowel hammer has a true half-cock notch, and the aforementioned thumb safety engaged and disengaged with a positive click. In fact, all of the controls were quite good on this gun, whether releasing the slide stop, or ejecting empty magazines.
Out of the box, trigger pull (as measured with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge) averaged 6 pounds, 3 ounces after ten tries. While this is heavier than I prefer on my personally owned 1911s, it proved to be of no consequence during the accuracy phase of my evaluation. In another respect, the trigger has less than a one-eighth inch take-up, leading to a crisp release, with no grittiness.
After cleaning the shipping oil off of all parts of the gun, contact surfaces were lubricated with Gunbutter, and the pistol was reassembled for test firing.
The field stripping procedure for this pistol follows the normal practices used when disassembling a standard Government or Commander-style gun.
The Firing Line
The factory ammunition situation, which has dogged the shooting industry for the last year or so, is finally beginning to ease up. However, prices are much higher than when I conducted my last pistol review. Luckily, I had some donated Armscor and Sellior & Bellot ammo left over from those previous tests. Additionally, Olin/Winchester kindly donated several boxes of ammunition to the M1911.ORG E-zine recently, so my normal protocol was able to proceed without too much added expense. My sincere thanks go out to these fine companies!
I like to fire a representative cross-section of 230 gr. full metal jacketed ammunition in the initial stages of any gun test, in order to evaluate the functional reliability of any pistol chambered for .45 Auto. In addition to the supplied Mec-Gar magazine, I utilized magazines from Colt, Wolff, and Tripp Research.
After my first shot…….Uh Oh! The slide hung up without even stripping the next round off the Colt/Checkmate 7 round magazine. I admit to being afraid that this might happen, as the recoil spring on the pistol seemed a little weak during disassembly. However, I pulled back slightly on the slide, released it, and the next round chambered. I had numerous “failure to return to battery” malfunctions throughout my shooting tests. The recoil spring was not the culprit, nor was the extractor. By the end of the shooting tests, approaching the 500 rounds shot mark, these malfunctions diminished to a sporadic few.
This target shows 15 rounds of Armscor Remanufactured 230 gr. FMJ fired from a distance of 15 feet, off-hand. The bullet hole to the far right shows a round fired previously from a .357 Sig chambered Glock.
Having finished that phase of the testing, I wiped the gun down, applied some more Gunbutter, and set up my Competitive Edge Dynamics Millennium Chronograph. The temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit (16.67 Celsius) under partly sunny skies. There was a 10 m.p.h wind blowing from south to north.
Muzzle velocities were recorded using a CED Millennium chronograph set at 15 feet from the muzzle. Data recorded in English units and metric values calculated.
Readers of my previous gun reviews will note that I moved the sensors on the chronograph back a few feet from the 10 to 12 feet I formerly used. I noticed an increase in anomalies from “hotter” defensive-type ammunition, if the screens were placed any closer than 15 feet.
I was surprised by two of the chronograph readings, and astounded by another one. The Sellior & Bellot ammunition was more “anemic” than I remembered, while the Armscor remanufactured ammo was considerably faster than I recalled. The astounding part came with the 230 gr. Hornady TAP +P ammunition. These figures were so low that I ran a second batch through the pistol for confirmation. The second try achieved the same results.
When I introduce new shooters to our sport, I strive to instill some confidence in these folks by starting with the targets no further away than 10 feet. As their skills progress (sight picture, trigger control, etc.), the targets are moved farther away. Entry level pistols (which I believe the Trojan is) must be able to deliver the bullet to the target accurately and reliably. Those who aspire to bullseye accuracy in their firearms will spend more money for the most accurate firearms possible, within their budget and abilities.
While the accuracy figures in the above table might not impress someone owning a Les Baer Ultimate Master or a Wilson Combat Supergrade, those measurements are very acceptable to the average handgun owner, looking to sharpen his/her skills. The Trojan reliably delivered its shots accurately enough to impress me! It bears mentioning that while my shooting skills have vastly improved over the years, my 60 year old trifocal eyes sometimes leave a great deal to be desired.
Impressions and Evaluation
In the process of proof-reading and editing this copy, I realize I might be giving the wrong impression to you, the reader. I am not comparing the Iver Johnson Trojan to the Colt Commander! Any references between the two pistols were made in order to show how Iver Johnson is following the tried and true formula for the success of a Commander-sized gun. Having established my motives, I’ll move on to my impressions of the Trojan.
By the time I had fired 500 rounds through the Trojan, the trigger pull had settled in to a much nicer 5 pound 8 ounce range.
While it is a fact of life that many gun companies use nylon polymer mainspring housings, the Trojan does not. Nor does Iver Johnson choose to employ a polymer or aluminum trigger in the Trojan. Two Thumbs Solidly UP for that decision.
The Trojan also sports some of the nicest stocks I’ve seen on a gun in this price range.
I will not have the Trojan for an extended period of time, but the firing of over 500 rounds of full power ammunition led me to a few conclusions.
The Trojan is tightly fit, with no discernable play between the slide and frame. Perhaps, the pistol is a little too tight?
These two photographs show the wear marks on the frame, at the back portion of the rails, below the ejector, and on the left front portion of the frame rail.
This photograph shows the scraping wear marks on the rear lug of the barrel, as well as some scrape marks on the barrel hood.
The numerous FTRB malfunctions I experienced during the initial 400 or so rounds fired are, in my mind, a result of slide-to-frame tolerance issues. There might also be a problem in the relationship between the barrel lugs and the slide. The “drag” marks illustrated in my photographs might indicate to Iver Johnson Arms the need to double check these tolerances with Sporting Arms Manufacturing. The problems diminished, somewhat, in the last 100 rounds fired, but the wear on the barrel lug still concerns me. Since no mention was made in the Iver Johnson Arms owner’s manual of a break-in period, I must conclude that none is normally required.
The Trojan is a very handsome pistol, and the materials used in its manufacture held up to the rigors of 500 rounds of testing. I mentioned MIM parts in the opening of this review, and my inspection of the pistol after the shooting tests revealed no adverse wear on those parts.
Iver Johnson Arms imports several 1911 pistols, ranging from the “tricked out” Eagle and Hawk models, to the less-refined 1911A1 and Trojan models. I requested the Trojan for my test because I like the way the pistol looks, and I had a desire to see how this “entry level” gun would perform. While slightly disappointed by its functional reliability, I think that Iver Johnson has a potential winner in this weapon, if my constructive criticisms are taken in the manner in which they’re made.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 4.25 inches (107.95mm)
Sights: Fixed; Tenon Front Sight, Dove-tailed Rear Sight
Length: 7.75 inches (196.85mm)
Width: 1.34 inches (34.04mm) across the stocks
Height: 5.50 inches (139.70mm)
Weight: 37 ounces, empty (1.15kg)
Stocks: Double Diamond hardwood w/company logo
Magazine: Mec-Gar 8 round with extended plastic base pad
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $574.00 U.S. dollars
No gun test is possible without the trusting cooperation of the company which provides the pistol. Chad Holwerda, Sales Manager for Iver Johnson Arms, entrusted us with one of his guns, and I am grateful to him. I’m one of those “old guys”, Chad, who remembers Iver Johnson. Thank you for the opportunity to experience the “new” company and its products.
As stated previously in this article, ammunition represents a very dear cost to those of us involved in the shooting sports. This internet E-zine was facing virtual extinction because of the inability to acquire sufficient amounts of ammo to conduct these gun tests. Olin/Winchester, Armscor, and Sellier & Bellot generously donated the “lions share” of ammunition used in this test, and I am in their debt. Thank you all!
Last, but assuredly not least, I would like to thank the Downings. These three gentlemen (Mr. Downing, and his sons, Todd and Guy) operate one of the best gun shops in the state of Texas. I’ve never heard misinformation given to anyone, and each of them will “walk” a new gun owner through the process with professionalism, and genuine concern for whatever needs the customer may have. Without Downing’s Guns in Cleburne, Texas, my role as a gun writer would be greatly limited. As always, I am indebted to you gentlemen for your help and assistance.
If you want to discuss this review, please use this thread in our Forums Site: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=79969
Iver Johnson Arms, Inc.
1840 Baldwin Street #7
Rockledge, FL USA 32955
Web Site: http://www.iverjohnsonarms.com
Clayton, MO 63105
Web Site: http://www.winchester.com/
Armscor Precision, Inc.
150 N. Smart Way
Pahrump, NV. USA 89060
Sellior & Bellot
Magtech Ammunition Company, Inc.
248 Apollo Drive, Suite 180
Lino Lakes, MN USA 55014
Web site: http://www.magtechammunition.com/