Atlas Gun Works was formed in 2014 by Adam Nilson and Tod West. Both are serious shooters and had a simple goal: build the best guns possible, regardless of the cost.
Veteran Open Class shooter, John Paradine, runs the Nemesis with Minor loads on steel. The gun stays flat, and a simple spring change makes this a serious Steel Challenge gun.
Although they haven’t been on the scene very long, they seem to have achieved their goal. Even visiting online forums where “product flaming” is the norm, I’ve never seen a negative comment about Atlas guns: just a lot of positive comments. After testing out their newest model, I can see why.
The steel-framed gun is built on a wide body 1911/sans grip safety platform. It’s finished in a black matte DLC coating, and features a 5-inch KKM bull barrel. Controls consist of an extended left side magazine release, slide release, and ambidextrous extended, combat-style, thumb safeties. The high-rise beavertail grip safety has the proper cut out for the skeletonized hammer.
The slide features a flared ejection port and positive rear cocking serrations. Lightening cuts on the forward portion reduce the slide weight and also provide the convenient forward cocking serrations.
The front sight is dovetailed into the sight block, and features a .040 FO rod. It combines with the rear sight to create a very precise sight picture.
An innovative feature is the front sight block. It holds the sight, but isn’t part of the slide and doesn’t move with it. It locks the front sight in position, and snaps it back on target quickly.
The sights consist of a Bomar-style rear with a flat black serrated blade, and a fiber optic front sight mount dovetailed into the sight block. The replaceable FO rod is .040 (red was provided with the gun, but colors can be changed). And the dovetail allows easy replacement with a different sight if desired.
The adjustable X-line Vario trigger broke at 1.5 pounds, with only a hint of take-up and a fast re-set.
The trigger is the adjustable X-Line Vario. The word “exquisite” is often over-used, but it applies here. On my Lyman Digital Trigger Gauge it measured 1.48 pounds. At a later range session another shooter put a spring gauge on it and measured 1.5 pounds. That is close enough.
The PT EVO grips are aggressively checkered and provide a very secure grip that will not shift in the hand.
The grips are PT EVO models, and the stippling is aggressive (more on that later). They combine with the magwell to create a very positive grip. This gun had a stainless steel magwell for an overall gun weight of 54 ounces. An aluminum magwell is an option and reduces weight to 49 ounces.
The generous magwell and magazine base plates make for fast and positive reloads.
The Nemesis ships with one tuned high-cap magazine and a very well-designed premium range bag. Additional tuned magazines are available. It’s offered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Given its USPSA Limited purpose, I selected the .40 S&W for this test.
On the Range Nemesis is designed for USPSA Limited, where a Major PF is advantageous. The loads on hand for this test consisted of Major caliber loads: Atlanta Arms Premium 180 FMJ, Aguila 180-grain FMJ, Federal American Eagle 180-grain FMJ, and Remington 180-grain UMC FMJ.
I also added Atlanta Arm’s 180-grain FMJ Minor load. One of the interesting things about the .40 S&W is that virtually all factory ammo will make a 165 Major Power Factor (PF). But, reloaders can easily reduce the load to a 125 PF Minor. That can extend the versatility of the gun by allowing it to shoot events where a 165 PF isn’t required. The Nemesis is too heavy to make the weight limit as a legal IDPA ESP gun, but it’s perfect for Steel Challenge, where no PF is required. Atlanta Arms notes that some guns may require a lighter recoil spring to run their Minor load, but since I shoot a lot of Steel Challenge, I wanted to try it out.
The first step was to zero the gun from a 25-yard bench rest, and the light trigger took a bit of getting used to. None of my guns have a trigger lighter than 2.5 pounds, and this one was a treat! There was just the merest hint of take-up, which let me know I was “there.” Then it wasn’t so much consciously pressing the trigger to fire as it was just thinking “time to fire.” I could easily get spoiled!
The extended magazine release and slide release make gun operation fast and positive.
The initial groups from the bench were gratifyingly tight, and only five inches low, with the windage on. The Bomar-style rear sight zeroed quickly. The accompanying accuracy chart will show the results of those tests. Although I had done nothing more than remove the gun from the bag—no cleaning or lubrication—there were no malfunctions of any type during that 100-round plus session. Interestingly, the Atlanta Arms Minor load was no more than 1.5 inches away from the Point of Impact (POI) from the Major power loads.
The next phase consisted of rapid multiple target drills. The gun only ships with one magazine but two were included for the test. Both loaded easily to 20 rounds. My intention was to run multiple drills to slide lock, make a slide lock reload, and keep going. I then discovered that the slide didn’t lock back on an empty mag. Dumb me! USPSA shooters don’t want a slide lock. They aren’t going to get caught in a flat-footed slide lock reload. A phone call with Adam Nilson revealed that the competition guns Atlas makes have magazines tuned not to lock back when empty, although their personal defense models do. That made perfect sense to me.
Atlas Gun Works Nemesis accuracy chart.
Running the Major loads, recoil was less than I had expected and the front sight block snapped the front sight back quickly. The big mag well and the PT EVO grip absolutely locked the gun into my hand! By this time I had several hundred rounds through the gun, without a malfunction. I then started running the Atlanta Arms Minor load. It had experienced no malfunctions during the accuracy testing session, but smokestack jams started to crop up during the multiple target runs with the now dirty gun. I wasn’t surprised.
There weren’t many—maybe a .05 percent rate. I was surprised they hadn’t happened before. My phone call with Adam revealed that the gun used a standard 1911 recoil spring of 11 pounds. We confirmed my thought that dropping to a 9- or 10-pound spring (Wolff provides them) would allow flawless operation. But, a simple spring change would certainly be worth it if one wanted to run the gun in Steel Challenge—the recoil from the Atlanta Arms Minor loads was in the .22 LR range and the front sight never left the rear notch!
My gun club’s Wednesday Steel Challenge practice session was next. Serious shooters show up—several of which are Grand Master or Master class. Like kids at Christmas they were on the gun, and everyone loved it!
As an interesting aside, when I picked up the gun at my FFL dealer the owner and a woman were at the front counter. Neither is a competitive shooter. They handled the gun to log it in and both of them told me the grips were so sharp, I was going to need a glove to shoot it. I didn’t. And every competitive shooter that handled it loved the grips.
It’s a tired cliché, but it’s safe to say that, “Atlas guns are built by shooters, for shooters.” Visit atlasgunworks.com