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1911s Handgun Reviews

Laying Down the Law: STI Lawman Series Review

by G&A Staff   |  March 25th, 2013 6


STI International of Georgetown, Texas, first made a name for itself in the world of 1911 pistols during the 1990s with the development of what is today its extensive 2011 series of high-capacity modular-frame guns, which utilize a fiber-reinforced polymer lower grip and trigger guard as a separate component from the metal upper portion of the frame that comprises the dust cover and frame rails.

It was not long, however, before the continuing (and growing) demand for classic-format single-stack 1911s led the company to expand its offerings in that market as well, and today STI’s list of single-stack 1911 models is even longer (21 items) than its catalog of 2011 items (15 items).

Among the newest of STI’s single-stack Model 1911s is the Lawman series, available in five-inch full-size, 4.25-inch Commander size, and 3.25-inch Officer’s size—all in either .45 ACP or 9mm chamberings.

STI has long been well-known in the world of M1911 IPSC/USPSA competition shooting due to the high-capacity advantages of the 2011 series and competition-oriented semi-custom packages, but it is not as familiar to single-stack Model 1911 owners in general, and some confusion exists due to the company’s history. So some background is in order.

Around 1980, Texas gunsmith and machinist Virgil Tripp got into building custom 1911 pistols for USPSA/IPSC competition. Dissatisfied with the quality of many of the accessory M1911 parts then available, he began designing his own—most notably hammers and sears that he manufactured by electrical discharge machining and a polymer/titanium match trigger. Most of these Tripp Research, Inc. parts were marketed and sold through Chip McCormick Corp. and quickly established themselves among shooters and other custom pistolsmiths due to McCormick’s stature as one of the leading national championship competitors of that era.

In the early 1990s, Tripp linked up with a Texas engineer and computer-aided design specialist named Sandy Strayer, and together they developed and patented the modular high-capacity 1911 frame—the foundation for today’s 2011 series—under the name Strayer-Tripp Inc. or STI.

This was a big deal for the USPSA/IPSC world. Para Ordnance’s all-steel high-capacity 1911 frame was already on the market, but STI’s polymer/steel modular system weighed less than half of an all-steel gun. Shooters also liked the STI design because it felt smaller in the hands due to the fact the grips were molded in instead of screwed on. The new system took USPSA Open division by storm.

But success breeds its own complications. In 1994, Strayer left STI, and with Strayer’s departure Tripp partnered with Texas USPSA/IPSC enthusiast and businessman Dave Skinner. In 1997, Skinner and his wife Shirley bought STI outright from Tripp and renamed the company STI International. Eight years after that, the Skinners sold STI to its employees, making it the first employee-owned company in the firearms industry.

The “International” that Skinner added to the STI name in 1997 is significant. At that time, the Clinton-era high-cap magazine ban was in full effect, effectively killing domestic sales of STI’s signature 2011 guns. So Skinner decided to focus on exports, and by 2007 STI International was the third largest exporter of pistols in America after Smith & Wesson and SIG Sauer.

At the same time, he decided to focus on the growing personal defense and concealed-carry market in the U.S. by moving strongly into the traditional 1911 single-stack market for complete guns as well as custom accessory parts. And this brings us to the new STI Lawman series.

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