September 24, 2010
This line of work has its percs, and what I enjoy the most are those rare occasions when I get to evaluate a really top-of-the-line firearm.
It is a real eye-opening experience when you get to handle and fire a gun you probably couldn't afford, and to be honest I get a kick out of the stares of envy such a firearm engenders from fellow shooters. Believe me, there is no finer feeling than strutting around at a match with the type of pistol that is guaranteed not only to impress your peers but to cause consternation to rise in the hearts of the competition.
I recently had the opportunity to evaluate such a firearm. Dave Skinner at STI asked me if I'd care to evaluate one of its limited edition USPSA Single Stack pistols for the information-hungry readers of Handguns. Before the folks at STI sent me the pistol, they inquired as to what optional features I'd like on it, so I requested a .40 caliber model with a Dawson fiber-optic front sight.
STI USPSA Single Stack
|Manufacturer ||STI, www.stiguns.com, 512-819-0656 |
|Type ||1911 semiauto |
|Caliber ||9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP |
|Capacity ||8+1 |
|Barrel Length ||5 in. ramped, fully supported |
|Overall Length ||8 1/2 in. |
|Weight ||38.3 oz. |
|Sights ||competition blade front fully adjustable rear |
|Trigger ||single action |
|Grips ||Alumacraft |
|Extra Features ||comes with one fitted magazine, Dawson fiber optic front sight (optional), padded carrying box, disassembly tools, Recoil Master sleeve |
|Finish ||two-tone stainless steel slide blue frame |
|Price ||$1,796 |
As might be expected of a pistol from one of America's premier custom builders, the STI Single Stack displayed top-notch quality of parts, fit and finish. I spent the first five minutes after I opened the box examining the radical Sabertooth cocking serrations at the rear of the slide. They not only provide an extra secure grip when retracting the slide--especially with perspiring hands or when wearing gloves--but they just look plain funky. The sides of the stainless steel slide are emblazoned with U.S.P.S.A. on the left and the organization's crest on the right.
The Single Stack put five rounds of Cor-Bon Performance Match ammo into an impressive 1.13-inch group.
While the Tri-Top slide is finished bright on the sides, the top features a subdued blue finish to reduce glare. The sighting arrangement consists of an STI fully adjustable rear sight mated to a Dawson fiber-optic front, a combination that significantly enhances target acquisition and transitioning. To ensure reliable ejection of spent cases, the ejection port is lowered and flared in a most unique manner.
The STI's frame is constructed from forged steel. Metal has been removed from under the trigger guard, and the front strap features sharp cut, 30 lpi checkering. Combining these with the checkered D&T mainspring housing and STI's Alumagrip grip panels allows the shooter to get a high, secure grip--greatly enhancing their ability to make fast, accurate shots.
Controls consist of an STI long, curved trigger, High-Ride grip safety and stainless, extended, ambidextrous thumb safety levers. Both the slide release and magazine release are standard length.
Anyone versed in the makeup of the 1911 will have no trouble disassembling the Single Stack, and the green Recoil Master sleeve makes the ch
ore of disassembly a cinch.
At the bottom of the grip frame is a moderately sized magazine well funnel, a device that many combat purists scorn. While originally designed with competition shooting in mind, I believe that anything that can make reloading smoother, faster and more positive has a definite place on a combat handgun.
All internal parts are polished and hand fitted to provide a crisp, light trigger let off. The Single Stack's ramped, fully supported barrel is held in place by the traditional 1911 muzzle bushing, albeit a match grade unit that ensures consistent tight lock up and functioning. Disassembly is greatly facilitated by the use of the STI Recoil Master spring system, which uses a simple plastic sleeve that makes removing and installing the tensioned spring unit fast and easy.
The Single Stack has
extended thumb and grip
safeties and Commander-style
hammer, and the Sabertooth cocking serrations on the rear of the slide provide excellent purchase.
I'm sure some of the readers out there are thinking, "Sure, it's pretty but it ain't a combat handgun!" Well, all I can say is Au contraire. Do cosmetics really make any difference as to whether or not a pistol is suitable for defensive, tactical or service use? Does a handgun have to be ugly to be considered a true combat pistol? Remember, beauty is only skin deep. The Single Stack contains all of the features that you see on top-dollar combat 1911s from other shops--just in a more attractive package.
I arranged for my friend Rusty Rawsen to help me put the STI through its paces at Trigger Time Valley (trigger-time.com), a professional firearms training facility in Carthage, North Carolina. Our first task was to check the STI for accuracy with four factory loads, firing it from an MCM rest at a distance of 50 feet, the results of which can be seen on the accompanying chart. It showed a slight preference for slower moving loads, with honors going to Cor-Bon's Performance Match ammunition--with which I fired a group measuring a mere 1.13 inches.
STI USPSA Single Stack
|.40 S&W Ammo Type ||Bullet Weight (gr.) ||Avg. Velocity (fps) ||Avg. Group (in.) |
|Remington JHP ||155 ||1,187 ||2.25 |
|Cor-Bon Performance Match ||160 ||889 ||1.75 |
|Winchester FMJ ||165 ||1,109 ||2.00 |
|Hornady XTP ||180 ||924 ||1.88 |
|Accuracy of three, five-shot groups fired from a rest at 50 feet. Average of five rounds chronographed 15 feet from muzzle. |
A simple and moderately sized magazine well funnel speeds up combat reloads without adding bulk or height to the pistol.
We then set up a pair of D-1 targets and ran the STI through a series of offhand drills at five, 10, 15 and 20 yards, firing the pistol both supported and one-handed. While Rusty does not normally shoot 1911 handguns in competition, he found the STI provided handling, reliability and accuracy far above average and was soon running speed drills with no troubles whatsoever. After perforating D-1 targets we used up the rest of the ammo we had on hand engaging steel targets on the rifle range and found that, with careful aiming, we could consistently ring targets out to 75 yards. This is one very accurate pistol.
The following weekend I competed in a local USPSA match and found the STI perfectly suited to this discipline. And while my normally modest nature makes it difficult for me to mention it, I managed to take first place in Single Stack division the first time out. Okay, there was probably a bit of luck involved, but using a quality pistol like the STI sure didn't hurt the odds.
I found the STI USPSA Single Stack to possess all of the features one could wish for on a competition or combat 1911 pistol. Could I suggest any changes? Well, I have found that an arched mainspring housing allows me to shoot a 1911 a bit more accurately, and if I was going to keep this particular pistol I would have one installed. Other than that one caveat, I can't think of a single thing that needs improving. Any way you look at it, it's a winner.