Skip to main content

STI Nitro 10mm 1911 Review

STI Nitro 10mm 1911 Review

STI_Nitro_10mm_1911_Review_FAs with most things mechanical, despite the 1911's sterling reputation, down through the years there have been those who have tried to "improve" it even more. Case in point: In 1992 Virgil Tripp and Sandy Strayer formed a company named STI International to market a high-capacity 1911 pistol that used a modular frame made from fiber-reinforced plastic. This plastic portion combined the trigger guard, grip and integral magazine well, and it was attached to the upper portion of the frame — a metal part that comprised the dust cover and frame rails.

Known as the 2011, this frame weighed less than half of a steel frame and was narrower than other high-capacity 1911s, making it easier for persons with smaller hands to shoot. Today STI's 2011 pistols dominate USPSA/IPSC's Open and Limited divisions.

Located in Georgetown, Texas, STI offers one of the most complete lines of 1911 pistols. A quick perusal of its website shows pistols suitable for military/police service, concealed carry, personal defense, hunting and competitive shooting. In addition to its stock models, the company will also build a pistol to a customer's specifications.

While best known for the 2011, it offers a series of full-size, compact and sub-compact metal-frame 1911s for more traditionally minded buyers. The gun that most interested me was the company's new Nitro 10.

As you probably guessed, the Nitro 10 is chambered for the 10mm Auto cartridge. The cartridge's story begins in the late 1970s when U.S. police forces were switching en masse from the traditional .38/.357 revolver to the new breed of 9mm semiauto pistols. This change was accompanied by much acrimonious debate between partisans of the 9mm Luger and the "bigger bullets are better bullets" crowd.

Against this backdrop, a gentleman by the name of Whit Collins determined that what was needed was a cartridge with a flatter trajectory and greater range than the .45 ACP but with more stopping power than the 9mm Luger. He envisioned a cartridge that propelled a 200-grain bullet to about 1,000 fps, which provided the desired ballistics and had the added advantage of permitting more rounds to be loaded in the pistol's magazine.

Collins approached Col. Jeff Cooper, who lent his support to the idea and worked on the design with other developers — eventually resulting in the Bren Ten and a cartridge dubbed the 10mm Auto. However, the resulting cartridge — initially loaded by Norma — was hotter than what Cooper had envisioned. The first loads included a 170-grain jacketed hollowpoint at 1,300 fps and a 200-grain full metal jacket at 1,200, and even today some commercial loadings produce levels of energy that approach those of the .41 Magnum.

Over the years a number of companies have produced pistols chambered for the 10mm. The FBI adopted it for a short time, and some U.S. police departments use 10mm pistols. The government of Denmark issues them to personnel of the Sirius Sledge Patrol in northeast Greenland for defense against polar bears the unit encounters during its patrols.

STI introduced its first 10mm pistol, the Perfect 10, in 2009. Built on the 2011 modular frame, it was a long-slide design with a six-inch barrel and a high-capacity (14+1), double-column magazine. Originally designed for tactical units that desired a pistol with more authority than a .45, it also found favor with handgun hunters and wilderness guides for protection against bears.

But as STI's Rabbit Boyette explained to me, while the Perfect 10 attracted a fair amount of interest, there were a number of less than positive comments with regard to its length and weight compared to a traditional 1911. It didn't take STI long to realize that when "traditional" and "1911" are mentioned in the same sentence it can mean only one thing: a Government model with a single-stack magazine. The result is the Nitro 10.

With a length of 8.77 inches and an unloaded weight of 38.9 ounces, the Nitro 10 looks and feels like a regular 1911. But upon closer examination it becomes obvious that this is no regular handgun.

It goes without saying that a heavy-duty recoil spring — in this case 26 pounds — is a necessity in a pistol chambered for the powerful 10mm round. But for most people, a spring that heavy can make retracting the slide a daunting task. That led STI to design a new serration design. The Nitro fore and aft cocking serrations are more like notches that are long and wide with just a few sharply cut ridges; there are two such cuts in the front and three in the back.

"We designed the Nitro to have a bold look to match the power of the 10mm," STI Engineering and R&D Manager Chris Schirmer told Handguns. "These serrations do just that, as well as provide ample grip to match the powerful spring."

In keeping with its combat heritage, the slide is cut to accept a square, serrated blade front and a non-adjustable Heinie Ledge rear sight. The latter has a generous square notch for fast sight alignment; the ledge is designed so that in case the support hand is occupied or disabled the shooter can retract the slide by catching the sight on a belt, holster or other object and pushing down.

A lowered and flared ejection port ensures that spent cases get out of the way reliably. The frame and slide are hand-fitted to close tolerances, and the fitting results in consistent lockup.

The pistol has a full-length recoil spring guide rod for smooth functioning. A fully supported, ramped, bushingless, match-grade bull barrel not only provides accuracy but also puts additional weight up front where it does the most good to dampen recoil.

Both the slide and the frame are carbon steel and finished in matte blue. The natural handling qualities of the 1911 are improved by removal of metal underneath the trigger guard, allowing a high grip that also helps in recoil control. A high-ride beavertail grip safety helps to position the pistol in the shooter's hand securely while distributing recoil for more comfortable shooting, and the edges of the magazine well are beveled for smooth reloads.

The frontstrap and mainspring housing don't exhibit the serrations you typically find on a 1911 but rather three vertical cuts. It's a distinctive design, and when you look at the styling cues on the rest of the gun, the cuts fit in with the overall aesthetics a lot better than, say, 30 lpi checkering would have. And as Schirmer pointed out, the three cuts provide good control, especially in combination with the high-rise grip safety and undercut trigger guard that place your hand high on the gun. My testing confirmed that.

I received an early production Nitro 10 for testing. Over the years I have tested and competed with a number of STI pistols and have developed a high opinion of them, and the Nitro 10 was not a disappointment.

The quality of materials, fit and finish were all first class. The slide goes into battery with a solid "clack," a good indication of its tight tolerances, and the single-action trigger had a short, crisp let-off. According to my RCBS trigger pull scale, it broke at just less than four pounds, which I feel is just right for a pistol intended for combat purposes.

To see how STI's new 10mm performed, I gathered a sampling of ammo from Remington, Hornady and Federal and headed to the range. As I touched off the first round, my photographer was taken aback by the recoil and muzzle flash. Even though the pistol's weight helped ameliorate the effects of recoil to a degree, firing 75 rounds of 10mm from a rest over a period of 30 minutes required a fair amount of determination — if not dogged stubbornness.

As I had expected, the Nitro 10 performed very well, producing a series of well-centered groups in the two-inch range, although a few measured nearer to 1.5 inches.

Slipping on a Safariland 5198 paddle holster, I then ran the Nitro 10 pistol through several offhand combat drills from seven, 10 and 15 yards.

Once again, recoil was, shall we say, impressive, reminding me of hot .357 Magnum loads. But I had no trouble putting rounds where I wanted them, with only a few wandering outside the A and B zones on a pair of USPSA targets.

To see how the Nitro 10 performed at longer ranges, I engaged steel plate targets on the 50-yard backstop, firing the pistol both from a rest and offhand. While the majority of the shots fired from the rest produced satisfying clangs, I missed some of the first few from shots offhand.

All in all, I liked the pistol. However, while the cocobolo grips were attractive, their smooth surface allowed the pistol to move around in my hands. I think a set of VZ G10 grips would improve handling to a marked degree.

We asked STI why it chose those particular grips, and it turns out the cocobolo stocks were the result of a poll STI took of its customers — and a smart outfit always listens to its customers.

I also believe that a fiber-optic front sight would be a great aid in fast sight alignment and target acquisition.

Other than those two caveats, I feel that those looking for a semiauto pistol that fires a cartridge with magnum-like performance but in a slimmer package than a medium- or large-frame revolver may find that the Nitro 10 is just what they're looking for.

The gun is undercut at the trigger guard, permitting a high grip, and the STI Long Curve trigger broke cleanly at four pounds. The rear sight is a Heinie Ledge, and the thumb safety is extended.
The non-traditional forward cocking serrations give the pistol a unique look, but they're functional as well. The barrel is a ramped, bushing-less bull style that's fully supported.
The three-line Nitro cuts on the rear of the mainspring housing (and the frontstrap) are echoed on the wood grips. The grip safety is an STI High-Ride with memory bump.
While Scarlata liked the pistol overall, he thought the grips could stand to be more aggressive to aid in controlling such a powerful semiauto.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

If you're in the market for a 17-round, compact .22LR pistol that's feature packed, then the P17 is definitely an option for you. At less than 14 ounces fully loaded, and barely longer than a dollar bill, the P17 is concealable for pretty much anyone. The threaded barrel, Picatinny-style accessory rail, ambidextrous safety, ambidextrous magazine release and three (3) 16rd magazines come standard. That's a lot of value added in such a small package.

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Handguns editor Scott Rupp fires some Federal Punch .380 defensive handgun ammo into ballistics gel the range for a performance test run.

Going To The Range

Going To The Range

Jim and Scott show you how to make each trip to the shooting range a quality experience.

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

With the introduction of the XD-M Elite line of pistols, Springfield Armory one-ups itself.Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Review Reviews

Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Review

James Tarr - August 21, 2020

With the introduction of the XD-M Elite line of pistols, Springfield Armory one-ups itself.

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol designed for personal defense.Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall Review Compact

Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall Review

Jeff Chudwin - January 29, 2019

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol...

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice Training

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these...

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want one.Ruger 57 Pistol Review Reviews

Ruger 57 Pistol Review

James Tarr - June 05, 2020

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want...

See More Trending Articles

More 1911

The G. Madore pistol has a sense of history and emotional attachment combined with excellent performance.G. Madore 1911 1911

G. Madore 1911

Bob Campbell - October 02, 2019

The G. Madore pistol has a sense of history and emotional attachment combined with excellent...

The 1911 Ultra Compact pistol from SIG SAUER is offered in .45 ACP and 9mm with an all-black nitride finish and blackwood grips, with a nickel PVD finish and G10 grips, or with a two-tone finish and rosewood grips.SIG 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm Review

SIG 1911 Ultra Compact 9mm Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft

The 1911 Ultra Compact pistol from SIG SAUER is offered in .45 ACP and 9mm with an all-black...

Kimber's new Aegis Elite Custom OI combines functionality, modern styling and a pre-mounted optic.Review: Kimber AEGIS Elite Custom OI 1911

Review: Kimber AEGIS Elite Custom OI

Brad Fitzpatrick - September 20, 2018

Kimber's new Aegis Elite Custom OI combines functionality, modern styling and a pre-mounted...

Ed Head reviews the Nighthawk Chairman 9mm.Review: Nighthawk Chairman 9mm 1911

Review: Nighthawk Chairman 9mm

Ed Head - January 31, 2019

Ed Head reviews the Nighthawk Chairman 9mm.

See More 1911

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now