October 31, 2012

STI Duty One 9mm

It could be said that the Browning 1911 pistol has evolved more than any other design. The operating principal remains the same, but alternate configurations have been applied to nearly every facet of its execution. In fact, it is now commonplace to buy over the counter what not long ago would have been considered a full-blown custom pistol. We all know about beveled magazine wells, frame checkering, undercutting the trigger guard for a higher grip, high-arch memory groove grip safeties, extended magazine releases, aluminum triggers adjustable for overtravel, light rails on the dust cover, extended and/or ambidextrous safeties, checkered slide stops, skeletonized hammers, titanium firing pins, front and rear serrations on the slide, weight reducing slide cuts, lowered and flared ejection ports, full length guide rods, bull barrels, multi-spring recoil systems, external extractors, spring-loaded internal extractors, ramped barrels, adjustable sights for target, adjustable low-mount sights for carry, light-gathering-filament sights, or self-illuminating modules for front and rear sights.

A few years ago we would have called them factory customs, but that term is obsolete. The most distinguishing characteristic of the test gun was that it was chambered for 9X19 shells, aka 9mm Parabellum or simply 9mm. The $1299 STI Duty One shipped with and fed from a 9-round MetalForm-brand single-stack magazine. Gun Tests accepted an offer from Houston’s Top Gun Training Center (www.topgunrange.com) to conduct the test indoors. The range was under renovation, so while the ActionTarget.com folks were working their magic on one shooting bay, they set up targets at the other end of the building. Test distance was 15 yards and Black Hills ammunition was used exclusively in the tests. For break in they opened a case of 124-grain FMJ ammunition packed in blue boxes (remanufactured). Both the 115-grain FMJ and 124-grain JHP rounds were new manufacture (packaged in red boxes). They brought in a portable shooting bench and went to work firing five-shot groups. Here is what they learned.

STI International, located in Georgetown, Texas, is one of the more accomplished small companies that produce and sell custom components as well as completed guns. The Duty One is a single-stack 1911 with several competition-grade modifications plus a dustcover machined as an accessory rail. A tour of the STI Duty One from the ground up begins with a beveled magazine well. To either side of the grips were wide-gauge composite panels held in place by Allen screws colored dark blue to blend with the rest of the pistol. The panels featured scrolled stippling top to bottom (save for the STI logo), and a dished relief to enhance access to the magazine-release button on the left side. The front strap was treated to 30-lpi checkering. The backstrap featured a flat-profile mainspring housing checkered at 20 lines per inch. Above the mainspring housing was an oversize grip safety with raised surface to ensure contact with the shooter’s hand. Thumb safeties of equal width platforms on both sides of the frame were applied.

Gun Tests March 2010

The Duty One fired even the hottest 9mm rounds with little felt recoil. The accessory rail should be a plus for civilian or professional.

The magazine release was brief but effective. It was also drilled and tapped should the operator prefer an extension. The hole left in the release was not necessarily an eyesore because it managed to offer a finished look. The bottom outer radius of the trigger guard was relieved in the manner one might refer to as dished or concave. If it were a barrel it would be called fluted. They thought it was a nice visual touch and perhaps an attempt to reduce weight. Nevertheless, the Duty One was heavy. Aside from the extra material at the dustcover, much of the STI’s weight could be found in its bull-barrel system. Keep in mind that the smaller 9mm bore leaves behind a heavier barrel than would a 45 caliber model. Another source of weight was likely the slide. The staff reported that the width of the slide as viewed from behind the grip was larger than those found on other guns. Some members of the staff thought it was distracting. Atop the slide was a set of (Richard) Heinie sights. Perfectly matched, their profile was streamlined. Sans indicators such as white dots, the faces of each sight front and rear were lined to diffuse glare. Clarity of the sight picture was superb.

The recoil system was a multi-spring and plunger unit referred to as the STI Recoil Master. Compared to a simple coil spring over a solid rod, this design looked more like a shock absorber that might be found on a race car. For a quick look at the frame they could simply pull back the slide to match the breakdown relief and push the slide-stop pin out from right to left. But if they wanted to remove the barrel, the use of a special jam, or stop, was necessary. STI supplies a plastic part that locks the outer spring in place and allows the unit to be removed as one. The preferred method is to lock back the slide and snap on the jammer. But it is also possible to remove the top end first and use a thumb to push the assembly forward far enough so that the inner rod is exposed and the jam can be applied. Naturally, the jam only covers about 180 degrees of the Recoil Master. Rotating the assembly so that the open side is facing you as the Recoil Master is pulled out will help get it past the yoke on the slide.

Gun Tests March 2010

The ejector on our STI Duty One, left was much longer than those found on either the Kimber, right, or Springfield Armory pistol, center.

At the range they found that the STI Duty One recoiled less than our other guns. This could be attributed to the Recoil Master or merely the extra weight. They liked the 4.5-pound trigger, too. The wide grip panels helped fill the hands and as previously noted the sights were very clear. They began collecting accuracy data by firing the remanufactured Black Hills 124-grain FMJ rounds. Accuracy was consistent with groups ranging in size from 1.3 to 1.6 inches across. The new manufacture Black Hills 115-grain FMJ rounds were even more consistent. Groups measured 1.4 inches, 1.6 inches and then 1.5 inches. But here is where the test of the STI Duty One came to a halt. During the third group of 115-grain FMJ rounds they began to see the empty cases being ejected with less and less vigor. With the gun emptied they worked the slide and discovered it was having difficulty moving, especially just before going into battery. They removed the top end to inspect the frame and slide and discovered that the ejector was bent. The ejector on a 1911 design is mounted on the platform above the grip just rearward of the magazine well. It sticks up about one-quarter inch and rides inside a channel cut into the bottom of the slide just to the left of center. As the slide moves rearward carrying the shell from the chamber, the ejector, which simply put amounts to being a poker, punts the spent shell out the ejection port. This clears the way for the extractor to pick up a fresh round from the magazine.

Why didn’t they simply didn’t bend the ejector back into line. They decided that doing so in a precise manner would have been difficult at best. As it was, the bend prevented them from replacing the slide without damaging additional parts. Above all, the main concern was why did it happen to a gun that, up until failure, was shooting lights out? We did observe that the ejector on our STI Duty One was substantially longer than other pistols. The ejector on the STI pistol protruded about 0.38 inch. Was this by design or was the wrong part installed? For answers and a warranty repair, they returned the pistol to STI. The STI Duty One was received at the factory on Friday, one week prior to Christmas Day, 2009.

Gun Tests March 2010

After suffering malfunctions, we returned our Duty One to STI for warranty service.

They had the pistol back in their hands the following Wednesday morning. They returned to the range to finish the testing. This included shooting more groups and launching rounds over the sensors of the Oehler chronograph. Function was now 100%. They expected nothing less because the enclosed work order, (signed and dated), said that the pistol had test fired 45 rounds successfully. The ejector had been replaced and several other points had been addressed. These included polishing the feed ramp, tuning the safeties, refinishing the breech face, and hand-fitting a fresh Recoil Master. In the magazine’s view this followed reasoning that machine parts are interdependent and must be in tune with multiple components. They concluded that the test pistol simply received the 10,000-round tuneup a little early.

On the telephone, they learned that the original ejector was indeed too long. After servicing, the tip of the extractor now reached across the magazine well about 0.27 inches. This was a reduction of about one-tenth of an inch. No further malfunctions were experienced. Beginning where they had left off in our bench session, accuracy with the 115-grain FMJ ammunition was still in the 1.3-inch to 1.6-inch range with the new extractor in place. Firing the 124-grain jacketed hollowpoints, the STI Duty performed slightly better with groups measuring just less than 1.4 inches across on average.

Gun Tests Said: The STI Duty One is obviously aimed at the law enforcement market. It benefits from the addition of an accessory rail, and like so many STI products incorporates features learned in the rough-and-tumble world of competitive Practical Shooting. Formed to fit low in the hand, the Duty One displayed a muzzle-heavy bias that smothered recoil. This low-profile-finish, sophisticated pistol was pleasing to shoot. An early problem was solved quickly by attentive customer service.

Comments (34)

Back to the subject of firearms. I just ordered some more Russian ammo for my AK. They are idiot proof.

But, my question to you guys concerns firing steel cased ammo in an AR or a semi-auto handgun. I have read pros and cons and am asking for your input since you guys probably know more about guns that most of the experts.

I have not run any through my ARs as I am afraid they might be more delicate than the AK.
Hell, I think an AK would shoot horse turds without a problem.

Appreciate any input.

Posted by: Cecil B | November 2, 2012 4:07 PM    Report this comment

I wish someone would. I get about 20 a day and it is pissing me off to the point I am ready to delete this web site.

Posted by: Cecil B | November 2, 2012 1:21 PM    Report this comment

CZ makes a better 9mm.

Posted by: MYLES S | November 2, 2012 2:32 AM    Report this comment

I agree with others who said gun should have failed and consumer wouldn't have received this fast customer service!

That is a lot of money for a single stack, heavy 9mm that doesn't even have night sights; but is called a "duty gun"? For a couple of hundred dollars more you could get an all German, match barrel Sig X5 Tactical with 5" barrel and slde, night sights standard, SAO trigger and 9mm mag capacity of 18 or 20 rds, lighter too! Other X5's have stainless frames;but this is only one that uses conventional Sig alloy frame!

Posted by: ordnance outsellers | November 1, 2012 2:16 PM    Report this comment

PVB. Like us, the gun just wore out. I worked on my lawnmower for several hours yesterday and am paying the price today. I think I wore out a couple of years ago but I am afraid to send my body in for refurbishing.

I am really, really getting tired of these spams.

Posted by: Cecil B | November 1, 2012 12:40 PM    Report this comment

I really have trouble figuring out why I'd rather pay $1,200 for a 10 shot 9mm when I can buy a 16 shot Glock 19 or an eleven shot G26 for $550. If I want a single stock 9mm, why not a Shield for $450?

Much more important: I do not understand how the magazine can maintain it's credability when it gives a passing grade to a $1,200 gun built with a part 0.1" out of design that fails to function after a few rounds. That's an "F" any way you look at it. Period. Full stop. I find the pass on that disgusting.

I subscribe to Gun Test to get objectivity. Period. Objectivity is the magazine's one and only reason for existance. It's quite literally the only thing that magazine has to sell. If this becomes a trend, I won't need it anymore because there is nothing else there worth buying.


Posted by: Fitch | November 1, 2012 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Yeah, liljimi, that $20.00 WAS a big deal back then. When I laid out that $90.00 for my Colt Government Model, I was a young Army lieutenant whose monthly pay was $222.00/month. I seem to recall eating a lot of grits during the last couple of weeks of that month in 1964. After I got a little more money, like $242.00/month, I was able to squeak in a Ruger Blackhawk for around $57.50. When I finally made captain, I trotted out and bought a Savage M99 .308 for $67.50. Somewhere in that time period, I had a little money left over from a TDY trip, so I was able to get a Ruger 10/22 for $45.00.

Ya know?..... While those prices sound pretty neat, the proportional relationship between the prices of firearms and income back then and now isn't all that different. Hell, when I got orders to Vietnam, I bought a High Standard derringer for the staggering price of $32.50, so I could have a little back-up gun stuck in my boot. Today, that same little derringer is selling for $250.00 to $300.00.

Posted by: canovack | September 18, 2011 11:12 AM    Report this comment

I bought my Browning Hi Power NIB in 1971 for $110.00. The Colt Govt. was still going for $90.00 back then. That $20.00 difference was a big deal back then for a father of one. I also had a chuckle about the Cooper load of 6.9 grains of Unique. Used that load in pin matches but you really needed a stiff and fresh spring.

Posted by: liljimi | September 18, 2011 1:30 AM    Report this comment

I bought my Browning Hi Power NIB in 1971 for $110.00. The Colt Govt. was still going for $90.00 back then. That $20.00 difference was a big deal back then for a father of one. I also had a chuckle about the Cooper load of 6.9 grains of Unique. Used that load in pin matches but you really needed a stiff and fresh spring.

Posted by: liljimi | September 18, 2011 1:30 AM    Report this comment

My Series '70 MK IV Government model cost me 235 dollars with tax. That was in the 1970s. Still the best shooter I own. I carry in a shoulder holster while hunting. My daily carry is a Walther PPS in 9mm.

Posted by: Anishinabi | September 17, 2011 1:42 PM    Report this comment

Amen to that, fezletter. I still have, in my collection, a Colt Government model (commercial model) .45 ACP that I purchased NIB back in 1964.....for $90.00!

Posted by: canovack | September 17, 2011 12:10 PM    Report this comment

I can remember buying a Browning 9mm in Tucson, Arizona; 1979, for under 500 dollars...these are NOT the good 'ol days.

Posted by: fezletter | September 17, 2011 9:40 AM    Report this comment

I just got done cleaning them, and the LCB .40 looks like it was test fired and then maybe carried a little. What I should do is let the Gunzilla soak in for a day or two, but I think it is extremely likely they will be fired tomorrow...

Posted by: PVB | September 16, 2011 9:56 PM    Report this comment

Congratulations, PVB! That's the way to increase your accumulation of firearms.....two at a time. I did that last month when I picked up a S&W BG38 w/laser and a S&W Governor. I got the BG38 to wear around the house in the evening while relaxing. The Governor is flat out awesome. Much nicer than the Taurus Judge and it's a six shooter that handles .45 Colt, .45 ACP, and .410x3". The long slide sounds nice, and I have had some really nice pieces added to my accumulation that were police recycles. They are usually in fairly good condition, having been carried a lot and fired little.

Posted by: canovack | September 16, 2011 8:50 PM    Report this comment

Canovack - I picked up a Springfield Long Slide and a Beretta 96 DAO LCB turn-in. Springfield is making a target model in that black stainless finish that looks amazing.

Posted by: PVB | September 16, 2011 7:37 PM    Report this comment

This is the most subjective review I have seen from GR. As far as cust. svc., I really don't believe that I would have received the same attention over Christmas that this magazine did - returning a broken gun under evaluation?? and you thought this was great?? I would also like to know what Kimber and SA were used in the eval. Hard to guess the weight diff without model numbers.

Posted by: roy658 | September 16, 2011 3:08 PM    Report this comment

PVB, I agree with the need to have your 1911 evaluated by a good, competent smith. That said, however, it sounds like the crack you describe is not related to a structural member of the frame. It seems more like the dust cover is cracking away from the rest of the frame. I have an old S&W Sigma, in .357 SIG, that has a small crack in the dust cover inside of where the serial number strip is implanted. It has probably been that way for years, and I don't see any reason to retire the pistol because of that little crack. Opinions vary, but after a competent smith has checked your piece, you may yet have some shooting left in it. Now, having said all of that.....I can think of no better a reason to go purchase a new 1911, so go buy it and enjoy!

Posted by: canovack | September 16, 2011 11:15 AM    Report this comment

Over twice the price of a Cz-75. That is ridiculous..........

Posted by: whooziss | September 16, 2011 1:28 AM    Report this comment

canovack - you are correct, but that will take some time to determine. First, I need to find a 'smith who will evaluate it, and many won't even look at it because they know they aren't going to weld a frame. Colt will evaluate, but no more than that. In the meantime, there's a show in town this weekend and I've been eyeballing a long slide for a while...

I basically see these options: Take it (or send it) somewhere it can be repaired, keeping in mind that if welding is required, a new finish will be as well. Replace the frame, though a new frame will likely need fitting to the slide, and probably a new grip safety. Buy a new gun and keep this one for my own pistolsmithing practice. Keep shooting and see what happens....

If you picture the frame alone, the crack is on the left side, running vertically about 1/4" immediately below the forward end of the rail. In the 3rd Edition of Patrick Sweeney's Gunsmithing Pistols & Revolvers, he has a picture showing the exact same crack, saying not all cracks need be repaired... However, I've noticed the editing of captions leaves a little to be desired, so I think a qualified evaluation would be best.

I've had it for nearly three decades, and fired it a lot. I've had some work done on it before, and can find reasons why each of the three major components (frame, slide, bbl) needs attention. It's been a great gun, though ultimately fixing it may not be cost effective.

Do you remember Jeff Cooper touting 6.9 gr of Unique for 230 gr hardball? Try to find that load in any manual now....

Posted by: PVB | September 15, 2011 10:01 PM    Report this comment

Over a thou for a 9mm, is more than alittle out of this old farts fixed income range, since I can get good old fashioned 1911 high stanard for about have that in .45 acp, that meas cap im once instead of three or four times to put im down for good, I thought about getting a 1911 in 9mm for the Mrs. but she likes my .45's to much, she says" why should I have to shoot them half a dozen time when if I use your 45 I only got to shoot im once, and her other words are if I need a smaller gun I will just use one of your 357 mags." So saying I am buying her own 357 mags, and 45 acp so I can use my own. Because just the other day I found one of my 45's in her gun safe, she said she heard somthing out side and I was gone, so after she cheked things out she forgot and put it in her safe.I kinda think it was accidently on purpuse.LOL
God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future.
Keeping to My Oath Locked Loaded and Keeping My Powder Dry.
Get the US Out of the UN and the UN Out of the US

Posted by: bear1 | September 15, 2011 9:58 PM    Report this comment

They gave the PM 45 Kahr an F for a similar problem, what score did this one get?

Posted by: xhumbug | September 15, 2011 9:39 PM    Report this comment

PVB, depending on the location of the crack in your 1911 frame, you may be able to get a bit more out of it. Granted, there are some cracks that you wouldn't want to push to the limit, but again.....it does depend on the location.

Posted by: canovack | September 15, 2011 9:29 PM    Report this comment

Markbo - Colt does not fix frames.

Posted by: PVB | September 15, 2011 5:59 PM    Report this comment

looks good, but my pocket isn't!!

Posted by: BIGMarine | September 15, 2011 5:56 PM    Report this comment

P V B, You don't NEED another 1911. You just need to send yours back to Colt to get them to fix it - for free!

Posted by: Markbo | September 15, 2011 5:00 PM    Report this comment

canovack - only three??? I agree with you on the rails - a lot of Kimbers come without.

My Colt frame just developed a crack after many years and a lot of rounds down range, so I'm more actively looking for another 1911...

Posted by: PVB | September 15, 2011 4:48 PM    Report this comment

I have their top of the line Sentinel Premier. Once you ditch the lousy sights and the recoilmaster guide rod and give it a little work here and there it is a very nice pistol. Customer service is very good, but they should simply make their guns a bit better with more QC and better parts.

Posted by: HEROBUDDY | September 15, 2011 4:41 PM    Report this comment

Full size 1911. In single Stack 9mm.
For what? I guess anything can be made into anything but John Moses Browning made a 9mm and like the 1911 it couldn't be improved upon a whole lot - including the original cartridge!
p.s. I like accessory rails. They're like sights. Just because it has them doesn't mean you have to use them! ;>)

Posted by: Markbo | September 15, 2011 4:09 PM    Report this comment

Another $1100+ 9mm 1911 give me a break.

Posted by: blanddragon | September 15, 2011 12:06 PM    Report this comment

Wow! Another 1911..... Well, I'd guess as a proven design, the 1911 is hard to beat. I presently own three of varying sizes and finishes.

It is getting increasingly difficult to find pistols without accessory rails. Yes; that's right; I said.....without accessory rails. It seems that most manufacturers assume that everybody who purchases a pistol, these days, wants to hang some sort of light or laser on the piece. Not all of us are desirous of carrying a piece that's been all bulked up with some electronic gadget, and we prefer the slim, uncluttered pieces. I know that making two versions of a given pistol is expensive for the manufacturers, but it would be nice if we did have a choice between with and/or without the rail.

Posted by: canovack | September 15, 2011 12:05 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Mr. Van Buhler. Usually, when there's a malfunction, especially one that renders the weapon inoperable, you folks give it an 'F' and that's it. In my opinion you were being too charitable this time. I have used several STI 1911s and none ever malfunctioned. I like their silky-smooth triggers and would buy one if I didn't already have a Glock 17 for my duty weapon.

Posted by: exdetsgt | September 15, 2011 11:51 AM    Report this comment

its NOT a 45 !

Posted by: Cava3r4 | September 15, 2011 11:12 AM    Report this comment

After reading gunreports for years, I would have to say your review is kind of slanted to the Mfr. Any other product you would have slammed it for quality control. You gave these guys a pass for poor quality on a high end product. If it had been SIG or HK you would have dismissed the model as lousy. I like STI, but let's be balanced here. The gun as received was unacceptable, although customer support was adequate.

Posted by: Anishinabi | September 15, 2011 10:30 AM    Report this comment

I've been a long time fan of STI, BUT I also live on the left coast in California where STI's are not available. That ok since I can't carry loaded or unloaded soon.

Posted by: wgchinn | September 15, 2011 10:30 AM    Report this comment

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