March 6, 2013

STI Sentinel Premier 45 ACP

No pistol in current production has evolved into as many variations and price points as John Browning’s 1911. Gun Tests Magazine has looked at some entry-level models (July 2009) costing around $500. Then they looked at a 1911 that occupies the upper tier of the factory-gun category. It represents one of the top-end production models of the company, offering significant upgrades to a standard 1911, but is normally available as off-the-shelf stock. The test gun had a 5-inch barrel and featured niceties such as front- and back-strap checkering, adjustable sights, a stainless-steel match-grade barrel, front and rear slide serrations, skeletonized triggers, and hammers with cocking serrations.

The STI International ISPC- and USPCA-legal Sentinel Premier hard-chrome model came in at a wallet-draining $2413. Here's what they had to say:

STI International Sentinel Premier 45 ACP, $2243

Testing was conducted in two locations. Our first stop was the indoor range at Bass Pro Shops in Grapevine, Texas. There we conducted our team inspections of the gun and our accuracy testing. A second and third round of reliability shooting, along with our chronograph work, was performed at the Arlington Sportsman’s Club,, one of the largest member’s-only clubs in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

We started our evaluation at the time we opened the case, checking off what accessories were (or were not) included with our pistol. Next, we field-stripped the gun and lubed and prepped it for use, noting the ease or difficulty of this process. Once the gun was ready for use, we fired some initial rounds to get some break-in time for the weapon, and to get a feel for the gun. We used three types of ammunition for our testing: Winchester USA 230-grain FMJs, Monarch Brass Case 230-grain FMCs, and a Winchester USA Personal Protection 230-grain JHP load. Our choices were limited to what we could scrounge off the shelves after visiting a number of sporting-goods and gun stores in the area.

STI Sentinel Premier 45 ACP

Gun Tests testers found the Sentinel Premier to be pricey, but also smooth and refined. It supplied very good accuracy, a smooth trigger, and a great sight picture. IPSC and USPCA approved, they felt the Premier Sentinel was the best all-round pick for competition and carry work.

Also, we ran a few hundred rounds through the gun in an effort to get some sort of malfunction. The gun ran smoothly, exhibited good accuracy, with zero malfunctions.

The gun came from Georgetown, Texas-based STI International. STI has built quite a reputation in competitive shooting, and their pistols have become a frequent sight at events throughout the country. Their Sentinel Premier is the flagship model and carries both USPCA and ISPC certification.

Our test gun gun arrived in a smallish plastic case. We found it contained our pistol, some small wrenches, plastic bushings, and a bushing wrench. We also found a single, but very nice, stainless steel Wilson Combat Elite 8-round magazine, which had viewing slots on each side of it. We personally believe that any gun, particularly in this price range, should have at least two magazines. After a small amount of grumbling, we began the inspection of our gun.

The Sentinel Premier comes fully loaded with only a couple of options available. Our gun had one of them; hard-chrome plating which added $300 to its price tag. All of the metal components featured this finish, except for the sights. The sides of the slide were polished bright, with the frame a dull matte finish. Ambidextrous safety levers are also available for $45 as well, but much to our lefty tester’s dismay, our gun had only the single-lever version. The thumb lever was extended in length, and the edge had been smoothed to eliminate any sharp edge, with serrations on top to aid in its activation.

STI Sentinel Premier 45 ACP

The STI has a ramped, fully supported barrel held in a place by a match-grade bushing. We noted that the muzzle of the Sentinel Premier was crowned to fit flush with the bushing, giving it a very clean appearance and also helping protect it from edge damage. The STI had both front and rear cocking grooves which were smartly formed, allowing the slide to be worked easily. The mag release button protruded far enough from the frame to be accessed freely, but not so much to be a magnet for accidental activation. The bottom of the grip frame had been ramped to act as a magazine guide to assist in reloading. There was 30-lpi checkering adorning both the front strap and mainspring housing, making for a very solid gripping area. The grip panels were checkered black G10 polymer and emblazoned with the STI logo, giving the gun a clean appearance, our testers said. The Premier Sentinel also had a high beavertail safety, and we noted that material under the trigger guard had been relieved to allow for a higher grip on the pistol.

STI Sentinel Premier 45 ACP

The STI has a ramped, fully supported barrel held in a place by a match-grade bushing. The muzzle was crowned to fit flush.

The sight picture on the STI had received extra treatment as well. The top of the slide had been flattened and grooves had been cut lengthwise to reduce glare from the bright finish. A fully adjustable Dawson/STI rear sight was coupled with a ramped STI/Trijicon front. Both sights had Tritium inserts, making it suitable for low light conditions, and were mounted low to reduce the risk of snagging. This combination of features proved to be very effective, and our testers all agreed that the STI provided the best overall sight picture of the three guns tested.

Disassembly of the Sentinel Premier proved easy to perform. Pulling the slide back to the disassembly notch allows the slide stop lever to be pushed out and removed. The slide can then be removed from the frame. The Recoilmaster guide rod/twin recoil spring assembly is removed as a single unit through the use of a provided plastic bushing that snaps in place to captivate the parts. Keeping track of extra parts is not our strong suit, but we did like the ease in which the gun could be broken down. Now that our gun prep and inspection was complete, we set about measuring the gun’s performance.

It was evident upon the first time we racked the slide that the Sentinel Premier was a well-fitted gun. Its assembly and recoil spring design allowed an easy cocking action. The trigger pull on the Sentinel Premier was a light and crisp 4 pounds. Overall, its action was precise, smooth, and refined, attributes we would expect from a gun in its price point.

STI Sentinel Premier 45 ACP

The top of the Sentinel Premier's slide had been slightly flattened and grooved to reduce the glare from its hard chrome finish.

The Sentinel Premier did not disappoint at the range either, racking up the best overall accuracy numbers with each ammo tested, including an average 0.8 inch group size with our Winchester 230-grain FMJ loading. Our testers felt the sight picture afforded by the STI allowed them to accurately line the gun up with the target. The light and responsive trigger also contributed to these results. Recoil was very manageable even though the STI was the lightest gun in our tests. The Recoilmaster spring assembly is claimed to help reduce felt recoil, and did seem to help in this regard. We also found the gun easy to put back on target during our rapid fire tests, finishing second to the significantly heavier TRP. We were able to be aggressive with the gun while still maintaining good accuracy.

Reloads were assisted by the funnel-shaped mag well. We noted that rounds were ejected consistently, but at a slightly flatter angle than our other guns. This caused an issue with Lefty, who had a particularly high grip on the pistol. Several rounds nicked his thumb when they were ejected, causing a bruise.

Gun Tests Said: In our final grading, the testers were unanimous in their praise of the Sentinel Premier, with the only dissent coming from slightly dinged-up Lefty. We found that the STI delivered a high level of performance, and was very capable as both a competition and carry gun. Our only qualm about the gun was its high price, which starts to reach the level of a custom-grade gun.


Comments (38)

Good point Firemouth. Once a guy has his first pistol, he could save a bit longer between additional ones and always buy quality. If they're really great to shoot, he may end up buying fewer and using those to the exclusion of other cheaper ones.

Posted by: CT dave | March 12, 2013 7:03 AM    Report this comment

This STI surely is expensive. At this date ALL pistols, regardless of brand, are expensive. STI offers a well tuned gun in this model for a few dollars more. But that price is not far from other reknown tuners prices. Wilson, Baer and Brown, to name a few, in any of their similar packages, are surely a "little bit" more expensive. STI offers superb accuracy, and reliable work. All of the STI's I have tested, after 200 rounds break-in period, show more than reliable working and rifle like accuracy. If I have to wait a few days more so I can reach the retail price on one of this finelly crafted machines, I'll gladly do it. I own an STI Lawman Model and have no complaints. Is a pleasure to shoot it and more if we take in consideration the clover leaf groups it consistently does. This is a very short life to restraint ourselves to buy a good pistol. Just save a little longer and have the pleasure to own and shoot one of this fine machines.

Posted by: Firemouth | March 12, 2013 5:47 AM    Report this comment

Revolvers are cheaper and better. One reason I dropped my subscription to Gun Tests was because of the constant reviews of 1911's.

Posted by: olafhardtB | March 8, 2013 4:25 PM    Report this comment

STI guardian 1911 bought about a year ago for less than 600.00 used this is one fine weapon i also have other 1911`s i like them all

Posted by: sidney c | March 8, 2013 4:13 PM    Report this comment

Love the critiques you do on all the firearms. Thank you!

Posted by: Mitchell S | March 8, 2013 12:44 AM    Report this comment

I love 1911-style pistols and I own several, none over $1500. A $2400 1911 is like a $75 screw driver: It may be beautiful but we have forgotten that it's just a tool after all. Just a tool to do a specific job. I'm not wealthy enough to have guns just to sit in a nice display case or to hang over the mantle. My guns are tools, good quality, well made tools, but tools nonetheless.

Posted by: jimonthe beach | March 7, 2013 11:42 PM    Report this comment

Thanks,,,BUT No Thanks,,,I will keep my AMT Hardballer Stainless!
It shoots perfect!!!

Posted by: mrchuck | March 7, 2013 6:42 PM    Report this comment

I'll bet this pistol is priced out of the market for 98% of the prospective purchasers.


Posted by: Rebl | March 7, 2013 12:15 PM    Report this comment

Another nice handgun not available for sale in CA. STI was my first choice in a new 1911, but since they don't offer STI in CA ....

Posted by: wgchinn | March 7, 2013 10:34 AM    Report this comment

Don't have one, and at that price won't have one, but I had to comment to make it easier to follow the comments.

Posted by: CT dave | March 7, 2013 10:31 AM    Report this comment

A strong arguement for bringing back the typewriter.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 28, 2012 4:13 PM    Report this comment

Good advice, Anishinabi. I have the receipts, manuals, and boxes from all pieces I have acquired, except for those for which there weren't any available. I even have the purchase receipt from the Colt Government Model I purchased for $90.00 back in 1964. Unfortunately, the box somehow disappeared over the years since then. Some folks have told me that the box may be worth as much as the gun.

I also have an electronic record of every firearm transaction that I have ever completed. This runs into several hundred transactions, and it is stored on a flash drive that is located in a wall safe in my home. I avoid keeping those records on my computer, since I figure that if someone hacks into my machine they'll have to be pretty good at tracking down the residual data that is somewhere in the darkest recesses of the hard drive.

Posted by: canovack | July 28, 2012 11:30 AM    Report this comment

I good thing to do with your guns is to save all the receipts, purchase permits, boxes, manuals. Make or have a capable friend make a pdf with all the paper showing the purchase for you, together with an affidavit on where it came from. That way, with the origins of the gun, particularly a new one you purchased, it may become an heirloom several generations from now. I still have the purchase receipts and Michigan permits to purchase from my Series 70 Govt, Frontier Scout, and a pair of Colt Derringers, and they will go with the guns when I am gone.

Posted by: Anishinabi | July 28, 2012 9:18 AM    Report this comment

KMacK - do you have one? If so, how do you like it?

Posted by: PVB | July 26, 2012 2:42 PM    Report this comment

Yes, this is another expensive 1911 (yawn). It is also a Generations gun; one that can be passed through the generations and continue to function over the centuries. Suddenly the price doesn't seem to high, does it?

Posted by: KMacK | July 26, 2012 1:14 PM    Report this comment

Like some others hare I am happy with my Llama and my High Stanard (that hasn't even been fired yet)Infact itseems that I have a few guns that I haven't shot yet and sure will be happy when things start going right again so I can get out and do some shooting so I can keep my brother busy reloading. But if the wind ain't blowing it's been way to hot or it seems that when the weather is good I got to go to some Dr appointment down at the VA, and after one of those it seems to take 3 or 4 days for this old fart to recoup.
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 | July 22, 2012 2:59 PM    Report this comment

I'm right with ya, Cecil. I own a pristine Colt Government Model I purchased in 1964, a rack GI Colt inherited from my father-in-law, and a Para Ordnance P12-45. They all go "bang" when I pull the trigger, and they all print groups that are acceptable for their intended purpose of putting holes in bad guys.

Posted by: canovack | July 22, 2012 1:23 PM    Report this comment

Mine are just plain old out of the box Government models. Work fine and hit what I shoot.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 22, 2012 12:28 PM    Report this comment

I have a Series 70 Govt Model I bought new in 1975, and a Series 80 Stainless Enhanced Combat Commander, and honestly I can't find fault with either one. I have changed the triggers, grips and backstraps to suit my hand and don't see the need for more sophistication. But if I bought another one I would go to Les Baer.

Posted by: Anishinabi | July 22, 2012 7:34 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: nvvarmenter | July 21, 2012 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Neal & Anish - Recoil buffers like the ones Wilson sells will degrade, and may even interfere with operation if the degradation is not detected during routine maintenance. I would strongly recommend against using such "buffers" in a pistol used for protection. In my limited personal experience, they do nothing to ameliorate felt recoil, and most 1911 gunsmiths I've known or read think they are gimmicks.

Now, does anybody have personal experience with the subject STI 1911?

Posted by: PVB | July 20, 2012 10:18 AM    Report this comment

another good lookin gun and a 1911 that is way out of my price range. I still remember my dad getting gas for .05 a gal. because of a gas war many years ago, you will never see one of those ever again. 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 | July 15, 2012 10:09 PM    Report this comment

Neal, I may be incorrect but I took them to be referring to recoil buffer bushings, like the ones Wilson Combat sells. Good idea for those engaged in heavy regular practice or competitive shooting. Anyone else have an opinion on that?

Posted by: Anishinabi | July 14, 2012 9:51 AM    Report this comment

I don't understand plastic bushings in a carry gun. Does anyone know how long they last. Do they degrade with age?

Posted by: nealshoots | July 13, 2012 12:16 AM    Report this comment

I used to haul the oil from Alaska to Bellingham, Wa. 2 refineries there.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 12, 2012 11:34 PM    Report this comment

I've purchased used cars and trucks for less money!!!

Posted by: tankjas556 | July 12, 2012 11:27 PM    Report this comment

Down to $3.13 to $3.47 by me, from a high of $4.37; Pacific NW.

Posted by: ThinkN_Do | July 12, 2012 11:12 PM    Report this comment

$3.15 a gallon here in San Antonio. Still too damn much.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 12, 2012 10:43 PM    Report this comment

1911's are great machines. I have a $500 Rock Island Officer and $1650 Kimber on the high end. Is it worth $1150 more (MSRP), not really, but it sure looks nice; it's a Super Carry Pro HD. The best part is the Rounded Heel and the Kimpro finish, it does feel nice. STI, makes
nice stuff, but for that kind of money, I think I'd look at a Wilson, but I don't need nor want it. Speaking of gasoline, the price where I live has
dropped $1.00 in 6 weeks at some locations, on average .75¢ a gallon.

Posted by: ThinkN_Do | July 12, 2012 10:40 PM    Report this comment

Markbo, I too remember the 25 cent gas, available at a station right behind the police station. But, I also remember 10 cent gasoline when I was in college in 62. Things do change.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 12, 2012 8:54 PM    Report this comment

Would I like one? Sure. But, I'd rather my good friend had one. Then, I could shoot it for the price of ammo. I think I'll stick with my used Gold Cup. If only I'd known enough to be buying 1911's in 1964. Then, I was trying to afford ammo for my .22 WRF. Now, I just spend way too much on JMB's 100 year old design.

Posted by: MadDawg51 | July 12, 2012 6:49 PM    Report this comment

Cecil, Cecil. I remember when I used to pay 25 cents to put gasoline in my little mini bike. Nostalgic memories that you cannot compare to 1911's and prices of today. Back when a surplus Colt was $50 this STI would have been viewed as "Not of THIS world". I am sure it is a fine, fine machine for those with the money to spend. Personally I'll stick with my Kimber Stainless Target that seems to have every 'extra' this STI does, including remarkable accuracy for about $1000.

Posted by: Markbo | July 12, 2012 5:49 PM    Report this comment

I have two of them Colonel. I love them.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 12, 2012 5:41 PM    Report this comment

If only it wasn't so true: "Ya' Get What Ya' Pay For."

Posted by: RackEmPunk | July 12, 2012 5:27 PM    Report this comment

Oh, yes, Cecil.....When I was a young lieutenant stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama, one could purchase a 1911, with the proper DCM papers for $47.00 from the Property Disposal Store at Anniston Army Depot. I had a real time negotiating the DCM route, and I saw a GI 1911 in a pawn shop for $55.00. The pawn shop owner wouldn't budge below his price. So.....In my young wisdom, I went a few blocks away and purchased a brand new Colt Government Model for $90.00. That was in 1964. Now, as Paul Harvey might say, the rest of the story..... I still have that Government Model. I carried it on and off during my 21 years of commissioned service. It was and is a gem to behold with its deeply blued, shiny finish. It is supremely accurate, and I cannot remember it ever having a malfunction of any type. It is now worth considerably more than $1000.00, and it is in my will to be given to my eldest son upon my death.

Posted by: canovack | July 12, 2012 3:12 PM    Report this comment

Remember the old days when you could get a surplus Colt 1911 for $50.00?

Posted by: Cecil B | July 12, 2012 2:42 PM    Report this comment

I love 1911s and this sounds like a great pistol, but does the world really need another super-expensive 1911? And for that kind of money, you'd think STI would add an ambidextrous safety, but this appears to be a gun designed primarily for right-handed shooters. Left-handed shooters are just forgotten, but for the price of this pistol they could have a 1911 custom built to their specifications.

Posted by: jimonthe beach | July 12, 2012 2:16 PM    Report this comment

We hate spam as much as you do, and we're on a constant lookout for spammy comments. If you see spam on a GunReports post before we do, just enter 'SPAM' as a comment, and we'll be alerted to look at the file asap. Thanks for helping us patrol the AO. --Yr. Obt. Svts @

Posted by: ttwoodard | July 10, 2012 5:40 PM    Report this comment

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