Out Of The Box Relialbe, And Accurate, This Is One Fast And Easy-Shooting Pistol.
Today, the 39-ounce, all-steel Government format with 5-inch barrel has become surprisingly popular in the 9mm chambering, and almost every 1911 manufacturer has at least one model available. Why? Because in that big, heavy gun, the recoil of the 9mm round is negligible. Older folks like it. Folks with arthritis or thin wrists or limited upper body strength like it. (Running with a lighter recoil spring, its slide is much easier to rack than that of a 1911 .45, another advantage for the strength-challenged.) Because there are action shooting matches like IDPA where an 11-shot 9mm has some advantages in certain areas, there are competitive shooters who like it. And the same is true in some semi-automatic pistol categories of NRA PPC shooting.
Now comes the STI Duty One 5.0 (“Five-Oh,” get it?) all-steel 1911 single-stack magazine pistol, available in .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and 9mm. GUNS’ test sample was in the latter chambering hence the need to frame up front the rationale of the 9mm 1911.
The 5.0 is an upgrade of the earlier STI Duty One, which I believe was STI’s first with a tactical rail. Rabbit Boyett, marketing manager for STI, tells me the one tested for this article is the first to leave the factory. Needless to say, we were eager to take it to the range.
The pistol is dark gray, almost flat black, finished with STI’s standard hot bluing process. Attention is immediately drawn to studs instead of grooves at the slide’s rear grasping area, which STI calls its “grid” pattern. Forward grasping grooves are very wide, almost like narrow flutes. As soon as you retract the slide, you become aware of two things: the mild degree of force required, since the recoil spring is a 12-pound Wolff, and the uniquely shaped full-length recoil spring guide, the Recoil Master. As its name implies, this dual-spring device is designed to reduce felt recoil.
The frame is forged instead of cast, an improvement over the older Duty One, which will be appreciated by traditionalists. The slide stop’s protruding stud on the right side is down almost flush with the frame, an excellent feature. Most shooters keep their finger straight on that part of the gun in a ready position, and a tightly grasping right hand can push the slide stop to the left, possibly locking up the gun. This feature prevents that.
What appears to be a Novak-style rear sight is actually a TAS, or Tactical Adjustable Sight. A grooved Patridge front gives an excellent sight picture in the generous rear notch of the TAS, but it remains a low profile unit, and certainly appears to be a durable one. Stocks are G10 Micarta, done especially for STI by Hogue, according to STI. The trigger appears to be plastic, but the company describes it as a plastic shoe atop the metal part, and the trigger is made in house. “It’s lighter,” says Rabbit Boyett of STI, “and we’ve had very good results with it.”
In keeping with today’s trends, the 5.0 has a light rail integral with the “dust cover” of the all-steel frame. For that component of testing, GUNS mated the STI to a SureFire X300 Ultra.
The pistol came with STI-marked Metalform magazines, all-stainless and dimpled down the front of the magazine body to allow for the difference in the overall length of the 9mm Luger cartridge compared to the longer front-to-back magazine most 1911s have, to allow for the longer .45 ACP cartridge. This particular modification has been attributed to world champion Rob Leatham, who has kicked butt in the Production class at Bianchi Cup with 9mm 1911s. The magazines held nine rounds, long the standard capacity for a 9mm 1911. However, we quickly learned our gun ran fine with 10-round magazines from Wilson and Metalform, though the latter were reluctant to eject.
The first five shots I fired from this gun were on the 25-yard line at my own range, minutes before proceeding to an IDPA Classifier elsewhere. The rounds were Winchester subsonic 147-grain truncated cone full metal jacket, fired 2-handed resting on the concrete bench as if shooting over an auto hood. They all landed within the head box of an IPSC target in a cluster that measured 1.40-inch from center to center of the farthest-apart shots. The best three of those hits ran a mere 0.65 inch. I was pleased: five more went quickly into the center of the silhouette, and I was off to shoot the Classifier.
I returned to the bench later with a Matrix rest, and ran the STI with 124-grain jacketed hollowpoint from a fresh batch of Black Hills. The Birchwood-Casey target’s orange aiming dot is 2 inches in diameter, and all five rounds went into a group measuring 1.60 inches for all five and 0.70 inch for the best three, all measurements being taken to the nearest 0.05 inch. Federal 9BP, that company’s famously accurate 115-grain JHP, furnished a 2.05-inch 5-shot group, with the best three measuring 0.90 inch. I use that “best three” measurement to factor out unnoticed human error, and testing has shown me that it generally approximates what the same gun/ammo combination will do from a machine rest for all five shots.
With 5-shot clusters like those, and all “best three” measurements under an inch, the STI Duty One 5.0 easily surpassed my own accuracy needs. It was icing on the cake to find out that the pistol had been sighted in to point of aim/point of impact before it left the factory. Trigger-pull weight averaged 4.6 pounds on my Lyman digital testing scale from Brownells. This is a good all-around weight for self-defense and duty use, though some prefer lighter for pure competition.
If you’re gonna test a deer rifle, it’s logical to take it deer hunting, if the hunting season and your gun magazine’s deadline both intersect. If you’re gonna test a handgun suitable for IDPA competition, well, it’s logical to test it in that arena. My original game plan had been to shoot it in the next upcoming IDPA match, a few weeks away, but then, in talking with Rabbit Boyett at STI, I came to realize that since our December 2012 testing preceded the gun’s official introduction at the 2013 SHOT Show, the 5.0 was so new it was still pending approval by IDPA (and, for that matter, USPSA). Fortunately, a new IDPA club opened on my own turf and kicked off with some IDPA classifiers, so I took advantage of the opportunity to test the 5.0 in as close a context as I could get to a “match.”
Working from a Leather Arsenal Quad Concealment holster and Blade-Tech mag carrier, I shot the 90-shot course twice, on two consecutive weekend days. I cherish the honor of having become the first IDPA Five-Gun Master in 2005, and I can tell you it’s not easy to make Master in Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP), the division in which a single-action 9mm auto such as this must compete. There are 90 shots to be fired in under 90 seconds if you expect to earn Master status, and that includes multiple draws, speed reloads, tactical reloads, shooting while moving and one spring between shooting positions. It includes strong hand only, weak hand only, and a couple of turns to face the target array, with most of that shooting done transitioning between three targets. Distances range from 5 to 20 yards. All this makes the IDPA Classifier an excellent test of a defensive pistol’s “shootability.”
Both times, I scored solid Expert tallies with the Duty One 5.0, but neither time did I crack Master level. That requires 89.41 seconds or faster for those 90 shots, including a half second added to your time for every point down from a perfect hit. To achieve that, you’ve got to be running smooth throughout. That didn’t quite happen. I bobbled twice, once each run, inserting the mag into the not-very-beveled magazine well, once enough to knock the topmost cartridge forward and really mess things up. The trigger backlash tended to pull shots to the left, and each time cost me a headshot. (The bullets would have clipped my opponent’s earring off, but wouldn’t have dynamically impacted him.) On one El Presidente reload stage, the slide failed to lock back on an empty magazine, and I had to rack the slide instead of just thumbing down the slide-stop, which testing has taught me costs the better part of a second. Better parts of seconds add up.
That said, though, I wasn’t displeased with the STI Duty One’s performance. The trigger was adjustable, and it was my fault for shooting a Classifier with only 10 rounds through the pistol before I took it to the firing line without first adjusting it to take the backlash out. On the last Classifier, there were only four points down on the demanding 20-yard stage, and only five points down on the 10-yard stage, and two down at the 7-yard other than the egregious head shot miss and, for that, since I already knew there was a backlash issue and I should have slowed down on the trigger to allow for it, I gotta say that bad shot is on me, and not the gun.
Not long after, I used the test STI as my sidearm during a carbine course. At one point on the 100-yard line, I set my AR-15 down and shot the 8-inch steel plate from prone, and got the hit with the first shot. When a new pistol can do that for me, I’m impressed.
By the end of the test we had noted distinct finish wear on the frame under the grip safety and on the edges of the light rail. It was also noted that when using the currently popular high thumbs/straight thumbs grasp, a firm grip was required to actuate the grip safety.
The made-in-USA Duty One 5.0 gets a definite “thumbs up” from this reviewer, in large part because in hundreds and hundreds of rounds of testing, it never had any sort of feedway stoppage, failure to eject, or other mechanical malfunction. The single failure of the slide to lock back on an empty magazine may have been due to the shooter using a thumbs-forward hold, with the left thumb possibly overriding the slide stop lever.
With a retail of approximately $1,330, the STI Duty One 5.0 in 9mm offers particular utility to the shooter with weakened or arthritic hands or wrists, thanks to its negligible recoil and its ease of slide operation. It comes with a light titanium firing pin and extra-strength firing pin spring to make it drop safe. I’d suggest ordering it with the optional magazine chute for faster reloads, which runs some $74 extra.
By Massad Ayoob
Photos By Joesph R. Novelozo
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