Competitor's Edge

The STI DVC 3-Gun 20-Shot 9mm Keeps You In The Game

John tested the STI DVC 3-Gun with 15 9mm loads from the bench.

STI has been producing quality 9mm and .45 ACP pistols for a long time and although I have tested and evaluated dozens of semi-automatic pistols, this is my first time with an STI pistol. Actually, I have a great deal of experience with an STI .45, however it is one of the very few Single Actions which were produced by Hartford Armory and marketed by STI. Mine is an absolutely beautifully finished blued and case hardened 5-1/2-inch .45 Colt.

In spite of its rarity I decided to customize it and I had the gunsmiths at Buckhorn install a S&W adjustable rear sight and then custom make a barrel band front sight. The project was completed by the addition of ram’s horn grips. It is one of my prized possessions and will eventually go to one of the grandkids. That was then, however now is a trio of STI 9mm semi-automatic pistols I’ll cover over the year. The first one is the DVC 3-Gun version.

First a little background on STI. Their motto is “Nothing shoots like an STI!” The firm shares the following: “The STI Commitment to making some of the very finest custom quality handguns your hard-earned money can buy, goes far deeper than some plaque on the lobby wall. It is a personal responsibility of every STI employee owner to put their best into each gun leaving the building. For them it is more than a job: It is innovating and engineering to keep raising the STI standard; it is machining and handcrafting each part for a fit and finish to fit your hand with confidence; and it is the integrity to stay the course even if it means doing things differently. STI is for the discerning shooter who appreciates having the best.”

STI semi-automatic pistols are handcrafted by certified gunsmiths and must pass 30 quality checks. Rather than starting with parts which fit together easily, all of the parts utilized for building an STI semi-automatic pistol are manufactured oversize and then hand fitted to each individual pistol. This helps assure custom quality, top performance and accuracy.

Before looking at the performance of the STI DVC 3-Gun let’s take a look at its form. DVC stands for Diligenta, Vis, Celeritas (or Accuracy, Power and Speed). As its name implies this gun was built specifically for use in the pistol category of 3-Gun competition. I have absolutely no experience with 3-Gun except what I have seen on TV and I don’t know of any competitions being held in my area. It would not make any difference anyhow as I am long past the age of competing and definitely moving as fast and as agile as required for shooting such a game. However, I did simulate the use of this 9mm pistol in 3-Gun competition.

I normally test all sixguns and semi-automatics from a solid rest using targets of my own design. This gives me a very good idea of just what each pistol is capable of doing in my hands. To give me a feel for the pistol section of 3-Gun, I tested this STI 9mm by shooting rapid fire at a self-sealing 4-inch rectangular target. I had no problem staying on the target, and even when it was bouncing around, I could reacquire the sight picture very quickly. I found this to be a most enjoyable phase of testing and almost found myself wishing I could take part in a 3-Gun competition. Almost. Reality soon diminished the feeling.

Other brands of ammo shot very well (above). Inexpensive CCI Blazer delivered a fine group for John. Fired with
SIG SAUER 9mm ammunition, the STI (below) showed a marked preference for the 115-grain weight.

Looking at the STI Three-Gun starting at the slide we find some very interesting things. The rear sight is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation and is clearly marked which way to move the windage screw to attain the desired results. The back of the sight is both slanted and striated to reduce glare. It is matched up with a red fiber optic front sight mounted in a dovetail. For my eyes, the red dot shows up very nicely in the square notch rear sight.

Looking down at the top of the frame we find a flat surface and three 1/2-inch oval cuts milled out behind the front sight. The slots carry over to both sides of the slide and all nine cuts reveal the brass colored TiN-coated barrel. These slots are designed to reduce the weight on the extended slide for the 5.4-inch barrel. Altogether a most pleasing appearance.

On both sides of the rear of the slide below the rear sight and slightly to the front, we have seven flutes cut out and slanted forward for ease of operation of the slide by hand. These give a very secure feeling resulting in the slide operation being very easy to accomplish.

Slide-to-frame fit is tight with no perceptible movement and feels very smoothly fitted when the slide is operated by hand. As I have gotten older and my hands have not only taken a beating but have become more and more tender with less and less gripping power, I often find slides are not always easy to operate by hand — but this is not the case with the STI 3-Gun as the slide is easily operated. The slide finish is “Diamond-like Carbon Black.”

Pulling back the slide not only reveals the tapered barrel fitted into the bushing but also the guide rod below the barrel. The thumb safety is extended and ambidextrous and the grip safety has the beavertail shape as well as a memory bump. The hammer is Commander-style and fits into a cut out on the top of the beavertail when the gun is cocked.

The hammer is matched up with a skeletonized trigger which is set at a very smooth and creep-free 3 pounds. The extended magazine release is found in the normal position behind the trigger on the left side and when pushed the magazine drops out very positively with no hesitation.

The frame is the STI 2011 which is basically a high-capacity 1911. There is a short tactical rail in front of the triggerguard for those who would prefer to install a laser or light. The magazine well is beveled and extended and two 20-round double stack extended magazines are provided. The front of the triggerguard is squared off and checkered for those who prefer a 2-handed hold with a finger of the offhand pressed against the guard. The grips have a highly aggressive finish which completely wraps around the grip frame. This hand-stippled pattern is by Extreme Shooters of Arizona. There is no way this pattern matched up with how the relatively low recoil of the 9mm cartridge will allow this gun to twist in the hand while shooting. I found it exceptionally comfortable to shoot.

As mentioned, all of my testing except for the fun-simulated 3-Gun shooting at the rectangular block was accomplished shooting from my custom pistol rest designed and built by my friend Denis. He made it to fit me comfortably and also give a very secure rest for anything I am testing.

Fifteen factory 9mm rounds were fired in testing this particular STI 9mm. The most accurate load proved to be the SIG SAUER 115-grain JHP V-Crown which clocked out at 1,280 fps and grouped five shots into a 5/8-inch group at 20 yards. Recently Shell Shock Technologies unveiled a new lightweight, 2-piece 9mm case and Tech Enterprises sent me some samples of loaded rounds using a 124-grain JHP all-copper Full Stop bullet. These clocked out at 1,256 fps from the STI 3-Gun with five shots going into 1 inch.

These results show the ability of the STI 3-Gun 9mm to shoot a variety of loads and for those who are competing, the Blazer Brass and Herter’s 115 FMJ are some of the cheapest ammunition to be found. For those who compete or just like shooting steel, PolyCase has a new line of Sport Utility Frangible bullets, RNP Inceptor. The 9mm load has a bullet weighing 65 grains which clocks out of the DVC 3-Gun at 1,551 fps. These bullets do away with any possibility of splashback from steel targets.

The STI DVC 3-Gun has a price of $2,999 making it a pistol for those who want a custom-built, superbly accurate, and flawlessly performing 9mm high-capacity competition gun. For those who do not compete but simply want one of the best performing 9mm pistols available, this STI would be a top choice.

DVC 3-Gun
Maker: STI International
114 Halmar Cove
Georgetown TX 78628
(512) 819-0656

Action Type: Locked Breech, semi-auto
Caliber: 9mm, Capacity: 20
Barrel Length: 5.4 inches
Overall Length: 8.75 inches
Weight: 38 Ounces
Finish: “Diamond-like Carbon Black” slide, blue frame
Sights: Fully adjustable rear, fiber optic front
Grips: “DVC 2011 Black,”
Price: $2,999

Black Hills Ammunition
P.O. Box 3090
Rapid City, SD 57709
(605) 348-5150

Federal Cartridge Co.
900 Ehlen Dr.
Anoka, MN 55303
(763) 323-2300

HPR Ammunition
1304 W. Red Baron Rd.
P.O. Box 2086
Payson, AZ 85541
(928) 468-0223

Poly Case/RNP
41 Artley Rd.
Savannah, GA 31408

Sig Sauer
72 Pease Blvd.
Newington, NH 03801
(603) 418-8102

Tech Enterprises
509 Texas School Rd.
Eubank, KY 42567
(606) 423-9782

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