A 9mm For Extreme Conditions.
By John Taffin
In the first two installments we looked at an STI especially designed for Three-Gun Competition and a Compensated Carry 9mm. Now for this last installment we look at the third version from STI. The HEXTAC, short for Hexagon Tactical, is officially known as the HEXTAC 5.0 DS. STI says of this particular 9mm, which by the way, is also offered in .45 ACP: “When capacity and accuracy are needed in the most extreme environments, the Hex Tactical is called upon. It’s the perfect combination of the legendary STI reliability, functional style and the high capacity demanded by today’s professional.”
The version is also built on the 2011 high-capacity frame, however, unlike the others it has a more traditional looking and feeling grip pattern. The grips are black diamond checkered with a much less aggressive pattern while still giving a very secure feeling. Both the front strap and backstrap are finely checkered to add to this feeling. This pistol doesn’t shift in the hand while shooting.
The top of the slide is also flattened off as we saw on the other two models and the sights are the same as those found on the Costa Carry Comp—a Heinie Tactical Ledge fixed rear sight set low in a dovetail and secured by two hex screws mated with a red fiber optic front sight also set in a dovetail. I was able to shoot the Three-Gun pistol a little more accurately because the front sight filled in more of the rear notch, while the other two pistols leave plenty of daylight on both sides of the front sight when it is centered in the rear notch. This is purely subjective on my part and others prefer a sight set up with this much daylight showing on both sides of the front sight.
This model has a few more things in common with the other STI 9mm’s. The slide is tightly fitted to the frame with virtually no play while at the same time being very smooth and easy to operate. The tapered barrel fits into a bushing and there is also a full-length guide rod. The extended thumb safety is ambidextrous, and the magazine release button is in the normal spot on the left side behind the trigger and it also releases the magazine positively.
The “Hex” in HEXTAC comes from two things. Instead of striations on both sides of the slide in front and back to aid in easier manipulation by hand, the pattern is made up of small hexagons which give a very good gripping surface and are also quite attractive. The hex pattern is also carried out in the Commander-style hammer which instead of having a circular cutout has one hexagonal in shape. This hammer is mated with a skeletonized trigger textured in the same style on the front of its face. The trigger pull on this particular 9mm is also smooth and creep free and pull-weight measures 3-3/4 pounds. There is also a short tactical rail in front of the squared off triggerguard. Two 20-round high-capacity extended magazines are supplied.
John found the STI 9mm pistol most comfortable to shoot
and part of a most pleasing day at the range.
The HEXTAC shot very well with ammo from both ends of the price spectrum.
The target (top right) featuring SIG’s training 9mm 115-grain FMJ shot as
well and to the same point of aim as SIG’s Premium 115-grain JHP (bottom left).
Both the slide and frame are finished in Black Cerakote and as such are designed to ignore bad weather. Although produced in Texas this is not a Texas BBQ Special, but rather a real heavy-duty working pistol.
Just as with the other STI 9mm test pistols, I spent two pleasant days shooting this pistol and enjoying every moment. It shoots very easily with very little felt recoil. At the end of each shooting session, unlike heavier recoiling pistols, I was not really anxious to call it a day. As set up, the sights shot right on for windage with most loads and less than 1/2-inch low. For all practical purposes we can say the sights are dead on.
The STI Hex Tactical was tested with 14 different factory rounds with each being used in two sessions. Functioning was absolutely flawless with no failures to feed or eject. The most accurate ammunition tested, with both giving 1-inch groups at 20 yards was the SIG SAUER 115-grain JHP V-Crown at 1,261 fps and the Tech Enterprises 124-grain JHP Copper at 1,273 fps. After all the testing sessions with all three pistols it is obvious these two companies along with several others are producing very accurate ammunition. As mentioned before, there really is no practical difference between groups measuring 1-inch, 1-1/8, or 1-1/4. The SIG SAUER 115-grain FMJ target measured out at 1-1/8-inch for five shots at 20 yards with a muzzle velocity of 1,118 fps.
The RNP PolyCase Sport Utility Frangible 65-grain bulleted load clocked out at 1,622 fps while shooting to point of aim at 20 yards. This bullet is a good choice where any type of splashback could be a problem. The Herter’s and Remington Bulk Pack 115-grain FMJ loads are some of the cheapest to be found locally, averaging $10 or less for 50 rounds and they leave nothing to be desired in the accuracy department.
At my age, a tactical is most practical. As a tactical pistol, the HEXTAC, although somewhat heavy, would make a good Perfect Packin’ Pistol/Carry Gun in the proper holster on a sturdy belt, and especially when used with the flush-fitting magazine which still allows the carrying of 17 rounds. Back it up with two 20-round high-capacity magazines and you have more than a full box of 9mm loads ready for instant use. Actually, for my use I would remove the extended magazine well and use the flush-fitting magazine backed up by two of the same.
This setup would be most practical in all kinds of weather in a plastic holster and plastic mag pouches. However, I am also long past the time of my life when I want to spend much time in bad weather, so I would opt instead for a leather holster such as the Threepersons or Askins Avenger backed up with a double magazine pouch, also of leather. This combination would also allow the carrying of a full box of 9mm cartridges. Yes, the entire outfit would have some weight to it, however, it would be a most comforting weight and with use would probably also become comfortable.
The STI Hex-Tac 9mm holds a whopping 20 rounds of ammunition in
the extended magazine. The flush-fitting magazine holds three less.
For much of my adult life, the .38 Super was accepted by nearly everyone while only the very brave among us touted the 9mm. The .38 Super has been a favorite of mine for nearly 50 years. Just as with the .44 Special in a sixgun, the .38 Super is the connoisseur’s cartridge. Originally it used a 130-grain bullet at 1,300 fps. This load accomplished amazing things and was the most powerful handgun available until the .357 Magnum arrived 5 years later. Modern 9mm ammunition in modern semi-autos is not far removed from the .38 Super. With the 115+P JHP at 1,340 fps and 124-grain JHP at 1,270 fps, the 9mm does not give up anything of any practicality to the .38 Super.
As with the other STI guns tested, the HEXTAC is virtually custom made by starting with oversize parts individually fitted by a highly competent gunsmith. It also carries a lifetime warranty along with its price tag of $2,599.
Black Hills Ammunition
P.O. Box 3090
Rapid City SD 57709
Federal Cartridge Co.
900 Ehlen Dr.
Anoka, MN 55303
P.O. Box 2086
Payson, AZ 85541
41 Artley Rd.
Savannah, GA 31408
72 Pease Blvd.
Newington NH 03801
09 Texas School Rd.
Eubank, KY 42567
HEXTAC 5.0 DS
Maker: STI International
114 Halmar Cove, Georgetown
Action Type: Locked breech, semi-auto
Caliber: 9mm (tested), .45 ACP
Capacity: 17, 20
Barrel Length: 5 inches
Weight: 37 Ounces
Finish: Black Cerakote
Sights: Heinie Tactical rear, Fiber Optic front
Grip: 2011 molded black
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