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Carry nirvana.  I think we all are looking for it.  You know, that “it gun” that carries really well and shoots even better, the one with the least amount of compromises.  This is where one finds an enormous amount of dissension in the firearms community.  1911 guys vs polymer, Glock vs M&P, Sig vs HK, Ford vs Chevy, Coke vs Pepsi, Papa Johns vs Domino’s…you get the point.  Then when you introduce the caliber equation into the mix it’s enough to make your head spin.

I happen to be one of those weird guys that likes guns.  Lots of different guns.  I’ve carried Glocks, HKs, M&P, and several 1911s, (and I prefer Coke and Papa Johns by the way).  I prefer the general higher capacity and lower weight of polymer, but there is nothing better than the sweet, sweet pull of a nice 1911 trigger.  Plus I prefer carrying cocked & locked.

A few years ago, a buddy that I shoot with that has a solid collection of high end 1911s got into 2011s. If you aren’t familiar with the 2011 platform, think hi-cap 1911.  It has a 2 piece modular frame with the upper part being steel or aluminum, and polymer trigger guard and grip.  I have had the opportunity to shoot several of his 2011s and recently decided to take the plunge for one of my own – the STI VIP.

Would taking attributes of the 1911 AND polymer be the best of both worlds?  Let’s find out.


MSRP $1,662.31
Calibers .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9×19
Frame STI Patented Modular Steel or
Grips Black Glass Filled Nylon Polymer
Slide Classic with STI Rear Cocking Serrations
Trigger STI Long Curved Trigger
Barrel 3.96″ Bull Barrel, Ramped, Fully Supported
Safeties STI High-Ride Beavertail Grip Safety
Single Sided Thumb Safety (Blued or
Guide Rod STI Recoil Master
Sights STI Ramped Front, STI Fixed Rear
Overall Length 6.75″
Weight Steel: 29.7 oz / Aluminum: 26 oz
Finish Blued Matte Finish (Steel)
Polished Sides of Slide (Stainless)

The VIP can be had in a number of different configurations, and chambered in 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP.  The few dealers that stock them typically have the Stainless/Aluminum models available.  I chose the 4140 carbon steel slide and the 4140 maxxell alloy steel frame.  Even with a steel/steel combination, this particular pistol empty weighs in at a respectable (for a 1911 that is) 29.7 oz, however the Aluminum setup comes in at 26 oz.  My preference was 9mm, but not wanting to wait (the standard 4 months to order one), I chose .45 ACP.

Features and Ergonomics

Glock 19 left, STI VIP right

Glock 19 left, STI VIP right

In regards to features and ergonomics, this is where this pistol will be a love/hate thing.  If you are used to a polymer double-stack, transitioning to the VIP won’t be much of a stretch.  In 9mm, it has a 15+1 capacity (my .45 ACP is 10+1) and the grip is very similar to the Glock 19.  I have average to smallish hands (7” from the base of my palm to the tip of my middle finger) and the Gen 4 Glock 19 fits my hand perfectly.  Compared to the VIP, the Glock grip is slightly more rounded (never thought you would hear that right?).

The polymer edges of the VIP grip end a little abruptly causing a rather uncomfortable edge, particularly at the front strap transition.  This was easily remedied by filing the first two rows of the grip edge down.  The mainspring housing is also a bit abrasive, but again easy to fix by taking the points off or switching out another less abrasive MSH.  Overall the grip feels really good in hand and is not overly aggressive to the point of being uncomfortable for inside the waistband (IWB) concealed carry.  I carried the VIP this summer often in nothing more than a t-shirt and cargo shorts.  No problems there.  Fully loaded, the .45 VIP is 2 lb 8 oz, whereas my fully loaded Glock 19 is 1 lb 15 oz., which isn’t too bad compared to most Glock/1911 weight comparisons.

The trigger is typical STI.  Smooth and breaks crisp, a little over 4 lbs.  The factory trigger is their standard long polymer.  There is minimal pre-travel and again, with 1911s, that can be set up to user preference.  The single-sided thumb safety is nice and wide with very positive engagement.  The high-rise beavertail grip safety is fit very well and is very comfortable in the hand.  Both safeties are stainless steel, as well as the fully supported ramped bull barrel.

The slide serrations work very well providing excellent grip, even with sweaty hands.  The mag release is a design feature that works extraordinarily well on STI’s 2011s.  I’ve shot 4 different STI 2011s and on all of them the mags drop free on their own.  No pulling or tugging.   Speaking of magazines, that is one drawback of the 2011 platform.  The VIP ships with only 1 and extra mags run $55.  Ouch.  Some 2011 magazines require tuning to run well, but both of mine were good to go out of the box.

Sights are pretty subjective, but I will admit, it was a little disappointing to see a pistol in this price range ship with a solid front sight and no tritium.  The Heinie Ledge rear is fine, but I switch all my pistols out to 10-8 Performance U-notch rears with some sort of tritium or fiber optic front for faster acquisition.

Overall build quality is superb.  STI makes some of the best production 1911s on the planet.  Bang for the buck, they are hard to beat.  Lockup is tight.  Pull the slide, and it feels like it slides on ball bearings.  Yes, that smooth.  Their guns are built like tanks and they just flat out run.  I’ve put a little over 500 rounds of mixed ammo (Federal, Winchester, and Blazer FMJ and Gold Dot JHPs) through my VIP with no failures at all.  The only one drawback (to some folks) is even though they are extremely accurate, the typical complaint is that STI guns are ugly.  Personally, I choose function over form.  I don’t mind the rollmarks but if that’s your only knock, you are missing out on some really quality guns.

As far as accuracy goes, this is another area where STIs shine.  Offhand at 7 yards, one will easily be able to shoot 2” groups or less.  The VIP balances really well and with the all-steel setup, it’s a really soft shooter, even in .45 ACP.  All of the 9mm STI 2011s I have shot are tack drivers as well.

Wrapping Up

So is the VIP carry nirvana?  That depends on what you are looking for.  It’s a heck of a nice package, a really sweet shooting hi-cap 1911 offering 10+1 of .45 ACP (or 15+1 of 9mm) and roughly the size of a Glock 19.  It carries extremely well IWB.  One drawback of the VIP is that the square trigger guard keeps it out of standard 4” 1911 holsters, however there are several holster makers that make high quality carry gear for it, Garrett Industries, G-Code, and C5 Leather to name a few.

Since I am making a lot of comparisons to the Glock 19, this will be the big sticking point with a lot of folks.  The price.  The VIP has a street price of $1,500 (then add an extra magazine or two) and you north of $1,600 with tax and shipping.  That’s 3 Glocks in your favorite flavor/size.  In the world of high(er) end 1911s, that price is the upper spectrum of production guns before you get into semi-custom (Les Baer, Ed Brown, etc) territory.  But if you are someone that loves what the 1911 brings to the table with that amazing trigger, love to carry Condition 1, but have wanted something other than the typical 7+1… the VIP might be worth a look.

More high resolution images, including a size comparison with the Glock 19 can be found in our Facebook album here.

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One Response to STI VIP

  1. Jordan November 17, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    I had an STI trigger on my gnarly (gnarly because colt workers went on strike in the 80’s so the factory was run by people ill qualified at quality control and production that got forced into positions with little training to keep production going) series 80 colt 1911… that is a lovely trigger pull if i do say so myself… I carried IT as my EDC, but decided to bail on it and buy a glock 19, and then sold that prior to leaving to Afghanistan. Being a native CT resident i didn’t want any strange laws coming out that made me a felon while i was out of country.

    Man i have to say i am totally surprised to see a “compact” 1911/2011 being recommended for a carry. And ZERO hate posted… I’ll be honest when i say, i completely deleted the mass production 1911’s from EDC options. I guess that’s too much time listening to CFS instructors lol. Unfortunately i’d have to move to a free state to enjoy the hi-cap of this fine specimen.