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STI VIP Review

When we attended Gunsite’s 250 Centennial course it seemed appropriate to only bring 1911’s.  After all, that was the design the course was based around.

With that in mind, we asked STI to provide a couple of pistols for us to review, and they accommodated us with a Trojan and a VIP.  The Trojan is reviewed separately, but the VIP was actually more interesting: billed as the “best carry pistol on the market today,”  the VIP we reviewed is a STI  2011 fiber-filled lower containing the steel chassis chambered in 9mm  and using a 13-round magazine.

One of our reviewers had planned to use an American Classics Commander at Gunsite, but that was a huge disappointment.  He reverted to a custom 9mm Colt Commander that he had brought, only to find that the sights on it were inappropriate for targets over 10 yards distant.  The VIP became his primary weapon at Gunsite, and we worked it as hard (and with as little cleaning) as everything else we shot.

A quick glance will tell you that if you favor 1911’s for their slim grips, then this model is probably not what you’re looking for.  The magazines are double-stack, allowing for capacities of 10 rounds of .45, 15 rounds of 9mm, or 12 rounds of .40 S&W.  The grip is comparable to what you find on a Glock or other high-cap pistols so the grip size probably won’t be an issue to most buyers.


Simply outstanding.  We probably put a total of 900 rounds through this over the week we had it and didn’t have a single problem.  It went bang every time.  The VIP experienced one malfunction, a failure to feed, around round 150.  A sharp tap on the magazine solved the problem.


Ergonomics were mixed:

Grip size: some reviewers liked the additional girth that this gun offered, others would have preferred a more traditional single-stack size.  Regardless, this is the primary trade-off you give up for 15 round capacity.  Here’s the grip compared with an STI Trojan:

Backstrap: the primary shooter ran into some rawness issues on his palm for the first couple of days of shooting.

It’s hard to see in the photo, but the effect was real.  And the problem was easy to identify as well: the texture on the backstrap is, well, kind of sharp.  Sharp enough to make 200-round days of shooting uncomfortable until the hand toughened up a bit.

Please note that this isn’t a huge criticism: most users won’t shoot this much, and if they do the problem will go away quickly (or some surgical tape will resolve the issue.)  It’s certainly nothing nearly as bad as a poorly fit beavertail or a sharp safety will do to a hand on the same course of fire (moleskin and surgical tape were required for those).  It stood out though: this is a superb pistol, and the choice for texturing here really confused us.

Tang ~ Other points that didn’t seem to belong on a carry pistol were the sharp edges on the bottom of the slide and the sharp tops and bottoms of the slide serrations that could use some beveling

Trigger: it’s a 1911 from STI, so this is probably the best trigger you will find on any production high-capacity pistol.

Note that the front of the trigger-guard is finished comparably to the backstrap:

Sights: the non-adjustable Trijicon night-sights worked well in both day and night courses of fire.

Tang ~ The night sights are in a Heine Straight-Eight pattern which were very fast to align.  The serrated rear face of the rear sight is also a nice touch



Build Quality: Superb.  Other than the texturing choice on some of the gripping surfaces there were no criticisms at all.  The finish was uniform, attractive, and held up well to being shoved in and out of Kydex all week.  Fit was perfect, as the above photo of the read sight helps to show.

The pistol was a bit difficult to take down, at least compared with a more traditional 1911.  I would assume some of the tightness will go away with further use, but even as-is it is quite livable.  Ed Browns are known to be a bit more painful when new, for example.

Features: the most common criticism we’ve seen online about STI firearms is the branding.  At least one user on THR, for instance, referred to the slide on STI firearms as a “billboard.”  Depending on one’s point of view this is a valid criticism — this pistol is proud of its roots:


Conclusion: Would We Recommend the VIP?

Maybe.  How price conscious are you, and are you willing to accept the trade-offs that a high capacity 1911 requires?

Build quality is top notch.  Reliability is perfect.  Recoil is light and accuracy is quite good. Trigger feel is as one would expect for a 1911, and the manual of arms is “correct” as well for those who prefer to carry cocked-and-locked.

But it retails for $1,650.  It’s hard to give it a strong recommendation when a Glock 26 offers comparable reliability, accuracy, and functionality for one-third the price.

The VIP is dependable, and is obviously intrinsically very accurate.  It is also very controllable in 9x19mm, and was extremely easy to use when performing “non-standard responses”-as many rounds in the center-mass circle as possible in the least time. I was able to provide a non-standard response that was superior to the shooter who eventually took top honors in our entire class of 60.  This was easy to evaluate, because he was shooting right beside me.  Some of this is undoubtedly left over from my infantry training, when we were prepared to fire as many rounds as needed until the threat dropped, but the controllability and accuracy of the VIP definitely contributed.

One of the best things about the 1911 platform is the slim grip, which allows a large handgun to be concealed easily.  The slim grip also is comfortable for a wide range of shooters.  If a high capacity concealable handgun is the goal, a more modern design would seem to be the obvious choice. 

Tang ~ I addressed the issues we encountered with the V.I.P., at their SHOT Show booth.with the STI crew .  They were extremely responsive and very interested in how they could improve their offering…their problem is that folks usually just come up to them and tell them how great their products are.

The aggressiveness of the backstrap checkering, the sharp slide serrations, and the sharp lower edge of the slide are things they can address easily in the production line.  I have every confidence that they really are interested in improving the V.I.P.


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2 Responses to "STI VIP Review"

  1. Mark Kilgore says:

    So which .45 1911 is the best for concealed carry for under $2000.00?
    Thanks. And thanks for the review.

  2. David says:

    Ruger makes a Nice LC 9 for concealed carry, I have one Sweet