Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 10 + 1 (120mm) - 14 + 1 (140mm)
Frame: Full Length 2011 STI Frame
Barrel: Bull Barrel with Wilson / Nowlin Ramp
Sights: STI Adjustable Match Rear - Dovetail Front
Guide Rod: STI RecoilMaster (Dual Spring)
Cost: $1994 MSRP (~$1750 Retail)
Last year I decided to start saving up my pennies for a big ticket 1911 since it was the 100th Anniversary of it's service in the US military. About two months prior to buying the Edge I persuaded myself to seek out a "2011 for 2011". It was a random trip to Red's North in Pflugerville that pushed me over the edge (pun intended). The price was right, and it was kinda cool buying a gun no more than 15 minutes from where it was made. Especially given that STI's lead times have been steadily growing in the past year, no doubt due in part to the 1911's anniversary.
The Frame & Slide
The STI Edge has a full length modular double-stack frame. The lower half and trigger guard are attached to the load bearing steel sub-frame which allows you to change colors, texture, size, without having to take a bandsaw to your fitted and serialized steel frame.
Here's a picture of the individual steps taken in constructing the 4140 steel alloy sub-frames to better give you an idea of how it works.
The slides are milled from 4140 steel alloy billets in the same manner as seen here.
Once completed the frame and slide are hand fitted on their way to the gunsmiths for final assembly.
The slide itself features chamfered edges and both front and rear cocking serrations. The breech faces are EDM cut for a true square facet which is paramount in maintaining proper head and hood spacing. The ejection ports are very low and extremely wide which helps let those big .45 ACP casings clear the slide even if you get lazy extraction.
The polymer frame is lightweight and follows the same grip angle and feel of the 1911. It's a tad wide for those of you with small hands, but I find the more rounded STI frame to be far superior to the Para frame which is more similar in shape to a brick with the edges ground off. The width of the frame is 32mm, compared to 30mm in a 9mm or .40 caliber Glock, but the depth from back to front is 50 - 55mm, whereas a Glock 34 is 50 - 58mm.
It's finished out with an STI magazine well. The frame itself has a small magazine well, but it comes with a supplemental aluminum well. The shear size of it makes magazine changes easy and careless and it also helps give you a more positive index on the gun with your primary hand, similar to a hilt on a sword.
With the mag-well on the gun the 120mm magazines are flush. If you take it off the 120mm magazines will extend a small amount. I have ordered two extra 140mm magazines which should extend almost an inch from the bottom of the well and give me another 4 rounds of capacity.
Individual items are generally gold wire EDM cut in house at STI. Less wear prone items are cut from titanium, but sear components are cut from very hard tool steels to ensure maximum longevity. This is paramount in maintaining a trigger's pull weight and consistency over the life of the pistol. The trigger in my Edge is a bit heavier than most of the other STIs I've owned or shot at around 3.5 lbs, but it is extremely precise and crisp. If there is one thing I do not tolerate in a 1911 it is creep ... this is a large reason why I stick to STIs and other quality 1911 makers.
The barrel is 416 steel and has 6 lands and grooves that are button cut and air gauged for consistency. The .45 ACP chambering is pretty finicky about geometry and overall smoothness into and out of the chamber. To facilitate this STI does a few things to the barrel. The first is a mirror polished feed ramp, the second is a "SWC cut" to the hood, the third is a blended throat extending up about 60% the side of the chamber from the ramp, and the forth is chamfered corners at the hood.
The chamber is also fully supported which yields more consistent brass life and greater safety since it supports the entire case. The vast majority of guns out there don't offer this, and in the event of a case failure the gas blows out the unsupported section (by the feed ramp) and generally blows the magazine out of the gun and sometimes cracks or grenades the frame. This isn't a 100% safeguard, but I'll take what I can get, especially with .45 ACP being prone to bullet setback and also being a reloader.
Recoil System (and Take-Down)
Most people are afraid of bushingless guns because of the take down. They hear special tool and multiple steps and give you this glazed over look. The RecoilMaster setup is a dual spring recoil system designed to reduce felt recoil and return the sights faster. The downside is that you need a small plastic tool to take the captured assembly apart, however, it's only a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.
STI gives you two with the pistol so it's wise to keep one in the pistol box and one in a safe spot you'll remember. To take down the gun all you do is push the slide back, remove the cross pin and slide the upper assembly off. From there you just push the guide rod end forward (towards the muzzle) and snap the plastic stopper in place. You can now take the entire captured assembly out by sliding it out towards the breech and maybe twisting it depending on where you put the stopper. Then you flick the link down and pull the barrel out the front. It's easier than people think it is and alot safer than launching eyeball seeking recoil springs and spring stops out of your favorite bushing gun.
The gun also features an ambidextrous safety, lightweight hammer, and adjustable target sights. The full "high-grip" beavertail is an important feature for anyone that uses a proper grip with the 1911. Originally the 1911 was designed at a time where one handed shooting and a thumbs-down grip were taught, thus the grip safety worked as advertised. However as techniques progressed the high "thumbs forward" grip was devised to control recoil and muzzle flip using both hands and equal pressure. What this does is place the center of your hand over the grip safety and this can cause insufficient depression of the safety; a big issue and certainly a brown moment if you need it to go bang! The solution was to add material at the base of the safety to better engage your hand with a high grip.
Lock-Up and Fit
The Edge has exceptional lock-up and fit. I've handled several high end 1911s that were so tight that it was a miracle that they even operated in the first place. There is really no reason for the gun to be that tight. I feel that STI is one of the best manufacturers in the slide to frame fit department. They not only provide an exceptionally tight fit, but the gun itself is GLASS smooth. You can literally hear how smooth the action is, it's something I have not been able to find with the same consistency from another maker. The barrels are hard chromed which probably helps, but the raceways on the slide are almost mirror polished.
How does it shoot?
The gun is one hole accurate ... hands down. I can drill 1" x 1" holes in the target at 7 yards with a .45 caliber bullet. I can do the same with my Glock, but at the same time the Glock takes considerably more effort and concentration. The Edge makes shooting easy. The heavy weight, the crisp trigger, and the large amount of "real estate" make the gun very pleasurable to shoot.
The RecoilMaster setup makes the recoil impulse feel "stagey" for lack of a better term. There seems to be a bit of feedback as the second spring is engaged, or at least that is what my brain is telling me I am feeling. The entire recoil impulse is a nice lazy push ... something that .45 ACP is famous for and the reason why I enjoy shooting it (besides the big holes it puts in things). I'm still not completely sold on the dual-spring setup, but it seems to be wearing in a bit and getting smoother. I'll have to put another 1000 rounds through it and see how it ages.
Compared to a single stack 1911 it's a different experience. They are so similar, but completely dissimilar at the same time. It's hard to explain, but I feel like I have more control over the slimmer 1911, but I get better recoil control and trigger feedback from the 2011.
Accuracy wise I can visually see the accuracy of the STI over any of my Glocks that I own. Mechanically you'd have to put them out to 25 or 50 yards to see a major difference but the long sight radius, the extra weight, the 25 lpi checkering, and the awesome trigger make it much more repeatable in my hands. That's the physical benefit to the platform over the lightweight polymer guns. It's more forgiving for sure.
Reliability so far has been awesome. Not a single malfunction, but it's a small sample of rounds to date. I suspect it will be a reliable gun down the road as well. I do need to try out some various reloads through it, including JHPs, to see how it functions with a broad variety of power factors and OALs.
The only complaint so far is that the OEM magazine doesn't like Winchester OALs. I've had it bind up 3 times using WWB ammo due to the nose of the bullet dragging on the magazine body. Maybe I'll measure all the OALs of the box and see if it's the ammo or the mag itself. I know ammo quality has tended downwards in the past 5 years it seems.
The 25 lpi checkering is a god send in the middle of a Texas summer. My Glocks feel like a greased pig in this weather. Time to get out the skate tape again.