After testing the GLOCK 20 I’m still auditioning candidates for my perfect truck pistol: a handgun I can use for concealed carry self-defense and hunting game. Before reviewing the latest contender – the STI Nitro 10 10mm 1911 – I want to address an issue raised by TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia: why not a truck rifle and a handgun? As many readers pointed out, a rifle is almost always the better choice for taking game. But there are a lot of reasons to hunt with a pistol instead . . .
For one thing, handgun hunting is more challenging. If hunting wasn’t about the challenge, I’d use a suppressed AR chambered in 6.8SPC for any game animal in Texas and call it a day. I’ve taken every kind of native game – and many invasive and exotic species – using that combination. But hunting is about the challenge. You have to level-up your skills to hunt with a pistol.
Handgun hunting with a pistol is sometimes more practical than a rifle. I do a lot of my pig hunting on private land around the Brazos River valley where it’s nothing but pines and thickets. Getting an SBR or lever action carbine through the dewberry thickets is pretty difficult. Maneuvering with a scoped rifle is hopeless. Shots are usually within 20 yards on groups of moving pigs through the brush. That’s where the pistol really shines.
There are also times when I go straight from in-town to hunting, and from hunting back to town, occasionally stopping at the local Dairy Queen (only God can judge me). I may be in my truck or I may be in someone else’s vehicle. Most of the time I’m wearing a pair of Fighter Design pants, a short-sleeve button down shirt and a ball cap. A handgun is a perfect complement to my ensemble. A slung rifle, not so much.
I’ve taken game with everything from 9X19 to .475 Linebaugh. 9mm isn’t enough bullet to humanely take game. Yes, it can be done. I shot my last big pig using a 9mm fired from my Wilson Combat WC92FS. It took three shots from a total of 15 feet away. Two were head shots, one right through the eye. [See: above] But I can’t count on coming across a pig running alongside my truck. When loaded heavy with hard cast rounds, 10mm delivers plenty of stopping power in brush hunting range on deer, pigs, and coyotes. Hence this test of the STI Nitro 10.
The STI Nitro 10 is a 5” full-framed 1911. I carry a 1911 every day – an STI at that – so I’m familiar with their single stack offerings. This pistol looks big, but in raw size it really isn’t bigger than any government model 1911. I wore it around for a day of shooting and in town. I was able to conceal it in my daily wear without any issues. I holstered the pistol in this photo in an El Paso Saddlery IWB holster.
At 42 ounces, the Nitro 10 is one heavy pistol. That makes the Texas-built handgun less than ideal for daily carry. (My well-worn Colt Combat Elite weighs in at 36 ounces.) For occasional carry the Nitro 10 works well enough. In terms of soaking-up recoil from 10mm cartridges, the gravitationally-challenged firearm works really well. I shot the STI much faster and stayed on target better than I did with the lighter weight, easier-to-carry GLOCK. Working the dueling tree I had very little difficulty hitting the 5 1/2 inch plates shooting once a second at the 25 yard line.
At least I didn’t for a while. As the day wore on, the Texas temp hit 97 degrees. The grooves on the STI Nitro 10’s front strap didn’t do much to hold my fingers in place, leading to some wiggle during the faster strings of fire. I would much prefer traditional checkering or the heavy square checkering on the STI duty series.The STI’s stock wood scales pretty up the frame, but I’d prefer a more aggressive grip. [STI says they’ll make the change later next year.]
The good news: the grip serrations on the Nitro 10’s slide are deep and wide. Even when my hands got sweaty and the gun was hot from baking in the sun, the grooves still gave me a great grip on the slide. It’s an especially welcome feature considering the gun’s 25 pound recoil spring. I would also swap the front sight to a fiber optic front sight (e.g., Dawson Precision sights). The rear sight is perfect, and the stock front sight is good for target work. Under the low-light of many hunting conditions the flat black rear sight would disappear on a dark pig.
The STI Nitro 10’s off-the-bench accuracy was excellent; I was getting 1.3 inch groups at the 25 yard line with factory HST ammo. Kneeling shots with Double Tap ammo were almost as good at 2.” Even more importantly, standing groups at 25 yards were closer to four inches. When hunting I’m usually kneeling or have the gun supported. If I’m in danger, I’m moving. So while the 6″ standing groups with the GLOCK are OK, 4″ groups with the STI Nitro 10 are great.
Moving back to the 50-yard line and shooting off my truck or a tree, I was striking the 5 1/2 inch plates 14 out of 20 times in slow fire with heavy Buffalo Bore ammo. That’s enough accuracy should a fat doe fail to pay enough attention on my drive out to a blind in the fall.
I had no reliability issues shooting HST, Hornady, or Buffalo Bore and Double Tap ammunition. I experienced no hiccups or failures of any kind during the 120 rounds I put through the gun with those brands. I did, however, have one consistent problem with the box of 50 American Eagle FMJ rounds.
Every single time I ran a magazine with these rounds the slide failed to lock back on the empty magazine. But only with these rounds. The American Eagle cartridges also delivered a less consistent point of impact, shooting much larger groups, as far as 5″ totals at the 25 yard line. This was usually due to one or two extreme flyers in each magazine. I don’t have another 10mm right now to test with these rounds to see if they do the same in another gun, or if this gun just doesn’t like them.
Speaking of ammo, 10mm was surprisingly difficult to find in the Austin area. That’s not a big problem; I’d certainly roll my own using the heavier 200 grain bullets. What is a concern: magazine availability.
STI sent me the pistol to test very quickly – without a magazine. They apologized and promised to have one right out to me. Then I did a dumb thing. I told them not to worry about it, I’d find my own. I didn’t want to wait the two days it would take them to ship me one. It took me two weeks before I finally found a pair of Colt 10mm magazines. My advice to anyone buying a 10mm 1911: pick-up a few spare magazines when you buy your gun, as you should with any firearm.
The Nitro 10 shoots well, and tames the hotter 10mm loads. Although it’s heavy, the Nitro 10 conceals just as well as any Government 1911. I’m not surprised I like a 1911 style pistol for this role, but I’m going to keep looking. I’m looking at a K Frame-sized .357 Magnum, the EAA Witness in 10mm, the SIG 10mm and the FNX in .45ACP. I’m open to suggestions, but so far, the STI Nitro 10 is the gun to beat.
Specifications – STI Nitro 10
Capacity: 8 rounds
Barrel: 5-Inch Bull
Frame: Forged Steel Frame
Finish: Polished Blued Slide; Matte Blued Frame
Sights: Fixed Front and Rear
Very heavy 25oz recoil spring