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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Caliber: 10mm
Capacity: 8 rounds
Barrel: 5-Inch Bull
Frame: Forged Steel Frame
Finish: Polished Blued Slide; Matte Blued Frame
Sights: Fixed Front and Rear
Weight: 42oz
Very heavy 25oz recoil spring
Single-sided safety
MSRP: $1,599

Ratings (out of five stars): 
Appearance * * * *
STI does a great job on fit and finish of this gun. It’s clearly a working gun, but the nice wood grips, slide serrations, the detail of the hammer, and the bull barrel set it apart. The front strap lines are unique, and add to the general appeal of the gun, but at the cost of a solid grip surface.
Customization * * * * 1/2
It’s a 1911, probably the most customizable pistol platform in the world. There isn’t a lot you can’t change on this gun with aftermarket parts. Only a rail and a threaded barrel would have added that last half star.
Reliability * * * * 1/2
The gun ran flawlessly with everything but one type of ammo. And then had no failures to feed or eject, it just didn’t lock the slide back. I measured the American Eagle rounds, and they were slightly longer than every other round I fired, and they certainly shot with a much lower point of impact with a wider spread.  Since I can’t test it with other guns right now, I’m taking half a star off. But the bottom line is that I’d trust this gun with my life, or even more seriously, with the shot of a lifetime on a hunt. Any day.
Accuracy * * * * *
No question here, the gun shoots exceptionally well. That 25oz recoil spring is heavy, and does its job well. Even with some of the hotter rounds on the market, the gun stays level in fast fire and prints groups better than I can shoot with lesser guns.
Overall * * * * 1/2
For the role of my perfect truck pistol this is a great gun. I’d like this to be a five-star gun, and with a different front strap and a grip change it would be. It’s got all the accuracy, reliability, and ability to conceal I need for this role, and I wasn’t surprised to find out the Nitro 10 is one of STI’s better-selling guns. It’s going to be hard to beat.

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45 Responses to Gun Review: STI Nitro 10 10mm 1911

  1. I have had a Colt Delta Elite since they first came out along with the original Hornady hot ammo, 170 grains at 1350 FPS with 631 pound feet of energy. It is flawless in operation and super accurate. I have always been a fan of the 10mm. Ballistically it is the semi auto version of a .357 magnum but with heavier bullets. It does get the job done.
    My dilemma is that I can never decide what to carry on my Texas hill country ranch—10mm, .45 ACP, .480 Ruger Super RedHawks (7-1/2″ target gray), or my short little .410 single shot shotgun (perfect for rattlesnakes and copperheads).

  2. Good review. Thank you. I’m eager to read your reviews of the other guns you listed.

    I thought very highly of the FNX 45. GREAT pistol. Similarly, I’ve fired my brother’s EAA Witness .45 full size and loved it. I’d like to pick up a Witness 10mm soon, but the Sig P220 10mm looks extremely promising despite it’s single-stack capacity next to the 15-rnd Witness.

  3. A little outside the norm, but have you considered the Coonan 357 Mag? The round is every bit as useful (if not more so), and it’s mostly a 1911. Also, when you mention the EAA, are you looking at the Witness Hunter, or one of the traditional DA/SA offerings?

    I’m following your quest with quite a bit of interest, as I’m looking to replace my 460 Rowland with something a bit more useful day-to-day, and with something not nearly as finicky to feed. Thanks for the work, and keep the articles coming!

  4. If you’re having trouble with a 25oz recoil spring you need to hit the gym…and think about putting in a recoil spring that’s more than a pound and a half 😉

    • Hopefully the mighty 10mm doesn’t blow the slide off the frame under recoil with that 25oz spring.

      😀

      • Hah!

        For anyone else reading this who doesn’t understand the humor, the author should have stated that the pistol has a 25 POUND (not ounce) recoil spring.

    • That’s a pretty heavy recoil spring. Add some sweat / sunscreen / blood / gun lube into the mix and it takes a healthy grip to grasp. Our drill instructors used to punish us by holding M16A2s at arms length. We had to hold the front sight with our left fingers and the charging handle pulled to the rear with our right fingers. After putting on crappy sunscreen. That’s wasn’t easy. Thankfully I never petered out and dropped and M16. Others weren’t so lucky.

      At any rate, a slide that’s easy to rack under great conditions might be a whole lot less so under adverse conditions.

  5. Like it. Can definitely see – for that specific role – a 1911 being better suited than the G20, with the inherent increased accuracy of a 1911 (especially with that bull barrel) and a better trigger. Those groups at 25 yds are pretty impressive. Gotta love STI. Definitely comes at a cost, but sounds like it’s going to get a lot of use.

    On my side of the country, the same thing would be accomplished by a good .357 wheelgun. Stuff just don’t grow that big out here – and from what I hear, everything is Big in TX.

  6. Isn’t a truck gun for emergencies? In an emergency you don’t want any challenge in hunting or self defense.

      • ^ This.

        A 180 to 200 grain .40 caliber hardcast lead bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1300+ fps is way more effective than a 230 grain .45 caliber bullet (of any construction) with a muzzle velocity of 850 fps — when we are talking about dropping boar, feral hogs, and deer.

        Will .45 ACP kill a boar or feral hog? Eventually … and will typically require multiple shots. I believe the author is looking for something with a much higher probability of dropping swine/deer with one shot — and dropping them quickly. In that application 10mm is better than .45 ACP.

        • Well, .45 ACP +P pushes 185 grain JHP to around 1150 FPS or so, depending on load. That’s around 540 FPE. An adventurous hand loader could go a bit hotter. Still, definitely not as hot as 10mm.

        • Accur81,

          The problem with 185 grain jacketed hollow points is that they don’t penetrate very far on a tough animal such as a boar or feral swine. And that means they won’t put an animal down quickly — where quickly means within a few seconds. All the evidence that I have found says you need penetration to drop tough animals. The beauty of a .40 caliber (10 mm) hardcast lead bullet is that it not only penetrates (easily three feet), but it also makes a really large hole (on the order of 3/4 inches) in the process.

          At close range (say 15 yards), a .45 caliber 185 grain jacketed hollow point might put a smaller deer down quickly. But get out much further and you are going to be tracking it for a while.

        • If that is what he wants to do then get a S&W .500. Kills the boar and field dress the deer. Bah HA HA

  7. After shopping for a 10mm and buying the wrong one first, I ended up with a Dan Wesson Razorback. They also notoriously have a last-round-in-the-mag problem, but it’s easily fixed. With a 26# recoil spring and the ramped barrel it’s 100% reliable with my 180gr./1320fps loads and doesn’t destroy brass like a Glock or conventional barrel.

    You knew the Ten guys would be on this like flies on scat, right?

      • Nope. They just have MORE money to spend. “Too much money” is a paradox.

        If I could afford it, my truck gun would be a M2.

        • Now there is an idea—I do not have the mount for placing my ma deuce on my truck so I guess I will just keep it on the M3 tripod. Oh well.

  8. There is one weakness with the author’s application: those 10mm 180 grain hardcast bullets with a 1300+ fps muzzle velocity are capable of passing through THREE humans if the author ever had to use that firearm for self-defense. Thus, the author would have to switch back-and-forth between hunting ammunition and self-defense ammunition (hollowpoint bullets … and either lighter bullets or slower muzzle velocities).

    While changing magazines is easy enough, unchambering and rechambering appropriate rounds is a tiny hassle … and could eventually set the bullets too far in their casings if done to the same cartridges repeatedly.

    Personally, I would consider one dedicated truck gun and one dedicated self-defense gun.

    • “Capable of passing through three humans”
      I wonder how many walls the same load would pass through, if you had to use the gun in a DGU at home?
      Kinda scary!
      If I built a house around this gun, I would use 2×12’s, and put them on 1 1/2″ centers!

      • older post BUT too much Hollywood TV/Movie thinking. Three Walls, having 1/2″ gypsum drywall, Wall #1 two layers 1/2″ gyp board (each side 2×4), placed ten feet away is … Wall #2- having two layers 1/2″ gyp board & two layers 1/4″ paneling (layer gyp and paneling each side 2×4), …. then another ten feet placed Wall #3- two layers 1/2″ gyp board & two layers 18ga. sheetmetal <older construction used REAL metal ducts instead of soft tubes or rigid duct board for a/c ducts,,besides it's more of 'worst case' scenario for penetration Test. EVERY HANDGUN CALIBER,, from 32acp through 454 Casull went through ALL THREE WALLS WITH NO SIGN OF STOPPING. The lowly 22-lr penetrated W#1 and managed to punch hole in two layers 1/2" gypsum drywall before being stopped by second layer wood paneling. People don't compare well, so heed Rule Gun Safety which is often listed LAST; however, when shooting a handgun, best you know your target AND what's behind the Target. Anyone reading this in 2017 or later,, this is FACT, testing done as described. davzway
        ps: Hollow Point ammo used exclusively, thirty years ago, handgun bullets had hollow point cavity fill with whatever material it was shot, then penetrated like Ball ammo. This Testing was done separately using plumbing clay, drywall, rocklath, hollow core interior doors, heavy clothing, etc etc.
        pps: Silvertip ammo was used for 45acp ammo in Three Wall penetration test (flattened out to quarter size after first wall, shedding pieces of soft ‘aluminum ?’ jacket on soft lead bullet was good for expansion but Required special care to ensure end of bullet was not damaged to prevent feeding jambs (another story entirely).

      • Yep. Got my first box of .45 Super brass and a 28# spring in the mail 10 minutes ago. Love the 10mm, but it’s not the last word in flexibility.

    • Their SMG rounds are the only things out there that are good factory hunting rounds from the .45acp. But it’s a pretty high pressure round.

  9. Any of you guys have REAL WORLD experience with 10mm for hunting? I have been looking at 10mm as a shorter range but lighter replacement for a 45LC ruger blackhawk. If anybody has taken down something with 4 legs I would like to hear about the situation (animal, range and results).

  10. I use Underwoods 165 jhp for social work fall/winter. They are tried and true real 10mm at best prices. G20 Gen 3 Fullsize a super soaker with recoil.

  11. If you can carry a full sized pistol and 357 magnum is an option, why not a S & W m327 or m627 pc? You get 8 rounds, adjustable sights and they make a short barrel version and a full sized version, plus, STI’s MSRP make them seem like a budget alternative!

  12. I’m in the market for a 10mm also, same reasons as Jon. what the story on the delayed release of Glock’s G-40.

  13. Why not check out a 460 rowland conversion. Go with a glock 21 or a 1911 and pack the extra barrel and spring. 45 acp for carry. The rowland for when things get serious.

  14. I have same problem and settled on S&W TRR8. It’s light enough to carry well and the full moon clips allow for easy ammo swap from hard to soft targets. It also gives you 2 rails for extras if you so desire.

  15. In regards to your further testing, you absolutely must make sure that when you test the witness 10mm you test the “elite match” version if you want 1911 style manual of arms or the “limited/stock” or something to that effect for da/sa. The base witness is a (quality) budget gun but is apples to oranges compared to the STI and other higher end guns that you’re testing.

    Tanfoglio makes an incredibly wide range of price/quality and you owe it to yourself to try out the elite match.. it is way underpriced for what it is, as well, but still much nicer than base model witness.

    This is a must!

  16. Apologize for the late comment- just reading this review. My father still has the Gen1 G20 he carried out to Alaska when he moved there 22 years ago, and we both currently carry Gen4’s. Already has dual recoil springs, just add trijicon night sights, and 3lb triggers, (both do it yourself jobs) and for $600 you can have 15/16 rnds that will go every time you tell them to. I had a bad experience with a Kimber TLE 10mm, two trips to a local gunsmith, and it was still FTF at least once per mag. The P220 Match Elite is reliable and accurate, however heavy, and holds 8….How much more accurate does it need to be to justify giving up half of your avail round count? The “silver back”, nitro, and Delta, similar in my experience and I currently or have had them all. Intentionally left out the EAA witness…because you dont want to get me started.
    In reference to the .45 vs 10mm- My step-brother was in the unfortunate enough circumstances, that he had to shoot a black bear, when it stumbled into the 25 person camp they had set up on a dock welding job. First mag put it up a tree, and it took a second to get it back down- On a snowmobiling trip, Ive run into a moose walking down a stream- 12ft banks on either side, and he decided I was the easiest way out- with the G20 and 220g Buffalo Bore, he had stopped moving after 4 rounds, and if my adrenaline hadnt been going Im not sure the 3rd or 4th were necessary. Im not looking at charts, or measuring things on a ballistics chronograph- however I can tell you in real world application, there is no comparison. And according to “Tactical Life” the average 10mm round has over two and a half times that of a .45 acp.
    I agree anyting in 10mm is not the perfect all around gun, but I dont believe that there is. I think a G20SF would be the closest- however I think familiarity, time at the range, and good sound common sense, could make any 9mm more effective in the right hands than any 10mm in the wrong ones.

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