The single stack STI Duty One 4.0 in .45ACP with an aluminum frame [not shown] is my everyday carry gun. That firearm changed my mind about the accuracy and reliability of sub 5″ 1911s in general, and the reliability of aluminum-framed guns in specific. Despite my faith in STI’s ability to build a smaller. lighter 1911 that puts lead where I want, when I want, every time I want, I’ve never shot an STI double stack in 9mm. I was put off by the idea of a gun with a big fat grip on a 4″ slide. But so many people I know – good shooters and highly competitive shooters – deploy an STI double stack in 9mm as their workhorse gun. So when TTAG asked me if I would put the STI Tactical DS 4.0 9mm through its paces, it was deja vu all over again . . .
Right off the bat, I realized I was being ergonomically siezist. That Tactical DS 4.0’s grip looks fat, but it doesn’t feel fat. More objectively, it doesn’t measure fat; it’s only 1/4 of an inch in diameter larger than the single stack version. I can feel the difference, but just barely. The STI gun’s side grips are injection-molded glass filled polymer with steel inserts. STI claims they reduce felt recoil and weight while maintaining strength.
No matter how you slice it, the Tactical DS 4.0 isn’t a particularly lightweight firearm. Tipping the scales at 38 oz., the DS weighs roughly the same as my 5″ steel-framed Colt Combat Elite. But STI was right about the recoil. Not to get ahead of myself, shooting this gun fast feels like cheating. Standing at 25 yards I shot rounds at a little less than once a second and scored a sub 4″ group. And those were my very first shots out of this gun.
The DS’ controls are well laid out and easy to manipulate. The slide serrations are big, deep, and effective. The trigger breaks light and clean.The grip is a little different, but for me, that difference was a blessing. I played around with the flat and squared trigger well for finger position. After trying a few different ways, I settled into my traditional 1911 grip. It worked.
The STI Tactical DS 4.0 has a large flared mag well that makes magazine changes fast and easy. I’ve recently switched to reloading in front of my face, instead of closer to my belt. The flared magazine well helps me keep my eyes on my target, not on my gun. But it does put a big damper on concealed carry comfort. In my El Paso Saddlery IWB holster, the mag well digs into my side and prints like crazy. Drift a pin out and pop it off and the gun hides like any full-framed 1911.
This STI Tactical DS 4.0 came with a single 120mm, 10-round magazine. I looked online and you can buy the same size, flush fit, magazine in 10 or 15 round sizes. I suspect this has something to do with immoral and unconstitutional laws in some states. If I could only go with 10 rounds I’d run a single stack. For those of you in the “more is more” category, you can also acquire multiple length magazines from STI, all the way up to 26-rounders. A friend of mine who is a competitive shooter brought over some 20-round mags. Be aware: the temptation to keep shooting this thing until you’re out of ammo is quite high.
But it’s the DS’ balance that stands apart from lesser firearms; its easy to keep the gun still while moving and shooting. In fact, STI’s DS 4.0 points so well and falls back on target so quickly that the sights were often back on target faster than my eyes could register it. The run-and-gun game with this pistol doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. This is what this gun was made for. Walking and shooting put a big ol’ goofy grin on my face. Within 15 minutes of my first shots I texted RF: “This isn’t a pistol. It’s a sewing machine.”
I shoot guns that are fun to shoot more than the guns that aren’t. I found myself going over my intended round count pretty quickly with this one. After the first 500 rounds of Winchester 115 gr. FMJs, without a single hiccup, I put 100 rounds of Blazer 115 gr. FMJs through it. Then a box each of Federal 124gr. Hydra-Shock, Winchester PDX1 124gr. +P and Winchester Ranger 124gr. +p. No cleaning, no lube, no issues at all.
After all that, I wanted to shoot for accuracy. That’s where things got a little strange . . .
Off a bag, my first groups at 25 yards measured three inches. I knew the gun would shoot a lot better than that. When I shoot a pistol off a bag, I usually press the trigger guard into the bag, driving the gun both down and forward into the bag. That gives me a very still gun for grouping. I noticed that the STI Tactical DS 4.0 jumped a bit with each shot when I shot it that way, and it pushed back pretty hard on my support hand. So I just set the gun down on the bag with the magazine pressed straight down into the bag. I was well rewarded. Every group was under two inches, and a few half that. Not bad at all.
I’m not sure why, but I found myself driving this gun down a bit too much. The sights returned to the target all on their own quite well, the gun timed itself. But for some reason I found it hard to quit pressing the sights too far back down, to the detriment of my strings.
As you can see with my first shots out of the gun my shots travel down and left over and again with each magazine change. This is a problem I often get when trying to shoot too fast, but I was doing it with this gun in what was relatively slow fire, with a gun serving-up minimal recoil. I didn’t have this same problem shooting single handed. In this manner, the gun recoiled straight up, and minimally at that.
Just for fun, I picked up my Wilson Combat Beretta 92G and ran them side by side. I’m actually much more familiar with the 92 series than I am a 1911, as the 92 was my service pistol. There’s no real comparison in the results. Using the exact same ammunition, the STI Tactical DS 4.0 is twice as accurate and noticeably faster than the Wilson Combat full-zoot Beretta 92G. The 92 series is a fine service pistol, and WC’s version of the 92G is how it should have been done in the first place. But I would have chosen to deploy with this STI over that WC92G any day.
This particular DS 4.0 was shipped to Sportsman’s Finest with Heine sights – which I love – but not Heine Tritium night sights. Guns intended for or marketed toward combat or self defense should come standard with night sights. If not Tritium, they should at least be super bright fiber optic sights that shine in any light. (I prefer the ones made by Dawson Precision.) Unless you can guarantee all of your gun use will be in bright light, you’d better have a gun prepared for the dark.
My other issue: the thread count on the end of the barrel. It’s zero. If you put the word “tactical” on a firearm, please make the standard model supressor-ready. I’m getting a little tired of buying “tactical” pistols only to have to ship them off to Bar-Sto, spend more money and wait to have it done right.
That would be particularly difficult here; the DS is a bull-barreled bushingless model. I’m at not always the sharpest tool in the shed (a bit of surface rust has formed at this point as well) but will someone knowledgable please tell me why all modern 1911’s aren’t like this? The STI 4.0 requires no barrel wrench, and no bushing at all. The ones I’ve fired tend to be quite accurate. To be fair, they’ve all been on high-end guns. And no, I did not require any tools at all to disassemble and reassemble this gun. Which you’ll want to do quickly ’cause shooting it such a blast.
That’s no small thing. An everyday carry gun should shoot well, shoot fast, shoot reliably and make you want to shoot just for the sheer fun of it. Check, check, check and double-check. There’s only thing I can really criticize about the STI Tactical DS 4.0: it’s a pretty pricey shooting iron. For two grand I’d like a suppressor-ready gun with standard night sights. With those changes, I’d make the STI Tactical DS 4.0 my EDC pistol. There’s no higher compliment than that.
SPECIFICATIONS: STI Tactical DS 4.0
Barrel length: 4.15″
Full Length Tactical/Accessory Rail
Material: Steel frame; Cerakote finish
Sights: Heine fixed rear, ramped front
Tactical flared mag well
Weight: 38 oz empty
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * *
Most people think the DS looks cool and mean. I think it’s prettier than a GLOCK, but a long way from a Cabot. The DS’ finish is fine. Black and flat like it’s supposed to be.
Accessories * * * * *
This is an extremely customizable platform. Just take a gander online at all of the things people have done to the 2011 platform. Grips, sights, hanging lights and lasers off that rail, changing the trigger, magazine well can be changed or removed, change magazine base pads and magazine lengths, it goes on and on. You could even have different length slides fit for the frame.
Reliability * * * * *
Whatever your measure of reliability is, this gun is it. I put 700 rounds through this gun in a hurry with zero malfunctions of any kind, and it still shot great groups. I never cleaned it.
Accuracy * * * *
This category should be split in two. At the rest, the gun shoots very well. Sub 2-inch groups were the norm. At this price point, I would expect it to shoot that. But at speed, the gun shoots exceptionally well. Ridiculously well. In fact, it’s hard to slow-fire; it’s just so rewarding to shoot fast.
Overall * * * *
The gun is ideal – perhaps unbeatable – for rapid, accurate shots under pressure – whether that’s self-defense of competition. One star withheld for being a “tactical gun” that lacks night sights and a suppressor-ready threaded barrel.