Answering the siren’s call of the 2011
Thursday, November 09, 2017
My wife and I started competition shooting as a way to increase our shooting skills for our law enforcement day (and night) jobs. We kept our competition gear as close to our "duty" gear as possible, and for five years I resisted the 2011 siren's call.
As our proficiency grew, so did my appetite for all the fancy "competition" gear I saw at the range or every time I flipped through a shooting magazine. My pump Remington 870 gave way to a Benelli M2 heavily customized by Jeff Cockrum at C-Rums. My Stag Arms AR-15 Patrol Rifle with Aimpoint morphed into a JP Enterprises with Swarovski 1-6x scope. Even my trusty Glock was upgraded to a 17L model with extensive modifications by Fire-4-Effect in El Paso, Texas.
The 2011 bug still whispered in my ear. After competing in a 3-Gun Nation Shoot-Off event, I witnessed the top three shooters utilize the 2011 platform to great success.
My mind was made up, and I decided to take the plunge.
I compete in a wide variety of competitions including, USPSA, IDPA, 3-Gun, PRS and law enforcement matches. I need value in a pistol that will allow me to shoot in all the above events and still be competitive.
The "perfect" solution is an STI Eagle or similar configuration in .40 caliber. This allows you to compete in USPSA limited division by making "major" power factor. You can download the .40 cal round to "minor" power factor and compete in IDPA ESP, 3-Gun and PRS.
I personally have switched to PCC for USPSA, so the need for a .40 cal Limited USPSA pistol was a moot point. I wanted a 9mm pistol as that is what I shoot in all the above competitions, and only having to worry about one type of pistol ammunition seemed like the way to go.
I hate paying for upgrades or extras I don't want. I want the most base-level gun I can get, and I'll make the exact upgrades and modifications to fit my individual needs. Usually, after upgrades and gun-smithing, it works out to be about the same price as the fancier models with the added benefit of getting exactly what I want.
After countless hours of research, I decided the STI Eagle in 9mm fit all of my criteria. Unfortunately, STI recently discontinued the Eagle model, making them increasingly difficult to find. I located a dealer on Gun Broker who had a new pistol in stock, and I was able to win the auction for a smoking deal.
The pistol was the most expensive pistol purchase I had ever made, and I felt light-headed over the high price tag. After receiving the pistol, I immediately noticed the difference in weight and the drastic difference in a single-action trigger versus my Glock 17L.
My STI Eagle bone stock out of the box.
With the base pistol in hand, I needed to plan my upgrades carefully. I was fortunate to win a Robar Guns refinishing certificate at the 2017 Superstition Mountain Mystery Match 3-Gun event. I wanted all the new parts to be refinished, so anything I wanted had to be purchased and installed before the refinishing job.
I selected a Dawson Precision fiber optic front sight, a Dawson Precision IDPA legal extended magazine release, a Dawson Precision Heavy ICE magwell, an Ed Brown extended thumb safety, a 9-pound recoil spring and finally an Extreme Shooters DVC style grip.
Since this was a new platform for me and one that often requires hand-fitting of parts, I didn't want to take chances installing these items incorrectly. I selected Wright Armory, a local Mesa, Arizona, gunsmith for assistance.
Wright Armory represents what you want in every gunsmith but is almost impossible to find: cheap and fast. Upon checking in my firearm, Wright Armory took a photograph of everything, went over exactly what I was going to pay and provided a link to their online order status website.
Gone are the days of dropping off your pistol and calling once a month asking about where it's at in the process. Wright Armory texts and emails you every time an action is taken on your firearm and gives you a detailed explanation.
I dropped the pistol off on Friday, and by Sunday I received a notification that all work was complete pending two identified issues. I provided five magazines with the pistol and a box of ammo of the Atlanta Arms, Winchester Ranger LE and Freedom Munitions 147 grain ammunition I utilize.
My pistol required a little extra chamber cut and a lighter recoil spring to function perfectly. I authorized the additional gunsmithing and ordering of the recoil spring. Ten days later, I received the pistol back with all parts installed, as well as a trigger job, reliability package and chamber relief for a rock-bottom price.
Wright Armory now has a customer in me for life. If you haven't found a gunsmith who offers electronic updates, you have no idea what you're missing.
STI Eagle with upgrades installed by Wright Armory in Mesa, Arizona.
With all the upgrades complete, it was time for my next step at Robar Guns.
Freddie Blish, president of Robar Guns, walked me through the benefits of their trademarked NP3 coating. NP3 was created by Robar Guns 30 years ago. Robar works hand in hand with the aerospace, firearms and military industry and has applications on the international space station and military equipment.
NP3 has a high surface-hardness rating and is corrosion-resistant, protecting your firearm from the environment. The coating internally requires little to no oil for lubrication and gives an added level of smoothness to the action. Inside and out, NP3 just makes your gun harder, smoother and slicker when applied. Robar backs up these claims with a lifetime warranty.
NP3 was exactly what I was looking for in a finish. Being new to the platform, I wanted something that allows me to not be neurotic in oiling and cleaning the platform while I learn it. I also have several firearms that are showing considerable holster wear and tear and wanted something that could stand up to the constant holstering and unholstering of competition shooting.
Eight weeks later, I had picked up my pistol and was shocked at the now-silky-smooth gliding action it had. This pistol now felt like it had that freshly cleaned and oil feeling without a drop of lubrication in the firearm.
I couldn't believe the dramatic difference the coating added. I will be taking each of my competition firearms to Robar in the future for NP3 coating and can't wait for these benefits to extend to my rifle and shotgun.
STI Eagle NP3 coated by Robar Guns in Phoenix, Arizona.
The pistol was now fully upgraded, coated and looked gorgeous. Looking good is only half the battle in competition shooting, and it all means nothing if the pistol doesn't run. I figured the best test of the gun was the Rockcastle 3-Gun match my shooting team was headed to in a few days.
What better way to prove your firearm is reliable than three days of hard 3-Gun shooting at a major match? It was now make-or-break time for my switch to the 2011 platform.
This was my first time attending the Rockcastle 3-Gun, and I quickly found out they love their long-range pistol targets.
My first stage of the match had a row of close pistol targets, along with reduced-size torso targets at 70 and 80 yards. I rarely shoot my pistol at long-range distances and struggled with my Glock whenever I attempted to do so. I had seen many competitors disqualified for not engaging their thumb safety and constantly said to myself "thumb safety, thumb safety" before the stage began.
Upon the buzzer, I engaged the shotgun targets and ran to the pistol portion of the course. I drew my pistol, remembered to disengage the thumb safety and connected with the 80-yard steel in two shots. I navigated the rest of the steel with minimal extra shots and abandoned my pistol, thumb safety engaged.
First stage of the Rockcastle 3-Gun engaging small steel at 80 yards.
The pistol had performed flawlessly on close- and long-range steel, and all doubts I had were removed instantly. After three days of hard shooting, I never experienced a single malfunction, and any missed shots were purely on my part and decreased with each stage I gained trigger time from.
Since that match, I've had additional shooting time from local 3-Gun matches at the Rio Salado Sportsman's club in Phoenix, Arizona, and I've learned quite a few things from my transition from Glock to STI.
The STI did not instantly make me a better shooter. If I jerk the trigger, I still miss the same as I would with any pistol. The STI's extra weight helps to soak up recoil and is much faster to keep my sights on track, allowing me to fire quicker.
The smooth recoil impulse and weight of the gun allowed faster split times.
The single-action trigger is a considerable upgrade from my Glock trigger and allows me to concentrate on the course of fire more and less on thinking about squeezing the trigger. Reloads are buttery smooth. I have several stubborn Glock mags that I have to shake from the gun. The all-steel magazines seem to glide in and out of the gun even on a full magazine or closed chamber.
I am not as fast out of the holster or abandoning the gun as I am with my Glock. I'm still putting a conscious effort to remembering the thumb safety, and it is slightly slowing me down. I'm sure this will decrease with time, but I do miss the ease of just drawing my Glock and firing and throwing it in a box without a second thought.
All in all, I'm extremely happy with my switch to the 2011, and I believe waiting years to upgrade from my Glock was the right thing to do. I learned to shoot with a Glock and still carry one every day for work.
I treat my new STI like a Corvette: You don't drive it every day, but when the weekend comes you drive the hell out of it and make everyone around you jealous.
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