Among the multitude of autoloading handguns that a shooter has at his or her disposal, John M. Browning’s most famous pistol design still remains a perfectly viable choice, well over a century after it appeared. The M1911 and the M1911A1, of the First and Second World Wars, respectively, showed the effectiveness of Browning’s brainchild, as well as the new cartridge designed for it: the .45 ACP, or Automatic Colt Pistol. The ACP marked a return to a .45 caliber sidearm for the military, as the M1892 revolver – firing a .38 Long Colt cartridge – didn’t have the power level that soldiers needed, and the Philippine Insurrection brought that quickly to light. The M1911 in .45 ACP provided the soldier with enough horsepower to get the job done effectively, and a firepower rate much higher than that of the M1892 or Single Action Army revolvers in use prior to the 1911’s introduction.
Fast forward a century and you’ll see the 1911 still thriving, manufactured by more firearms companies than it ever has been. Even Smith & Wesson – Colt’s greatest competitor in 1911 – has paid homage to the Browning design in recent years, and that’s saying something about the validity of the design. Looking at a 1911, in the way that it operates and feeds, it can seem like a small miracle that it functions as well as it does. Slow motion video will show the round weebling and wobbling as it’s picked up from the magazine, finally slamming into the feed ramp on its way into battery. But, just as the laws of physics verify that bumblebee is incapable of flight – no one has told the bumblebee, and no one has told the 1911; they just keep on doing what they do, and both do it well.
I have an admission: I’ve never owned a 1911. I’ve spent plenty of time shooting them, evaluating ammunition, handloading, installing laser sights, and whatnot, but I’ve never called one mine. I went out on a mission to find a 1911 I’d like, and after trying quite a few different brands, I settled on a full-size SIG Sauer STX, in .45 ACP, for several reasons. One, I like the SIG brand. They’ve been utterly reliable in my experiences, and quite a few handgunners who I have a healthy respect for have shown me both the accuracy and benefits of the brand. The trigger pull was something that sold me, in quite a few different models, and at the price point involved, I found the SIG 1911s to have the features I wanted, and nothing I didn’t.
The immediate and most noticeable feature of the STX is the two-tone finish. The frame is stainless steel, with the traditional silvery look, but the slide – also of stainless construction – is coated in a Nitron finish for a contrasting look. That contrasting metal is complemented by a set of Hogue burled maple grips, which are laser engraved with the Sig Sauer logo. The cocking serrations on the slide are polished to further accent the look, as is the flat top. While the grips are smooth and polished – offering little grip advantage – the stainless steel frame is checkered both front and back; 25 lines per inch on the front strap and 20 on the mainspring housing. This, most definitely, affords a good grip, allowing the shooter to stay on target easily.
- Type: Hammer fired, semiautomatic 1911
- Cartridge: .45 ACP
- Capacity: 8+1 rds.
- Weight: 41.6 oz.
- Barrel Length: 5 in.
- Overall Length: 8.7 in.
- Height: 5.5 in.
- Sights: 3-Dot Sights
- Grips: Hogue maple grips
- Frame Finish: Nitron
- MSRP: $1,244
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer
The STX comes equipped with adjustable combat night sights – and don’t they give off a heartwarming glow when sitting on the nightstand – with a bold front dot and a square notch rear sight with a single horizontal white line. That rear sight is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation and came in very handily when testing ammunition. The front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide, so if you chose to run a different set of sights, the switch wouldn’t be a difficult proposition. Both hammer and trigger are skeletonized – an attractive and handy feature – and the stainless steel magazine well is beveled for quick, easy reloads.
The STX is a product of the SIG Sauer Custom Shop, and as such comes equipped with a match-grade barrel – 5 inches in length – and the hammer and sear are of match quality as well. The SAO (single action only) trigger is advertised to break at an even 5 pounds, and according to my Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge, my test gun breaks at 4 pounds, 14 ounces. There is the slightest bit of creep, but not enough to be an issue, and the weight, creep and over-travel are certainly less than the World War II-era M1911s I’ve shot. The STX has an ambidextrous safety, and while I’m much more familiar with using the left side safety, I can see where this would be a desirable feature for the southpaws.
SIG Sauer provides two eight-round magazines with the gun, and both functioned flawlessly throughout the testing. I picked up an after-market magazine as well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
What didn’t the STX have? It didn’t have a rail on the underneath of the frame, which I have found drags on a holster when drawn. I’m not really into lights or other accessories hanging off a handgun – if that tickles your fancy that’s fine, but it doesn’t tickle mine – so a smooth frame was what I was after. The STX also avoids the slide serrations up toward the muzzle end of the slide; I’m not a fan of grabbing and covering the muzzle-end of the slide for any reason, nor do I want to aid someone intent on grabbing the slide to render the pistol a single shot affair. Again, a personal choice; I like features that lean toward the traditional lines.
Like a little kid, I really couldn’t wait to take the STX to the range to get a feel for how it would run. I grabbed some ball ammo and after cleaning the rust-preventative from the pistol, put it to work. The first thing I noticed about the STX is the recoil; it fits my hands very well, and even with the full-house 230-grain loads the recoil was no issue at all. The gun was hitting low and to the right at 15 yards, so a quick adjustment of the rear sight had things sorted out in no time. There were no feeding or extraction issues, and the accuracy was hanging right around 2 inches, maybe a bit more depending on me. Magazine changes were a breeze, as it seems the STX uses heavy springs for their magazine release; partially full magazines, full magazines or empty ones ejected perfectly.
After a thorough cleaning of the barrel, I took the pistol to the bench, where I could get a good feel for both the accuracy potential and which brands and types of ammunition it prefers. Using one sandbag on the bench, I set up a bunch of targets at 15 yards and ye old Oehler chronograph to measure the velocities. I grabbed some different types of ammo, with different weights and nose profiles to see if the STX would choke. Included in the mix were Hornady’s Critical Defense and Critical Duty, Federal’s Guard Dog, SIG’s own Elite Performance hollowpoint stuff – with the Sierra V-Crown bullets – and Sig Ball ammunition, and some semi-wadcutter handloads. Frankly, it seems the STX will digest just about anything, and none of the ammunition shot terribly.
The worst of the five-shot groups measured 2 ¼ inches, and that was with the SIG 230-grain FMJ ammo, which isn’t terrible at all. The STX liked both the Hornady loads, putting the Critical Duty 220-grain +P load with the FlexLock bullet into a 1.5-inch group, and the Critical Defense 185-grain FTX load into a 1.6-inch group. The Duty uses the FlexLock bullet, which passed all the FBI protocol tests, regarding the penetration of urban barriers — making it a good choice for saving your bacon. The Critical Defense is built around the FTX bullet, a bit lighter in this load at 185 grains, and while a bit less tough that the FlexLock – in that it is not designed for barrier penetration – it is designed to run perfectly in both compact and full-sized handguns, and run well it did. I like this bullet concept for home defense, to help minimize the chances of your bullet ripping through a wall and injuring or killing an unintended person.
The Federal Guard Dog was the lightest bullet tested, at 165 grains, and that shot accurately as well. Five shots went into an average of a 1.5-inch group, perfect for the home defense purpose that the Guard Dog was designed for. The bullet is a unique design, in that it is a hollowpoint by nature, but the hollow cavity is filled with a rubber insert, and then the entire affair is plated. The Guard Dog was designed to provide good expansion in those few areas where hollowpoint ammunition is not legal – New Jersey being a prime example – to stop a threat faster than a full metal jacket would. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time at the Federal plant in Anoka, Minnesota, and we tested this ammunition into gel and through some fabric and sheetrock, and the terminal qualities of this bullet are undeniable. I’d happily keep a magazine filled with Guard Dog on the nightstand.
I was eager to test the SIG Sauer Elite Performance stuff, as Sierra Bullets is responsible for the development of the bullet, and what they produce usually turns to gold. The V-Crown bullet is a solid design, using a skived jacket with a cannelure halfway up the shaft to keep the jacket and core together during expansion. Both the 185-grain load and 200-grain load gave even 2-inch groups, feeding and extracting perfectly. Loaded in nickel cases with a low flash propellant, the SIG ammunition gave very consistent velocities. Weight retention is high, and expansion is reliable, making the Sierra bullet and SIG loading a sound choice for any shooter. All five of the premium loads gave perfectly acceptable accuracy, and if I had to find the weak link in the chain, it would be the author and his aging eyes.
Even some cast-lead 185-grain semi-wadcutters I had loaded up functioned properly, though the accuracy opened up a bit. I was more concerned with the feeding, as I will tweak the load for accuracy at a later date.
Now, we are all familiar with the striking power of the .45 ACP – even with military-style FMJ ammunition – but when you couple it with one of these premium designs, you extend the capability of an already fantastic cartridge.
While the SIG Sauer magazines are made well, and functioned perfectly, it’s well known that the magazine feed lips are a point of concern over time with any 1911, even more so if you enjoy the gun games. I ordered a couple Chip McCormick RPM (Railed Power Mags) to see if they were, in fact stronger than a traditional magazine, as advertised. I’ve met McCormick a few times at the SHOT Show, and I’d heard his speech regarding the RPM; the railed feed lips bent in an elliptical shape for strength, the rocket wire springs that give an even pressure on each cartridge, the follower designed to best interact with the slide stop. All of McCormick’s points were well thought out, but I wanted to find out if they would hold water in the real world. I’m happy to report they do. If you’re hard on your magazines – quick mag changes and the drops on concrete, slamming them home time and time again – they will show the effects of wear. My father has a World War II-era 1911, with original magazines, and you can see where things have worn over time. The RPM magazine has less surface area along the feed lips to reduce drag on the cartridge, and the simple rigidity of the lips will show their worth over time. Take a look at them if you’re after a rugged 1911 magazine, they won’t bend or warp as easily.
A Pretty Package
SIG Sauer’s STX is not just a handsome pistol; it is a perfect example of form following function. Those adjustable night sights are especially useful; should you want to fine-tune the pistol for your favorite load, it can be done quickly and accurately. All the elements are here, from reliability to accuracy, to feel and grip. To carry the gun, I ordered a sweet Simply Rugged Cuda pancake holster – made out of Cape buffalo leather – in black, with an open bottom, and it went together with the STX like peanut butter and jelly. The checkered frame gives a positive grip when drawing the pistol, and the design of both pistol and holster make for a smooth transition.
All in all, I personally feel the SIG Sauer is one of the best blends of premium features and affordability. This one? It’s mine, and made to stay that way.
For more information about the SIG Sauer STX, click here.
For more information about SIG Sauer premium ammo, click here.
For more information about Federal Guard Dog ammo, click here.
For more information about Hornady Critical Defense and Duty loads, click here.
To purchase a SIG Sauer STX on GunsAmerica, click here.