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STI Hex Tactical 2011: A 9mm Triple-Tap Machine—Full Review.

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To learn more, visit http://stiguns.com/guns/hex-tactical-ss/.

To purchase an STI Hex Tactical on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=STI%20Hex%20Tactical.

In a market where trying to distinguish yourself as a premier manufacturer of the classic John Browning design is not only ambitious, but puts you in direct competition with some of the world’s finest pistol makers – STI has established itself among the upper echelon. With a history going back to 1990, this Texas company has become one of the best known and respected brands for 1911s – particularly among the competition group. Perhaps what STI is most famous for is the 2011 model. Named to give a nod of respect to the 100th anniversary of Browning’s masterpiece, what this variant brings to the table is a double-stack capacity that allows a competitor to shoot a finely made 1911 pistol with a capacity that allows it to hold its own in high round count sports like USPSA and IDPA.

I have never owned an STI pistol, and until I received the Hex Tactical for this review, I had only shot them a few times, during “hey, try this out” sessions on match days. I was impressed on those occasions, and was eager to have this model – a relatively new one from STI, all to myself for testing. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t disappointed!

The double-column magazine STI Hex Tactical 2011 in 9mm is rugged elegance and a great performer.

The double-column magazine STI Hex Tactical 2011 in 9mm is rugged elegance and a great performer.

The author's personal competition loads - in double-tap formation.

The author’s personal competition loads – in double-tap formation.

SPECS & STATS

First, let’s dissect the name of the gun – “Hex Tactical”. The “Hex” part comes from the very interesting pattern cut into the front and rear of the slide, which are of course – hexagonal. Dressing up the slide serrations on a 1911 in different and unusual patterns has become all the rage lately, and I am a fan of the artistic expressions – so long as they are still functional. No worries about that here, these cuts provide a great grasp on the metal and allow you to run the slide with ease, whether using the rear or front set. The ‘Tactical’ part is also pretty straight forward. This pistol has a 1913 accessory rail on the bottom of the dust cover, capable of accepting Picatinny mount devices such as lasers or flashlights. The industry has dubbed such a configuration to be “tactical” – so there we are. The Hex Tactical, or Hex Tac as I found myself saying, is born. The Hex Tac is available in four basic configurations, starting with the caliber. Our copy arrived in 9mm Parabellum, and it is also available in the traditional .45 ACP. The barrel on this gun is just a hair over 4-1/8 inches at 4.15”. A full 5” is also offered and both lengths can be had in either caliber.

specs-1I measured the height of the gun at just about 5 ¾” from the bottom of the magwell to the tip-top of the rear sight. But let’s be honest – you only care about the height of a pistol if you’re carrying it concealed or you need to fit it into a competition gauge box. And this handgun is clearly not designed for the concealed carry market. That latter concern should be no problem either – pistol makers are quite adept at building guns that are compliant with equipment regulations for the major shooting sports.

As I started to do my range work with the Hex Tac, one of the things that occurred to me early on is that this gun was not built to be a safe queen, nor is it afraid to get its muzzle dirty. This is a shooter, a competitor. A worker. The black Cerakote finish on this pistol is as tough as railroad spikes and the polymer grip and trigger guard are durable and resist marks and scratches. I don’t abuse things, not even tools if I can help it, but I wasn’t at all afraid to lay this pistol down on a rough and dirty surface or shove it into a Kydex holster that may or may not have recently been cleaned. Each time it started to look a little bit battle worn, a wipe with an oil rag made it shine like new again. I say all this to address one of my personal phobias, and one that I know I share with many other shooters. You don’t mind paying up for a good gun that you know will give you years of pleasure and service – but beyond a certain price you get that same paranoia that you have driving a new car off the lot. While it is inevitable that over time and use this gun will develop some micro scratches from holstering and drawing, some finish wear on the constantly used controls, and the magwell is bound to take a beating – you can expect it to look and feel great for a long time even with heavy use.

STI went with a ramped barrel for the Hex Tactical, and polished it to a mirror finish. There was nothing it wouldn't feed.

STI went with a ramped barrel for the Hex Tactical, and polished it to a mirror finish. There was nothing it wouldn’t feed.

The author measured this trigger at a very crisp 4 lbs. 2.1 oz. Just about perfect.

The author measured this trigger at a very crisp 4 lbs. 2.1 oz. Just about perfect.

The Cerakote finish proved very durable, making this a real working gun, not a safe queen.

The Cerakote finish proved very durable, making this a real working gun, not a safe queen.

Key design and build choices with the Hex Tactical include a full-length steel guide rod that telescopes and has a strong inner spring, in addition to the outer spring. This offers the combination of maximum stability during reciprocation of the slide, and highly effective recoil management. The slide stop lever has been recessed into the frame of the pistol to allow as near an obstruction-free “thumbs forward” hold as is possible on a 1911-style pistol. STI provides the aforementioned tactical rail, though a short one – rather than extending the dust cover. It is more than sufficient for a rail mounted light or laser aiming device.  The safety is ambidextrous, both sides having the same blade width. At the feeding end, the pistol is equipped with a generous STI magwell that is also well finished in basic black, because if it were orange or yellow it might be mistaken for a wood chipper! If you can’t guide your magazine into this cavern, you really ought to think about sticking with Bullseye as your sport. Up top, STI has placed a very nice set of iron sights on the Hex Tac, made by Heinie. The rear sight is flat black with anti-glare serrations and the front sight contains a thin vial of red filament.

Finishing touches include the hexagonal slide cut pattern and matching skeletonized combat hammer, and the trademark square polymer trigger guard and hybrid frame assembly. The grip panels, main spring housing (back strap) and front strap are all polymer affixed to a skeleton frame. The parts are all well checkered for maximum grip.

SHOOTING THE HEX TACTICAL

I knew that shooting this gun chambered in 9mm was going to be fun. Over two pounds of pistol to push out a 9mm round, combined with the dual recoil spring assembly, and the ergonomics and grip angle of the John Moses Browning design… I couldn’t get the mags loaded fast enough! And I wasn’t disappointed. The Hex Tactical shoots like belt-fed melted butter. My feeble skills is the only thing that prevented me from putting 10 empty cases in the air at once while keeping every hit dead on target. However, I did manage to do it with 5 rounds… several times. This pistol likes to be shot fast, very fast. Muzzle rise is so slight that you have to concentrate to notice it.

Components of the 2011 Hex Tactical include full length guide rod with internal and external springs. Barrel is secured out front with a short bushing.

Components of the 2011 Hex Tactical include full length guide rod with internal and external springs. Barrel is secured out front with a short bushing.

Starting with the grip, this pistol felt like it was custom made for me. I tend to shift my grip and “reset” it frequently when shooting many handguns, but I could shoot the STI all day and never so much as twitch a finger. I found that the pinky of my support hand wedged perfectly into the space between the pinky of my strong hand and the flare of the magwell. This is obviously a stroke of luck for me – maybe I have Goldilocks hands when it comes to this gun, and your mileage may vary. But that gave me a grip that was comfortable, supportive, and very steady even during rapid fire.

STI has tuned this pistol to prefer a center hold sight picture, and after a couple magazines of “getting acquainted” time with the gun, I was just making one ragged hole in the target at 10 yards with off-hand shooting. The sight picture is very good, thanks to the black rear sight (which I have come to prefer for a match gun) and the fine red dot out front. I generally like the front sight blade to fill the rear notch, and the Hex Tac has a lot more air space. But I didn’t notice any problems with that, so long as I kept my focus where it belonged and aimed. I actually found it to be an advantage with the longer shots at 20 yards, giving me a finer aim point than guns with larger front sights.

The Hex Tactical from STI is an amazing piece of hardware ready to deliver!

The Hex Tactical from STI is an amazing piece of hardware ready to deliver!

I ran probably a dozen different types of ammo through the Hex Tactical, including some aluminum-cased Blazer and even my own handloads. The latter is a load I have meticulously tweaked over the years for IDPA competition. They just make power factor floor with a little wiggle room. There is always a chance that a gun with heavier springs or tighter action might have trouble cycling with it. Not the STI. In fact, I could not make this gun jam or malfunction on anything. Hundreds of rounds fed, fired, and ejected with precision – no matter whose name was on the box.

The gun is comfortable to hold and to shoot, from the 25 line-per-inch checkering that keeps it steady, to the well-fitted beavertail that locks in the high grip. But when it comes to shooting, there is no substitute for a great trigger, and this STI has one of the best. The trigger itself is polymer, and I initially wondered about that choice. After all, polymers flex and bend – not something you want in a crisp single-action trigger. But not to worry, you would need to apply far more pressure than the 4 lbs. 2 oz. it takes to drop the hammer on this pistol before that could become an issue. The trigger is skeletonized and has a checkered face, and is adjustable for over-travel. There was none of course, because it came well-tuned from the factory. But poly on poly also has a natural lubricity that metal on metal certainly does not – so perhaps there is some real benefit. The trigger on this gun breaks crisp and clean after a very short take-up stroke. The reset is short and tactile with no creep or take-up at all. This can be partly accredited to the fact that STI built this pistol as a Series 70 model – which means no firing pin safety block. Those with experienced fingertips on a 1911 trigger can tell you if the gun has one just by feeling the trigger. I had to peek to be sure. The absence of the firing pin block means less grit, as there is one less mechanical device to push during the trigger press.

The recessed slide stop lever was one of the author's favorite elements. The seamless marriage of polymer and steel is signature STI.

The recessed slide stop lever was one of the author’s favorite elements. The seamless marriage of polymer and steel is signature STI.

Even with the ejected case only inches away, the Hex Tactical is back on target for the next shot.

Even with the ejected case only inches away, the Hex Tactical is back on target for the next shot.

Dual spring and full-length guide rod help manage recoil and enhance accuracy.

Dual spring and full-length guide rod help manage recoil and enhance accuracy.

The test sample ran on abbreviated rails, but the fit was precise.

The test sample ran on abbreviated rails, but the fit was precise.

ACCURACY

Being impressed with off-hand results at 7 or 10 yards is nice, but I wanted to see where this handgun could put some of my favorite ammo if I rested it and tried hard. So, from a bag rest at 20 yards I picked 4 types of ammunition and shot 5-shot groups. I was very pleased with the results. If you took a little time to find the load and bullet weight this gun likes best, and put it in the hands of an expert or in a vise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see sub-inch groups out to 25 yards.

STI Hex Tactical sti-accuracy

STI Hex Tactical dsc00335
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SUMMING IT UP

STI has been making high-quality 1911 pistols for a long time, and their 2011 is already a legendary gun. The Hex Tactical model provides an out of the box match gun for a serious competitor at a price that is much more budget friendly than a full custom gun. The STI pistols are really “semi-custom”, because while they offer models and options that allow even very picky customers to ‘have it their way’; they are also able to take advantage of production processes that are used by mass-market manufacturers. There has been no quality sacrificed here, not in terms of materials and workmanship and not in terms of performance. At $2,600 this STI is still an expensive investment for those of us that work and pay bills. But think about the pistol you might buy for half that, and how much you’ll spend trying to make it half as good as the Hex Tactical is out of the box, and you start to understand the value.

To learn more, visit http://stiguns.com/guns/hex-tactical-ss/.

To purchase an STI Hex Tactical on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=STI%20Hex%20Tactical.

The magwell is almost big enough to accept the state of Texas... oh wait...

The magwell is almost big enough to accept the state of Texas… oh wait…

The bright red fiber optic front sight makes quick target acquisitions.

The bright red fiber optic front sight makes quick target acquisitions.

A safety for southpaws, and a rear sight for one-hand racking.

A safety for southpaws, and a rear sight for one-hand racking.

The fine polymer checkering provides excellent grip.

The fine polymer checkering provides excellent grip.

 

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Ronald Nelson May 22, 2017, 4:06 pm

    At $2200 plus dollars I’ll stick with the Taurus I own… it has all the extras mentions here and fires just fine… double tap all day and never have a problem with jamming… Keep the $1300 dollars you save to purchase a long gun.

  • Will J May 22, 2017, 8:03 am

    There’s MUCH more to the polymer grips than saving money.
    They actually flex and help absorb some recoil to make gun shoot softer.
    They don’t bind up the metal mags during reloads.
    They allow for a great deal of customization in regards to grip circumference, texture, etc.

    AND, pretty sure the 2 in 2011 is more about the double-stack mags.

  • Lloyd Dumas May 22, 2017, 6:29 am

    I’m a proud owner of the 1911 STI in 9mm and I can’t think of anything to gripe about. The one I have is all metal frame it is a good shooter. Now about the non metal is not for me and I will never buy one that is,call me old fashion if you want. I would never buy this for two reasons one is cost the other is non metal frame. Hard to get past John Browning and his original design. Thanks, John

  • Will Drider May 16, 2017, 1:29 am

    Recycled by popular demand? May15, 2017 date on the article, I commented (above) Dec 3, 2016. It may be updated but thats not identified in the first few paragraphs, skipped the rest. It didn’t get much love, hate or interest with only three prior comments.

  • Jose Lopez December 8, 2016, 4:39 pm

    Ship Guns not exactly means is good cuality !

  • Will Drider December 3, 2016, 5:41 am

    Overall I think STI makes very good firearms I have shot three models and they were flawless. I will never buy one though. Its not the price its the plactic parts on a metal frame that scream cheap cost cutting crap! These poly parts may function fine but its like putting a $30 scope on a $3K rifle. Most if not all of those poly parts could be changed out but at that price point they shouldn’t need to be.

    Good article/review.

    • bob w March 27, 2017, 12:37 pm

      Will,

      I don’t own an STI but I’m a big fan and will own one someday.

      I don’t see the polymer parts as cost cutting. Consider this… the pistol weighs almost 40oz before loading a double stack magazine. How much weight is too much before making it a niche pistol? What is your suggestion for reasonably lowering a pistols weight without using polymer in low stress areas? I suspect those are the reasons for using the polymer.

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