Issue 47 STI Staccato: Reporting for Duty Tom Marshall Join the Conversation It’s rare to see a company successfully reinvent itself. Rebranding, renaming, new logos, and different slogans are all little more than window dressing that companies in and outside of the firearms realm often use to get past gaffes, mistakes, and poor quality. But to see a manufacturer, especially one already known for high-quality products, make fundamental shifts in how they do business is much less common. Just such a thing has taken place with STI Staccato. STI Staccato has made a name for itself over the years, producing guns based on the double-stack 2011 grip frame. The 2011 itself isn’t a new concept, with the original design patented and produced in the early 1990s. Since then, the platform has gone on to become a staple in the practical pistol competition circuit — dozens of championship wins over a period of decades have been garnered by shooters working behind the 2011 chassis. But despite its long legacy of high-performance, the 2011 has always remained the purview of trophy shooters, with next-to-no spillage into “real world” defense or duty use. A well-built 2011 pistol can run with the best of them, but has traditionally required a little extra love to do so. The weak link in the chain has always been the double-stack magazine. Originally intended for .38 Super, 2011 mags were finicky at best. They were built with spacers in the rear, requiring hand loads to fit a specific size spec to feed properly. Even with this, the feed lips and tube geometry were rarely uniform. The issue was so well-known that an aftermarket industry for “magazine tuning,” whether through DIY kits or custom gunsmithing, arose to service the community of 2011 owners. The cost of the magazine itself plus tuning often pushed the price of a single spare into the triple-digits. Your options were to either have a bevy of mags tuned up by one of these specialized smiths, or simply lay out the coin to buy a dozen of them and cherry pick the ones that ran properly. But a few years back, STI Staccato underwent a significant company re-org, which included bringing a number of highly experienced military and LEO professionals onto the payroll. The resulting changes have, in a surprisingly short time span, shifted the 2011 from a specialist race gun to a duty-ready workhorse with high-performance pedigree. New manufacture magazines include improved tube geometry and a Gen 2 enhanced follower. To date, we haven’t had a single feeding issue with our test guns, across a wide spectrum of ammo types. This change in focus is also evidenced by the 2019 release of their flagship entry into the duty pistol market, the STI Staccato P. This pistol is currently in use by more than 60 separate law enforcement units around the country including LAPD SWAT and the U.S. Marshals’ Service Special Operations Group — a unit that works both in the U.S. and beyond to apprehend the most notorious of fugitives. Like its predecessor, the DVC-P, the Staccato XC features an integral comp and an “island cut” front sight that does not reciprocate with the slide. WHAT IS IT? At its heart, the STI Staccato P is an exercise in the best-of-both-worlds approach. Chambered in 9mm, which has made a resurgence as the standard for duty use, the STI Staccato P offers 17 rounds in its flush-fit magazine — make it 21 rounds if you’re cool with about an inch of protrusion past the bottom of the grip. This means a standard “one in the gun, two on the belt” duty configuration yields a considerable 64 rounds at your disposal. There’s also a 27-round stick available, for those needing a handheld submachine gun hybrid. The new magazines typically run $50 each. Not inexpensive, by any account, but it’s a significant improvement over the previous options. It’s also not the most expensive production mag we’ve seen. Beyond caliber and capacity, the STI Staccato P offers a control suite that’s plenty comfortable to anyone who’s ever shot a 1911. The STI Staccato is a hammer-fired single action with manual and grip safeties on board. All controls are exactly where you’d expect them to be, with little variation. The manual safety is ambidextrous, and the slide release lever is slightly recessed to avoid accidental activation when running the gun to slide lock. Other notable features about the STI Staccato P was its Recoil Master guide rod system. This system uses a series of nested springs to disperse the recoil impulse and flatten out the gun’s movement during firing. All metal parts, internal and external, are coated in black DLC for longevity under hard-use conditions. For those who run red-dots on their pistols, the Staccato P is available in a DUO model — Dawson Universal Optics system. The DUO was a joint design venture between STI and Dawson Precision to mount optics on the 2011 slide. This system was purpose built for two of the more popular pistol dots in use today — the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro and the Trijicon RMR. The DeltaPoint mounts directly to the top of the slide, with an included adapter plate for the RMR (or anything that sits on an RMR footprint). The system was clearly designed for the DeltaPoint, as it sits much lower on the slide than the RMR/plate combo, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for us in testing. In spite of its double-stack grip module, the STI 2011 line maintains a svelte silhouette, only 1.49 inches wide at the ambi safeties. WHY IS IT? We took some time to speak directly with STI’s Law Enforcement Sales Manager, Buck Pierson, about their shift in market focus and their approach to producing high-performance duty guns. RECOIL: What drove the decision to shift from purebred race pistols to guns purpose-built to live in a duty holster? Buck Pierson: When I joined STI in early 2018, the company had begun to introduce its 2011 platform to the broader consumer market, not just competition shooters. The basic idea was that everyone wants to shoot faster and more accurately, so why not develop pistols for everyday shooters? At the time, there was no serious consideration of the law enforcement market. I found that odd because when I first experienced the STI 2011, my first thought was I wish I had a pistol that shot this damn good throughout my military career. Given my personal experience, I approached the CEO about selectively pursuing some law enforcement sales, in order to help increase consumer awareness of the brand. He agreed, and we sent a few of our more duty/defense-oriented pistols out to a couple of agencies to test. He didn’t really expect much given the prevalence of inexpensive striker-fired pistols in the market, but we had nothing to lose, so why not? We quickly learned that officers like to shoot better too, especially the ones that get in gunfights. They loved our 2011. In my first visit to one department, the officers were shooting all-time PRs on their qual course within an hour of picking up the gun. Word of mouth spread quickly within the LEO community and what started as an experiment quickly became a strategic initiative. RECOIL: What processes or procedures had to be changed to close the gaps between your legacy models and the Staccato line? BP: A lot of changes were made to our production/gunsmithing processes, but it all started with the assembly of an amazing team of people, including many military veterans who led a cultural change inside the organization. As we emerged from the competition market with our Staccato line, it was crucial that it retained the accuracy and shootability of a race gun, but it had to have the reliability and durability of a law enforcement or military-focused firearm. We invested in state-of-the-art CNC machines and improved process control while putting together an industry advisory team of top gun builders, shooters, and machinists who helped us improve all aspects of our production processes. The quality of the guns we are making now is so far ahead of the guns that were made just a few years ago, it’s insane. We assume every Staccato is going downrange and we operate accordingly. RECOIL: The Staccato P’s adoption by the USMS SOG was a significant win for this pistol, and it happened pretty quickly after its initial release. What was the proposal/selection process like working with a Federal tactical team? What lessons did you learn about end user needs in the duty gun market? BP: The Staccato-P DUO was designed from the ground up with input from the USMS SOG, Long Beach PD SWAT at the same time. While it seemed like it happened relatively quickly, the process was quite long and it saw several iterations of pistols developed to meet both agencies requirements as they conducted their T&E process on our guns. I met with both agencies in the same week, with a variety of our legacy 4- and 5-inch Tactical models. I thought that both the SOG operators as well as the LBPD SWAT officers would prefer the 5-inch gun. However, what we found in testing with both agencies is that all shooters almost unanimously preferred a sub-5-inch variation across the board. The shorter gun, while chambered in 9mm, displayed the shooting characteristics of a longer slide, but was more nimble for Close Quarters. Having a faster cycle speed with low muzzle movement, and a high level of accuracy is a winning combination in a gunfight. While LBPD SWAT at the time was good with the legacy HOST optics system, SOG was not, as they had already tested optics for a few years, and knew they wanted the DPP, but they wanted it direct mounted to their slide, and did not want tritium back up sights. As we began testing direct mount setups, Dave Dawson of Dawson Precision began helping develop a completely new system based off what we were doing for SOG, and that evolved into the Dawson Universal Optic (or “DUO”) system today. I think the most important take away from a product development standpoint, especially in the operational market, is to listen to what the end users’ needs and requirements are before developing what you think they need from an engineer’s perspective. RECOIL: What advantages do you see for teams, agencies, or responsibly armed citizens who adopt the Staccato as their go-to pistol, over the “staple” guns in this space, like striker-fired pistols and high-end 1911s? BP: At the end of the day, the 2011 truly is the best shooting handgun out there. When it comes to duty use, or personal defense, who would not want a softer shooting, more accurate gun? As a law enforcement officer or as a civilian we are responsible for every single round fired in self-defense. I want the gun that I shoot the most accurately and fast when my life depends on it. We have taken our legacy of performance in the competition arena and combined it with the reliability and durability needed to survive in the operational theater to make the perfect handgun. The reduction in felt recoil is what makes it such a game changer, and so easy for users to shoot accurately and fast out of the box. The Staccato P was designed and built from the ground up to be a full-time duty gun, and is seeing ever-growing success among Law Enforcement tactical teams. The Staccato’s new G2 grip and slim tactical magwell create a reload opening you could park a motorcycle in. OLD NEW AND NEW NEW STI wasn’t content to ride the coat tails of the Staccato P’s out-the-gate success. In addition to spending several months with last year’s model, they sent us a pair of Staccato variants that are brand new for 2020, which include both aesthetic and functional changes. The original Staccato P featured a 4.15-inch barrel. The 4- to 4.4-inch barrel size has seen ever-increasing popularity over the last several years as an ideal balance between “service” or “government” sized 5-inch barrels and the three-point-something tubes seen on many pocket pistols. The four-and-change length provides an excellent balance of concealability and capability. For 2020, the STI Staccato P will be stretched out to 4.4 inches, bringing it in line with other popular handguns in this class. According to STI, the 2020 Staccato P was initially planned as a full-stroke, traditional commander length pistol (4.25 inches). However, the full stroke design reduced the captive spring area for their recoil system, so the design team prototyped a slightly longer pistol. Subsequent testing confirmed the majority of shooters preferred the 4.4 due to softer felt recoil and very little sight picture disruption during shooting. For those who want a shorter option, STI is also releasing a 3.9-inch double-stack, the Staccato C2, which closes the gap between size and capacity. The next generation of Staccato P will run a Dawson tool-less guide rod system. This system uses a full-length guide rod with interchangeable springs, allowing the user to easily change spring weight. This is a benefit to those law enforcement agencies utilizing a broad range of ammunition from frangible ammo in live fire shoot houses to duty-specific loads. This type of tuning and customization isn’t possible with the pre-set Recoil Master system. On the outside of the gun, the DUO red-dot mounting system went through a slight update. The RMR-pattern adapter plate has been reduced in size to get those optics lower down. It still won’t sit as low as a direct-mounted Delta Point, but they won’t be as high up as the original plates. New production Staccatos will also feature STI’s G2 grip module, which are thinner, more rounded and feature a middle-finger relief cut to allow a higher grip on the gun. STI offers 2011 mags in four basic configurations, 17 or 21 rounds, stainless or Teflon coated. ROUNDS DOWNRANGE We spent a lot of time with the original STI Staccato P, brought it to several classes and events, and got nearly 1,000 rounds through it, with close to a dozen test shooters. The feedback was consistent — the Staccato P got high marks across the board for fast handling and low felt recoil. While we had less time with the next-gen P, and the compensated STI Staccato XC, we did get several hundred rounds through each. On first pass, it was a little tough to tell the difference between the two Staccato Ps. Both were insanely accurate with a very smooth, gradual recoil impulse. But just when we were beginning to think that the new upgrades were marketing fluff, one of our other beta shooters looked at us and, rather plainly, said, “Well … have you tried shooting it fast?” Running both variants under speed, the Gen 2 Staccato P really shines. As much as we loved shooting the Gen 1, we found, as you push it harder, that easygoing Recoil Master system starts to feel spongy and the muzzle tends to rock a little — like a see-saw or a raft floating on the ocean. It’s wholly manageable, but it’s there. The Dawson recoil system being used in the 2020 Staccato P seems to recover faster during rapid fire. The muzzle returns to neutral with a firm nudge, as opposed to floating back there under momentum like we felt with the Recoil Master unit. Then we fired the STI Staccato XC. This gun features a 5-inch, integrally compensated barrel with a pinned front sight and an “island cut” at the front end of the slide. The XC will probably look most familiar to legacy STI drivers and is intended to marry their race-focused DVC-P to the new Staccato line, incorporating a rail frame and the DUO optics mount. Among the half-dozen STI guns we’ve tested over the years, including the famed Combat Master featured in John Wick 3, the Staccato XC stands tall above the crowd. The recoil impulse is a friendly nudge directly into the meat of your palm that feels more like a courtesy heads-up, just to let you know its firing. We handed the gun off to a couple of close friends, and the best description we got was “clean.” There’s absolutely zero excess movement up or back. The single-chamber comp, particularly when paired with a SureFire X300 attached to the frame, seemed to anchor the muzzle in place while the slide reciprocated. We watched multiple shooters produce one-ragged-hole groups that consisted of five, 10, and 15 rounds. It should be noted that we didn’t experience a single feeding or cycling issue on any of our test guns. We ran all sorts of ammo through all three guns and made a point to swap mags back and forth between the pistols. We didn’t clean or lubricate any of them before firing or at any point during the span of our test period. Ammo used included American Eagle, Winchester Service Grade, Blackwater Training Grade, Speer Gold Dot, Hornady American Gunner and Wolf steel case. All production bullet weights were used, including +P loads. LAST SHOTS STI’s pivot into the duty and defensive realm is for real, and they’ve brought with them an arsenal of lessons learned from the high-round-count, high-precision competition circuit. If you’re in the market for a high-capacity, highly accurate pistol for personal or patrol use, the STI Staccato line has a lot to offer. With their performance pedigree and in-house knowledge of duty requirements, we suspect the Staccato is here to stay. STI International 2019 Staccato P DUO Caliber: 9mm Overall Length: 7.93 inches Barrel Length: 4.15 inches Height: 5.60 inches Weight: 34 ounces Capacity: 17 or 20 rounds Accessory Leupold Delta Point Pro $520 MSRP $3,019 URL www.stiguns.com STI International 2020 Staccato P DUO Caliber: 9mm Overall Length: 7.888 inches Barrel Length: 4.45 inches Height: 5.610 inches Weight: 34.3 ounces Capacity: 17 or 20 rounds MSRP $3,019 URL www.stiguns.com STI International 2020 Staccato XC Caliber: 9mm Overall Length: 8.5 inches Barrel Length: 5 inches Height: 5.5 inches Weight: 36 ounces Capacity: 17 or 20 rounds MSRP $4,299 URL www.stiguns.com Photos by Niccole Elizabeth More on Race Guns, Duty Pistols, and EDC STI Staccato C: Playing the Long Game. Best 9mm Handguns for Self Defense. Reviewing the Sig P320 FCU Custom Works Program. 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