STI Escort Review

STI Escort evaluation

The 1911 is a funny thing. With more than 100 years of age on the platform, it seems that more companies are making these guns than ever before.

That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. What other technology developed before World War I is relatively unchanged and in such widespread use today? The car of 2015, for example, looks and drives nothing like the Model T.

STI International builds 1911-style handguns that run much the same as the original. There are new parts under the hood, but any doughboy sailing off to France in 1917 would recognize the gun for what it is.

Recently, I had a chance to test one of the STI guns: the Escort. This is my review.

General Information

STI Escort left side

The STI Escort is a compact handgun chambered for the original 1911 caliber: .45 ACP. The gun is relatively light and has a shortened grip and barrel to make it easier to conceal.

STI includes a number of nice features that help to justify its $1,299 price tag such as the company’s recoil reduction system, and its great fit and finish.

The Escort is made in the USA. Previously, STI had the Spartan model made for them in the Philippines. However, all current production STI pistols are made in the United States.

According to the owner’s manual included with the Escort, the gun is rated only for standard pressure ammo, not SAAMI-spec +P ammunition. While I tend to carry standard pressure 230 JHP loads in .45, I am a little disappointed the gun isn’t designed to handle the mildly hotter +P loads (21,000 PSI vs. 23,000 PSI.)

STI Escort Review

A single six-round magazine was included with the pistol. The stainless steel magazine was well built and without any obvious imperfections.

Frame

STI uses a forged aluminum, Officer’s length frame on the Escort. This helps to keep the gun light and compact. The frame is finished with Cerakote in a matte silver color.

STI Escort

Both the flat mainspring housing and the forward edge of the grip have a special texture that is machined into the frame. The texture allows the hand to move up and down the frame relatively easy, but significantly applies traction to any twisting of the gun in the hand.

The trigger guard is undercut to allow the shooter’s hand to get farther up on the gun.

Barrel & Slide

STI Escort sights

STI uses a 3.24″ bull barrel in the Escort. The steel slide has a matte blue finish. Adjustable three-dot sights are dovetailed into the top of the slide.

Recoil Master

STI includes the company’s Recoil Master spring and guide rod assembly in the Escort. The Recoil Master system is essentially a pair of recoil springs with one nested over the other. The objective is to lighten the felt recoil from shooting the gun.

According to STI, the primary spring should be changed every 5,000 rounds. The secondary spring assembly (the Recoil Master) should be replaced after 25,000 rounds.

Safeties

rear sight and thumb safety

As with most 1911 pistols, the Escort has a pair of external safeties. The thumb safety is large and easy to manipulate. It is on the left side of the frame only.

The grip safety works as intended. It has a noticeable bump out on the bottom to ensure the safety is disabled when gripped. Both the thumb safety and grip safety prevented the gun from firing when engaged and allowed the gun to fire when disengaged.

STI Escort grip safety

The STI Escort does not use a firing pin block (aka – it is akin to the Series 70 designation.)

Trigger

One of the things I found disappointing about the Escort is the trigger. Not the pull – it is fine. More on that below.

No, my disappointment with the finishing on the Escort’s trigger.

trigger

STI uses a plastic trigger. Using plastic for a trigger is nothing new, and I daresay it may be the most common material used to make modern handgun triggers. However, the finished appearance of this trigger was not close to what I would expect from a quality firearm, especially a $1,300 one.

When I first looked at the Escort, my eye was drawn immediately to the flash (excess material leftover from the molding process) on the trigger. The face of the trigger seemed ok, but there was an obvious amount of flash in the skeletonized area of the trigger.

trigger flash

To my eye, it was unsightly and not of the quality STI’s name would suggest.

I don’t know if this is one trigger that slipped through the quality control inspection or suggestive of the typical level of finishing associated with STI products. Regardless, I would not purchase a gun of supposedly high quality with such an obvious finishing mistake.

As I mentioned the trigger pull seemed ok to me. There was a small amount of take-up with a clean break and no perceptible over-travel. The pull seemed very good – better than many factory triggers – but not the best I’ve ever felt on a 1911.

On a 10-pull average, I measured the trigger pull at 4 pounds, 13.6 ounces. I used a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge to measure this.

Field Stripping

This is a pain in the butt. Of course, most 1911 pistols are. In all honesty, the Escort is better than many others. You do not need a barrel bushing wrench, but there are still more steps and loose parts than one would find in a modern gun design.

Escort Review

To disassemble this gun, you retract the slide to align notches and then push out the slide stop lever (think 1980’s-era Smith & Wesson pistol.) Then, carefully push the slide forward and off of the rails. Even with care, the springs and plug are going to come loose some of the time. So, try to work over an area where parts are easy to spot.

Once the spring and guide rod assembly are removed, the barrel can be slid forward through the front of the slide.

Reassembly is pretty much a reverse of the above. However, I never quite figured the trick to get it to go together on the first try. Every time, I had to fiddle with the guide rod assembly to get the slide back onto the gun.

front sight

It does not help that the written instructions in the book are not clear and the video on the company’s website doesn’t appear to apply to this pistol. It is possible that I just did not find the correct video, but in my defense, the correct video probably should be on the same page that STI describes the Escort.

The owner’s manual tries to cover each of the different disassembly methods STI has developed for their pistols, but is a bit unclear in the writing and illustrations. And yes, there are more than you might think.

Warranty or Lack Thereof?

mainspring housing

This one is unclear as there is conflicting information. In the STI manual, it states:

Notice of NO Written Warranty

Due to the complexities of complying with federal warranty law, STI International offers no expressed or written warranty on its products. We continually strive to stand behind our products and satisfy our customers, but we cannot make guarantees or warranties of any kind. Please contact us immediately should you experience a problem with any of our products.

However, the FAQ on the company website states, in part:

We unconditionally warranty our products for their intended purpose when installed properly. As with any product, abuse and normal wear are excluded. We stand behind our products and if you EVER have a problem with an STI, we are going to make sure to take good care of you!

I’m sure STI will stand behind the guns made by the company. However, having consistency between the website and owner’s manual would be nice – especially since the website can be changed in moments, while the printed manual in the hands of the owner cannot.

Specifications

caliber45 ACP
magazine capacity6 rounds
weight22.7 ounces (unloaded)
barrel length3.24"
overall length7"
sightsthree-dot
actionsingle-action, hammer-fired
MSRP$1,299

Range Time

on the range with the STI 1911

I was able to get the Escort on the range twice for target shooting and chronographing various ammunition loads. Velocity measurements are in the Ammunition Performance section below.

I ran a variety of loads through the gun including the standard 230 gr ball from Federal and Remington. All of the ammunition ran fine with the exception of a single malfunction with the Federal Hydra-Shok load. On the first magazine of this ammo, the fourth round appeared to hang up on the feed ramp of the pistol. I encountered no other malfunctions.

Small, light guns tend to recoil more than larger, heavier ones. With the Escort, there was more felt recoil than with a full-size 1911. However, the gun was still controllable. Any regular 1911 shooter will likely have no problems with shooting this handgun.

shooting a 1911

I am unsure how much the Recoil Master system reduced felt recoil and muzzle flip. It seemed to help, but that is purely subjective. I would like to test a pair of guns side-by-side – one with, the other without, the Recoil Master – for a better idea of how well the system works.

Ammunition Performance

 velocityenergy
Federal American Eagle 230 gr FMJ738 fps278 ft-lbs
Federal HydraShok 230 gr795 fps323 ft-lbs
Hornady Critical Duty 220 gr FTX890 fps387 ft-lbs
HPR 185 gr JHP848 fps295 ft-lbs
Liberty Civil Defense 78 gr JHP1,725 fps515 ft-lbs
Remington UMC 230 gr FMJ742 fps281 ft-lbs

Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15' from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.

accuracy target

I typically do not list group sizes to measure accuracy. Unless I bolt the gun into a rest to measure its true potential accuracy, I am measuring my own skill as much as I am the accuracy of the gun. That said, nearly all of my five-shot groups at 25 yards fell into the 2″ – 4″ range.

Final Thoughts

facing down the gun

The STI Escort is a capable handgun with a number of nice features to catch the attention of many shooting enthusiasts. While I prefer not to carry a 1911 for self-defense, the Escort should serve anyone who does well.

Some of the finishing, like the machine work on the front and rear of the frame, is excellent. However, some things like the flash left on the trigger leave something to be desired. On the range, the gun was accurate and only had one malfunction in several hundred rounds.

It is up to you to decide if the gun is worth the $1,299 price tag. When compared to other 1911 pistols in this range, I think the gun compares well.

Disclosure

I want you, the reader, to fully understand any influences I have on me when writing a review. I hope that this provides you with the best possible information when making purchasing decisions.

The 1911 Platform

Colt 1911
One of my personal Colt 1911 pistols. This one I received as a gift from my father.

I have a mild bias against the 1911 platform as a self-defense tool, but not against the gun in general. The 1911 is a great gun, but I simply feel there are better choices in the 21st century for a personal protection handgun.

That doesn’t mean that a 1911 can’t, or even shouldn’t, be used for self-defense. Rather, I just think that there are better options. You may disagree, and that is perfectly ok by me.

I’m not here to tell you what to carry, and I simply want you to know that as a defensive firearm, I don’t rank the 1911 as high as other gun writers do.

shooting the Escort

To keep that bias in perspective, I happen to own several 1911-style pistols and like shooting them. The guns are great, just not my first choice for combat.

The STI Connection

beautiful woman shooting 1911 pistol

I have no connection to STI. The company is not a sponsor or advertiser of this or any of the sites I own.

The gun in this review was a loaner sent to me by STI for another project. While I had the gun, I figured I would review it here.

Although the conclusions I reached are the same as those in my printed review in Combat Handguns magazine, this review is completely original. All photos are unique from any submitted elsewhere.

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is an independent, for-profit website. I do not charge readers a dime to access the information I provide.

Some of the links on this page and site are affiliate links to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. These links take you to the products mentioned in the article. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

7 replies on “STI Escort Review”

I currently own this gun and i can tell you it is by far the best compact .45 i have EVER shot! This review is the only negative review ive ever found on this gun. And he is wrong about this gun not shooting +p ammo. I called STI and asked about +p ammo and in less than a week they shipped me a recoil system rated for +p FREE OF CHARGE. Obviously this guy is a Kimber fan. Recoil on this gun is not bad at all for a compact .45 and accuracy is great. I get bored with the accuracy of this gun. All guns need a break in period and shoot better over time. This will out shoot Kimbers all day long. And you spend 1300+ on an ultra carry that has sights that aren’t even adjustable. My trigger pull comes un on the lyman at a consistent 4 lbs. Sometimes in the high 3’s. Anybody who buys high end 1911’s all know that STI is the king of quality. The only disappointment was this horrible review.

Hi Todd,

Thanks for taking the time to read the review and post a response. If I might address a few things in your comments…

– First off, this is not a “negative” review. It rates three stars, which means:

“three stars: Product recommended. Three stars means the product meets expectations based on the manufacturer claims. The pricing of the product is generally in line with comparable products of a similar quality.” (review policy page: https://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/review-policy/#Star_Rating )

I don’t know how you can say this is a negative review if I recommend the gun.

– Second, any self-defense handgun should be rated for SAAMI-spec +P ammo out of the box. If you have to call the company for different parts, I’d suggest this is an unnecessary hurdle. I’m glad STI helped you out with your gun, but I think the guns should come ready to run when you buy them.

– Third, I don’t own any Kimber firearms, and I’m not sure where your comments about Kimber are coming from. Frankly, I don’t get into the whole “my gun company is better than your gun company” thing anyway.

– Fourth, STI does enjoy a good reputation with 1911 enthusiasts. However, that doesn’t mean the company is perfect. The gun I had for review showed certain imperfections, and integrity demands I give it to the readers straight. I’d hope you would want the truth, because that’s what you will get with my reviews.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Best,

Richard

I appreciate your position and understand that maybe the one you got was maybe under par. But even though 3 stars is a recommend im just curious what youd rate a 5 star. All i can say is that i own Sigs in 1911 as well as Springfield Armory and this is very refined in my opinion and in my book a minimum 4.5 stars. Im just dying to know what youd rate better.

Hi Todd,

The star system does not try to rate one pistol against another. Rather, it is based on a number of things including how well the gun performed, did it meet manufacturer claims and relative value of the gun vs. the price. Factors such as your needs, wants and desires will help you make a determination on which is better for you in your circumstances. For example, a three star sub-compact pistol might be a lot better than a five star full-size 1911 for someone who needs a quality pocket gun. I hope that makes sense.

Since implementing the star rating system, I believe only one pistol achieved this score: the HK VP9. It met both the objective and subjective criteria (https://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/review-policy/#Star_Rating) required for that rating. If you wish to take a look at that review, it is here: https://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/gun-reviews/hk-vp9-review/

Likewise, products that fail to meet the criteria of higher levels receive only one star. For an example of a product that ranked on star only, take a look at the ExtremeBeam M600 flashlight here: https://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/flashlight-reviews/extremebeam-m600-flashlight-review/ This flashlight is touted as a high quality torch with incredibly rugged construction. Yet, it failed the drop test twice (with a factory repair in between the tests.)

My goal is to give you the best information possible on which you can make a buying decision. If something performs great, I’m going to talk about it. Likewise, if something fails, breaks or is grossly overpriced, I will tell you about it. A certain amount of subjectiveness and opinion comes into a review. That is one of the reasons why I clearly state my star rating policy and why I disclose any potential biases at the end of the review. Just think about how much better all reviews (online and in magazines) would be if full disclosures were made in every write up.

I sincerely appreciate you reading and taking the time to question me on this. It helps me to improve where I need to and to give readers what they want.

Best,

Richard

Todd still has a point. While your 3 stars is still “recommended”, this is also the least favorable review I’ve ever seen on an STI International firearm. No company – NO company – makes a better 1911 than STI right now, and your review makes this gun sound mediocre. It was borderline unfair because of how you underrated the Escort so much. I agree that the flash was an imperfection in finishing that you experienced, but mine didn’t have that, and when your sample size is 1, I don’t think it’s fair to make such a big deal out of a minor finishing flaw when you’re ignoring the major attributes that make this the best 1911 on the market today (not the Escort in particular, I mean the entire STI International lineup of 1911’s and 2011’s.)

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for taking the time to read the article and post your thoughts. Your views are certainly valid, but I would just point out a few things.

The review is on the gun the company sent me, not on the company’s entire line of products. Yes, the sample size is one. But then, it sounds like your sample size is also one. Is yours typical? Was the one they sent me typical? I don’t know. I can only offer me views on the one the company sent me.

Beyond the finishing details, the gun was nice, but not perfect. It had only one malfunction, but that was still one more malfunction than other guns I’ve reviewed recently including a Steyr, SIG, Glock and even a $460 Rock Island Armory 1911-style pistol. That doesn’t mean that the STI gun is unreliable, just that it’s not some infallible object.

There are plenty of things to like about the gun, but I didn’t find it to be perfect. Just because the STI name is well-respected doesn’t mean the company will get a pass from me if I find one of their products fails, or, as in this case, is good but not perfect.

I provide honest reviews of shooting products, and that necessarily includes my opinions. But, you will always get my honest assessment of a product and I fully disclose everything that may impact my review including if the gun was on loan or personally purchased, if the company is an advertiser or otherwise tried to influence the article and if I have any financial stake in the company.

Our opinions on the gun may differ, but hopefully, we can agree that both are valid based on our own experiences with the product.

Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment.

Richard

Love my escort but finish was disappointing,unlike other STI a I own.
Accurate as heck and no malfunctions unlike my Raptor 2

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