A great many of my cohorts at Firearms Academy of Seattle made it to the SHOT show this year. We were all buzzing about on our separate errands, but tried to connect as often as possible so we could keep each other up on what was new and wonderful to be seen. When my friend Jennie Van Tuyl caught up to me, she was all excited about a new gun she had seen at the STI booth. Jennie, who shoots competitively, has owned an STI for awhile and loves its reliability and performance. She said this gun was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen and I had to look at it. As I was already on a mission to find pretty guns, I went to visit STI and see what the excitement was about.
Displayed on a mirrored stand amid the rest of the STI models was the Elektra in both its color options of pink and black. I admit I’m not all that fond of pink or the propensity among firearms manufacturers to make anything aimed at the women’s market pink. This gun, with pearlescent grips as luscious as a strawberry frappe, was the prettiest pink gun I had ever seen. It was gorgeous in the smoky pearl black, too.
My photographer husband set about taking pictures and examining it while I introduced myself to Michael Boyett, the media and sales contact for STI. We exclaimed over the quality fit and finish of the guns on display. When I asked if the Elektra would be available for testing and evaluation, Mr. Boyett handed me his card and said to contact him after SHOT and he’d see that I got one.
True to his word, Mr. Boyett came through with a pink Elektra for me. I looked forward to showing it off to all my friends and seeing if it was as nice to shoot as it was to look at.
STI claims the Elektra was designed for women by women as a carry gun. Its Officer’s size 1911 platform has an aluminum frame to reduce weight. To improve recoil control, they use an STI Recoilmaster recoil spring assembly with two springs. The Heinie SlantPro Straight Eight night sights are channel mounted in the rounded top of the slide to make them snag free. The smooth grips are offset by attractive stippling on the front strap that offers good grip without hurting the hands. Added to the checkering on the backstrap, this arrangement keeps the gun firmly in hand while shooting in spite of the high polish of the grips. While the sides of the slide are polished and etched with the model name on one side and the company logo on the other (in matching pink or black), the top is a matte finish to cut down glare. The cocking serrations are dramatic curves that STI calls Sabertooth. These not only add flare to the look, they offer excellent grip without biting (in spite of the name).
The first order of business was to field strip the gun and clean it thoroughly for its photo debut. Even new out of the box, it disassembled easily. Unlike many high-end 1911s, it required no pounding on the slide-lock pin with a punch to get this piece to come out. All the parts seemed to glide on each other with nothing more than the factory lube. Re-assembly, however, proved to be somewhat tricky for me. The recoil spring assembly was difficult to hold in just the right orientation for a successful re-wed of slide to frame due to the machining under the swing link. With a bit of practice, the user could get the hang of this, but a mention in the owner’s manual about this feature would have saved me painting the atmosphere over my workbench blue (thank goodness no children were present). At least there were no extra tools required to get the job done.
Every one of my female shooting buddies who saw it was quite taken by Elektra’s good looks. We did the girl thing and tried it on with a number of outfits in our own private fashion show for the camera. This gun is definitely “stylin'” with any look from casual to dressy. It makes a statement worn proudly in the open while training on the range. Even tucked away concealed for daily carry, it makes you feel pretty, whether you’re into frills or not.
“Beauty is as beauty does,” as the old saying goes. The fashion shots were done and it was time for Elektra to prove itself on the range. We started with some break-in work on falling steel. Shooting 9mm 115 grain FMJ practice ammo proved to be easy and fun. Although some of the shooters were unaccustomed to the sight configuration and were hitting low with it at first, everyone remarked how easy it was to handle for such a light gun. The first day, it ran without balking with only a light grease on the rails. One of my friends shot a couple of rounds and commented “Man, this thing is bone dry! But it runs!”
Having proven its reliability under less than ideal conditions with ball ammunition, I decided to see how it fed a variety of defensive loads. I took it home, cleaned and lubed it, and went out for some accuracy work. See the 10 yard combat accuracy table for results. I shot the Elektra free standing with a two-handed grip, slow fire, to see how well each ammunition type would group for me.
Throughout the testing process, about 400 rounds of various types of ammunition were put through the gun. The only issues we had with it were ammunition related. One round of our usual economy-grade 9mm 115 gr. FMJ practice ammo had a bad primer and wouldn’t go off despite a full strength firing pin strike. A box of Remington UMC 115 gr. JHP rounds bound up all three of the magazines I’d been sent to test. We did a comparison to the other defensive rounds that had fed flawlessly and found it to be considerably shorter in length than the other exemplars. I notified Remington’s quality control people of the problem and they promptly and courteously sent me a return label for the remainder of the box with a promise of a replacement box to come. The problem was annoying, but not hazardous–and Remington deserves props for their quick and professional response to the issue.
STI is known for their custom competition-style 1911s. The performance of this lightweight, 3-inch-barrel gun was excellent. The trigger was clean and crisp at the break and distinct on the reset. It comes with a short trigger from the factory, so it’s an easy reach as well. Even with heavy defensive loads, the recoil was very manageable. My husband, known to all his friends as a dyed-in-the-wool 1911 man in the traditional .45ACP, shot it and exclaimed, “That’s like cheating!”
As we were discussing the Elektra during our range session, one of my dearest shooting buddies asked me, “What is it about the 1911 that makes it worth shelling out $1400 for one?”
Shortly thereafter, after running a magazine through Elektra single-handed, non-dominant hand at rapid fire pace, I pointed at her target with all the deadly hits on it and replied, “That’s why, right there.” Earlier, from 10 yards, she had turned in a group of eight slow-fire shots about the size of a nickel.
Once I knew the Elektra was reliable, I decided I’d see how it was for daily carry. I loaded it with Remington Golden Sabers, popped it into a Kramer #1-1/2 IWB holster and tried it on. The straight drop of the holster caused the butt to print in my usual appendix carry position. A Kramer #3 IWB holster that my husband had for his officer’s size 1911 did better with the rake angle tucking the grips forward and closer to my body. As I’m used to a polymer gun for daily carry, I found the grips to be hard and edgy in comparison. The thinner profile, though, made it virtually disappear even under a light weight garment. The lighter, weight in comparison to the commander sized all steel 1911 I sometimes carry when I’m working a class at FAS, was a welcome change. The 8 + 1 capacity is only one less than a commander size and the shorter magazines tuck away inconspicuously in a pouch or pocket, too.
By the time I had to send the Elektra back for the next writer in line, I was beginning to re-think my carry gun choice. There is no shortage of holsters, magazine pouches, accessories or anything else available for an officer’s sized 1911. The design has been around since about … 1911. With proper maintenance, modern metallurgy that gives us lightweight aluminum frames and better finishes for the steel slides has made these guns more amenable to the rigors of daily carry. Now, if only STI will see fit to match the color of the Elektra to my 2002 Concord Purple Harley Davidson.
Thanks to our friends at the United States Concealed Carry Association for this article. To know more about concealed carry please click here.