While there has been lots of speculation about the latest handgun program underway for the U.S. Marshals Service, Guns.com got the rest of the story direct from the horse’s mouth.
The buzz over the new USMS pistol initiative cranked up in earnest when Leupold and Dawson Precision issued a joint statement late last month that the agency had chosen the respective company’s DeltaPoint Pro optic and DUO/Perfect Impact co-witness sights, alluding to the “STI SRA Pistol project.”
As in the same Texas-based STI Firearms which is renowned for their high-end competition guns often seen in the hands of the fictional John Wick, not necessarily their law enforcement offerings.
This announcement ignited internet gun groups with discussion sourced mainly from Wikipedia pages, Tommy Lee Jones movies and basic cable shows based on Elmore Leonard books, but the truth is a little different animal. While today’s Marshals Service fields some 5,000 operational and administrative employees charged with duties ranging from court security, prisoner transportation, witness protection, and fugitive apprehension, the new STI guns will be used solely by the agency’s secretive Special Operations Group, stationed in Camp Beauregard, Louisiana.
“SOG deploys to enhance the tactical capabilities of the Department of Justice and the USMS operations, domestically and internationally,” Drew J. Wade, chief of the Marshal Service’s Office of Public Affairs, explained to Guns.com. Wade elaborated that SOG missions include a lot of specialty high-risk operations such as providing support for trials involving terrorists, moving high-threat prisoners and witness security members, and responding to national emergencies.
The unit, unlike rank-and-file Marshals, has “extensive training in the operation of single-action pistols, which they feel best meets their tactical carry requirements,” said Wade, with SOG operators having previously carried Springfield Armory pro-rail 1911 .45ACP platforms for the past 16 years. “Only SOG will use the STI pistols,” he said.
The group has been actively researching double-stack 9mm 1911-style systems for at least four years, with various models tested. This included lots of talks with STI.
“All of the stuff that shooters want for competition carries over into what a law enforcement officer would want to carry on duty,” Buck Pierson, Director of Law Enforcement and Military Sales for STI Firearms, told Guns.com. “Who wouldn’t want a pistol that holds 21 rounds and can shoot super-fast, flat and accurately when you’re on duty?”
Pierson said STI has responded to increased interest from big-name LE tactical teams who are looking at their 2011 platform for the same reason pro-shooters have been running them for 25 years: lighter recoil, a higher magazine capacity than a 1911 single-stack, incredible accuracy, and reliability. While SOG evaluators put somewhere over 15,000 rounds through their evaluation pistols, Pierson said some agencies that are testing STI guns have far exceeded that, with positive results.
The model the USMS has selected was developed as a result of feedback from law enforcement users, specifically SOG itself. After evaluating various 5- and 4.25-inch rail gun models, Pierson said changes needed to be made.
“The guns just had solid black sights. They didn’t have ambidextrous safeties on them. They didn’t have tactical mag wells on them, and they were blued,” said Pierson. “With the Marshals’ guys specifically being in Louisiana, the humidity out there were getting the guns to rust from being outside for multiple days.”
The solution was a durable Diamond Like Carbon finish on the whole gun — barrel, slide, frame, and small parts — everything — along with Treebark stipple grips, a slim tactical mag well, and a 4.15-inch bull barrel.
Then came the sights. With the Marshals and other agencies already set on Leupold’s Delta Point Pro, they needed a co-witness back up sight solution. That’s when Pierson said Dave Dawson with Dawson Precision came in and developed the DUO (Dawson Universal Optic) rear sight that fit the bill. Coupled with a Dawson Precision Perfect Impact front sight, the new model became the STI Staccato-P-DUO.
And the gun has been a hit. “As we sit right now from the development of that gun that was done jointly with the Marshals and other guys, we’re now in over 60 departments in 19 states selling that model specifically,” said Pierson. “So, what we ended up developing for [the USMS] as their go-to-gun has now been our primary production model for all of law enforcement.
Interestingly, although the platform is offered in both .45ACP and 9mm, most agencies have elected to go with the latter. In addition to the optic-ready DUO guns, Pierson said they have also made a carry version of the same pistol that was non-optic bearing, by request. “So basically, we took a Staccato P and we put a shorter carry grip on it,” he said.
To date, USMS has purchased 160 STI pistols for SOG operators.