Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Which Would You Prefer?

My mother's favorite mind game is "Which would you prefer?" Usually, the target of this mind game is some poor unfortunate soul who has just committed something monumentally stupid and now has to face their choice of consequences. It's not unlike being told to go out to the tree and pick out your own switch.

My all time favorite victim so far was the history teacher in junior high that busted me for having a water gun at school. Apparently, my "arsenal" of water guns was discovered after a hall monitor got soaked. Not sure how that happened, but I digress. Yes, this was long before the zero tolerance policies, and  I'm pretty sure the entire incident went down right in front of the Plano PD officer who was in the hall with nary a raised eyebrow. Nevertheless, the teacher was really hoping to make my life miserable by calling my mom. Her amazing plan backfired when mom gave her the "which would you prefer?" options which I no longer recall but which I'm pretty sure involved keeping a job or not as I was able to promptly reclaim my "arsenal" from a disgusted teacher with a smirk on my face and a vague promise on my part never to do it again.

Anyway, I have found that "which would you prefer?" has other applications in life besides allowing fools to choose their own fate. It also applies to purchasing decisions. I'll give you an example of one I am contemplating right now.

I have, for a very long time, lusted after a 1911 style .45 ACP semi automatic pistol for my real arsenal. Since I am not independently wealthy, my options are limited to the lower end of the vast see of 1911 options. I have narrowed my potential choices to three candidates with which we now get to play "WHICH WOULD YOU PREFER?"

Option Number 1: The Taurus PT1911. Manufactured in Brazil. Imported via Miami, FL. Lots of cool "custom" features at an entry level price. Notoriously bad customer service and warranty repair. Someone let the lawyers loose on Saint JMB's Authorized Version. Real new (less than 5 years) to the 1911 market.

Option Number 2: The Para Ordnance GI Expert ESP (which stands for Enhanced Service Pistol). HQ in Toronto, Canada. Imported via North Carolina. The ESP is a basic 1911 platform with a few of nice enhancements (beavertail grip safety, skeleton hammer, fiber optic front sight).

Option Number 3: The STI Spartan. New-ish, employee owned semi custom shop focused on the 1911 based in Georgetown, Texas. The Spartan is a step up from the Para Ordnance ESP as it has nice wood grips, an adjustable rear sight, front and rear slide serrations and a few other nifty neatos. STI is also featured prominently in Larry Correia's Monster Hunter book series.

So, which would you prefer? The "cheap" Brazilian lawyered up knock off with questionable customer support, the every so polite French Canadian or the STI made by God fearing, proud, conservative Texans.

With all the talk about supporting your local economy, I plan on making my 1911 an STI Spartan if I can find a good deal on one.


  1. Of the 3 make/model 1911 pistols that you have listed, I would prefer the STI as well. My decision is based entirely on your description and reasoning as I have no personal experience with either one. I have owned Colt series 80, Kimber Classic, Essex/Remington Rand bastardized custom, and Springfield Armory loaded model. I like 1911's. I liked the SA out all the ones that I have owned because of the factory custom design (it is pretty much load, shoot, enjoy straight out of the box). But, to be completely honest and in the sake of full disclosure, the only .45 ACP in my current arsenal in a Sig P220 and I am finding it very accurate and concealed carry friendly. I don't know if that helps your decision any, but I always like having trouble with a "which would you prefer" decision when dealing with firearms.

  2. You know my vote's for the Para. I don't know anything about the Spartan, but I'll be sure to educate myself at SHOT. Run, don't walk, run from the Taurus.

  3. Blue Steel, thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you that these decisions are much more fun than the others. I've had a lust affair with 1911s since I was 10 when a step uncle let me shoot his Colt Goverment model (not sure exactly which model...I was too young to pay attention). Since then, my only other shooting experience with the 1911 was a Kimber. I loved both. I've fondled just about every model of 1911 out there at one gunshow or other with the possible exception of high end customs by folks like Clark, SVI, etc. I looked at the SAs and had the SA Mil Spec on the short list until I came across the STI. The other SAs are nice, but above my price range. I've looked at the Sig P220, and I'm intrigued by it. However, it falls victim to the same price consideration as the SAs.

    GunDiva, I know of your fondness for the Para, and it's one of the reasons it made it to the short list believe it or not. Which one do you have by the way? Just curious. I found one dealer here in TX selling the STI for $628 which is $70 less than MSRP. The Para is less expensive by about $100, but I think you will agree that the STI is more bang for the buck (no pun intended). The Taurus only made the short list because of my previous ownership experience with a Taurus revolver and the PT145. It's a distant third place when compared to the other two.

    To pi, I don't know if you can read this or not since you are my first ever spam commenter. I don't know what you think my post has to do with your virus spreading faux GRE test mastery site, but I'd be happy to let you explain your rationale while a) I knee cap you with a .45, or b) circumcise you with 12 gauge bird shot. Your choice. Which would you prefer?

  4. What I would really prefer is to be a fly on the wall when you knee cap that dude, or circumcise him with you 12 gauge....LOL

    just saying...

    I came real close to buying the Taurus myself. The articles I read on it were giving it pretty good reviews, then I started to hear some pretty negative stuff so I steered clear. I think I made a good choice there. As for the other two I think the only thing that would make me lean on way or the other is the made in America theme. Watching what is happening to our economy, I am beginning to think that, that is an important ideal to consider...

    I was plagued by a similar problem last year when I fulfilled my dream of owning a 1911. I to set my price range at between 6 to 7 hundred for one. Then with the urging of my beautiful wife waited and saved up a little more and sprang for the Kimber pro carry... I paid around 4 more than I was going to but got the special with the laser sight included...
    TOTALLY worth the wait and the extra 4 bills..

    But that's what I preferred...either the Para or the Spartan would be a gun, one would be proud to own...

  5. Mr. Daddy, I'm leaning towards 12 gauge circumcision. If you just knee cap them, they can still reproduce.

    I've probably seen a lot of the same articles you have. Most of those are little more than pay for play fluff pieces. I tend to listen more closely to the forum posts by actual owners. There are enough complaints about the Taurus in the forums to warn the wise purchaser away. Where there's smoke, there's fire you know. There are some complaints about the Para (and Kimbers too for that matter) but not nearly as many as the Taurus. I did learn after posting this that the STI is made with a Phillipino Armscor frame, but all the fire control parts and some of the other internals are STI proprietary parts made here in Texas. Final inspection and refining as necessary are also done in Texas. The added bonus is that, as a Texas resident, I can drive to Georgetown to their HQ in person if there is a problem.

    I'd like to have the patience and ability to wait a while longer to save the extra bills for a higher end 1911, but I know my limitations and circumstances won't allow that for some time to come.

  6. #2... the Para will be reliable, and a good shot..

    Promise. BF has one, and loves it!

  7. K, I have the Para LTC; it's a few years old, so I'm sure Para's moved on to bigger and better things. But I love it and I can shoot the shit out of it.

    Also, I'm leaning toward the 12ga circumcision for the same reason you are.

  8. Jennifer, I have very clear memories of responding to your comment last night; however, it appears that there has been some kind of cyber snort and snot that's deleted it. Oh well. I think the jist of my comment was that the main thing I didn't like about the Para was the grips which could easily be fixed for the $100 savings off the Spartan. That and a holster, and I'm good to go.

    GunDiva, cool.

  9. Of the three you listed, I would go with the Spartan. None of those you listed, however, would be on my personal list.

    The Taurus does not have standard sight dovetails, and so your choices for sight upgrades are more limited. It does, however, come from the factory with combat sights, a commander hammer, and a nice beaver tail. Something about the design and aesthetic or their slides bothers me, though. I think it's the serrations at the front and the giant "PT 1911" etched on the side. That's a personal preference, though. The (in)famous Taurus customer support is also something to consider.

    The Para is probably fine, except that I've heard of the firing pin safety failing due to the accidental movement (dropped gun) of the rear sight, rendering the gun useless until serviced. It seems that the spring for the mechanism is retained by the rear sight, which is not a weak spot I'm comfortable with. In a fight for my life, there's a distinct possibility that the rear sight could be knocked loose, and I'd rather not have my sidearm turned into a brick at the absolute worst possible time.

    The Spartan comes with target sights, which means I'd have to immediately put money into a set of combat sights, upping the cost and therefore negating the low price point of the gun. While STI is based down here in Georgetown, the Spartan is largely manufactured by Armscor (same folks who make the RIA) in the Philippines, with the smaller parts and fitting/assembly done by STI. This is the reason that the Spartan is $300 cheaper than all the rest of their guns.

    All of these suffer from (in my opintion) the same flaw in that they utilize mechanical firing pin block mechanisms that I beleive to be quite unnecessary. Accidental discharge due to a drop on the muzzle is a valid concern, but this is something that can be easily solved by using a heavy firing pin spring and a light firing pin - a much simpler and more elegant solution.

    Instead, most modern 1911 designs have a mechanical complication to serve as a firing pin block which can fail at the worst possible time. I'd sooner keep my sidearm simple and with as few points of failure as possible.

    My personal choice for a budget-conscious 1911 would be the RIA Tactical. It comes with a commander hammer, improved trigger, and combat sights for a very nominal increase in price over the GI spec. I've had the opportunity to fire a friend's RIA Tactical, and was quite pleased with it.

    Another one to consider might be the Remington 1911 R1. They look like they can be had for under $600, and are made in the USA. They do (at least for now) only come with GI sights, so an upgrade to combat sights (and for me, a commander hammer) would be in order.

  10. John, welcome. I appreciate the information. Several items in your comment that I had not considered. My original intent was to get a 1911 as close to my preferred set up as possible "out of the box". Thus, the low end pistols already equipped with beaver tails, commander hammers, improved triggers, beveled magwells (in the STI and Taurus). Now you've got me rethinking my thinking. I hate it when that happens.

    American made is important to me. I found out about the Phillipino frame and slide on the STI after I wrote the original post. The fact that STI is a local, homegrown company at least partially outweighs the foreign origin. But, having said that, I'd prefer a completely American 1911 if it can be had.

    I looked at the Remington R1 briefly, and I should probably go back and give it a closer look. It would take a bit of work to "make it mine", but that's part of the fun. I've looked at the RIA several times and have dismissed it because of the desire for American made. I may have to go back and look at the SA GI and Mil Spec offerings as well.

    Of course, there is always the option of building one from the ground up from parts. That has a certain appeal to the tinkerer in me.


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