STI is not afraid to experiment. This is a cocking serration treatment they applied to pistols for a while. A little too racy for me, but a lot of shooters liked it.
STI is not afraid to experiment. This is a cocking serration treatment they applied to pistols for a while. A little too racy for me, but a lot of shooters liked it.

Florida started it, and soon there was movement across the country to change that to a “shall issue” condition. That is, you applied, and unless the police could find some reason to disqualify you (and they didn’t have many options) you were issued a license. Now, they had to prove you were in the “disqualified” category, which many felt was a much more equitable arrangement. And one less prone to political abuse.

As a result, more people started carrying and buying guns to carry. While this was going on, the AWB/94 precluded large magazine capacity. People figured “If I can only have ten, I want the ten biggest I can get.” That is, .45 ACP, and this brought the 1911 back into the mix.

The situation with Chip McCormick, Sandy Strayer and Virgil Tripp ultimately fell apart. In 1994, Sandy Strayer left and formed Strayer-Voigt, later to be named Infinity. Dave and Shirley Skinner joined STI, and over time eventually bought the whole company; by 1997 it was Dave and Shirley. Virgil Tripp left once Dave Skinner bought the whole shebang and went back to custom gun building, chrome plating, and design. And things just kept getting better.

Dave Skinner at STI brought a volume attitude to production and marketing. He made semi-custom guns, semi-custom in that they were of a high quality, but you either ordered basic guns and had someone else trick them out or you got the “STI package” tricked-out gun. But do not make the mistake of thinking that STI guns were plain guns. Having a good number of CNC machining stations, STI could produce whatever they needed. And they could make them at the drop of a hat. So STI offered model after model. If it sold well, it stayed, if it didn’t, it became a collector’s item and got replaced by something with more promise.

Also, STI was willing to go out on a limb. For example, California is a strange state. As more than one wag has put it, “the country is tipped, and everything loose has rolled to the West Coast.” The California legislature is populated with firearms-ignorant do-gooders. One of the more inane laws they passed some years on handguns, to keep hitmen from using silencers. Being, as I said, ignorant of things firearm-ish, they didn’t write the law as “silencer threads” or “bare threads and a silencer” or anything like that. They wrote “no threads.” How do you attach a compensator to a barrel? Threads. How do you put a coned lockup on a barrel? Threads. So, your screwed-on-with-a-wrench, Loctite-ed, hand-fit compensator is verboten in California. Even if it is on so securely that you’ll need torches, a vise, wrenches and you end up destroying things in the process, you had an illegal firearm.

STI tried, with their Trubore barrel, to accommodate this inanity. The barrel and comp were manufactured as a single, integral unit. No threads. That wasn’t good enough. California decided they would be the arbiters of what was a “safe” firearm and so came up with a “test.”

The California test required a loaded (primed case, no bullet) handgun to be dropped on a steel plate, multiple times, while oriented in different directions. You’re probably asking “So what’s the big deal?” Simple: California didn’t foot the bill. You want the gun you manufacture approved, send them not one, not two, but three sample guns and a check to cover all the costs of testing. That’s right. You had to pay for the privilege of California destroying three of your finished product, and thus being approved.

It got even better. California is not so forgiving that if you make one basic gun, and a lot of derivatives, that getting the basic one approved includes the others. Nope. Change something and that “new” one needs approval, too. If you offer a dozen variants, that comes to 36 handguns, and a whopping big check to trash them all. Dave Skinner, bless his heart, finally just threw his hands up and said “[bleep] it.” He stopped selling guns in California, and told anyone who asked why.

This article is an excerpt from 1911: the First 100 Years.  To order your copy of this fascinating look at the 1911 click here.

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