I needed some repair work done on my STI Eagle 5.1 and from my phone call to them I expected to have it back in about 10 days. It arrived at their factory on August 12th. I received it back yesterday. That was exactly 35 days.
I started getting a hint that things weren’t going so well about a week after they got it when I got a call and instead of them telling me it was on it’s way back David told me he had just briefly looked at it and, “that’s a really old gun”. Hmm… And your point is? It turns out there was far more wrong with the gun than I knew and that a lot of things are built different now compared to when the gun was new. That meant some replacement parts weren’t just drop in. They were going to have to do some machining on the frame. Stuff that wasn’t going to be covered under warranty. Fine, give me an estimate and then I’ll decide.
Nearly a week after that on August 31st I had an exact amount and sent David (yes, to him personally rather than STI) a check for $231 for the non-warranty work. He also told me there were things wrong that he couldn’t really fix and but it would still be good enough for “What we down here in Texas call a ‘truck gun'”. Great. My STI is now a “truck gun”. But for $231 I would have functional gun that would be far better than any other gun I could buy for $231.
To be fair the stuff he didn’t want to work on were things that I had long suspected were messed up by the original gunsmith (who shall remain nameless because he is no longer working as a gunsmith anyway) who built it from a kit. Nearly the first thing I did when I got my hands on the gun back in 1998 was check the slide to frame fit when the gun was in battery. I was shocked and disappointed that there was quite a bit of movement. I looked up in surprise and the gunsmith said that he had asked me if I was going to carry the gun or just shoot it in competition. I told him both. So he made the tolerances much greater than a competition only gun. He said that he was taught that a carry gun needed to have looser tolerances so it would be more reliable. I asked if it could be tightened up and he told me that for all practical purposes the answer was no. Rather than rejecting the gun due to a misunderstanding I took it. I really couldn’t complain about the accuracy. It wasn’t what I expected but there were very few stages which I competed in for which the accuracy was a limiting factor.
But that wasn’t the only problem with the gun.
The lugs for the barrel link broke on the original STI barrel after only about 20K rounds. The gunsmith figured it had to be a defective barrel. STI didn’t see it that way and I paid for new, non-STI barrel to be installed. A few years later I told someone else about this and he told me the only way that break occurs is if the barrel was installed wrong. David, at STI, told me the “new” barrel was installed incorrectly as well but it isn’t likely to break–it just doesn’t lock up quite right and the accuracy is degraded.
So, I took the gun to the range tonight and it functioned well. The new safety fits better than the old ones (I had the first gunsmith replace a one that broken once before) ever did but it required some machining on the frame to get the new safety to fit. I’m glad I didn’t try to do it myself because I don’t have access to a milling machine to do the type of cuts that were required–besides not knowing that the frames were built different now and that the frame cuts were required instead of removing material from the safety.
I’m a little annoyed at STI for taking five weeks when I expected something closer to one week. And the non-warranty work being done via a direct payment to David is a little unprofessional. But except for the slide to frame fit everything on the gun looks very good to me. I’ll probably continue to use the gun in competition for quite a while longer. Maybe next summer I’ll be able to justify (money, it’s a lot of money) a new STI (Eagle 5.0 or maybe an Eagle 6.0–any suggestions?) and put this one “behind the seat of the truck”.
Regardless of my irritation with STI I still say–I shoot a STI gun in competition, I carry a STI gun and you should too.