The new Open platform: STI TruBor

For better or for worse, I’m moving from the Production Division to the Open Division in USPSA. If this happens to be your first time here you can check out my previous posts on why I’m changing divisions and what I hope to accomplish by doing so, and my decision process on selecting an Open gun to compete with, which lands you back to this point where I discuss acquiring my new Open gun, a STI TruBor and some of the customizations I’ve made to get started.

Once I made my decision on getting the STI TruBor I thought I could simply “buy” one, but actually finding one to buy turned out to be more challenging than expected. Anyone who knows me can attest that patience is not exactly my strong suit and getting my paws on a STI TruBor became more of an obsession than it probably should have been. Luckily my personality flaws pay off from time to time and after spending the afternoon calling STI dealers I was able to find a TruBor in 9mm Major in stock at Brazos Custom Gunworks. As it turns out, call it divine intervention, a happy accident, or what you will, getting it from Brazos was a stroke of good luck since they build some of the best Open guns on the market and provided me with some great advice on getting started with the TruBor. So besides getting the TruBor itself, I wound up getting 2 140mm magazines, 2 170mm magazine, their Big Mouth magwell, and their “drop in” trigger group.

A few days later I have everything in hand and a friend who is a competent 2011 “mechanic” ready to help me get everything I ordered installed and tuned up the next time I see him. Having a new Open gun is bad enough, but having a new Open gun and a bunch of new parts for it was just too much for me to resist tinkering with. So instead of waiting for my friend to help me get my TruBor dialed in, I opt to spend a couple of hours watching YouTube videos learning how to dissemble and reassemble a 1911. Being that this is my first 1911/2011, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had no idea how to even get the slide off of it, let alone do any major part replacements. But the Siren’s song of the TruBor proved to be too much for my resolve to withstand, so my desire to tinker won out over common sense. Off to the bench to apply my new YouTube PHD (er, probably more like GED) in 1911 smithing on to my hapless STI. All kidding aside, I sincerely enjoy turning my own screws and having a new platform to discover was quite enjoyable as well as prudent since I ultimately do need to know how to maintain the darn thing. A short time later I have the Brazo’s Tuned Trigger Group and Big Mouth Magwell installed and safety checked. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to striker fired pistols or if the 2011 with the Brazos trigger group is the culmination of pixie dust and unicorn tears, but the trigger on this thing in nothing short of amazing. Not too heavy, but not too light. Nice and short with just the right amount of weight with a very precipitous break. In other terms, it’s the bee’s knees. I’m salivating at the thought of shooting this thing. And maybe it’s just because I’m used to shooting Production with a Glock, but I’m not sure how you can possible miss a reload with the huge magazine sucking funnel that is the Big Mouth Magwell. This should be fun. I’m already getting excited.

The new Open setup.
The new Open setup.

Next I spend a little bit trying to get the feel of the pistol in my hand, how it should be held to maximize access to the controls while allowing a good index and natural point of aim. This turns out to be a little ambiguous and I wind up getting a little frustrated with exactly where and how I should be gripping it. If I hold it in a position where I can easily reach the magazine release button my index is off by quite a bit, but when I adjust things for a good index the controls don’t really line up for me. This might be due to my own personal ergonomics or that I’m just so used to my Glock and it’s idiosyncrasies that it has ruined me from using anything else. For example, when I grip a Glock, I’m getting the web of my hand as high as possible to the bore axis as I can to aid in recoil control, and I squeeze the living snot out of the thing to ensure a good and consistent lockup to bolster my recoil management as well as facilitating both accuracy and the fastest possible splits I can produce (which I’ve a gotten down to .15 on occasion). When I apply this philosophy to the 2011 it has the unintended consequence of not disengaging the grip safety on about half of my draws. Experimenting with my grip, the tension, and the position, seem to all have other consequences as well resulting in either issues with using the controls reliably or a terrible index. Before I get to frustrated with the “bad” ergonomics I remind myself that this is the first time holding a 2011 and practice fixes all. After all, I have done about a billion draws with my Glock, and it too felt foreign to me at one point as well with it’s aggressive grip angle and unique beavertail and controls. I finally decide to go with the grip the allows the fastest index and will adapt the controls to accommodate my unique needs. I’m certainly going to need an extended magazine release to allow me to drop my mags. I’m glad I can do pretty much whatever I dang well please to my gun in the Open division!

Getting used to a red dot optic, in this case it’s the C-More that came with it from the factory, did take more effort than I imagined it would. I’m just so used to pulling my focus back to the front sight that I habitually do it whenever I draw a pistol. It’s almost like it’s just part of the draw and takes considerable effort, or at least conscience thought, to always keep my eyes target focused. I also noticed that I don’t really need to have the pistol in a strait line that extends from the target to the front sight, through the center of the rear sight, all the way back to my right eye. I know that it sounds strange to mention this, but it took some time to adjust to the fact that I can have the pistol, or more accurately, the optic’s dot “centered” in my “cone of vision.” At first the dot was being slightly obfuscated to my left eye by the frame of the C-More’s lens. With a little dry fire it was remedied in short order, but I did find it interesting that moving to a dot optic on a pistol could present so much more change than I realized, and how much I do to accommodate iron sights.

Front view of the C-More
Front view of the C-More

Next thing on the agenda was to actually shoot the thing and see if it even functions, and functions reliably. Again, the TruBor is setup for Major power factor, so its recoil spring weight and compensator are designed based on the immense amount of energy it assumes it will be receiving from very high pressure ammunition. It is no wonder that my 9mm Minor loads, which for Production are well above the minimum power factor requirements, failed to cycle the TruBor. Even if they could manage to cycle a Major power factor pistol, the likelihood of it happening on a brand new pistol that hasn’t been broken in yet is even less likely. Being optimistic, I tried using factory 9mm ammunition with similar results and it wasn’t until I tried my +P+ personal defense rounds was I able to get it to cycle without an error. Man, this thing is tight! With the understanding that until I handload some Major power factor ammunition it wasn’t going to cycle, I worked on sighting in my C-More while hand cycling each round. There would be no record setting split times today, but I was still able to verify the functionality of my new trigger group and shoot a few groups with it which I’m happy to report, were absolutely stellar. The gun can shoot. In fact, I really had no issues coring out the center of my targets, and even small steel targets at 50 yards seem to just bow to my new STI. It is very impressive and exciting to have a pistol that I can fire this accurately this easily. Very big grins erupted on my face at this point.

While identifying and acquiring my new Open equipment, I was simultaneously scouring the internet for powder that would not only facilitate great performance from my gun and compensator in a 9mm Major handload, but was also available for purchase. As luck would have it I was able to find enough Accurate Arms #7 to allow me to develop a load and practice a little bit so I could get comfortable with this new paradigm before I attempted competing with it. The plan was to finally make A class, which I’m right on the cusp of getting, or at least finish up this season with my Production system and train over the winter with the STI. But a little peer pressure goes a long way, and my personality flaws being what they are, I found myself pressing out the very first 9mm Major handloads for my TruBor…the night before the next match. Ya, I know. Not exactly the smartest decision I’ve ever made on a variety of levels. Normally, my underlining match philosophy is, “Never change anything before a match, except perhaps your underwear.” But what the heck, it’s a club match and regardless of how I’d place I know that it was going to be a great time. Throwing caution to the wind, I did show up to the match the next morning with my new gun, new load, new magazines, new holster and pouches, etc. As you probably guessed, it was technically an epic disaster that would have normally left me grumbling afterwards, stewing on why things went off of the rails. But since I had the already accepted my fate before I shot the first (new!) round, I left the match, grinning ear to ear with no regrets.

There were few noteworthy items about the match, which will live in infamy as the “Blaster Disaster,” worth mentioning. First off, shockingly enough, the gun ran great, that is when it had the opportunity to fire a round, it dutifully did so. I didn’t help matters and was personally responsible for my own demise. On the very first stage I loaded one of the massive, ammunition spewing magazines that are legal in Open division, into the gun, but didn’t actually chamber a round, thus producing the loudest sound a gun at a match can emanate, the click of an empty chamber. D’OH! There is just so much going on with a non-Glock. I was so concerned with remembering to turn the optic on and engaging the thumb safety that I forgot to do the most basic of things, rack the slide. I knew as I fired the first shot of the match, er, didn’t fire the first round of the match, that it was going to be very entertaining for my squad members.

My friend graciously brought a magazine release extension for me and we hit the safety table to install it after my brilliant performance on the first stage. That should help speed up my magazine releases…more so than I realized. He also gave me a monster, tuned magazine to try out as well which would be perfect for the next stage since it allowed me to cram over 30 rounds into it. Ya, that’s right you Production guys, over 30 rounds!

Wait for it… wait for it… Ya, you see it coming, too.

I started up range and had to run to a barrel where my shiny new TruBor lay, ready for action. I fed it the new magazine, swelling with high pressure rounds, ready to attack the poppers down range from me, viewable only through a small port just above the barrel. It was at this point a couple of items became painfully obvious to me. First off, it would have been prudent to have sighted in my dot for the new ammo which was not printing anywhere near the place my Glock ammo was printing. And secondly, the gun, under the influence of recoil was moving in a way that perfectly alined my thumb with the new extending magazine release button.

Queue the Benny Hill music.

The gun would fire, miss the target, recoil up and back until my thumb would involuntary hit the magazine release, and violently vomit out my magazine. That’s a lot to take in, so to get full entertainment value out of that last line you should go back and read it again, and then visualize the scene as it unfolded during the match. Now that’s comedy. Luckily I was shooting right over the top of that barrel where I picked up the pistol so it was easy enough to pick back up for another cycle of embarrassment. I assumed at first it was the new magazine that I borrowed, untested, and it was incompatible with my gun. So I fed it a new magazine with similar results. I did manage to finally graze the targets and picked up the pile of magazines that now lay under my pistol, and headed down the path of the rest of the field stage, dropping magazines all along the way like some sort of demented Hansel and Gretel story. I did figure out what was happening and corrected it to complete the stage, but not before leaving a trail of mostly full magazines in my wake, leading all the way back to me and my epic fail. Having been fortunate enough to been filmed during my performance of a lifetime, I surely have watched that stage dozens of time, erupting in laughter every single time. Greatness. So ya, I went back to the safety table and removed the new fail button in short order.

I did wind up installing a much heavier magazine release spring that allowed me to use the extended magazine release button without it puking my magazine out unexpectedly. Between the heavier spring and positioning the button’s angle a little differently, I thankfully haven’t had any more premature ejectalations.

C-More mounted at 45 degrees
C-More mounted at 45 degrees

Another thing that happened a couple of times, which was not by any means the fault of the STI, was what is lovingly referred to as the C-More Shuffle.  This phenomena is where you extend the gun, ready to lay waste to a target, fully expecting to see the dot sitting out there leading your eye to the A zone. But when you don’t extend your pistol quite right, or try to pick up the dot from an awkward position, the dot evades detection leaving you standing there, clock ticking away while you wiggle the gun around in bigger and bigger circles in the desperate hopes of luring the dot back out of hiding so you can begin shooting. Again, it’s very obvious and entertaining for your squad mates when this occurs to you. I guess they know it’s a lack of experience issue that I’m sure they’ve all experienced when they began shooting with a dot optic. Regardless, it’s pretty funny to see video of yourself when that happens, at least when you’re just getting started in Open.

While we’re talking about optics, the TruBor comes equipped with a C-More red dot optic that sits atop a very nice mount that is attached via the frame of the gun. The issue I have with this arrangement is that the distance between the center of the barrel and the dot is actually quite vast, producing about a 2 inch offset between the two at close distances. This is nothing new to me since I’ve had years of experience with an EOTech equipped AR, but it has little effect outside of 25 yards. But since most of the shooting in USPSA is within 25 yards, the dot’s offset is in play most of the time. One of things you can do to limit the amount of offset is to get the dot as close as physically possible to the bore, so there are different C-More mounts available to facilitate that, each with it’s own advantages and drawbacks. If you mount the C-More at 90 degrees from normal, you do get the dot back down to a more manageable distance from the bore, but the base of the mount and the body of the C-More add about 1/4 inch of visual obstruction to the left side of the gun. Another option that is available is the 45 degree mount which does get the dot down low like the 90 degree mount, but since it sets at a 45 degree angle it’s much less of a visual distraction. One downside of the 45 degree mount is that the C-More’s dot adjustments are located on the right side of the base which is impossible to get to without removing the slide. I decided to go with the Barry’s 45 degree mount and once I finally got it zero’d (which was a huge pain in the rear), I have to admit, it’s pretty awesome.

The last thing I wound up changing was swapping out the Brazos Big Mouth magwell for a Dawson Precision Ice magwell. Since it’s a little taller on the top, it helps push my hand up into position a little better.

So that’s pretty much it for now, but I do have a couple of things that I’d like to do to it at some point. First off, I’d really like to have a slide racker installed, it’s a trip to the smith for that since a dovetail has to be milled into the slide to provide a spot for the racker to be mounted. The other thing I’d like to get is a shorter trigger paddle so I can get more of a 90 degree bend to my index finger. Both somewhat minor, but will certainly happen at some point.

All that’s left now is for me to start some serious dryfiring to get the index ingrained into my subconscious and make the 2011 an extension of my body to the extent that my Glock is now.

Stay tuned as I update my progress with the new gear and division. I’m sure it’ll be more fun…for my squad members.

Going Open – Got the Gun
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