Like many folks, when I first saw references to the 2011 pistol, I assumed they were somewhat generic upgrades to the iconic Colt Government M1911. Somewhere along the line, I understood that 2011s were double stacked for higher capacity, while still not grasping what truly makes a 2011 a 2011. I did know that I couldn’t justify a 2011’s price tag, so my interest was not as intense as it might have been. I didn’t even know that a Texas company called STI created the 2011 concept.
But I kept seeing and hearing references to 2011s. A lifelong friend mentioned that he carries a cocked and locked 2011 every day. Another was literary. The main character of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series carries two custom STI pistols. As I recall, the guns aren’t 2011s, but they put STI on my radar.
A Little 2011 History
Most gun enthusiasts know that John Moses Browning designed the M1911 pistol and sold the design to Colt. The US military then adopted the M1911 to replace its older .38 and .45 Long Colt pistols.
The 1911’s distinguished service record is still ongoing. The Beretta M9 officially replaced the 1911 in 1985, but American special ops units still use the old gal to this day. Likewise, the civilian 1911 market is stronger than ever, with entry-level to high-end models widely available.
So, STI didn’t intend the 2011 to replace the 1911. They just gave it a new direction. And the gun’s designation reflects that direction. Even a rube like me knew right away that the 2011 is a 21st-century take on John Browning’s classic firearm.
Virgil Tripp’s Vision
1982 saw gunsmith and machinist Virgil Tripp begin making custom competition 1911s. Shooters quickly won multiple events using his guns. In 1987, Tripp developed the first 1911 electrical discharge machined (EDM) hammers and sears, making high-end parts available for 1911 builds.
By the early 1990s, competitive shooters wanted lighter, higher capacity, better performing guns. Tripp began a new design that he intended to be as backward compatible with the 1911 as possible. Tripp recruited engineer Sandy Strayer for the new design, which featured a modular frame and more capacity, based on the original 1911.
Tripp and Strayer shared the 1994 patent, now dubbed the “2011.” Tripp changed his company’s name from Tripp Research to Strayer Tripp International (STI). Strayer left just a month later, forming Strayer-Voigt Inc. (SVI) with gunsmith and professional shooter Michael Voigt. Tripp changed the meaning of STI’s initials to “Science, Technology, Ingenuity.” Since Tripp and Strayer each owned half of the 2011 patent, STI and SVI became competitors.
Both companies have produced the 2011 modular pistol since that time. Tripp sold STI to Dave Skinner in 1997. The firm has since changed its name to Staccato. SVI is now known as Infinity Firearms, dealing in custom-built 1911 and 2011 pistols and parts.
What makes the 2011 different?
Most 2011 pistols feature double stack magazines, but all double stack 1911 style pistols are not 2011s. Para Ordnance, for example, introduced a double stack 1911 before Tripp and Strayer debuted the 2011.
The main feature of the 2011 design is its modularity. The original 1911 has a single steel frame, with the grip panels being the only removable part. Tripp and Strayer created a separate grip module encapsulating the grip, backstrap, sear, trigger mechanism, and trigger guard. 2011 trigger guards have a screw on their front holding the grip module to the steel or aluminum pistol frame. That screw serves as one way to differentiate a 2011 from a 1911. The Para Ordnance and other models, like the double stack Rock Island Armory 1911s, are not modular and, therefore, not 2011s.
The original 2011 grip module was polymer, reducing the gun’s weight and allowing it to absorb and reflex some of the recoil back into the reciprocating slide mass. The 2011’s recoil is noticeably lighter than that of its older 1911 brother. The 2011’s usual 9mm chambering also contributes to recoil mitigation.
Despite being a double stack, the 2011’s grip feels more 1911-like than other double stack 1911s because the grip panels are inset instead of being attached externally.
Some of the 2011’s internal components are 1911 compatible, excluding the mainspring housing, magazine release, and trigger bow since the double stack magazine has to fit through it. The thumb safety is the same on both firearms. Like the 1911, the 2011 is a single action only design.
Modern 2011 Pistols
The Staccato line remains the premier 2011 pistol, including slim single-stack offerings. But Tripp and Strayer’s patent expired in 2016, prompting more entries into the 2011 marketplace. Some newer guns feature steel and aluminum grip modules, offering a best of both worlds type product. There is also a wider caliber choice, with 9mm, .40 Smith & Wesson, .38 Super, and others being available.
Just like the original 2011s, newer models are popular on the IDPA, USPSA, and IPSC circuits. The stable frame, low recoil, and modularity make them ideal competition pistols.
The design continues to evolve, with concealed carry options available along with optics-ready slides. The 2011 has truly come of age as a viable all-around pistol suitable for competition, concealed carry, and as a duty pistol.
They are, however, considerably more expensive than even high-end 1911s. 2011s can cost two to three times more than an equivalent level 1911. That’s because the 2011, despite being deliberately backwards compatible, is a thoroughly modern firearm compared with Browning’s classic, but dated, design.
The 2011 Pistol is Here to Stay
It’s not surprising that Virgil Tripp’s 2011 is more popular than ever. After all, it’s based heavily on one of the great firearm designs of all time. Continued innovation has upgraded the pistol to meet needs beyond competitive shooting. 1911s are awesome, but there’s nothing wrong with an upgrade for those who want it.
The basic modularity concept of the 2011 was ahead of its time, but that time has now arrived, especially with more companies picking up the design and making it more accessible to the general public. Whether the 2011’s run rivals the 1911’s remains to be seen, but it’s off to a bangin’ start.