Alright, its time to share my thoughts and opinions on the two best $650 1911s on the market. The first player here is the tried and true STI Spartan, which is built by Armscor in the Philippines and fitted with STI small parts. The other player is Magnum Researchís new Desert Eagle 1911, which is built in Israel by BUL. Iím doing this comparison because I want to see how the surprisingly good DE stacks up against my long time favorite entry level model.
Iíve taken them to the range together twice now, the latest being yesterday. Between the two range days, I ran through 200 rounds in each contender.
As Iíve done in the past, Iíll break this comparison up into different sections and rate the guns based on my opinion. I will try to be as detailed as I can to help someone looking for the best enhanced 1911 at a very affordable price.
Unfortunately for the STI, it is clearly ousted in this category. The Desert Eagle sports an even, clean, semi-glossy black oxide finish. Its attractive and smooth to the touch. The Spartanís finish is a dull two tone parkerizing, which is present on many Armscor built 1911s. Obviously, I donít carry either of these pistols, so I canít rate either finish from a durability standpoint. Advantage: Desert Eagle
The Desert Eagle would run away with this category if it werenít for the huge roll mark and the stainless grip safety. Though I have learned to overlook them, the roll markings are hideously large and I think the gun would look better with a black grip safety. Having said all that, the Desert Eagle is still a better looking 1911 than the Spartan. It has nicer grips, a nicer looking trigger, no front serrations, and the previously mentioned better finish. Advantage: Desert Eagle
Both of these guns have been 100% reliable. However, being that Iíve had it much longer, the STI Spartan has several times the amount of rounds through it. Because itís a more proven commodity, the Spartan gets the edge. In this category, the Desert Eagle is, unfortunately, victimized for being new. Advantage: Spartan
This is very close, as the guns have a nearly identical feature set. Weíre talking single sided safeties, beavertails, and full length guide rods. The Desert Eagle does have a very slight cutout in the frame under the trigger guard to give the shooter a higher grip. However, the difference is minimal. On the flip side, I like the target rear and fiber optic front sights of the Spartan better than the Desert Eaglesí black combat sights. Iím calling it a wash. Advantage: Tie.
These two 1911s have, by far, the best two triggers in their price range, so there is no loser here. However, Iím going to give the edge to the Desert Eagle. While its not necessarily better, its lighter and just as crisp as the Spartanís. Its also aluminum, whereas the Spartan is equipped with a plastic trigger. Advantage: Desert Eagle
I shot the Spartan marginally better. This may have been a result of being more familiar with the gun and/or sights that are more conducive to range shooting. As I mentioned, both of these 1911s have outstanding triggers in their price ranges. That said, I was using a rest at 25 yards to take the shooter and the trigger out of the equation as much as possible. Advantage: Spartan
The Desert Eagle is equipped with a forged slide, a steel mainspring housing, and an aluminum trigger. Advantage: Desert Eagle
Both of these guns possess a remarkably tight slide to frame fitting, though I find the Spartan completely void of any side-to-side movement whatsoever. I also find the Spartan smoother cycling with a smoother hammer. Futhermore, the Spartanís thumb safety is more precise and solid feeling, with a distinct ďclickĒ against the plunger. Other than those details, parts fitting seems to be on the same level. Advantage: Spartan
I used this category when doing some of my other head-to-head comparison reports, but Iím not sure it holds much weight here. The Desert Eagle is a bit more rare, but only due to its very recent release. Advantage: Tie
The overall polish of the Desert Eagle is an upgrade over the rather subdued looking Spartan. However, STI has a much longer history and glorified pedigree, which canít be dismissed. Advantage: Tie
Looking back at this brief report, you can see the Desert Eagle won four categories, while the Spartan took three. The other three ended in a tie. The guns are close. The Desert Eagle is more impressive to look at, has some better parts fitted, i.e. metal over plastic and a forged slide. It also has a great trigger.
Having said all that, these comparisons are never a sum of the categories and my rating system doesnít tell the full story, it only helps. The Spartan remains my favorite entry level 1911. One category I donít include is ďfeelĒ, and the reason I donít include it is because I donít think its really a category. Its too difficult to quantify. The Spartan is more familiar to me and just feels right in my hands, which is probably why I shoot it better. Its also smoother cycling and equipped with better sights for range use, which is obviously where I was doing the comparison. To a new shooter who wants an entry level 1911 for the range, the Spartan gets my nod.
On the flip side, any $650 1911 that bests the STI Spartan in a series of ten categories, deserves heaps of praise. The Desert Eagle is one of the best values in the 1911 world and with its superior finish and other advantages, may be a better value for the dollar than the Spartan at the same price.
To sum everything up, the Spartan is simply a 1911 that gets it right. Its at a minor disadvantage to the Desert Eagle in many ways, but manages to put it all together to more than compensate for this disadvantage in the real world. Likewise, my personal favorite entry level enhanced 1911 hasnít changed.
Thanks for reading.