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Comparison range report: STI Spartan vs. Desert Eagle 1911

Discussion in '1911 Forums' started by bac1023, Oct 3, 2010.

  1. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004
    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 Research’s new Desert Eagle 1911, which is built in Israel by BUL. I’m doing this comparison because I want to see how the surprisingly good DE stacks up against my long time favorite entry level model.

    I’ve 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 I’ve done in the past, I’ll 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.

    Finish: 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 Spartan’s finish is a dull two tone parkerizing, which is present on many Armscor built 1911s. Obviously, I don’t carry either of these pistols, so I can’t rate either finish from a durability standpoint. Advantage: Desert Eagle

    Aesthetics: The Desert Eagle would run away with this category if it weren’t 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

    Reliability: Both of these guns have been 100% reliable. However, being that I’ve had it much longer, the STI Spartan has several times the amount of rounds through it. Because it’s a more proven commodity, the Spartan gets the edge. In this category, the Desert Eagle is, unfortunately, victimized for being new. Advantage: Spartan

    Features: This is very close, as the guns have a nearly identical feature set. We’re 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 Eagles’ black combat sights. I’m calling it a wash. Advantage: Tie.

    Trigger: These two 1911s have, by far, the best two triggers in their price range, so there is no loser here. However, I’m going to give the edge to the Desert Eagle. While its not necessarily better, its lighter and just as crisp as the Spartan’s. Its also aluminum, whereas the Spartan is equipped with a plastic trigger. Advantage: Desert Eagle

    Accuracy: 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

    Parts Quality: The Desert Eagle is equipped with a forged slide, a steel mainspring housing, and an aluminum trigger. Advantage: Desert Eagle

    Build Quality: 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 Spartan’s thumb safety is more precise and solid feeling, with a distinct “click” against the plunger. Other than those details, parts fitting seems to be on the same level. Advantage: Spartan

    Exclusivity: I used this category when doing some of my other head-to-head comparison reports, but I’m 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

    Miscellaneous: 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 can’t 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 doesn’t tell the full story, it only helps. The Spartan remains my favorite entry level 1911. One category I don’t include is “feel”, and the reason I don’t include it is because I don’t 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 hasn’t changed. :)

    Thanks for reading.



  2. Thanks bac. I am going to be getting a DE as soon as I get the Wilson payed off.
  3. Quack

    Quack Rent this space

    Jan 7, 2002
    NE Ohio

    what's the gun on the right? i just can't read the name on the slide :rofl:
  4. R*E


    May 12, 2008
    The fiber optic insert in my Spartan broke/flew out at ca. 2000 rounds. STI sent a replacement insert, took me all of 2 mins to install. It's my favorite handgun.
  5. JoshuaC


    Jan 26, 2008
    Maricopa, AZ
    Very nice writeup!

    Do you think you'll do any more between your more similar 1911's?
  6. GVFlyer

    GVFlyer Senior Member

    Sep 9, 2008
    Somewhere in the air.
    Excellent range report, Brian. Do you rate the Remington R1 a close third?
  7. Hokie1911

    Hokie1911 >

    Dec 26, 2003
    NE Ohio
    Thanks man. Good write-up. :thumbsup:
  8. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004

    Actually the font on the Spartan is even larger, though not as long or deep.
  9. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004

    Nice gun, but different category. If you look at my guide in the sticky, you'll see that the R1 is in the GI replica group. I wouldn't compare it to these, as they're apples and oranges, in my eyes. The R1 should be compared to similar models.
  10. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004

    That said, this is actually the third one I've done.

    The other three were:

    Wilson CQB vs. Volkmann Combat Custom
    Dan Wesson Valor vs. Springfield TRP
    Wilson Super Grade vs. Ed Brown Classic Custom

    Unfortunately, the only one still standing is this from 2+ years ago:

    The other two have disappeared and search won't bring them up. :dunno:
  11. rsxr22


    Feb 25, 2009
    Youngstown, OH
    Very good write up! I am very interested in handling a DE. Anything that is around or better quality in the price point of the Spartan is definitely worth a look.
  12. GVFlyer

    GVFlyer Senior Member

    Sep 9, 2008
    Somewhere in the air.
    I see, I was looking at the price point only.
  13. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004
    Well that makes sense too.

    Its just difficult to compare them back to back, as they have a totally different feel.

    The R1 is one of the best replicas on the market, as far as I'm concerned.
  14. Gary1911A1


    Jun 14, 2005
    Ohio for now
    Thanks for your report Brian. I have a Spartan and if I needed another full size 1911 I would take a hard look at the Desert Eagle. If I saw one in person I might be tempted to buy as the large roll marks doesn't really bother me.
  15. tx787


    Feb 11, 2010
    Has anyone else noticed that in all of the DE's marketing material and the manual itself the pistol is depicted with front serrations yet none of the actual guns seem to have this?
  16. Texas Bulldog

    Texas Bulldog

    Oct 28, 2009
    Great write up!...

    so the Deagle is that good huh. I know the spartan is an amazing value, but i do like the finish of the Deagle better. Too bad it has such a huge billboard on the darn thing. I do like how it doesnt have front cocking serrations though.

  17. bac1023


    Sep 26, 2004
    I did see one actually DE with front serrations on Gunbroker when they first came out. It was a photo of the actual gun for sale, not a website pic. The very first batch must have had the serrations.

    Its looks better without them.
  18. jrs93accord


    Jul 10, 2005
    Pensacola, FL
    Nice write-up Brian. I would have to agree with the comparison results. For me, since I am new to both models, it was a dead even tie. With each having their Pros and Cons, I found them to be very suitable for that price range. They actually give more bang for the buck in my opinion.