The first time I went gun shopping, it was a dizzying experience. I was greeted by seemingly endless possibilities, and I had little knowledge of how to differentiate between them beyond my limited budget. That “problem” of too many options—wonderful problem that it is—has only increased with the advancement of gun technologies.
In my case, a friend pointed out Armscor’s Rock Island Armory line for reliable but reasonably priced 1911-style options. I tried one out, agreed with my friend, and have continued to recommend Rock Island pistols to new gun owners since then. These 1911s were not at all flashy, but they were, ahem, rock-solid choices.
Now Rock Island has branched out from the traditional with its new STK100, a striker-fired, optics-ready, 9 mm pistol with a steel slide, aluminum clamshell frame and a capacity of 17+1 rounds (or more, since it will take many double-stack, single-feed magazines made for Glocks).
So how does it stack up in the list of possibilities? Whether a gun is the right one ultimately comes down to some simple factors: Reliability, fit, feel and suitability for its intended purposes.
The STK100 features a steel chassis clamped inside a two-piece aluminum “clamshell” frame. This decreases costs and increases the frame’s weight. The trigger, which has an integral safety lever, is also aluminum. Slide cut-outs decrease its weight.
In the category of reliability, Rock Island is a solid manufacturer with a longstanding good reputation, and the STK100’s materials and design should help it to function with no issues for a long time. It is mechanically derived from Glock’s Gen3 G17, which gives it the benefit of being familiar and of being compatible with many Glock-compatible after-market parts. But it still manages to differentiate itself in good ways; for example, it utilizes a steel guide rod instead of polymer. The STK100 features a high-carbon steel slide and a tough aluminum clamshell design for its grip frame, held together in six places with screws rather than pins. There are a lot of striker-fired 9s on the market, but a great many of them are polymer-framed. I have nothing against polymer-framed pistols and enjoy shooting most of them, but any time a gun really gets my attention for its overall “shootability,” as this one did, it’s made of metal. Metal doesn’t flex as much as polymer, which makes a real difference in how the gun handles the intense forces any firearm undergoes. Metal often has the downside of weighing more, but the STK100’s weight is right in line with other competitors’ offerings, so no loss there. (Some of the weight was reduced in the steel slide with cut-outs.)
When it comes to fit, for the most part, the STK100 either fits your hand well or it doesn’t. People with particularly small or large hands will not find much help, such as interchangeable backstraps, straight out of the box. Ditto for left-handed shooters, as the controls are not ambidextrous.
If it does fit you, though, it feels great. The 1911-style grip angle and extended beavertail combine with the undercut trigger guard for an instant, intuitive grip. The grip’s texture does its job well, too, particularly on the sides—not too much and not too little, unnoticeable against my hands but decidedly contributing to control. I never felt like my hands slipped, though granted I didn’t test in sweaty conditions.
Suitability depends, of course, on your needs. Full-sized guns are not really designed for concealed carry, but many people in the market for a personal-protection gun also want to conceal. For me, this gun’s 7.91-inch overall length definitely removes it as an on-body-carry option, given my 5-foot stature. For others, however, this could be a great carry option, particularly if you like the sturdiness of a metal frame. The 17+1 capacity is already excellent, but because this gun is patterned from the Glock design and fits many Glock accessories, you aren’t limited to just that. The STK100 disassembles easily, though I’ve never been a big fan of the pull-the-trigger method of releasing the slide. The sights and trigger were unremarkably standard, but the gun feels very well-balanced, and that made a positive difference in rapid-fire shooting. It is optics-ready, originally using a Vortex footprint but being redesigned to fit all micro-dot options on the market starting this month, with adapter plates available for those already purchased. The STK100 also has a three-slot Picatinny accessory rail to attach a laser or light and retails for a very reasonable $599.
Overall, the STK100 was an absolute pleasure to shoot and did its job very well. I wanted to keep shooting it, and I know I’ll be recommending Rock Island even more in the future.