Just when you thought the market could not bear another polymer-frame, double-stack 9 mm handgun, Stoeger Industries makes a strong case for one more with the STR-9. You will be forgiven if you didn’t know Stoeger was even making handguns. While the STR-9 is not the company’s first foray into the pistol market, the prior models just didn’t get a lot of traction. Stoeger is hopeful the STR-9 is going to broaden its reputation beyond affordable shotguns, and this is definitely a notable start.
Knowing the market for polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols was quite mature, Stoeger worked with focus groups to develop a brand-new model with all the most-desirable features, while still hitting a very affordable price point. I would have to say: Mission accomplished. This democratic approach to pistol design shows in the final product, which includes all the features a sophisticated shooter would currently expect in a modern pistol. A quick glance at the STR-9 evokes styling cues from across the whole range of contemporary guns; some Glock, some Walther, some Smith & Wesson, some H&K and even some echoes of parent company: Beretta’s APX. And while the STR-9 looks a bit like all of those guns, it still manages to achieve a fresh and distinctive look. Certainly nothing about this pistol makes it look like it costs half the price of its rivals in the marketplace.
Size-wise, the STR-9 exists in the quite small space between a typical full-size pistol and a compact. It has a 4.2-inch barrel and a 15-round capacity in double-stack magazines. I find the size to be a great compromise between full and compact that could potentially make everyone happy.
The list of standard features is impressive for any pistol, but especially one that is arguably from a shotgun company. Its polymer frame has interchangeable backstraps in different sizes to fit most any hands. The sights are dovetailed front and rear for drift adjustability and easy upgrades. Integrated into the dustcover is an accessory rail for hanging a light or laser. Its slide has machined front and rear serrations for easy manipulation in adverse conditions. The magazine release is reversible to accommodate left-handed shooters. There is even a loaded-chamber indicator that is both visible and tactile. Tritium night sights are available as an extra-cost option, but more on that later.
Undoubtedly, the STR-9 looks like a quality build. The machining of the slide serrations and the grip texture on the polymer frame are pleasing to the eye and nicely done. The gun feels tight and seems to be constructed to close tolerances. There aren’t really any sharp edges or ugly lines to this gun. It looks and feels like a more-expensive pistol.
As with most modern striker-fired pistols, the Stoeger does not have a manual safety. Instead, you will find a trigger safety, and a firing-pin block for drop safety. The STR-9 also features an “out of battery” safety that disconnects the trigger bar when the slide is not completely in battery. All of these systems are pretty standard, and the gun gets check marks for having all the recommended passive safety features.
Disassembly of the STR-9 is nearly identical to a Glock. After ensuring the pistol is empty, hold the slide back slightly and push down on the takedown latches on each side of the frame, then pull the trigger. From there you can easily remove the slide from the frame, and the recoil rod spring assembly and barrel from the slide. Reassembly is as easy as replacing the barrel and recoil rod and spring, and maneuvering the slide assembly back onto the frame. No tools required.
After taking the STR-9 to the range, my initial impressions were confirmed, and my appreciation for Stoeger’s newest platform soared. First, the gun performed without incident right out of the box. I had zero malfunctions over the course of hundreds of rounds with a variety of premium self-defense and target ammunition.
I immediately felt comfortable shooting the gun. If you have considerable experience with a Glock or an M&P, you will feel at home with the STR-9 in no time. All of the controls are intuitively placed and easy to operate. The grip is quite ergonomic and nicely textured. Even the hottest 9 mm rounds are pleasant to shoot, and the whole package just seems to work well together.
The standard sights are steel, fixed and of the three-white dot variety. However, there is nothing wrong with the factory sights. The front blade is narrow enough to see some daylight on both sides when in the rear notch, which is helpful to my over-40 eyes. Stoeger offers an upgrade to tritium night sights in a more-expensive model, and I hear it may be working on other options for the future, including fiber-optic variants and maybe even an adjustable rear sight.
The accuracy of this pistol caught me a little bit by surprise. A combination of highly visible sights, a decent trigger and quite good mechanical accuracy makes the STR-9 a tack driver. I believe this gun would give any model in this category a run for its money. Shooting 2-inch groups at 25 yards was an easy and repeatable task. I didn’t expect an inexpensive gun to be this accurate.
This is not to say the STR-9 is entirely without drawbacks. I don’t love the finger grooves in the grip frame because they don’t fit me quite right. If there is one “modern” option I wish Stoeger would have passed on, it is the finger grooves. Finger grooves don’t add much utility in my opinion and simply don’t fit everyone. The latest trend in the industry appears to be moving away from them, which is a good thing. Also, while I personally didn’t mind the texturing on the polymer grip, it is aggressive, and perhaps a bit too much for some shooters’ tastes.
When I say the trigger is decent, I mean it certainly could be better. The trigger pull feels a bit mushy, somewhat like a stock Glock trigger, but with more stacking at the end of the pull. The trigger is not heavy, measuring only about 7 pounds, but I found the shape of it to be a bit uncomfortable. The act of pulling the trigger, while totally manageable, is slightly unpleasant for me. The shape of it and the trigger safety causes them to dig into the pad of my finger a bit, and was noticeable to me while shooting even a single magazine of ammunition through the gun.
While I had no malfunctions at the range, I did discover one issue with the STR-9’s ergonomics, at least for me. The slide-release lever is located in the traditional place, on the left side of the frame, much like a Glock. However, it is slightly oversize compared to a Glock slide release. For me, with big hands, I often found my two-handed grip would put enough pressure on the slide-release lever to prevent the slide from locking open on an empty magazine. While this will not induce a malfunction, it is definitely not ideal in a tactical situation requiring a fast reload. This may be something you want to consider in purchasing the STR-9. I would check your normal grip in relation to the slide-release lever before you buy. So long as I was conscious of not riding the slide-release, the slide lock functioned perfectly.
I was also somewhat underwhelmed with the magazines supplied with the Stoeger. On first inspection, the magazines appear to be nice quality stainless steel bodies with a nice base plate and numbered index holes. It’s not until you load the magazine that you realize the issue. They are quite hard to load by hand. Part of the problem is the spring tension, but part is the rather rough-cut edges on the lips of the magazine. I find the magazine opening to be tough on the fingers, and the rounds just don’t seem to slide in very easily. I think some fine-tuning in this area would greatly benefit the STR-9 package. The fact that Stoeger includes a magazine-loading tool may be some indication it is aware of the problem.
To find any shortcuts on the manufacturing of this gun, you have to dig a little bit. There are a couple of sharp edges here and there, like on the trigger and the magazines. The slide is carbon steel with nitride coating rather than stainless steel, and there is no fancy proprietary finish. All in all though, these issues are minor and may get worked out in the future.
One way Stoeger is keeping the price down on the STR-9 is by offering different levels of included factory accessories. The standard pistol comes with one backstrap and one magazine. The MSRP is $329, which should translate into street prices very close to $300. If you are willing to spend a few more dollars, you can get three magazines and three different size backstraps for $389, or all that and tritium night sights for $449. The pricing bumps seem reasonable and could be a real bargain with any kind of discount off MSRP. All packages come with a basic pistol cable lock and a simple molded plastic magazine-loading tool, all packaged in a somewhat flimsy brown cardboard box. Stoeger stands behind its pistols with a full five-year warranty to the original purchaser. Since Stoeger is in the Beretta family of companies, you can feel pretty comfortable that future warranty service is not going to be an issue.
Stoeger started this process with an ambitious goal: To create a quality pistol with all the most-desirable features at an affordable price. The company seems to have nailed it. You can purchase a brand-new STR-9—with a full warranty—for considerably less than a used Glock/M&P/XD pistol with similar features. The Stoeger may be slightly less refined than those market-leading guns, but the differences are not all that obvious. As with any new model, it will take some time to develop a rich aftermarket for holsters and accessories, but I expect that will happen. I think the STR-9 is a good choice that gets you a nice quality, full-featured pistol, and leaves a few extra dollars in your pocket at the end of the day.