Photos by Michael Anschuetz
The last time Shooting Times reported on a Stoeger handgun was 10 years ago. Sure, we’ve reviewed many of Stoeger’s shotguns and an airgun or two since then because the company has a well-earned reputation for building reliable long guns. Now the company has entered the striker-fired semiautomatic pistol arena.
Called the STR-9, Stoeger’s new pistol is made in Turkey. It has a polymer frame with interchangeable backstraps, a 4.17-inch barrel, and three-dot sights. Chambered for the 9mm Luger round, the STR-9 currently comes three ways. You can get it with standard sights, one backstrap, and one magazine for an MSRP of $329. You can get it with standard sights, three backstraps, and three magazines for $389. And you can get it with tritium night sights, three backstraps, and three magazines for $449. Each magazine holds 15 rounds.
Let’s get into the details.
The Stoeger STR-9 is 7.46 inches long overall, 5.35 inches high, and 1.21 inches wide at its widest point. The slide proper is 1.0 inch thick. The pistol weighs 26.2 ounces unloaded. Sight radius is 6.4 inches. To me, the pistol’s most distinctive features are the grip’s finger grooves and the slide’s cocking grooves. More about them later.
Like other striker-fired pistols, the STR-9 is easy to field strip for cleaning and maintenance. First remove the magazine and be certain the pistol is not loaded by racking the slide and checking the chamber. Then return the slide to its forward position, retract the slide slightly, pull down the takedown lever (which is similar to that of a Glock pistol), point the pistol in a safe direction, squeeze the trigger, and move the slide forward off the frame. Also like a Glock, the trigger is dry-fired for disassembly. Remove the recoil spring assembly from the slide and then remove the barrel.
Be advised that unlike many autoloading pistols, the STR-9 will fire with the magazine removed. My STR-9 came with one flush-fitting 15-round magazine. The magazine has a metal body, a polymer follower, and a removable polymer baseplate.
Other good features of the Stoeger STR-9 include the accessories rail on the frame (it has three cross-slots) and three finger grooves on the grip’s frontstrap. The grip’s finger grooves resemble those of the HK VP9. The STR-9’s saddle-type backstrap looks similar to that of a Smith & Wesson M&P and can be switched easily by removing the clip located inside the magazine well, pulling off the existing backstrap, snapping another one in place, and installing the internal clip.
The STR-9’s polymer frame has a generous trigger guard that accommodates shooters wearing gloves. The trigger guard is squared in front with grooves on its face and angled where it meets the grip frame to permit a shooting grip that is as high as possible. The grip also has a mild palmswell (grip circumference measures 6.13 inches) and an open beavertail, and the grip angle allows the pistol to point naturally.
As I mentioned earlier, the STR-9 comes with three-dot sights. The sights are metal and dovetailed into the slide. The front sight on my pistol has a single white dot, and the smooth rear sight has two dots. The notch in the rear sight is square and measures 0.149 inch. The shape of the rear sight allows for one-handed manipulation of the slide on a belt or other stable surface.
The slide stop is not ambidextrous, but the magazine release can be switched from the left-hand side to the right-hand side. And although the pistol does not have an external thumb safety, it utilizes a firing pin block that is deactivated only when the trigger is pressed all the way to the rear. It also has a trigger safety that is similar to other triggers of the type in that the safety lever has to be engaged before the trigger assembly can be squeezed fully to the rear.
The slide has a matte black nitride finish. Nitride is a treatment process that bonds to the components and creates an extremely durable skin that is said to be superior to any of the spray-and-bake finishes.
On top the slide is a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator. The slide also has four cocking grooves on each side at the rear and up front. They look similar to those of the HK VP9, but as serious shooters know, the VP9 has five grooves on each side up front and six at the rear. Additionally, the STR-9’s slide is beveled at the front, sort of like the old Browning Hi-Power, to reduce weight and to make the gun easier to holster and more comfortable to carry.
As I have written before, one of the advantages of a striker-fired mechanism has to do with the relationship between the bore axis and shooter comfort. A striker-fired mechanism characteristically allows for a lower bore axis, and a lower bore axis typically permits the pistol to sit lower in the shooter’s hand, which usually means muzzle flip is easier to control.
The chief complaint about striker-fired pistols is that the striker-fired mechanism normally requires stiffer springs for reliable operation, and that usually makes the slide more difficult to rack. For instance, some recent hammer-fired pistol designs claim their slides are as much as 27 percent easier to rack than similar striker-fired pistols. I have no way to scientifically confirm such claims, but I will say anectdotally the slides of hammer-fired designs do feel easier to operate manually.
As for the STR-9, while its slide may be technically more difficult to rack than a hammer-fired pistol, it is still easy to retract and presented no problems whatsoever during my shooting sessions.
Another common complaint with many striker-fired guns is that they typically have a sloppy, heavy trigger. Not so with the STR-9. My pistol’s trigger pull averaged 7 pounds, 8 ounces for 10 measurements with my RCBS trigger pull scale. Take-up was smooth, and the break was crisp.
I put the new STR-9 through a thorough shooting session, including a few self-defense scenarios, on a clear but cold February day, and I found it to be easy to shoot well. The grip allows a high-hand hold, and the high-hand hold helped make shooting the pistol very comfortable. The grip has an aggressive texture on the front, sides, and back that I really like. It was very effective.
The Stoeger STR-9 shot like a full-size gun, but it concealed more like a compact and lightweight pistol. It fits some of the most common retention holsters in use, and I used a Galco Wraith holster for the Glock 17 for my shooting drills.
I also fired the pistol for accuracy from a bench. During that phase of testing, I fired 10 different 9mm factory loads, ranging in bullet weight from 115 to 150 grains. As you can see from the accompanying chart, all loads produced five-shot group averages less than 3.00 inches at 25 yards. That’s for five, five-shot groups with each load. The tightest group average was 1.99 inches, and it came with Federal’s HST 150-grain JHP ammo. That load produced an average velocity of 909 fps, with a standard deviation of 18 fps and an extreme spread of 28 fps. Reliability was stellar, with no failures during the entire 400-round shooting session.
I should mention that my compadre at our sister publication Guns & Ammo, Eric Poole, reviewed the STR-9 for G&A, and he achieved an overall average accuracy of 2.17 inches for five, five-shot groups at 25 yards with four factory loads. He produced some excellent groups, with the smallest measuring 0.75 inch. He’s a better shooter than I am, and I present his results to establish that the STR-9 is capable of better accuracy than I can achieve with it.
According to Stoeger, the company took its time designing and building the STR-9. Engineers relied on feedback from focus groups composed of serious shooters and designed the pistol those aficionados wanted. All that time and effort has paid off. The STR-9 is easy to control and easy to field strip. It has a very good trigger pull and produces excellent accuracy. In my shooting tests, it functioned with total reliability. And it has an extremely reasonable list price. As my 20-something daughter used to say when she was a teenager, the STR-9 is “all that and a bag of chips.”