Someone of a cynical nature might well conclude that the last thing the world needs is another polymer-frame, striker-fired DAO 9mm. Yes, there are a whole bunch of them out there being bought up by the boatload. And yes, new-model introductions show little sign of slacking off.
But it’s easy to forget that the polymer wave took off in the early 1980s—nearly three decades ago, which roughly coincides with the beginning of the “Anno Glock” era. And that’s enough time on the gun scene for several of the more successful examples to have attained the status of “classic” (if not “vintage” yet).
The Steyr Model M definitely fits that category. I was first introduced to it in the summer of 1999. In the company of its designer, Willy Bubits, I spent the day shooting one. I remember a couple of features that impressed me. First was the extremely low bore axis, which really helped controllability in rapid fire. Then there was the unconventional triangle/trapezoid sight system, which, while not really conducive to shooting “look what I did” groups was very quick to acquire—more so than any three-dot, no dot or dot/bar system I’ve seen since. Then, of course, was the reliability of the pistol—shot hot, dirty and fast for nearly 800 rounds, there hadn’t been a hint of a malfunction.
Recently, I had the chance to reacquaint myself with an updated version of the original platform called the C9-A1. Essentially, this one’s been chopped a bit for concealed carry and features a 3.6-inch barrel, an overall length of 6.7 inches and an unloaded weight of 22 ounces. The trigger was even better than I remember, four pounds with very slight takeup and a very short reset. Points of departure from the old Model M? Well, the synthetic grips have been “retextured,” there’s a key-actuated “limited access” lock and, naturally, an inegrated Picatinny rail for lights and/or lasers.
One thing I like about the C9-A1 is the fact that it comes with three-dot sights (I opted for installing Trijicon Night Sights). As great as the older triangle/trapezoid sight system was for getting on target quickly in your basic “large target, short time frame” scenario, it was tough enough shooting tight 25- (and 50-) yard groups with them 14 years ago—and my eyesight hasn’t exactly improved since then.
Since the Steyr Model M I’d fired back in the day had featured a four-inch barrel and 26-ounce curb weight, I kind of expected that this semi-abbreviated C9-A1 might buck a bit more—particularly with some of the hotter 9mm loads (i.e. Hornady’s 135-grain Critical Duty) that weren’t even on the market 14 years ago. Such was not the case. With a proper two-handed grip, the C9-A1 has a remarkably low level of muzzle upflip. And the rubberized, textured grips do a good job of taming the resulting “straight back” recoil. All in all, it’s a very comfortable gun to shoot.
Although my rested groups at 25 yards were more than satisfactory, I think a slightly longer sight radius would’ve tightened up things even more. I kept feeling that this pistol wanted to shoot better than I was capable of holding.
Occasionally, ejecting an empty magazine required snapping your wrist to shake it free. This wasn’t a problem, obviously, in a mag with a couple of unexpended rounds left in.
The C9-A1 reminded me of what I liked about the original platform when I first shot it. Accuracy, controllability and comfort are the hallmarks of this distinctive-looking pistol. It’s right up there with the best examples of its type.