Photos by Michael Anschuetz
Stoeger isn’t known for making pistols, but that’s about to change. Ten years ago, Stoeger Silah Sanaya began producing the 8000 Cougar, a Turkish-made take on the Beretta Cougar that’s best remembered for its rotating barrel system.
That F model, featuring both single- and double-action operation, is still offered by Stoeger today. Mature readers might also remember the .22-caliber Stoeger Luger that was manufactured between 1969 and 1985. Until now, if you were creating a list of Stoeger handguns, that would be it.
Introducing the Stoeger STR-9
Stoeger Product Manager Keith Heinlein is the man behind the new STR-9, as well as much of the excitement surrounding the re-emerging brand. Several years ago, he met with engineers to conceptualize an exclusive design for a striker-fired handgun at a price that almost anyone could afford.
“I wanted a gun that had the greatest appeal,” Heinlein told Guns & Ammo. “It had to be more than just functional and easy to operate, so we assembled focus groups to determine what customers wanted in a modern handgun.”
The result is the STR-9. On first inspection, it looks like an amalgamation of several different pistols from brands with enviable reputations. For example, look at the STR-9’s slide and dust cover ahead of the breech. You might see the scallops and proportions of the Smith & Wesson M&P9. Inspiration from the M&P9 continues as you compare the interchangeable backstraps, which feature a similar saddle design with a checkered backstrap and pebble-textured palm swells.
Looking at the frontstrap, the finger-grooves simulate those found on Heckler & Koch’s VP9. Those three finger grooves coincidentally measure 1.5mm deep, just like the VP9’s.
The steel sights are dovetailed into dimensions that mirror the SIG Sauer P320, but here’s a disclaimer: If you were to replace the STR-9’s white-dot sights with those made for a P320, you’ll find that the point of aim versus impact are off, which would require gunsmithing to zero the STR-9 effectively. That said, Stoeger is looking at offering fiber-optic and other sight options for the pistol soon.
Internally, I found that the STR-9 is most similar to full-size Glock Gen 3 models. Although the slide and barrel are slightly shorter than the Glock 17, the profile of the pistol is close. The trigger-pull weight is similar and, like a Glock, before its slide can be removed from its frame, the STR-9’s trigger must to be pulled after pinching and pulling down both sides of the slide-lock crossbar.
There are 38 parts to a G17 and 41 that make up the STR-9. Though these pistols look different, functionally, the STR-9 is closest to a Glock. The frame’s action parts are so visually close that I disassembled every part on both pistols and attempted to interchange them. Although most of the small parts look identical to the opposing brand’s, nothing but the locking-block pin was interchangeable. However, even that pin is slightly different in length.
The slide assembly disassembles in most of the same way as a Glock and features similar ingredients. As most Glock owners know, the striker’s tip is a vertical rectangle. The Stoeger’s striker tip is conventionally round like most firing pins. To add, the approach to extraction is different with the Glock having a small extractor being pushed by a drive rod, plunger and spring assembly. The STR-9 features a longer, pivoting extractor that’s powered by a short coil spring and is pinned in place.
In terms of barrels, the hood of the STR-9 is slightly wider than a Glock’s and won’t drop in. A G17 barrel drops into the STR-9’s slide, but doesn’t lock up. These guns may look and function in most of the same ways, but they are different.
G&A doesn’t recommend that you attempt to substitute Glock parts in the STR-9. The point we’re offering with these observations is to illustrate just how close Stoeger’s engineers modeled this new pistol after an otherwise proven design.
One part that significantly differs is the guide rod, as the STR-9 features a stainless steel guide rod that’s a different size. Knowing that stainless steel is difficult (or impossible) to obtain in many foreign countries and considering that almost all of the parts in the STR-9 are manufactured from carbon steel, I suspect that this part was outsourced by Stoeger and later assembled with the pistol in Turkey.
Externally, the dimensions are almost like a G17. In fact, I was able to insert the STR-9 in my library of Glock holsters. The pistol fits tight in most Kydex holsters, so I would advise that you consider a holster with an adjustable tension screw. Holsters I have for a G17 either fit or could be reshaped with a little heat and massaging to accommodate the STR-9.
Things To Come
To keep the pistol sub-$300, Stoeger stripped the STR-9 down to initially offer it in a basic package, which is what G&A received for this evaluation. It includes a base gun with white, three-dot (steel) sights, one backstrap and one magazine, all in a cardboard box. Though we often see dealers significantly discount other pistols below a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), I don’t think that will be the case with the STR-9’s $299 retail.
Subsequent packages will include three interchangeable backstraps, as illustrated in the user manual. Stoeger will also include three magazines and they eventually plan to chamber the pistol in other calibers. Though white-dot sights are standard, a fiber-optic set with an adjustable rear are currently in development.
I was hoping that the STR-9 would accept Glock magazines. I’m sure Stoeger had its reasons (like how to source new Glock magazines to include with each pistol), but a pistol designed around Glock’s readily available magazines would instantly put it near the top of the striker-fired pyramid. Unfortunately, Stoeger went with contracting a new magazine design as most brands do.
The one stainless-steel mag that G&A received with the STR-9 was a prototype. Our magazine was not drop-free and did not feature numbered capacity markings for a shooter’s quick reference to the pistol’s status. The fact that our magazine wasn’t drop-free gave me a special appreciation for the subtle scallops molded at the base of the grip for improving finger purchase to manually extract the magazine.
A call to Heinlein revealed that a popular manufacturer in Italy was tasked to produce the magazines for the STR-9. Unfortunately, due to the timeframe of the pistol’s development, the magazine manufacturer was not able to develop these prototype magazines with a production pistol in hand. They are now working to make these magazines drop-free and expect to add numbers to the witness holes on the spine. Stoeger concluded by saying that this issue will be addressed in time for production.
The STR-9 will fire with its magazine removed (a good thing in my opinion), and the magazine release button can be switched using a screwdriver for left-hand operation.
Besides having to change the mag-release button for orientation and the left-side slide-lock lever, the pistol handles without bias. The texture is there, but not aggressive at the front or sides of the grip. However, the 12 lines-per-inch checkering molded into the backstrap is coarse and aggressive. Heinlein indicated that he didn’t want the pistol “to twist in a shooter’s hand.” It certainly doesn’t, but the texture is uncomfortably aggressive if you tend to grip a pistol tightly.
When this feedback was offered, Heinlein revealed that they are considering different approaches to texturing in the future. A few strokes of light-grit sandpaper can quickly tune it to your liking if gone unchanged in the production versions.
Control is enhanced due to the high arch molded for the middle finger behind the triggerguard and the protective beavertail contour. It’s easy to grip this pistol high to reduce muzzle flip, though the low bore axis helps as well.
The slide is quick to manage with its front and rear slide serrations. There are only four serrations at each control point, but they are deep and have a very tactile leaning edge.
Atop the slide behind the ejection port is a loaded chamber indicator just like the one found on Springfield Armory’s XD-series. You can easily feel for verification of the pistol’s condition without having to look at it.
The slide, barrel and other steel components are protected by a nitride finish. Called by several names by different manufacturers, Stoeger isn’t the only brand that uses nitride.
Certain details, such as the slide-lock lever that’s larger than a Glock’s don’t go unnoticed at the range. The out-of-the-box trigger pull, which first measured more than 7 pounds on my gauge, didn’t feel as heavy as it sounds. After shooting a few hundred rounds through the STR-9, the trigger noticeably improved to a more Glock-like 5½ pounds with a sharper and more predictable break.
Shooting drills at speed will be natural for Glock users as this pistol presents in the same manner. The trigger is predictable and clean. However, the trigger reset is a barrier that will prevent shot-to-shot split times from falling much below .21 second.
The only annoyance in shooting the STR-9 was having to manually remove the prototype, non-drop-free magazine. My advice is to check and ensure that magazines drop free with your gun at the counter before completing a purchase.
At the range, the 15-round STR-9 magazine was stiff to load to capacity. Thankfully, Stoeger includes a plastic magazine loader. If you shoot as much as we do, these loaders earn the maker extra credit.
On paper, this pistol proved to be a tack driver. Shooting 14-inch by 14-inch NRA bullseye targets at 25 yards, most groups averaged between 1¾ inches to 2½ inches for five shots. These are excellent results for any pistol, and I can’t recall evaluating another handgun priced near $300 that produced such accuracy.
While performance testing, I unexpectedly shot a single, ¾-inch, five-shot group from a sandbag using Hornady’s 115-grain Critical Defense load. After firing the last shot and unsuccessfully trying to see the impacts, I moved on to finish shooting through the rest of the targets. It was only after walking downrange that I later discovered the one-hole cluster. I suppose that the stars aligned as I haven’t been able to repeat the feat.
Overall, it’s difficult to find fault with this gun. Stoeger received some great feedback during its research-and-design phase because they’ve included many of the most popular features. The STR-9 is a worthwhile striker-fired pistol that feels familiar in the hand, offers practicality, functionality and is impressively accurate out of the box. The price makes the new STR-9 an easy recommendation.
Stoeger STR-9 Specs
- Type: Recoil operated, striker fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 15+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4 in.
- Overall Length: 7.46 in.
- Width: 1.21 in.
- Height: 5.35 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 10.24 oz.
- Finish: Nitride (steel)
- Sights: Three, white dot; drift adj.
- Trigger: 5 lbs., 8 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $300
- Manufacturer: Stoeger Ind., 800-264-4962, stoegerindustries.com