May 28, 2021
Firearms enthusiasts were surprised when Stoeger Industries’ semiautomatic, striker-fired STR-9 appeared on the cover of Guns & Ammo’s March 2019 issue. The STR-9 quickly established a positive reputation for reliability and accuracy at a price ($379) others couldn’t match. Those same qualities and value appear in the new Stoeger STR-9 Optic Ready. The combination of features, price and reliability make the STR-9 platform one of the most appealing red-dot-ready pistols in the market.
STR-9 pistols are made in Turkey and imported by Stoeger. Much like shotguns manufactured in that country, these pistols rival many similar designs costing more money. The recoil-operated design is similar in function to other striker-fired, polymer-frame pistols stemming from the expired Glock patent. Recoil-operated systems have demonstrated reliable use with the wide range of 9mm loads for decades. For G&A’s editors, the original STR-9 was functionally flawless, so we expect that the new Optic Ready version will perform equally well.
Like other members of the STR-9 series, the STR-9 Optic Ready model maintains Stoeger’s black-nitride finish on its carbon steel slide throughout its internals. Black nitride finishes aren’t coatings that can flake or chip. Rather, it’s a process of diffusing nitrogen and carbon into the steel substrate, which changes the composition of the metal. The steel is thereby hardened, lubricity is improved, and the dimensions of the metal remain unchanged. Wear and corrosion resistance is better than traditional blued finishes. You can carry the STR-9 every day without worry for excessive wear of the gun or fear of damaging its matte-black finish.
Each STR-9 Optic Ready pistol comes with a slide cut and ships with four mounting plates, as well as a cover plate. The included mounting plates are machined steel and attach firmly and squarely to the slide to help ensure that any reflex sight will hold zero. Optic plates accept a wide range of popular red dots from various manufacturers including Leupold, Trijicon, Vortex and others. Offering multiple mounting plates makes it easy to change or upgrade reflex sights neatly and securely, and the factory-installed coverplate looks natural sans optic while protecting the mounting interface.
The STR-9 Optic Ready comes with white, three-dot metal sights which are dovetailed into the slide. They’re functional if you choose to run the pistol without a red dot, and they sport a tactical ledge for one-hand racking. The rear sight is drift adjustable, but the iron sights do not co-witness with the optics G&A had in inventory. Plus, we didn’t find any aftermarket suppressor-height sights for the STR-9 available.
The STR-9 pistol’s ergonomic grip continues to be a good one, which didn’t happen by accident. Stoeger Product Manager Keith Heinlein told Guns & Ammo, “A great deal of effort went into the development of the STR-9’s grip, and the final design is the result of input from several top shooters and law-enforcement professionals. The texturing is aggressive enough to keep the gun planted, yet not so aggressive that it punishes the shooter’s hand. The grip angle promotes a high hand-hold, and the finger grooves feature textured recesses for even more control. STR-9 pistols are equipped with interchangeable backstrap modules, and the Optic Ready version comes with a single medium backstrap. Large and small backstraps are also available.”
While the STR-9 shares many design features with other striker-fired 9mms, one feature of the STR-9 stands out from the crowd: slide serrations. On most guns, the contour of the slide serrations is more a matter of taste than practicality, but on the STR-9 Optic Ready those deep, aggressive front and rear slide serrations serve a practical purpose. Optics-ready models place the optic directly in the position where many shooters will grasp the gun for an overhand slide rack. The overhand slide-manipulation technique utilizes gross motor movement instead of fine motor movement. An optic-equipped slide can prevent shooters from getting a full grasp of the slide. However, the STR-9’s aggressive serrations make it easier to obtain a good hold on the slide, even when you maneuver around a red dot. This feature is particularly beneficial to shooters who have smaller hands. The front of the slide is beveled near the muzzle which reduces weight and adds to the STR-9’s unique aesthetics.
The Stoeger’s controls are basic and expected. There’s a slide stop on the left side of the frame and a reversible push-button mag release. Removal of the slide from the frame assembly is similar to Glock pistols, which means that it requires pulling the trigger (on an empty pistol, of course). The face of the trigger angles away from the blade at the center and the face is nicely contoured for comfortable use.
Early STR-9 pistols had so-so triggers, but Heinlein said that the design team invested in improving the trigger. The trigger tested in the Optic Ready model felt good, and presented a consistent pull averaging 6.4 pounds for ten draws. The trigger’s reset is short enough to allow for fast follow-up shots.
Stoeger STR-9 Optic Ready pistols come with 4.17-inch barrels, which gives these guns an overall length of 7.44 inches. Overall height is 5.4 inches, unloaded weight is 26 ounces while a fully-loaded STR-9 Optic Ready with a Leupold DP-Pro installed weighs 35 ounces. Those numbers are similar to comparable optic-ready 9mms such as the Glock 19 MOS, CZ-USA P-10 C and the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact. The STR-9 has a magazine capacity of 15 rounds, the same as these competing guns. Where the Stoeger stands out from this list is price; other optic-ready 9mms listed above carry MSRPs between $599 and $649 — significantly higher than the $379 Stoeger. The STR-9 Optic Ready offers substantial savings.
At The Range
As mentioned, the Stoeger’s ergonomics are well thought-out and the gun manages recoil well. The 2020 uptick in gun sales saw many first-time firearm owners walking away from gun shops inexpensive subcompact 9mms. The STR-9 is a better option for first-time buyers. The grip’s design encourages a high hand hold. Combine this with the few extra ounces of weight, some extra barrel length, the STR-9’s low-bore axis, and this gun is easier to shoot effectively than most subcompact 9mms. Thanks to the optic-ready design, new shooters have the opportunity to take advantage of the wide array of red dots on the market. All of this makes the STR-9 Optic Ready a great pistol for new gun buyers looking to save some cash.
New and seasoned shooters will appreciate Stoeger’s efforts in offering this reliable product. The exterior-mounted extractor isn’t as massive as some rivals, but it’s substantial and worked perfectly well. Reliability was satisfactory overall, but one quality brand’s load presented issues: Black Hills’ Honey Badger refused to feed and chamber properly. We suspect the problem was a combination of the pistol’s steep feed ramp and the Honey Badger bullet’s unique profile.
Besides the issues with the Honey Badger load, the slide failed to lock back after the last shot was fired on six occasions. Additionally, the gun failed to lock open once when fired offhand. However, to Stoeger’s credit, the slide stop’s profile and size made it quick to recover from and reengage.
The Stoeger’s trigger was good when compared to other striker-fired, polymer-framed pistols, especially for a gun at this price point. The STR-9 Optic Ready’s accuracy is better than most handguns at this price point, too, and certainly on par with optic-ready handguns costing $200 more.
The performance results indicate how well this pistol shoots groups with every load tested. In fact, the STR-9, with the DP-Pro attached, produced a handful of five-shot groups that hovered between 1 inch and 1.25 inches, which is unbelievable. Those numbers are praiseworthy for any gun costing $600, and absolutely remarkable for a gun costing less than $400.
The STR-9 family is relatively new, but quickly growing. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of aftermarket goods available for these pistols yet, and these don’t accept Glock-pattern sights or magazines. As more shooters learn to appreciate the value of these guns, the market should expand.
Some affordable firearms leave their new owners asking, “Why didn’t I just spend a little more money?” Someone who purchases the STR-9 Optic Ready asks a different question: Why spend more?
Stoeger STR-9 Optic Ready Specs
Type: Striker fired, semiautomatic
Capacity: 15+1 rds.
Barrel: 4.17 in.
Overall Length: 7.44 in.
Width: 1.2 in.
Height: 5.4 in
Weight: 1 lb., 10 oz.
Finish: Black nitride (steel)
Sights: Three-dot, drift-adjustable steel sights; optic ready w/ four adapters plates
Trigger: 6 lbs., 7 oz.
Manufacturer: Stoeger Industries, stoegerindustries.com
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