October 03, 2023
Stoeger is one of those brands that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, even though it has some impressive credentials. Stoeger was founded in 1924, so I expect to see some sort of centennial celebration next year. It is a subsidiary of Benelli, which is in turn owned by Beretta Holding S.A., Beretta being the world’s oldest firearms manufacturer. Through its history, Stoeger made a number of different air rifles, handguns and shotguns, and even took on production of the Beretta Cougar in 2009 as the 8000 series, making the pistols on Beretta factory tooling — in Turkey.
In the March 2019 issue, Stoeger made industry news with its introduction of the STR-9, a new handgun model. This polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol has Glock 17-inspired action parts, solid ergonomics and performance, as well as an attention-getting price starting at $329. The STR-9 was a success and has since developed to include several new models. For 2023, Stoeger seemingly caught lighting in a bottle again with its introduction of the STR-9MC, i.e., the “Micro Compact.”
Having a 3.29-inch barrel, the STR-9MC is 6.1-inches long and 4.4-inches tall with a flush magazine in place. With that mag inserted, the pistol weighs 181/2 ounces. Two mags are provided with this pistol, one flush 11-rounder and an extended 13-rounder. (Yes, Stoeger does offer neutered 10-round magazines if you live in one of those states.)
Allow me point out that Stoeger also offers its STR-9SC “Sub-Compact” model for $329. At first glance, it may appear similar in appearance to the STR-9MC, but it isn’t. The Micro Compact is a third of an inch shorter and noticeably thinner. It’s even smaller dimensionally than Glock’s 43X ($485). The STR-9SC is a cut-down version of the full-size model, whereas the STR-9MC required an entirely new and slimmer frame with a thinned-down slide. As Robert Heinlein famously wrote in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (1966), “TANSTAAFL” — “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
The smaller size of the STR-9MC means that, unlike its larger siblings, it does not have interchangeable backstraps. I always recommend going to your local gun store to get your hands on a new pistol to check fit; everyone’s hands are different. However, I found that with the flush magazine in place, my pinky had no room on the front of the frame and curled around underneath the magazine. With the extended magazine inserted, I fit all my fingers around the gun. If you’ve got big hands or thick fingers, “your experience,” as they say, “may differ.” There are shallow finger grooves on the front of the frame, and the basepad of the extended magazine has contoured shapes and texturing. Of course, the Micro Compact is less concealable with the longer magazine in place.
The coating on the steel slide is nitride. It provides a business-like finish and good corrosion resistance. The sights on this pistol are also steel, and dovetailed into place. The front sight has a big white dot and the rear sight is an adjustable, all-black, serrated, square notch that provides daylight around the front post. (Night sights are available on upgraded models.)
Why an adjustable rear sight? Smaller pistols, more often than larger models, can have a varying point of impact. Secondly, the 9mm chambering is the most prevalent pistol cartridge in the world, and we’ve found bullet weights ranging from 50- to at least 185-grains, and published velocities between 850 to 2,000 feet per second (fps). You will have varying points of impact when changing loads, especially at distance. The ability to adjust your sights so that you can hit exactly where you want is a nice feature.
A deluxe version of the STR-9MC is also available ($479), which is optic-ready and includes tritium sights. Further, it is supplied with three magazines. The draw of the base model, obviously, is the low cost of entry.
Magazines are stainless steel and marked with index holes on the back. Fun fact: The STR-9MC is fed by the same magazines as the larger STR-9. You could buy a spare 15- or 20-round magazine for when it’s time to reload.
The slim STR-9MC is thickest at the slide stop, where it measures just less than 1.1-inches wide, but the grip is only an inch thick and the slide .9-inch at the base; it narrows at the top. If you compare this pistol to other STR-9 models, you’ll notice the slide serrations are different. The “Easy-Grip” slide serrations on the larger STR-9 models are cut significantly deeper. With less metal to work with in the narrower slide, these had to be shallower. They do, however, provide a good gripping surface.
As this is a small, light gun, Stoeger equipped it with a robust recoil system: Dual springs help to absorb recoil around a full-length, stainless-steel guiderod. However, strong recoil springs mean that the slide requires some effort to cycle. If you’ve got grip-strength issues, this pistol might not be for you.
The angled cuts on the slide narrow towards the top and offer less room for labeling. Instead of “STOEGER STR-9MC” boldly marked on the left side, the Micro Compact received subdued markings above the slide stop.
Injection molding today is amazing. It allows engineers to develop incredible textures. The fine texturing on the sides and front of the grip, combined with the raised squares on the backstrap, keep your hand in place when shooting. There are also textured spots above the front of the triggerguard where the thumb of your support hand should rest when shooting two-handed.
The polymer magazine release is serrated and contoured, and doesn’t protrude beyond the frame. You don’t have to worry about accidentally dumping a loaded magazine.
The slide stop is single-sided and very flat to the frame. Those who like to use these levers as a slide release may have problems.
The pistol doesn’t feel fat or skinny in my hand; it feels correctly proportioned. Stoeger got the ergonomics just right with the STR-9MC, in my opinion, from frame proportions to grip angle. The bore is low to the frame and I can get my hand high around the grip, helping to manage recoil.
The trigger is polymer and has the usual safety lever in the center that prevents it from moving until compressed. The trigger face is vertically serrated and nearly flat. Guns & Ammo’s sample produced a measured pull weight of 63/4 pounds, which is unremarkable for a striker-fired gun. I’d call it “perfectly acceptable” for a pistol of this type.
When disassembled, the internals look familiar to anyone who has ever taken apart a Glock. The parts aren’t interchangeable, though, but you’ll definitely notice the design similarities. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned; Glock’s is about as proven a handgun design as there is.
Whether you call them “sub-” or “micro-compacts,” pistols the size of the STR-9MC are all the rage for carry. They are big enough to control while possessing double-digit capacity. If you think about it, they are roughly the size and weight of a snubnose revolver, offering double the capacity and less recoil. That said, recoil in this pistol ranges from firm to stout, depending the ammunition. Luckily, we’ve never had more options for premium defensive ammo, and a number of makers offer loads specifically made for compact and micros. My current favorite is Federal’s Micro HST, which features a heavy-for-caliber 150-grainer at reduced velocity. The combination offers lower recoil and guarantees penetration.
The slide-to-barrel-to-frame fit was similar to other polymer-framed striker-fired pistols I’ve tested, so I was unsurprised with its average accuracy of 31/2 to 4 inches at 25 yards. Again, that’s acceptable for a budget-priced pistol compact enough for a pocket, provided you’re using the flush magazine and have a big pocket.
With standard pressure — or deliberately soft-recoiling ammo such as the Federal Micro HST — the STR-9MC was controllable and pleasant to shoot. With +P ammunition, it could be a handful. The white dot of the front sight helped to keep my eye focused there, and I didn’t mind the plain black rear sight; in fact, I prefer it. The rear sight is a window frame; you should be looking through it, not at it. You shouldn’t want or need anything that draws your attention away from the front sight.
While I didn’t have time for an exhaustive torture test, the pistol proved completely reliable at the range. Of course, I preferred shooting it with the extended magazine, but it was eminently shootable with the flush magazine.
What constitutes a “micro-” or “sub-compact” pistol depends on your perspective. That’s the great thing about small guns like this one that are nearly as capable as large guns. One of my son’s college-age friends is 4-foot, 10-inches, and 90 pounds. The Stoeger STR-9MC looks like a full-size gun in her hands, and it’s about a big of a pistol as she would want to carry. That’s great because it provides steel sights, good ergonomics, and decent capacity while being affordable.
In this era of micro-compact 9mms intended for concealed carry, I wouldn’t be surprised if the STR-9MC soon becomes Stoeger’s best seller.
- Type: Striker fired, recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 11+1 rds., 13+1 rds.; 10+1 rds. (optional)
- Barrel: 3.29 in., steel
- Overall length: 6.1 in.
- Width: 1.08 in.
- Height: 4.4 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 2.5 oz.
- Frame: Polymer, multi-textured
- Finish: Nitride (steel)
- Sights: Steel, white dot (front); adj. notch (rear); tritium, optic-ready (optional)
- Safety: Striker block, trigger lever, loaded chamber indicator
- Trigger: 6 lbs., 12 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $399
- Importer: Stoeger Industries, 800-264-4962, stoegerindustries.com
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