March 13, 2023
By Tom Beckstrand
Money is a finite resource, but I have no problem finding places to spend it. Guns are my kryptonite. There’s so many, they come in all shapes and sizes and do so many different things! More than once I’ve had to talk myself out of a smoking-good deal for the sake of a happy home and responsible financial plan.
If reading that solicited an understanding nod, the gun reviewed here offers respite from the storm. Stoeger’s STR-9SC might not look exotic, but it is. (It’s from Turkey.) I feel that it offers the most “bang for the buck” that I’ve run across in some time. It joins the legion of polymer-framed striker-fired pistols, so what’s it do better than any of the others? It has quality, reliability and accuracy — but at a lower price.
Like A G26, But…
Pulling the STR-9SC out of the cheap, sleeved, cardboard box and then looking at it brings to mind a Glock 26. (I used to own one.) The current MSRP of a G26 looks to be $634.41, but you can find them new for around $540. Used examples typically sell between $425 and $450. The MSRP of the STR-9SC is $329, but you’ll likely find it for $300 or less.
Functionally, I saw no significant difference between the two when I field-stripped it for my initial inspection. The polymer frame is about the same size and shape, although the STR-9SC has a better undercut than the G26, where the triggerguard meets the fronstrap. A long day at the range won’t make your firing-hand’s index finger sore. I’m not tempted to use a Dremel and remove hog out the triggerguard or round off sharp edges. Reassembled, I also noticed that the STR9-SC has a standard, three-slot rail on the dust cover for mounting a small light, a feature not offered on the G26 models.
The Stoeger frame has another feature the G26 doesn’t: Removeable backstraps. The STR9-SC ships with the medium insert installed, but small and large inserts are optionally available. These removeable inserts not only allow the shooter to size the pistol to his or her hand, they allow for low-risk experimentation with different textures. Many a Glock has been ruined by a late night and a soldering iron in an effort to improve the smooth texture on those guns. Stoeger’s texture is a mix of patterns that work well enough and won’t rub your skin raw when carried concealed. Still, if you wanted a more aggressive texture to keep the small grip from moving around under recoil, you could use a soldering iron to and make your own texture on the grip insert. If you mess up, or don’t like the outcome, just replace the insert. Replacements, including Small and Large, are available on shopstoeger.com for $7.
Beyond fieldstripping, disassembly of the STR-9SC was like a Glock, which is a good thing. I’ve always found it humorous when folks talk about gunsmithing a Glock pistol. If you have a hammer and a punch and can spend five minutes on Youtube, you can practically become a Glock armorer. (The actual Glock armorer school is only a 1-day affair.) Once field-stripped, it only takes removal of three pins to detail-strip the grip frame. The Stoeger adds an additional step of using a screwdriver to remove the backstrap’s retaining clip before approaching the same three pins.
The trigger group is held in place by a trigger pin up front and an ejector housing pin at the rear. (It’s visible once the backstrap is out of the way). Getting that forward trigger pin out of the frame is an exercise in violence, though. I had to repeat “this isn’t my gun” to myself a couple times before I got the courage to hit the pin hard enough to dislodge it. The locking-block pin came out easily, and then the whole trigger assembly came out of the frame.
I’ve always loved how easy it is to work on a Glock and, by design similarity, now a Stoeger. Carrying and using a pistol gets lots of grime in the cracks and crevices, especially after some dusty days at the range. Guns carried concealed also attract lint that accumulates in hard-to-reach places. An annual detailed disassembly of any carry pistol will save misgivings about improper pistol maintenance. You probably already have the tools required, and there is no need to send a pistol like this off to a gunsmith.
The top half is even easier to disassemble than a Glock. Once spring tension is off the backplate, it can be removed, which allows the striker assembly to slip out the back of the slide. The Stoeger’s extractor is held in place by a roll pin that the G26 doesn’t have, so it stays attached to the slide as the striker assembly is removed.
Stoeger Did It Better
Stoeger didn’t stop with the improvements to the STR-9SC’s polymer frame. They continued to best its competition in other areas, as well. The two most obvious improvements are to the base model’s steel sights. (On both the STR-9SC and the G26, night sights are available as an upgrade.)
Plus, the STR-9SC has a stainless-steel guiderod. Some may be tempted to roll their eyes, so let’s start here. Stoeger’s guiderod has dual springs because it is so small and there isn’t a lot of room between the locking block and the muzzle. This is asking a lot for any 9mm subcompact, so the short guide rod and two springs of different weights perfectly manage slide velocity for reliability. Stainless steel handles this abuse better than polymer. I was surprised and pleased that Stoeger chose the more expensive option for this important part.
It’s also not uncommon to find polymer sights on the base-model G26. Since the Stoeger sells for a couple hundred dollars less, I was surprised again by its steel sights. They’re not anything fancy, just simple white-painted, three-dot sights. (Stoeger calls them “Quick Read,” which is a bit of spin.) The rear sight also has a ledge, which will allow racking the slide off a hard edge for those who want to practice one-handed manipulations.
Perhaps the most refined touch of all is Stoeger’s loaded chamber indicator (LCI). When there is a round in the chamber, a little metal lever pivots up to confirm that a round is in the chamber. The LCI is a better alternative than a “press-check” where a shooter pulls the slide rearward an inch or so. The LCI is easy enough to check because it is visual and tactile. Also, press-checks require grip strength that many shooters don’t have. Stoeger’s is a safer approach.
Perhaps the most notable upgrade is the magazine. It’s made from stainless steel in Italy by Mec-Gar. It is my second-favorite handgun magazine make, right behind the more costly Wilson Combat. Mec-Gar has been designing and manufacturing magazines for decades, and this one is superior to the G26’s steel-lined polymer magazine in my opinion. All that’s required to disassemble the STR-9SC magazine for routine maintenance is a punch to depress the catch at the bottom of the floorplate. Then, simply slide the floorplate off the magazine body. There’s no weirdo tools or “squeeze the sides” required.
Second, metal magazines are faster out of the magazine well than polymer ones — especially when empty. Try to run a G26 to slide lock and press the magazine release while bringing it close to the body for a reload. The Glock mag often hangs up and requires the “twist and shake” maneuver to hustle it out of the grip. This problem seems worse with pistols given a grip reduction, a current trend with polymer-framed pistols. There are no such shenanigans with metal magazines. Hit the Stoeger’s magazine release and out it comes with alacrity. I’m of the opinion that all mags should be metal.
At the Range
All the changes and improvements Stoeger made versus the Glock wouldn’t count for much if it didn’t deliver downrange. No need to worry, it did. In spades.
The STR-9SC has a short 3.54-inch long barrel, and a corresponding short sight radius. Still, I managed five-shot groups at 25 yards, better than expected. I have no doubt that group sizes would shrink noticeably with a red dot option. Using iron sights on a subcompact pistol can feel more like an eyesight test as I age.
I also made it a point of trying different bullet types. In the past, I have experienced feeding problems with certain loads. Federal’s Syntech Range ammunition has a hard-cast lead bullet coated with a synthetic jacket. The flat nose can, on occasion, prove problematic with sub-compact 9mm pistols. Short slides that cycle fast don’t always play well with flat-nose bullets. The STR-9SC went through several magazines with no issues.
I tried to find things to dislike about the STR-9SC. The trigger felt like any other striker-fired pistol; nothing amazing. It was equally reliable for the duration of my testing. The only other gripe that I came up with is that it’s not particularly attractive — that is, until I looked at the MSRP. Then, it was beautiful again. It’s hard to believe that the base model can be found for $300 or less. There really is nothing that comes close to its performance anywhere near that price.
- Type: Recoil operated, striker fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 10+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.54 in.
- Overall Length: 6.54 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 6 oz.
- Grip: Textured polymer
- Finish: Nitride (steel)
- Trigger: 5 lbs., 10 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $329
- Importer: Stoeger Ind., 800-264-4962, stoegerindustries.com
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