Stoeger STR-9

The New King Of The Budget Nines?
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When you look up the term “workmanlike” in the Merrian-Webster Dictionary, one definition is “competent and skillful but not outstanding or original.” Given the leftward-slant of publishing folks these days, the dictionary company would probably be horrified to learn they just perfectly capsulized the Stoeger STR-9 pistol family.

Equally, my friends at Stoeger might be less than thrilled at the characterization but let’s be honest — the STR-9 is “skillful” or “competent” (as an inanimate object) but not really outstanding or original. In other words, think of a GLOCK, something from Springfield Armory, S&W, the Mossberg MC2 or any other of the countless mainstream, mass-market striker-fired 9mm polymer-frame pistols on the market. They’re not exactly “great” — insert your personal criteria here — but they’re good enough millions trust their life to them.

I’m now adding Stoeger to this yeasty mix, regardless of price.

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Stoeger STR-9 Gear List
Ammo: Federal Bulk Pack — Syntech Training and HST JHP Defense Ammo
Holsters: CrossBreed Supertuck and CrossBreed Freedom Carry IWB
Ear Pro: MSA Supreme Pro-X
Mag Loader: Maglula Universal Double Stack

Writing On The Wall

The journeyman gun writer has a major problem nowadays: We’re expected to differentiate guns based on their unique features yet many of the mainstream pistols brought to market in the last decade are, frankly, quite similar. Most 9mm striker guns are ho-hum comparable and it becomes the writer’s curse to figure out what differentiates one from the next.

Having recently spent a week at Gunsite academy shooting three STR-9 models, I walked away without much to say — which is saying something. At night, holding editorial conferences over small samples of Kentucky Holy Water in the hotel bar, I heard the assembled scribes constantly saying things like, “These things are darn good. Amazingly so. They’re on par with most of the other leading striker nines. How am I gonna write this up?”

It’s a quandary, at least until you realize what is truly unique — the price tag.

At press time, the online “on-the-street” price for most of the STR-9 models starts just above three C-notes (based on $399–$629 MSRP). On a really good day, you might find a new one under $300. Compare this to the vaunted “Perfection” polymer pistols where you’re talking north of $500 for the subcompact models. I’m not a financial wizard but if you get the same reliability, dependability, ergonomic features and accuracy for less money, it’s pretty easy to decide where the best value lies.

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The Combat model features an optic cut with four
adapter plates for mounting various sight footprints.

The aluminum flared magazine well comes standard and makes
swapping the huge stick magazines positive and fast.

Prior History

It all starts with the company DNA — most shooters know Stoeger for their shotguns. Whether you’re considering one of their inertial-driven semi-auto hunting or tactical guns, or fantasizing about guarding the 3:10 Yuma stage with a Coach Gun, Stoeger has a solid reputation for quality offshore-manufactured shotguns at a decent price.

Stoeger did build handguns over the years including a Luger copy and a takeoff on the Beretta Cougar. However, most recently they’ve left handguns to the competition while focusing on their bread-and-butter scatterguns.

Then, Product Manager Keith Heinlein had a crazy notion — he wanted Stoeger to get into the pistol market but not just with an also-ran representative. His vision was a good defensive handgun almost anyone could afford and the idea caught fire within Stoeger. The result was the initial STR-9 in 2019. The guns are built in Turkey but if you’ve been following the shooting business over the last decade, the country has developed a reputation for building high-quality firearms at 1970 prices.

I had an STR-9 in hand as soon as they came out in 2019 and was impressed. In fact, I was so surprised at the general lack of shortcomings I couldn’t come up with a suitable story angle aside from the bland “Yet another great striker nine.” The price was nice, but I figured it would quickly succumb to market pressure and inexorably creep upward. The review languished and I sent the gun back.

Despite having produced a pretty fair 9mm, I figured Stoeger would get the “black pistol” bee out of their collective bonnet and then go back to building respectable duck guns. It didn’t happen. They doubled-down and I’m happy they did.

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The Stoeger STR-9 family: Everything you want —
including reliability — but hundreds of bucks less!

Meet The Family

The best way to imagine the STR-9 family would be to figuratively melt all the leading 9mm poly pistols in one big kettle, then cast a new gun from the resulting stew. Whether you’re talking the S&W Shield-like slide scallops, finger grooves seemingly taken from the H&K VP9 and a host of other niceties, the STR-9 copies what works well and smartly ignores what doesn’t. Perhaps not having a longtime in-house engineering team dedicated strictly to pistols is a good thing — dogma is thankfully missing from the STR-9.

Starting with the basic STR-9 family in 2019, the folks at Stoeger have recently expanded the clan into what I wanted to compare to Goldilocks and the Three Bears — you know, mama, papa and baby. However, a focus group consisting of my wife and a couple of buddies thought it was a dumb concept so I won’t use it, even though it makes more sense than the numbering system of those Perfection pistols.

Regardless, the analogy is apropos. Starting with the STR-9MC (Micro Compact, Baby Bear) you have a top-flight 13+1 micro-nine ready for everyday carry with minimal hassle. Moving up to the STR-9C (Compact, Mama Bear), you have a medium-sized pistol very comparable to the same-sized GLOCK models in every regard.

Reaching the top of the line, you have the STR-9S, the “Combat Semi-Auto Pistol,” the Papa Bear of the lineup. These three guns — ignoring the original still-manufactured medium-size STR-9 for the moment — provided a wonderful three-part slant, at least until Stoeger got busy and threw a curve ball into my story hook. It seems they’ve added the slightly-larger 10+1 SC (Sub Compact) model along with an F (Full size) pistol in an effort to duplicate the Model obfuscation of our friends from Germany. Regardless, if you have a specific gun size in mind, there is an STR-9 to fit your requirements. They’ve also added .40 S&W to the mix in case you can’t get enough recoil in your life.

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The Stoeger Combat model is a large gun primarily intended for
duty or competition. With 20+1 capacity, flared bag well, suppressor-
height sights and an optic cut, it is a tremendous value among nines.

It Keeps On Ticking

As mentioned, I spent nearly a week driving the MC, C and S models through all sorts of training at Gunsite, ranging from square-range work to the various simulators. This is where the workmanlike character begins to shine — no issues arose, as in “zero.” I confirmed this after overhearing the instructors talking one day about how none of the guns broke during our class. This is a noteworthy occurrence at Gunsite where countless new firearms are introduced to the gun press every year.

There is a silent understanding between all parties involved at these launches that a percentage of the new guns will quit functioning during the shakedown. This is why it was so remarkable to hear the instructors note not one of the Stoeger guns went “bosoms up” (saying it nicely) during the week.

After this experience I can swear and affirm the STR-9 has checked the dependability box and for me, reliability is by far the single most important factor for a CCW gun. I can make do with a poorly designed, uncomfortable, inaccurate handgun but if it doesn’t reliably fire when needed, there is no point in owning it. In this regard, the STR-9 models clearly appear on-par with (insert your favorite nine here).

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The Combat model comes with suppressor-height sights, a threaded
barrel for a can (plus thread protector), optics cut and great ergonomics.
It also proved reliable in Brent’s testing at Gunsite.

Features

Aside from top-notch reliability, the line is packed with features you wouldn’t expect for a handgun at this price.

The incomplete list is long: reversible mag release, three-dot sight system, great ergonomics, accessory rail, Nitride or Cerakote slide finish, loaded-chamber indicator and replaceable S-M-L backstraps. An optics cut, fiber-optic and night sights are also available on some models.

My personal favorite of the group is the STR-9S Combat model. Boasting additional features such as threaded barrel, suppressor-height sights, flared magwell and 20+1 capacity, the low bore axis, 1911 grip-angle and refined ergonomics make it a sweet shooter. I noticed most of the scribes chose this gun during the “Pick Your Poison” segment of training. The 9S is a substantial full-sized gun, weighing in at 28 oz. compared to the G17 at nearly 25 oz. but you probably won’t be carrying it as a daily CCW anyway

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Brent prepares to open the door to possible trouble on “The Scrambler”
course at Gunsite Academy while armed with an STR-9C (Compact) model.
Photo: Source Outdoors

The STR-9 Combat isn’t really a concealable CCW gun, it is
intended primarily for competition, duty or training.
Photo: Source Outdoor

Range Time

I’ll make this quick and easy — pick up your favorite well-known polymer 9mm, shoot it and you’ll get a good preview of the Stoeger STR-9. Whichever flavor you choose, it will have all the good and lesser characteristics of any major-manufacturer polymer nine, such as the pretty-fair flat-faced trigger. Since it’s a polymer gun, you can’t expect the super-crisp trigger of a custom 1911 but this is part of the tradeoff of plastic versus steel.

Behind dependability comes shooting comfort. I noticed after several days of training, there were no hotspots anywhere on my hands. Had I been shooting certain other brands of gun, the adhesive bandages and tape in my shooting kit would have gotten a workout. It wasn’t necessary with the Stoeger. Good design and attention to manufacturing detail work together here, resulting in a non-punishing gun.

In the end, this may sound like a case of damning with faint praise but honestly, there really isn’t anything unusual or standout about the STR-9 family — aside from the fact they do all the striker-nine stuff you want but for a couple of hundred bucks less. Sure, it doesn’t carry the cachet of the sexy bigger names in the 9mm space, However, if you’re a practical, down-to-earth kinda guy or gal who appreciates the value of a dollar and just wants a good solid handgun — in other words, a workmanlike polymer nine — consider joining the STR-9 family.

MSRP: $399–$629

StoegerIndustries.com

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