June 14, 2022
By Keith Wood
Stoeger is a brand well known to shooters and hunters, having been around since 1924. As familiar as the name is, though, it is more likely to evoke images of a shotgun than a striker-fired, polymer-frame 9mm handgun. But that’s changing fast.
Released in 2019, Stoeger’s STR-9 is a capable defensive handgun available at a very attractive price. The new tricked-out STR-9S Combat pistol is packed with features and is even more capable. The Combat takes many of the parts that are often added to polymer handguns as aftermarket accessories and includes them right from the factory.
STR-9S First Look
At first glance, this is just another striker-fired, polymer-frame, double-stack 9mm that looks, well, like every gun on the market since the 1990s. I’ll start with the elephant in the room. Yes, the STR-9 series borrows a great deal from the well-established Glock design, but that doesn’t make it a clone. The engineers who designed this handgun obviously looked closely at the Glock, kept what they wanted and tossed out features that are commonly criticized. The result is, in many respects, an improvement. These guns are made in Turkey, and in my experience, the quality of firearms coming out of that country has improved significantly in recent years. The biggest complaints I’ve heard about Glocks over the decades—other than the trigger, which I will get to—relate to the angle and composition of the grip, which does not appear to have been engineered for most human hands.
The problem is that any handgun using the Glock magazine, of which there are plenty, is held captive by this geometry. In order to create a grip that is more pleasing to shooters, Stoeger abandoned the polymer magazine and started fresh with its own mag designed specifically for this handgun. Due to the strength of the material used, the Italian-made steel-bodied magazine is noticeably smaller than the Glock in both width and depth, which gave the designers more room to shape the polymer grip. The standard STR-9 magazine holds 15+1 rounds, so there is no loss in capacity when compared to its competitors.
But my test model was the STR-9S Combat, and it uses extended aluminum base pads to get the capacity up to 20+1. Having purchased plenty of aftermarket magazine extenders for polymer handguns, this is a nice upgrade. Three magazines are included.
Back to the grip. It is, in a word, comfortable. The triggerguard is cut very high, which allows the STR-9S to sit low in the hand. There are three well-placed finger grooves on the frontstrap, with inset textured panels that are grippy but not abrasive. There is a slight ambidextrous palm swell as well as relief cuts where the thumb wants to ride. The backstraps are interchangeable, and small, medium and large backstraps are included. The grip’s side panels use the same stippled texture as the frontstrap, while the backstrap is covered with deep diamonds. Unlike the steel/polymer chassis guns we are seeing lately, the polymer grip module on the STR-9S is the serial-numbered frame. The slide rides on steel frame rail sections imbedded into the polymer. Finally, an accessory rail is molded into the handgun’s dust cover.
The polymer magazine well on the standard STR-9 is beveled, but the Combat version adds an additional extended aluminum magazine well to speed up reloads even further. We are seeing more and more duty and carry guns with extended mag wells, and with the extended base pads hanging well below the frame anyway, this one doesn’t functionally add any size to the handgun.
The controls on the STR-9S will be familiar to most anyone who has used a polymer-frame, striker-fired handgun. There is no manual safety. The slide stop is in the perfect spot and is accessible without being in the way. The reversible magazine release is well located, but I did have to shift my grip on the handgun slightly to depress it. The polymer trigger uses a flat face and breaks at the point just past its vertical position. My test gun’s trigger broke at 4.75 pounds after some slight creep. The trigger reset is a touch longer than, say, a Glock and is not as audible or tactile. For many shooters, this might take some getting used to. Overall, this is a better-than-average trigger on a striker-fired handgun, especially one available at this price.
On the top end, nearly everything on the STR-9S is made from steel. The slide has angular lines and smooth edges that give it a bit of a Smith & Wesson M&P look. Generous front and rear cocking serrations are milled into the slide. The barrel is ramped and fully supported. A flat-wire recoil spring is captured by a full-length stainless steel guide rod, another element that is usually available only as an aftermarket accessory. Suppressors have become a popular accessory on handguns, and the STR-9S Combat is an ideal host. The barrel extends one-half inch beyond the front of the slide and is threaded 1/2x28 to accommodate most 9mm suppressors. An O-ring provides a soft interface and gas seal between the barrel’s shoulder and the can. A serrated thread protector keeps things covered when a suppressor is not mounted to the handgun.
I have two 9mm suppressors: an older DTA Mk 99 Mod 0 and a SilencerCo Osprey. Both mounted to the STR-9S Combat without issue and functioned reliably. If you’ve not used a handgun with a suppressor, I’ll let you in on a little secret they don’t show you in the movies. The diameter of most suppressors extends upward beyond the visual plane of the sights, meaning the relationship between the target sight picture is obscured. The solution is a set of suppressor-height sights that are tall enough to be used over the top.
On the STR-9S Combat, the suppressor-height sights are metal rather than plastic. The sights are a three green fiber-optic dot arrangement, and the rear is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation. Both front and rear irons are dovetailed into the frame, and the rear is secured by a pair of setscrews as well. I found the sights to be of good quality and highly visible. The suppressor-height iron sights are not the only aiming solution on the STR-9S Combat. It comes optics-ready, with a slot milled into the slide to accept common red dot sights. When not in use, the optic mount is shielded by a steel cover.
Four adaptor plates are included with the handgun, and I used the appropriate plate to mount a Crimson Trace CTS-1550 3-MOA red dot to the Stoeger. Like the handgun, this sight offers a great deal of value without a hefty price tag. What I like best about the mounting arrangement on the STR-9S Combat is it allows the dot to co-witness with the sights. To me, this is a must-have on a defensive gun. If the sight fails for any reason, your iron sights are already on target.
The STR-9S has several safety features. For starters, there is an internal firing pin block that makes the gun drop-safe. Unless the trigger is pulled, there is no way for the striker to engage the primer. The trigger lever is a second safety feature, and it prevents inertia from moving the trigger unless the pad is engaged. Finally, a window milled into the barrel hood functions as a loaded-chamber indicator. The STR-9S will fire with the magazine removed, which is a good thing on a fighting gun.
Partway through testing the STR-9S, I injured my right hand and got several sutures for my trouble. Shooting 100 or so rounds with a stitched-together hand wasn’t in the cards, so I brought in a trusted shooter to help. My friend J.B. Marshall, a recently retired Air Force pilot, handled the 25-yard accuracy testing and did a great job of bringing out the gun’s potential. The results of that testing are recorded in the accompanying table. In terms of reliability, the STR-9S had one malfunction: a failure-to-feed on the very first magazine using steel-cased Winchester USA ammunition.
Our impression after shooting the STR-9S Combat was that its performance far exceeds its price. The gun pointed naturally, recoil was mild, and the experience was positive. So, there you have it: an optics-ready factory handgun with extended magazines, interchangeable backstraps, suppressor-height adjustable sights and a threaded barrel—all for $549. If the added features don’t fit your needs or budget, the retail price on the standard STR-9 is only $379. This handgun takes some of the most attractive features from many designs on the market, makes a few tweaks of its own, and piles a heck of a value into one handgun.
Stoeger STR-9S Combat Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semiautomatic
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 20+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4.7 in.
- OAL: 7.9 in.
- Weight: 28.8 oz.
- Construction: polymer frame, steel slide
- Sights: three-dot fiber optic, adjustable rear
- Trigger: 4.75 lbs. (tested)
- Safety: firing-pin block, trigger lever
- MSRP: $549
- Manufacturer: Stoeger Industries, stoegerindustries.com