October 16, 2019
For years, Stoeger, a member of the Benelli family of firearms, has offered reliable semiautomatic shotguns at blue collar prices. But recently the Benelli family—of which Franchi is also a member—has been branching out. Benelli now offers a line of over/under shotguns in addition to its ultra-successful semiautos, and last year Franchi entered the rifle market with the new Momentum bolt-action. Now it’s Stoeger’s turn to explore new horizons, and the company’s latest product is the highly anticipated STR 9, a striker-fired 9mm semiauto pistol.
There’s no shortage of competition in the polymer-framed striker gun market, and with so many options available today, Stoeger has to bring something special if it hopes to make the STR 9 stand out from the competition. To do this, Stoeger is borrowing from its shotgun playbook: Give buyers a reliable gun that’s loaded with features at an affordable price.
The STR 9 features a carbon-steel slide with a matte black nitride finish. The corners of the slide are rounded to make the gun ride comfortably when carried, and the front and rear slide serrations are deeply cut and sharply angled—almost a shark fin shape when viewed in profile. Since the serrations are wider than those on most competing guns, there are only four of them at each corner of the slide.
An angled machine cut at the muzzle end of the slide gives the gun a stylish look, and it blends with matching scallops on the front portion of the frame. There’s a beefy, spring-powered extractor on the right side of the slide and a loaded-chamber indicator just aft of the chamber opening that offers a visual and tactile reference regarding the pistol’s condition.
The front and rear steel three-dot sights are dovetailed into the top of the slide, and the rear sight comes with beveled corners and a flat front ledge suitable for one-handed cycling.
A 4.2-inch barrel gives the Stoeger an overall length of just under 7.5 inches. Height from the base of the magazine pad to the top of the slide is 5.25 inches, and at the widest point on the grip, the STR 9 measures 1.3 inches. The slide itself measures just over one inch wide.
These figures place the STR 9 close to the 9mm Ruger American pistol and the Glock 19 in terms of overall size. The American is slightly longer than the Stoeger, and the Glock is just 0.2 inch shorter overall. Length of pull—measured from the top of the grip to the face of the trigger—is all but identical between the Glock and the Stoeger, measuring just under 2.8 inches. With an empty magazine in place, the STR 9 weighed 26.4 ounces on my scale, less than the Ruger American but slightly more than the Glock.
The STR 9’s polymer frame comes with an accessory rail and a well-proportioned grip that borrows elements from several existing designs. Shallow finger grooves and a deep undercut in the trigger guard seat the shooting hand in the proper position, and the grip angle promotes a high hold on the gun.
Additionally, the removable grip panels feature a slight palm swell that comfortably fills the hand when firing. Three interchangeable backstraps and three magazines come standard on the STR 9 model I tested, which carries a suggested retail of $389.
If you want to save a few bucks, the basic version comes with a single stainless magazine and one backstrap at a suggested retail price of $329. However, having the ability to swap out grips for a perfect fit—not to mention two additional 15-round metal magazines—warrants spending the extra money if you can stretch your budget a bit.
Street price for the base model should be around $300 and roughly $350 for the upgraded model. There’s also a top-end version with tritium night sights, three backstraps and three grip modules with a suggested retail price of $449, which means it will likely be priced around $400 at your local gun shop. I think all three versions are excellent bargains.
Internally, the STR 9 is similar to many competing striker-fired guns. There’s a single recoil spring on a stainless guide rod, and the barrel features heavy-duty lugs. Takedown is simple and fast, and it’s similar to that of Glock pistols in that the trigger must be pulled (after ensuring the pistol is unloaded, of course) and the slide slightly retracted to allow the locking plate to be lowered, via two tabs that extend through the frame. The slide assembly is then moved forward for removal.
Controls are minimal. There’s a serrated rectangular slide stop on the left side of the slide and a long, rather narrow serrated magazine release. The magazine release, which can be reversed to accommodate left-handed shooters, is accompanied by a raised polymer ridge on the grip. The ridge offers some level of protection against accidental magazine dumps.
There are shallow thumb depressions on either side of the polymer grip itself, and the texturing on the frontstrap and sides of the grip is rather mild but effective while the backstrap checkering is more aggressive. It’s not painful like those cheese grater-inspired grips on some guns, and it provides a firm hold. There’s no manual safety, but there is a passive trigger safety. The trigger itself features a serrated, angled face and broke at 7.6 pounds on average.
Stoeger spent considerable time developing the STR 9’s grip geometry, and it shows. It’s comfortable to shoot even for extended periods, and the high grip position and low bore axis make recoil manageable and minimize muzzle flip. The trigger guard undercut, finger grooves and texturing on the back of the grip module maintain proper hand position and wrist angle when firing.
The rear sight is drift adjustable for windage, and while most shooters either love or loathe traditional white three-dot sights, the Stoeger’s irons are functional. They’re tall enough to be easily seen but short enough they aren’t prone to snagging. The tactical ledge is large enough to function effectively, too. If you simply can’t live with the plain white dots there’s always the option of upgrading to the tritium-sight model.
Black nitride finishes are all the rage because they’re durable and won’t chip or flake, and the STR 9 has an evenly applied matte black finish that will hold up well to repeated drawing/holstering and corrosive perspiration. The lettering on the left side of the slide did begin to fade slightly after time, though.
The STR 9’s minimal controls make it comfortable to carry, and despite being a double-stack pistol, it’s not difficult to conceal under a cover garment. The grip angle helps position the hand properly for a consistent draw, and there’s plenty of room in the oversized trigger guard to fire this pistol while wearing gloves. The trigger itself has a rather tight, short take-up and started the test rather heavy, but after a couple hundred rounds, pull averaged seven pounds, indicating that after its initial break-in the trigger lightened.
Despite the fact that the trigger is heavier than some of the competition, it’s consistent and predictable, and I grew to like the shorter take-up. When the trigger becomes taut, a simple press fires the gun, and while the reset is longer than on some competitors’ guns, there’s an audible and tactile indication that the gun is ready to fire again.
One area where the Stoeger shines is accuracy. At 25 yards from a rest, this gun shoots quite well, printing groups that are on-par with more expensive models. Hornady’s Critical Defense and SIG Sauer’s V-Crown averaged less than two inches, but I was surprised at how consistently this gun performed with all five loads with average groups ranging from 1.9 inches to 2.4 inches, as you can see in the accompanying chart.
That’s more accuracy than most will require from this gun, but compared to other four-inch striker-fired guns, the Stoeger gives up nothing in overall accuracy. Off the bench this gun is great fun to shoot. It performed well on shooting failure and hostage drills, and the tall white-dot sights proved to be easy to pick up quickly when transitioning from target to target. The grip provides total control on the gun, and this pistol stays planted even when firing one-handed with powerful defensive loads.
The pistol also proved reliable overall. There were two malfunctions—stovepipes—early in the test, but nothing else. The feed ramp is smooth, and the gun ran through the series of bench and offhand shooting tests without any other problems. Both of the stovepipe jams occurred early in the break-in process, and once you put this gun through the paces and clean and lubricate it properly, it should work just fine.
The STR 9 is a lot of gun for the money. The interior of the gun is free from unfinished machine marks, and the slide-to-frame fit is good. All the provided metal magazines dropped free from the pistol when the release button was pressed, and the 15-round metal magazines themselves appear well built and include numbered ports that provide visual reference regarding the number of rounds remaining.
In addition to the trio of magazines and backstrap insert modules that come with this version of the gun, there’s also a basic speedloader to help top off those 15-round mags. Stoeger currently offers a Kydex holster for the STR 9, and companies like Clinger are also selling STR 9-specific holsters. Each STR 9 pistol is covered by a five-year manufacturer’s warranty, too.
Stoeger is entering uncharted territory for the brand with the STR 9, but it’s obvious this gun was well thought out and engineered. It manages to maintain a reasonable price and yet still performs and functions the way most shooters demand. Time will tell whether or not these Turkish-made striker guns become best-sellers, but based on my experience with this gun, it offers a lot for the money, which should come as no shock to fans of the Stoeger brand.
Who knows? If the STR 9 takes hold as it could, you might be seeing the Stoeger name more and more frequently in the pages of this magazine. So how long before we see a compact carry version?
STOEGER STR 9
- TYPE: striker-fired semiauto centerfire
- CALIBER: 9mm Luger
- CAPACITY: 15+1
- BARREL: 4.17 in.
- OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 7.4/5.25/1.3 in.
- WEIGHT: 26.4 oz.
- CONSTRUCTION: black nitride-finished steel slide, textured polymer frame; 3 grip panels (as tested)
- TRIGGER: 7.6 lb. pull (initial measured weight)
- SIGHTS: dovetailed white three-dot
- SAFETY: trigger lever
- PRICE: $389 (as tested)
- MANUFACTURER: Stoeger, StoegerIndustries.com