Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but my first semi-automatic handgun was a Stoeger. That one was a Beretta-designed Cougar which is no longer in the catalog. The only handguns listed are several models of the STR-9 and the STR-9 Compact while it seems like hundreds of shotgun models are listed. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. That doesn’t mean Stoeger doesn’t know how to make a good pistol. They do.
When re-entering the handgun market, it seems the company felt opportunities existed within the concealed carry and home defense markets for a capable but affordable pistol. First came the full-size STR-9 models and now the compact model. The compact model has a 3.8″ barrel compared to the 4.17″ full-size barrel. The overall length is shortened by just a hair over half an inch. The compact carries 13+1 rounds where allowed. Ten round magazines are available for people who live in places where magazine capacity is limited. Total weight of the gun is 24.5 oz. The frame is constructed of fiberglass reinforced technopolymer, designed to be light but strong and durable.
Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. I always like to read the manufacturer’s description of a gun before I start writing about it. Stoeger starts off by describing the design as snag-free and low profile. I get the snag-free. The top of the slide is rounded, and the front is scalloped for easy holstering and to prevent garment snags. Low profile is one of those subjective descriptions that originated in the shotgun world to describe the total height of the action. Okay, Stoeger has its roots as a shotgun company, so I looked at the total height of the STR-9C’s action compared to other handguns I have around. Although I found one or two slightly higher, I found none lower. The pistol sits low in the hand because its design allows for a high grip with your hands.
The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. They are drift adjustable and can be exchanged with night sights if desired. Rather large cocking serrations both front and rear help with slide manipulation. The slide lock lever is big enough to do the job without getting in the way. I’m not one who uses the slide lock to release the slide into battery, but I do like the way this slide lock lever is easy to manipulate into the locked position when the slide is fully retracted. The magazine release has ridges that help with thumb positioning and can be swapped to the right side for lefties. The trigger guard is large enough for gloved operation, squared off in front and with a high undercut at the back to facilitate a high grip on the frame. Up front ahead of the trigger guard, the Picatinny rail has three notches plus extra room for mounting lights or lasers.
The trigger and takedown buttons look as if they were transplanted from a Glock with a blade trigger safety which seems to be the defacto standard these days. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break. When I first got the gun, my Lyman trigger pull gauge consistently put it at 7 lbs. After shooting a hundred rounds or so, the trigger now breaks at 5 lbs. If you shoot the gun, you’re going to like the trigger. Stoeger STR pistols have a striker blocking device that prevents forward movement of the striker/firing pin unless the trigger is completely pulled. One more safety mechanism disconnects the trigger bar when the slide is out of battery. This is meant to ensure the pistol cannot fire unless the slide is fully forward and the trigger is pulled.
A loaded chamber indicator protrudes from the top surface of the slide when a round is in the chamber. This gives both a visual and tactile indication there is a cartridge in the chamber. The trigger guard is undercut considerably which helps make the shorter 13-round grip easy to get your full hand on. Everything about the gun feels good to me, and it shoots just as well. The backstrap is replaceable, although the package I have only has one backstrap. The magazine loads easily, yet the spring is obviously strong enough to feed rounds properly.
Stoeger makes the gun affordable by offering different configurations. For example, the package I got has only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I see it priced at multiple locations for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449. That one can be bought for less than $400, and I would put it up as far as performance and reliability against handguns costing twice as much.
As I write this, the world is experiencing an ammo shortage, especially in 9mm. In the midst of this, Hornady provided me with an ample supply of their new Handgun Hunter ammo for testing, and I was fortunate in locating three different types of new ammo from Norma plus some defensive ammo from a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. That left me with enough ammo to put the STR-9C through its paces, and I certainly enjoyed doing so. I shared the shooting experience with my grandson Josh and with several people we met at the range. Initially the sights were off, so the shots were impacting slightly to the left of the point of aim. Tapping the rear sight to the left solved that issue. Groups were tight all the way out to 15 yards. I shot the gun clean and I shot it dirty. It doesn’t like dirty, with the issue being not going into battery. A bump with the heal of my hand on the rear of the slide solved that issue on a temporary basis, but a good cleaning solved it permanently. After cleaning the gun, I shot numerous rounds of different brands to make sure that was the issue and there were no more failures of any kind. I put enough rounds through the gun to insure my confidence in it as a carry gun.
I found carrying the STR-9C easy in both my Bullard IWB leather holster originally built for a P226 and in the Bianchi Foldaway Belt Slide holster. It’s a nice carry size and with 13+1 rounds on board, it’s an easy match for my Mossberg M2C2 which has become my regular carry gun in recent months. Who’d have thought a couple of years ago that two of the most practical concealed carry pistols today would be made by traditional shotgun companies?
One of the things I appreciate about the Stoeger, that is also true of the Mossberg, is how well it’s made. The fit is tight. The finish is flawless; the grip, trigger and sights are of the quality of a good trap or skeet gun. Because of my role as an instructor, I’m often asked to recommend a handgun for people for whom it’s a stretch to come up with any money for a gun but they feel the need to own and perhaps carry one. Because of my hands-on with this gun, the STR-9C has just been added to my list of recommendations.