Stoeger is an interesting company. In addition to making popular shotguns, Stoeger is a maker of air guns, a publisher of gun books, and a maker of some very fine handguns. I sometimes see Stoeger’s name imprinted as the maker on guns sold by other companies. My first semi-automatic handgun was a Stoeger, a Beretta-designed Cougar.
Years ago, Stoeger made a .22 caliber Luger clone. I wish that one was still available. Currently, the only handguns in Stoeger’s catalog are several models of the STR-9 and the STR-9 Compact specifically designed for the concealed carry and home defense markets.
Stoeger STR-9C Features
The full-size STR-9 was followed by the Stoeger STR-9C compact model, which has a 3.8-inch barrel compared to the 4.17-inch full-size barrel. The overall length is shortened by just a hair over ½ 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.
The total weight of the gun is 24.5 ounces. 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 part. The top of the slide was rounded, and the front was 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. 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 sat low in the hand because its design allows for a high grip.
The sights featured three, large, white dots for quick target acquisition. The steel sights were dovetailed into the slide and were drift adjustable. The dovetail design means they could be easily exchanged with night sights, if desired.
Rather large cocking serrations — front and rear — helped with slide manipulation. The slide lock lever was 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 was easy to manipulate into the locked position when the slide was fully retracted.
The magazine release had ridges that helped with thumb positioning and could be swapped to the right side for lefties. The trigger guard was large enough for gloved operation, squared off in front, and a high undercut at the back to facilitate a high grip on the frame. Upfront, ahead of the trigger guard, the Picatinny rail had three notches plus extra room for mounting lights or lasers.
The trigger and take-down buttons looked as if they were transplanted from a Glock. There was a blade trigger safety which seems to be the de-facto standard these days. Trigger manipulation was 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 pounds. After shooting 100 rounds or so, the trigger breaks at 5 pounds. 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 protruded from the top surface of the slide when a round was in the chamber. This gave both a visual and tactile indication when there was a cartridge in the chamber. The trigger guard was undercut considerably which helped make the shorter 13-round grip easy to get my full hand on.
Everything about the gun felt good to me, and shooting it was very pleasant. The magazine loaded easily, yet the spring was obviously strong enough to feed rounds properly.
The backstrap was replaceable, although the package I bought had only one backstrap. Stoeger made the gun affordable by offering different configurations. For example, my package had only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP was $329, but I saw it priced at multiple locations for less.
The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps, and Tritium sights had an MSRP of $449. That one could be bought for less than $400, and I would put it up as far as performance and reliability against handguns costing twice as much.
Accuracy and Handling
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 its new Handgun Hunter ammo for testing. Also, I was fortunate in locating three different types of new ammo from Norma. Plus, I scored some defensive ammo from Pilgrim Ammunition, a new company in Florida. That left me with enough ammo to put the Stoeger STR-9C through its paces, and I certainly enjoyed doing so.
I shared the shooting experience with my grandson and several people at the range. Initially, the sights were off, and 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 out to 15 yards.
I shot the gun clean and dirty. It didn’t like dirty. The issue was the gun was 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. A good cleaning solved it permanently. After cleaning the gun, I shot numerous rounds of different brands of ammunition to make sure that was the issue and there were no more failures of any kind. I put enough rounds through the gun to ensure my confidence in it as a carry gun.
I found carrying the Stoeger STR-9C easy in both my Bullard IWB leather holster originally built for a P226 and in the Bianchi Foldaway Belt Slide holster. The STR-9C was a nice carry size. With 13+1 rounds on board, it was an easy match for my Mossberg M2C2 that has become my regular carry gun in recent months. A couple of years ago, who’d have thought 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, which is also true of the Mossberg, is how well it was made. The fit was tight. The finish was flawless. The grip, trigger, and sights were 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. However, these people also feel the need to own and perhaps carry one. Because of my hands-on with this gun, the STR-9C is high on my list of recommendations.