Is the Steyr S9-A1 Underrated?

It’s a Glock. It’s an XD. No, it’s a Steyr Mannlicher! Comparably, the S9-A1 is a  little known pistol. When you look closely at the ergonomics and features, it is hard to tell why. The subcompact double-action-only, striker-fired Austrian beauty feels better than a Glock 19, has improved sights, a shorter trigger and a much lower bore axis making it easier to hit the broad side of an Austrian barn.

A black Steyr S9-A1 pointed to the right
Steyr S9-A1


What some gun enthusiasts deem foul about this pistol is the key-lock safety. I personally don’t have an issue with this. However, some shooters sneer at the thought of anything but a Glock safe-action trigger. We all have our reasons for multiple safeties, and I don’t think a key-lock takes away from the overall function of the pistol. The gripes I had with this gun were nitpicky and deserve mentioning. The blued steel frame rails have very close tolerances and therefore create a great deal of friction before you break it in. Greater friction on the rails can create a situation where the gun fails to feed the following round. I would recommend at least 500 rounds of shooting to reduce friction and brass shavings. Most guns need a break in period, although out of the box this one seems to require a bit more love.

Great Features

The list of good features on this firearm is extensive. The trigger stands out as an amazing advancement in design. It is smooth, crisp, and short—you can’t ask for much better than that. If you have shorter fingers, as I do, getting proper straight pull on a Glock or Kahr can take some serious practice. With the Steyr, I have no issues. The trigger reset is nice too; it is so short you don’t notice it. Even with my comparably small fingers, I found the larger grips to be quite comfortable. I started shooting pistols in the military after the brass phased out the 1911, so thin grips are foreign to me. As is the standard these days, the Picatinny accessory rail makes a nice addition. Mounting a laser, flashlight, or tiny novelty chainsaw underneath your frame is as easy as turning a screw.

As far as the sights go, I originally thought they would end up in the negatives category. However, once I practiced with those strange triangle space-age sights, I found them to be very accurate, precise and most importantly—fast.

The most important feature on any handgun, especially one designed for concealed carry, is reliability. You can have the fanciest pistol on the planet, adorned with the most beautifully polished steel and decked out with every single whizzbang feature under the sun, and as soon as it jams, it is a paperweight. After the previously stated break in period, this gun runs like a top. The Steyr eats every type of ammunition I feed it and never chokes. I save money by practicing with cheaper ammunition, usually the cheapest brass I can get my hands on. I like shamelessly plugging Armscor USA for lower priced, quality brass-cased ammunition. Their consistent primers and better-than-decent quality brass run great in my guns. I have yet to fire steel cased from the S9-A1. It would probably do fine, and I have not bothered to try it.

Overall, the Steyr S9 is an excellent concealed carry firearm. Like many DAO polymer pistols, disassembly and maintenance is a breeze. The gun’s reliability, combined with superior ergonomics and an affordable price, make the S9-A1 an outstanding choice you may not have considered.


  • 9mm Luger
  • 3.6″ Barrel
  • 10-round Magazine
  • Picatinny Accessory Rail
  • 1.2″ Width
  • 4.8″ Height
  • 6.7″ Length
  • 26.07-ounces, Unloaded

Like it? Want it? Buy it!

So what do you think? Ready to give the under-appreciated Steyr a try? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. The first Steyr I shot was the M40-A1 (.40 S&W) when I was working in Germany. Fell in love with the ergonomic feel immediately. Better than the feel of my Sigs.

    I recently purchased a C9-A1 (compact, same slide and barrel as the S9 but has a longer grip and higher capacity mags). It does need some break-in time. I had two light primer strikes in the first box of fifty rounds. But that has not happened since. With over 500 rounds down the pipe, never a any failure to feed, eject, cycle, or any other issue. Accurate as heck for such a short barrel. Would definitely make this purchase again!

  2. Myv s9-a1 is overall s great pistol. So far I’ve put 250rds in the first day, of cheap Winchester white box RDS through it with no malfunctions. Love the sights and the trigger. My only small gripe is the gap between the slide and frame, kinda makes it feel cheap to me. But so far it has ran flawlessly. For this price range, it is hard to beat.

  3. My S-A1 .40 is the most accurate gun I own. Previously it was my XDm. I purchased the Steyr primarily as a carry gun, but I’m actually going to be using it for everything, even competitions, if it is more reliable after the break-in period. My only issue so far has been a light primer strike.

    My main problem is the magazine, it should be able to hold more than 10 rounds. I hope somebody makes a higher-capacity mag for it soon.

  4. My S9-A1 has the quality of my Steyr 40. It feeds nicely and has never has a jam. Balance is really good for a compact, and the recoil is minimum. Good bedside piece as well as concealed carry. Triangular sights are a plus.

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