For anyone who's been to a gun store recently, it's clear that the selection of polymer-framed, striker-fired 9 mm defensive pistols is continuing to grow. In 2020, Stoeger Industries, headquartered in Accokeek, Maryland, entered this segment of the semi-automatic pistol market with the release of its duty-size STR-9. The following year the series was expanded to include the Compact STR-9C and Sub-Compact STR-9SC. For 2022, the company added models outfitted with red-dot optics ready slides. For this conversation, we are taking a closer look at the optics ready version of the STR-9SC.
A Turkish Clone
As a wholly owned subsidiary of Benelli USA, Stoeger is part of the Italian firearms group Beretta Holding. Due to its international manufacturing relationships, Stoeger's pistols, shotguns and air guns incorporate components and services drawn from various countries including Brazil, Italy, Turkey and the United States. The STR-9 series, based on the popular Glock pistols, is made for Stoeger in Turkey.
I can understand why some folks may be reluctant to explore imported, budget-priced copies of popular pistols. Not all clones are created equal and I'll admit that I had my own reservations about Turkish products early on in my gun-testing career. However, I've found that reputable Turkish-made guns often provide a higher level of quality and a better feature set than their price points might imply. I've seen positive range results with copies of the 1911, CZ-75 and Browning Hi-Power. So, I was interested to see how this pistol would perform.
The external controls include a flat-faced trigger with an integral safety lever.
The Glock-inspired STR-9SC fell neatly in with its compatriots by demonstrating a level of craftsmanship and reliability that belies the suggested retail pricing. The plain slide version (no optic) is listed at $329 while the optics-ready version sports a price tag of $399. Real world prices tend to be lower than MSRP making the Stoeger pistols somewhere around $200 to $300 less than the competing European models.
The Benefits of a Sub-Compact
The last few years we've seen the “micro nine” double-stack carry pistols chambered in 9 mm move briskly to the forefront of the concealed-carry conversation. They offer an impressive 10- to 13-round magazine capacity in an exceptionally compact package, which is usually smaller than the pistols that fall into the sub-compact category, like the Glock G26 and the Stoeger STR-9SC. But like any other handgun design, the micros are not a perfect fit for everyone's needs.
Most Micro Nines are designed to be compact and light weight with the slimmest slides and grip profiles possible. They are definitely comfortable to carry. But they can be downright snappy in the felt recoil department depending on the model and the ammunition used. As a subcompact, the STR-9SC has a wider slide and grip profile with an unloaded weight of 22.5-oz. This lends some weight to the gun, which can help to mitigate recoil. The grip is also more hand filling which is a plus for those who have paws that lean toward being medium to large in size. My hands are somewhat smaller in size but I found the textured STR-9SC grip to be comfortable to work with. The 10-round stainless steel magazine provided with the pistol I tested had a finger rest extension base plate, which provided a full 3-finger grip. Having a place to hold on with the little finger can be helpful in managing the kick.
Loaded With Defensive Pistol Features
Less-expensive pistols can often be stripped down to fairly basic feature sets in order to reduce manufacturing costs. But Stoeger knows that plenty of companies are fielding Glock clones these days and they wanted this gun to be feature rich in order to stand out from the crowd.
The metallic white dot front sight is dovetailed into the slide.
The slide features deeply cut, canted cocking serrations at the rear and the front. The front serrations are particularly handy when an optic is installed. The typical polymer sight set has been upgraded to a quite useful and robust metallic set of 3-dot sights. The trigger is a flat faced configuration, which has become popular for concealed carry over the last few years. The trigger pull is quite good for a factory striker-fired gun. It has a cleaner take up than some models with a firm stop, a clean break with 5 lbs. 1 oz. of trigger pull and a short, distinctive trigger reset.
The pistol tested shipped with one magazine, a magazine loader and four optics mounting plates with the required mounting hardware.
The pistol's dust cover features a molded in 1.5" 3-slot 1911 Picatinny accessory rail. The sub-compact frame size allows the rail to be large enough to accommodate a variety of light and laser modules including those sized for larger handguns. This pistol does omit a few features found on other makes and models. The slide stop and magazine release button are left-side only, the grip's back strap is not adjustable or interchangeable, and there is no magazine safety. This means the pistol will fire if the trigger is pressed with the magazine removed from the grip.
Optics Ready (Mostly)
Some folks may well wonder what could be the advantages of a slightly wider sub-compact slide. In this case the extra real estate is used to host a 4-plate optics mounting system. The optics slot is long enough to host most red-dot optic sizes from the smaller Shield footprint up the larger RMR-style optics. The optics slot is milled in front of the rear sight in order to preserve it. The tradeoff is that the company opted to sacrifice the space occupied by a pop-up loaded chamber indicator in favor of a witness hole in the top of the barrel's chamber.
The STR-9SC passed it’s bench checks with flying colors and operated flawlessly with all 9 mm ammunition tested.
It's a flexible optics mounting system, but there's a catch. Plate systems usually increase the height of the optic on the slide. This means that a taller set of sights, sometimes called suppressor-height sights, are required if you want the optic to be co-witnessed with the optic. This is usually standard practice with defensive pistols so that if the optic happens to wink out in the middle of a defensive situation, the person using the gun can immediately switch to their iron sights.
I like the 3-dot sights shipped with the STR-9SC but the gun I received has the same standard height sights that ship with the no-optic version of the gun. This means they are not tall enough to co-witness with an optic, which is why I tested the gun at the range with the iron sights only. Test ammunition included loads from Browning, Geco and Sig Sauer.
The Stoeger STR-9 series is a mature, ready-to-use product lineup that incorporates a variety of popular features at a fair price. I found several reasons to like the STR-9SC including manageable levels of felt recoil and no malfunctions, hiccups or hang-ups of any kind throughout the evaluation. For those who want a no-optics 9 mm sub-compact, this pistol is ready to go.
But installing standard height sights on the optics-ready models leaves customers with the option of sticking to iron sights only, shooting with the optic only or the added expense of purchasing and installing a set of taller sights. Since the company already made the investment to modify the loaded chamber indicator, hopefully future optics-ready models will ship with taller sights. For more information, visit stoegerindustries.com.