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Plus...a Whole Lot More?

June 22, 2023
Chris Cerino

Mostly recognizable as a shotgun manufacturer, Stoeger Firearms covers all bases from defensive, hunting, competition, and even coach side-by-sides. Next year marks its 100th anniversary, and for most of that time, handguns have not been their priority. Not a year too late, Stoeger begins its climb into a serious mover in the handgun market.

Stoeger came out with their STR-9 handgun in 2019, and most considered it an M&P/Glock knockoff. Then, the striker-fired pistol was retailing for around three hundred dollars! Cheap. It’s gotta be cheap? Unfortunately, customers quite often perceive quality based on price. That’s what many thought. However, quality doesn’t always have to garner a heavy price tag.

Fast forward four years, and the STR-9 is going strong and morphing into an entire line.

Spending three days at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, AZ, with their new models, gave me an entirely new appreciation and perspective.

Don’t race to the last paragraph to read my final thoughts; I'll do it right here and now. All three guns blew me away. For what most would consider a budget-line firearm, ergonomics, accuracy, and function were exceptional. Remember, the parent companies of Stoeger are Beretta and Benelli. With a big sister like Franchi, the bloodline is strong.

I arrived at Gunsite with 14 other media members, eager to judge the latest from a 99-year-old company that tested the pistol waters a few years back. Our tables overflowed with helpful equipment and a pistol case containing all three Stoeger models. The Eyewear from Magpul and hearing protection from Walkers would prove handy throughout the event.

If you fancy becoming part of the firearms industry or a gun writer, events like these solidify your fanciful pursuit. Partnerships and support from outside companies make an event like this special. Equipment provided by Burris, Crossbreed Holsters, GPS gun bags, Yeti, 5.11 Tactical, and Fiocchi ammunition makes the event feasible and complete.

Getting back to the pistol case. Three pistols in three sizes graced were presented to each of us. No sharing is required.

Stoeger went above and beyond to impress. However, to impress a gun guy like me, guns need to work well... exceptionally well. The assortment of gear included the full-sized STR-9 Combat +, STR-9 Compact, and STR-9 Micro Compact, along with four magazines for each, holsters, and a magazine pouch.

The STR-9 Combat + has a tungsten Cerakote slide with adjustable fiber-optic sights. It’s cut for an optic and includes a cover plate and four mounting plates to accept popular red dot footprints. This pistol was outfitted with a Burris FastFire 4, which proved accurate and held true. A threaded barrel is standard on STR-9 Combat + models.

The Combat + is appropriately textured, undercut at the trigger guard, and includes three interchangeable backstraps and diminutive finger groves. Combined with extremely low bore access, these features made the pistol a pleasure to shoot and easy to manage.

But wait… there’s more!

Functional cocking serrations forward and rearward on the slide, an enhanced magazine release, and a factory-installed magazine well. The trigger is undoubtedly one of the nicest factory triggers I’ve pressed. Truly custom, yet completely factory.

With an MSRP of $679.00, you’d never guess that it ships with four 20-round magazines. This is it if you want a competition pistol or one that stands out in your safe. Turn-key performance.

If you don’t need or want the bells and whistles or are looking for a smaller gun with a full-size feel, the STR-9C might be for you. An MSRP of $399.00 puts this gun within everyone’s budget.

Optics ready, with front and rear night sights, the STR-9C frame has the same features as the Combat +, minus the magazine well. The shortened grip makes for 13 +1 capacity. The trigger is equally crisp and clean, while controllability is similar to the Combat +.

The STR-9C is a pistol for those wanting concealability but complain that they can’t get their big hands on a micro-compact.

The star of the show, for me, was the STR9-MC. This tiny gun stole my heart in a big way. Micro-compact designs have come far, and Stoeger’s version is on par with the best of them. With an MSRP ranging from $399.00 to $479.00, Stoeger may have made this pretty little pistol unappealing due to its affordability.

Prices vary and for good reason. Adding a tritium front sight and an extra 13-round magazine are worth the $80.00, and it's still priced too low.

The full-sized feel is accomplished with functional texturing and a generously undercut trigger guard by having the 13-round magazine inserted. This pistol likely has the lowest bore axis of any micro-compact I've yet to fire. I enjoyed it so much that I shot it for two full days of the three we spent on the range.

Why shoot such a little gun so much? Little guns like this are my bread and butter. I train a lot of civilians, and these are the guns they buy to carry. Stoeger’s micro-compact is easy to control, and its accuracy is phenomenal. Aside from a little extra work to shoot it hard and fast, it is fun to shoot, and it made me look like a rock star.

A viable carry option for a variety of reasons. It's optics-ready, has a fully adjustable rear sight, front and rear cocking serrations, nearly perfect texturing, excellent capacity (13 +1), and a very controllable carry-weight trigger. If that's not enough, believe me when I tell you, it’s accurate!

The bad news? Lefties beware. None of these pistols are ambidextrous. The magwell on the Combat + rubs my palm in an increasingly painful way. It wasn't only me, so they're looking to redesign it. The capacity of the Compact (13 +1) vs the Micro-Compact (13 +1)? Not a problem, perhaps… but you won't see me carrying a big gun that doesn't hold a bunch of ammo.

Final thoughts? Stoeger needs to re-think their packaging. It’s more appropriate for an airsoft pistol. But if it keeps the pricing where it’s at? Well… remove the gun, throw the box out, and enjoy your experience. Just don't let the packaging or price keep you from looking honestly at any of these pistols. For more, read paragraph five.

Grip, Sights, and Trigger! ~ Chris

Chris Cerino

Chris is a 28-year veteran of law enforcement. He has been a SWAT member, Federal Agent, and more, but mostly he has always been a trainer. He trains internationally, competes regularly, and works in the firearms industry in a wide variety of positions. Chris recently took the Producer of Training Content position at Gun Talk Media as well as Director of Training at Range Ready. His roles continue to grow each day at Gun Talk Media, all while maintaining Double C Farms.


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