The Stoeger STR-9 might just go down as the best new handgun under $400 coming out of the 2019 SHOT Show. It is also one that might be missed by a lot of people who don’t recognize the Stoeger Industries name.
Before the annual trade show, news about the 9mm pistol leaked out. I was immediately interested, as Stoeger had done a very good job producing the Cougar pistols. The Cougar was a Beretta design that had largely been abandoned as Beretta pursued new designs like the PX4 Storm and APX pistols.
Stoeger picked up the Cougar and continued the manufacturing of those pistols. Stoeger Cougars were widely regarded as being an excellent value in the self defense handgun market. Nevertheless, the guns seemed to take a back seat to the polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns like those from Glock and Smith & Wesson.
It seems that Stoeger has abandoned the Cougar pistol and has put all of its weight behind the new STR-9.
Basics of the STR-9
The STR-9 is everything that a modern defensive pistol seems to need for success. In fact, if there is a manufacturing checklist somewhere, I bet it has nearly every box ticked.
As a striker-fired pistol, the shooter has a consistent trigger pull from one shot to the next. Having shot and trained others to shoot traditional double action/single action (DA/SA) pistols, I can say that the consistency of a striker-fired pistol is much easier to learn. Every time you press the trigger, it feels the same. This is appealing to many people.
Polymer frames are a normal part of the shooting world. When done right, these frames are every bit as durable as a metal frame in most circumstances. I’m not talking edge case here – just average Joe self-defense guns. Once the manufacturing is set up, polymer frames can be much less expensive to make. This allows the company to keep the guns affordable.
Matching the tool to the user is an important concept. In the case of handguns, there have been a variety of methods developed to help do this.
Stoeger uses an interchangeable backstrap system to help get a good hand fit on the pistol no matter how large or small your hands are. I’ve got medium hands, but relatively stubby fingers. This makes proper finger placement on the trigger something of a challenge with pistols like the Beretta 92. But using small backstraps on a handgun like the STR-9 improves my trigger reach.
Left-handed shooters might be interested to know that the magazine release is reversible. With just a few minutes of work, you can move the push button release to the right side of the frame.
As we’ve seen in the past few years, the shooting public has come to appreciate the 9mm cartridge again. I saw the major shift to the “Wonder 9” semi-auto pistols in the 80s, then to the .40 S&W in the 90s. Now, the public seems to have shifted pretty quickly back to the 9×19 again.
It is a proven cartridge that has the largest base of active shooters in the US today. I’ve seen some of the ammunition sales numbers from a few of the major companies. If you make a gun or ammo, ignore the 9mm fans at your own peril.
Three dot sights aren’t my favorite, but they seem to be the default position for many companies. Stoeger selected them for this pistol. You can get a factory model that has three dot night sights for a little more money. If you like night sights, this might be the best option for you.
One of the features I do like about the sights is that the rear sight has a hard front edge. This allows a shooter to run the slide with only one hand in an emergency. Yes, I recognize this is an unlikely occurrence for an armed citizen. It is, however, a bonus that cost the company nothing to include. I appreciate it.
Adding a light or supplemental aiming laser is easily accomplished with the Stoeger STR-9. A reasonably sized accessory rail is available to the shooter.
For some this might be a deal breaker: the gun is made in Turkey. Ignoring politics for a moment, there are some good guns being made in that country. The quality of the manufacturing base in that country does not concern me.
At launch, Stoeger is offering three different versions of the STR-9. Fundamentally, they are the same gun but with a few minor differences.
The base model comes with one magazine and only one backstrap. It has a suggested retail price of $329. Since it doesn’t have multiple backstraps to try out at home, you definitely want to check this in the store before you put your money down. If this works for you, I’m betting you can get this for less than $300 at many gun shops.
Next up the list is the same gun, but with three magazines and three differently sized backstraps. This is the model for me, as I like to have multiple mags for every gun I own. The MSRP is $389, but I bet I pay less than $350 when they arrive locally.
If you want night sights, you have one option, and it has a full retail price of $449. At that price you also get three magazines and backstraps. So, it is only a $60 jump for tritium sights.
Not everyone who wants a pistol for self-defense can afford a SIG SAUER or HK, never mind an artisan gun from Nighthawk Custom or Cabot Guns. Frankly, a new Glock or M&P is a bit out of reach for some people who want to exercise their right to protect themselves.
Guns like the Stoeger STR-9 offer options to people that have historically had few. Fortunately, there are a growing number of good guns in the sub-$400 market. I look forward to testing one of the STR-9 pistols and letting you know how it performs. If you get one before me, please leave a comment below with your experiences shooting it. If these are good or bad, let’s share that information and help each other out.
Last Update: October 16, 2022