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The first time I handled and field-stripped a Stoeger STR9 atop the gun counter at a local sporting goods store, I thought this is pretty much a Glock. The pistol was brought to my attention with accolades from a friend who had bought one and was impressed with it. I wasn’t so sure, but it did look better than your run-of-the-mill budget-priced handgun. I was intrigued.
Outdoor Life readers have always appreciated premium-name guns, but you also appreciate great value in a gun. The Stoeger slipped off my radar for a while, and I was particularly excited when I saw the STR9-F in the lineup of pistols in Outdoor Life’s evaluation of the best handguns of 2022 at Gunsite Academy.
The Stoeger STR9-F was introduced in 2022, and is the full-size, long-slide iteration of the STR9 series. A member of the test team described it as the illegitimate love child of a Glock G17 and a Smith & Wesson M&P 9. The pistol genuinely looks good, and takes a sleek, rounded-contour approach to the striker-fired platform.
Along with its good looks, the Stoeger STR9-F has an incredibly attractive price—significantly lower than many other full-size striker-fired pistols. At face value it looks to be a great deal, but it would also have to perform on the range.
Stoeger STR9-F Specs
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 17+1 rounds
- Barrel: Cold-hammered alloy steel, 4.68 inches
- Dimensions: 7.95 inches (L) x 5.59 inches (H) x 1.22 inches (W)
- Weight: 26 ounces
- Slide: Cold-hammered alloy steel
- Frame: Polymer, matte black
- Finish: black
- Grip: Stipple-texture, interchangeable backstraps
- Sights: Dovetail-fit, 3-dot, white
- Sight Radius: 5.3 inches
- Accessory Rail: Standard 1913 Picatinny
- Trigger: single-action, safety bar, 5 pounds, 3 ounces (measured)
- Safety: no external safety
The Stoeger STR9-F is Simple and Well-Made
Cheap guns have a reputation for being just that—cheap. There are scores of knockoffs on the market and generally, there’s a reason to pay a higher price for the real thing. For that reason, it’s hard not to look at budget guns like the Stoeger STR9-F without some degree of suspicion—seeking to find the compromising corners that may have been cut or a generally lower-quality of production. The STR9-F is manufactured in Turkey, and I really couldn’t find anything that raised my hackles at first glance.
Slide-to-frame fit was good, as was the contour and texture of the grip. Poor texturing of grips can sometimes give these polymer guns a tacky look, but on the STR9-F, the grip looks and feels good. It includes interchangeable back straps to fit the individual shooter. The front of the grip features shallow finger grooves with textured pads that seemed to fit the hands of our test team well.
It’s common for people to grind away at Gen 3 and Gen 4 Glock frames to remove the finger grooves and adjust the contours of the grip before stippling—something that most people won’t find necessary with the Stoeger STR9-F. The STR9-F also features a trigger guard that sweeps up at the back, allowing the middle finger to ride higher up behind the trigger and generally let the shooter set their grip higher on the gun which improves stability. A common Glock modification is to grind out or “undercut” the bottom-rear of the trigger guard to achieve the same result. From the factory, I found the grip of the STR9-F to be great.
The STR9-F sports a set of white 3-dot steel dovetail sights, and the slide is a good balance of looks and utility. The cocking serrations are wide with a smooth concave texture but just enough bite on the edges to be functional. The top of the slide is rounded, and the sights are contoured to avoid snagging. The frame features a 3-slot accessory rail and the STR9-F ships with a single steel 17-round magazine that’s well-made and loads easily.
Under the Hood of the Stoeger STR9-F
The biggest question I had about the Stoeger STR9-F was whether you’re truly getting a good value in this pistol. When competing with well-established big names in the handgun market, it can be tough to stand out. A natural inclination is to expect less from a budget gun, but sometimes they’ll surprise you. I found the grip, sights, and slide profile of the Stoeger STR9-F to be more favorable than a stock G17, so what would tearing the pistol down further reveal? Could it even be an improvement in some ways?
The STR9-F strips down pretty much exactly like a Glock, with the takedown tabs on either side of the frame needing to be depressed. The trigger and locking block pins appear to be identical to Glock builds, but there is no external trigger housing pin. The slide and striker appear to be like Glock designs but the slide assembly has some differences as well—like a longer, narrower extractor than those found on Glocks.
The Stoeger STR9-F is a basic no-frills design but has thoughtful features and ergonomics. It uses a steel guide rod—as opposed to polymer. It also features a tactile loaded chamber indicator like those found on Springfield Armory’s Croatian-made XD-M pistols. When a round is in the chamber, it pivots a small steel tab up just behind the chamber so that it can be seen and felt. Stoeger doesn’t detail many of the specs of their springs and various parts, and I figured that if we were to experience any failures, they would be related to component quality.
The Stoeger STR9-F At Gunsite
Range testing of the Stoeger STR9-F was done by the OL crew at Gunsite, alongside 13 other 9mm pistols. We had plenty to compare and contrast—from budget guns similar to the STR9-F to high-end Glock clones, and a few control-group pistols like the G19 as well.
When reviewing handguns myself, I’ll typically fire between 250 and 300 rounds of various ammunition, which gives me a pretty good idea of reliability. However, it never hurts to shoot more. When comparing the performance of a gun that’s certainly borrowing from a pistol design based on self-proclaimed perfection, a copious amount of ammunition expenditure is warranted.
From the weight of the brass we managed to pick up after testing, we calculated that we expended at least 5,000 rounds of 9mm over 2 days and between 14 guns. We can safely say that we put around 350 rounds of a wide variety of 9mm through the STR9-F, and quite possibly more. The gun surprised almost everyone on the team, and I put roughly 200 rounds through it myself. We kept the pistol sizzling hot for an entire day and it refused to give us a reason to discount it.
We fired 115-grain FMJ, as well as 124-grain and 147-grain hollowpoint loads from Federal Premium, Hornady, Nosler, and U.S. Cartridge. Some of the pistols had issues with some of the ammunition, but the Stoeger STR9-F digested everything we could throw at it—as quickly as we could stuff the magazine full.
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Our team of 6 shooters—which included USPSA Grand Master Sean Murphy—was collectively surprised at just how much we gravitated toward the STR9-F. It’s not a high-end race-gun, but we found the pistol to be comfortable, easy to shoot, accurate, and it has a good trigger. We liked the grip angle, the recoil cycle, and the sights on the pistol.
What the Stoeger STR9-F Does Well
Simply put, the Stoeger STR9-F works. It’s not a finely-polished design, but it’s pretty damn good and—in the context of our testing—very dependable. It has features that frankly are going to be preferable to those found on some stock name-brand pistols. Add the price into the mix, and it’s an incredible value.
Where the Stoeger STR9-F Falls Short
Our test team couldn’t find any mechanical or functional problems with the pistol, but we’d like to see it come with an additional magazine or two—you only get one.
Final Thoughts about the Stoeger STR9-F
The handgun market is extremely competitive, and a keen eye needs to be used when shopping for a budget handgun. That being said—the Stoeger STR9-F greatly exceeded our suspicious expectations for a $325 pistol. It’s a gun that we were looking for a reason not to like—but came up empty. Not only does the STR9-F represent a great value, but it also doesn’t sacrifice anything in the way of performance. It’s a gun that anyone on our test team would be happy to own.