Table of Contents
A few months ago, I reviewed the Stoeger STR-9 Compact 9mm pistol, which earned honors as the NRA Gun of the Week and other firearms awards. It had an excellent score against my ten criteria and performed very well in my field test. As a reminder, Stoeger Industries is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Benelli, which is owned by Beretta, and is a manufacturer and importer of firearms into the U.S., with headquarters in Maryland. Their shotguns and STR series handguns have proven reliable and affordable. Stoeger entered the U.S. 9mm handgun market in 2019 by launching the STR-9 series of semi-automatic pistols manufactured in Turkey. Stoeger has an industry-leading 5-Year Limited Warranty to the original purchaser of their products. Based on the compact’s fine performance, ratings, and value price, I wanted to see how the sub-compact model compared and rated, primarily for concealed carry. The value-priced STR-9SC is very comparable to the higher-priced Glock 26. This review is for Stoeger’s recent STR-9 Sub-Compact model with tritium night sights in 9mm.
I want to begin by giving you just a few of the positive qualities and features that set this fine pistol apart from the over-crowded striker-fired small carry 9mm handguns.
Soft, Smooth, Safe, and Consistent Trigger Press
Like its STR-9 Compact relative, the STR-9SC 9mm has a very nice and smooth trigger, especially for a budget handgun. I was pleasantly surprised by its consistent, soft, smooth, and comfortable trigger press and hits on target during my range field test. For me, the fine trigger feels on par with my original Smith & Wesson M&P M9 and the Gen 3 Glock 26. The flat trigger has a blade safety that must be depressed for it to pivot to release the striker. It also has an internal striker-blocking safety that prevents forward movement of the striker-firing pin unless the trigger is completely pressed. This prevents the discharge of the pistol if it is dropped.
Deep Front and Rear Slide Serrations
The Stoeger STR-9 Sub Compact 9mm has nice large and easy-to-use deep slide serrations to help slide manipulations and for doing a press or safety check. I don’t often grab hold of front slide serrations and partially pull back the slide to check if a round is in the chamber. Generally, this is a safety hazard waiting for a problem to occur, takes extra (albeit a small amount of) time and can induce feeding and cycling problems. I have observed that a few of my friends who frequently do press checks find their gun out of battery more easily and often. Thankfully, this sub-compact has a Loaded Chamber Indicator, so I won’t have to partially pull the slide back to check. Just a quick glance to check. A nice timesaver and an easy, quick, and safe check. I like the deep serrations because you have more surface area to grasp for manipulations, especially if you are in a confined space or awkward shooting position. Also, they work well for one-handed manipulations. I find the large and deep slide serrations very helpful, and to me, they also look attractively “cool.”
Proven Reliability and Accuracy
This gun was reliable for me, and I had no malfunctions or stoppages with the about 250 rounds I shot through it. I experienced absolutely no cycling problems, failure to feed, failure to fire, failure to eject, failure to lock back, etc., at all. However, like all guns I test and evaluate, I want to shoot about 300 more rounds through it before I make a final decision about carrying and using this gun for self-defense and personal protection.
Reliability and accuracy are probably the most important factors for any handgun used for self-defense and personal protection. It is important that you absolutely know and prove to yourself the consistent reliability of your personal protection gun and that you can always count on it.
You should feel comfortable knowing that you can place hits accurately on target where you are aiming and quickly. Each shooter must shoot the gun themselves and fire sufficient rounds through any gun to be comfortable themselves with relying on the gun to protect themselves and their family. The more rounds down range with any gun, the better data you have to make the carry and self-defense use decisions. It is important to know how your gun cycles and performs with both full metal jacket/ball rounds and hollow point rounds, which is what I always carry for self-defense.
|Slide -Type/Material||Carbon Steel; Nitride-Hardened; Matte Black|
|Sights||Tritium Night Sights; Steel; Dovetailed; Optics-Ready, 4 RD Plates Included|
|Frame||Fiberglass-Reinforced Polymer; Black Synthetic|
|Trigger – Action||Striker-Fired, Semi-Automatic; Recoil Operated; Flat|
|Trigger Press||4.90 lbs. (as measured over 10 trials with my digital Trigger Pull gauge)|
|Capacity||10 Rounds; includes 2 Magazines; Double Stack (Backwards Compatible with STR-9 Compact mags.)|
|Weight (Unloaded)||22.4 ounces|
|Safeties||Trigger Safety; Striker-Firing-Pin Block; No Manual Thumb Safety; Loaded Chamber Indicator|
|Grips||Black; Polymer; 3 Interchangeable Backstraps Included|
|Other||5-Year Limited Warranty; Reversible Magazine Release; Accessory Rail; Mag Loading Tool Included|
|MSRP||$449 (as tested with Tritium Night Sights & 2 mags)|
Here are the ten criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Stoeger STR-9SC Sub-Compact 9mm pistol. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last “Miscellaneous” criterion. I must admit that all gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want all of my criteria to be ideally met. I assigned a total possible point score of ten points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. And a “Recommend” or “Not Recommend” at the end of my review. You can certainly add your own additional criteria, and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider. You make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, goals, defined needs, and use.
Concealed Carry Drill
I use my standard “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” to test and evaluate any handgun after I initially thoroughly clean it. You can use my basic Concealed Carry Drill to test and evaluate your handguns. I like the realistic 5-yard and 7-yard distances best to match common distances for personal defense.
You can download and print “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and targets by clicking on the link at my website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Go to and click on the “More” Section on the far right of the Home Page and then click on “Carry Drill.” Drag a corner in to resize Drill to full coverage and print on full-size paper.
As I do with all handguns I test, I want to include a mag change in my Drill. This sub-compact pistol model tested comes with two mags that hold ten rounds each, so no problem at all performing my Concealed Carry Drill with 15 total rounds.
As you see in the above photo, 14 of my 15 total hits with mag change were inside the 5 circle targets at 7 yards in 20 seconds. I bypassed the 3-yard trial for more of a challenge. Ok, I admit that a couple of the hits were on the line but were counted as hits. If this was a real-life deadly force encounter, at least all 15 shots were somewhere on the target. And chances are I would not need to fire 15 shots for the high probability of only one attacker. But you never know, so I must practice more and with time goals. This also reinforces the need to be certain and practice with a mag change. I repeated my Drill at 5, 10, and 15 yards, also with acceptable results.
Practice… Practice… Practice
I shot about 250 total rounds of various weights and types of ammo.
Field Test Ammo
I shot various bullet grains, velocities, and types of ammo, both Full Metal Jacket and Hollow Point, for field testing the Stoeger STR-9 Sub-Compact 9mm. A sincere “Thank You” to Liberty Ammo and 1776 USA Ammo for supplying a variety of high-quality ammo for this field test.
Both ammo brands with different grains and weights performed great, and I did not have any malfunctions, stoppages, or failure to perform with any of the ammo used. These brands, weights, and types of lead-free cartridges were extremely reliable. Generally and overall, the STR-9SC Sub Compact seemed to prefer and perform slightly better with the heavier rounds. I shot about 250 total rounds.
Use my Concealed Carry Drill at various appropriate distances for yourself, e.g., 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards, to challenge yourself and assess skill-level improvements as you progress. At first, do not time yourself but safely practice until you feel comfortable and safe with the Drill. Be certain to use at least one mag change while timing your drills to shoot 15 rounds per Drill. Safety first! I hope my Concealed Carry Drill helps you.
After live-fire shooting with the STR-9SC 9mm pistol, here are my opinions and rating for each of my ten criteria for a concealed carry pistol.
Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 9
The STR-9 Sub-Compact 9mm and its 3.54-inch barrel were more accurate than I thought it would be. Accuracy was well-above average, and acceptable. The short and smooth trigger press really helped my accuracy because I had less movement when pressing the trigger. The felt recoil from the somewhat short barrel was very controllable and not a concern. The hits grouped together nicely on my targets, and the accuracy was there. Even with the pressure of the time drills, my hits were on target. The Point of Impact was close to the Point of Aim almost all of the time. The reliability of this pistol was very consistent, and I had no complaints at all with it for the 250 rounds I fired. Very good reliability, with no malfunctions or stoppages.
Trigger Press – Score: 9
Out-of-the-box, the trigger press averaged 4.90 pounds without modification for the STR-9SC 9mm, with ten readings with my electronic trigger pull gauge. This was certainly an acceptable press. Since this is a new pistol that is not “broken-in” yet, certainly with more ammo down-range, the press should get even better and be lighter. The press was smooth, with a fairly short pull with little slack. This trigger press will certainly get the concealed carry job done. My wife and I both believe the trigger press is smooth and fine for this value-priced pistol.
Trigger – Score: 9
The STR-9SC Sub-Compact 9mm trigger was smooth and consistent. There was minimal overtravel just ahead of the break, with a clean, crisp, and surprise break with an acceptable quick reset. The trigger was not stiff and was consistently effortless. It reminded me a lot of the similar Glock triggers, certainly very acceptable but not outstanding. The trigger was pleasant, consistent, and effortless to shoot, especially for this value-priced gun.
Barrel Length – Score: 9
All short 3.54-inch barrel smaller pistols are a challenge to shoot well, and they decrease velocity. The shorter sight radius makes it somewhat harder to shoot accurately, so grip it firmly and focus on sight alignment and trigger control. Remember that a shorter-barreled handgun like this STR-9SC has the advantage of being easily carried and concealed.
Sights – Score: 10
The tritium night sights model for the STR-9SC Sub-Compact I tested are great.
Tritium night sights work very well for low-light and defensive shooting. They really do allow you to see your sights more clearly in the dark. The solid footprint sight bodies make finding the front sight quick and easy, and they are also continuously illuminated. The front sight blade is wide enough to acquire them easily. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and the sights are radio-luminescent. They can be best described as a strong glow. They are self-powered and do not need to be charged via exposure to light. A downside of tritium is that it will gradually lose its effect over time. The half-life of tritium is about 12.5 years, so in a little over a decade, tritium sights will glow only half as brightly as when they were first made.
Proper Gun Weight – Score: 10
The STR-9SC Sub-Compact 9mm’s weight is excellent for carry at 22.4 ounces, unloaded. The weight did not negatively affect the felt recoil, and it was manageable. This pistol can easily be used for concealed carry, and its weight is not a detriment at all but an advantage.
Caliber – Score: 10
I strongly favor shooting the 9mm caliber for self-defense and home defense. The 9mm caliber for this STR-9SC Sub-Compact was easy, comfortable, and not unpleasant to shoot. Most 9mm cartridges have the muzzle energy and muzzle velocity to get the job done without severe felt recoil pain and with sufficient control by the user. Of course, shooting 9mm ammo is much less expensive than most others, and modern ammo with improved ballistics work fine… if you can find it now for a decent price. I prefer the lessened felt recoil and reduced movement for improved accuracy with the 9mm caliber. 9mm loads typically demonstrate better ballistic properties and performance in short-barreled guns. The specific ammo and its proven ballistics certainly matter.
Capacity – Score: 9
The standard capacity of the STR-9SC Sub Compact 9mm is ten rounds, and that is certainly minimally acceptable. Ten rounds is the minimum I recommend for concealed carry in a handgun. But 12 to 13 rounds would be better, just in case there are multiple attackers and other threats. A second magazine will help offset the low 10-round count of the mag. For personal protection, self-defense, and for concealed carry, defenders must have at least a second mag.
Ergonomics – Score: 9
The Ergonomics of the STR-9SC Sub-Compact 9 mm overall were very good, and I was easily and comfortably able to reach all controls. This pistol sat low in my hand because its design allows for a higher grip. I really like the grip angle of this pistol because it helped me get and maintain a high-hand hold of the gun for solid control.
The three back straps, small, medium, and large, helped customize the gun to both my and my wife’s hands. We both found the medium backstrap worked fine for us. The side panels were textured just right for a comfortable and firm grasp of the pistol, not too aggressive nor too smooth. As you can see from the above grip image, the rear backstrap was aggressively textured and helped me with a very firm grip. My wife thought it was just a little too aggressive and had some minor irritation after several rounds, but certainly useable without concern. Personal preference.
I am ambivalent about the grip’s finger grooves, but that is also my personal preference. Some love them, while others hate them. However, my Glock 19, Gen 3 has raised texturing and finger grooves and no problems for me.
The magazine release can be changed to the right side for lefties, and it had nice ridges that helped position your thumb for control.
Miscellaneous – Score: 7
There’s no external trigger safety, but there is a bladed trigger safety and a cutout in the rear of the chamber to inspect for a round visibly. I like the loaded chamber indicator. There’s a three-slot Picatinny rail on the dust cover for mounting accessories. The matte-black finish of the STR-9SC Sub Compact consists of a black-nitride finish on its carbon steel slide. This finish helps harden the steel.
I searched for a custom sub-compact holster and contacted several holster companies but only found two holsters that it fit well. I show them below. Aftermarket accessories are limited now for this new pistol, but the market should expand.
This pistol’s takedown procedure is identical to the Glock 26’s procedure. But I discovered one major downside for me and my medium-sized fingers for this subcompact, and it is field stripping and take down. The Takedown Levers (one Lever on each side) are too small to adequately grasp them for disassembly (see my NOTE and image of this above under Criterion #2.) I could not firmly grasp the levers for taking the slide off and field stripping the pistol.
First, I took the mag out, dry-fired it, and pulled the slide back just a little, per the instruction manual, about 1/16″. I varied how far back I pulled the slide, just in case. I tried at least 15 times and had another instructor try as well unsuccessfully several times. I believe it is a design problem, but this is not my area of expertise. Before I shot the pistol, after several attempts, one time, I was able to grasp the levers and disassembly the pistol.
I finally contacted the Stoeger gunsmith, and he told me the basic standard procedure for disassembly, which I had tried many times unsuccessfully. I pulled the slide back just slightly, pushed both levers down as best I could at the same time, then pressed the trigger. But the slide would not come off the frame after many attempts. The left-side lever would go down, but not the right-side lever. I even tried pushing the levers down before pulling the slide partially back, but no success. So I shipped the pistol back to Stoeger for repair. When I received it back, no problems were indicated, it did not function any better for taking the slide off, and the field stripping problem still existed. I hate this because I really like this pistol’s shooting performance. This must be a design issue but is not a significant impediment for shooting the pistol. I recommend this STR-9SC with its superb reliability and accuracy but I want you to be aware of my one issue.
Total Points = 91 (out of 100 Possible)
1791 Gunleather 4-Way Concealment & Belt Leather Holster
As shown above, with the STR-9SC Sub-Compact pistol, the 4-Way Concealment & Belt Leather Holster by 1791 Gunleather allows IWB and OWB carry with four possible carry positions: Vertical, Horizontal, Cross-Draw, or Inside-The-Waistband. This holster has high-quality craftsmanship and an extremely versatile design, balances protection and comfort, and provides maximum flexibility with IWB and OWB carry positions in one sturdy leather belt holster. This multi-position holster allows IWB carry with only the metal clip visible. And it can be worn with various cants and looks very attractive.
1791 Gunleather makes high-quality, durable, hand-crafted leather holsters with 100% Certified American Heavy Native Steerhide, reinforced and double-stitched for sturdy wear that will last. The steel clip is very sturdy, and the hand-molded exterior gives superior retention and reliability. 1791 says that satisfaction is guaranteed with a Lifetime Warranty. The leather holster has fine retention and conceals well. It is available in several colors and other options. Colors include Classic Brown, Signature Brown, and Black, as shown. I like the double stitching.
Alien Gear Cloak OWB Belt Holster
The Alien Gear Holsters Cloak Belt holster is made in the USA and rides Outside the Waistband but enables easy concealment if desired or open carry if you prefer. I can attest that this holster carries very comfortably and is easy to conceal in my Guayabera, Cubano, and Aloha un-tucked or no-tuck casual shirts. The holster base has belt loops on the back, in either 1.5″ or 1.75″ widths depending on which belt you normally use. This puts this belt holster up high and tight to the body, making concealment incredibly easy, with as little as an un-tucked shirt being needed for complete cover.
The holster base is reinforced with edge-to-edge layers of woven ballistic nylon and spring steel. This gives the holster a firm but flexible core, supporting the pistol but also flexing to fit your shape. The combat cut gives you a fast and full-firing grip, and the sweat shield keeps the slide and controls covered. The holster base is padded with ventilated neoprene, which provides cushioning and moisture-wicking. The custom-molded retention shell is adjustable for passive retention, and you can dial in the retention profile and customize it with the included Parts Pack. It has an “Iron-Clad Guarantee” and their Lifetime Warranty.
The Stoeger STR-9SC Sub-Compact 9mm pistol is a very good budget-priced pistol, and I recommend it. While it has a basic, no-frills design and cost, it has extra features included. And it does not sacrifice accuracy and reliability. It has an undercut trigger guard that allows the shooter to have a higher grip on the pistol to improve stability and control. The grip’s backstrap is aggressively checkered and may be too much for some, but it was fine for me. It uses a steel guide rod, rather than a polymer one, for strength.
A lightweight, short-barreled 9mm pistol like this meets my 9mm-caliber preference for carry and personal protection. The reliability and consistent shooting performance is definitely there. It’s very good, consistent, and smooth trigger is a nice advantage. The trigger press for this not-broken-in gun was about 4.90 pounds, which matched my Criteria. I liked the very deep front and rear slide serrations for easy slide manipulations. The tritium night sights were excellent for concealed carry. For me, night sights and a second mag are very important necessities for concealed carry and self-defense. The one problem I had with this pistol was its takedown and field stripping. The take-down levers on each side of the gun are very small and did not allow me to consistently, nor often, remove the slide and disassemble it for cleaning.
I heartily recommend the two fine American-made holsters and two ammo brands I personally chose to include in this gun review since they are all premium and top quality. The quality 1791 Gunleather and Alien Gear holsters both worked excellently with this pistol, and I recommend them. And the various 1776 USA and Liberty Ammo high-quality, lead-free 9mm FMJ and JHP rounds performed outstandingly, with no malfunctions or stoppages. You can trust both of these cartridges to be very reliable to get the job done, and I recommend both brands. I am extremely grateful to 1776 USA and Liberty Ammo for supplying the fine ammo for this review.
Continued Success and Be Safe, my Friends!
Accokeek, MD 20607
Kersey, PA 15846
Bradenton, FL 34203
Miami, FL 33142
Alien Gear Holsters
Post Falls, ID 83854
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only, and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2023 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission.