Is the Steyr S9-A1 the best CCW Pistol?

by Home Defense Gun Staffer Mike S.

The Steyr S9-A1 is a polymer framed, striker fired pistol with an accessory rail that is made in Austria. That may Steyr S9-A1sound the same as a Glock pistol, but Steyr has been around almost a century longer and seems to have the art of pistol smithing down to a science with their latest offerings derived from the M9 series.

Superficially the pistol has the outward semblance of most other handguns of its type. After picking one up, the first thing that catches the eye (as it should) is the unique set of iron sights. The shape of the front sight is a triangle and the rear Novak-esque sight uses two diagonal lines that line up with the front sight. The end result is known as a trapezoidal arrangement and probably sets the Steyr apart from every other handgun in the world with this unique aiming system that resembles a popular reticle found on the Trijicon ACOG scope. Like the Trijicon, the end result is to draw the shooter’s eyes to the sight in order to give him a distinct focal point.

Wilhelm Bubits, who designed the Glock 20, is responsible for this amazing trigger that rolls on a cam giving a pull similar to a well-tuned 1911 and a very short reset that is ideal for a follow up shot.. Externally, it is similar to the Glock safe action trigger, but feels much smoother with a factory weight of about four pounds.

Ergonomically the grip angle provides a low bore axis for the shooter and allows a high grip to aid in accuracy and minimization of felt recoil. Another unique feature are these subtle inlets in the left and right sides of the frame, allowing the shooter an easy access point to lay their trigger finger outside of the trigger guard.

However, as great as the Steyr S9-A1 is built, there are some areas ripe for improvement.

The first of these is the magazine. They are well made and function flawlessly, but there is something about them that offends the author’s sensibilities: they look capable of holding 12 rounds, but are permanently blocked at 10 with an ugly Clintonian chunk of plastic that makes up the final 1.75” of the magazine body.

This might have been fine if we were buying this pistol between the years of 1994 and 2004 under the US Federal Assault Weapon Ban, but that vile law sunsetted more than a decade ago. Steyr should seek to remedy this if they want this pistol to be successful.

The good news is that the longer 15-round magazines of the M9 series will fit, although they stick out from the bottom of the grip slightly, yet this should not be the only option for American shooters.

The other area related to the magazines pertains to the aftermarket for accessories, parts and holsters. As of this writing, there are very few manufacturers who provide a proper holster for this gem of a pistol. The author had to go the custom Kydex route with LAG Tactical, based out of Reno, Nevada.

Perhaps if proper magazines were available and the pistol the pistol would have a better demand in the US market and more holsters would be available, but much of this may have to do with Steyr’s US distribution as well.

Spare parts are hard to come by, according to the network of Steyr shooters in the United States. This is likely due to these handguns mostly being bought by the civilian shooting public as opposed to police departments, government agencies or military contracts.

Despite how impressed with the sights the author is, a number of shooters have found them difficult to get used to. The other fly in that ointment or solution for the trapezoidal challenged is that aftermarket night sights will revert it to a standard three-dot configuration in lieu of the triangle and chevron arrangement.

It can be easy to dismiss those minor faults after shooting one of these pistols at the range. Our best groups at 50 feet came in at just under 2” with Speer CCI Lawman 115 grain full metal jacket rounds. There was some slight cause for concern as the ejection port seems very short on these pistols and we wondered if a longer bullet would cause a malfunction.

This was not the case, however, and in our two years of shooting this particular pistol, we have suffered no malfunctions of any kind with a large variety of ammunition from 115 FMJ reloads to subsonic 147 grain loads and various +P defensive loads.

The Steyr S9-A1 has all the makings of a champion CCW piece, if Steyr can address the limited magazine capacity issue and sourcing for aftermarket parts and accessories. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price on these pistols runs around $449 to $499. Yet, they can be found for much cheaper if the shooter is willing to look for them.


Photo credit – Wikipedia

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