A compact 9mm with a “big boy” feel and performance, the Stoeger STR-9C is an EDC handgun that hits the sweet spot

by Rob Reaser

A few months ago, I spent most of a day behind the Stoeger STR-9C, running several drills and shooting scenarios at the legendary Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona. This was one of three Stoeger semi-auto 9mms tested over a three-day period, which also included the full-size STR-9S Combat along with the diminutive STR-9MC micro-compact.

The exercises that day did not provide any opportunities to drill down on the gun’s accuracy potential, but it didn’t matter. Shooting unknown distances at steel silhouettes along with some shoot house and square range action proved the STR-9C’s ability to hammer targets with confident precision so long as I did my part.

Not only did the STR-9C deliver results on steel and paper, but I also quickly came to appreciate the ergonomics. While the micro-compact provided an exquisitely comfortable grip for its size and the full-size model presented ample acreage for a well-balanced feel, the STR-9C hits the middle ground that medium- and large-hand shooters will cotton to.

For a compact frame, the STR-9C grip is quite “full.” The width and depth with the medium-sized backstrap in place is on par with that of the full-size STR-9, but it is not as long. The extended magazine floorplate serves admirably as the shelf for the third finger. This combined with an index finger groove and a high trigger guard undercut offers good overall handling and grip positioning. The hand sits high up on the frame for a low sight axis, which is a big help in quickly acquiring the sight picture.

In keeping with current consumer expectations, the STR-9C comes with small, medium, and large grip inserts. They take only seconds to swap out and can meet a wide range of hand sizes and shooting styles. I spent most of my time running with the medium grip. It proved to be quite girthy for a compact handgun, with ample swell along the backstrap and the side grip panels. Curious, I eventually tried out the small insert and found it to be much more to my liking, as I tend to favor a slimmer and flatter grip profile.

I will say that the square-point texturing along the backstraps IS highly aggressive, with the medium-size insert being the most capable of digging into your palm. After a day of shooting with the medium grip, my strong-hand palm was TEN-DER!

The front of the grip features six texture pads. While not as aggressive as the square-point in back, the front stippling doesn’t suffer finger slippage. In short, the STR-9C grip is designed to stay in place. Even under rapid-fire exercises and mag swaps, you’re hard-pressed to lose your grip.

Speed reloads come easy with the STR-9C. The mag release button is positioned just right and sits moderately proud on the frame so there is no struggling to make a good press with your thumb. The button features rounded edges. It is not harsh and is not prone to snagging when holstering.

If this view looks familiar to you, it is. GLOCK owners will quickly recognize the slide release and takedown levers. Both look, work, and feel the same as those on the GLOCK platform.

The GLOCK (left) similarities extend to the trigger mechanism as well. To my mind, that translates to proven engineering on the STR-9C’s part, and no surprises expected.

As with most of today’s polymer-framed striker-fired pistols, the STR-9C offers a short rail for those who favor a mounted light. Here, also, you can get a good look at the slide serrations and general slide profile. Starting with the profile, all edges are well chamfered, and the top of the slide is more rounded than most. Translation: minimal to no snag points, allowing the gun to slide smoothly in and out of a holster and making it conducive for deep concealed carry.

Where I do have a slight hiccup is with the slide serrations. Although they are prominent and positioned at both the front and back of the slide, they do feel a bit more “slippery” in my hand than they should. That’s not to say I have had any problem ripping the slide back to charge the pistol during a speed reload, but I must make an effort to maintain a tight grip or it can slip through my hand before I intend to release it.

The STR-9C is offered with two different open sight setups — front and rear tritium sights or Quick-Read 3-dot. Here you see the tritium version, which includes the tritium lamp surrounded by a thin, white focus ring.

The focus rings are easy enough to pick up across a range of lighting conditions, and the tritium lamps do their job well enough when the lights go down. What I like most about these sights, though, is the deep square notch on the back sight. This gives a quick, clear view of the front sight post, making sight alignment easy and the sight picture distinct. This contrasts with some open sights that have a relatively shallow rear notch that can make for a crowded sight picture — not something you want when engaging a threat.

Another big plus for the rear sight is that it is easily adjusted by loosening the set screw and sliding the sight housing left or right in the dovetail slot as needed to make windage compensation. This is a great feature to have when fine-tuning your ammunition point-of-impact.

Not into open sight shooting? No problem. The STR-9C comes optic-ready with an assortment of mounting plates covering popular red dot footprints. Adapter plates cover:

  • Trijicon RMR
  • Eotech/Docter/Insight/Meopta/Burris/Vortex
  • Leupold Delta Point
  • C-More

Back on the home range, I shot several different loads through the STR-9C. There are no failures to report, and the gun seems to do well with any quality ammunition you throw at it. I’ve burned through many of the top brands as well as some of my own loads boasting Hornady round-nose and XTP bullets. The results have all been the same — point the STR-9C at the target and it hits. On fast drills (those that count the most in my book), the STR-9C ate up my cardboard IDPA targets at typical defense ranges.

With an MSRP starting at $329 for the Quick-Read 3-dot sight version and $449 for the tritium sight models, the STR-9C offers dependability, reliability, and accuracy at prices that belie its performance delivery. So, if you find micro-compacts a bit too small and full-size models out of the question for EDC/concealed carry duties, here is one 9mm that may be just right.

Stoeger STR-9C

  • Chamber: 9mm
  • Action: striker-fired
  • Frame: compact, black polymer
  • Slide: nitride-hardened matte black steel
  • Barrel Length: 3.54 in.
  • Magazine Capacity: 13- or 10-round
  • Safety: trigger
  • Sights: Quick-Read three-dot white or three-dot tritium (optional)
  • Optic Ready: available, w/four mounting plates
  • Backstrap: M only or S/M/L kit
  • Picatinny Rail: 3-slot
  • Overall Length: 6.54 in.
  • Unloaded Weight: 22.4 oz.
  • MSRP: $329 – $449

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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