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Recently introduced, the new Steyr C9-A1 combines the compact slide and barrel of Steyr’s S-series pistols with the frame from full-size M-series duty pistols. The standard magazine has a 15-round capacity, while a larger magazine is also available, giving the gun a 17+1 payload.

Trigger System

One significant feature is a new and improved trigger system. The redesigned Reset Action mechanism provides a two-stage trigger. The take-up stage is extremely light, while the second stage delivers a 6.75-pound let-off with only a slight hesitation before the trigger breaks. The pull seemed lighter than my RCBS trigger scale indicated, and the “break” was easy to control. The A1 series also differs from earlier M-series pistols by the addition of an improved grip, abbreviated Picatinny rail and the lack of the manual safety button that was located inside the triggerguard of earlier Steyr handguns.

This is a pure “carry gun” with no manual or magazine safety. I have mixed feelings about this, being an “old-school” shooter who finds comfort in manual safeties. Still, that’s the direction new pistols appear to be heading, which brings new emphasis to the warning: “Keep your finger away from the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.” The lack of a manual, external safety can be an advantage in a combat situation. There’s no safety you have to take the time to disengage. You simply unholster the gun, aim and fire.

The striker-fired Steyr actually boasts three safeties. These include a “trigger within a trigger” safety, a drop safety and a firing pin catch. These safeties automatically disengage only when the trigger is pulled to fire the gun. Aside from the trigger, the only external controls are the slide release, magazine release and takedown lever. That makes the gun easy to operate—simply aim and pull the trigger.

There’s also a key-operated “Integrated Limited Access Lock” that prevents firing when the gun is stored. These “access locks” are frankly poor substitutes for keeping unused handguns locked up safely in a gun safe. No father or grandfather should leave guns where they can find their way into curious hands. With a little ingenuity, many children (or teenagers) may find a way to circumvent external, key-operated handgun locks. A sturdy gun safe with a good combination lock is by far the best way to keep handguns out of the reach of unauthorized users.

I found it refreshing that you don’t need a death grip on the slide to cycle the action. Unlike some autopistols I’ve used, the Steyr slide responds readily to only modest pressure. There’s a loaded chamber indicator port at the rear of the chamber, which provides visual confirmation when a round is chambered. I’ve never relied on such gadgets. When I want to check the gun’s condition, I always retract the slide and look into the chamber.

The low-profile sights are drift-adjustable for windage. Two generously sized white dots on the rear sight and a cor-responding red dot up front does a good job of catching your eye. I found the sights easy to use, whether I was shooting one-handed or with both hands supporting the grip.

Ergonomics

The matte black polymer grip and frame enclose the steel action parts and barrel. The slide is also made of steel. The cold hammer-forged barrel has six grooves in a right-hand twist. An abbreviated Picatinny rail beneath the muzzle allows mounting flashlights or laser aim-ing devices. The only problem with adding these accessories is it prevents carrying the gun holstered.

I like the way this gun handles. Instead of some blocky grips I’ve tried that felt like I was holding a 2×4, the Steyr grip fits my hand very naturally. It’s angled to position your hand high on the gun, close to the center of re-coil. This is a big plus for controlling recoil, and makes the gun point very naturally. It also gives the Steyr a
decidedly rakish appearance.

Takedown is easy. It’s roughly similar to that of the time-tested 1911, but the takedown lever located on the right
side of the gun under the ejection port greatly simplifies the process. You don’t need to hold the slide in a certain position while attempting to remove a bulky takedown pin. Also, there’s no bushing you have to remove before separating the slide from the frame. There are no tightly coiled springs to fly off in all directions. I really appreciate the gun’s takedown simplicity. Ease of disassembly means regular maintenance isn’t an onerous chore you’re likely to put off.

Range Time

While being initially impressed with the new Steyr’s fit and feel, it had to prove its worth in action. I took the gun, a handful of targets and several boxes of various 9mm factory loads to my improvised desert range. There’s a formal shooting facility in the mountains a few miles from my home, but I prefer testing guns in the desert.

Before firing for accuracy, I loaded each of the two magazines supplied with the gun, then burned through the ammunition with rapid fire. For this exercise, I used a mixture of 9mm ammunition I had on hand. Bullets ranged from 90 to 147 grains in weight.

In all, I went through 290 rounds as fast as I could load and fire. I had only one stovepipe stoppage—this with 147- grain hollow point ammunition. With that lone exception, the gun fed and fired without a hitch—excellent reliability for a brand-new pistol right out of the box. For a break-in period, any new pistol should be fired at least 200 times before you rely on it for serious social duties.

The web of my hand was naturally positioned high on the grip, which helped moderate recoil and minimize muzzle flip. My hand wasn’t the least bit sore after nearly 300 rounds were fired. This was partly due to good ergo-nomics, and the fact that I was firing 9mm not more punishing .40 S&W or .45 ACP ammunition. This is a very pleasant gun to shoot.

Tipping the scales at 26 ounces (empty), this is a solid-feeling handgun. At the same time, it isn’t hefty enough to be uncomfortable when worn at your waist. This is an important con-sideration if you plan to carry this handgun on a regular basis.

Final Notes

Measuring 1.2 inches across at its widest point, this gun is a good candidate for inside-the-waistband concealed carry. Anyone who has regularly worn a handgun concealed inside his or her waistband knows how uncomfortable this can be. While you eventually become accustomed to this, given my “druthers,” I prefer to wear my handguns holstered on my belt. If concealment is necessary, I’ll cover the gun with an untucked shirttail.

Steyr’s C9-A1 9mm pistol is larger and heavier than most .380 ACP autopistols you can buy, but the 9mm cartridge packs considerably more punch. That’s an important consideration if your life is on the line. Many shooters prefer to rely on larger .40 S&W or even .45 ACP autopistols for self-defense. However, the larger the caliber means
the greater the recoil. The 9mm Steyr seems a good compromise between power and controllability.

While this is the first Steyr handgun I’ve used, I’m impressed by its design and functioning. I like the way it looks
and feels, and its virtually perfect reli-ability. Now that its been broken in, I expect it to feed and function without a hitch. The gun also delivered excellent accuracy. I think this new compact Steyr is a real winner. See for yourself at steyrarms.com or call 205-655-8299.

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