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Everything on the planet can be distilled down to physics. Actions have their reactions. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion. Unless, of course, an external force is applied to it. Those aren’t just good ideas. They’re laws.

It is in the clever manipulation of these physical laws that firearms can be appreciated as such remarkably elegant little machines. While there are literally thousands of disparate methods man has devised to throw handgun bullets downrange, Steyr’s L40-A1 is an innovative solution indeed.

Steyr Arms has been in the business of producing weapons since 1864. Its line boasts some of the best sporting weapons, military long guns and combat handguns in the world. The Steyr L40-A1 represents a fresh take on the subject of polymer-framed defensive pistols.

Overview

The basic L40 design has actually been around for a while. Its progenitor, the .40 S&W Steyr M40, was first released in 1999 alongside the M9 in 9mm and was focused on the law enforcement and civilian self-defense markets. Compact models with the S9 and S40 designations came along subsequently. The M357 in .357 SIG followed soon thereafter. Now the L40-A1 represents the species’ next evolutionary step with an improved trigger, a longer barrel and optimized ergonomics.

At first brush, the new L40-A1 just looks different. In a sea of polymer-framed handguns, the L40-A1 would be right at home on the set of a science-fiction movie. The grip-to-frame angle is exceptionally rakish and therefore akin to Georg Luger’s classic P.08 or the Glock. The unconventional contour of the grip and the railed dust cover conspire to make the gun look like something out of RoboCop.

The Steyr L40-A1 features some truly innovative technology along with its more conventional features. The gun is striker-fired. It has a predictable trigger pull that is monotonously consistent shot to shot. Unlike some other contemporary designs, the trigger and its built-in safety tab are wide enough to spread out the pressure for a comfortable squeeze. The trigger breaks crisply and sports a nice short reset. There is also a rotating key lock that will effectively render the gun safe.

A Closer Look

The L40-A1 has a non-reversible magazine release button for its drop-free, 12-round magazines. The standard gun comes with two magazines. A cutout in the grip frame makes it easy to remove the magazine in the unlikely instance that it gets stuck and needs a little extra help.

The 4.53-inch, cold-hammer-forged, fully supported barrel is about half an inch longer than that of its M40-A1 predecessor. The slide has a cool beveled cross-section that serves to make the gun easier to conceal than some of its blockier competitors.

One of the most unusual aspects of the Steyr L40-A1 is its trapezoidal sight system. The front sight is a white triangle. The rear sight sports a pair of corresponding lines. When these steel sights are oriented on target, they form a unique and aesthetically pleasing geometric construction that draws the eye. With practice, the gun comes up on target. The brain adjusts the weapon’s orientation until the trapezoidal sights are appropriately arrayed without conscious thought. Finally, the gun disassembles without manipulation of the trigger.

Rounds downrange

Despite its fairly lightweight chassis, the L40-A1’s unconventional geometry does a great job of taming the recoil of the heavy .40 S&W. During testing, magazine changes were smooth and fast, and it wasn’t a chore to zip through a magazine fairly quickly while keeping all of the rounds in the black.

The L40-A1 shoots straight and runs great. Despite sending a lot of rounds downrange, I experienced no failures. The L40-A1’s innovative geometry and long barrel render an ample sight radius and a pleasant shooting experience. The trapezoidal sight system provides a sharp aiming point that lends itself to precise shooting while remaining sufficiently fast for high-octane tactical situations.

Packing heat for personal protection is always a tradeoff. In a real conflict, what you want is a tricked-out, suppressed M4 Carbine with an EOTech holographic sight and half a dozen loaded PMAGs. Truth be told, what you really want are drone strikes on call, heavy armor support on site, and tactical air support stacked up all the way to the moon. But what you can actually have is what you can comfortably carry for long periods on your person. That brings us back to the real world pretty quickly.

Real World

A .25 ACP pocket pistol is great to carry, but in a serious fight I’d honestly sooner have a proper club. A .44 Magnum Desert Eagle takes all the ambiguity out of a social exchange of gunfire, but it needs a shoulder sling or training wheels to tote around. The Steyr L40-A1 really is a good compromise.

The L40-A1 is no bulkier than its competition, and it’s slimmer than most. The gun rides perfectly in a duty holster and can be hidden under loose clothing should the need arise. In action, the gun is fast, accurate and brings plenty of downrange thump. I was legitimately taken with the innovative geometry of the weapon. The unconventional layout of the frame and barrel drops the line of recoil down to align with the operator’s wrist and forearm. This feature transmits the recoil impulse linearly and diminishes any rotational movement around the wrist so as to minimize muzzle flip. What all that engineering diatribe distills down to is a powerful handgun that carries well and shoots great.

Duty Ready

The Steyr L40-A1 is designed for duty use. While concealable, there are easier guns to hide. However, for a piece to keep by your bed, strap on your thigh or tuck in your glove box, you would be hard pressed to improve upon the Steyr L40-A1. All that and it is still handy enough to ride discreetly underneath a coat. Rugged, accurate, reliable and genuinely innovative, the Steyr L40-A1 is a fully mature weapon system that brings some serious new levels of “cool” to the tactical table.

Steyr L40-A1 Specs

Caliber: .40 S&W
Barrel: 4.53 inches
OA Length: 7.9 inches
Weight: 28.6 ounces (empty)
Grip: Polymer
Sights: Trapezoidal
Action: Striker-fired
Finish: Matte black
Capacity: 12+1
MSRP: $560

For more information, visit steyarms.com.

This article was originally published in “The Complete Book of Guns” 2017. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.

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