As I have said before I am a fan of the products of the old arms Combine Steyr-Mannlicher. The AUG remains my favorite rifle. For years I had been meaning to get one of their handguns but things kept getting in the way. That was until a chance discovery in a gun shop a few months ago.
I was in Juggernaut Arms in Sparks Nevada. A nice little gun shop with very attractive prices. I intended to get one of the new H&K VP9’s because I have wanted an H&K ever since I first got into guns and finally they had built a gun which was just barely within my price range. But by the time I scraped together the cash their stock of VP’s were exhausted. What they did have was a pair of Steyr M9’s, a full sized and compact model. I picked up both guns, the M9 had a nicer trigger than the VP9, seemed to fit my hand better and most importantly replacement mags for the M9 were about $25 as opposed to $45 for the VP. There was also the fact that the M9 was over $100 cheaper than the VP9. So I walked out with the M9 and I haven’t looked back since.
Now for a little history, the Steyr M9 was designed by a fellow named Wilhelm Bubits. He worked for the Glock corporation and the M9 was designed with lessons learned from the original Glock design. It was introduced into this country around the time of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. Which severely hobbled full sized 9MM pistols with 10 round magazines as opposed to the 15,16 or even 18 round magazines that they were designed for. The early model M9’s also had some technical faults and finally sometime in the past the Euro became so expensive compared to the U.S. Dollar that Steyr just gave up completely and ceased importation.
Well, the Euro has fallen in relative value and Steyr is importing these pistols again. Along with AUGs and their line of sporting firearms. That being said Steyr M9s are not all that common. For some reason I see more Steyr handguns around the Reno area than anyplace I have ever lived, and I still haven’t seen any M9’s for sale anywhere in the area. The compact M9 I mentioned earlier in the article vanished into someone’s gun safe shortly after I looked over it. Perhaps Steyr simply is not importing enough of them. But more likely they are not popular because they are a little odd. Most European made guns are a little odd to American audiences. The Steyr M9 takes this to a further degree. A degree I quite like.
Pictured above, a CZ75 Omega model and Steyr M9. Of all the handguns I have handled and shot I believe that these two represent the pinnacle of their respective design philosophies. These are two very different designs that essentially do the same thing, launch 9MM projectiles from a locked breech handgun. The CZ75 is widely considered to be a masterpiece of industrial design. With expertly crafted Art Deco curves. Quite simply the best hammer fired, steel frame 9MM handgun available on the “regular” firearms market. While (in my opinion) the Steyr M9 is the best polymer framed, striker fired 9MM currently available.
Considering the looks of the M9, most who look at it would consider it ugly and downright weird. Like some offspring of the famously bad S&W Sigma. I think this is an excellent example of form over function. I have come to consider this pistol to be gloriously ugly. Like an A10 Warthog or a bulldozer. Something that looks like it is very good at its intended purpose. The grip is just perfect for my hand. Far more comfortable than any Glock or any other polymer framed pistol I have ever used. Which strikes me as incredible because polymer can be easily and cheaply moulded into far more ergonomic shapes than a big old lump of steel. The Steyr has all the ergonomic improvements that I have craved in a polymer framed pistol for a long time. Like an undercut trigger guard and finger grooves that actually fit my fingers.
The trigger is amazing, a two stage trigger, but really it feels kind of like a three stage. The large central blade has a significant amount of travel. Sweeping smoothly into the short second stage which then comes up against the final break. A moment of hesitation gives you a moment to politely ask. “Are you sure that you want to fire?” You pull through the last stage which is short, with the faintest hint of grit. But breaks very cleanly allowing you to have accuracy on par with the CZ75. Reset is quick, crisp and positive allowing extremely rapid follow up shots. Mine seems to prefer the heavier weights of 9MM rounds. Which is one of the reasons why I got this from my local Cabellas.
The slide is not as big as I would like, although the serrations are positive and allow for a good grip.
Now we come to what is probably the most controversial aspect of the design. The pyramid sights. Personally I like them. They integrate very nicely into the shape of the slide. That being said I can see why American shooters don’t like them. Something a little different can throw off all manner of products and with all these features together the M9 is more than a little different. The sights also have a fatal flaw. They are attached to the slide in a way I do not completely understand. This means that the sights are not user replaceable, or perhaps even armorer replaceable. If you can even find a Steyr M9 armorer. Shooters in this country like to replace their sights. Especially with something like tritium vials which facilitates better shooting in night or low light conditions.
That being said I think tritium sights are a bit overrated. So I can get around that. M9 replacement magazines are available from CDNN distributors. Holsters are another issue. To the best of my knowledge there are only two outfits that make holsters for them. One is Outlaw Holsters, they sell Kydex holsters through Amazon. They are a little tight, but positive and I think their carbon fiber weave pattern is gorgeous. Leather holsters are available from Mernickle Holsters. Be sure to specify if your gun has a light rail or not.
When I first picked it up I couldn’t help but feel that the Steyr M9 was a little hipsterish. Different just for the sake of being different. But after shooting hundreds of rounds through it my opinion has changed completely. Anything but hipster, everything I need and nothing I don’t. That being said my needs and your needs might be completely different. Your handgun needs might be better served by a S&W M&P or a Beretta. You might even be one of those automatons who believe that the Glock is the ultimate pinnacle of the human endeavor. That being said if you get an opportunity to test fire a Steyr M9 I would highly recommend it.