Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Review: Steyr S9-A1 pistol

Guns and Gear Contributor
Font Size:

By J.B. Wood, American Handgunner

The proper name of the company is Steyr-Mannlicher AG, and they’ve been around a long time. Josef Wend established the first factory, in Austria, back in 1864. Since then, their products have the highest quality, and frequently with some marvelous design features. The S9-A1 pistol is no exception.

The original M-Series full-sized version has been around for about 10 years, and the S9-A1 is the compact rendition — designed by Wilhelm Bubits. The only major traditional design point he used is the classic Browning falling-barrel locking system.

The rest of it is full of innovative touches. One example is the firing mechanism. In most striker-fired pistols, the engagement of the sear and the striker lug is vertical. In the Steyr, this isn’t the case. The two surfaces are angled, and the sear is actually a 2-part arrangement.

Essentially, it’s a “prop-type” sear system, often used in rifles. When the trigger is pulled, the trigger bar pushes the primary sear a tiny distance rearward, off its step on the “prop.” This allows the beveled lug on the striker to simply push down the sear and go forward. The result is a nice, crisp single-action trigger pull. On my sample pistol, the Lyman Electronic Gauge says it’s an even 4 pounds.

The trigger has a centrally located safety, and it must be depressed before the trigger can move. This isn’t the familiar “flipper,” it’s a sliding “pad.” All surfaces are smooth, and once it’s depressed, you don’t know it’s there. The only other external safety is a key-lock. With the supplied key, turn it from “F” to “S” and everything stops.


A side angle of the Steyr S9-A1 reveals the key-lock safety.
A simple turn of the key makes this handgun safe.


The triangular rear notch matches the front white inlay on the Steyr S9-A1.


Exterior And Controls

One of the great features of the S9-A1 is the superb shape of the grip-frame. The upper rear has a very high and deep incurve, placing the web of the hand close to the bore axis. The front strap of the frame has a single-finger positioning protrusion, and there’s ample room for all three fingers of the average hand. At the front, there’s a rail for a light or laser.

Manual controls are well placed. The slide stays open after the last shot, and the slide latch is at the top of the left grip panel. The magazine release button is at the rear of the triggerguard, and its engagement is very positive. There’s no annoying magazine-disconnect safety. On top, at the rear edge of the barrel, a semi-circular opening allows checking for a loaded chamber.

The sights are excellent. Both front and rear are dovetail-mounted, and can be moved laterally. The front sight has a white triangle, and the rear notch matches it in triangular shape, with slanted white bars on the sides. A point of interest for pistol scholars: This sight system was first used on the Japanese Type 14 Nambu — in 1925! For a quick and accurate alignment, it’s simply marvelous.

For quick and easy takedown for cleaning, I’ll refer you to the supplied instruction manual, well written and illustrated. The strong flat-coil recoil spring is a captive unit on its guide, and will not fly away when you take it out — yet another approving nod to Wilhelm Bubits for good design.


This 4″ group at 25 yards shows off just how accurate this compact handgun can be.


Fieldstripping the Steyr S9-A1 is facilitated by the well-written
instruction booklet, included with the gun.


Unlike most striker-fired pistols, the unique Steyr S9-A1 the engagement
of the sear andthe striker is angled. It pairs quite nicely with CRKT’s
Enticer, designed by custom knifemaker MJ Lerch.


Accurate Little Shooter

At the range, I tried the S9-A1 with several loads, mostly from Black Hills and CorBon. No problems with hollowpoints. At 7 yards, standing, 2-hand hold, I was aiming at the center of the 8″ black, and the 3″ group was slightly high and to the right, with one round inside. Because of the high and deep grip incurve, muzzle whip was minimal.

Moving the target out to 25 yards, and using the MTM Shooting Stick for a rest, I held on 6 o’clock — the result was a nicely centered 4″ group. We can say, for a compact 9mm pistol, the Steyr has outstanding accuracy. The felt-recoil was not at all unpleasant. It would likely be a bit more noticeable in the alternate version in .40 S&W.

Based on its features and performance, I would give the Steyr-Mannlicher S9-A1 four stars.

Thanks to American Handgunner for this contribution. Click here to visit them – click here to get American Handgunner delivered to your door for $9.95 a year.

Guns and Gear