Steyr M9 Series Pistols, by Pat Cascio

We don’t see a lot of firearms coming out of Austria, and needed to say, the Glock line-up of handguns is the most recognized Austrian firearm, all around the entire world. Just about every shoot-‘em-up movie shows heavy use of a Glock pistol of some type – both bad guys and the good guys use them. Gaston Glock came out with the Glock 17 about 1985 – at least that’s when they first started appearing in the US marketplace. I spied a Glock 17, 9mm at a drug store when we lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado and it felt so good in my hand, I bought it right then and there. Now to be sure, I’ve mentioned numerous times that the Glock line-up really don’t fit anyone’s hands perfectly. However, my hand has grown to love the Glocks. I originally went into that drug store to purchase a Model 1911 chambered in .38 Super, but once the Glock 17 was in-hand, I purchased that instead.

The handgun we are looking at today, is also from Austria, and is made by Steyr Mannlicher. Many people don’t know that Wilhelm Bubits, the designer of the Steyr M9, actually worked for Glock for many years. Here is a published biographical note at the Military wikia:

Wilhelm Bubits (born October 28, 1954) in Lutzmannsburg, is an Austrian handgun designer and creator of the Caracal Pistol and Steyr Mannlicher M and S model pistols. As a hobby shooter and former police officer, Wilhelm Bubits used his experience and ideas about handguns to advance modern pistol design. Bubits worked for the Glock firearms company and in 1997 joined another Austrian weapons maker, Steyr Mannlicher. At Steyr, Bubits created the Steyr M and S pistols which were released to market beginning in 1999. In late 2002 Bubits worked with weapons experts from the United Arab Emirates in a UAE government sponsored “Small Arms Project” to develop a series of modern pistols. The result of the collaboration was the Caracal Pistol. Weapons manufacturer Caracal International LLC was incorporated in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2006. Wilhelm Bubits currently heads Caracal’s research and development team.”

Bubits approached Gaston Glock about his design. But Glock turned him down, and left the company and went to Steyr, with his design. Now, save your hate mail, and give me a chance to explain a few things. I believe that the Steyr M9 is a considerable improvement over the Glock line of handguns. The angle of the grip feels much better in my hand – and many people agree with this. Plus, there is a very low bore-to-axis between the barrel and the frame. The gun sits lower in the hand, and as a result, there is less felt recoil – not that a 9mm is punishing in recoil, to start with.

One of the main selling points of the M9 is the sights. They are called “trapezoidal” – They are VERY fast to pick-up when you bring the gun to eye level. The front sight has a white triangle embedded in in, and the rear sight is similar – however it has two angled white lines, that you will easily be able to pick up the front sight in the middle of the rear sight, a bit hard to describe, but once you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Now, the trigger pull is advertised at about 7-lbs, however, it is a wide trigger, with the safety in the center of it – just like a Glock’s trigger. However, because the trigger is wider than that on a Glock, the pull itself doesn’t feel anywhere near 7-lbs. The trigger reset is nice and short. After you fire a round, and release the trigger to go forward, so it can reset for follow-up shots, there is a very short forward travel and you can fire again. Of course, there are internal passive safeties as well. Plus, a way to lock the gun so it can’t be fired, and it takes a supplied special key to lock/unlock the gun. Takedown for cleaning is fairly straightforward, too — very Glockish!

As already mentioned, my M9 is in 9mm. However, they did manufacture some in .40 S&W – but they didn’t really catch on, for some reason. The magazine holds 15-rounds of the hottest 9mm ammo you can stuff in it, and the gun can handle it all. The M9A1 came with a 17-round magazine, however, I think it stuck out too far below the grip of the gun. The barrel is 4-inches, and the gun weighs in at 27.5-ounces – a bit heavier than a comparable Glock model. The M9 is only available in a black finish on the slide, and the frame is polymer – black. You really need to handle an M9 to appreciate how nice it feels in the hand. On my model, I used for this article, it was purchased used – at a price so low that I won’t mention it.  Whoever owned this pistol before I did, had portions of the polymer grip stippled, and that was expertly done – making the gun feel all that much better in the hand. The only (active) control on the frame is the slide stop/release – so the frame is nice and clean of other controls.

Sad to say, the original M9 wasn’t capable of accepting any lights or lasers on it – no Picatinny rail – however, that was before lights and lasers on pistol became popular. (The same can be said for the early Glocks.) The M9 was released in 1999, and perhaps it was already a bit “dated” at that time, without being able to install a light or laser on the gun on a Picatinny rail. In the mid-2000s Steyr came out with the M9A1 and it had a rail for lights and lasers. In 2010, Steyr actually came out with a third-generation model, however, by this time, Glock was totally entrenched in the law enforcement arena, as well as in the hands of civilians.

For my range testing, I only had 115-gr FMJ, 124-gr JHP+, and 124-gr JHP from Black Hills Ammunition on hand, along with Buffalo Bore 147-gr Outdoorsman +P load. However, I still managed to blast through close to 500-rounds of ammo in two range sessions. (This was before the current ammunition drought.)  I had no volunteer shooters for this article, other than my wife, and she didn’t shoot all that much. I had zero malfunctions of any type – nothing even hinted at any problems. The gun just perked along fine.

I had plenty of targets of opportunity to shoot at – including some discarded soda cans, rocks and tree branches – out to 50-yards and a bit further – hit everything I was aiming at. For my accuracy testing, I used a sleeping bag, on top of a big boulder and rested the gun on it and the target was placed at 25-yards. Without too much trouble, I was getting groups under 3-inches – the overall winner was the Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman load – and it gave me groups at 2.75-inches, and that’s outstanding accuracy from a duty handgun – and this gun was designed for law enforcement duty as well as civilian concealed carry. The biggest problem – no one is making holsters for this fine pistol – all you can find are generic ballistic Nylon holsters and those floppy things aren’t suitable for concealed carry or duty carry, if you ask me. I couldn’t find anything to fault with the Steyr M9 – except a lack of a good holster for it – so I didn’t carry it concealed.

I don’t know how many M9s from Steyr came into the United States, however, I don’t believe we got nearly enough – this is only the second M9 I’ve ever seen in any gun shops – I usually haunt one gun shop in particular, and it was in this shop, that I saw both M9s – I don’t recall the price on the other one, but I seem to recall it was priced “right” for a fine handgun in 9mm.

I’ve yet to see a Steyr M9A1 of a gen three model, so I can’t speak about them, other than with some of the new improvements over the original model, I don’t see how you can go wrong with owning a newer model with the improvements – like the rail for lights and lasers. From pictures, I’ve seen of the M9A1, the grip has better checkering on it, so the gun would feel a lot better in your hand under recoil.

At the conclusion of my testing, I went through several large drawers full of holsters, and I managed to find a ballistic Nylon (well-made) tactical thigh holster, that the M9 fit in – just took a little time to adjust the straps so the gun stayed in place. It would make a good holster for police duty wear, or for SWAT wear – I like tactical thigh holsters because they keep the gun low on the leg, yet without easy reach for a fast draw. This holster is made by Blackhawk and it will accept a variety of semiauto pistols with some adjustments.

Steyr Mannlicher is best known for their rifles but has been making semi-auto handguns for more than a hundred years. However, on the M9 line-up, the Glock handgun hit the market first, and it caught on like a wildfire, so Steyr didn’t stand a chance of catching up to Glock in the law enforcement market in the USA. But still, it is an outstanding design and a very well-made for a 9mm handgun. It is suitable for whatever your self-defense needs might be – if you can find one. Check around on the various gun selling websites and see if you can find one. It will be worth your time and money. I don’t think you can go wrong with this pistol at all.