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Steyr: The Most Underrated Handgun Manufacturer In America?

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Though best known for the iconic AUG platform, Steyr also makes handguns, and they're actually kind of fantastic.

When it comes to handguns, a few well-known manufacturers tend to dominate the market. However, amidst the giants, there is one that often goes unnoticed: Steyr. Steyr has been producing high-quality firearms for over a century, and their M9 and L9 series of handguns deserve a closer look. So let's shed some light on these uncommon firearms.

Steyr Arms, a subsidiary of the Austrian-based Steyr Mannlicher, has a rich history of firearm production dating back to the mid-19th century. Despite their long-standing reputation, however, Steyr's marketing department functionally does not exist. If you do know anything about them, chances are it's from video games or action films. Those who have had the opportunity to experience Steyr handguns firsthand, however, know that they offer a unique blend of innovation, craftsmanship, and performance that's on par with the best the industry has to offer.

Steyr M9A1

The Steyr M9A1, looking like it'd be right at home in Robocop's holster.

One of the first features you'll notice on a Steyr handguns is the unique grip design. The triangular frame shape, combined with a high grip position and low bore axis, feels solid and secure. The grip angle is designed specifically to align with the shooter's natural point of aim, which allows for quick and instinctive target acquisition. It might sound cliché, but the Steyr really can feel like an extension of your body. This whole setup greatly enhances shooting comfort, reducing muzzle rise, and improving accuracy.

In terms of recoil management, the Steyr is second to none thanks to its extraordinarily low bore axis which is one of the lowest of any production handgun. This makes for a recoil impulse that goes straight back, with almost no muzzle rise, keeping the sights on target during fire, sustained or otherwise. Combined with the well-designed grip, you get an abundantly intuitive shooting experience. Hitting targets is as simple as just pointing at them, and I was able to do so even without using the sights.

Speaking of sights, the trapezoidal sights on Steyr handguns are another element that set them apart from anything else the industry has to offer. While unconventional, the they are seriously the best I've ever run. The geometry of the sight picture is such that, unlike with standard "post" iron sights, there is no room for misalignment. Any discrepancy in grip or angle is immediately obvious, and, when the sights are lined up correctly, they perform very well - nearly on par with a red dot.

Sights of the Steyr M9A1

Steyr Trapezoidal Sights

When it comes to the trigger, Steyr handguns shine with their proprietary Reset Action Trigger system. The trigger provides a short and crisp reset, allowing for rapid follow-up shots. The pull weight is very consistent and the up-take of the trigger is smooth. The only critique I could make is of the sound, or lack thereof, of the trigger reset, which is almost completely inaudible.

The control surfaces represent the only traditionally configured elements of Steyr's designs. The extended length magazine release is right where you expect it to be, and is reversible to meet the preferences of the shooter. No Steyr handgun currently in production features a manual safety selector, but they do all have a raised portion on the center of the trigger that mechanically locks it until engaged by the user.

Undoubtedly, reliability is an essential attribute in a dependable handgun. After subjecting a number of these guns to numerous rounds of different types, grain counts, and brands, every one I've encountered flawlessly functioned without a single failure.

In a landscape where groundbreaking innovations in handgun design seem few and far between, Steyr has continued with their diligent (although quiet) effort to bring a new experience to the market. The series of handguns born out of this effort showcase a level of design proficiency and engineering that is undeniably impressive, and approaching revolutionary

It may seem like a bold claim, but once you get your hands on a Steyr handgun, even if it's just for a moment, you'll understand why. The grip, the balance, and the ergonomics all come together in a way that is as captivating as it is polarizing. Take a moment, if you can, to find one and hold it in your hands. The experience will be decisive, commanding either profound admiration or immediate dismissal. If you should find yourself captivated by the grip, the feel, and the forward-thinking masterpiece those constitute, I can assert without hesitation that there is no other handgun I would sooner or more confidently recommend.

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