Steyr Arms M-A1 40 S&W

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GUN TESTS GRADE: B+
This gun is a very handy size with an eager trigger. We would rate the MA-1 higher with the addition of target sights.

Gun Details

Manufacturer Steyr Arms, Inc.
Model Name M-A1 40 S&W
Model Number M-A1 40 S&W
Home Defense Yes
Law Enforcement Yes
Concealed Carry Yes
Competition Yes
Price 462
Caliber/Gauge 40
Caliber Plus Cartridge 40 S&W
Capacity 12+1 rounds
Weight Unloaded 27.3 oz.
Warranty Lifetime
Overall Length 7.64 in.
Barrel Length 4.0 in.
Sight Radius 6.15 in.
Overall Height 5.3 in.
Front Strap Height 2.6 in.
Back Strap Height 3.1 in.
Maximum Width 1.3 in.
Grip Thickness Max 1.2 in.
Grip Circumference Max 5.5 in.
Frame Material Black Polymer
Barrel Material Steel
Grip Material Black Polymer
Trigger Pull Double 7.5 lbs.
Trigger Span Double 2.65 in.

Despite there being little difference in overall length of the top ends, the slightly longer full-size M-A1 pistol was more reliable. The compact model (foreground) malfunctioned when the slide would not return to battery. Several times it came up short by less than 0.10 inch. The two guide rods were not interchangeable, foiling our attempt to use the stronger-looking unit shown at the rear.


The rear sight was meant to be a visual aide to capture the outline of the triangular front sight. But this caused our eyes to fatigue quickly.


The Steyr polymer pistols offered a distinctive profile. The fronts of the guns were boxy and flat top to bottom, almost reminiscent of a Taser. The single-lug accessory rail added about 0.33 inches of vertical drop compared to the original Steyr M9 pistol. The blocky profile was undercut at the rear by the grip that offered not only a pronounced palm swell but a rakish angle and deep indention to put the web of the hand as much as 0.9 inch beneath the rear of the slide. In lieu of aftermarket availability, some very handsome $80 leather holsters made specifically for these pistols can be found on the Steyr website.

Steyr continues to equip its pistols with triangular notch and post "trapezoidal" sights dovetailed into place front and rear. The front sight was an equilateral triangle measuring about 0.32 inch with its face almost completely in white. The paint was not self luminous, but it had enough depth to look like frosting. The rear notch outlined the bottom half of the triangle, leaving the top half open. Two white lines ran along the sides of the rear notch.

The takedown latch was integrated with a lockout safety system. By inserting one of the two supplied keys, the firing system can be stalled. This also prevented the guns from being disassembled. For field stripping, we needed to press the trigger, push in the spring-loaded keypad and rotate the disassembly latch downward. The top end was then eager to slide from the frame. Reassembly was achieved simply by replacing the slide. Both pistols operated with a captured single-filament flat-wound recoil spring and shared the same operating system. The slide rode on a set of steel rails inlaid into the polymer frame. The barrel cycled in and out of battery by making contact with a locking block at the center of the frame. Movement of the slide set the firing pin spring. According to the manufacturer, the trigger did not contribute to final compression of the firing-pin spring. Steyr counts movement of the slide and release of the firing pin by the trigger as the two ingredients of double action. We’re not sure we agree with this definition, but in our view it makes for a very good trigger.

Both pistols arrived with two steel-bodied magazines. The M-A1 utilized a 12-round magazine and the S-A1 magazine held 10 rounds.

Most noteworthy of the changes from the original M-series pistol was the trigger. With a safety-release lever in the face of the trigger, the overall action was noticeably shorter. Takeup consisted primarily of the distance it took to press in the safety. This required a mere 2.75 pounds, according to our Chatillon recording trigger gauge. Complete ignition required about 8.5 pounds for the S-A1 and about 7.5 pounds for the M-A1 model.

Our test shooters thought the trigger was precise. But the smallest average group size we were able to achieve, 1.7 inches, was with the M-A1 firing the Remington UMC 180-grain hollowpoints. Group sizes were larger and less consistent compared to the same ammunition fired from the full-size USP. Simply put, we found the sights difficult to work with in a slow-fire controlled-press format at a distant target. While some of our initial shots were accurate, our eyes soon tired of trying to decipher an exact point of aim from the triangular notch and post. The good news was that there was not as much drop off between the full-size and compact models. In fact, accuracy firing the DoubleTap ammunition was almost identical.

Our notes from our action session with M-A1 read, "Great trigger, not for the novice." Our first run took 2.28 seconds to complete after a 1.04-second first shot. By string number six, our elapsed times had dropped to 1.51 seconds. This was followed by runs taking 1.32 and 1.37 seconds respectively. First shots in less than 0.80 seconds after the start signal became the norm. In terms of accuracy, the upper portion of the target showed nine hits with one shot low. Three shots had been pushed to the left of the center A-zone.

Our Team Said: Regardless of the faster elapsed times at close quarters, our staff would change out the sights on both guns to just about anything plainer and simpler. The preferred pistol in this duo was the larger M-A1. The larger grip was not so long as to be obtrusive for carry, and the gun simply ran more reliably and inspired more confidence. Rather than pair these guns as battery mates, we might like to see a smaller S-series pistol or a larger M-series gun to better delineate their individual purposes.


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