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
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.
Were 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
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
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