Sunday, April 3, 2011

Personal Critical Review of Firearms - The Steyr M Series Pistol


The Steyr M Series Pistol

Almost as rare as a blue moon and thankfully not as rare as hen's teeth, the Steyr M pistol is the brain-child of an obsessed gun designer and an excellent manufacturer of guns from Austria. While an Austrian engineer named Gaston Glock is often credited with the polymer pistol craze the safe-action was not the first to have a plastic frame. Heckler & Koch used a polymer for their VP70 pistol back in 1970 and polygonal rifling was already in full production in several companies. What I find most interesting is that Remington introduced their polymer-framed Nylon 66 Rifle in 1959. The Nylon66 rifle was produced with licensed DuPont Zytel a family of polymers including nylon 6-6 where the rifle got it's name. More interesting could be the fact that the Glock is made from Nylon 6 or Perlon a developed product from IG Farben (yes THAT IG Farben) to copy the Zytel/nylon 6-6 without having to pay licensing fees for use of the Zytel patent.

Back to pistols, of course Steyr wanted to gather some of that US market, unlike the civilian hating trolls at H&K, Steyr long understood that the US civilian market is an almost endless customer base that has expanded rather than contracted. In the race to try and compete with Glock, Steyr worked on developing this pistol for two years, with extensive research and a huge development budget they introduced the M series. Based on the .40 and sized down for 9x19 this beefy pistol series had the manufacturer expecting to slam dunk the competition. Steyr presented a well priced, advanced designed product with additional features. Steyr had underestimated the depth of the American market's mediocrity, lack of technical understanding, rejection of facts and evidence and simple desire for standardization. The product was not a complete flop but it was not as big of a success as would have been expected from the quality of the offering. From a marketing standpoint the problem is clear, the product while an improvement was up against a list of already established competitors (one in particular of monstrous proportions) with the addition of mountains of excellent quality used examples, the improvements became incremental in the eyes of a market blinded by movie and Rap star promotion.

I have seen postulations by the helplessly ignorant that the M Series is a "knock-off" of the Glock, I can only point out to a shooter that is so ignorant of gun design and history that they only need to pick up a 1911, a Browning Hi-power, PPK and a P-38 look them over and understand that their "utterly original Glock” - like most other pistols in production now, share features from one or more of the originals listed. Please don't be so daft as to say something so ignorant that every other shooter listening or reading is forced to face-palm themselves hard enough to cause a blackout. Many will say that because everything is compared to a Glock that makes Glock the best - BS, it makes Glock the least common denominator the bucket-grade mediocre standard by overwhelming numbers, popularity is never an indicator of quality (ask any Breitling owner about how Rolex keeps time).

I did a mountain of research before I purchased my M Series, I was a convinced "metal only" gun guy, I had a long history of “heavy metal” Browning P-35/Hi-Power pistols and 1911 .45s and just had no reason to change. Then after deciding that the M Series was going to be my big jump, the second big batch into the US was modified to fix a problem with the original triggers and that batch was up for sale! I paid 335 bucks for a 600 buck pistol and I just happened to have the cash. The pistol pictured here is my original I have had from 2001. In effect I am writing this review because this open carry pistol is about to be retired for a new pistol that is on order as I write. It is simply the striker fired design that is the kicker, I want an exposed hammer - they hid harder and can be actuated without having to rack the slide, or like the Walther pull the full weight of the striker, but if you just must have striker fired this and the Walther P99 are the models to start your reviews.



Note: the pictured take-down lever in lower position (bottom) is locked into the up position (top) by a lockable button that can render the gun inert with a special key.

Personal - At the time my demands for a replacement of my beloved Hi-Powers were simple, long service life against abuse, staggered magazine of 10 or more rounds, thicker grip, simple operation, manual safety, reasonable trigger (I was never a big fan of DAO), and it had to be capable of eating reloads. The first time I picked one up I liked the 111ยบ grip angle and the fuller thicker grip. It was funky and ugly but it sat low in the hand and had that "lower bore axis" that is almost a demand from all shooters. It fits great, points naturally and is light enough to make a good open cary pistol. The Steyr is my main weapon nowadays, as I have taken to open carry on a regular basis. (Note: at the bottom you will see a link and a quote about the term DA or DAO in connection with striker fired pistols - it is worth reading and I agree with the author.)


The unusual triangle sights are unique, some shooters hate them, I found that I liked the pointed front sight. The small circle in the back is actually a chamber loaded indicator that pushes out when a round is inside the pipe.

Function - Using reloads, surplus, A-merc, Wolf, white box, UMC, Golden Saber, Gold Dot, Silver tip and others over the years I have come to expect top-notch reliable function. I have had a few Fail To Eject (bad loads, and the screw up we call limp-wristing) I don't even remember if I have ever had a Fail To Feed but at this point the pistol has had at least several cases of bottom of the barrel surplus blasted out of the business end. I have to be honest I have never had a Hi-power that was even close to this reliable. Because this pistol is in 9mm and it has a fully supported chamber the famous "kaboom" issue - is not an issue. The trigger is likely the shortest in travel and shortest in return of any of the striker fired pistols. Looking at all the striker fired pistols on the market this pistol is likely the most similar in weight of pull and crispness to what a SA or DA/SA shooter would think of as normal. The accuracy of this pistol design is excellent equal to my old Gold cup 70. Take-down for cleaning is almost shockingly simple and fast.



Simple take-down is quick and easy with just a few major parts groups.

Design flaws - The magazine release I think is small and I have to adjust my hand to depress the release (yet not near as bad as a stock hi-power or 1911), I'm right handed so I don't have problems with the controls that are obviously made with right handed shooters in mind. The safety is inside the trigger guard and to the top, I am unsure I would call that a design flaw or just unexpected, but it works great. Take-down requires that the trigger is depressed, yes snap the firing pin to disassemble I find this distressing.

The M Series is striker fired only, I have come to the position that I am going to replace this pistol for this reason alone. I have found that I heartily dislike striker fired pistols, after all the years liking most of the features of this pistol in particular I just cannot stand it any longer. The lack of an exposed hammer and true DA/SA capabilities has forced me to decide to give this pistol to one of the family members. It is a shame actually that such a good pistol, a pistol that has been a belt attached companion for so long is about to be replaced. Of all of the striker fired pistols available I consider this to be most likely the most advanced design and highest quality offering, but it remains a striker fired DAO pistol and sadly that is not actually a double action, the slide needs to be moved again to drop the firing pin on the primer (see the rant below).

Quality - Steyr is an old established weapons maker in Austria with manufacturing in several countries this pistol is an example of quality first world "state of the art" manufacturing.

Caliber/Ammunition - Available in 9x19, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, and outside of the US the 9x21.

Use - The full size model I have would work but it is large heavy and would work concealed with effort, as an open-carry gun that problem is eliminated. To be honest why (when they would expect to re-contract their arms) a police department wouldn't switch to this series - I don't know. This gun works like it should be more common in pistol competitions and in the hands of experienced shooters, the designer obviously is a shooter with specific demands.

Ergonomics - Ergonomic design is excellent and with the cut in on the grip it works for small and large hands well. This handgun in the full size series points naturally and is designed for quick target leveling.

Current production - Steyr is an on again - off again production into the US there are new in box, used and current production available.

From the Internet. Why Glocks are NOT Double Action.

...(I)n fact striker-fire, (is) SINGLE action, no matter what Glock and the box says. This misunderstanding has annoying operational implications, and possibly dangerous defensive implications.

Single Action: Pulling the trigger does ONE thing : if the hammer has been cocked, it will release the hammer. Trigger pull is light, short, and consistant between first and subsequent shots. Example: Star Firestar Plus.

Double Action: Pulling the trigger does TWO things : it will first cock the hammer if it hasn't been cocked, and then it will release the hammer. DA Trigger pull is longer and heavier than SA, but the user can cock the hammer first if they want to fire in "Single Action Mode." If the gun is semi-automatic, the first shot is DA, subsequent shots are SA due to the slide cocking the hammer for you, resulting in differing trigger feel as described above. Example : Beretta 8045, Hoekler and Koch USP series, etc.

Double Action ONLY: Any DA gun which does not allow pre-cocking the hammer because the hammer won't stay cocked, and is often bobbed or hidden. No decock is ever needed, and trigger pull is consistent between first and subsequent shots. Example: AMT Backup

Striker Fire: Rather than a hammer, an internal striker is cocked and released to fire. The striker is cocked by the first motion of the slide, and there is no way to decock other than squeezing the trigger.

Any "true" double action gun will cock the hammer by squeezing the trigger, which means you don't HAVE to cock the hammer manually before the first shot as with a single action. In contrast, a Single Action gun you have to cock the hammer before you squeeze the trigger.

Glock claims to be "double action only" because :

1) You can't cock the hammer from a "hammer spur" externally, normally a sign that the gun is DAO.
2) In normal practice, pulling the trigger makes it go off, suggesting (falsely) that the trigger is cocking the hammer like a DA.
3) Trigger pull feels consistant between shots, suggesting DAO.

All three are wrong because :

1) Glock can be (and is) cocked externally for the first shot, but its done by the slide motion involved with loading the first round into the chamber rather than an overt hammer. This is true of any other semi-auto gun -- unless it really IS a DAO gun, any semi-auto can be cocked by racking the slide if you wanted).

2) The gun IS in fact cocked for the first shot before the trigger is pulled, and stays that way once cocked until fired, just like any other SINGLE ACTION. The second shot is cocked by the first, etc.

3) Just as with any other NON-DAO semi-auto, Glock counts on the process of chambering a round to cock the gun for you between shots. Since you always fire in single action mode, the trigger always feels the same.
After some research I found that striker fired true double action pistols do exist. The Walther P99 has several options that are examples of a true DA pistol that uses a striker-firing pin system with a second (plus) hit-the-primer capability. The trigger will continue to cock and release the firing pin. As I understand there are several other true double action striker fired pistols.

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