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Steyr M40-A1 Review

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Billy Shears, Jun 16, 2012.

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  1. Billy Shears

    Billy Shears Member

    Mar 16, 2008
    I just got back from the range with my brand new Steyr M40-A1, and I am so impressed with the gun that I felt impelled to write a short review of it here.

    The pistol to which it inevitably draws immediate comparison is the other Austrian, striker-fired, polymer-framed, high-capacity, double action only semi auto pistol. And indeed, the M40-A1 was designed primarily by Wilhelm Bubits, who formerly worked at Glock, and the pistol he designed for Steyr was, I have read, intended to go directly head to head with the Glock in the lucrative American civilian and law enforcement market. That it has not done so very successfully is due not to any fault of the pistol itself, but on unfavorable currency exchange rates, and lack of a good, reliable company to act as an importer. Hopefully the second issue has been resolved. I myself am well placed to make a comparison between these two pistols, as I work for a police department that issues Glock 17s to its personnel, and I have extensive experience with the Glock.

    In the looks department, the M40-A1 is, if anything, even less prepossessing than Gaston Glock’s unlovely creation. But if, as they say, beauty is as beauty does, than the Steyr changes from ugly duckling to beautiful swan as soon as one gets any trigger time on it. Even before shooting, there are features on the Steyr that are clearly superior. For example, where the Glock has a rectangular plastic magazine release button, with sharp corners, the Steyr has a metal one with rounded corners. The Glock comes from the factory with rather chintzy plastic sights, while the Steyr has metal “trapezoid” sights (more on these later). The Steyr has a slightly easier takedown for field stripping, and it has a much better feel in the hand, thanks to its slimmer grip. This last feature is made possible because of its metal magazines. The Glock was originally designed with an unlined polymer magazine that wouldn’t normally fall out on its own when the shooter pressed the release button, for the same reason that most European autoloaders made before the 1980s had heel magazine releases – the armies that these pistols were designed for were more concerned with inadvertent magazine release and soldiers loosing magazines than they were with fast reloads. A magazine that doesn’t just drop out requires the soldier to strip it out, and is therefore less likely to get left on the ground. When Glock started selling pistols in America, however, both civilian and law enforcement shooters did want to have the capability to execute speed reloads, so they started lining their magazines with metal. The result is a polymer-covered metal magazine that is thicker and bulkier than the Steyr’s all metal magazines, however, and this is part of the reason the Steyr has slimmer, more comfortable grips. Since I have short fingers, this is definitely an advantage for me. The Steyr’s grip also has a “cutout” on the back for the web of the shooting hand, like the one on the CZ-75, and this makes the grip more comfortable still. The grip angle is 111 degrees to the Glock’s 109, and results in pistol that seems to aim itself.

    Another nice thing about the Steyr is that, unlike the Glock, which was originally designed as a 9mm, and later engineered to take the .40 S&W cartridge, the Steyr was originally designed as a .40, and then altered to make a 9mm version available. This overcomes one of the Glock’s few potentially serious shortcomings. To enable the Glock to handle the larger .40 S&W cartridge, without a major redesign or alteration in the dimensions of the frame, Glock’s engineers had to remove a certain amount of metal from the chamber to design a feed ramp that would reliably feed these larger cartridges into the chamber. The result is a chamber that doesn’t really offer as much support to cartridge as it ideally ought to, and while this is almost never a problem for shooters using quality factory ammo, it has caused hand loaders headaches such as bulged cases, shorter case life for reloads, and even the occasional kaboom. Since the Steyr was designed around the .40 S&W cartridge from the beginning, it has plenty of support for the case head, and this should not ever be a problem with this design. Also advantageous to hand loaders, is the fact that the Steyr has conventional rifling instead of polygonal twist rifling, and can therefore handle cast bullets with no problem.

    Shooting the Steyr was a pleasure. Between the extremely low bore axis, the sharper rake of the grip, and also the more comfortable, better-fitting grip, I can honestly say I don’t notice appreciably more felt recoil or muzzle rise with my .40 cal. Steyr than I do with my department-issued 9mm Glock. Thanks to the trigger, I find I can shoot the Steyr more accurately. There is only one respect in which the Glock’s trigger is superior: one can feel the trigger reset noticeably more easily than with the Steyr. In every other way, length of travel, smoothness, break – the Steyr’s trigger is better.

    Another reason I think I was shooting the Steyr better is the sights. This pistol comes with a proprietary “trapezoid” sight that seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it sighting system, with no middle ground. I’ve read that when gunsmith Wayne Novak, of Novak sight fame, first picked up one of these guns, he exclaimed “which idiot designed these sights?” Well, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Novak, and mark myself down in the “love it” camp, where these sights are concerned. I think they are outstanding. I understand that the chief complaint some people who hate them have is difficulty lining up the sharp point of the front sight with the ears of the rear sight, resulting in their stringing their shots vertically. I didn’t experience even a hint of this problem, and instead found it easier to place the sharp point of the front sight very precisely on the target, just as I find it easier to draw a fine line with a sharp pencil than I do a dull one. Moreover, the triangular shape of the front sight, and the angled-in bars of light showing between the sides of the front sight and the ears of the rear sight, and the very acutely pointed corners of the rear sight ears, all look subtly like arrows pointing right at the target I was aiming for. I found these sights to be excellent for precision shooting. They were designed this way, however, primarily for rapid acquisition, and I believe they are slightly faster for me to pick up than the three dot sights I am used to. I wish I could get these sights for my other guns.

    So there it is. I can say I absolutely love this pistol. If you see one for sale, do yourself a favor and pick it up. That may not be so easy, as they are still scarce. Of all the several gun shops in my area, only one carries these. I think that as more shooters become acquainted with them, that may change. I think this is a fantastic gun.
  2. Girodin

    Girodin Member

    Mar 22, 2008
    I love my steyrs. They are very underrated pistols. I'm not getting rid of my glocks but I prefer the grip, low bore axis, and trigger of the steyrs.
  3. LightningMan

    LightningMan Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Billy Shears, You can get something similar to those sights from this web site; http://www.suresight.com/
    BTW I have the older M40 Steyr which also has the trianglular sights, that I too like very much, because if I want to make a more pinpoint accuracy shot at a more distant target, it helps a lot. LM
  4. Inazone

    Inazone Member

    Apr 16, 2012
    Minnesota, USA
    I have a Steyr M9-A1 (the 9mm equivalent) and love the trapezoid sights. Mine is one of the earlier PW Arms imports, but if the switch to "real" distribution via Steyr America gets these guns out to more retailers, I think Steyr could become a household name in the handgun world. As it stands now, most people I mention this gun to aren't even aware that Steyr makes handguns.
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