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Gun Test - Steyr S40-A1

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - Dennis Adler

courtesy of Pocket Pistols 2011 Magazine

Ergonomics is most often associated
with describing automobile interiors,
but in the case of Steyr’s revised
M-A1 and S-A1 pistols, it’s a good word to
use because it applies to the way this gun fits
the hand. At first sight the S40-A1 (compact
.40 S&W model) looks ungainly, increasing
in proportions from the breech to the muzzle—
in other words wider at the front than
the back. This is partially an optical illusion
because of the triggerguard’s deep contour
and a tapered frame that is slanting upward
toward the grips. The backstrap is also deeply
contoured to place the back of the frame
higher over the hand, thereby creating a low
barrel axis to help reduce muzzle flip. Once
you pick this gun up, wrap your hand around
it and take aim down the trapezoidal sights,
ergonomic seems to be an appropriate word.
Gone and Back Again
The advanced Steyr Model S auto pistols,
chambered in 9x19 and .40 S&W were
first introduced in 2000 as a compact variant
of the M-A1 series. Both were evolved from
the original M series introduced in 1999 and
produced through 2002. The M series was
Steyr’s first synthetic (polymer) frame semiauto
and the first model to use a Glock-type
safety system which Steyr calls a “Reset Action
Trigger.” In addition to the gun’s unusual
shape, the M Series introduced Steyr’s patented
triangular trapezoidal sighting system,
something that takes a little getting used to.
It was an unconventional looking gun, but
every feature proved to be exceptional, even
the trapezoidal sights. The original M models
were updated in 2002 and 2004 (compact
S-A1 9x19 or .40 S&W, and M-A1 .357 SIG,
9x19, or .40 S&W), with the addition of a
Picatinny rail on the lower frame, a redesigned
magazine well, and a more rakish grip angle
of 111 degrees. Seeming to fly in the face
of market trends, the compact SA-1, with a
shorter grip and 3.6 inch barrel (vs. a 4-inch
barrel on the M-A1), was withdrawn from the
U.S. in 2002 after very limited importation.
The absence of the SA-1 and then MA-1,
also discontinued in the U.S. market, did
not go unnoticed, and calls began coming
in asking when Steyr would begin importing
them again. The better part of a decade
passed before calls to the company’s North
American division convinced Steyr management
in Austria that there was solid demand
for the M-A1 and S-A1 in the U.S. “Almost
every day for nearly two years, we received
calls and e-mails from customers asking
when we were going to bring back the Steyr
M- and S-Series pistols,” said Steyr Arms
CEO Scott O’Brian. The time is now.
Gun Details
While “compact” isn’t exactly the right word
to define the S-A1, it is smaller than the M-A1
in grip and barrel length. It is still a fairly large
gun, just a bit smaller than a Glock 23, which
is also regarded as a compact semi-auto. Ah
but the Steyr feels smaller in your hand, maybe
not so much in the holster, but a 10-round
.40 S&W can only be so compact. Where the
Steyr shines (which is hard with a black matte
finish) is in how it handles. Unless you have
very large hands, the grip angle and high rise

frame allow plenty of room to account for all
three fingers around the grips; there is also
a perfectly contoured thumb rest (ambidextrous),
and a very smooth, curved approach
angle to the trigger. The one small issue is
the magazine release, for right-handers only,
and pretty hard to reach to drop an empty
magazine without using the off hand thumb,
or turning the gun sideways to hit the release
with the trigger hand thumb. A slightly larger,
angled ambidextrous release would be about
the only thing this guns needs.
The Steyr has one additional feature that
ranks as unique, an integrated limited access
lock that completely disables the firing
mechanism and prevents disassembly of the
gun. The locking mechanism is located directly
behind the large takedown lever on the
right side of the frame. The civilian version
uses a two prong key (law enforcement models
use a handcuff key) inserted into the lock,
which is then depressed and rotated 90 degrees
to the left. Once the key is removed the
gun is in Safe Condition 3. It takes about two
seconds to reverse the process with the key
and put the gun back into Safety Condition 1,
because the action must be cycled in order
to lock the gun. The same lock, minus the
key, is also depressed to lower the takedown
lever and field strip the gun for cleaning.
In terms of balance, the S40-A1 is nose
heavy and that is a good thing as it contributes
to the .40 S&W’s slightly more manageable
recoil. Trigger pull on the test gun averaged
5 lbs. 4 oz., with 1/2 inch of take up,
including the safety toggle. Weighing 1.5 lbs.
empty, 2 lbs. 1 oz. with a full 10-round magazine,
the Steyr is not much of a burden to carry
concealed. I used a Galco CM610 Combat
Master Belt Holster made for the Steyr M9
that works perfectly with the S40-A1. The
high rise of the holster keeps the gun close
to the side with a slight butt forward cant that
places the web of your hand right over the
grip frame contour. The gun clears leather
smoothly for a swift draw and presentation.
The Galco rig also fits the 4-inch barrel M-A1.
Test ammo was Federal 155-gr. JHP,
which cleared our ProChrono traps at 1,177
fps. Rapid fire from 15 yards placed 10
rounds in the center body mass of a B-27
silhouette at 4.25 inches; all within the 9, 10
and X. The best 5-round group measured
3.25 inches. Timed fire from 15 yards placed
10 rounds within 3.25 inches, and best 5 at
1.25 inches all within the 10 and X.
The Steyr’s triangular trapezoidal sighting
system is a marvel in bright light and
even with the heavy-hitting Federal .40 S&W
rounds, which produced more muzzle flip
than was anticipated, getting back on target
was easy.
Final Thoughts
Considering the 3.6-inch barrel length
and weight of the gun, the Steyr S40-A1
packing 10+1 rounds of .40 S&W acquitted
itself quite well. Fired off-hand at a distance
of 15 yards (45 ft.) and combined with a good
belt holster, like the Galco Combat Master,
the Steyr would make a first-rate concealed
carry sidearm.