Being semi-retired from TTAG means that I get to be a little more selective with the firearms and gear that I want to review. No longer do I have a list as long as the Mueller Report filled with an endless stream of AR-15 variants that I need to test. Now I actually get to pick and choose the things that I find interesting.
And the second I saw this Grand Power Stribog SP9A1 in the gun deals section on Reddit I was hooked.
About four years ago I reviewed the B&T APC-9. B&T is the company that makes most of the cool accessories you see on H&K’s guns, and they were just starting their foray into producing their own firearms at the time.
The APC-9 was their sub gun entry into the field and it was exactly like their accessories: visually stunning, technically perfect, and massively expensive.
I like the APC-9, and I still think it’s a fine piece of engineering, but there are some things that irked me about it. First and foremost was the price. B&T asks princely sum of $2,250 for their little blaster.
For that I’d expect perfection, and while the machined parts and operating bits were up to that level the fire controls (specifically the safety selector) weren’t as perfect as I’d like. Add the fact that gun is only offered with a tri-lug mounting option and now I’m needing additional adapters for my suppressors.
Since all of my other guns are threaded, that adds a step when I want to swap them from one firearm to another at the range. If you can afford that much for the gun and the related complications, the APC-9 is great. But lots of people can’t or just don’t want to.
Four years later and we’re starting to see the next wave of pistol caliber carbines coming on the market. I feel like the 2014 era was all about new designs. Guns like the APC-9, SIG MPX or CZ Scorpion kept getting announced and manufacturers seemed to be trying to re-invent the wheel.
This cycle seems to be all about adapting existing designs, whether that’s the plethora of 9mm AR-15 variants or this Stribog SP9A1 we’re looking at today.
I bring up the APC-9 because — let’s be honest here — that’s pretty much exactly what the Stribog SP9A1 looks like. It’s probably the most blatant copy-paste job since the Israeli Galil.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the APC-9 is a (pricey) work of mechanical art, and I think Grand Power (a firearms manufacturer based in Slovakia) actually improved the operating mechanism in their version.
Let’s start from the top, shall we?
Already things are different. Instead of a tri-lug adapter like the APC-9, the Stribog SP9A1 comes with a threaded barrel sporting the typical 1/2×28 thread pitch that you’ll find on 9mm caliber firearms. The barrel comes from the factory with a thread protector installed over those threads but be aware that it’s a royal pain in the ass to remove.
The friendly folks at the Silencer Shop gave me a hand removing it and it took nearly three of their largest, burliest gunslingers to get it to even budge. For others looking to do the same, I’d probably recommend hitting it with a torch for a bit to heat the thread protector up which should help it slide off.
The barrel is slotted into the receiver and held in place with a castle nut, just like with the buffer tube on an AR-15 rifle. This is a good thing in my book, allowing you to swap your barrel fairly easily without needing extensive time at the gunsmith. And for those who hate accumulating money, there are indeed aftermarket barrels available with the tri-lug adapter machined into the muzzle.
Moving back to the receiver you can definitely tell that this was at least highly inspired by the APC-9. The same extruded aluminum upper receiver design is used here, and just as with the B&T firearm, the finish on the Stribog SP9A1 is smooth as silk. It feels great, and feels great in the hand as well.
Again, there are some differences here that I think are actually improvements. Just as with the APC-9 there is a full-length top rail and bottom rail. But instead of having permanently attached Picatinny rails on the sides there are M-LOK compatible slots for you to attach whatever rails or accessories you need.
I generally appreciate the option for rails over actually having the rails, as it gives you the ability to make the firearm slicker or even directly attach things to the gun instead of needing the Picatinny rail intermediary which adds a little weight and bulk.
The top full-length rail over the receiver also includes flip-up plastic sights. I’ll point out that some other owners of this firearm have complained that these sights are easily broken, and on my firearm they aren’t exactly aligned with the point of impact downrange, but it’s way better than nothing.
Besides, be honest — there’s a red dot going on this gun pretty much immediately, right?
Things inside the upper receiver are very different from the APC-9. Both systems use a straight blowback action, relying on the rearward pressure from the barrel to pop out the spent brass and move the bolt backwards.
B&T’s system uses a smaller, but chunky bolt that quickly accelerates rearwards and impacts a buffer in the rear of the receiver that eventually stops its movement before thrusting it forward again. The Stribog system uses a more traditional straight blowback design with a significantly heavier bolt and constant pressure from the return spring instead of a buffer mechanism.
Here’s my take. Having fired both, I actually prefer the Stribog. I think the APC-9 is a little hard to control with their buffer system, and while it’s a nifty design, I feel that the recoil forces are experienced over a shorter period of time than with the Stribog. For sub guns I generally prefer a smoother recoil impulse like the Beretta model 12S, and that’s something the Stribog provides.
Something else that the Stribog does well: the charging handle doesn’t reciprocate. Like with the MP5, it’s free and distinct from the bolt and doesn’t move once the gun is charged.
That means you can put your thumb over it for some extra leverage without worrying about your thumb spontaneously separating from your hand.
Just as with the APC-9 or FN’s SCAR series, the upper receiver is technically the “firearm” and the lower receiver can be swapped out at will. In this case the lower receiver is also serialized (in like three different places) and matches the upper receiver and the bolt.
The lower is made from a polymer material just like with those other examples, and just like the APC-9 the grip is molded into the lower. Jeremy thinks that using an AR-style interchangeable grip would be a better option and I agree, but the grip they ship with the gun isn’t terrible. It’s actually comfortable even for my big hands.
The fire controls are a mixed bag. The safety selector is much better than the APC-9 design, using a more ergonomic shape that doesn’t cut into your hand when firing. That’s another improvement over B&T.
But the SP9A1’s trigger is definitely heavy, clocking in at about 7.75 pounds. Considering this is technically a “pistol” that wouldn’t be unreasonable for an imported handgun, I just wish there was an easy way to drop that trigger pull weight down.
The magazine well is flared, and the firearm takes proprietary polymer magazines that are available in 10, 20, and 30 round varieties for roughly $25. I complain a lot about proprietary magazines, especially in a world where the NATO magazine has become so ubiquitous. I also complain because of those prices.
But in this case, the cost isn’t bad. Even if you don’t already have a trove of MP5 magazines, it’s not going to be the end of the world. Considering how well the MPX and Scorpion EVO have been selling with their proprietary magazines I don’t think this will keep many people from jumping on the bandwagon.
By default this handgun is shipped without any kind of a brace, so the rear of the firearm is just the rear of the firearm. The interesting thing to note here is that, unlike with the B&T version, since there’s no buffer spring back here to worry about, the normal H&K rear plate adapters might actually work.
For those who have an existing MP5-esque brace for their firearms, it should slot right in. And for those who want a brace from the factory, Global Ordnance (the USA importer of this firearm) has a version available that includes this spiffy looking SB Tactical pistol brace already attached for your pleasure.
Out on the range this thing is an absolute pleasure to shoot. The recoil is as soft as you’d expect from a direct blowback firearm like this, and I didn’t have a single issue with reliability the entire time I’ve been shooting it.
I would like to mention that Global Ordnance was nice enough to include some of their Fiocci 9mm ammunition in a can, titled “CANmunition,” to help facilitate the review. I think it’s an interesting concept for ammo storage, and the tag lines write themselves — the RSO’s preferred slogan was “CANmunition: so your targets go down smooth.”
Jeremy gave me a good amount of ribbing over how much stuff I’ve got hanging off the gun in this photo. I told him I take accuracy testing seriously, and while I tried to include my AN/PEQ-15 it just wouldn’t fit for some reason.
Accuracy testing was about as good as you’d expect. The best I was able to produce was right at 2 inches from an 8-inch barrel at 25 yards running typical 9mm Luger handgun ammunition. In my book that’s a pretty good group size considering the constraints.
The only complaint I have, and something I think would improve that grouping, is the trigger. The SP9A1 heavy trigger pull weight is the prime suspect in keeping group size larger than what’s mechanically possible, requiring more force from the shooter and therefore more sympathetic movement of the hand. Reduce that trigger weight and I can see groups tightening right up.
I’ll come clean. The reason I was interested in this firearm wasn’t because I thought it would be amazing. In fact, quite the opposite: I assumed it would be terrible. I saw this, immediately recognized it as an APC-9 knockoff, and expected it to be a cheap eastern European knockoff of Swiss superiority. I was really looking forward to tearing it a new one, but I actually think they did a better job with the design than B&T did.
I appreciate all the engineering work that went into the B&T APC-9 and I like it very much. But when I can have something like the Grand Power Stribog SP9A1 9mm pistol that offers better features at literally one third the price, I don’t think there’s any contest as to which is the better option for most shooters.
Specifications: Grand Power Stribog SP9A1 9mm Carbine Pistol
Imported By: Global Ordnance
Action Type: Direct blowback semi-automatic
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 30 rounds (10 and 20 round magazines available)
Overall Length: 14.74”
Barrel Length: 8”
Weight: 82 oz
Price: $699 (MSRP $849 with brace)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Aftermarket Parts * * * *
There is a very wide variety of accessories available for Picatinny railage and M-LOK accessory mounts, and even more with the HK adapter style used for the back plate. I just wish the magazines were standard (GLOCK?) and commonly available.
Fit and Finish: * * * * *
Excellent. Clean, smooth, and velvety.
Accuracy * * * *
If you wanted something better than 2 inches at 25 yards with handgun ammunition then you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere, but I don’t know where that would be.
Ergonomics * * * *
Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues, zero failures. Even suppressed.
Overall * * * * *
For the money the Stribog SP9A1 is an excellent 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Better than the Scorpion, better value than the SIG SAUER MPX in my opinion, and on par with the B&T APC-9. And at a third the price of the Swiss gun. If you’re thinking about any one of those other options, reconsider.