Steyr Mannlicher L-A1: New Gun Test

Steyr Mannlicher L-A1
The new Steyr L-A1 is available in .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and 9mm with a metal magazine that holds 17 rounds in 9mm, 12 in the other two calibers.

I first encountered the new Steyr Mannlicher L-A1 pistol in Bessemer, Alabama at the grand opening of Steyr's new U.S.-based facility in April 2014. At first I thought it was just another Glock clone. Then I shot some early production models of the gun in the indoor range, and I discovered it was a lot more than that. This gun has a few unique and innovative features, and I was impressed and intrigued enough with it that I ordered one of my own before I left. It took a while to get it because the company was just ramping up production, but late in the year it arrived.

Purpose

While Steyr describes this gun as a “duty-style,” it is a full-size pistol similar to the Glock 17 that introduced this category of handguns. The L-A1 is well suited to use as a defensive concealed or open-carry gun for civilians as well as a duty gun for law enforcement. It would also be very much at home in a 3-gun, USPSA or IDPA shooting competition.

The L-A1 is 7.9 inches long, 5.1 inches high and 1.2 inches wide with a 4.52-inch barrel.The full-size handgun design makes it easier to shoot than a smaller compact or sub-compact, yet at 28.8 ounces, it’s not too heavy for everyday concealed carry.

The L-A1 is a full-size, double-stack, striker-fired, polymer-frame pistol. It’s available in .40 S&W, .357 Sig, and 9mm. Mine is a 9mm, and its metal magazine holds 17 cartridges. The .40 S&W and .357 Sig versions will hold 12 cartridges. I am not sure why the discrepancy as the magazines should easily hold 15, but that’s what the web site says,which was confirmed by a company representative. The gun will fire without the magazine in place, which is important in a self-defense handgun.

The manufacturer video below showcases the European version of the LA-1, which has dot sights instead of the triangle sights featured on the U.S. version:

Functionality

The handgun has a massive slide that is square in the European style. That helps control recoil. The grip is square and boxy in the back, with finger grips in the front. It is a great fit for my hand and is very comfortable under recoil. It also lets you get your hand up high and close to the axis of the bore so, again, recoil is mitigated and controlled.

Its loaded chamber indicator sits flush in the rear of the slide when the chamber is empty, and is raised slightly when the chamber is loaded. This allows the shooter to check both visually and by feel for a loaded chamber.

Its trigger guard is large enough to allows the use of gloves. There is a rail on the bottom of the frame for mounting accessories like a light or laser.

The gun has the slide release and the magazine release both on the left side, for right handed shooters. As a lefty, I am used to that, and use my index finger to run both the magazine release and the slide release.

The takedown lever is on the right side of the gun. There is a lock on the side that can be activated with either of the two keys provided, preventing the gun from being used, which is an important feature for many gun owners, particularly those with children in the home.

I used this pistol to do a lot of speed drills. The first few times I presented from the holster these odd sights threw me a bit of a curve. But within just a few minutes of practice I could draw and shoot amazingly fast. Target-to-target transitions were also very fast.

Innovation

Perhaps the most unique feature of this pistol is its sight system. The front sight is a triangle with a white, triangle insert. The rear sight is a trapezoid with two white trapezoid inserts, one on each side. Both sights can be drifted for windage adjustment. There is no elevation adjustment.

These sights inspire a “what the hell” reaction when you first see them. They take a little getting used to, but once you understand the sights and train your eyes and mind to not be surprised when they appear on the target, this system works surprisingly well. (If you are one of those gun owners who hates anything different, optional traditional sights are available.)

Steyr Mannlicher L-A1
The unique triangle-and-trapezoidal design of the front and rear sights on the L-A1 are easy and intuitive to use, allowing for fast target acquisition.photo from guns.com

The trigger has a center-lever safety (like a Glock.) The trigger points down, at close to 90 degrees to the bore axis, rather than angling forward as with some other striker-fired guns. Although the distance from where the web of the hand contacts the backstrap to the trigger is 2.9 inches, which is consistent with Glock and perhaps other handguns, this design makes it feel like the trigger is easier to reach. The trigger doesn’t “rock” on the axis as much as you pull it, making the feel much different and more like a conventional trigger. This is one of the features that I really like. I have wide hands with stubby fingers. Most striker-fired handguns put the trigger far forward on the gun and just don’t feel right for me. On this gun, I feel as if my finger is pulling the trigger correctly.

The trigger has a short travel for a striker-fired handgun, with a total travel of .2-inch. The two-stage trigger divides exactly in half. The first stage travels one-tenth of an inch, as does the second stage. The reset is at the center point, one-tenth-inch back. The total pull weight for the trigger on my gun is five pounds, ten ounces. The first stage is one pound-nine ounces, so the second stage is just over four pounds. The trigger breaks cleanly and crisply for a striker fired gun.

Good Gun, Good Price

I have put several hundred rounds through the gun so far and it’s been 100 percent reliable. Of course I would expect that from this company, which has been building guns for very long time and has an excellent reputation for quality and reliability. The gun is priced affordably and is extremely well made. It comes with a spare magazine, a lockable case, two keys and of course, the required padlock. MSRP is only $560, which should put the real-world price below $500.

Steyr Mannlicher L-A1

Steyr Mannlicher L-A1 Specifications

Caliber: 9x19mm Luger, .40 S&W, .357 SIG

Slide material: Steel

Magazine capacity: 17 rounds (9mm), 12 rounds (.40, .357)

Barrel: 4.52-inch cold-hammer-forged

Rifling: 6 grooves, RH twist

Sights: Trapezoidal

Finish: Mannox (Black)

Trigger type: Reset Action System (DAO with integrated safety)

Pull weight: 5.5 pounds (Test gun was 5 pounds, 10 ounces)

Frame material: Reinforced polymer

Checkering: Anti-slip stippled texture

Weight: 28.8 ounces (empty)

Length: 7.9 inches

Height: 5.1 inches

Width: 1.2 inches

Included accessories: Owner's manual, lockable box, extra magazine

MSRP: $560