The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Grand Power Stribog SP9A1

This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 42

Photos By Kenda Lenseigne

Grand Power’s Competent, But Flawed PCC

If you’ve ever lusted after a B&T APC9 but had second thoughts after seeing the price tag, then the Grand Power Stribog might just be what you’re looking for. Both are well-executed Euro designs with subgun DNA, but at current street prices, you could get a Stribog for yourself, one for your significant other, and keep one as a spare for the cost of a single B&T. Does this mean the Slovakian blaster is inferior? Far from it.

As Americans, we tend to be infatuated with the AR-15 and its variants, even when it might not be the best tool for the job — the old maxim about every problem being a nail when all you have is a hammer springs to mind. While 9mm ARs have come a long way since the days of the Olympic Arms carbine (remember those?), at their core they’re still an M16 that wants to be an MP5, and all sorts of clever engineering has to come into play in order to make that happen. The Stribog started with a clean sheet of paper, so it’s a 9mm carbine from the outset, designed around Georg Luger’s cartridge and without any grandiose pretensions.

Like the B&T, it starts out life as a boxy aluminum extrusion. After a few minutes on a machining center, it emerges with holes cut for its ejection port, M-LOK attachment points, takedown pins, and barrel trunnions, ready to accept the rest of the components that make up a neutered subgun for the U.S. consumer.

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While the Stribog was developed primarily as a select-fire weapon for international military and police markets, its semi-auto version is no slouch when it comes to ergonomics and shootability. Although it loses the selector switch’s third position, it retains subgun refinements, such as dedicated double column, two-position feed magazines and a huge feed ramp.

Glock mags may have advantages of ubiquity and price, but they’re not ideal for SMG use due to their single-position feed architecture, which will always be less reliable, especially at high rates of fire. These magazines are translucent plastic, robust, and despite being Stribog-specific, reasonably priced at around $30 for a 30 rounder.

Other neat touches include a fixed, replaceable ejector, folding backup iron sights inlet into the Picatinny top rail, a threaded barrel, and a receiver back plate that can be swapped out to accommodate various stock or brace options. Our test sample arrived in pistol configuration, but the plain endcap was quickly exchanged for a factory adapter, allowing the installation of an AR-15 buffer tube. We tried it out with an SB Tactical SB3 brace, also ordering up an aftermarket plate from Safety Harbor Firearms, which meant we could swap in any of the stocks or braces from SIG or Maxim Defense that utilize a Pic rail interface. Both provide a workable solution, though you’ll need to use a low mount if you’re planning on bolting up a red-dot sight, as an AR-height base places the dot higher than is optimal.

We shot the Stribog with a naked muzzle and also with a Liberty Mystic X installed — it was equally reliable in either configuration.

We shot the Stribog with a naked muzzle and also with a Liberty Mystic X installed — it was equally reliable in either configuration.

As this is a blowback gun, the bolt needs to be heavy enough to resist unlocking before the bullet exits the muzzle. The manufacturer’s website claims the Stribog has a “dual mass bolt” without explaining quite what this means, so we’ll chalk it up to marketing speak, as there’s no evidence of any floating weights or other chicanery to manipulate the timing. It does, however, have twin guide rods, which should improve reliability, as well as flat wire recoil spring to reduce overall length. Taking the sting out of the bolt’s impact on the receiver are a pair of polymer buffers that sandwich a steel plate, serving to capture the recoil assembly. A beefy extractor, not really needed on a blowback system, is set into the bolt face at the 10 o’clock position and powered by a coil spring and plunger.

The aftermarket has been quick to see the potential of the Stribog. The Safety Harbor backplate allows any number of SIG-type stocks and braces to be added. Aimpoint Comp C3 is long in the tooth, but low enough to work on the top rail.

The lower receiver is decidedly AR-ish, with a familiar pistol grip and ambi selector switch — close your eyes and you’d be hard-pressed to feel the difference, were it not for this one being injection molded from glass-reinforced polymer. The magazine catch is also in the usual place and slightly elongated to allow the average user to hit it with their index finger. Lefties make out better than their superior, correct-handed counterparts, as the left-side mag button is even more convenient, extending back another ½ inch or so, and offers greater leverage. The bolt hold open is likewise accommodating, but in this case equally inconvenient, as the pressed-steel lever is just a bit short to be activated with the index finger. The good news is that the bolt hold-open feature actually works reliably, unlike most Glock-mag-fed designs, and it’s a piece of cake to hit it with the support-hand thumb, once the mag is inserted.

Old-school TLR weaponlight gives just enough stand-off to avoid being hit by the charging handle.

The Stribog’s trigger won’t win any prizes, but it’s good enough for government work. Actually, that’s a bit harsh, as it’s better than most AR triggers out of the box (it shares the Stoner’s layout), and once we threw a set of JP springs at it, it had a decent break at around 5 pounds, with a short reset. The trigger group sits in a steel cage, much like the arrangement in Bushmaster’s ACR, insulating the polymer lower receiver from stresses imposed by the hammer.

The only other control is the one we like the least. Although the charging handle can be switched from left- to right-side operation, like the SCAR (which we also dislike for the same reason), it still slams back and forth with every shot. If the little gun had a bit more real estate forward of the magwell, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but as it stands, there’s not much clearance between your support hand and the Stribog’s reciprocating charging handle, and sooner or later, it’s going to bite.

Had we not shot the Euro version last year, we’d be all over this like Oprah on a baked ham. It’s a good gun at the price point, but needs tweaking for the U.S. market.

We took to installing an old Streamlight TLR1 weapon light, not to provide illumination, but because it’s bulky enough to keep the support hand out of the charging handle’s path. This is unfortunate, as Grand Power has already released a version with a non-reciprocating handle, and it’s seen a lot of success on the European IPSC scene — according to the U.S. importer, that model is slated to come to the shores later this year but will need separate approval from the ATF.

Rounds Downrange

Due to the number of different configurations possible — pistol, SB brace, SIG side folder, can, no can — we wound up taking more than the usual amount of trips to the range. Not that we need an excuse to burn ammo. During our extended testing schedule, the Stribog never missed a beat, and apart from the ejected cases being much dirtier, no difference was noted between suppressed and unsuppressed operation. About the only durability niggle we had concerned the rear takedown pin, which should’ve been captive, held in place by a small spring clip. We managed to lose the clip, meaning the pin was free to hit the dirt whenever we punched it out to strip the weapon. This could be yet another indication of why we can’t have nice things, but it’s notable nonetheless.

We took the opportunity to see how the Stribog stacked up against its competition, shooting it side by side against a 9mm AR pistol equipped with a Maxim Defense PDW brace, an MP5 semi-auto clone, and an MPX, the latter two of which had been SBR’d. The Stribog was noticeably smoother to shoot than the AR, which was like shouldering a jackhammer in comparison. The MP5 and MPX were softer still, but at more than twice the price, they have no excuse not to be.

When it came time to run a few barricade and movement drills, we wound up cursing the reciprocating charging handle and the abbreviated handguard. If Grand Power had extended it to within a ½ inch of the muzzle, there’d almost be enough room to take a firing grip without interference, while still retaining the ability to add almost any muzzle device you might fancy. We shot a longer, carbine version of the gun in the Czech Republic last year, and it was a completely different beast when it came to ease of manipulation.

As currently configured, the Stribog is a good, if flawed, alternative in a fairly crowded pistol-caliber carbine/braced handgun market, and if you like the reliability, ergonomics, and looks, you could certainly do a lot worse at the price point. Add an angled foregrip and you have a workaround for the charging handle issue, or you could save your pennies until later this year when the Euro version arrives.


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