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Review: Stribog SP9A3-S + Glock Mags

[This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT #25]

Shorter & Smoother: Stribog SP9A3-S: Yes*, It Takes Glock Mags

A regular blowback 9mm pistol caliber carbine is lazy and kinda lame. Chonky bolts, heavy springs, and bad suppressed. But they’re also easy to make, which goes a long way to explain their proliferation. Grand Power’s first venture into the PCC arena was the Stribog SP9A1 (see RECOIL Issue 42), and yup, it has a simple blowback operation. The roller-delayed follow-up, the Stribog SP9A3, hit American shores at the beginning of 2020.

Here we have the latest, the SP9A3-S; the “S” is for “short.” In this case, the barrel is just 5.5 inches long with a lonely single M-LOK slot on either side of the handguard. At barely over a foot long (12.5 inches), the Stribog SP9A3-S moves from the PDW category to “compact PDW.”

FEATURES & UPDATES

Aesthetically, you won’t notice too many exterior differences between the SP9A1 and SP9A3, with the exception of the stubby barrel of the SP9A3-S — same boxy extruded aluminum receiver, AR-ish two-pin trigger module, and replaceable fixed ejector. Plus, the nice integral flip-up sights that can be used in the down position.

Stribog has mostly gotten ergonomics right from the very beginning, with mirrored or ambidextrous controls everywhere. It would be nice to see a shorter throw on the safety selector, which takes a 90-degree throw.

By a large margin, the most celebrated upgrade isn’t the new operating system, but the non-reciprocating charging handle. A lot of folks busted their thumbs and had problems with barricades using the A1. No more, and, in fact, it’s rather comfortable to hang a thumb over the charging handle while shooting. It can also be swapped to either side, especially nice as there’s not much north of the chamber on the SP9A3-S to hang onto.

A common consumer complaint about the SP9A1 was the trigger, which was serviceable but not great. Grand Power addressed this with a new flat-faced trigger that breaks at 4.5 pounds.

The Stribog A3 has the same giant feed ramp as the A1, but the bolt has been modified to feed from both double- and single-feed magazines.

MAGS MAGS MAGS

Grand Power regularly updates and releases new magazines, which makes some nervous but shouldn’t. It shows Grand Power is invested in continual improvement. The latest examples are the most aesthetic — translucent smoke and curved like an MP5 magazine. We’re told they’re more reliable with a wider variety of hollow-point ammunition.

When you step outside the world of AR-15s and endless Glock clones, you can run into issues of magazine commonality. While different guns can certainly have different magazines, a common pattern often bubbles to the top — usually the one with the most aftermarket support.

For subguns as of this moment, that’s CZ Scorpion EVO magazines. And it’s not just magazines; in what feels like a historical nod to the FNH SCAR-H, some enterprising companies (A3 Tactical and Lingle Industries to name a few) are producing Scorpion mag-compatible lowers for the Stribog. It’s a great sign when third parties are so invested in creating product, even if there’s a nose waggle attached.

For pistol magazines, in general, it’s definitely Glock by a country mile, and Grand Power did the heavy lifting here. The Stribog model setup for Glock magazines from the factory has a “G” suffix (SP9A3-G).
The A3/A3-S is compatible with all previous generation OEM magazines and lowers, but the Glock-magazine trigger module only works with the A3 due to the bolt modification.

Ultimately magazine commonality is only a real issue if you already have a ready supply of other magazines on hand. It burns worse if the proprietary magazines are expensive, but they aren’t here, as we found some on sale for just over $20 — quite reasonable for a proprietary 30-round stick.

One of the problems with foreign production is the additional layer of logistics and regulation. At the time of this writing, the BATFE has approved the Stribog SP9A3-S for importation as well as the SP9A3-G, but not the model that has both the shorter barrel and accepts Glock magazines. We were able to play Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and combine a G lower with an A3-S upper receiver, but currently it isn’t a factory option.

ROLLER-DELAYED ACTION

If you’re familiar with traditional roller-delayed action, you’re probably thinking MP5, with vertical rollers on the bolt carrier. There may be something a bit lost in translation here, but the Stribog does have a roller, and it causes a delay in bolt movement.

Here’s our understanding of the mechanism (see diagram below):

There’s the forward weight, roller, and carrier. The roller sits between the forward weight and the carrier and rides in a track in the front of the receiver. There’s some linear play between the forward weight and carrier, which is where we get the delay.

(1) The recoil spring keeps the carrier forward and the roller in a low position, uncoupled from the forward weight. (2) As the explosion of the cartridge pushes the carrier to the rear, the roller is lifted along the track. (3) It then catches the stem of the forward weight at the top and brings it along for the ride as the spent casing is extracted. (4) The forward weight also adds an extra reciprocal delay at the rear of the cycle, providing an extra split second for proper feeding.

This roller delay system could be further tuned by changing the forward weight and even the roller density (we discovered the latter when an employee accidentally left an engineering sample in our box). Lots of potential.

Even a little delay helps shave weight off the bolt carrier and is especially helpful when shooting suppressed — less gas and gunk in your face and mags. So it’s non-traditional roller-delay. We’ll go with it.

OUTFITTING


Our first impulse on weapons the size of the SP9A3-S is to attach a weapon-mounted light that would otherwise belong on a pistol. But when we learned of the new SureFire Turbo Mini Scoutlight Pro, the M340DFT, we had to try it out. It’s a 550-lumen, 71,000 candela light in a package not much larger than a normal Mini Scoutlight. It eats from a squat 18350 rechargeable, or a CR123A in a pinch. Like all the real Pro lights from SureFire, it has an articulating mount. We paired it with an SR-07 remote switch. Overkill for a PDW, but anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

For the optic, on the other hand, we opted for something originally intended for a pistol, the Steiner MPS (Micro Pistol Sight). This sealed sight weighs 2 ounces, has battery life over a year, and features a 3.3-MOA dot. It’s also dead-on optically correct. No blue tint, optical shift, or other obvious aberrations. We had to get creative to mount it, pairing it with a rail mount for a Bushnell Fastfire, as it doesn’t ship with a Picatinny base.

The SIG Sauer MODX-9 was the suppressor of choice. It’s 3D printed titanium, and though we’re sure they did it because it looks like the Death Star, each baffle has 21 points of impact adjustment so you’ll always find something to grab onto. We really liked it with a five-baffle configuration paired with subsonics, though earpro wasn’t required with supers.

With many of these modular cans, we’ve taken to the addition of O-rings to aid in disassembly. If you do this on silencers not originally intended for O-rings, like this SIG MODX-9, double-check your tightness before going hot. The MODX-9 ships with a fixed barrel adapter and a ½x28 mount to marry to the SP9A3-S, though it’d be cool to see a flush mounting solution in the future.

There are several factory brace options for the Stribog, and a half-dozen companies produce a Picatinny rear end adapter so you can mount what you’d like. The SB Tactical brace is renowned for its comfort, but the Tailhook PDW just looks right. The Tailhook works quite well as a brace when shooting one-handed.

ON THE RANGE AND LOOSE ROUNDS

Over several range sessions, we managed to stuff just over 700 rounds of Belom 124-grain and Global Ordnance 115-grain through the Stribog SP9A3-S in different configurations. The roller delay system works as advertised, as the SP9A3-S has less perceived recoil than a regular blowback 9mm — almost what you’d actually expect from a 9mm PCC, which often buck more than you’d think.

We really appreciated the non-reciprocating charging handle. A moving charging handle is bothersome with the 8-inch-barreled Stribog, but the shorty would be even less usable if it reciprocated.

Gas to the face when suppressed was still present but greatly reduced. If we had our hands on various different forward weights and pins, we’d tune it further, but it works very well as shipped.

It was only evident when shooting them side-by-side, but the Stribog mag lower operates more smoothly than the Glock-compatible one. Subgun-formats are usually best paired with double-stack, double-feed magazines, especially when running full auto.

The only failures of any kind were magazine-related. The ETS magazines look really pretty in the gun, but they’re sticky in the magwell and misfeed in the Stribog when fired fast. Skip those mags here. In general, the Glock magwell was a bit more of a hassle than with OEM magazines and would occasionally fail to lock back with 115-grain ammo. On our example, the magazine release is rather stiff, and we found it easiest to use the support-side thumb on the magazine release rather than the trigger finger.

The Glock model certainly works, but it’s not as refined. If you have a pile of G18 stick mags, it makes perfect sense but otherwise roll with the factory curved mags. Altogether, the stock SP9A3-S with the Tailhook was the setup we liked the most, and it brought smiles all around for those who shot it.



[You can visit Global Ordnance online here]

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