Somewhere along the way, big brother Beretta gave the tooling and equipment necessary to manufacture the venerable Cougar pistol to Stoeger. They moved the whole operation to Turkey and now Stoeger is the main brand on the Cougar model. I’ve had some dealings with other Turkish made firearms, and I have to say, they are up to par. With Beretta designing and providing the tooling for the gun, it gets even better. Beretta discontinued the manufacture of the Beretta 8000 (Cougar) in 2004 (however, you will still find it listed on their web page as a Stoeger product). Stoeger now manufactures the gun in a 9MM, .40, and .45ACP, along with the Cougar Compact, available only in 9MM which is what we will be exploring here.
If you’re familiar with Berretta’s handgun line, you’ll immediately notice the resemblance to the 92FS/M9. The trigger guard is identical, the sights are the same, and the magazine release is identical, as is the sweep-up safety mechanism. The slide release is identical, and so is the take-down mechanism (in function and design). So, with that heritage in mind, this should prove to be a very reliable gun. My 92FS is my zombie apocalypse gun, since it’s both accurate and super reliable.
The Cougar comes in a nice plastic case along with two 13 round double-stack magazines, a lock and a few cleaning tools (patch rod and a couple of brushes). It also comes with a warranty card and an instruction manual.
The slide and barrel are made of Nitride-hardened steel, with a three-dot sights system atop the slide. The Cougar is double-action hammer fired and it will fire with the magazine out (applause). The gun will also double-strike, meaning that if you have a failure to fire, you can pull the trigger again to try and re-fire the same round. The magazine release is on the right side of the grip, but it can be relocated to the other side (the instructions to do so are included in the instruction manual). The manual safety, as described above is the sweep up variety, which is backwards from most everything else. The safety also acts as a de-cocker. If you rack the pistol with the safety engaged, it will de-cock the hammer on the forward stroke. A round is now chambered and you can pull the trigger in DA, but the hammer will not stay cocked. Personally, I like this feature, but I know some of you 1911 guys won’t. The grips are nicely checkered polymer with the back-strap nicely serrated on the lower half with matching serrations along the front of the grip. The trigger guard also has serrations on the front providing a nice place to rest your tired trigger finger when not firing.
One thing you can’t help but notice right out of the box is how hefty this thing is. Compared to my 92FS, they feel like they weigh just about the same. My scale says the Cougar weighs in at 29.6 ounces (+/- .5 ozs). Beretta says their 92 FS weighs 33.3 ounces, that’s only a 3.7 ounce difference between this compact gun and one of the largest full size guns this side of a big ‘ole 1911! I will say, however, that once the gun is loaded, the weight is nicely balanced and once you’re used to it, it really doesn’t bother you all that much. On the flip side, if you want to use this gun for concealed carry, you’re going to need a good holster and gun belt.
The trigger pull comes in at 6 lbs. of force to pull it. It is nice and smooth all the way to the break. It resets kind of high, but not overtly so. The trigger actually felt lighter than the indicated 6 lbs. My bad shooting habits had me shooting dead center, then a bit low anticipating the break. Definitely not the gun’s fault, so if you find you’re shooting low with this gun, reset yourself and put your fundamentals back to work. You’ll quickly find yourself back on target. Muzzle flip is minimal, I attribute that to the weight of the workings out front, the guide rod and the spring all working together to keep the thing pointed in the right direction. The barrel rotates instead of lifts like most other guns. This keeps the barrel in line with the sight picture and shooting plane at all times. There is a grove in the base of the barrel that rotates by sliding on a lug in the central block. An extra bit of lube there will certainly help the gun operate smoothly.
The sights are the three dot variety as mentioned earlier, and entirely the same as what is on the 92FS/M9. The dots are little on the small side for my liking. You can gain a good sight picture with them, but I found myself hunting for the front post from time to time. I’m not saying that they’re terrible, but my preference is something a little larger.
Getting a good grip on the gun is easy. The grips are well checkered and there is enough room for a good two-handed hold. Since this gun is compact, the bottom three fingers of my dominant hand were a little crowded, but not so much that it affected my ability to properly point the gun downrange. Even though the web of my hand rides a little high on the beavertail, not once did I get bit by the slide or the hammer.
We loaded the Cougar up with some Blazer 115 grain FMJ for a little range time. Since the sights are not adjustable, I thought I’d just start sending some rounds downrange and see what happens. With the very first round I wasn’t more than an inch to the left of center at 7 yards at my local indoor range. I blasted away with the two magazines supplied with the gun. The weight of the slide really seemed to help keep the nose down. However, after about 25 rounds through it, I found myself shooting a little low at times, but mostly due to recoil anticipation (my own bad habits). Even with that, I was still hitting the target paper, just a few inches low of center. So, even mixed with my bad shooting habits, the gun still performed exceptionally well.
One thing that did come to light while changing magazines was that the grips extend down ever so slightly into the magazine well space. The point where the bottom and forward edges come together is very sharp. A quick file job should eliminate the threat, however, I’m hoping the guys at Stoeger will have a look at this and take action on their side. If you’re not wearing gloves and you run your hand across that mag well, you’re going to look like your hand was attacked by a cat.
We spent the day at the indoor range running about 200 rounds through the barrel. Then we took it to an outdoor range for some testing. Once there we set up some targets at roughly 10 yards and started to work. I brought two others with me who had never seen or worked with the gun, so I could get some independent impressions from them. Both guys thought the gun looked good. The weight wasn’t a factor for either guy. In fact, I had two former LEO’s have a look, and they both said the weight wouldn’t be an issue for them. I guess in the age of super lightweight guns, we’ve become kind of spoiled in that respect. Meanwhile, back at the range…
Both guys lined up and shot the gun without any effort. Both thought the sights were adequate, though one of them experienced the same front sight post loss that I did from time to time. Everyone was able to keep their shots on paper at that range with minimal effort. Between the three of us, we really torture tested this gun. Some 300 rounds later, the Stoeger hadn’t showed a single sign of malfunction. All the while it maintained very accurate shot placement.
Stoeger has done a great job of maintaining the legacy of this gun. It’s solid, reliable, well-built and well designed. I’m really impressed with the reliability of this gun right out of the box. There was no “break-in” period, and not a single malfunction. This definitely meets my criteria for a home defense gun, and even though it’s a little heavy, I think it would make a really good CC/EDC gun. Best of all, it’s priced well. Stoeger’s MSRP is $469 for this gun. Not bad at all considering the lineage of the gun. Do yourself a favor and go check this out at your local dealer and see if this gun is for you.