Stoeger Cougar Compact 9mm Rail Gun

By R.K. Campbell

The Beretta Cougar was an innovative handgun designed to offer an alternative to the Beretta 92. The Cougar features an enclosed slide and a special rotating barrel lockup. The rotating barrel was designed primarily to offer a more compact pistol similar to the Beretta 92 but with a lower and slimmer profile. The Cougar faced increasingly expensive production costs and the pistol was moved to Turkey for production. The result is the Stoeger Cougar. Stoeger, like Uberti and Benelli, is a branch of Beretta. The Cougar has been offered in 9mm, .40 Smith and Wesson and .45 ACP. The pistol illustrated is a compact version with a shorter slide and grip frame than the full size pistol. The result is a well balanced handgun similar in size to the Glock 19 handgun. The Cougar is a traditional first shot double action pistol with a slide mounted decocker and external drawbar actuating the trigger. The magazines are advertised as holding thirteen rounds but it takes a great deal of effort to force the thirteenth round into the box magazine. The pistol might best be considered a thirteen shooter with twelve in the magazine and one in the chamber. The pistol weighs thirty two ounces and balances well in the hand. The pistol is finished in the Bruniton finish Beretta has used on many of its service pistols. The finish on the Cougar seems darker than on the Beretta 92 pistol on hand for comparison. Despite the short grip, most raters were able to achieve a full firing grip and the pistol feels good in the hand. Many shooters seem to prefer the Cougar grip to the full size Beretta 92. Trigger reach is good with the pistol proving comfortable to use for those with average size handguns.

The double action first shot trigger is long but fairly smooth. The RCBS registering trigger pull gauge would not accommodate the Cougar’s trigger compression weight but the break was estimated at fourteen pounds with no noticeable backlash. The single action trigger was measured at a relatively crisp five and one quarter pounds. The safety decocker was quite stiff. However, the safety might also be referred to as tight and that is desirable in a service pistol. It is not likely to be inadvertently moved to the off position.

The pistol is loaded by first locking the slide to the rear and then inserting a loaded magazine. Release the slide and allow the slide to run forward: do not ease it down or you may experience a misfeed. Next activate the decocker by pressing down on the safety lever. A block turns between the firing pin and the hammer as the hammer falls and the firing pin itself is moved out of position during this operation. The pistol may be carried on safe or off safe according to the user’s preferences. The pistol is made ready to fire by taking the safety off. The Cougar is fired with a long press of the trigger. After the first shot the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for subsequent single action shots. When you are ready to make the pistol safe use the decocker again. Never lower the hammer manually by holding the hammer and pressing the trigger. This is regarded as unsafe and may also short circuit the firing pin block and render the pistol unsafe to carry chamber loaded. When the Cougar is loaded at rest, a firing pin block prevents the firing pin from running forward until the trigger is pressed fully to the rear.

The sights are excellent battle sights with a three dot white insert. The sights are practically ideal for a service pistol and allow rapid acquisition of the sight picture. They are well regulated for windage. However, we found that with practically every loading we tested the pistol strikes about three to four inches high on the target in relation to the point of aim. Such divergence in the point of aim and the point of impact is not uncommon and may simply be accounted for by using the six o clock hold at personal defense range. An interesting feature of the Cougar is shared with the full size Beretta Storm pistols. (Compact Storm pistols do not use the rotating barrel.) The rotating barrel turns about thirty degrees as the slide recoils, the barrel reciprocates on firing. There is a tab and block arrangement that locks up the barrel via a curved slot in the barrel. On recoil the barrel is forced to rotate. The system works fine in practice and may even soak up a degree of recoil. By reputation, rotating barrel pistols demand more lubrication than a standard oscillating wedge Beretta, but our pistol performed flawlessly.

During the evaluation good use was made of handloads using the Magnus 122 grain bullet over WW 231 powder. With the present ammunition shortage it is good to have inexpensive lead bullet handloads on hand. The pistol was also fired with a variety of jacketed bullets including those from Black Hills Ammunition and Wolf Performance Ammunition. During the initial firing a single failure to go into battery was noted and chalked up to a break in. However, a nagging problem was that the pistol failed to lock open on an empty magazine with the last shot. The 900 fps handloads and the various standard velocity loads exhibited this trait to an extent. When using full power loadings such as the Black Hills 124 grain JHP or the Black Hills 115 grain EXP load, the slide lock always functioned on the last shot, leading us to the conclusion that the pistol is intended for use with full power loads. This is as it should be and the low powered loads functioned and worked fine for practice. Full power loads using a good expanding bullet should be used for personal defense. The Black Hills line of 9mm loads offers several good choices including the 115 grain EXP and the 124 grain JHP +P. The EXP expands well in a minimum of material while the 124 grain JHP offers a balance of expansion and penetration that favors penetration. Even from the 3.6 inch barrel of the Cougar these loads provide excellent ballistic performance. The pistol proved easy to control in rapid fire and gave excellent results in slow fire accuracy. As mentioned earlier the pistol shoots high in relation to the sights but the difference may be easily accounted for in rapid fire defense drills. The pistol has a good reserve of ammunition and is easily controlled in rapid fire. The magazine is slightly tapered at the top, which results in rapid insertion of the magazine during speed loading drills. An advantage of the newest version of the Cougar is that the dust cover is now a light rail. A combat light may be mounted on these rails. This makes for a thoroughly modern pistol with twenty four hour capability. During the test program an inexpensive but useful light from NcStar was deployed.

The primary advantage of the compact pistol is in concealed carry. This handgun definitely conceals under covering garments in a superior fashion to the full size Cougar. The pistol was carried in a variety of holsters including the Remora or ‘sticky’ holster and a fabric design from Falco. While we recommend that each pistol be used with the proper holster, not many makers are in production with a light rail/Cougar holster. We tested the Cougar with an Old Faithful inside the waistband holster molded for the Glock 19 and found that the combination worked and fit just fine. This is superior kit for concealed carry and works well. The Cougar is well balanced and offers good concealment considering the power and magazine capacity. Those that favor the double action first shot handgun and a handgun with a manual safety will find much to like in the Stoeger Cougar. However, it is worth noting that at some point shooters may let their finger drift into the slide lock during firing, locking the slide open. Be certain to pay close attention to the proper grip when using the Stoeger Cougar.

Accuracy results: Five shot groups, average of two groups, at a distance of fifteen yards.

Load/Average group size
Black Hills 115 grain FMJ: 2.5 inches
Black Hills 115 grain EXP: 1.6 inches
Black Hills 124 grain JHP +P: 2.0 inches
Wolf Performance Ammunition 124 grain FMJ: 3.25 inches
One Shot Munitions 115 grain FMJ: 3.0 inches
Fiocchi 123 grain Combat: 2.0 inches
Fiocchi 115 grain FMJ: 2.25 inches
Handloads 122 grain Magnus/WW 231 Powder/900 fps: 2.0 inches
115 grain Nosler JHP/WW 231 Powder/1050 fps: 2.5 inches

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on December 13, 2013


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