October 2001:

Star Model P .45 ACP Pistols
(Late of the Buenos Aires Police!)
Star Model P
Star Model P
Type:  Recoil Operated Single Action Self Loading Pistol
Caliber:  .45 ACP
Capacity:  7+1
Sights, front:  Blade
Sights, rear:  Drift adjustable Notch
Length: 8.5"  Height: 5.75" 
Barrel length:  5", 4 grooves, .005 in (.127 mm) deep and .165 in (4.19 mm) wide, right twist, one turn in 9.84" (249.9 mm) 
Weight (unloaded):  39.25 ounces
Suggested Retail Price:  $345

Want to know a secret?  There's a dark side to cruffling.  No, really, there is an aspect of the hobby that brings out the darker angels of the cruffler nature.  Oh yes, there are few pleasures more sweet, few joys to be better savored than taking a place on the firing line amongst dozens of high dollar modern pistols, and slowly unsheathing what to untrained eye is a drab, old and uninspiring handgun whose day seems to have come and gone. . . .and then blowing the doors off those young pups with group after near perfect group.  Slowly, one by one, the Kimbers and the Baers, the SIG Sauers and the H&K's, the Colts and the Berettas fall silent as their owners turn to look at your target, stare questioningly at their own guns, turn back to the pistol in your hand, and wonder "What IS that thing?"  It's rather unkind to take satisfaction in their moment of consternation and doubt, but then again, crufflers are only human.  There's no hard and fast rule as to just what the old gun has to be.  It can be an old Smith & Wesson .38/44 Heavy Duty, a Steyr Hahn M1912, a Swedish Lahti, or a Webley Mk. VI.  Then again, it might just be an old Star Model P, late of the Buenos Aires Police Department.

Star pistols, like many Spanish guns, are often derided as poorly made copies of Colt-Browning designs.  They are neither.  Stars have a worldwide reputation for durability and accuracy, earning high marks from Spain to South America, and from South Africa to Germany and Bulgaria.  With respect to their design, it is more correct to say that the pistols take the Colt-Browning paradigm as a point of departure, and are very much unique.   But, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  A little history is in order.

The corporation known as Bonifacio Echeverria, SA, of Eibar, Spain began to manufacture automatic pistols in about 1908.  The first pistol, designed by Juan Echeverria, was inspired by the Model 1901 Mannlicher.  This pistol, like all later pistols manufactured by Bonifacio Echeverria, SA, was sold under the trade name "Star."  The Star name, which had been used from the very start of production, was not trademarked until 1919.  By this time, Bonifacio Echeverria had become the firm's proprietor as well as its chief designer.  The original Star pistol was joined by another in 1920, and by the Model A in 1921. The new pistol took its look and design from the Colt-Browning M1911.  Over the years this would become the archetypal Star pistol, being made in a variety of frame sizes, barrel lengths, and calibers with even a selective fire version being produced.  The company continued to make pistols up to, and during the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939).  Bombing and fighting took their toll however, and the Echeverria factory was extensively damaged,  all pre-war factory records being destroyed by fire.  After the war, the Nationalist (Fascist) government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco enacted strict regulation of the Spanish firearms industry.  What had been a regional industry with scores, if not hundreds, of small home workshops was consolidated down to a few manufacturers permitted to produce handguns:  Echeverria (Star), Unceta y Esperanza (Astra), and Gabilondo (Llama).

Echeverria's pistols enjoyed considerable success during and after the Second World War.  German forces and their allies purchased considerable numbers of the 9x19mm Star Model B, and the Spanish military arming itself with the 9mm Largo (9x23mm) Star Model A.  In 1946 the Spanish military adopted an updated version of the Model A, the Model "Super" in the 9mm Largo.  The  Models B and Super B in 9x19mm were also successful, being adopted by a number of nations and police organizations worldwide, to include West German police agencies and the South African military.  Seeing the writing on the wall, Echeverria ended the Super and Super B production runs in the early 1980's in favor of modern high capacity double action pistols.

The most prolific of the Star pistols, the Models A and B made their initial appearance in the mid 1920's, and set the pattern for all future iterations of the company's single action self loading pistols.   While they appear to be straightforward copies of the Colt-Browning M1911 series pistols, there are are some significant differences.  The Star pistols are much simpler mechanically than the 1911 series.  The key differences are outlined below:

Star Lockwork
Star lockwork, showing simplified disconnector, trigger bar, sear and pivoting trigger
As noted above, there are several frame sizes for the recoil operated Stars.  The smallest, on par with the Colt Mustang or PocketLite, can be found on guns like the .380 ACP Model S.  The Models A and B, and their Super variants, are typical of the mid-size frames.  While of length and height similar to the Ballester Molina or M1911A1 pistols, the frame on the mid-sized guns is decidedly thinner, owing to the smaller case diameter of the various 9mm cartridges.  The large frame variants are of similar size and thickness to the Ballester and M1911A1.

Large framed Stars came in several models, to include the M in .38 ACP and the P in .45 ACP.  Shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War, the Buenos Aires and Cordova provincial police let contracts for an small number of Star Model P pistols.  These contracts were filled with pistols bearing proof year code stamps of R and S, indicating that they were proofed in 1947 and 1948 respectively, thus acquiring Curio or Relic status by virtue of the "50 Year Rule."  Recently, JLD Enterprises of Farmington, Connecticut, imported a batch of these Star P's.

Longtime readers of CRUFFLER.COM are well aware of the predilection (Editor's note: not predilection - obsession!) we have for Spanish pistols in general, and Star pistols in particular, so it wasn't long before we called JLD and ordered one.  A few days later the postman arrived bearing a wide, flat box. . .


External Inspection

Star Model P, Right Side
Star Model P, Right Side
Star P, Left Side
Star Model P, Left Side
The Model P was packaged in a fitted cardboard box and smelled strongly of a preservative or lubricant.  Finish was a very smooth black parkerizing, evidently an Argentine arsenal refinish.  Markings were still crisp and sharp.  Indeed, the only external part of the pistol that evidenced any aging were the checkered wooden grips.  Internals were equally well preserved, with a detail disassembly yielding no noticeable wear.  An examination of the bore displayed sharp strong rifling, with just a hint of frosting in the bore.

The Model P is an interesting, idiosyncratic pistol whose designers took the Colt Government Model as a point of departure and radically simplified the lockwork, thus gaining in both strength and reliability.  The cycle was continued by the designers of the Argentine Ballester-Molina, who used the Model P as a point of departure, incorporating magazines and barrels that would interchange with those of the Colt Government Model.  This is actually a long, roundabout way of saying that the Model P does not share barrels or magazines with the Government Model.  The Model P's magazines resemble nothing so much as enlarged Model B magazines.  We found the magazine to be sturdy and well made, and, interestingly,

Star Model P Magazine
Model P Magazine
much less prone to binding between follower and tube than either US military contract M1911A1 magazines or Argentine Sistema Colt or Ballester-Molina magazines.

The barrel is refinished in a manner similar to other Argentine pistols, with the whole unit parkerzied and the portion of the chamber area visible through the ejection port polished bright.  There is no serial number marked on the barrel, only an Eibar proof mark.  Other markings include:

Underside of butt, behind magazine well Model designation ("P") and serial number
Left side of slide Star Automatic Pistol Cal 45
Bonifacio Echeverria, Eibar Espana (star logo)
Eibar proof mark (to rear of cocking serrations)
Right side of slide Policia - Provincia de Buenos Aires
Right side of frame Property numbering
Left side of frame Inspection marking
Proof marking
Proof year code marking
Proof Markings
Top of chamber Proof marking

An important feature of early Star single action pistols is the full length firing pin.  On Colt or US military M1911A1 pistols, the overall length of the firing pin is shorter than the length of the tunnel in the breech in which it rides.  As as a result, when the hammer is down and bearing against the firing pin's rear tip, the firing pin does not extend past the breech and does not contact the cartridge's primer.  On the early Stars, the firing pin is actually LONGER than the tunnel in the breech.  As a result, the the tip of the firing pin extends into the chamber when the hammer is down.  Consequently one should never lower the hammer of an early Star on a loaded chamber, lest an unintended and potentially dangerous discharge occur.

Sights on the Model P are standard for the type, with a U-notch drift adjustable rear and a staked blade front.  If anything they are an improvement over the sights found on the Ballester-Molina and the Government Model, being slightly wider and easier to acquire.  The front sight on our example bore evidence of having been filed down - perhaps to extend the range for which the sights were regulated.

Shooting the Model P
Based on our experience with other early Star models such as the 9mm Largo Model A, the 9mm Parabellum Model B, and the Model M in .38 ACP, we expected the Model P to be reliable and accurate.  And so, range bags were packed, checked and stowed, and off the intrepid test team went to the NRA range in Fairfax, Virginia.

We brought along several types of ammunition with which to test the Model P.  As the Model P has a chamber and feed ramp designed for ball ammunition only, we refrained from testing it with modern hollowpoint loads.  The selection included:

South African PMP 220 grain FMJ
Winchester USA 230 grain FMJ
Federal American Eagle 230 grain FMJ

Targets were both 3" black centers and 1" orange dots set at 15 yards.  Initial shots indicated that the gun had a tendency to shoot high, owing no doubt to the lowered front sight.  Once we ascertained where the gun was shooting, and were able to compensate for it, some very gratifying groups began to appear.  Five shot center to center group sizes ranged between 2" and 3".  Accuracy results are indicated below:

Group Size
South African PMP 220 grain FMJ 2"
Winchester USA 230 grain FMJ 2.4"
Federal American Eagle 230 grain FMJ 3"

Given our meager abilities with handguns, that none of the testing staff are match shooters, we were quite impressed with these results.

Recoil and Ergonomics
Pop quiz:  How can you tell a CRUFFLER.COM staffer who's part of the test and review group?

Answer:  By the small, lozenge shaped scar on the web of his or her shooting hand between thumb and forefinger.  Seriously - there are three Murphy guarantees for CRUFFLER.COM when it comes to firearms:

1)  The bolt hold open on the M1 Garand will fail at just the right time, causing an acute case of "M1 thumb."

2)  The ejected shell casing will manage to find just the right opening at the shirt collar so that it comes to a rest a quarter inch below and an inch to the right of the navel.

3) Single action centerfire pistols that follow the general Colt-Browning patter with spur hammers will bite, causing small painful wounds that scar atop the shooting hand.

We took all of these as scientifically proven givens.  Until we shot the Star Model P.  The pistol settled comfortably in the hand, with the large, gently curving tang assisting in the maintenance of a constant and repeatable grip.  More importantly, regardless of the manner in which the pistol was held and the ammunition used, the gun didn't bite any of the testing staff.

Recoil was significantly mild.  Whether due to the shape of the grip, the gun's weight, or other factors, the Model P recoiled less than any other large frame .45 that we've had the pleasure to shoot.  As a result, firing the gun was an absolute pleasure.

Disassembled View of Star P
Disassembled Star Model P
Boring.  Nothing we could do would get the Model P to malfunction.  It fed, fired, extracted and ejected every round of every brand we put through it.  We fired it at a variety of angles.  We fired it upside down.  We limp wristed the gun.  Nothing affected reliability.  We fired it both lubricated and unlubricated.   Despite our best efforts, the Model P proved to be utterly reliable.
The Model P we tested was very nicely finished and displayed excellent standards of manufacture.  Moreover, it was reliable, accurate and extremely pleasant to shoot.   There's really not much more one can ask from a fifty-three or fifty-four year old service pistol.  Despite this, the Model P has much more to offer.  Early Model P's qualify for Curio or  Relic status and can be purchased on the strength of a Type 03 FFL.  They are also extremely rare in this country, with most of the Model P's available being Garcia imports and displaying later features such as the stamped steel magazine floorplate.  Hefting an early Model P, one is transported to the Buenos Aires of Juan and Eva Peron.  The intrigue is palpable, with furtive German and Italian characters mixing with Spaniards, Indians, Argentines and North Americans.  The smell of grilling asados and baking empanadas wafts through the air mixing with the sounds of the poor rallying in support of Evita's latest program.  The Model P is a pistol with a historical tour de force.  For what more could a cruffler ask?

And now, our Buy-O-Meter rating for the Star Model P from JLD:


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