Star Modelo A

A brief history of the Star Modelo A pistol.

First a brief note on Star model designations for the Modelo 1920, 1921, 1922, 1931, 1940, and 'A' family of pistols. The 1920 was produced solely for the Guadia Civil. After making changes to the 1920 recommended by the Guardia Civil the pistol was redesignated the 1921. Once Star caught up with the Guardia Civil orders they began offering the pistol on the civilian market as the 'A', these were numbered in a separate serial number range from the 1921. Star next removed the grip safety from the 1921 and redesignated it as the 1922. The grip safety was also removed from the civilian 'A', but the model designation was not changed. Sometime between 1928 and 1931 the pistol underwent continued improvements (mostnoticeablyy an arched and checkered backstrap) and redesignated the 1931, the civilian version was notredesignatedd. In 1934 the rear sight and method of retaining the firing pin were changed, model designation remained the 1931 and 'A'. After a production hiatus for the Spanish Civil War, production was continued. At this time the government pistol became known as the 1940, the civilianversionn was still the 'A'. Both the government and civilian versions underwent several design changes, but only the government version was redesignated. Therefore serial numbers and proof marks must be used to correctly determine the model designation of the 1921, 1922, 1931, 1940, and 'A' pistols. To further confuse the issue, as pistols were returned to Star by the Spanish Government as surplus they would be refurbished and if necessary a new serial number applied. It was at this time that the mystery 9mm/.38 markings were applied to the pistols if they were reworked to handle the semi-rimmed .38ACP cartridge.

The Star Modelo A was produced by the arms maker Star Bonifacio Echeverria S.A. firm from 1924 until 1983, in about 1931 an M1911 style backstrap was added to the pistol without a model designation change.

The design of the Modelo A has its history intertwined with three other Star pistols, the Modelos Militar 1920, 1921, and 1922. In 1920 the Guardia Civil was looking for a new standard sidearm. Senior Bonifacio Echeverria looked to the Sam Browning designed M1911 pistol as a starting point a developed the Modelo Militar 1920 chambered in 9mm Largo. This design was selected by the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) as it's new standard sidearm and production commenced. After using the Modelo Militar 1920, the Guardia Civil wanted a change made to the pistol. They were unhappy with the slide mounted safety and requested that it be moved to the traditional place on the frame. In 1921 Echeverria made this change to the pistol; and added a grip safety while they were at it. This became the Modelo Militar 1921. The Guardia Civil quickly decided that the grip safety wasn't a feature they wanted on a combat arm. The engineers responded by removing the grip safety and changing the model designation to Modelo Militar 1922. Production of the Modelo Militar 1922 continued until 1931, when it was discontinued. In 1924 Star began to market the Model A, which is basically the Modelo Militar 1922 with a new name, production continued until 1983 with changes and improvements made along the way. In 1931 the biggest apparent change to the Modelo A took place when an M1911 style 'humped' backstrap was added.

Outwardly the Modelo A looks almost identical to the M1911 pistol with the lack of a grip safety. Disassembly is much like an M1911 style pistol. The Star Modelo A has been out of production for some time now and there are no known remaining stocks of new parts. Used parts are available from a variety of sources, an exploded parts diagram is provided for identifying the various parts. An Adobe PDF of the original owner's manual in English is available for download (5.3Mb).

Many people mistake the 'S.A.' in the Star name and stamped on the slide of Star pistols to be a model designation. I constantly see Star pistols listed on online auction sites as "Star Model S.A. 9mm pistol." These normally turn out to be Star Modelo A, B, and Super pistols. The 'S.A.' is actually a Spanish abbreviation for 'Sociedad Anónima', the English equivalent would be 'corporation' or 'incorporated.' Determining the correct model of later Star pistols is achieved by looking at the bottom of the butt. The model designation and serial number are stamped there. Other numbers on the pistols are actually importers serial numbers and/or military rack numbers. This pistol actually has two serial numbers on it, the one on the butt and a different number on the frame and slide that were used by the distributor as the serial number.


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The year of production on Star firearms can be approximated by the Year of Proof Codes. The pistol should have been proofed shortly after manufacture, and surely not before. This is normally located on the left side of the frame forward of the slide stop.

When 9mm Largo ammunition was hard to find in quantity shooters regularly fired other cartridges such as the 9mm Luger, 9mm Steyr, 9mm Browning Long, etc in their 9mm Largo firearms. Many dealers and distributors also claimed the firearms would fire all of these and more. This however is not a prudent practice to engage in. The Star Modelo A, like all pistols firing straight walled cartridges, headspaces on the mouth of the cartridge. When a cartridge shorter than the 23mm of the 9mm Largo is used, the cartridge case cannot headspace against the end of the chamber. This leaves only the extractor to hold the cartridge case against the breechface allowing the firing pin to impact the primer. This causes excessive wear and stress on the extractor, too much freebore (the distance from the bullet to the beginning of the rifling), and scoring of the chamber walls. The result of these abnormalities can result in broken/misshapen extractors, poor accuracy, and the inability to chamber and extract correct size cases.

The use of cartridges that produce too much chamber pressure is also discouraged. Yes, the .38 Super and 9x23mm Winchester will chamber in most 9mm Largo firearms, and if they will chamber they will fire. The metallurgy and design of the Modelo A were not developed to handle the pressure of these rounds. Use of these type cartridges in the Modelo A risks damage to the pistol and possibly yourself through a ruptured chamber, fractured slide, or fractured frame.

Ammunition in 9mm Largo is now available from a number of sources. Surplus ammunition is now coming into the country in shootable quantities and is available at some gunshops, many gunshows, and via mailorder. Factory new 9mm Largo ammunition is being made by CCI in their Blazer line (product number 3513) with a 124g Gold Dot Hollow Point bullet. If you reload RCBS makes dies in 9mm Largo (product number 56665), these are not a normally stocked item and require special order. You can also utilize 9x23mm Winchester dies to reload 9mm Largo, the exterior case dimensions are almost identical. Starline also produces virgin 9mm Largo brass for reloading. Gone are the days of manufacturing cases out of .223 Remington (done that, not fun), 9mm Winchester Magnum (done that, much easier) or other cases.

Star Pistol Timeline
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Federal Arms Corp.
Aftermarket Barrel

Guardia Civil
Model A
Magazine

Model A 7.63
Barrel

Model A 7.63
Left

Model A 7.63
Left Detail

Model A 7.63
Proof

Model A 7.63
Right

Model A 7.63
Serial Number
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