There’s something to be said for your “first” anything. Most of us can remember our first girlfriend, car, kid, felony arrest. . . er . . . This is a review of my first handgun: a Star Bonifacio Echeverria Model 30M in 9mm Luger. And oh what a memorable lady she is . . .
This pistol was a gift from an ex-girlfriend’s Dad, who owned two. He was willing to part with this one whilst helping me obtain the oft-coveted New York State pistol and concealed weapons permit. I didn’t pay a dime for the Star Mod30-M. Bookwise, it’s not worth more than a dime. To me it’s priceless.
The Mod30 was an improvement over the Mod28. That gun was famous for failing the first of the early 1980’s JSAAP competition stages for guns aspiring to become the new U.S. armed service standard-issue pistol. Although Star outperformed both the Ruger and Smith & Wesson entries, the military brass eventually awarded the Beretta 92 the contract.) Before the 28, Star had never manufactured a pistol of in-house design. Up to that point, derivations of John Browning’s 1911 had put bread on their table.
The Star Mod30M is the “military” variant of the Star Model 30. It’s an all-steel, long-barrel full-sized package. The company produced the Star 30M from 1983 – 1994. Elements of the Spanish military as well as Gardia Civil issued the weapon. In the late 90′s, Spain’s police and military organizations shifted away from the Star. The doors closed on Star-Firearms; the company went belly-up in 1997. In keeping with the “if it ain’t broke” philosophy, the Spanish Navy still issues the Mod30 series for force-protection duties.
Star’s major innovation with the Mod 28 and subsequent models: their incorporation of totally tool-less disassembly. I’m not talking field stripping; I mean everything. The pistol can be entirely taken to pieces using only the slide-stop and firing pin as punches, the only screws are found on the adjustable sights and magazine release.
This is a no-nonsense pistol. It’s heavy (over 2 ½ pounds empty). It’s tough. It’s ugly. It’s robust. It’s all of the things you’d expect from a pistol born ~1200 miles from the Iron Curtain. Every part of this pistol is either stamped-sheet, cast, or milled-steel. The only non-metallic part on this firearm: the plastic in the grips, and a few elastic retainers. Clearly, this firearm was made for mass production, and standing-up to a beating.
Ergonomically, the Star Mod30-M’s nothing special. It conforms to the basic “shape” of standard pistols of its day. It’s slightly bulkier than a Beretta 92. Put it in MY hand, however, and it just feels right. Akin to the feeling of test driving every used car on the lot then finding that one that just speaks to you (and happens to have the 454 crate under the hood). It’s heavy as a brick, a drawback when it comes to lugging this thing around. The added heft counters muzzle-flip like my high school wardrobe countered my dating prospects – spectacularly.
The Mod30-M is a SA/DA pistol. Length of pull in single action is .098 inches; that’s right folks, under one-tenth of an inch. It’s a smooth pull, breaking at 4.41 lbs. Emptying the 15 round magazine is simpler than snapping your fingers. Keep the hammer down, and double action pull length is .472 inches and breaks at 7.94 lbs. Overall length is 8.07 inches, with a 4.33 inch barrel and a sighting line length of 6.3 inches. Using standard 115 grain FMJ loads, and stretching the pistol to it’s “effective rage” of 164 feet (50 meters), penetration depth of 3.94 inches was recorded in pine boards. In the interest of safety, the pistol incorporates an ambidextrous thumb safety which requires the shooter to move their hand from a firing position to physically work the safety. Additionally, the Mod30-M has a magazine safety which prevents the pistol from being fired with the magazine removed.
30 years ago, this pistol shipped with contrast sights. Last year, it sported the same faded, muddled sights. Today, it’s rocking a touch-up job accomplished with two of the toughest women’s nail polishes I could find. There’s prettier custom work out there, absolutely. But, how many times does a guy get to walk into a nail salon and explain to the women behind the counter that he’s looking for bright, tough, crack and chip resistant nail polish? I walked out with two bottles of nail polish, satisfied that I had adequately confused the counter-workers.
Shooting the Star, a quirk presented itself which my shooting-buddy Ryan Finn (Mr. Cowboy Assault Rifle) noticed on the close-up video. The weight of the slide and the action of the pistol creates a “double recoil” action. As near as I can figure, the initial recoil is felt recoil from the powder detonation and the round exiting the pistol; the secondary recoil appears to occur as the slide reaches maximum travel and slaps back into place. Check out the clip below illustrating this weird bit of Western Cold-War quirkiness.
As demonstrated in the video, the pistol is more accurate than I am. Though the videos only show her in action at 7ish yards, she performs like that Crate 383 Stroker I’ve been dying to drop in my car .. dropping the hammer on target every time all the way out to 25 yards. Rushing through a few boxes of ammo to try to make it home in time for dinner, the Star put up groups that I consider to adequately be “minute of bad-guy.” Am I pulling Keanu Reeves “shoot the hostage” stunts to demonstrate the accuracy of 30-year-old technology, no. Could I with the Star, you’re damn right! Rested, this pistol will stack round after round in a very small space. While I can’t call it a “tack-driver,” I will readily admit that this pistol itself will out-shoot my own abilities.
When I first moved to the State of Virginia, I carried this pistol in the months before I purchased a Para Ord Slim-Hawg in .45ACP. Carried in a Bianchi paddle-holster, the pistol conceals about as easily as that bumper ding you put on Dad’s car as a teen when you had been specifically forbidden from using the car. In short; it prints much to easily for paddle-style carry. The double-stack magazine and grip width contribute significantly to this. In comparison, my daily carry is a full-size Springfield Armory Mil-Spec(ed) 1911. I carry IWB and have very little issue concealing the Springer. Carrying the Star, I feel like I’m packing thunder-thighs and couldn’t fit through a standard size door frame. Can you carry it? – If you’re accustomed to carrying a full-sized pistol and what extra details it entails, yes.
SPECIFICATIONS: Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. Model 30-M
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Action: Single / Double Action
Capacity: 15 + 1
Barrel Length: 4.33”
Overall Length: 8.07”
Length of Pull: .098” (single action), .472” (double action)
Weight: 40.24oz unloaded (2.5 lbs)
Country of Origin: Spain
Importer: Interarms of Alexandria, VA.
Price: When they come up for sale, usually seen around $200 – $300.
RATINGS (out of five)
Style * *
She’s an ugly mug. Built to work, not to be looked at.
Innovation * * * *
I have to throw a bone to Star Firearms. This pistol can not only be taken down with no tools; it can be completely disassembled using nothing more than pieces of the gun itself. While tool-less take-down is nothing new; tool-lees “to parts” disassembly andassembly is deserving of note.
Ergonomics * * *
One-half star removed for the grip width, which was “extra-wide” even for a double-stack. One-half star removed for the placement of the thumb safety – up and away from the shooters natural hand positioning. A full star deducted for the distance between the heel of the pistol and the trigger in double-action mode – a full ½ inch longer than the distance between a standard 1911 GI trigger and the heel of the grip safety (I have “average” hands, and the trigger is just barely under the pad on my pointer finger in double-action mode).
Reliability * * * * *
No issues. It’s been good enough to be a military service pistol for 30 years. The years I’ve owned mine it’s eaten everything from 115 grain to 158 grain. No FTF, FTE, or problems operating with subsonic ammunition.
One star for the simple fact that painting the sights and switching out the grips are about as far as “customization” goes on this workhorse.
Overall Rating * * *
Three star rating by no means indicates that this is a bad pistol. In fact, I believe it’s a great pistol. I do however, admit the bias that comes from this being my “first” handgun. It shoots every time, when you’re out of ammo, it can be used to bludgeon your foe. The Star Mod30-M is a no frills service pistol that has been relied on for decades.
Ryan Finn for acting as my camera man and pointing out the interesting double-recoil feature
Clark Brothers Gun Shop and Range of Warrenton, VA. For providing an enjoyable shooting environment.
Stephen Hoober of www.star-firearms.com for his extensive research and compilation of historical data for Star firearms.