Obscure Object of Desire: Spain’s Exceptional Star PD 45 Pistol

The Spanish Star PD 45 pistol

In 1975, a company in my ancestral home of España (Spain) released to the shooting community what was then one of the most desired handguns in the world. A compact, lightweight aluminium framed, .45 ACP pistol styled after the 1911. That company was Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. and the pistol was the Star PD 45.

Star PD 45

courtesy wikipedia.org

Star Bonifacio Echeverria started making guns in 1905 and sadly went out of business in 1997 with the end of the Cold War and the downturn in the European arms market. But from 1975 to 1990, Star turned out the estimable PD 45, a fantastic little gem of a pistol.

A Colt commander-size 1911 and a compact Star PD 45

Weighing in at 25oz and having a capacity of 6+1, the Star PD was advanced for its era. It sported adjustable rear sights, a polished feed ramp and a fantastic trigger. The layout and ergonomics of the gun scream 1911 but the field stripping and design are more reminiscent of the Browning Hi-Power.

Just like the Hi-Power, the slide is retracted and the safety is engaged in the takedown notch, then the slide stop pin is pushed out. No need to manually line up the slide and awkwardly hold it there as with a 1911. There’s a removable barrel bushing like a 1911 and the PD 45 has no grip safety like a Hi-Power. The recoil spring has a plastic recoil bushing to keep the abuse down on the pistol’s aluminum frame during firing.

And that aluminum frame is the pistol’s one flaw. While the PD 45 is an impressive carry gun, it’s not built for hours and hours of range time and tens of thousands or rounds put through it. Star frames are known to crack if their buffers aren’t replaced regularly. Still, the late great Col. Jeff Cooper loved it for its intended role — combat-capable CCW pistol. But even he knew its limits. The colonel saw the gun for what it is . . .

“A gun to be carried much and fired little” – Col. Jeff Cooper, April 1975 in Guns & Ammo magazine

As a carry piece, though it truly excels. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Star PD 45 was a very popular piece for plain clothes police work and personal protection. Remember that back then ammunition wasn’t what it is today. Most semi-autos would choke on anything that wasn’t hardball and that meant that the 9mm wasn’t the best choice for law enforcement work.

Hence the popularity of the .45 ACP. My particular Star PD was used as an off duty carry piece back in the late 1970s by my very own father when he was a plain clothes detective in Miami.

Accuracy back then was just as good as it is today.

My father carried the Star PD 45 as his off duty piece during the height of Miami’s cocaine drug wars. As a Homicide Detective who worked cases putting drug dealers away, he wanted something that packed a punch, wouldn’t quit, and could keep his kid safe.

Back then, the drug cartels had no issues going after cops, especially when some of their hit men were dirty cops themselves. But thankfully that era is long gone.

Today my father is retired and the Star PD 45 has also been relegated to the safe. But even in retirement, both my father and the pistol get to relive their glory days occasionally.

Star PD 45 Specifications

Weight: 25 oz
Length: 7.1inches
Barrel Length: 3.9inches
Width: 1.2inches
Height: 4.9inches
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 6+1

A common misconception is that the “PD” in the name stands for “Police Department.” Nope. PD were the initials of Pete Dickey an Interarms employee (the US importer of Star pistols) who submitted the original design idea for the pistol to Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A.

Today, these old school classics are gaining popularity again in collector circles. The average price for one is good condition is about $450. Parts are hard to find as are magazines since Star has been gone for 20 years now. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook a PD 45 if you spot one in your local gun store’s case or on a table at a show. If you want a blast from the past don’t let one slip past you.

comments

  1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    I use to have one of these and sold it when my wife and I were first married. Wish I had it back. It was a great little pistol that never malfunctioned once on me. Likely the best of the ones that “got away.”

  2. avatar M1Lou says:

    These look like an interesting gun to collect. It’s only two rounds down from the larger 9mm Stars.

    I just bought one of the Star BM pistols and it’s been fun to shoot. My dad has a Star in .380 that he originally bought to concealed cary, but decided on a different gun. Both are flawless in function. The only negative is magazines are not cheap and sometimes hard to find. I think Triple K makes magazines for some of these pistols so at least there is some new production.

  3. avatar Gary says:

    The Indiana State Police used these for a time, before the plastic explosion of technology. They really had a great rep; but the bushings unavailability proved their demise.

  4. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Just to give credit where credit is due:

    Star Bonifacio Echeverria was a Basque company. Calling the Basque “Spanish” is a good way to get thumped rather soundly in bars frequented by Basques – as we have several of here in Wyoming, Nevada and other places in the west. Tip for travelers in the west: If you have a substantial appetite and are passing through small towns in northeastern Wyoming or northern Nevada, inquire about a local Basque hotel. If you’re there at the proper hour (between 6 and 8:30pm), they will feed you full. They don’t mess around on portions – or quality.

    The Basque arms-making tradition is deep and wide; besides the Star and Astra handguns, the Basques have made very nice shotguns as well (AyA, Grulla, Arrizabalaga, etc) Their habit has been to take design elements from successful arms makers (the 1911, Hi Power, H&H sidelocks, Anson-Deely, etc) and reproduce those in a modified gun design.

    Here’s a wonderful article on the Basque gunmakers:

    http://star-firearms.com/star/index.shtml

    Those gunmakers that survived learned the lesson that only a few in the UK gun trade learned: Make guns for rich people. Rich people can afford properly-made guns. Chasing production costs downwards to zero is a losing proposition, as we’re seeing with Remington.

    1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      It would do Spain and the Basque region a lot of good if a new Star Bonifacio Echeverria could tool up and start making quality handguns again. The US market alone would make the new company a lot of money.

  5. avatar Sam I Am says:

    More articles (posts) like these !

    Thanks for the posting.

  6. avatar Julian says:

    Great write-up! The Star pistols are excellent, and I still come across them in dealer’s cases from time to time.

  7. avatar Ogre says:

    I got a PD at a gun show recently – about $350 and I was satisfied with that price. Extra mags courtesy of Triple K. The pistol shoots great – no malfunctions and it’s accurate. My only reservation is the buffer unit – where to get a couple more? I seriously doubt that I’m going to put a whole lot of rounds through this pistol – got it more or less as a curiosity – but it’s fun to shoot and someday I’d like to pass it on with all the proper equipment. I’ve also got a Star 9mm which I’m happy with although it is somewhat heavy compared to today’s lightweight 9mm handguns. Anyway, it was pleasant to find an article about the Star PD in TTAG.

    1. avatar Luis Valdes says:

      Orge,

      You can make buffers from the Wilson Combat 1911 ones.

      1. avatar Ogre says:

        Thanks for the advice! I’ll look into it.

        1. avatar Joseph King says:

          There’s also a guy on Gunbroker that makes and sell’s them. Ten run around $50

  8. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    My father purchased at my instigation one of the very first Star PD’s imported, it was a great concept on paper and in the box. On the range it was a piece of JUNK and one not to rely upon for self defense even after multiple repairs. For those wishing to purchase a Star PD as a collector’s item go right ahead, but if you have an interest in using it I would strongly caution against it.

  9. avatar rt-texas says:

    I have a Star 9mm I got at a pawn shop in Dallas about 20 years ago. Love the thing and I hope one of my nephews enjoy’s it after I’m gone.

  10. avatar Geeg Lamb says:

    I actually have a pair of them bought when they first came out. Fantastic little pistols. One is my night stand gun and one is my EDC. I’ve been known to leave my American Express card at home but never my PD.

  11. avatar Jim Butler says:

    I have one (and as spare mag), used to carry it off duty and when I worked narcotics. One of the nice thing about it was the barrel was so short you could see the big hollow point bullet looking down the barrel at you if I pointed it at you. Instant compliance!

    I can’t believe I used to shoot it regularly, nowadays 3 rds are about all I can take. It’s actually the 2nd one I’ve owned, the first was a Garcia when they first came out and then later the Interarms one I have now.

  12. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    any industry manufacturer that survived franco has my attention.
    the barcelona builders of my ’70 250 wildfire sport did not.

    what other pistol began life in 1975?

  13. avatar joetast says:

    Gave my son my BM 9mm. He likes it too. Bought it in WalMart. I was going to match it with the pd but got the Firestar instead.some individuals trash talk Stars but they’ve seemed to be OK for me

  14. avatar cisco kid says:

    Star guns were good but lets not get too carried away as their machining was never in the Colt or Browning or Walther category. There plus side is that they were reliable, accurate and low priced too boot for their time period which unfortunately has long passed into oblivion. And yes I do like them and own them and collect them.

    I am still on the look out for the Star BMA 9mm gun that had an aluminum frame or the Star 30PK also with an aluminum frame and I own the steel frame 9mm BM as well as the best 9mm and most rugged 9mm high capacity gun ever made the Star 30. Although the outside finish was not flawless the gun was built like a tank and Interarms tested them before importing them and found they would go 180,000 rounds without parts breakage, although the barrels were shot out at about 90,000 rounds. What gun today is that good. Answer: None.

    Late in Star’s life, they like other companies rushed to the use of cast frames and slides and some of their guns were failures in the market place although they were the first to make the “pocket rockets” like the Star PD and the later made mini Star, Star Fires in 9mm which were very small but really heavy because of the use of very thick slab sided cast slides. They would not be popular today because of their horrendous weight as compared to the low budget cheaply made plasticky pistols of today, never mind that many of the plasticky guns often crack their budget plastic frames right behind the trigger guard but most people never shoot them that much because of the out of control horrendous prices of ammo these days.

    I think even today the Star M30 could and should be a Nations military pistol but unfortunate today using quality steel forged frames and slides would preclude the cheap ass militaries of the world from adopting it. They think nothing of paying millions for a jet fighter but bulk at giving the soldier in the field a rugged all steel pistol to use so they end up trying to use flimsy plasticky trash that is pretty much an outright joke on the battlefields.

    Today people want light weight and cheap ass prices so the plasticky trash rules and I do think many of the former all steel Stars would not do well today even if the price was the same which of course they could not be. Meanwhile do not pass one up if you find a mint one as they are a wonderful blast from the past and you will not be ashamed to show your friends one like you would be with your modern day plasticky junk guns.

    I must say the Star 30 is my all time favorite high cap forged steel quality 9mm gun and that is saying a lot since I worship the “original” Browning High Powers, not the later vomited cast iron monster models.

    1. avatar MyName says:

      I have a Mod 30 and I have to agree that it is a great full size 9mm pistol. Built like a tank and extremely easy to strip and maintain. You are correct that the finish is not on par with a Colt or Browning from the same era but it is certainly good enough for what the pistol is designed for.

      That Star is also a great conversation piece at the range – people often have no idea what it its and many have never heard of Star. Once people handle it and shoot it, however, they understand why I like it.

  15. avatar David says:

    Brings back fond memories! The Star PD is one of several guns that I wish I’d never let go of.

    Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s my Department forbade carrying anything other than a .38 special revolver; on or off duty. I couldn’t do much about my duty gun; but off duty the Star PD was often concealed in a cheap appendix holster. I (and many others) figured the Department would never know about the 45 hidden in my waistband unless we actually had to use it. Ask forgiveness……not permission 🙂

    For such a light gun, it actually had very manageable recoil. Because of the light frame, I didn’t shoot it a lot. Just enough to remain proficient.

    Thanks for the article!!!

  16. avatar Gregolas says:

    A friend had one that I fired in ’83. Recoil was stiff, not bad. Accuracy was good and the caliber was right. Never had one. But in ’91 I bought a Colt Officer’s. Heavier than the PD, but much easier to shoot b/c of weight. It was my court gun as City Prosecutor.

  17. avatar Anonymous says:

    I like the star firestar 40 in stainless. Nice little pistol.

  18. I too wish these guns would come back into production.

  19. avatar Greg Ray says:

    I have the Star in the 9mm. Bought it in 1997, put less than 2,000 rounds through it, never had a problem with it, take it out of the safe and play with it once in a while. Still like new.

  20. avatar Mac says:

    Thanks for this,wonderful article. I’m a proud owner of one and appreciate it even more after reading this article. I definitely will be holding on to mine…

  21. avatar Tom in NC says:

    My PD is relegated to the safe generally, but it’s a good shooter. About 20 years ago I had a former Marine gunsmith living near Camp Lejeune smooth up the trigger, and he did a great job. Thanks for this article, I’ll have to break it out for a range trip soon!

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  23. avatar Joseph King says:

    Thanks for sharing. The Star PD was the first .45 I owned, back in the mid 80’s. And as chance would have it, I just picked up a new one off Gunbroker about 2 weeks ago. Matching a lightweight officers frame, with an “almost” commander length slide, was a great combat pistol. I have a SA XDs that almost duplicates it, here some 40years later.

  24. avatar RB says:

    I have a Firestar +13,one of the first “wondernines” good pistol,heavy though compared to one of my polyguns.always went bang,got rid of the mag safety though.very nice trigger.I I would like to see a polymer version,SA like the original.
    Also have a Star “Modelo S” in .380 it’s like a baby 1911,locking system and all.only issue,would just shoot fmj until I worked over the barrel to frame ledge.now,it eats anything.

  25. avatar Roger says:

    I just bought a Star 9mm from J&G last week. What a sweet little gun!

  26. avatar Dan says:

    The Star 45PD was an excellent gun from that era. It has of course been surpassed by more recent designs from other manufacturers but a lightly used specimen is definitely something any serious collector should consider acquiring if the opportunity presents itself. I owned two during the 80’s and 90’s and found them pleasant to shoot….sadly this was before the days of widespread CCW so the actual daily carrying was not practical
    for legal reasons.

  27. avatar Phil Thompson says:

    I bought two magazines for my PD from KMAG in South Africa, They are excellent magazines that fit and work well.

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