I’ve written previously about how to get a type 3 FFL for curios and relics. That’s the license that will let you have WWII era firearms shipped straight to your door with no mucking about with the local gun store to do the transfer. But once you have that power, the next question becomes “what do I buy first?”
The answer, of course, is a Mosin Nagant. But if you already have one, then feel free to skip to the “classy” option, the Star Model B 9mm pistol.
I know, it looks like a 1911, but it’s not. First, a little history lesson:
After John Moses Browning delivered his One True Design for handguns unto the world, a number of manufacturers decided to incorporate many of those same design elements in their own handguns. The Soviets adopted Fedor Tokarev’s slimmed down design and dubbed it the “TT”. It’s now one of the most widely available handgun designs ever produced (mainly because of the sheer numbers in which they were cranked out in manufacturing plants in the Soviet workers’ paradise).
The Spanish were also keen to copy the design, and in 1922 Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. (one of the major Spanish arms makers) came out with their Model 1922 handgun. It incorporated most of the features of JMB’s masterpiece, but the Spanish design made it handle differently. Star would go through two more permutations before finally resting on the second generation Star Model B in 1931, which we see today and has recently become widely available on the market.
During the Second World War, Spain was officially neutral. Neutral in terms of actually firing bullets, but not making them. Spain provided material support to the Axis powers, specifically Nazi Germany. And one of their exports was case after case of Star Model B (second generation) handguns.
Being made in a neutral country, the German High Command didn’t see the need to have the typical Waffenmark stamped on the guns when they entered service and so these handguns are one of the only examples of a Nazi firearm that doesn’t bear that mark. They do, however, have a code N, Ñ or O stamped on them which denotes a manufacture between 1942 and 1944 and implies (along with some other things which we’ll get to shortly) that they were indeed used by Germany at some point.
While the Third Reich made their own handguns and in enough numbers to supply front-line troops, they still needed to arm their civilian police force and other rear echelon units. The Star Model B was a cheap import and used the same ammunition as the rest of the German handguns, so it fit right into the supply chain for those lower priority troops and civilians.
In other words, these handguns have the highest probability of any former Nazi firearm of never being fired at another human being.
Let’s put the history on pause for a second to talk about the gun itself. If you’ve ever held and fired a 1911 before, everything about the Star Model B will feel more or less the same. The second generation Model B closely resembles the 1911A1, and that design certainly shines through.
All of the exterior lines follow JMB’s gun and the pistol takes down exactly like an original 1911A1. One major difference between the two is that the Star Model B lacks a grip safety, instead relying solely on the thumb safety.
There are a few other differences. Unlike the 1911A1’s trigger (which moves straight back and trips the sear), the Model B has a trigger that pivots on a roll pin. There’s a detent on the slide stop which appears to keep the slide from locking back without the proper application of force and there’s no easily removable mainspring as in the 1911A1.
Speaking of the trigger, despite the different design, the Model B’s trigger is very good. In fact, it beats the pants off many of the triggers I’ve played with on modern guns. Heck, I’d even rank it above my old Springfield 1911A1. It has a very short take up, and then a crisp break. It’s unfortunately followed by about seven miles of overtravel, but you get what you pay for, I suppose.
There is, however, a significant problem with many of these guns. And the reason for that problem is centered in the extractor.
Anyone who knows anything about military surplus firearms knows immediately what that color indicates and probably knows where I’m going with this.
Nazi Germany lost World War II, but you already knew that. After the war, the Soviets snapped up as much materiel as they could carry and carted it all back to Rodina Mat to stockpile and prepare to repel the next great invasion.
Among those endless truckloads of loot from the ruins of Germany were enormous quantities of Star Model B handguns. The second those captured firearms hit the loading docks of the Russian armories, they were disassembled and the parts were strewn into huge barrels. Each part was then cleaned and the guns were then reassembled from the parts in those barrels.
Parts that were prone to breaking, like the extractor in a 1911 model handgun, were replaced with a new part that was blued in the standard crappy Soviet post-WWII solution which turned everything a mucky purple (which is what makes Russian captured weapons so recognizable).
The Soviets were counting on the parts for each gun that got this treatment to be interchangeable, as they were on almost any other modern firearm of the time. Unfortunately, the Star Model B required a little bit of fitting to get it to work just right. Fitting that the Soviets didn’t do.
As a result, the most common malfunction on a Soviet Model B is that the safety won’t engage properly when at full cock. Some minor gunsmithing is required to get it to work.
One other issue that arises when you have parts that don’t quite fit right is malfunctions. This one in particular — the much loved stovepipe — happened more than once in the course of 100 rounds or so rounds. It’s quick to fix, and on a gun that’s 68 years old isn’t completely unexpected, but its still annoying.
While those two imperfections might be maddening enough on the range, it throws this gun COMPLETELY out of the running for a concealed carry option.
Another item of not is that, starting around 1966, the film industry shifted to using Star Model B handguns instead of actual 1911 pistols due to the fact that they were easier to make work with blanks than the real McCoy.
Anyone who has seen Pulp Fiction knows the famous “say what again” scene where Jules plugs a guy with his nickel plated “1911.” A nickel plated 1911 that was actually a gussied up Star Model B, the one pictured above to be exact.
Films from District 9 to The A Team (the original) replaced the 1911 with the cheaper and easier-to-use Star Model B (more info at the IMFDB).
So how does this thing shoot? The answer is pretty darned well. The action feels smooth, the trigger is excellent and it’s capable of “good enough” accuracy, even at 25 yards.
Note that the Model B suffers from the same problem as the 1911A1 — it can make the webbing on the palm of your hand cry for mercy if it’s not held properly. Specifically, for large handed individuals, it has a tendency to “bite” with its hammer spur. Smaller hands will have no problems, though.
The Star Model B is an interesting piece of history that’s still available, though usually at higher prices. It gives you all of the cool points of a 1911, it’s an obscure gun and it hits all three squares on WWII milsurp bingo card (USA design, Nazi use, Soviet capture).
Specifications: Star Model B Pistol
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel: 5 inches
Capacity: 8+1 rounds
MSRP: Anywhere from about $400 to $1000 depending on condition and provenance
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * *
It’s no Wilson or Nighthawk, but I got “minute of bad guy” groups with no problem. It’s as accurate as it needs to be.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
If you like the ergonomics of the 1911, you’ll find this similarly awesome. I have big hands, so I walked away with slightly bloodied webbing. Other than that, everything about the gun feels just about perfect.
Yeah, not so much. If you get this worked on by a competent gunsmith, you might have yourself a very fine handgun. But as this one came from the importer, I wouldn’t even leave this around with a loaded mag anywhere near it.
Customize This: n/a
Yes, that’s a zero. Finding replacement parts or magazines (they’re out there) isn’t easy. Especially given that the market for these was last really active in the mid to late 1940s.
Overall: * *
While this may not be a very good gun for practical use, it is a fantastic handgun for its historicality and the overall sexy JMB-inspired design.
This article was originally published in 2012.