By: Vincent D. DeNiro
U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- In the milsurp market, $200 can get you far, but it’s hard to get more out of your $200 than with the Star Model BM. The Star BM is one of the most popular milsurp guns on the market, and with good reason. It’s able to balance price, fun, and practicality like no other. For around $200, you get a fun import plinker that can also double as a second carry gun. Ostensibly, it’s an M1911 clone, but if that’s what you’re expecting, you may be surprised.
Star BM Pistol History
Star occupies an important place in the history of firearms production in Spain. Hailing from Eibar in the Basque Country (an autonomous community in Spain), one of the centers of firearms production, Star started off by making virtual copies of popular handguns of the time in the early 20th century. The initial success of Star would be two contracts for French Army pistols in 1914. Star was subcontracted and directly contracted to make the Ruby pistol and Star Model 1914, respectively. The latter was based on the Mannlicher M1901.
After WWI in 1919, the Star name was officially registered. Interestingly, the Star brand was registered in English, and may not have also been registered as “Estrella,” the Spanish word for “star.” While Star may not have been a pioneer in firearms, it still played an important role in the development of a domestic arms industry for Spain. Indeed, these trends of producing copies of more popular guns are also seen in other less-developed countries at this time, like China, Poland, Romania, and Argentina. Star continued to make firearms based on foreign designs, and in 1972, it developed the Star Model BM, part of the B series, which included earlier M1911-based handguns.
Initially issued to the Guardia Civil, the gendarmerie of Spain, the BM would also find itself in use in unconventional wars in Africa, used by Rhodesia and South Africa in the Rhodesian Bush War, and appearing in the recent conflicts in Libya. The BM was in use with the Guardia Civil until the early 90s, when it was replaced by the Beretta 92, which is now, in turn, being phased out by the Heckler & Koch USP. It was around this time, in the early 90s when importers like Interarms and Century International would start to get their hands on them, as the Guardia Civil were trading them in for the newer Beretta 92.
A Striking Resemblance
It doesn’t need to be said that the Star BM is based on the Colt M1911, and looks somewhat like a Colt Commander. However, the Star does have some notable differences that will show themselves upon closer inspection. Discussing the differences between the M1911 and Star BM is somewhat difficult, as there are many variations between different “M1911s.” The simplest way I can think of to describe the BM is a “cheap 9mm Colt Commander.” This is a description I think fits the Star well.
Depending on where you get yours, your Star could come with an original box and operator’s manual, which will let you make good use of the Spanish you may have learned in school. Mine came from J&G Sales (jgsales.com). Interestingly, the Star’s manual which was intended for the Guardia Civil, tells you which hands to use to operate the gun, among other things. It instructs the user to use their right hand to hold the gun, their right thumb to press the magazine release, and to remove the magazine with their left hand, which is not drop-free.
This would show that the handgun is meant to be used right-handed, however, Spain is actually the seventh most left-handed country in the world, at ~9.6% of people being left-handed. As for the pistol itself, you get a whole lot of gun for only $200, at which price you may not be expecting great build quality, but you’d be surprised. The gun feels solid and well put-together. Although a bit over two pounds, it feels hefty and sturdy. The grips are plastic, but still feel comfortable and aren’t really something you can complain about for $200, but if it really bothers you, aftermarket grips are easy to come by. The safety feels great; it makes a rich and very audible click when switching it on, and sounds even better switching off. The safety is like most other features on the gun, as it feels solid and tough. The slide release locks back the slide very securely and doesn’t wiggle a bit.
As far as differences between the Model BM and a classic M1911 go, one of the most surprising is the pivoting trigger. Although the trigger looks the same as the original M1911, it pivots when pulled, unlike the original M1911, which goes straight back. Magazines also hold eight 9mm rounds in a single-stack file and are not drop-free. I also think the different exterior appearance looks great. Although it’s obviously based on the M1911, it creates its own look, in my opinion, that is probably best described as a familiar, yet also foreign aesthetic.
Shooting the gun itself is a blast. Star had used “Spanish steel” as a selling point for its products for a while, and I understand why that was a perk of its products now; the build quality and material is far better than most milsurp guns. While the gun is recoiling and cycling, it doesn’t feel janky, but like a very tough little pistol. I shot two groups of five shots from seven yards with FMJ from Winchester Ammunition and Patriot Defense. Below is an accuracy table for reference of what I shot. Recoil was mild, probably owing to the weight of the gun.
While not heavy, its weight keeps recoil somewhat tame. In conclusion, if you’re looking to see how far two hundred-dollar bills can get you in the discount gun market, you can’t pass up the Star Model BM.