Spain’s Star BM – The 9mm “Not An M1911” Handgun

By: Vincent D. DeNiro

Star BM Left Side
The left side of the Model BM with original Star stampings visible, letting you know it was made in Eibar, Spain. IMG Vince D.

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 Righty Side
The right side of the Star with Century International import stampings IMG Vince D.

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.

Star BM With Ammo
The author’s Star BM proved acceptably accurate with both Patriot Defense and Winchester ammunition. IMG Vince D.

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.

Star BM Disassembly
The Star BM after disassembly, while similar to an M1911, there are some differences. IMG Vince D.

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.

Star BM Muzzle Flash
The author firing the Star BM pistol at a steel reactive target seven yards away. IMG Vince D.

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.

Star BM Accuracy Chart

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.

19 Comments
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Gomezaddams51
Gomezaddams51 (@gomezaddams51)
9 months ago

My wife wanted a handgun so we went out and I found a Star Firestar Plus 9mm for $150. It fit her hand perfectly and she loves it. The only problem I have had with it is finding another magazine for it. I did a search and found a magazine that I thought would fit. It looked identical but when I got it, it was not the right one. The notch in the magazine is lower so it won’t catch in the magazine release and the bottom plate sits further forward when in the gun. And I noticed it is… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Gomezaddams51
Gomezaddams51
Gomezaddams51 (@gomezaddams51)
9 months ago
Reply to  Gomezaddams51

I forgot to put in that the “new” magazine has holes with the numbers 5/10/13/15 on the side while the original has 5/9/13 on the side.

RoyD
RoyD (@royd)
9 months ago
Reply to  Gomezaddams51
Oldman
Oldman (@crazyphone)
9 months ago

I have fired the BM. It is not as accurate as my ‘B’ model made in 1942. I’ve owned it since 1972 and it is sweet. Far more accurate than any other sidearm I own. The serial numbers on it indicate that it was probably used by German Police during WWII. I paid $35 for it with 2 mags and two unopened boxes of ammo.

G-man
G-man (@3star)
9 months ago

Yes I have 3 of the star bm ,nice little pistol feels good to shoot since it’s a all metal pistol, blued one ,painted one ,and left one as it came

cav2108
cav2108 (@charles-valenzuela)
9 months ago

I’m surprised. It seems that you have possibly found a pistol magazine that will actually feed that miserable Winchester Forged steel cased GARBAGE ammo. Oh, I see. A single-stack magazine. Yeah, maybe that will work. That rubbish certainly won’t feed or even load into most double-stack magazines unless the cartridge cases are wiped down with lubricant first so the junk doesn’t hang in the magazine from galling of the oxidized cartridge cases. Single-stack mags might be usable with that crap. Especially if the inside of the magazine has been slathered with lubricant first, eh? Star pistols are mostly okay. Well… Read more »

The Crimson Pirate
The Crimson Pirate (@the-crimson-pirate)
9 months ago

Love it. That’s it in my profile pic. As you can see I had 717 Armory in Harrisburg PA do a red and black tiger stripe cerakote job. Back in, 2018 I think, I carried it to Veg fest in Lancaster. It was 100 degrees and I sweated all over it. It rusted. Thus the cerakote. Mine came with 2 mags, and I bought 3 more from Classic Firearms and 1 more from ebay. You can never have enough mags. It is in my carry rotation among 4 other pistols. I wish Alien Gear would make a holster for it.… Read more »

The Crimson Pirate
The Crimson Pirate (@the-crimson-pirate)
9 months ago

PS; forgot to mention mine does not like steel case. It really did not like the Winchester USA forged which I see in the pics in the article. Anything brass case it does fine. Keep to standard rounds, no +P. The link on mine broke while firing some 147 +P hollow points. Was a bear to get apart. Ebay has spare parts, but I noticed lately the price is really going up.

KJinIowa
KJinIowa (@kjmineart)
9 months ago

I bought one a while back and need to clean off/out the packing grease and get to the range with it…. everything I’ve seen/felt so far is spot on with this review of it!

What I would really like to have is a Star Model B (5″ barrel vs. 4″) but I haven’t seen one available in quite a while.

hippybiker
hippybiker (@hippy-biker)
9 months ago

I’ve had one for years. I put a set of wood grips from 4 Star in Texas on it. I have a new project so it’s going to be sold today. $250 with 3 mags and 50 ends of ammo. I’m too kind.
One thing I noticed. My pistol never cared for WW White box 115 gr ammo.

Finnky
Finnky (@finnks)
9 months ago
Reply to  hippybiker

Are you in Texas? Just so happens I’ve been toying with idea of adding a Star. A Star BM (or B) with Texas star would be perfect. I’m N of Dallas if your seriously selling and want a willing buyer.

Finnky
Finnky (@finnks)
9 months ago
Reply to  Finnky

~70 miles. I drive conservatively, so about an hour with COVID-traffic, maybe a little less.

Ltbdb
Ltbdb (@bdbaker23windstream-net)
9 months ago

I bought on of these a couple of years ago when you could get them for $200. Absolutely the best buy for the money I have run across in a long time. The one I got was in great shape cosmetically and functions flawlessly. I highly recommend this gun if you can find one at a reasonable price.

Grigori
Grigori (@grigori)
9 months ago

It ain’t $200.00 at J&G, now. More like $279.95. In today’s market, that isn’t really bad. Be sure to get the three spare mags $60.00. You’ll be glad you did.

BR
BR (@br)
9 months ago
Reply to  Grigori

Yes the $200 days are long gone

KJinIowa
KJinIowa (@kjmineart)
9 months ago
Reply to  Grigori

I’d like to lay my hands on spare mags for mine…. J&G?

Grigori
Grigori (@grigori)
9 months ago
Reply to  KJinIowa

Check them out. J&G Sales as mentioned in the article. They have spare mags for sale.

RoyD
RoyD (@royd)
9 months ago

Many years ago, starting in May 1976, I wore out two Star PD pistols in 45 ACP. Great guns.

JSNMGC
JSNMGC (@jsnmgc)
9 months ago
Reply to  RoyD

Preferred brand of Jules.