Star and Astra Handguns in the Service of Nazi Germany
By James Martineau,
With the conquest of France in 1940, Germany found itself sharing a border with Spain. Considering the Nationalist victory in the recent Civil War, Spain was sympathetic, albeit, not an active ally to Nazi Germany. Due to the increasing need of handguns to support the Nazi war effort, the Spanish Arms manufacturers Star and Astra were contracted to supply handguns to the Wehrmacht. Two examples of handguns manufactured for German use in the Second World War were the Astra 600/43 and the Star Modelo B.
Before reviewing the history of these two models, one should understand the history of Star and Astra. They both were firearms manufacturers based in northeast Spain in an area long known for its quality steel. Both companies were founded in the 1900s and enjoyed success throughout the 20th century. Eventually, Astra was merged with Star but filed for bankruptcy in 1993. They both manufactured firearms for use by the militaries of multiple nations such as Spain, Portugal, Chile, and Germany.
The Astra 600/43 was an evolution of the successful Astra 400. The 400 was chambered for the 9mm Largo round, which after German testing was found unable to accept the Wehrmacht’s standard 9mm Parabellum. Astra was obliged to redesign the 400 to accept the standard 9x19mm ammunition and began production. With the success of the allies’ invasion of France, the supply line between Spain and Germany was cut in 1944. Only one shipment of 10,500, therefore, arrived in German hands. The remainder were produced and remained at Astra until the West German government bought them for police and military use in 1951. Thus, Astra was paid twice for the handguns as the Nazi-German government pre-paid for the whole order.
The batches of these handguns are differentiated by the use of the Nazi stamp on those approved for use in the Wehrmacht. Those used by the West German police are often stamped “P” on the right side above the grip as many were manufactured in 1945 after the French border with Spain was reestablished.
These stamps assist the discriminating collector in selecting which firearm to add to their collection.
The design of the Star Modelo B was based on the Colt 1911. This handgun was produced to fire the 9mm Parabellum and the harder-hitting 9x23mm Largo. Once again, as Nazi Germany needed a stop-gap to fill the need for handguns in their armed forces and police, they contracted Star. Deliveries were made between 1942 and 1944.
There has been a controversy as the stampings of those models delivered to the Wehrmacht. As stated by Steven Hoober; “Reportedly, Stars issued to WWII German troops do not carry Nazi proof marks, the only foreign arms exempted from this requirement. But, I have encountered some owners with overtly German proofed weapons, so this may be untrue, or inconsistently applied.” Whatever the case may be, the Star certainly filled the immediate need for handguns in the Wehrmacht.
Both the Star Modelo B and the Astra 600/43 were excellent choices for the Nazi government to fill a pressing need for handguns for its military and auxiliary forces. These companies were quickly able to adapt to the needs of their client by ensuring 9mm pistols that could easily be shipped to German-occupied territory. In modernity, they are classic pistols that are valued by collectors for their historical significance.