Shooting a Customized 9mm Star Model B

The first handgun I purchased on my own as an adult was a Star Model B in the early 1970’s.  It served well but eventually I traded it off in the quest for other handguns, particularly Browning Hi Powers but it I always regretted it.  Though I owned other Star handguns in the decades that followed, it was not until 1989 that I purchased another Model B after reading an ad in The American Rifleman which stated that Star was doing a final production run of the discontinued Model B and B Super. This would be the last chance for a new one.  I went to my local gun shop and ordered one the next day. The cost was $259.00.

I am no historian or Star collector but it is my understanding that the earliest version of this all-steel, single-action semiautomatic came off the production line in 1924 with the second model following seven years later.  The pistol was produced solely by Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. of Eibar, Spain. Production ceased in 1983.

For folks not familiar with this 9mm pistol, here are some of its specs:

Length Overall: 8.07”

Height: 5.12”

Barrel Length: 5”

Twist: 1:10”

Weight: 2.2 lbs

Magazine: single-stack, 8 rounds

Sights: fixed

Magazine Disconnect: yes

Internal Firing Pin Block: no

Inertial Firing Pin: The ones I’ve seen have inertial firing pins but I have read that some did not. (An inertial firing pin is one that is shorter than the length of the channel in which the firing pin moves when struck by the hammer.  In other words, if the hammer is resting against the rear of the firing pin, it is not touching the primer of a chambered cartridge. If the rear of the hammer is struck, the firing pin will not move.  On a non-inertial firing pin, if the hammer is down, the firing pin does touch the chambered round’s primer, a potentially dangerous situation. If the hammer is struck or the pistol dropped and lands on the hammer spur, the chambered cartridge could be unintentionally fired.)

Externally the Model B appears to be a 1911-pattern pistol, but it is not, at least not completely.  Some of its features such as its general appearance, swinging link barrel, removable barrel bushing, recoil spring and end cap are very obviously taken from Mr. Browning’s design, but there are major differences, too.  For example, engaging the thumb safety does not block the sear. Instead, the hammer is moved rearward and out of contact with the sear. This pistol’s trigger pivots and there is no grip safety.  Neither does it sport a plunger tube.  Instead, the slide release lever contains a spring-loaded plunger that contacts a stud immediately behind it and the thumb safety is tensioned differently than the 1911.  The disconnector is in the ejection port slide rail rather than to the rear of the magazine well. It uses an external extractor. Though some newer 1911 renderings have external extractors, the classic design used a self-tensioned internal design.  The Model B’s firing pin is notched and retaining using a vertical steel pin located beneath the rear sight.  I much prefer Mr. Browning’s retaining plate on the 1911. I have seen the Model B and its kin referred to as “1911-inspired” designs which I believe more accurate than “1911-pattern” pistols.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 037.JPG

Field-stripped, the Star Model B exhibits characteristics obviously taken from John M. Browning’s famous 1911, but this pistol has major differences as well.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 017.JPGSTAR Model B Range Pictures 045.JPG

On the left is the Model B’s rear grip strap. It does not have the 1911’s removable mainspring housing. On the right, we see that the ejector is press-fitted into the frame, not attached via posts and a roll pin. Note also that the top of the magazine does not contact the ejector even when pushed upward as far as it will go…as is the case in this photograph. Some 1911’s magazines do contact the bottom of the ejector, which can eventually lead to damage if “speed loading” the magazine and forcefully driving it home are regularly practiced. Minor removal of steel from the bottom of the ejector solves the problem.

STAR Model B Range Pictures 044.JPG

On the ejection port side of the Model B is its disconnector.  This one is covered with crud from shooting.  It is not to the rear of the magazine well as is the 1911’s.

My first Model B came with smallish military-style fixed sights.  The semicircular front sight was staked on.  The rear sight was dovetailed into the slide.  The pistol had a polished blue finish and had checkered brown plastic grip panels secured to the frame by two screws each. The Model B does not use grip screw bushings. It would feed some hollow point ammunition but not all though it was always reliable with FMJ.

The one I bought in 1989 had larger fixed sights than the earlier one and the front was more of a post design. It also had a lanyard ring.  Finish was a polished bright blue on the frame and slide but all other steel parts including the sights sported a gray phosphate finish.  The Model B does not have removable mainspring housing but the rear grip strap is arched and checkered from the factory.

This Model B was obviously “throated” and has been reliable with all ammunition fired in it, including more than a few brands of JHP’s, both commercial and handloaded.  However, this welcomed change was offset by the fact that the pistol’s POI was nearly 10’ high at 25 yards! 

…but I just liked the pistol.

I took it to Lou Williamson, a master gunsmith, who had worked on several Hi Powers and 1911’s for me in years past.  The rear sight was replaced with a Millett adjustable revolver sight along with a serrated ramp front sight, which was silver-soldered to the slide.  The spur hammer was bobbed and reshaped to alleviate hammer-bite that I continually got with the Model B. It and the barrel were blued but all other gray-colored phosphate-finished parts were left as they came from Star. No “accurizing” or trigger work was required.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 015.JPG

The Model B uses the 1911’s GI style removable bushing, recoil spring and guide and end cap. The bushing on my Model B is firm but can be removed with only finger-pressure.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 005.JPGSTAR Model B Range Pictures 029.JPG

(Left)The front grip strap was checkered 20 LPI.  Mr. Williamson removed some steel both above and below the checkering to make it more pronounced and enhance its ability to provide an extremely secure grip. (Right) The pistol’s hammer spur was bobbed and reshaped and a Millett adjustable revolver sight fitted to the pistol providing a sort of low-profile “Bomar-esque” component to the resulting sight picture. Notice also that there is no 1911-style plunger tube. The rear of the slide release lever can be seen in this picture.  A roll pin contains both a spring and plunger that contacts the round stud immediately behind it.  The single-side thumb safety resembles those on the early 1911’s.  It is tensioned via a spring-loaded plunger beneath it and is very positive in either the “on” or “off” position.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 003.JPG

Here is the final result. The smooth wooden stocks were a surprise but nicely done. They were made from scratch by Lou’s son, the late Scott Williamson, whose passing was all too soon.  He was a very creative and talented pistolsmith.

But how does it perform?  Coughing up the bucks to customize a “Spanish pistol” is meaningless if performance is not enhanced or if either reliability or accuracy is missing…at least to me.  Fortunately, the answer in this case is, “Pretty well indeed!”

Ammunition: Over the years, I’ve fired many types of expanding ammunition through this pistol. It has proven reliable with the vast majority of it.  If memory serves, handloads using the rather blunt Sierra JHP bullet would feed but were not as “smooth” as with those having more rounded ogives.

STAR Model B Range Pictures 032.JPG

Ammunition used in this range session was (left to right): Winchester USA 115-gr. FMJ, some old PMC 115-gr. Starfire JHP, Federal 115-gr. JHP, Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P, Fiocchi 124-gr. “Extrema” and the sadly discontinued Federal 124-gr. Nyclad hollow point.

Shooting: All shooting was done using a two-hand hold. Some was done without support from a standing position but when attempting maximum precision to try and demonstrate the pistol’s mechanical accuracy, I fired with wrists braced on sandbags and from a seated position.  All bullseye targets were shot in slow-fire at distances of either 15 or 27 yards.

I also shot one “practical” exercise known over the years as either a “Mozambique Drill” or “Failure to stop”.  It is currently out of vogue having been replaced with “Shoot-the-assailant-until-he-is-down” regardless of the number of shots.  The FTS drill is believed to perhaps ingrain firing 3 shots and assessing the situation before firing more, something that might prove disastrous if it gives one’s opponent the opportunity to kill or injure us because we ceased shooting to look things over.  I am using the old “Mozambique” not as a training drill but as one that is repeatable and lets me know how well I do or do not handle a particular handgun. This exercise was done with the pistol fully-loaded with 9 rounds. Distance was 7 yards.

Firearm instructor, Jim Higginbotham, devised what he calls a “Standard Controllability Test” for handguns intended to be used defensively.  Starting from a low-ready position 5 yards from the target, on command the shooter fires five shots which must be contained on a rectangular target measuring 8 ½ x 5 ½” with the larger dimension being the vertical.  It is either “Pass” or “Fail”. To pass, the time required to do this must be no more than 2 seconds.

15 and 25 Yards: The first group of the day was fired using Federal’s 115-gr. JHP. It fed smoothly and grouped well for me. This load has garnered a reputation for accuracy in many 9mm pistols. Next came Winchester's popular "white box" FMJ,  Corbon DPX and Fiocchi Extrema.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 031.JPG

I shot these targets from a seated position using the same method as with the Federal 115-gr. JHP. I believe that the Star Model B is capable of better mechanical accuracy than I can wring out of it. At 25 yards (right), all shots are inside of about 2 ½” with 5 of the 8 being inside the 2” diameter bullseye.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 034.JPG

Corbon’s 115-gr. DPX +P and Fiocchi’s 124-gr. “Extrema” ammunition grouped well. Reliability was fine with either.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 036.JPG

These 25-yard groups were fired standing and using 2 hands.  Both are around 3” with flyers being a result of human error…me!

7 Yards: The only shooting done at this distance was six runs of the FTS Drill.

STAR Model B Range Pictures 042.JPG

The Mozambique Drill was repeated 6 times.  I loaded a full eight rounds into the magazine, chambered a round and then topped off the magazine. This allowed for 3 runs before having to reload. I repeated the process twice and started from a low-ready position.  Shooting was done with a two-hand hold. Average time was approximately 2 seconds according to my electronic timer.

5 Yards: I repeated the Higginbotham Standard Controllability Test 5 times using Federal 124-gr. Nyclad hollow point ammunition.  All five attempts passed being slightly under 2 seconds each. I neglected to photograph this…old age, I guess!

Observations: Once again I find that I cannot shoot to the level of inherent mechanical accuracy found in most “service grade” semiautomatic pistols. Though customized, the Model B had no accuracy work done.  The trigger-pull is “heavy”, measuring right at 5 ¾-lbs, but it does break as cleanly as Col. Cooper’s proverbial glass rod.  I believe that the main reason I shoot this pistol fairly well is that it is comfortable.  It is heavier than today’s polymer-framed service pistols, but weight more easily allows a steady hold. Some will argue that it is “too large for the number of shots between reloads”.  This may be true but the extra sight radius helps practical accuracy and its single-stack magazine allows a narrower grip that many find easier to properly align in the hand than pistols having double-stack magazines.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 023.JPG

The Star Model B magazine holds 8 rounds. It disassembles via its removable floor plate in much the same manner as the Browning Hi Power, Walther or CZ magazines.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 018.JPG

The magazine follower is polished steel and the entire magazine seems sturdy and well-constructed. This magazine and my spares have all proven to feed both reliably and smoothly.

Speaking only for myself, I find the Model B a most comfortable 9mm pistol and one though my main focus with it (and most of my other firearms) is fun, I would not hesitate to use it for “serious purposes” if required.

It ran flawlessly today as is normal. The slide did not lock back prematurely but never failed to do so after the last round was fired.

…but this pistol also has some downsides.

First, it is no longer in production.  Spare parts can still be found but with each passing year they will only get harder and harder to find.  Though not particularly “fragile” in my experience, it is still a good thing to have a few spare parts on hand.  Fortunately, I do but this is probably the exception rather than the rule…as the saying goes.  I have not fired this pistol as extensively as some of my others but it has digested a few thousand rounds with no parts breakage.

I do not know the factory standard recoil spring rating for the Model B but it “feels” very light.  I replaced mine with a Wolff CZ-75 spring rated at 16 lbs.  The Model B works just fine with it when using either standard-pressure or +P ammunition.  Over the years I’ve heard and read that +P loads should be used sparingly if at all in the older Star models due to “soft steel” and holding the slide at different angles does allow us to see slight differences in color on those portions of the slide have been heat-treated. I have not run a “torture test” consisting of thousands of +P rounds being fired and while most shooting is done with standard pressure loads, I have fired a few hundred +P loads through my Star Model B, including Remington 115-gr. JHP +P, Speer 124-gr. Gold Dot +P, Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P, Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P, Corbon 124-gr. JHP +P, and Remington 124-gr. Golden Saber +P. Of these, I do think that the hot-loaded Corbon 115 and 124-gr. JHP’s may be on the warm side for this gun; they are just plain “hot”.  I think that the heavier 16-lb recoil spring may help prevent battering but have no real way to prove it as I have only one Model B and am not willing to damage it for such a test.

Though subjective, I find the Star Model B to be one of the most comfortable handguns I’ve ever owned or fired…once the hammer spur is bobbed.  Even though not as light as more modern service pistols, they have a certain “grace” and appeal to them, at least to me.  I’m not sure that numbers will give a true representation but here are the Model B’s specs compared to a Springfield Armory 1911, a Browning Hi Power and a CZ-75 (Pre-B). Dimensions and weights can vary depending on grips or manufacturer in the case of the 1911’s.

Star Model B Compared to Other Selected Pistols


Bbl Length (in.)

Weight (lbs.)

Length (in.)

Height (in.)

Slide Width (in.)

Frame Width (in.) *

S.A. 1911







Hi Power














Star B







*This measurement is taken just in front of the trigger guard at the dust cover.


STAR Model B Range Pictures 041.JPG

The Star Model B has been replaced by lighter service pistols that don’t frighten some people with its cocked-and-locked carry capability. Modern 9mm service pistols almost always hold more rounds but the Model B just has that certain “something” about it.  It just feels “right”.

The saying, “All good things must come to an end” is true and sums up my feeling for the Star Model B. If I find another in new or like-new condition at a decent price, I’ll buy it.


Home Browning Hi Power Other Handguns Products FAQs