BATTLE PROVEN BARGAIN:
Star BM Pistol

Star BM with famous Guardia Civil “tricornio” dress hat and Spanish police training targets. Guardia Civil used BM for many years.

Star BM with famous Guardia Civil “tricornio” dress hat and Spanish police training targets. Guardia Civil used BM for many years.

Like many of you reading this, my inbox is generally filled with ads for an array of firearms-related products. I usually open only a fraction of these ads, but I almost always open ones from Century International Arms.

Century gets interesting surplus firearms and imports the Red Army Standard ammunition that I use in my AK rifles and Makarov pistol. Awhile back, I noticed that Century was distributing Star BM pistols. I’ve always liked this compact 9x19mm pistol and have even carried one occasionally in my travels.

Few readers will realize that the BM was triumphant in one of the most lethal close-quarters gun battles in recent military history.

THE BATTLE OF BRIDGE 14

Right-side profile view of Star BM shows 1911 influence.

Right-side profile view of Star BM shows 1911 influence.

During Operation Savannah, a South African incursion into Angola in support of UNITA, South African 2/Lt. van Vuuren of Battle Group Foxbat crossed Bridge 14 with three Eland armored cars under his command.

During the combat, van Vuuren, as commander and loader for his Eland, accounted for over 40 Cubans by hitting their trucks with 90mm rounds from the Eland’s main gun. Out of 90mm ammo and with both machine guns knocked out, van Vuuren’s Eland came under attack by Cubans who were swarming over the vehicle.

Drawing his Star BM and firing through the armored car’s turret hatch, the intrepid South African lieutenant killed another 11 Cubans.

Now out of ammo for his pistol as well, van Vuuren managed to get the armored car running on four flat tires and ran over two more Cubans, one of whom was firing an AK-47 at the vehicle. In the after-action report, it was estimated that van Vuuren’s three armored cars had killed at least 200 Cubans!

Other South African units accounted for a large number of Cuban and MPLA fighters, resulting in a resounding South African victory in what came to be known as “The Battle of Bridge 14.”

For his courage and skill, van Vuuren was awarded the Honoris Crux, one of South Africa’s highest awards for bravery. He has also gone down in the annals of gunfighters who remained cool under stress and used their weapon to its utmost capabilities.

Van Vuuren’s exploits always occur to me when I think of the Star BM, but I also remember seeing this compact 9mm pistol on the hips of members of Spain’s Guardia Civil during the 1980s.

GUARDIA CIVIL

As shipped from Century International Arms, BM came with a cleaning rod, spare magazine, and instruction manual in Spanish.

As shipped from Century International Arms, BM came with a cleaning rod, spare magazine, and instruction manual in Spanish.

Based on the contacts I had with members of the Guardia Civil, they were ready to trade in their BMs for more modern DA autos. When the Guardia Civil upgraded to the Beretta 92, a lot of Star BMs were traded in or sold, thus making them available for shooters such as you or me.

I always liked the Star BM when I encountered one—though I admit I found the alloy-framed BKM easier to carry. Add its interesting history, and I couldn’t resist acquiring one of the Star BMs currently available.

When I picked it up, I was particularly impressed with the plastic case containing the original Spanish manual, cleaning rod, spare magazine, and pistol. My pistol appeared to have never been issued, possibly because it had been sitting in a Guardia Civil armory when the unit changed pistols. In any case, I am quite happy with its condition.

Based on initial shooting impressions, I am just as happy with its performance.

CARRYING THE STAR BM

Star BM disassembled into its primary components for cleaning.

Star BM disassembled into its primary components for cleaning.

As with many Star designs, the BM has obvious similarities to the Colt 1911. But it also has marked differences. There is no grip safety, and the barrel bushing does not have to be removed to assemble or disassemble the pistol, though it does have to be removed to slide the barrel in or out of the slide.

At only 7.25 inches overall, it is more compact than the 1911. As with the Browning Hi Power, a takedown notch on the slide allows the safety to hold the slide open while removing or inserting the slide lock.

BM should not be carried with hammer down on a loaded chamber because it lacks an inertia firing pin. Condition One (shown) or Condition Three should be used.

BM should not be carried with hammer down on a loaded chamber because it lacks an inertia firing pin. Condition One (shown) or Condition Three should be used.

One of the aspects of the BM that should be particularly noted is that it does not have an inertia firing pin. As a result, it should not be carried in Condition Two (loaded chamber, hammer down), as the chance of a jolt causing a discharge would be too great. Condition Three (empty chamber, loaded magazine) was the carry method for many military and police users. Condition One (loaded chamber, cocked hammer, safety on) would be the more desirable carry method, but dropping the weapon might cause a negligent discharge. As with any loaded firearm, care must be taken.

Star BM’s sights are basic, but rear notch is wide enough to allow good acquisition of front post.

Star BM’s sights are basic, but rear notch is wide enough to allow good acquisition of front post.

Sights are a rear notch and front post, but unlike some European autos from the 1970s/80s when the BM was in use, the rear notch is wide enough to allow good acquisition of the front sight. Weight is 25 ounces, but I find that the BM balances well in my hand.

On the few occasions I carried a BM in my travels, I don’t remember finding it too heavy. I remember once carrying it in a leather jacket pocket without undue sag, though I did have to be careful the hammer didn’t snag during the draw.

Aid to disassembly is takedown notch in the slide, into which the safety goes to hold open the slide for removal of the slide release/takedown lever. This has also always been a useful feature on the Browning Hi Power.

Aid to disassembly is takedown notch in the slide, into which the safety goes to hold open the slide for removal of the slide release/takedown lever. This has also always been a useful feature on the Browning Hi Power.

Speaking of the hammer, the design of the tang on the backstrap eliminates worries about hammer bite to the web of the hand. I found the safety a little stiff to apply but easy to flick off. I’m sure it will wear in. Since, as mentioned, it appears to have never been issued, it will be a pleasure to break it in.

SHOOTING THE STAR BM

Thompson found Star BM pleasant to shoot even with 9x19mm +P loads. Steel frame cushions recoil.

Thompson found Star BM pleasant to shoot even with 9x19mm +P loads. Steel frame cushions recoil.

So far, that breaking in has consisted of about 200 rounds over two shooting sessions. A friend and I wanted to shoot the BM to see how it grouped. We used mostly Black Hills 124-grain JHP loads, as they have proven quite accurate.

On both of our first groups, three shots were close together and two others were off to the left by three or four inches. The resulting groups ran 4.5 to 5 inches. They were still in the black on a bullseye target and were acceptable for an inexpensive ex-military and police weapon.

Five-inch 25-yard group fired with Black Hills 124-grain JHP. Three shots grouped well and two were thrown left. Oiling slide and barrel bushing helped and groups tightened up.

Five-inch 25-yard group fired with Black Hills 124-grain JHP. Three shots grouped well and two were thrown left. Oiling slide and barrel bushing helped and groups tightened up.

My friend suggested that the groups would probably tighten up if we disassembled the pistol and oiled the barrel to let the barrel bushing ride more smoothly. Often, the slight difference in pressure each time the pistol goes back into battery can throw shots. That proved to be the case. Later groups tightened up to just over two inches.

What is especially noteworthy about those groups is that I was also testing a brand-new top name-brand pistol touted for its accuracy and costing eight times as much as the BM. The best the other pistol could manage was 2 3/8 inches. Needless to say, we were both impressed with the Star BM.

I also did some shooting at an LE training target, engaging with double taps at ten yards. The Star BM performed well in its intended mission of engagement at typical combat ranges. On my agenda for the next range session is to try it at 50 yards.

WHO’S IT FOR?

BM handled very well in double taps from low ready at ten yards.

BM handled very well in double taps from low ready at ten yards.

Many newer shooters who have recently gotten their concealed carry licenses have little familiarity with single-action autos, so the Star BM may not be for them. But for those of us who grew up with 1911-type autos, the Star BM offers a compact self-defense pistol that chambers 9x19mm ammo, thus allowing less expensive training with the pistol.

Given the low cost of the Star BM, a case of 9x19mm ammo may be purchased for a total pistol/ammo price below that of many current 9mm pistols. As the Star BM proved accurate in my testing, firing the hundreds of extra rounds through it should make its owner quite proficient with it.

The Star BM’s low price, combined with its effectiveness, should also make it a good choice for those who keep a handgun in their vehicle but don’t want something that is too expensive for that role.

SOURCES

CENTURY INTERNATIONAL ARMS, INC.
(800) 527-1252
www.centuryarms.com

BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION
(605) 348-5150
www.black-hills.com

SPECIFICATIONS, STAR BM

TYPE Single-action, locked breech
CALIBER 9x19mm (9mm Luger)
BARREL LENGTH 3.77 inches
CAPACITY 8+1
OVERALL LENGTH 7.25 inches
HEIGHT 5.06 inches
WIDTH (at widest point) 1.23 inches
WEIGHT 2.14 pounds
SIGHTS Fixed rear notch and front post
FINISH Matte blue
PRICE About $200
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