Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"Chinese Knockoffs" of Star Pistols

A reader sent me photos of this Star pistol the other day: 

What model is it? Well, look close at the slide. It's a Star. With valid looking marks. That "STAR" is in the right size and typeface for example. But, nothing about the gun itself it is right, and certainly not Star-like. 

It turns out, there is a budding market of clones and knockoffs being sold in various war-torn countries. Syria is a key market these days for things like this. For another example, this differently-awful totally-not-an-Astra A-80. 

The A-80 is the Sig-like one. So they aren't even trying to emulate real guns, unlike the 1930s era Chinese Broomhandle Mauser and Baby Browning clones. They are just... "generic guns" from somewhere. Even has plastic molding set up, I'll note. 

That Star is likewise just, something, roll stamped to persuade un-knowing buyers that it's made by a reputable maker. I presume they pick brands that are known to the market, and there are say a lot of old surplus Stars in Syria, with a decent enough reputation to try to steal from it. 

For more on the range of cloned guns, try this Glock on for size. This has been sourced, and is from Pakistan:

They have also seen Walther P99, CZ75, CZ97 and more. Not sure where all are from, if local, Pakistani, or indeed coming in from places with larger manufacturing bases like China. 

Read a bit more about the Glock:

Saturday, August 4, 2018

M105 and M205, the Ultrastar

A key reason Americans still don't trust diesel cars is that (among other reasons) GM after the '79 oil embargo era rushed to market a diesel engine. Or rather, a "diesel engine." They were gas engines converted to diesel. But diesel is not just different fuel; it operates at much higher pressure. Once out on the road, they began performing very badly right away. 
Back in the early 1990s, a whole bunch of manufacturers suddenly made .40 S&W pistols with not much effort. The P7 and High Power in 40 were just stupid, with huge amounts of extra mass added to otherwise lovely guns. Things like the Star M31, and Daewoo service pistols simply were awful, and horribly unreliable. Don't buy a .40 caliber M31 in the rare event you find one. 
To materials, aluminum is not steel and plastic is not aluminum. Yet we see people build things all the time where the same shape is made in a different material and just doesn't work. Aluminum FAL receivers are a good example of this, but others abound. 
Handguns especially are very dynamic systems so aside from straight up strength,  the frame flex in plastic is critical to them working properly and it took some folks a while to get the gist of how to make a plastic pistol of any value. 
With that in mind, let me introduce you to the Star M205 Ultrastar
A plastic framed, single stack, closed-campath, browning lock, selective DA, decocker mid-caliber pistol. 
Except it wasn't designed to be a plastic framed gun. There was an alloy-framed M105, that got advanced enough in design it was cataloged, in the Jane's annual back then as In Production, and even was loaned to gun writers for review. This photo and the one on the page in the site are from an old European market gun magazine article, otherwise long since lost. 
But look at it! It's the same gun as the M205! 
And most interestingly, the Ultrastar was a brilliant gun. Nice size, weight, etc. and scrupulously reliable. If you find an Ultrastar on a shelf, it will be dirt cheap and you should think about buying it. 
But I have to ask, how the hell did they do that? How did a couple guys in Eibar, within about a year, make their first plastic framed handgun, by modifying nothing else, and not totally screw it up? I'd love to know. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

And now, the submachine guns

What I was really excited to see at the Royal Armories were the SMGs. Because they are very poorly discussed, even by Star back when it existed. It's not clear how the guns work, or how their features are better or worse than the competition.

I inspected three different series of guns, and a couple examples of all of them. We're going to work oldest to newest, as I did it while in the Armories, to try to get a sense of how Star evolved their designs over time.

The Si35, RU35 & TN35 sub-machine guns page is now about 25 times longer than it was before, and a lot has been made clear. So, if interested, go read it.

Far too much to summarize here, except to say: it's not even a straight blowback. This is the bolt assembly on this 1930s SMG!

Some questions remain unanswered, so I hope to sometime hear from some reader who has an SI 35 in their cabinet, or to make it to Spain and inspect the records or additional models of the gun and find the rest of the story.

Organizing my notes and cleaning up the photos takes a while, but over the next few weeks, or months, I will have more about the Z45 (which is not an MP40 at all), the Z62/63/70 series, and the Z84 which is a lot more interesting than we expected and I didn't even take it apart.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Model 30 Target

Next up in the Royal Armories tour is a target pistol. While we've all seen Model F Target configurations, I previously only knew about target versions of the service pistols.

Now, I could also surmise a lot about what they might look and work like. Target configured service pistols are, or at least were, common in Europe. I would guess not for expediency, but a shooting sport or three that allowed lots of modifications as long as it was basically the service pistol. Think of National Match rifle competitions in the US.

The Model 30 Target is actually surprising in it's lack of customization. Unlike the target variations of HK, Llama and Beretta service pistols, there is no counterweight or brake, and no custom stocks. The trigger is also not outstanding on the one I got to try out, and the safety is not especially well located, nor does it have especially positive action.

The gun as a whole is interestingly odd. Though you wouldn't know it from the right side:

Normal frame, normal stocks, normal slide and barrel. Nicer but not extravagant sights. Not even big mag bumpers.

But the left side:

Extended mag release, blocked safety lever, and a frame mounted safety! That's pretty crazy.

Read a bit more about it, and click through to see bigger versions of these photos, on the M28, 30, and 31 page.

Friday, July 6, 2018

First Royal Armories Photo - M28DA

First off, I want to show off and get feedback on the photo format. Go to the 28/30/31 page and scroll down to the end of the M28 section.

The Royal Armories normally don't let anyone publish photos, or you pay a lot. But they are trying to catch up to the modern era so my non-commercial research website is being allowed to use them free. But... I have to make some effort to make them not stolen, etc. So, avoiding annoying watermarks, I have labeled clearly, etc. What do you think. Any way to make it more secure and still readable?

As far as the gun itself... I am not sure what it is. It seems to be a normal Model 28, but it is for some reason labeled M28DA.

It may, just possibly, be a DAO version. But I was a bit stupid, and this didn't occur to me until a week later. Nor did I do a full function check, so I didn't pull the trigger or try to thumb cock it, or run the slide.

I may be able to have someone else go visit the Royal Armories and check on this, and will get back to you all if I find anything good.