A Critical Look at the Star Model BM


Produced by Star Bonifacio Escheverria in Spain, this single-stack 9x19mm single-action pistol remains a fairly popular handgun for those seeking inexpensive firearms that are not cheap.  If a bit heavy by today's standards, it is compact and lends itself nicely to concealed carry.


These pistols are no longer manufactured and the company that produced them no longer exists in the same form.  It has merged with another Spanish arms maker and it is important to note that no new parts are being produced.  Parts replacement will only get more difficult with each passing year.  Still, at about $150 to $175 for a like-new pistol, they are purchased pretty quickly when a newly found batch is imported into the US.


The Star Model BM is an all-steel single-action semiautomatic that resembles the 1911 pattern pistol. Some features are shared but it is not a clone.  Parts do not interchange and internal systems are quite different.  The Model BM shown has had the hammer spur bobbed to eliminate hammer bite and the magazine disconnect has been removed.  This is very easily done on the Model BM.


There is nothing fancy about this gun, but it is solidly built and a reasonably good performer, particularly for the price. They come throated from the factory and feed many JHP's well, but not necessarily all.




Weight: 2.14 lbs.

Length (from muzzle to rear of butt): 7.25"

Height (from bottom of grip to top of rear sight): 5.063"

Slide Width: 0.84"

Frame Width: 0.70"

Width across grips: 1.23"

Frame: steel

Grips: checkered brown plastic (The plastic is not "stiff" but somewhat malleable.)

Action: single-action w/locked breech

Barrel: 3.77" long w/1:10 twist, one locking lug and swinging link

Finish: matte blue (I've heard that some were available in an electroless nickle, but have not seen one.)

Full-length guide rod: yes, w/captive recoil spring

Removable barrel bushing: yes

Magazine disconnect: yes

Sights: fixed (notched rear blade and serrated front ramp, plain black on black)

Extractor: external, pivoting

Magazine Capacity: 8

Beveled magazine well: yes

Trigger: serrated, pivoting



The rear sight on the Model BM is nothing fancy, but is quite usable as it comes. I do find the rear notch just a small bit shallow for my tastes, but not enough to alter it. Surprisingly, these sights are not at all "slow" to be picked up at speed.


Here is the slide assembly.  There are definite similarities to the 1911 visible in the external features of the gun and with the removable bushing as well as the swinging link, but there are also considerable differences between the two designs. The link is in the proper position for reassembly on the Star but would not be on a true 1911.


The Model BM comes throated from the factory and the barrel and feed ramp design is the same as on the 1911. On the right we see that while case support is adequate on the Model BM, the 9mm case is by no means fully supported. While I do not believe that the Model BM is up to a constant diet of hot handloads or +P ammunition, I have fired both in this pistol without any undue case swelling or signs of a pending case failure due to lack of chamber support.


Like the 1911, the Star using a Browning style lock up as is evidenced by the swinging link and locking lug on the barrel along with the removable barrel bushing.  The Star BM uses a FLGR with a captive recoil spring.  While less like to lose a spring under field conditions, it is also more difficult to change recoil springs with this arrangement.


Externally the Star mimics the 1911.  There are similarities, but there are also significant differences.  For one there is no grip safety.  For another, the thumb safety on the Star does not block the sear as on the 1911; it cams the hammer up and rearward so that it is not in engagement.  With the thumb safety engaged on a 1911, if the trigger is pressed, resistance can be felt.  With the Star, the trigger moves through its full arc with the thumb safety engaged; it simply cannot release the hammer, as the sear is no longer in contact with it! With the Star hammer at full-cock one can see the hammer move slightly rearward when the thumb safety is engaged. The thumb safety and slide release lever on the 1911 are both under spring tension via the plunger retained by the external plunger tube.  This is not true on the Star.  There is a spring-loaded plunger within the slide stop lever itself and another beneath the thumb safety. (When the BM is being detail-stripped the plunger beneath the safety is often lost, as it will leave the frame when the safety is moved upward enough to free it.)



Here you can see the self-contained plunger on the slide stop lever (left) and the thumb safety in "on" position on the Model BM.  Note that the grip extends nearly to the bottom of the slide and that there is no plunger tube as on the 1911.


The Star uses a pivoting external claw extractor ala Browning Hi Power and other semiautomatics including some of the newer 1911 type pistols, but the disconnector on the Star is in the a slide rail groove of the frame, positioned similarly to the old High Standard .22 pistols.  The trigger pivots on the Star as opposed to the straight rearward movement of the 1911. Where the 1911 series of handguns use a retaining plate to contain the firing pin and spring, the Model BM has a vertical steel pin beneath the rear sight.  This is problematical when wanting to remove the pin for cleaning.


Disassembly is more like the Browning Hi Power than the 1911.  The slide is locked back by engaging a notch with the thumb safety.  With the magazine removed, the slide assembly can be slid off the front of the frame.  The recoil spring and guide rod are removed toward the rear.  When done, the bushing can be turned and removed followed by taking the barrel from the slide.


The Star Model BM has a magazine well that is beveled from the factory and its 8-shot magazines have a rounded follower. Note the flat at the forward end of the follower that engages the slide release lever.  I have seen very few problems with either premature slide lock or the slide failing to lock open after the last shot with the Star pistols.


There can be little doubt that the Model BM as well as its predecessor, the Model B, have been strongly influenced by Mr. Browning's 1911 design, but there are enough differences that while they may be "related", I do not consider them clones.


Strong & Weak Points: For the traditionalist the Star presents an inexpensive 9mm pistol constructed completely of forged steel parts as it precedes the age of MIM.  It offers classic single-action and is not too dissimilar looking to the abbreviated 1911's like the Commander. The gun is pretty accurate and in my experiences with perhaps half a dozen over the years, reliable…with many different JHP designs but not necessarily all. The gun shown absolutely will not feed Remington Golden Sabers, but eats up the often hesitant to feed Corbon 115-gr. JHP!


While I have shot sparing amounts of warmer loads in the BM, I really do not think it is wise to shoot more than is required for function testing for carry loads. I have no doubt that the gun will not withstand an extremely heavy shooting schedule for years on end. Only certain areas of the slide are heat-treated and this is often visible in slightly purplish discoloration. So while this may not be the gun for an up and coming IPSC competitor, it may still be a viable choice for the fellow wanting to shoot fifty to a hundred rounds of standard pressure ammunition per month.  (Remember that we're speaking of a very decent pistol, but one that can usually be had for less than two hundred dollars. Unlike the heavily-constructed Makarov, this one shoots the high pressure 9x19mm, a considerably more powerful cartridge.)


The little gun is a peach for concealed carry as it's extremely flat. The rear tang is as wide as the frame and for all practical purposes is the equivalent to a wide 1911 grip safety that angles downward. The spur hammer will bite fleshy hands (like mine) but the spur can be bobbed and reshaped to prevent this. (I removed about 3/16" on mine and it solved the problem with no loss in reliable ignition.)


Trigger pulls have been consistently good on the Model BM pistols I've owned and I would estimate them at about 5 pounds and clean breaking.  While this might not be ideal for a match-grade target gun, it is about right for most of us, particularly for a defensive handgun.


While the pistols are not too difficult to detail strip, I do not find them as easy as the true 1911.  Fortunately there is little need to do this with the Model BM. Removal of the firing pin and spring are more difficult with this pistol as the rear sight has to be moved enough to remove the vertical steel pin beneath it that retains the firing pin. The firing pin is notched and the pin rides within the notch.  When the pistol is fired the firing pin's forward motion is limited by the cartridge primer. The rear of the firing pin notch does not contact the retaining pin.  If the BM is dry-fired, this is not the case.  The firing pin is able to move considerably farther forward and the rear of the firing pin notch slams into the retaining pin.  Dry-firing the Star Model BM (or Model B, A, P, and S) is not recommended as a broken firing pin will inevitably result. Use snap caps or once-fired cases for this. (As hard as finding spare parts is becoming we do not want to unnecessarily strain or break any of them.)


I have seen firing pin length vary enough in the Model BM pistols that some do have inertial pins while others do not.  An inertial firing pin does not touch the primer with the hammer down (Condition Two) and resting against it.  In other words, the firing pin is shorter than the firing pin channel and flies forward enough to fire the primer when struck by the hammer. A blow to the hammer resting on an inertial firing pin will not fire the chambered round. On a non-inertial firing pin (one that is longer than the channel), it will.  To see which a particular Model BM has, take a flat and straight object and press the rear of the firing pin flush against the slide containing it.  If the pin does not protrude at the breechface, it is inertial. If it does, it is not. While I do not subscribe to Condition Two carry, it should never be done with any pistol not having an inertial firing pin…including the Model BM. A blow to the hammer could cause the pistol to fire.


It's been my observation that with most ammunition, these pistols are capable of group around 3 to 3 1/2" at 25 yards.  For most folks this is sufficient mechanical accuracy.  Sights are normally pretty well "on" from the box, but often as not, I find them about 1 1/2 to 2" high at 15 yards. Using a 6 o' clock hold normally drops the shots inside the typical bullseye target at that range and the sights are usually close enough for most combat targets, particularly at the distances most deadly force scenarios play out.  The Model BM is not going to be as accurate as those 9mm pistols costing more, but it is usually better than might initially be expected.


Slide-to-frame fit is satisfactory with surprisingly little vertical or horizontal movement.  I've seen some examples in which there is no perceptible barrel-to-slide movement.  My gun has a slight amount of vertical play in this regard.


If a person opts to remove the magazine "safety" he will find that magazines drop free when the release is pressed. Removal is quite easy.  Remove the grips and tap out the hollow cylinder at the bottom that is attached to the long flat metal piece that runs upward and is riding in a cutout in the frame.  It is easily replaced if desired.


The external extractor normally gets a healthy "bite" of the case rim and ejection is normally both positive and fairly uniform.


The external extractor on the Model BM is easily removed for cleaning by removing the pin on which it rotates.  There is a spring beneath the rear of this piece.  You can see this pin's hole at the top of the slide about midway down the length of the extractor.


This factory Hornady 115-gr. XTP is held in place by the tension of the extractor.


I don't recall seeing any major holster makers offering designs specifically for the Model BM, but one can usually find a holster that will work or have an individual make a holster for the gun.  I've had the best luck with the belt slide type holsters for concealed carry, but other inexpensive "generic" type holsters could certainly be used.


With 8 rounds available in the magazine and one chambered, the Model BM can deliver 9 round of 9mm before running dry. The holster shown is the Galco Y7.


Firing Observations: Felt recoil is light in this heavy-for-size pistol but there is a tendency toward muzzle flip.  It is still very controllable even with hot loads. The sight picture is not the world's best in my opinion, but it is pretty decent and easy to obtain in both slow and rapid-fire drills.


For the most part the Model BM has proven reliable with quite a variation in ammunition.  The gun seems more inclined to balk with longer than normal cartridges than shorter!  Usually the reverse is true.  As mentioned earlier, this pistol absolutely refuses to feed Golden Sabers.  It works fine with Federal 115-gr. JHP, Federal 124-gr. Nyclad HP, Remington 115-gr. JHP +P, Winchester 115-gr. STHP, Winchester USA 115-gr. JHP, Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P, and Hornady 115-gr. XTP's.


I believe it is say to expect that if the shooter does his part, the gun is capable of at least groups in the 3 1/2" range at 25 yards and maybe less with loads the particular Model BM "likes."  I've not really searched for an accuracy load in this pistol so I do not know what the absolute best grouping load is.  I can say that I've been more than pleased with Federal 124-gr. Nyclad HP ammunition, but this standard pressure load is no longer being sold to the general public.


The conventional rifling in the Model BM barrel does allow for the safe use of cast bullets.


Velocities generally run about 30 to 60 ft/sec less than other guns having barrel lengths in the more common 4" length. I have not found the Model BM to match the velocities of the Glock 26's 3.46" tube. Whether or not this is due to the Glock's polygonal rifling or dimensional differences I cannot say.


Let's take a look at the Model BM's average velocities compared to the Glock 26. Average velocities are based on 10 shots fired 10' from the chronograph screens and velocities are in ft/sec.



Velocities of  Star Model BM vs. Glock 26



Glock 26

Star Model BM

Winchester USA 115-gr. USA FMJ



Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ



Federal 115-gr. JHP



Federal 124-gr. Nyclad HP



Hornady 124-gr. CQ Tap (XTP)



Winchester 127-gr. +P+ JHP



Note that the nylon coated Nyclad actually did better in the conventional rifling of the Star than from the Glock. The jacketed bullets gave higher velocity from the Glock.


Was I going to carry the Star for protection I would test it and each magazine to potentially be used for reliability with my chosen load. In this pistol, I might very well go with a standard velocity load as some very good ones now exist.  If reliable, I would suggest Speer 124-gr. Gold Dots.  These are available in both standard and +P loads. If one opts for the "heavy bullet" approach, the same company offers a 147-gr. standard velocity load.  Winchester's 147-gr. law enforcement only Ranger load is also standard pressure and a very consistent performer. One might also check into Winchester's USA 115-gr. standard pressure JHP's. Though I don't use my little Star for protection anymore, I'd probably just load it back up with Federal Nyclads as they do work and performance has been satisfactory…at least until I could test the Gold Dots for reliability in my particular example.



Speer Gold Dots are available in standard pressure in both 124-gr. (left) and 147-gr. loads.  Either should be a decent performer from the Model BM assuming reliability.


The Star Model BM is a good 9mm and well worth the usual price of under $200 if in new or like new condition.  Due to the spare parts problem, I recommend these guns only if the buyer is aware of this problem.  The guns can be very good performers for many of us but are not the best vehicle for digesting extreme amounts of ammo, particularly +P.


Conclusion: I have a long-time fondness for Star handguns and though it has not diminished, it is tempered by the sad fact that before long, spare parts will be almost nonexistent and prices will skyrocket. Should a person opt to own one of these guns, I suggest constantly keeping one's orbs peeled for spare parts and buying them when found. Of particular interest would be firing pins and extractors.


Though not fragile or exceptionally prone to breakage, these are not guns for extremely heavy use as say a thousand rounds per month and I strongly counsel using mostly standard pressure ammo.  If you choose to use +P, I'd shoot enough to make sure the gun is capable of handling it and reliable and shoot but modest amounts thereafter.


It's been said that the Star single-action pistols of this genre have their own "gracefulness" and I find them very pleasing to own and shoot, but do so with the understanding that breaking a part can be a major problem. I consider it a sad thing that they are no longer in production.




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