What happened to the Spanish gunmakers?


September 6, 2009, 10:09 PM
I was looking at some of the Star and Astra C&R handguns available and it made me wonder whatever happened to these companies. To the best of my knowledge the Spanish gun makers such as Star and Astra were decent size firearms producers. It seems that the product they put out was reasonably good. What made them go the way of the dodo?

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September 6, 2009, 10:50 PM
I think Llama was spanish too. Don't know the answer to your question.

Added: Just looked up Llama in the Blue Book. They went bankrupt in 1992. Reopened under the name Fabrinor SAL in 2000. Closed in 2006.

Astra went out of business after trying to get the Star patents in July 1998 after several re-naming's which I assume means new ownership. All remaining inventory was sold off in 1999.

Star went out of business in June 1997.

September 6, 2009, 10:54 PM
did spain crack down on gun laws?

September 7, 2009, 02:18 AM
Recently there was an article in the Shotgun News on Spanish pistols. It made is sound as though the Spanish manufacturers, particularly Star, were marginally profitable, living on government orders, then the Spanish army stopped buying Star guns, switching to something else, and they simply ran out of cash.

Frankly, from what I have observed of the gun world, I think that they hadn't had much interest in inovation since the nineteen twenties, escept for a few new Star designs in the early nineties, so they fell behind the curve when the plastic pistols emerged. Perhaps they should have had a more active design team.

September 7, 2009, 03:02 AM
I would think that before the death of General Franco in 1976, a lot of left-wing European countries didn't want to do business with Spain. During the Eisenhower administration, the US sold weapons to Spain which was controversial on the continent. Spain had to make a lot of its own arms and do without a lot of modern weapon systems. When the Generalissimo passed away, Spain joined NATO and started buying European stuff, in particular a lot of German arms. When smaller countries join NATO, a lot of their local arms companies take a hit because they are virtually forced to buy stuff from England, Germany and the US. Its a bit of a scam really and probably one of the big reasons American and EU defense contractors are so hot for totally unnecessary NATO expansion.

September 7, 2009, 05:50 AM
Every Astra I've seen (unlike many dubious Spanish pistols) were on par with US gunmakers in fit and finish.

Sav .250
September 7, 2009, 07:12 AM
Google them. Should be able to find information.

September 7, 2009, 07:17 AM
They may not make guns anymore, but they still make good Paella and Sangria.

September 7, 2009, 08:16 AM
It is unfortunate that only the large companies seem to stay a float. These small companies made a good and less expensive alternative. :cool:

September 7, 2009, 08:20 AM
I know Colt used to have their Junior pistol made by Astra until passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act. Colt viewed it as sort of a saturday night special and dropped it. That is so typical of Colt in the post 1950 time frame.

September 7, 2009, 09:12 AM
I know Colt used to have their Junior pistol made by Astra until passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act. Colt viewed it as sort of a saturday night special and dropped it. That is so typical of Colt in the post 1950 time frame.

You mean like S&W and Ruger, they decided they could not beat the anti-2A gang and caved?

September 7, 2009, 09:19 AM
Here's one that's still doing well:

Aguirre y Aranzabel



I think they're featured in both Cabela's and LL Bean's catalogs.


September 7, 2009, 01:49 PM
Psst, Colt Junior was made through 1973. The .25 was waning in popularity and that's why Colt dropped it.

September 7, 2009, 03:18 PM
Colt Junior: That is correct, but not in Spain after 1968 as I recall. It was not a bad little pocket pistol. Colt could probably sell a few these days.

September 7, 2009, 03:18 PM
I agree about the Astra Colt Jr. I bought one because I saw it as the natural little brother to my 1911 and 1903.


It wasn't badly made, it was just underpowered, inaccurate, and with a safety that was too small to be safe. It really had no use and I sold it with no regrets.


Frank Ettin
September 7, 2009, 03:18 PM
The Spanish have made, and still do, excellent break action shotguns. (The top gun makers are actually Basque, I believe.) The best ones are handmade. I have a Grulla SxS proofed in 1953 that has helped me put quite a few pheasant on the table.

September 7, 2009, 03:42 PM
Nothing wrong with the Basque/Spanish shotgun makers - they're all doing as well as any business in this economy

September 7, 2009, 03:55 PM
Augusto Unceta-Barrenechea, the last successful manager and owner of Astra, was killed by ETA terrorists in 1977.

After Astra went out of business, it was merged with STAR. This company began making weapons as ASTAR (Astra/Star = ASTAR). Astra went out of business at the same time as STAR. Then Astar went out of business.



September 7, 2009, 04:42 PM
CVA black powder rifles are made in Spain. See video:


September 9, 2009, 04:38 AM
The quality of the Astra, Llama and Star products were a big hit/miss in my experience. I had one Astra 44 mag that I wish I never traded. The Llama camming device for their large frame revolvers was very innovative. The Star PD 45 ACP was way ahead of it's time. I think the problem with quality differences from piece to piece really hit their marketability in the US which finished them off in the commercial market.

September 9, 2009, 05:33 AM
I have an astra a70 9mm, that is a great little 9. It shoots reasonably accurate, does not jam and cost less than 300 new.

September 9, 2009, 06:34 AM
news from Switzerland ;)

Astra Arms SA
(Sitz: Sion)

SHAB-Nr.: 170 - 03.09.2008

Grund: Handelsregister (Mutationen)
- Eingetragene Personen

Astra Arms SA, à Sion, CH-626.3.011.114-6, société anonyme (FOSC no 145 du 30. 07. 2007, p. 18, publ. 4047890). Inscription ou modification de personne: NOFIVAL SA, à Martigny (CH-621.3.002.011-3), organe de révision [précédemment: Nofida Nouvelle Fiduciaire SA, à Martigny].

Tagebuch Nr. 1466 vom 28.08.2008

Astra Arms S.A. - Switzerland
In the year 2008, 100 years after the foundation of Esperanza y Unceta (Astra Unceta y Cía), a Swiss firearms manufacturing company, founded by the Italian entrepreneur Massimo Garbarino and located in the city of Sion, has adopted the name Astra Arms S.A. and took over the rights on the Astra trademark.[2] Although the company website is yet "Under Construction" as for early April 2009, official company literature states that Astra Arms S.A. will "manufacture handguns and rifles for self-defence, target shooting, professional training and law enforcement"; the company registration available on the Internet, states its activities as "Production, commerce, maintenance and reparation of firearms of all sorts and ammunitions, as well as of electronic, mechanical and other optical accessories".[3] According to sources gathered by Italian gun magazines at the 2008 EXA arms expo (Brescia, Italy, April 12-15, 2008), Astra Arms S.A. will establish a manufacturing line for high level 1911 and a manufacturing line for AR-15 rifles, StG-15 & StG-4, to be distributed on the European, Asian, South American and African market so to circumvent American regulations currently requiring the issue of an End user certificate for every single firearm of that kind that is exported from the Country, even when manufactured for the civilian market.

Site en construction :


September 9, 2009, 02:16 PM
I think that the main reason why Spanish pistol makers went away is that their country stopped supporting them. When Franco was in power, he set-up severe laws regarding licensing and ownership of firearms and these laws remain to this day. While shotgunning and .22lr hunting is still popular, pistols outside of organized competition is not accessible to the average Spaniard.

September 9, 2009, 07:21 PM
There were a number of Spanish makers of motorcycles up into the 70's. Several were highly regarded and well made machines. For reasons I dont know, they all faded away. Perhaps govt protectionist policies, coupled with the onslaught of the Japanese brands. Same thing happened to all the British makers.

September 9, 2009, 08:18 PM
Gun laws are hard on gun companies. When your market is limited by gun laws, then there is less profit to be made.

When the major market is LEO and the military you depend on contracts, that while big and lucrative at the moment, can cease abruptly at any moment. After a company has grown large that sudden loss of most revenue results in bankruptcy.

Europe in general has come to have many firearm restrictions that reduce the market. There is still a market for some shotguns, and a smaller market for various restricted items. But what creates a thriving vibrant market full of large and small competitors has been killed in most of Europe.
You need a very large number of civilian customers willing to buy many unique items on a regular basis to support such a market.

There is still some companies, and many that mass produce military and LEO arms, but far fewer of the unique companies that produced a large variety of civilian arms.
The market for SxS shotguns still allowed by the government is only so large. There is only a limited number of civilians willing to go through the complex lengthy processes for various other types of arms.

Just as various crazy laws have an impact though to a much lesser extent in the USA. If a manufacturer makes arms not legal in California, New York, or elsewhere they just cut out a significant portion of thier potential market. Now imagine every single state had such ridiculous laws, but all slightly different, with different random banned characteristics, exceptions, licenses, fees, etc
The market would be much more difficult to remain a thriving gun manufacturer in. Outside of LEO and military sales it would be a complex and changing web.

Plus with such restrictions, like requirements to belong to a club for X number of months to acquire the next gradual license in the tier system, it requires too much time, energy and investment for the casual citizen. Further reducing the families which have grown up with firearms, and the normalcy of such firearms. Which further reduces the number of customers in the next generation.
So such a market is tough. Some companies can still do it, and some do it well. But it is not as easy as it was when mom and pop gunshops that gained reputations for quality and fine design could exist selling to regular citizens.
Its no longer like opening up a small store selling food or fashion accessories. And a big company with a team of lawyers to do constant research can do it much better than a small store hand crafting fine arms one at a time to a dwindling market of customers.

September 10, 2009, 08:10 PM

That 1911 is attempting to seduce me,-- I find it's behavior to be entirely inappropriate!

But I do not understand the last line of the article which you quoted. They will not export their arms to the U.S.A.? Is this seduction a terrible tease? a dreaded delusion? :(

September 10, 2009, 08:22 PM
Astra Arms S.A. will establish a manufacturing line for high level 1911 and a manufacturing line for AR-15 rifles, StG-15 & StG-4, to be distributed on the European, Asian, South American and African market so to circumvent American regulations currently requiring the issue of an End user certificate for every single firearm of that kind that is exported from the Country, even when manufactured for the civilian market.

Good for them. It is funny how the USA has such firearm freedoms within the country, yet is one of the largest opponents of those freedoms abroad around the world.
Worldwide Gun Control is pushed by the Unite States very strongly.
Through the UN, and even domestic legislation like ITAR abused to severely limit arms traffic.
(Abused because ITAR was originally for classified and sensitive materials, certainly not regular small arms using 100+ year old technology known to the world.)

I think many US gun owners are unaware just how active a role in world wide gun control outside of US borders the US government takes.

September 11, 2009, 04:31 PM
Another thing is many US import laws.

The United States with it gun freedoms for citizens is the largest market in the world. But in 1968 the GCA severely limited foreign firearm makers.
The point system requirement for handgun imports killed off several small companies in Europe and Italy.
They had lost the largest market in the world, and could not sell models with the same exact features (or lack of) as American firearm manufacturers not subject to those import laws could produce and sell to the market.

So when the profit margin is minimal, and your competitor can make a firearm at a price point without features required from you by law, you simply cannot compete.

For example the Ruger LCP, or Kel-Tec P3AT pocket size guns in .380 calibers have been very big sellers in portions of the US.
Yet they would be illegal by far for import to the United States. They would be so low on the point system as to have no hope of being made to comply.
So no foreign manufacturer can compete with that segment of the market.

Consider even many Glocks are illegal for import in the condition they are sold from the store. They have to be imported with features that are removed by the distributor just to be imported. Parts which are then shipped back overseas to be used with the next batch. Yet even with all this some models barely meet the minimum 75 point requirement, and some like the .380 models still do not.
A big company can do this, a small company may not. A smaller company simply would be unable to sell those guns in the US, the biggest market for guns.


Changes and features made to Glocks to comply with the BATF rules:
- all models are imported with a cheap click-adjustable rear sight that is replaced at the factory with the stock sight
That cheap target sight adds 10 points to import, and with even the Glock 17 (many models score worse) at just 80 import points, that lack of those 10 points would remove all Glocks from legal import (though the non compact models could likely add other features to barely meet import again if necessary., the compact and subcompact models would be illegal.)

So in the 1970-80s many that relied on the US market went out of business.

Foreigners seeking to export to the US market need to add extra features that may be both undesirable to the market (longer barrels, heavier guns), and increase the cost of manufacture per firearm (adjustable target sights, target triggers, various safeties etc.)
Domestic firearm producers do not.
Domestic producers can therefore sell cheaper with a higher profit margin, or sell products completely illegal for foreign companies to import.
For example a foreign company can not even export a snub nose revolver to the US, because there is a minimum of 3" required even if they have enough points from other features. So the entire under 3" barrel revolver market has been limited to US domestic Gun manufacturers.

To compete with the domestic US market a foreign company needs to have such a massive profit advantage over US companies before import that even after all the extra hassle they are still at an advantage.
A small family gun maker would already have trouble competing with big US companies without those import limitations, but add in those extras and they simply cannot compete.

There is still a few big names from Italy, but that is what happened to many of the smaller ones.

Here is a list of limitations of foreign manufacturers on just handguns (there is separate regulations and restrictions on foreign long guns like 922R compliance that also do not apply to domestic firearms) that does not exist for domestic US gun makers:



1. The pistol must have a positive manually operated safety device.
2. The combined length and height must not be less than 10" with
the neight (right angle measurement to barrel without magazine
or extension) being at least 4" and the length being at least 6".

Individual Characteristics Point value

Overall Length
For each 1/4" over 6" 1 pt

Frame Construction
Investment case or forged steel 15
Investment case or forged HTS alloy 20

Weapon Weight w/Magazine (unloaded)
Per ounce 1

.22 short and .25 auto 0
.22 LR and 7.65mm to .380 auto 3
9mm parabellum and over 10

Safety Features
Locked breech mechanism 5
Loaded Chamber Indicator 5
Grip Safety 3
Magazine Safety 5
Firing Pin Block or Lock 10

Miscellaneous Equipment
External Hammer 2
Double Action 10
Drift Adjustable Target Sight 5
Click Adjustable Target Sight 10
Target Grips 5
Target Trigger 2

Qualifying score is 75 points




1. Must pass safety test.
2. Must have overall frame (with conventional grips) length (not diagonal)
of 4 1/2" minimum.
3. Must have a barrel length of at least 3"

Individual Characteristics

Barrel Length (Muzzle to Cylinder Face)
Less than 4" 0
For each 1/4" over 4" 1/2

Frame Construction
Investment Cast or Forged Steel 15
Investment Cast or Forged HTS Alloy 20

Weapon Weight (Unloaded)
Per ounce 1

.22 short to .25 acp 0
.22 LR and .30 to .38 S&W 3
.38 Special 4
.357 mag and over 5

Miscellaneous Equipment
Adjustable Target Sights 5
(drift or click)

Target Grips 5
Target Hammer and Target Trigger 5

Safety Test

A Double Action Revolver must have a safety feature which automatically
(or in a Single Action Revolver by manual operation) causes the hammer to
retract to a point where the firing pin does not rest upon the primer of
the cartridge. The safety device must withstand the impact of a weight
equal to the weight of the revolver dropping from a distance of 36" in a
line parallel to the barrel upon the rear of the hammer spur, a total of
5 times.

Qualifying score is 45 points.

September 22, 2009, 11:53 PM
Well, how many US manufacturers really want to compete with foreign companies, and want the '68 GCA taken away? Not many.

I'd love to see more guns out on the shelf from everywhere to choose from. But, I doubt we'll see protectionism in instances like this taken away any time soon.

September 23, 2009, 09:05 PM
Spanish handgun makers are kind of like Charter Arms and Taurus, when they do a good job their guns are the equal of any quality maker like S&W. But qc with these brands tends to be poor and the likelyhood of getting a poor example is high.

I like and casually collect Spanish handguns and I'm sad that Star,Llama and Astra are out of business.

I also like Llama revolvers and have 2 or them. They are fairly uncommon locally.

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