A Nurse with a Gun

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Astra 400

I remember seeing the advertisements for the Astra 400 in Shot Gun News. That was a while back. Surplus M1911A1s were still on the market, and it seems like Nixon was yet to resign. Nobody back then would buy a twenty dollar pistol chambered in a funky 9mm Largo when a combat proven 45 could be had for just a bit more. The Spanish Modelo 1921 had a hard time finding a market back then. I remember examining a strange tubular type pistol at gunshows, and putting it back on the table every time. The strange surplus gun remained a gun show staple for at least half a decade.

Over the years, the prices rose from twenty bucks to over two hundred, and that was when the pistol was readily available from any dealer. A twenty dollar pistol. Yeah..... I should have bought.

While I was perusing Gun Broker I found this example....
"This weapon I think was used during the Spanish Civil War. Note the Hammer and Sickle on one side of the grips and "Viva La Repulica" on the other side of grips. Weapon still has original box, 2 boxes of ammunition and original shipping box (Shipped from Klein's Sporting Goods in Chicago)."
I don't know if the carvings are authentic or not, but the pistol is certainly interesting. It does seem strange that the cardboard box would survive with a well weathered sidearm of a South American revolutionary. Chances are the pistol was placed in the box for importation.

I doubt that I would have shot this pistol much, if at all, since the 9mm Largo ammunition is not readily available. I suppose some folks would ask what the purpose is in having a pistol you would not shoot. Well, to me it's kind of like having money you don't spend. The possibility of shooting the pistol is always there. The pistol is more interesting to hold and wonder about than currency. And for any price under $100, I would not be having any regrets.

Since I have never owned one, I still don't know much about the Astra 400, except I wish I had purchased one back then. Today these pistols usually change hands for $250 or so, a little more for well preserved examples with the box. Handguns are not getting any cheaper. If I see one today that interests me, I purchase it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I paid $200 for mine a few years back. Such an unusual pistol. Has a real art deco look to it.

Finally gathered about a 100 rounds or so of old surplus ammo and tried it out. Shot fine and without any problems at all. For a blow back operated pistol, I expected more kick than a standard 9mm, but there wasn't.

I haven't found any more ammo (well, not at a price I was willing to pay). Some day I'll get around to reloading for it. I did fire a few mags of Wally White box through it once (you're not supposed to) without any problems.

You need to check out the Astra 600. It's a 9x19 made for the Germans.


11:17 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Sounds great! I will keep my eyes open for a 600!

11:36 PM  
Blogger Bunnyman said...


I understand that you can handload 9x23 Winchester cases with 9x19mm loads to approximate 9mm Largo.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

If you look you can still aquire a M400 for $150 or so. I have 3 and a couple of M600's. The 9mm Largo was loaded by CCI for a while. I stocked up so it's not an issue for me. Fun to shoot and always an attention getter/conversation piece. Well made piece of history.

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

You can still find the M400 for $150 or so from time to time. Passed on one a couple of months ago as I already have 2 and a M1921 to say nothing of a couple of M600's in the safe. CCI loaded the Largo in their Blazer line for a while. I stocked up on that and surplus when I had money. Great fun to shoot and always an attention getter on the range.

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not too long ago CCI Blazer 9mm Largo ammo was available. Is the Largo 9X21 or 9X23? Brass is available to the reloader. Fun to shoot though it does tend to sling brass far and wide.

2:21 AM  
Anonymous Brent Crude said...

I think Fiocchi manufacture most of the old European rounds.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an Astra 600

For a blowback pistol, I was amazed at the complexity of construction and level of machining.

When you get your hands on one, dissassemble so you can appreciate the milled interior. That is if you can figure out how to take it apart.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous jhisaac1 said...

Thanks for this post. I think you've solved a mystery for me. I have always wondered what kind of pistol the Alliance Agent in the first episode of Firefly was using. It is a strange looking, tubular pistol. It looks a lot like an Astra.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Andy said...

That particular one could very well be a Spanish Civil war relic. Don't know about the box, but it's unlikely it would have gone through Latin America, more likely it came back with an American fighter from the Abraham Lincoln brigade or one of the other Intl. Brigades.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Kristopher said...

I used to own one.

The Astra 400 headspaces on the extractor ... you can get away with firing all sorts of calibers in it.

Mine would also shoot .38 super and .38 ACP. I could shoot 9mm and .380 ACP in it, but there were always some feeding issues.

Not good practice, but one you could get away with on this pistol.

The chamber pressure for .38 ACP is close enough to 9mm Largo to be safe, IMO.

Don't try this silliness with an Astra 600, it headspaces normally, on the far end of the chamber.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous George said...

9mm Largo ammo is easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive. You just have to decide whether you want to deal with Corrosive ammo or Non-Corrosive. Frankly I have never had a problem with shooting Corrosive ammo as I tend to clean my firearms relatively promptly after a session.


Corrosive is anywhere from .15 to .20 a round. Non-corrosive is .16 to .25 a round. This all depends on whether you buy by the box or case. This is a GREAT price and commercial 9mm P ammo today is usually more pricey.


6:51 PM  
Blogger Cybrludite said...

If you're a sci-fi fan, you might recognize the Astra as being the first piece the undercover Fed pulls in the pilot episode of "Firefly". Yup, these are so well made that a lawman will be using one 600 years from now...i

12:24 AM  

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