This sur­plus 9mm from Cen­tury Arms is not only eco­nom­i­cal; it’s a great per­former, too. By Steven Paul Bar­low


Not all good things come shiny and new. When it comes to a de­fen­sive hand­gun, a lit­tle hol­ster wear and a cou­ple of small scratches mean lit­tle, even if they are some­one else’s hol­ster wear and small scratches on your “new” gun.

I ap­pre­ci­ate a good value. So, af­ter spend­ing some time re­cently with a sur­plus Star BM 9mm pis­tol from Cen­tury Arms, I was en­cour­aged to find that good used guns are still avail­able for what most peo­ple would con­sider an af­ford­able price—un­der $300.

That’s im­por­tant whether you’re on a tight bud­get or sim­ply thrifty by na­ture or good habit. No one should be priced out of be­ing able to de­fend his or her own life. I was pleased with the Star BM as soon as I lifted it from its box.


And that lit­tle card­board box was an orig­i­nal box for that gun. Also in­side were a clean­ing rod, the in­struc­tion man­ual—in Span­ish—and a sin­gle magazine. Cen­tury Arms has more mag­a­zines avail­able and I got a cou­ple more.

The gun felt good in my hands, solid. It should. It fea­tured a blued steel slide and frame that gave it a com­fort­able heft (nearly 2 pounds) de­spite its over­all com­pact size. There was a slight bit of wear to the

fin­ish. That was to be ex­pected of a gun that was prob­a­bly 40 years old. But it showed no signs of abuse or ne­glect.

The bore looked good. The check­ered plas­tic grips were in good shape.

The gun seemed to point nat­u­rally, and when I dry-fired it, I found the trig­ger pull to be ex­cel­lent. It broke cleanly af­ter a short bit of take-up. I mea­sured the pull later at an even 3 pounds. I wouldn’t want it any lighter on a de­fen­sive pis­tol. The safety op­er­ated smoothly and clicked into place pos­i­tively. The sights con­sisted of a plain black rear sight blade dove­tailed into the slide and a small in­te­gral black metal front sight.

It was ob­vi­ous this hand­gun was a not-too-dis­tant de­scen­dant of a more fa­mous de­sign.


Star Boni­fa­cio Echev­er­ria, S.A. of Spain man­u­fac­tured more than 200,000 BM pis­tols over a 20-year pe­riod be­tween


1972 and 1992. The com­pany went out of busi­ness in 1997.

There’s no mis­tak­ing this pis­tol’s strong re­sem­blance to the 1911 and it does bor­row many of that gun’s de­sign fea­tures. It is, af­ter all, a sin­gle-action, ex­ter­nal-ham­mer semi-auto with a frame-mounted man­ual thumb safety, a bar­rel link, re­mov­able bar­rel bush­ing and sin­gle col­umn magazine.

There are nu­mer­ous dif­fer­ences, how­ever. First, and most ob­vi­ously, the Star is cham­bered in 9mm Para­bel­lum as op­posed to the stan­dard .45 ACP of the orig­i­nal 1911. The Star BM has no grip safety and the thumb safety dis­en­gages the sear in­stead of block­ing it as on the 1911. An­other dif­fer­ence is the con­tour of the back strap.

The Star has a magazine dis­con­nect safety, too, sim­i­lar not to a 1911, but to a Brown­ing Hi-Power. The Star has a large ex­ter­nal ex­trac­tor, a fea­ture seen on only a hand­ful of mod­ern 1911s. Faith­ful 1911 pis­tols have an in­ter­nal ex­trac­tor. The Star has a full-length guide rod, too, and while some 1911s now fea­ture that as well, it wasn’t part of the orig­i­nal de­sign. There is no in­ter­nal fir­ing pin block.


An­other dif­fer­ence be­tween the Star and the 1911 is the takedown pro­ce­dure. The Star has a takedown notch on the slide. With an empty gun, you pull the slide back and move the thumb safety into that notch to lock the slide. That en­ables you to re­move the slide stop re­lease lever. Then, while hold­ing onto the slide, which is still un­der some spring pres­sure, you move the safety off and re­move the slide. From there, you can re­move the re­coil spring and guide rod, bar­rel bush­ing and bar­rel.


I fired a va­ri­ety of 9mm ammo through the Star pis­tol, from 115- and 124-grain full metal jacket prac­tice ammo, to heavy Fed­eral HST 150-grain jack­eted hol­low­points and even some light-for-cal­iber +P Te­los ammo with 92-grain all-cop­per petaled hol­low­point bul­lets. The Star fed them all, ejected the emp­ties with force and the slide locked back af­ter the last shot with all of my mag­a­zines.


The ex­cel­lent trig­ger made shoot­ing this pis­tol an ab­so­lute plea­sure. Re­coil was mild. I did some ac­cu­racy test­ing from the bench at 25 yards, where most three-shot groups mea­sured about 2 inches plus or mi­nus a bit.

I find my­self shoot­ing from the bench less and less. It be­comes not so much a true test of a de­fen­sive pis­tol as a test of pa­tience and skill in sit­ting still long enough.

From the bench, I want to see two things. First, I want to see if the gun will put them in ap­prox­i­mately the same spot on the tar­get each time if I do things cor­rectly. Next, I want to see the point of im­pact for a par­tic­u­lar load. I don’t need to ex­pend a lot of ammo to find that out. That ammo is bet­ter fired in de­fen­sive drills. With the Star, I found af­ter just a few shots that this was go­ing to be an ac­cu­rate pis­tol. The point of im­pact was spot on as far as windage, but the holes in the tar­get were ap­pear­ing about 5 inches high consistently. The so­lu­tion would be a higher front sight, more dif­fi­cult be­cause the ex­ist­ing front sight isn’t dove­tailed in place. Given my propen­sity to break any­thing I try to fix, it be­comes a job for a gun­smith. Or I can just live with it.


Con­sider that noth­ing you buy new stays new for very long. Carry a hand­gun on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and it will show signs of wear. The Star BM I re­ceived from Cen­tury Arms had only slight, cos­metic signs of use. There was no abuse. It fed ev­ery­thing I could stuff into it and was very ac­cu­rate, de­spite shoot­ing a bit high. It is the per­fect size for a carry gun with a bar­rel just

slightly less than 4 inches and an over­all length of a bit over 7 inches. You can get a full grip on the gun, yet it conceals eas­ily.

I re­mem­ber a time when my wife and I had to give care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of ev­ery dol­lar spent. If you’re in that po­si­tion now, I un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion. You don’t have a lot of money to spend on guns, but you don’t want to be de­fense­less ei­ther. Or you might just be a col­lec­tor or a shoot­ing en­thu­si­ast who likes to try a va­ri­ety of guns.

What­ever the case, the Star BM can serve you well as an af­ford­able de­fen­sive arm, a range gun for ca­sual plink­ing or some­thing to merely add to the col­lec­tion.

Above: The com­pact size of the Star BM makes it an ideal gun for con­cealed carry while still al­low­ing for a full grip on the gun. Right: The rear sight is a plain black metal blade that is dove­tailed into the slide. The front, how­ever, is in­te­gral with the slide, and be­cause the gun tended to shoot high, the au­thor would have liked the sight to be taller.

Above: The Star BM makes use of a sin­gle-stack, eightround magazine. Cen­tury Arms has spares avail­able.

Be­low: The frame-mounted, man­ual thumb safety is in the usual, fa­mil­iar lo­ca­tion. If you’ve shot pis­tols be­fore, there will be no learn­ing curve with this Span­ish pis­tol.

Left: Holsters made specif­i­cally for the Star BM might be hard to find, so holsters de­signed to fit a num­ber of dif­fer­ent guns is the way to go. The au­thor has used this DeSantis Van­quisher tuck­able IWB hol­ster with sev­eral guns and found it to be an ex­cel­lent op­tion.

The slide on the

Star BM has a takedown notch in addition to the reg­u­lar safety notch. When the thumb safety is locked into this notch, the slide lock re­lease lever can be pushed out and the slide re­moved. Right: The au­thor’s Star BM came in an orig­i­nal card­board box with clean­ing rod and an in­struc­tion man­ual that was writ­ten in Span­ish only.

Fa­mil­iar parts. The Star BM can be field­stripped eas­ily for clean­ing and main­te­nance.

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