Friday, February 19, 2010

Per Sedunum Ad Astra

Frank has a post up announcing the news that the Spanish gunmaker Astra is back, or at least its name is. And now it's Swiss. And it makes AR-15s and 1911s, because there just aren't enough people making AR and 1911 clones on this planet, apparently.

Couldn't they have done something original and Swiss, like Stgw.57 and P210 clones? Or brought back the Astra SIG knock-offs?


og said...

yeah, something different WOULD be nice, but I would sure like to see a swiss made 1911.

Won't be able to afford it, mind you, but i bet it would be the ne plus ultra of 1911's.

Tony said...

Hey now, us Europeans could use a 1911-and-AR manufacturer that would actually handle things like warranty issues for us. (Sending firearms to the U.S. is ever so slightly tricky and time consuming... Send a gun for warranty work and you won't see it again during the same calendar year.)

Not to mention that most 1911s are split into two camps - the extremely basic, lower priced ones without beavertail grip safeties and such, and the expensive ones with a bunch of unpractical features like flurgies and ski ramp rear sights. The amount of companies that build 1911s the right way is pretty damn small. Most AR's suffer from field worthiness problems too - for one thing, most of them are chambered for a poodle hunting cartridge... :p It is a real pity this new Astra seems unwilling to tackle these issues.

Come to think of it, for a Swiss firearms company to take up the name of what used to be a Spanish firearm company that made products of questionable quality seems a bit weird. They'll be dragging the reputation of the "old Astra" behind them. What were they thinking?

theirritablearchitect said...

Swiss gun maker?

Sphinx copies the CZ75 pattern pretty nicely, and are priced accordingly. Is that enough of a differentiation in market?

DaddyBear said...

If they would make something Swiss, why not offer a hunting rifle with modern things like a drilled and tapped receiver, thumbhole stock, etc., using the K31 action and accuracy? I'd definitely save up for that!

The K31 I shot when invited to at the range was a joy, and I hate to see it when people take a drill to a classic.

Anonymous said...

I know they chose ARs and 1911s as that is what sells, but I wonder if New Astra will do any retro runs (down the road perhaps)?

"The amount of companies that build 1911s the right way is pretty damn small."

You mean in Europe? In the States our cup runneth over with first quality 1911s.

Shootin' Buddy

Weer'd Beard said...

Or maybe an updated Sig 542 for the modern know pick up that ball SIG Sauer dropped by jumping into the 7.62x51mm market with a gas-piston AR rather than the more logical choice.

NotClauswitz said...

I kinda like the retro script that spells ASTRA, just wish it wasn't so all-over the slide. I like their 'A1 and would buy one, and I like the "Swiss Made" with the Swiss cross on their M4.

Anonymous said...

Tony: "products of questionable quality"?

Not in my experience; for the money, Astra made some nice stuff; as Tam mentioned, those SIG clones were wonderful guns.

Colt's thought enough of Astra to contract to them; I have one of the Colt/Astra Junior .22 Shorts, made in the '60's but's no Vest Pocket, but it's a fine little piece of workmanship.

Let's hope the Swiss do as well.

DarrenS said...

Heck, I'd love to see the Constable come back.

randy said...

I'd love to see someone start doing quality Browning Hi-Power clones.

Charles Daly is out of business and I don't think FM is importing in the US anymore.

Owen said...

I know they aren't Swiss, but if you are looking for a EU 1911, have you checked out Peters Stahl?

Pardini was making a 1911-ish pistol too.

jbrock said...

If they would make something Swiss, why not offer a hunting rifle with modern things like a drilled and tapped receiver, thumbhole stock, etc., using the K31 action and accuracy?

Hmmm ... I think the Lynx, from Finland, is probably at least the functional equivalent of a civilian K31. :-)

Now, how you'd actually get your hands on one, I'm not so sure.

Kristophr said...

Damned straight. I've got a an Astra SIG clone that needs a new decocker spring and slide release.

Tony said...

Anon1: The issue I have with modern 1911s is that I see the pistol as a service weapon, and while many claim to manufacture such 1911s they make design decisions which clearly indicate that the manufacturer does not understand the problem a defensive pistol is for. The pistols they make are indeed beautiful artifacts, created from the finest raw materials, meticulously crafted - but made in a way which misses the whole point of its existence. Tolerances so tight the gun won't run reliably, ski ramp sights that make it impossible to use the rear sight during wounded shooter drills, recoil buffers that make releasing the slide by racking it impossible - these are all things that one high-end manufacturer or another has put in a 1911 they claim to be a defensive firearm! Perhaps I am unaware of many 1911 manufacturers you guys have over there. But of the ones I have heard of over here, very few really seem to "get it".

Rabbit said...

Bringing up any hope of a new Stgw.57? Now you're just being mean. Leroy Thompson's AMT article in SWAT a couple of months ago reminded me of a couple I passed over years ago instead of snatching up.


Anonymous said...

"But of the ones I have heard of over here, very few really seem to "get it"."

True, while tight tolerances is a sea story, remember that most makers are not shooters and most shooters do not carry pistols and most who carry do not go to school.

If you can, consider Les Baer, Ed Brown, Springfield Armory, inter alia. All make fine carry guns.

Shootin' Buddy

Tony said...

Anon, the brands you mention all make fine pistols, and all of them could be made into acceptable defensive or service pistols by swapping out sights, thumb safeties, possibly trigger, not sure what kind of a trigger pull Springfield 1911s come these days... But all this tinkering costs time and money - getting something like pistol night sights out of the U.S. is no longer a simple thing to do! (Not to mention the mind-bogging cost of, say, a Les Baer after all import fees, custom fees, taxes... One would hope that for this kind of money, one need not take the gun straight to a smith in order to get it right.) All those companies put components into their guns that do not belong in a social pistol. (Les Baer is the company that put the recoil buffer in their "defensive" pistol, single-sided thumb safeties and ski ramp rear sights are a common sight on the products of the other two companies...)

Tam said...


Don't know what your gun school regime is, but Shootin' Buddy and I did just fine at Louis Awerbuck's course last summer with a Les Baer TRS and a SA Pro. No malfs to note.

Anonymous said...

What model did Les put a recoil buffer in? Les did that? You sure you are not thinking of Wilson?

I am not aware of any Les Baer pistol that has that. I run Les Baer TRSs but I don't know the entire catalogue.

Single side safeties are just fine as ambi safeties are unneeded and tear up my thick hands while at gun skuls.

Ski jump sights? Well, that's subjective. A gun skul buddy of mine has those 10-8 sights that I really liked.

However, one does not use the sights to rack the slide one handed, one uses the rib cage or thigh (as we might not have our Captain Tactical pants on to catch the sights on our belt or holster).

I can certainly understand the cost factor. For the price of one Les Baer 1911, one can buy three Glock M19s and plenty of mags (at least here in the States).

Shootin' Buddy

GuardDuck said...

As I found out during a class I took with Jim Cirillo, the tacticool belt rack will still work with the ski-ramp sights on my Kimber. The key element however is: you're doing it wrong, try harder! Such harder results in deep gouges and bruising in your body parts, but friction is your friend.

As for ambi safeties? As a full time wrong hander, an ambi is practically a requirement.

As a regular practitioner of the art of weak side practice and carry - you know, for the time your originally issued dominant appendage is in a plaster cast: well, let's just say I was thankful I didn't wait until after the ER visit to find out if I could carry, draw and operate the infernal device with my off hand.

NotClauswitz said...

The more I look at 'em the "moire" I like the Swissastra.

Anonymous said...

I looked at both and, for the life of me, can not tell the difference in the Daytona model and the other one. Anyone else?

Dr. StrangeGun said...


I wonder how close the EAA contract "sig clones" are to the old Astras...

Y'know, a P210-esque 'new' design with the internal rails, a nice low bore axis, '75 style lockup 9mm/.40/etc with a 1911 style FCG could be real interesting.

With me just having brought home a new piece of interesting (Star Ultrastar) and having been rolling over in my mind a new way of simplifying a hammer-style single action FCG (I have the entire pistol in my head running just one spring) and DrStrangegun could be having a resurgence.

Ed Foster said...

Dang, just what I need, more competition! Seriously, I doubt you can make a 1911 that functions smoothly and is too tight to be reliable.

Galils, Valmets, and Zastavas are all much tighter that the typical crappola AK's from points north and particularly east, and they all work much better. Loose often means cocking, binding, and drag.

I concede, all forged, full auto AK recievers eventually crack across the front of the mag well.

But they shoot lots better until they do, because they don't flex wildly in the vertical plane with every shot the way the stamped recievers do, and they don't rattle.

In our 1911, back when we were making it for Rock River, we found that the Bourdon Forge slide forging opened up a very consistent .002 to .0025 in the middle of the slide track, call it a .001 plus on each side. We changed the program, cutting an hourglass profile .002 skinnier in the middle.

When that puppy is lapped in to the frame, it is as slick as a fresh booger, and moves like it's on ball bearings.

Even bearing between slide and frame throughout the cycle, and no loss of energy from the slide cocking and dragging in mid-stroke. I can run them on a load so wimpy the case just barely falls out the ejection port, and they shoot 25 yard groups with off the shelf ammo I can pretty much cover with a quarter. The worst of the groups will have the quarter touching at least part of every hole.

Sights? Whats wrong with Novak Combats for a carry gun? No need to reinvent the wheel. With DiamondCote over Parkerize, and titanium innards, plus the small diameter (.068) firing pin tip instead of the big (.093) pin tip, to really give the primer a slap it won't forget.

Some people stick with the big diameter pin because they aren't holding their vertical lock-up on the barrel as closely as they should, and want an extra .010 or .012 on a side to compensate, letting the wider pin get them closer to the primer anvil in the center, at the cost of depth in the firing pin indent..

Other people pay what they have to for the right kind of barrel, and end up with something that stays central and on the money at lockup. I'm not making it any easier than that for the Swiss.

I agree tightness can be a problem in weapons with questionable metallurgy, but the 1911 has plenty of expansion space built into it, and it doesn't "move to bind" when hot.

Any practical sidearm will come in under 40 ounces, and put out around 400 foot pounds of energy.

But the .45 does it with half the operating pressure of a 9 or a .40, and a staggeringly better expansion ratio. Much less flash, and a lot less wear and tear.

1911's have had more rounds fired for accuracy through them than anything close, and the swing link, if properly done, gives poor shmucks like me a way of providing a much more consistent vertical lock-up.

I concede the Petter trigger has a lot going for it, but Saint John's push the pin, drop the mainspring housing, and all the goodies fall out in your hand is almost as fast and easier to stone.

I admire a lot of things about the early SIG's, at least as improptue target guns. Anything the Swiss do is lovely, and they aren't as silly as the often over-engineered to the point of frailty German stuff. But the double tracks were guilding the lily. We'll see hoe it works out.

Kristophr said...

Galils don't crack ... they wear their barrels out first.

Mark said...

I'd prefer it if they went back to making wheel guns. I love my 6" Astra .357 Mag. Target pistol. I'd love to get a 4" one as well.

Frank W. James said...

Kristopher: The full-auto Galils DO crack...completely in some cases. There have been photos of the problem published eons ago, re: Pete Kokalis.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Ed Foster said...

The nice thing about the modified Swedish AG-42/Ljungman type gas system the M-16 uses is the fact that the piston is on the centerline of the bore.

You don't get that massive downward camming action found in weapons like the AK. Note that, in the M-1/M-14 type weapon, the cam lug is opposite a solid and massive left reciever wall.

In the AK, it's opposite an open magazine well and an open trigger area, leaving not much to resist flexing.

The flexing is aggravated by the violent cycling caused by the extremely tapered 7.62x39mm cartridge. Taper on a cartridge case is there to aid extraction, but more than half a degree reduces the obturation, or "grab", between the case and chamber wall at the point of maximum chamber pressure.

The heavy taper found in Russian and German assault rifle cartridges is a result of poor quality wartime cartridge cases (often mild steel) tearing in the chamber and leaving a broken case in the bore.

With the severe taper, there's so much less adhesion between case and bore that it's all coming out when the thing goes boom.

The down side is about twice as much load on the locking lugs, delivered over a much shorter time. The AK puts as much compressive load on it's lugs as does the M-1 with a much more powerful 30-06 cartridge, delivered in about 60% the time.

That's a shock loading more than 100% greater than the M-1 recieves. And you wonder why the lugs are so big in a weapon that fires a round ballistically equivalent to the militarily pissant 30-30?

Consider the smoothness of the AR gas system. The gas comes in the key and down to the +- .0002 tolerance, chrome plated gas cylinder in the front of the bolt carrier.

It pushes against the piston (the back of the bolt, more specifically the gas rings on the back of the bolt) and throws itself backwards, camming the bolt open as it goes.

After unlocking, the gas bleeds out the ports in the side of the bolt carrier/gas cylinder, and exausts out the ejecton port of the weapon.

There is a minor amount of rotational loading against the left side of the gas key, but it's more than big enough to spread it out over such a wide area it doesn't effect bolt speed.

More in a following post.

Anonymous said...

+1 Mark,
I've got me a six-inch and the wife has one of their 2" .357's from the first year they came into the counry. And the six has a trigger pull that the mavens at Colt and Smith WISH they could have made.

Ed Foster. said...

The company I work for sells a "piston gun", because people are willing to pay for things like that. And it's the best external piston gun on the market.

For starters, the impingement lug on the top of the bolt carrier is milled integral with the bolt carrier, not bolted on like a gas key. Very special metallurgy, and other things too, that would get me canned if I chatted about them.

But there is still the problem of using the same amount of gas/energy to move more metal over a longer time interval, and the long term problem of battering, spalling, or peening between an op rod and lug, contact that doesn't exist on the Ljungman/Stoner system.

If people want a second gas system strapped on in front of the first one, it's their money. If that's what they want, our's is the best way to go. It's supposed to be a free country.

For reference, I worked at Colt's on the M-4 Carbine project back in the early 90's, with guys like Jim Taylor, who were on the original design team with Gene Stoner. I've seen milions of rounds fired in every kinky way you get get a round through a chamber.

Jim, by the way, is the guy who wrote the report to the Army that said the rifle worked really well on IMR type stick powders, but should never be used with ball powders using a calcium based burning rate reducer. It seems nobody listened for the first year or so.

I suppose I would get sued if I published the tests I ran on the top selling "piston" gun up at Smith & Wesson about two years ago. Suffice it to say the failures were early and catastrophic. I'm more than willing to send them to Tam on a "Hold Close" basis and let her attest to the accuracy of the statement.

Forgive the bad pun, but different strokes for different folks. I've seen carburetor systems that worked as well as fuel injection, but they need a lot more tinkering, time, and cost.