Astra 300

The little brother of the Astra 1921 model 400 and 600, this little pistol is in caliber .32 ACP. It was also made in .380 ACP. It is another of the rather decent pistols made by the Basque community of the Pyrenees.

Astra 300 left side with proof marks on frame and rear of slide

Astra 300 left side with proof marks on frame and rear of slide

This pistol is a model I’ve been seeking for – hmmpf! – several years. I had to drive out of state to get it. Then I had to wait nearly two weeks for it to ship and such. I took possession of it Thursday 26 February, in the year of our Lord 2015.

Astra 300 general right side

Right side with disassembly marks on slide and frame

It is a small pistol, as most .32 autos. According to my scale, it weighs one pound and ten ounces. According to my trigger weight scale, the trigger trips between 7.5 and 8.0 pounds. However, when dry firing, the trigger feels more like four pounds. (I was really surprised at how heavy it registered.) Looking at the pistol closely, it seems to have been ‘pounded’ externally. 
The finish is intact, with some minor rust spots. No serious or deep rust pitting or corrosion. Still, I get the feeling it has been ‘bounced around’ somehow. The surface does not appear to have been hit with a sharp edged metal object, but has tiny ‘flats’ like relatively soft metal objects jumbled together in a drawer or box.

The slide is held back to a certain point and the barrel is then turned clockwise (from the rear facing forward) until the interrupted thread which holds the barrel to the frame releases and then the slide and barrel, et al, remove off the front. How far back to open the slide is questionable. I found it by trial and error. (As long as one turns the barrel by hand, it won’t break or open until it is in the right position. I’ve noted two marks on the right side of the pistol that ought to be disassembly marks. In any event, NOT all the way back.) I will not bore you with further details of take down. There are sufficient youtube videos extant.

This example is full of crud and surface rust. I estimate it was last cleaned when Franco was a Corporalissimo. I find bits of lubricant completely dried out and seriously stuck on various surfaces in the interior of the slide and barrel assembly. The recoil spring has ‘gunk’ – probably dust absorbed into whatever lubricant was there – on the barrel under the spring.

I find a great deal of rust, nothing deep, but wide spread on the interior of the slide assembly and top of the frame. One would suspect some water – at least moisture – collected inside the pistol at some point.

Removing the grips, I see more surface rust, but nothing seriously damaging.

On the other hand, the barrel is in excellent shape and the bore is nearly new. Rifling is sharp and clear. On the subject of ‘pounding’ the muzzle of the barrel has been some serious whacks. So severe the spring keeper (which fits behind the bushing) will not slide off the front of the barrel as normal. However, the bore has not been damaged, from the shooting results.

Friday afternoon, about 1800-1815; 27 February 2015, Four Rivers Sportsmen’s Club, indoor range. It is too cold to shoot outdoors. Temperature is around 15-20 degrees, with light wind. However, it is clear and the late afternoon sun is bright. Indoor, there is no wind, but still not warm. Overhead heaters feel good but don’t help my feet!

Sights look more crowded in person.

Sights look more crowded in person.

The sights tend to blend, front and rear. The sights are short, do not extend very far from the body of the slide. So, they tend to merge together and do not give as good a sight picture as they might. However, they seem ‘good enough’. Probably designed to point and hope more than aim. Or, men of earlier days had better eyes.

The recovered brass was intact. The only ‘blemish’ is a strong powder burn smear on one side of the case, from mouth to half or two-thirds back to base. On one side only and I cannot see anything in the chamber to identify which side. Comparing the smear with the ejector mark, it seems the smears all happen on the left side of the chamber, ahead of the ejector. But I still could not see anything obvious.

Fired cases slide easily into the plastic holder of the ammo box, indicating a tight chamber.

Extracted cases are flung right and forward. They all hit the wall about six feet to the right, so I didn’t know how far they really go. Chronograph shooting on the outdoor range had empties about twelve to fifteen feet to the right, and just forward of the shooting position. Ejection is positive and enthusiastic. Second five cases show same signs and ejection characteristics.

Primers show good impact and decisive ignition.

Recoil is quick, not abusive but disturbs sight picture.

All shooting at 10 yards. All shooting done one handed. Trigger pull seems heavier with live ammunition in the pistol. Don’t they all?

Five shot slow fire; one handed at ten yards.

Five shot slow fire; one handed at ten yards.

IBS multi-target at 10 yards. Five rounds slow fire delivered a good group. Just a bit left of the center of the bull, but on for elevation. Slow fire group is triangular (but not ovate). Measured from center to center, the slow fire group is 1.3 inches top to bottom and 1.25 inches side to side. It is displaced from the point of aim – the dot in the middle of the bullseye – 1.4 inches left and .5 inches high.

One shot each on five different targets.  Ten yards, as fast as I could hold and fire.

One shot each on five different targets. Ten yards, as fast as I could hold and fire.

Rapid fire group – one shot on each of five bulls – are all in the white except for one half-way in. The white section of the bullseye is four inches in diameter. So all shots are within two inches of point of aim. The lateral dispersion of shots is 1.24 inches and the height dispersion of all rapid fire (superimposing all the rapid fire shots onto one target) is 3.58 inches.

Also – on my word of honor (such as it is) these are the first ten shots I’ve fired from this particular pistol, and the ONLY ten shots I’ve fired from this pistol.

For chronograph testing, I used the same ammunition and lot of that ammunition as for all the other old .32 auto’s so far. This pistol delivers 854.5 fps with the chronograph about fifteen feet from the muzzle (about the same as all the others). This makes this WWII era Astra the second fastest pistol of my collection. It is less than 1% slower than an MAB Model D.

Seriously, for this category of pistol at ten yards, the accuracy is quite good for self-defense work. Which may sound a bit silly about a .32 ACP pistol, but it still shoots pretty good.

I did note the front and rear sight seem to ‘blend’ with one another when attempting to get a proper sight alignment. The front and rear sights are integral with the slide. They are not later added parts in the fashion of the Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol or (1911) Government Model. On the good side, they are wider and flatter on top than the Colt Pocket Pistol. They appear to be much closer to what are recognized as modern “Patridge” sights than the typical European triangular sights of the time period. However, they are cut so close to the slide, they blend with the slide and seem to be rather vague in sight alignment and sight picture. The results seem to indicate they are not as deceptive as I feared.

All in all, another rather nice pistol from long ago. It seems to be all machined, so in modern manufacturing, a CNC machine would be required. I suppose the basic shapes could be investment cast, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Not to mention there’s no stampings, sintered metal or plastic parts on the device. The kiss of death is that the pistol is a single stack, single-action-with-safety type design in .32 ACP.



Filed under Firearms and their use, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Astra 300

  1. Thomas Chumley

    I have not fired one of this type although a few years ago I did get to handle a really nice example. O.K., perhaps more than a couple years ago.

    Date: Mon, 9 Mar 2015 23:17:39 +0000

  2. Tom, I’ve been looking for one for some years now. I don’t remember even handling one prior to finding this one. God blessed me with money for elective silliness that week end!

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