Star Firearms : Firestar Series Pistols
 

Star Firearms — Firestar-series pistols

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The Firestar series is a group of small, compact pistols designed for concealed carry. These are interesting in several ways. First of all, in that there is a true series. Not one that emerged over time as variants were introducted, but a series conceived and sold all at the same time. This offered small, single-stack pistols in 9 mm Parabellum, .40 S&Wand .45 ACP, and a double-column — but otherwise identical — 9 mm as well.

Secondly, these are a mix of mechanical features. Though constructed firmly in the modern era, they are still single action. Slide rails are inverted, and the locking system is generally of the most modern styling, with coned barrels which did not otherwise emerge until the M31 and Megastar. The trigger system is, however, almost identical to that of the Classic series, with a single sided stampled steel transfer bar, and even forsaking the removable backstrap of the modern series pistols.

Other mechanical differences include the lack of a firing pin stop plate. To remove the firing pin, the rear sight must be removed (by press or punch and hammer), and the drop safety pulled out the top of the cavity then exposed.

Although I can only surmise the point of these guns was to capture the same concealed carry market the then-discontinued PD blazed, they never achieved the same following. Though reasonably popular sellers, by the time they emerged, there were a number of competitors, including a large selection of increasingly compact 1911s. They were also rather heavy by comparison, and the only alloy-framed pistol offered was the double-stack M234.

Manuals & Disassembly Instructions

I do not have manuals for every pistol shown on this site. However, in many cases there is a related manual. Partly to make the series relationships clearer, and partly to assist with speed and accuracy of updating, all manuals can be found in one place, the manuals page. All manuals available are provided as downloadable PDFs, or you may purchase a printed copy of the entire set of handgun manuals.

There is one good warning not included in the manuals. Use some caution when stripping these pistols. The safety lever is only prevented from over-rotating by the grip panels. If they are removed for cleaning or maintenance, the safety can be rotated too far, and the the detent plunger will fly out. This is a very, very, small part and will almost certainly become lost. The safety lever is very important to the safe operation of the gun, so use caution not to lose the detent pin. If you do loose this part, a very tiny ball bearing can replace it perfectly well, but good luck getting ahold of one.

First Generation – Model 43 & 40

The model 43 and 40 are mechanically identical, and in fact almost all parts are interchangable. The only difference is in caliber. The M43 is in 9 mm Parabellum/Luger and the M40 is in .40 S&W. It should be noted that, unlike the M31 in .40, and many other early .40 caliber pistols, the M40 is a perfectly reliable gun, and can be entirely trusted.

The data I have on these is highly suspect regarding production dates, but early ones all shared a single slide shape, with a rebated but squared off shape forward of the cocking serrations – not unlike a SIG 226. This likely only lasted for the first year or two of production as they are fairly rarely encountered.

Both of these pistols have steel frames, are equipped with magazine safeties and drop safeties. Ambidexterous safety levers block the engagement of the trigger, but not movement of the slide, so it can be very safely loaded and unloaded unlike many other guns which lock the slide when on safe. They are both single-column guns with 7 round capacity in 9 mm, and 6 in .40.

Factory stocks are always checkered soft rubber, retained by clips at the top and a single screw at the bottom of each side panel. The frontstrap has raised (molded in) pyramidal grip "checkering" but the backstraps are quite smooth and can cause issues with control since they are very small guns. Sights are essentially as good as any full sized duty pistol, but are tapered and snag free. The rear is retained by a set screw, which reduces force required for removal, but may simply be there to assure sights do not walk off under the fairly vigorous slide velocity.

Second Generation – Model 43 & 40

At least one owner I have received information from indicates reduced recoil spring life and parts damage far in excess of the 9 mm pistols from early .40 caliber guns. Likely as a result of real-world experience, there was shortly a shift to two slide shapes. The M43 kept the same step down concept, but removed even more material, switching to a trapezoidal shape with tapered sides over the forward 2/3rd of the slide. The M40 gained weight, becoming entirely slab-sided, with the slide as wide as the top of the frame almost to the muzzle.

This change in slide profile was accompanied by other changes in external style. For example the lightly grooved, squared off pads on the safety lever and slide release were changed to rounded and checkered ones, much like the shape of the magazine release button.

Star never issued a kit gun, or a single frame with multiple top-ends to offer multiple-caliber capability. Although this has been accomplished by some of our readers without any trouble at all, it is presumably therefore not suggested by Star.

Second Generation Model 45

The M45 is the .45 caliber version of the Firestar series. It is similar in most respects to the M3 and M40 pistols, but is slightly larger in all dimensions to accomodate the larger cartridge. Few or no parts are interchangable between the M45 and M43/M40 frame sizes.

The slide of the M45 has, as far as I can tell, always been of the slab-sided design, and is surface-ground, then polished on the flats.

Model 243

The M243 is most commonly referred to as the "Firestar Plus," including in roll-stamping on the slides of those distributed in many regions. These guns are essentially an M43 9 mm Firestar, with a largely different alloy frame containing a double-column, 13-shot magazine. Attempts are made to nullify much of the width with very thin, hard plastic stocks (so thin they are attached only at the rear) though the grip is still very boxy. Some shooters also have trouble shooting in a "high grip" mode due to the width of the pistol around the safety levers.

I have no information on a first generation M243. Either I've simply never encountered it or, it may not exist. I suspect that the larger frame was already a follow-on project, so it naturally did not even see the light of day until the second generation M43 was on the market, so all 243s are of the same style, but I can't prove it.

Model 240?

Periodically, there are references to .40 and .45 caliber Firestar Plus pistols. I disregarded these for year as simply assuming the series of single stacks also resulted in a series of double-column pistols. Although I still doubt the existance of a .45 caliber Firestar Plus, I am now certain a .40 caliber pistol existed in some form at least.

I presume this pistol would be designated, at least internally, the M240. It is easy to assume such a weapon exists, as readers of this site have successfully fired M40 slide assemblies on top of M243 frames. Additionally, and most tellingly, I personally own a number of .40 caliber magazines for the Firestar Plus, marked as such and with suitable sized feed lips and witness hols for the 10 rounds of the .40 S&W they would carry cartridge; they are not mis-labeled or speculative 9mm magazines. These are made by MecGar, but they are the OEM maker of other Firestar magazines, so presumably knew something. Incidentally, these have at various times been available relatively cheaply, indicating they are not a highly specialized or limited edition version, and also feed 9 mm perfectly well, if you are looking for M243 magazines.

Notices & Safety of Use Messages

A recall was posted in 1991 for the M43. This is copied from the June issue of American Rifleman, page 66.
STAR
MODEL M43 FIRESTAR,
9MM LUGER CALIBER, PISTOL

RECALL: INTERARMS has learned of occasional firing pin breakage in the Star M43 FIRESTAR 9MM pistols within the limited serial number range 1,953,001 to 1,958,000 ONLY. Such breakage does not pose any direct hazard to the shooter; however, the pistol is rendered inoperable.

WARNING! This can be critical when used for self protection or law enforcement.

STAR and INTERARMS are committed to providing our customers with high quality firearms of the utmost reliability. We regret any temporary inconvenience.

INTERARMS
10 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-1400