April 07, 2020
Manufactured by Star Bonifacio Echeverria, in Eibar, Spain, Star’s Firestar series was a groundbreaking pioneer in the embryonic world of compact, concealable 9mm-and-larger pistols. So much so, in fact, that it earned Guns & Ammo’s “Handgun of the Year” award in 1991. Unfortunately, even with that illustrious accolade, the pistol was discontinued shortly before the company went defunct in 1997.
While the M-40 Firestar was produced, it was imported via Interarms. According to the L•2 proof stamp found beneath the left-side grip panel on my pistol, it was produced in 1992. (Be warned: With the grip panel removed, the safety can be over-rotated and the detent released and lost. Finding a replacement is next to impossible, so protect that safety lever from rotating with the grips removed.)
I confess that prior to reviewing this M-40 Firestar, I was unfamiliar with the model. And I have yet to find comprehensive production numbers, so I can’t provide info on how many were made. Star Bonifacio Echeverria was founded in the Basque region of Spain, an area known for its quality steel, by two brothers, sons of Jose Cruz Echeverria, who was a builder of muzzleloading firearms in the 1800s. The brothers focused on innovation and modern design and were awarded several patents in the early 1900s.
In 1919 the company registered the STAR moniker, and it was used on all future models. The Firestar lineup was more or less the last successful model designed and manufactured by the company. Mine is the .40 S&W M-40, a lonely wallflower in popularity compared to the almost identical 9mm M-43 version. An alloy-frame, double-stack version dubbed the M240 and M243 (and known informally as the Firestar “Plus”) was announced in 1995, but only a few of the 9mm version were made before the company shut its doors. The Firestar series was rounded out by a .45 ACP version named the M-45. It was much the same in design, but slightly more robust.
Two finishes were available: black phosphate and Starvel, an electroless nickel-type plating.
Some suggest the Firestar series is like the Model 1911. In reality, it’s more like Browning’s Hi-Power because it lacks the Model 1911’s grip safety and uses a cam-block short-recoil locking system like the Hi-Power.
Firestar M-40 magazines hold six rounds of .40 S&W ammo. Once inserted, they’re secured by a tensioning spring that prevents them from being lost. When the mag release button is pressed, the magazine pops out a half-inch or so, enabling it to be pulled free.
The basic functioning of the pistol is so typical of the semiauto type that I won’t bother to go into details of loading, chambering, and firing. Suffice it to say that the Firestar is a single-action, hammer-fired design fed from a single-stack magazine. The slide release is easily engaged and very positive to release with the firing-hand thumb. The manual thumb safety is ambidextrous and does not lock the slide in battery when engaged.
An external extractor draws fired cases from the chamber, and a fixed ejector heaves them through the wide ejection port. The recoil guide rod is full length; the trigger guard is small and not glove-friendly; and the sights are metal, nicely contoured, set into the striated top of the slide, and feature white dots to assist rapid alignment. The front of the trigger guard and the grip’s frontstrap and backstrap are both checkered, as are the rubbery side panels.
Inside the slide resides a 3.39-inch “Acculine” barrel. The fit is bushingless, and the end of the barrel bells out to provide a snug fit.
Little is known about this particular Star M-40 Firestar pistol. I discovered it among the treasures in the used section at Gunnies in Orem, Utah—one of my favorite local gunshops. It’s marked with the Interarms import stamp, is in nice condition, and possesses one original magazine plus two extended aftermarket magazines, both of which protrude significantly below the frame and did not feed reliably during my testing.
Star M-40 Firestar Accuracy & Velocity
While testing the M-40 Firestar’s accuracy, reliability, and shootability, I set my target at 15 yards because of the relatively short barrel. I found the trigger to be pretty good, breaking at a slightly spongy 5 pounds, 4 ounces. I was able to produce nicely clustered groups that averaged 3 to 4 inches high at that distance. Accuracy was reasonably good, certainly adequate for personal protection. The details are listed in the accompanying chart.
Like many of the earlier semiauto pistols, particularly those challenged by compact dimensions and the acute tilt and feed angles necessary to small-pistol designs, the M-40 isn’t reliable with every load. The pistol had frequent failures to extract with Winchester USA Ready and American Eagle FMJ ammo, but it only malfunctioned once with Hornady American Gunner 180-grain XTP load, and it ran flawlessly with Browning 180-grain BPT ammo.
Pointability and balance were surprisingly good, and recoil was much milder than I expected in a compact .40 S&W-caliber pistol. That’s partially due to a nice hand-filling, ergonomic grip, but it's mostly due to the weight of the all-steel pistol.
Although it’s too heavy, too bulky, and has too little capacity to compete on today’s CCW market, the M-40 pistol was a precursor to a movement. It’s not expensive and is great fun at the range.
Star M-40 Firestar SpecsManufacturer:
Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A.Type:
.40 S&WMagazine Capacity:
3.39 in.Overall Length:
4.61 in.Weight, Empty:
Three-dot system; drift-adjustable rearTrigger:
5.25-lb. pull (as tested)Safety:
Ambidextrous manual thumb safety