Astra-Unceta y Cia SA, or Astra as it is more commonly known, was a gun maker formed in 1908 and based in Guernica, Spain. The company, following a merger with STAR, in 1997 was folded, paving the way for ASTAR (the result of the merger between STAR and Astra).
Astra was formed by Juan Esperanza Salvador and Pedro Unceta in 1908 in Eibar, Spain, for the purpose of producing machinery and parts for various companies and industries. By 1911 Unceta and Esperanza had submitted patents for self-loading pistol improvements, meaning that Astra would turn to firearms manufacture from 1913 in their current facility in Guernica, Spain.
Pre First World War ProductionEdit
Astra's first big break came in 1913, when Astra patented and produced a developed version of the Pistola Campo-Giro de 9mm Modelo 1912 (or more commonly known as the Campo-Giro) which was adopted by the Spanish military from 1914, in the guise of the Pistola Campo-Giro de 9mm Modelo 1913. An estimated 1,300 Modelo 1913's were produced before an improved version was released in 1914. Further models produced would be the Modelo 1914, 1915 and 1913-16.
First World WarEdit
Astra provided 150,000 Ruby-type self-loading pistols (the preferred side arm of the French Army during the First World War), based on the Browning M1903. The design was originally released by Astra as the Victoria, but was copied by another Spanish Gunsmith, Gabilondo y Urresti, with a higher capacity (9 shot magazine) and sold to the French Army. Gabliondo y Urresti would receive a large contract. A further 710,000 Ruby pistols were contracted to other Spanish Firms, including Astra.
The Spanish Army, following reports of the Astra Modelo 1913 being difficult to disassemble and concerns over durability. The response from Astra would be the Model 400, adopted (after tests against the STAR Model A) as the Pistola de 9mm Modelo 1921 in 1921 and remained in service until 1967. The Model 300, also produced by Astra, was used by Air and Navy officers.
In 1926 Esperanza left the company, forming his own gunmaker, with Astra becoming Unceta y Compania.
The Mod.900, largely based on the Mauser C96, was released in 1927 with the intention to be sold to the Chinese. Several examples were used by German soldiers and the Guardia Civil (Spanish Civil Guard).
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936 a split emerged in the company, the employees favouring the Republicans and the owner, Uncetta favouring the Nationalists. When Nationalists took Guernica, the employees were told that arms were to be sold to Germany.
Second World War and afterEdit
Spain's neutrality during the Second World War was not shared by it's gunsmiths. In particular Astra would produce over 10,000 Model 600's specifically for the German Army from 1943 until 1944. The Model 600 would also be produced after to war, for the German Federal Republic and its police force. A total of 31,350 Model 600s would be produced.
From 1946 Astra branched out, producing parts for pumps and tools. In 1947 the Astra Model 3000 entered production, replacing the Model 300 and remaining in production until 1956, replaced by the Astra Model 4000 Falcon.
In 1953 Astra became known, officially, by its final name (Astra-Unceta y Cia SA). 1958 saw the release of the Model 800 Condor, as well as the Astra Cadix series of revolvers
From 1990 the Astra A100 entered production where it remained, through the merger between STAR and Astra in 1997. Production ceased in 2006. STAR and Astra would merge in 1997, causing both companies to close, with ASTAR emerging from the ashes.
Astra Arms S.A.Edit
Switzerland based entrepreneur Massimo Garbarino located in Sion adopted the name Astra Arms, elluding to the 100th anniversary of Astra in 2008. Registering with the Astra trademark Astra Arms currently produces the AR-15 (registered as the StG-15 and StG-4) and the Colt M1911 under license. Products are sold in Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
The Encyclopedia of Modern Arms - Ian V. Hogg