By Bob Walsh
The Gun of the Week this time around is the Astra 400 pistol.
This pistol was developed in Spain by Astra-Unceta y Cia SA. It was unusual for a weapon of its power in that it was a blow-back rather than a locked breach pistol. This made it easier and cheaper to manufacture, but required that the recoil spring be very heavy. Quite simply the damn thing was very hard to cock.
Somewhat more than 100,000 of them were built. There are a lot of them still around. I used to have one but finally sold it when the supply of cheap 9mm Largo ammunition dried up. They also work just fine with .38 automatic, and most of them (including mine) were marked for both calibers. They do not, however, like .38 super ammo; it is too much pressure for them to fire safely. It is now fairly hard to find .38 auto and 9mm Largo both. Many of them would also fire 9mm Steyer and 9mm Browning Long cartridges. Those are also scare these days.
This pistol weighed 2.5 pounds with an empty magazine and had a barrel length of not quite 6 inches. It is hammer fired and single action with a European style magazine release on the butt of the pistol. Sights were the typical minimalist military variety.
These weapon were still in production up until 1950 and there are still a lot of them around. They were sturdy and well built.
They were also built in 9mm as the Model 600 and used by Germany as a military pistol during WWII. This variation had a heavier slide and even stronger recoil spring than the 400.
Another variation, the Model 300, was built in .32 auto and .380 auto. It was sold both domestically and abroad. A lot were bought by the Spanish navy and the German Luftwaffe. A small number of the Model 400 pistols were made in . 32 automatic, 7.63 Mauser and .30 Luger but they were never sold commercially.