August 2017

Surplus 9mm Pistols From Star and Beretta: Worth the Cash?

These surplus pistols are inexpensive, and some look worse for the wear, but they still have teeth. Are they worth chasing to add them to your collection? In a couple of cases, we think so.

Surplus 9mm Pistols From Star and Beretta: Worth the Cash?

All four pistols ran exceptionally well. We had no failures using an assortment of bullet types from full metal jacket to jacketed hollow points. In our opinion, the Beretta Model 92S and Model 85F are more suited for the modern shooter. The Star Model Super B and Model B are unique, but dated designs. Wed be okay protecting the home with three out of the four.

The idea of what constitutes a “surplus firearm” has different meanings depending where you are in the world. Surplus firearms in the U.S. means extra on hand or dated equipment. In other countries, it could mean one step away from scrap metal. We try to avoid the latter, but we are always on the lookout for a diamond in the rough, and thought we’d look at a few surplus 9mm Luger and 9mm Kurz (380 Auto) pistols. We wanted to look at these pistols through the lens of an inexpensive pistol that would be suited as a sand pit plinker, but in a pinch, it perhaps could be called on to defend the ranch. The problem with older surplus pistols is the lack or scarcity of spare parts, including magazines. By definition, all surplus weapons have been used, and some used more than others.

We chose four pistols that are fairly common and easy to find online to go bargain hunting: Two are Berettas, a Model 92S and Model 85F, made in Italy by P. Beretta S.P.A., and two are Star pistols, made in Spain by Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A., a Model Super B and Model B. The Star Model Super B looks like it is ready for the scrap yard and the older Model B looked well used, but as we found out, both still had some teeth. The Beretta 92S is a second-generation 92, which evolved into the 92FS. The 92S is a lot more of a European gun than the 92FS, which definitely has US influence. The Beretta 85F is a smaller version of the 92FS and is the most modern of the pistols tested.

In past issues we have tested some old-school combat pistols and found them lacking, which makes sense. A horse worked a century and a half ago; but now we (can) drive Hummers. Accordingly, we had to make some accommodations for these guns’ age. Since these are older pistols, we did not test with proofing loads or +P+ loads. These pistols were not designed for that type of high-pressure ammunition, and we had no desire to taste Italian or Spanish steel. Not that we are implying these are substandard pistols. These pistols are safe when used with ammunition originally intended for them. What we did want to find out was if different bullets types would impact performance. For instance, the Star pistols were manufactured before hollow-point bullets were popular, and we figured they might choke on hollow-point ammunition. We also wanted to see if different bullet weights would cause a stovepipe jam or failure to eject. We used off-the-shelf 9mm Luger ammo consisting of Hornady American Gunner with 115-grain XTP jacketed hollow points ($47/75 rounds), Aguila 124-grain FMJs ($17/50), and SIG Sauer 115-grain FMJ ($18/50). We found all three ammo types cycled flawlessly through the pistols with no issues. In the Beretta 85F, we fired 91-grain FMJs from Tula, 90-grain Speer Gold Dot hollow points, and Hornady Critical Defense 90-grain XTPs, which feature a hollow-point bullet with a polymer insert to facilitate expansion.

For accuracy testing, we placed the pistols on a bench rest to fire at targets set at 25 yards. In speed-firing exercises, we shot at targets at 7 yards, performing both Bill Drills and Mozambique Drills. The object with the Bill Drill is to fire as fast and as accurately as possible to hit an 8-inch zone. The Mozambique requires two fast shots to center of mass and a one to the head. All must be within their zones to be successful. This is what we found out when we exercised these old pistols.

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