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.

Firestar Plus

Model 243 - Firestar Plus 9 mm

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" - Firestar Plus .40

An unknown but small number of Firestar Plus pistols were produced in .40 S&W. Exactly 10 were released by Interarms in the US — with more delivered, but destroyed and parted out later.

Though simply sold as the "Firestar Plus .40," I presume this pistol would be designated, at least internally, as the M240. If you want one and cannot find or do not wish to shoot one of the vanishingly rare examples, simply buy an M243 in 9 mm, buy an M40, and swap top ends. A number of readers of this site have successfully fired M40 slide assemblies on top of M243 frames.

There were at least several hundred magazines made for this pistol, fully packaged and marked as being specifically for the .40 caliber version. I personally own a number of them, and they are different, with suitable sized feed lips and witness holes for the 10 rounds of the .40 S&W they would carry. These 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 or were contracted to do this. These also feed 9 mm perfectly well, and command no especially high price, if you are looking for M243 magazines and run across one.

There does not appear to be an "M245" or .45 ACP Firestar Plus.

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.

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.

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

So You Put Your Firestar Together Wrong

Any number of guns with removable takedown pins can be assembled wrong, usually with the slide too far forward or rear. The Firestar is one where doing that is especially hard to un-do, and it can get quite stuck. Luckily, there's only one real failure mode, putting it together with the slide too far forward so the pin is in front of the barrel extension lug, and there's a trick to fix it.

  1. Pull the slide forward.
  2. Push down on the barrel hood, as visible through the ejector port. You may have to wiggle and change pressure forward, etc to get it to work. You are doing this to disengage the locking lugs between the barrel and slide.
  3. Once disengaged, move the slide to the rear (the barrel will remain in place but there will be spring tension so push hard, don't hurt yourself).
  4. When you get the slide back far enough (the stripping notches line up) the takedown pin can be pushed out.
  5. Remove the slide assembly and place together properly, then re-assemble as normal.