Astra 600/43: A Straight Blowback 9mm for the Wehrmacht

The Astra in this video is coming up for auction here…

When Germany acquired a land border with Spain after the French capitulation in 1940, they took advantage of the opportunity to purchase Spanish firearms, and have them delivered across the French border to the town of Hendaye. A German inspection office was set up there for use with both Spanish arms and Unique pistols. The first purchases from Spain were Astra 300 and Astra 400 pistols – the 300s were fine, but in .380 and .32 caliber. The 400 was a more suitable service sidearm, but it was chambered for the 9x23mm cartridge which Germany did not use. So in 1943, a couple of German engineers visited Astra to see about production of a pistol more suited to the Wehrmacht use.
The result was the Astra 600/43, basically a model 400 rechambered for 9x19mm. It used a Navy pattern of magazine release instead of the 400’s heel release, and was generally much more what the German military wanted. Germany ordered 41,500 of them, and production began. The first delivery was in May of 1944, and a total of 10,500 were delivered to Hendaye before Allied advances into France made further deliveries impossible. These 10,500 guns were inspected at Hendaye, given WaAD20 proof marks, and distributed into the German military system. Astra continued to produce the guns through 1945 despite the inability to deliver (Germany had paid for them in advance, after all), and by the end of the war they had nearly 50,000 available.
Some were sold on the Spanish civilian market, and a few small sales were made to militaries worldwide (Portugal, Chile, Jordan, Turkey, etc) as well as the Spanish government. But the bulk of the guns remained in inventory or storage until 1951, when the West German Police adopted the gun, and bought everything Astra still had (45,350 approximately). These were later amalgamated into the Bundeswehr inventory in 1956, before being replaced by the Walther P1 in 1961.

34 Comments

    • At least they are simple in nature and easy to build. I wonder if the grip was held “duelist style” to bring the sights closer to the eyes…

    • An external hammer would help in case of manual re-cocking on loaded chamber. But then you would not have such simple integral form. And no opportunity for hammer bite.

  1. Viewers of the old Mission:Impossible TV series will recognize Astras as the sidearms of all those evil secret police and uniformed tyrants populating the fictional Third World dictatorships that the heroes pulled their stunts on. There were a number of Madsen SMGs in use too, as if the producers had said, “We’re portraying fantasy states, make sure to use prop guns almost no one will recognize.”

  2. “Ugliness” is subjective. I like shooting my 600/43! It’s well-made, accurate, reliable, easy to take down, and has an interesting history. I’d like to find some plain checkered wood grips for it.

    • Agreed, “Ugly” is totally subjective, and meaningless. As far as being “hard to cock” I don’t get that at all, but I don’t know if the writer is talking about one gun that he has experience with, or if he is experienced enough to be able to generalize to all of them. Mine certainly isn’t particularly “hard to cock.. Since it doesn’t have an external hammer, “cocking involves racking the slide. It’s no harder than any other semi-auto that I have used. The grip angle doesn’t seem to be a problem either, and that’s also subjective. And finally, the sights are pretty typical of WW2 era pistols of all types. Besides, one does not use pistol sights in a gunfight, get real. Pistols are short range, point and shoot option. Frankly, Ian, as usual, sums it up well. It looks a little odd to a lot of people, but it’s really a pretty good pistol, and you could do a lot worse. Reminds me of my wife.

  3. I have an Astra mod 600/43 made in 1944 serial number 38238, but under the serial number on the frame there is 11074 that has been crossed out with 3 xxxs. Would love to know the history, thanks.

  4. There shiped weapons and even trops for the civil war into Spain. So having a comen border with Spain is not a requerment, but have make thinks simpler. After all Spain was a neutral country and could sell to Germany as Schweden sold iron ore.

      • Don’t miss :
        -Wall Street & London financing election campaign (yep, fascism sounds better for profits than communism)

        -cooperation between DuPont & IG Farben
        -Dow chemical : materials and oil technology
        -General Electric & Krupp Steel (tungsten carbide)
        -Standard Oil & IG Farben : synthetic textiles, drugs & explosives

        -Ford & General Motors (Opel) vehicles (70% of the German market)
        -Ford powered tanks & tracked vehicles
        -ITT for electronics & avionics

        -Banking : Brown Brothers Harriman, Preston Bush help and financing through Union Banking Corporation

        -Alcoa : massive aluminum providing to Axis countries
        -IBM

        -Coca Cola
        -MGM support after Poland invasion (11 movie as gift)

        -Woolworth : fire Jews to guarantee “pure Aryan products”
        -Chase Manhattan Bank : collaboration with Gestapo, profit from Jewish property seizures

        There should be other existing example of such business support.

      • What happened was that we (the U.S.) supplied POL to Franco as part of bribing him to stay neutral. And he used part of it, specifically naval bunker fuel, to refuel both German Type IX long-range u-boats and Japanese RO and I-class long-range submarines in the Canary Islands, which were and are Spanish territory.

        This was how both Germany and Japan maintained their submarine communication line of everything from rubber from the Dutch East Indies going to Germany, to a complete Me-262 jet fighter going to Japan, right through the war. (NB; We sank the IJN boat carrying the Schwalbe, but unfortunately the data on its engines got to Japan and were used to build locally-made duplicates.)

        At the same time, Franco was resisting all entreaties from Hitler to seize Gibraltar and close off the Med from the west, mainly because Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Hitler’s chief spook and a longtime friend of Franco’s was telling him Germany was going to lose. Canaris’ honesty with Franco, among other things, got him executed on 9 April 1945.

        As for Franco, he “played both ends against the middle” right through the war with a cynicism that even impressed Tito. And afterward made Spain a founding member of NATO.

        Generally, you could sort of trust him…as long as he got paid on time.

        cheers

        eon

  5. I have always wanted one of these because it’s such a basic tube and handle but I’ll never have the funds for one.

  6. What strikes me is that this pistol in in my view not only elegant by its appearance, but it encompasses simple mechanical solution in 9mm Luger. Can someone at least duplicate it…? The other blowback 9mm pistols I know of are no match to this.

    • “Seemed heavy for it’s size.”
      And it indeed is, lets compare to other 9×19 Parabellum-chambered automatic pistol from that era, deployed by forces of III Reich:
      ASTRA 600 – 1080 g
      WALTHER P38 – 840 g
      Pistole 640(b) – 885 g
      Pistole 35(p) – 1025 g

    • My main criticism of the 600’s ergonomics is the manual safety. It seems very awkward to use and requires a nearly 90-degree throw to activate.

  7. Tubular slide Astra pistols seem having low barrel axis but holding in the hand does not support this feature’s low muzzle rise ability. Perceived recoil is respectable. ln fact, the slide weight near to 400 gram is enough for ensured 9mm Parabellum round discharge in blowback pistols which seems present in the Model 600 Astras, but the terrific slide velocity gained thruogh recoil causes tiny cracks at rear of the frame and at the slide at around of the ejection port through long usage. Recoil impacts beat frame by a sudden rotation trying to shear the rails at the rear and striking to the breech end of barrel as forcing the tensile strenght of slide near the thinnest sections at returning movement are causes of these cracks. Model 400 pistols, by cause of the more powerfull rounds they used, are prone to these failures more than Model 600. However, most of the users seem not awared of these defects and continue to use their guns without having appearent complete slide or frame breakage, at least at my area.

    • “cracks”
      This lead to question if they (at ASTRA company) made tests of destruction on Model 600 automatic pistol example, firing and firing until it become unable to further operate and what was results (how many cartridge they need to do so)

      • Astra was said having slide construction experiments for maximum durability obtainable with blowback operation and; the tubular shape, tight slide rails nestling the bolt inside the frame seem the results of these works but, it should be said that those features were also present in configuration of the starting “Campo Giro” pistol. ln fact, Astra was perhaps, never accepted those hairy cracks as a defect in over all production life of the gun since they occured after highly lot of using more powerfull loads.

        • If the gun didn’t explode after firing 10000 rounds of ludicrously overcharged ammunition you were likely safe.

    • On subject of cracks… and this may be entertaining to some. In some cases, creation of crack in less critical part such as frame is a measure to tension relief. Where is no material, there is no stress – remarked ones my senior co-worker. 🙂

  8. Is this it is the 9×19 mm Luger blowback pistol, which has so hard recoil spring, that nearly impossible to operate?

  9. That’s why VP 70 has a recoil buffer spring underneath the barrel, to nullify the slide beating the frame. (And of course deep grooves barrel)

  10. I just got one of these, serial 149xx and with old style markings. That’s a data point for Ian’s statement that these went to the new markings at around serial 15000. I found it surprising easy to shoot given its odd appearance, and quite accurate. The sights are about par for WW II–better than a VIS and worse than a P-38. I didn’t find mine particularly hard to rack, although I could really feel the slide slamming back under recoil.

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