Astra 902: Because More Rounds Are Better

The Spanish Astra firm introduced its C96 Mauser lookalike, the Model 900, in 1927 to take advantage of the strong Chinese demand for that type of handgun. When Bestigui Hermanos introduced a select-fire machine pistol to the Chinese market, Astra quickly followed suit with their Model 910 and 902 in 1928. The 901 was really just a select-fire adaptation of the Model 900, while the 902 made an effort to compensate for the quite fast rate of fire (900 rounds/minute) by using a fixed 20-round magazine instead of the 901’s 10-round magazine.

A total of 7075 Model 902 Astra pistols were made, with the design followed in 1932 by the Model 903 and its detachable box magazines. In order to accommodate the extra-long magazine, the shoulder stocks of the 902s (all Astra 900-series guns were shipped with should stock holsters) had a deep opening cut out, which was then covered by a detachable leather boot to protect the magazine of the gun and close off dirt from the opening in the stock.

One very rare variant of the 902 is the semiautomatic-only type, of which only 50-75 were made (about half the number of 20-round Mauser C96 pistols). We have one of those to look at today, along with its intact original shipping box.



  1. “strong Chinese demand for that type of handgun”
    I heard that it was due to embargo on “military” weapons like rifles, but not pistols (as “police” weapon). I am not sure about that and who imposed such limitations, but it would make sense as promoting substitute-rifle weapons.

    • Substitute rifle? Okay, if we consider the long range performance of the cartridge when used properly. Let’s also consider that the Mauser C96 and its variants are more like personal defense weapons than rifles or sub-machine guns. At close quarters, you DON’T want one (or half a dozen) pointed at you.

      Given a choice of guns and ammunition hidden in a mountain cave along with 10 tons of gold bullion, which do you take when uphill of a nasty bandit gang? Said bandits appear to have lever-action rifles chambered for .44-40 Winchester and have not known about that gun stash since they haven’t gone up there before you did.

      1. Astra 902
      2. Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun loaded with high-explosive ammunition (not kidding)
      3. MG-34 with doppel-trommel conversion installed
      4. Winchester 9410
      5. Colt Monitor
      6. MG-08/15 loaded with AP rounds
      7. Mossberg 590A1 with bayonet and plated shot
      8. RPK with drum magazine of hollow point ammunition (!!)
      9. Get something else!!

      This is totally voluntary. You aren’t required to answer if you don’t want to do so. Please keep any and all criticism humane and free of foul language.

      Thank you,


      • good heavens. Absent a Vickers-Berthier LMG or a Yugoslav PKM 84, I’d have to opt for the Swedish kpist m/37/39 9mm SMG… hopefully with a hobo sack full of ammunition! It’d be great to have the semi-auto-only version of the Astra 902, however. Very interesting.

      • In a defensive situation like that, the full-grown, belt-fed machine gun wins every time, preferably the water-cooled one unless you have a helper. (Barrel-changes on the MG34 were definitely a two-man job.)

        About the only things that would be as useful would be a 2-inch or 60mm trench mortar (your choice of British, U.S., or Spanish Ecia), or a flamethrower.



  2. Mechanically similar to…
    but even better fitted and finished than the Mauser.

    There really was no need for the Franco regime’s neo-mercantilist policy of outlawing cheaper competition to Astra, Star and Llama.

    The little guys were satisfying a completely different segment of the market.

    Astra, Star, Llama… and todays remaining top end Spanish makers of shotguns are world class producers

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