Astra Model 900

The Astra 900 was a pistol developed to take advantage of a large Chinese demand for semiauto pistols with shoulder stocks, following on the massive sales of the Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” in that country. In the 1920s and 30s, civil war in China drove a huge market in arms, but international treaty had prohibited the importation of military arms. One loophole in the accords, however, was that stocked pistols (including fully automatic stocked pistols) were not considered military arms.

Mauser led the sales to China, but several Spanish companies jumped into the market as well, and the Astra 900 was a well made and reasonably popular gun.The semiauto 900 was chambered for 7.63mm Mauser (like the C96), and about 21,000 were made from 1928 into the 1930s. A series of improved designs followed, with the 901 (select-fire), 902 (select-fire with a fixed 20-round magazine), 903 (select-fire with detachable magazines), and 904/Model F (select-fire with detachable magazines and a rate-reducing mechanism).

16 Comments

  1. I am immensely fond of broomhandles, the Astra included. If there is an antique firearm out there that deserves to return to production, it would be one of these. With certain modernized features, the Astra would make a good sporting pistol or even a vehicle crewman’s defensive weapon.

    • Stocked broomhandles like this would presumably be an NFA restricted firearm if production ever resumed. The Mausers (or anything else) made pre-1899 would by definition be classified as antiques and exempt from all NFA regulations (except full-auto) even in the anti-gun state of California, which incidentally does not even recognize the ATF’s “curio and relic” exemptions, so 20th century broomhandles –even without a stock– may be classified as banned assault weapons in California, depending on the gun’s specific configuration, due to laws that were aimed at driving the Tec-9 (and anything remotely similar) off the streets. And of course anything considered an ‘assault weapon’, including pistols with forward-magazines, cannot be shipped into the state.

      … or something like that. As I’m no longer in California (hopefully for good) I try to ignore the state’s constantly changing and often contradictory gun laws which have gotten so complicated that it can be difficult to figure out exactly what’s legal and what’s not (as well as what application forms need to be filled out that will probably be rejected anyway).

      • Good grief, man! Why don’t we just simply build a ridiculously high wall around that state and then lay down mine fields around the wall? Stupid liberals will apparently never learn because they listen to drug filled morons for leaders! And it also seems that their role models are hypocritical pacifists who claim that mushy “love and peace” regardless of social environment will solve all problems. Moral apathy will never stop suicide bombers and it will never reduce gang violence. Would Californians be terrified of functional match-lock muskets?

        • Yes, a giant wall quarantining California might help keep the disease from spreading. Besides having its own strict gun control regime, California has also been pressuring neighboring states such as Nevada, which has (so far) practically no state-level gun control laws, thus allowing Californians to drive across the state line to Nevada, buy a gun or even a full-blown “assault weapon” legally in a private sale, and then [illegally] drive back to California, leaving authorities with no paper trail.

          So of course that simply cannot be allowed to stand, and after a bill preventing just such a situation was vetoed recently by the Nevada governor, the issue will now be on the November ballot. Even if Nevada voters vote no, it will probably just come back in some other form, again and again until it becomes law, because California’s strict gun control regime gets turned into a joke when residents can simply visit the next state to evade it.

          We’ll see in November if gun-control Domino Theory holds true.

        • From Wikipedia:

          Under New Jersey law a firearm is classified as an “assault firearm” if it meets the following criteria:

          Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:

          Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip

          Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor

          Barrel shroud safety feature that prevents burns to the operator

          Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more

          A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.

          So not considering a gun’s C&R status (if applicable), a semiauto broomhandle with a forward-mounted detachable magazine, and a full-auto version of that model having been manufactured, would apparently have a sufficient number of banned features needed to qualify as an assault weapon in New Jersey (plus one extra feature if it weighs 50 oz or more)

          It seems that a big problem was that because the TEC-9 simply changed its name when it was specifically banned by law, the next series of AWB gun laws targeted general cosmetic features, rather than only banning the exact makes and models supposedly cherished by criminals. And while the short-lived TEC-9 is long gone, the many anti-gun laws it spawned could very well remain on the books forever.

          • “A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.”
            In case of broomhandle it might be argued that it is (considering historic time-line) example which has fully-automatic version of a semi-automatic firearm

      • “including pistols with forward-magazines, cannot be shipped into the state.”
        Does this also apply to target automatic pistols like Hämmerli 280 too?

  2. When I worked at Springfield Armory (64-67) I had an opportunity to fire an Astra model 904 full auto with rate reducer. As I remember it the reducer resembled a clock escapement mechanism and was located in the grip. I believe the rate we measured was 356 rounds per minute. It was very controllable and sounded more like rapid semi auto fire than full auto. On another occassion I got to handle but not fire another Spanish made C-96 look a like which I believe was called a Royal.

  3. i was talking to a kurdish chap in 1977 about the guns they used agaist the iraquis in the 1960’Sone of them sounded like a mauser broomhandle but i remember him saying it was spanish so maybe it was a astra

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