Ballester Molina: The Underrated Argentine .45

The Ballester-Molina was designed to be a more economical pistol to produce than the 1911A1, which had been adopted by Argentina as the Pistola Sistema Colt Modelo 1927. It was produced by a company called HAFDASA, an Argentine franchise of the Hispano-Suiza firm created by Arturo Ballester and Eugenio Molina in 1929. The pistol was finalized in 1937, and production ran from 1938 until 1955. At that point, it was supplanted by new domestic Argentine production of the 1927 Colt.

Until 1940, the pistols were actually marked “Ballester-Rigaud”, named after Rorice Rigaud, the French engineer who headed the design program at HAFDASA. After he left the company, the name was changed to “Ballester-Molina”. The guns were used by a wide variety of Argentine military and police organizations, and 8,000 were purchased by the UK for use by Special Operations Executive during World War Two. These British contract guns fall between serials 12,000 and 21,000, and have a B-prefix additional serial number on the right side of the frame.

Sold for $2,300 at the December 2019 RIA Premier auction.


    • Among auto pistols, a tossup between the Roth-Steyr Model 1908 and the French Model 1935S. The Glock uses a slight variant of the Roth-Steyr’s searage, and the modified and simplified Browning type locking system of the M1935S. Both are now considered “standard” features of service and defense automatics worldwide. Which is ironic as neither the M1908 or M1935S was considered particularly noteworthy in their own era.

      The Colt-Browning Model 1911 has to be considered extremely influential as well, due to most modern auto pistols using its recoil spring/barrel/slide layout. Although the Browning Model 1935’s simplified version is probably better.

      Also the Pistole Parabellum 1908 aka Luger, which introduced the now world-standard 9 x 19mm cartridge.

      Among revolvers, just on grounds of sheer numbers of originals and of exact or modified copies produced in the last 147 years, the Colt Model P aka Pistol, Revolver, Single Action, Army Model of 1873. Among other things, I don’t believe that any other repeating pistol action has ever been adapted to such a wide variety of cartridges, from .22 rimfire at one end of the spectrum to .50-70 Government at the other.



  1. These were great deals when JLD (Juan Luis Diaz?) Enterprises was importing them in the 90s. Wish I had gotten a few more of each. The early imports were in REALLY nice shape. They’re well made guns that are a reliable as a clock.

  2. I got mine from Sarco for some ridiculously low price that I now cant remember. I rem the dealer that i went thru bought several for himself because of the price. It shot well but like many of them developed a frame crack just behind the forward slide rail. Ended up giving it away to a gunsmith friend.

  3. I was hoping for disassembly. As intricate a puzzle as the stock 1911 is already, I’d be fascinated to see how the Argies managed to get this together without any removable frame pieces!

  4. Argentina has its own fairly long tradition in firearms making. I am not big far of their “baroque” looking sub-machineguns, but have respect for their pistols. It would be nice if Ian brought to light some earlier model of Bersa.

    • “(…)I am not big far of their “baroque” looking sub-machineguns, but have respect for their pistols.(…)”
      I am not sure about your definition of “baroque looking sub-machineguns”, but I assert you that they also produced… let call it worksmanlike sub-machine gun. Just see:
      4 last here:
      and first 3 here:
      Also keep in mind that they made aluminium sub-machine gun namely C-2:
      since 1938 and offering high capacity (total 40 or 50 depending on cartridge).
      Rigaud also take part in development which finally resulted in C-2.
      As for other sub-machine gun shown in my earlier links, if I am not mistaken they were not ground-breaking or excellent, but were solid performers. Also take closer look at 66-6 and its dual-purpose mag-well-grip, which seems to be genuinely simple solution to problem encountered in some other sub-machine gun – increasing of jam chance due to holding on magazine.

      • Look at no’s 66-1 and 66-2 Halcon. They look baroque to me. Some might say “steam-punk” and that is fine with me too.

        In times ago I recall (that time there were still newspapers) seeing pictures of various South-American juntas making heir shows. Their soldiers were typically armed with this and similar junk.

        • Someone may say; “but you would not stand in front of it, would you”. My answer is NO, of course I would not; unless I have bazooka in my hand. 🙂

      • That having said, I do have respect for Chilean production, such as FAMAE. They gave themselves the benefit to learn from SIG.

  5. Is it possible someone took a “normal” pistol and stamped a B in front of the serial number to make it appear to be a SOE pistol?
    I don’t i am just asking…

    • Of course. Fakers are everywhere in the collector market. But the Ballester-Molina is one of the obscurer pistols, and stamping eagles and swastikas all over a poor P.08 is much more profitable.

  6. The Australian Army Infantry Museum (used be The Royal Australian Infantry Corps Museum before the Labor Government forced the Army to change the title) had in its collection a SOE example.

    This came to Australia with a British Army LT COL who served operationally with Special Operations Australia, and had carried out SOE operations in Europe. A original member of the Army SB, he wrote the very good; COURTNEY G.B., MBE, MC Silent Feet. History of `Z’ Special Operations 1942-45. R.J.and S.P.Austin McCrae, Melbourne, 1993.

    The pistol in superb condition came with its original holster, made in the Argentine, a heavy duty green-grey canvas with stainless steel frame holster of unusual, but very practical and efficient design. With a superb catch, two pockets for magazine and a cleaning kit compartment. The pistol itself was of superb manufacture and high quality materials, while I never fired it, I would doubt whether the cracking problem mentioned previously would have occurred.

    Ergonomically it felt superior to the M1911’s in the collection, and in his notes with the pistol Colonel Courtney had stated that American personnel who had compared it with standard US Army issued M1911′ stated they considered it superior.

    The pistol and holster were exchanged with the Enfield Pattern Room (now Royal Armouries) in the UK, for a 19th Century Colt revolver with a Australian providence that would fill a niche in their superb collection of Colts.

    A elder brother (now deceased) had a brand new (dated 1951) example which a surrendered Argentine officer of Marines handed over to him on surrender in the Falklands. He took it with him to the Gulf War, and on a number of tours in the Former Yugoslavia (being a bit of a show off), presenting it to the Royal Marine Museum when he finally retired from the Corps.

    My youngest son was in the Argentine some four years ago leading a training mission, on the completion of the task he was presented with a magnificent of the gun engravers art (silver and gold engraving) on a high quality enhanced version of the pistol (silver hand grips etc), in a equally magnificent high quality timber case. This also went off to the Royal Marines Museum Collection.

  7. Having just wrote the previous message, I feel that many will not know of the Pattern Room, this American article tells of the now long gone facility, that gave me so much pleasure in my youth. it also tells of Herbie Woodward, who I first met in 1963 when shooting for the Queen’s Hundred at Bisley, he then working for a gunsmith, and with whom I remained friends up to his death in 2003. Remaining in touch by correspondence and telephone, until it dramatically increased with the internet in 1995. Sadly missed, and the sort of specialist with both immense practical as well as academic knowledge – which so often in the 21st both are rarely displayed in the same person.

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