Star Z45: Spain’s Improved MP40 Submachine Gun

The Z45 was a submachine gun designed during World War Two by the Start firm in Eibar, Spain for export sale to Germany as well as domestic Spanish use. It was heavily based on the MP40, including the same stock, telescoping mainspring guide/cover, and disassembly method as the MP40. To this, however, Star engineers added a progressive type trigger mechanism, a detachable barrel, and a moving firing pin to improve safety. No sales were actually made to Germany, but the gun was adopted by a variety of Spanish military and security organizations in 9mm Largo and also sold for export in 9mm Parabellum, .38 ACP, and .45 ACP. It remained in production into the early 1960s, when it was replaced by Star’s new Z62 submachine gun.

Many thanks to Movie Armaments Group in Toronto for the opportunity to showcase this Star SMG for you! Check them out on Instagram to see many of the guns in their extensive collection.


  1. As Ian surmised, the second S/N on the side of the magazine housing most likely is an inventory number. The “ET” prefix probably stands for “Ejercito de Terre’, meaning the army of a Spanish-speaking “customer”.

    Incidentally, the Z-45 appeared on American television in the 1960s;,_The#Star_Model_Z45

    The wooden stock was supposedly to make it look like a Thompson. The reason? The first season of the series was filmed in Spain.

    By the second season, they were filming in California and were using real Thompsons.



  2. I really enjoy your videos Ian.
    ET probably means “Ejército de Tierra” which would indicate an army purchase.

  3. This is well designed SMG with some fresh ideas. What is not as bright is single stack magazine. However, what spoils overall impression is crude appearance of magazine mantlet; that looks outright shoddy. It was apparently led by need to save on production cost.

    Thanks to Ian for showing this unusual piece!

    • Cannot help to mention this: on one hand we have this splendid variety of “prohibited” firearms, right here in Toronto; on the other we cannot even hope to own such thing as SVD, even in its docile Chinese or Romanian version. Shame!

      • nitpick: Romania does not make SVD clones. The PSL is a very different rifle derived from Kalashnikov basis.

        • Yes, you are correct; I thought of it as a close equivalent to SVD. Similar class in new Serbian rifle. None of them in Canada.

  4. I might point out that the Larteguy book “The Centurions” led to a 1966 film _Lost Command_ starring Anthony Quinn as Basque Lt. Col. Pierre Rateguy aka. Marcel Bigeard of the paras… Also filmed in Spain and/or Spanish Morocco the better to resemble Algerie, but with the result that during the Dien Bien Phu sequences the Viet Minh Men are packing these Z45s instead of PPSh41s, K50s, PPS42s, MP40s, Stens, MAT49s, MAS38s, Thompsons, M3s and M3A1s and Type36s and Type 100s and whatever-else-sort-of-burp-guns Vo Nguyen Giap’s troops carried in reality. Also baffles viewers of the film as to what, exactly, these are!

    Great and informative episode! I might offer that the enclosed, telescoping spring of the MP40, aside from use in the much-maligned Austen and this Spanish SMG also turned up in the Portuguese FBP-48, a sort of Portuguese marriage of MP40 and M3 greasegun…

      • Naw, nothing quite that exotic. We speak of the Chi-Nat copy of the M3 .45 SMG, the Type or Model 36 (ie. Sun Yat-Sen’s revolution “1911” plus 36= 1947) and the Chi-Nat Type or Model 37, the same gun albeit in 9mm and feeding from crummy Sten gun magazines. There is some evidence that those captured by the Chi-coms after the Chinese Civil War were used in Korea, while others were apparently diverted to the nationalist/Marxist-Leninist hybrid movement in Viet Nam. These had a somewhat browner finish than the immediately recognizable U.S.-style parkerizing.

        Additionally, it is thought that upwards to 30,000 copies of the Sten Mk.II may have been made just across the border from Tonkin by the Viet Minh in Chinese guerrilla safe zones.

        The post-WWII German angle is interesting vis-a-vis the Chinese Nationalist Guomindang/ KMT movement, however. Lots of German military assistance, even the 1935 coal-scuttle helmet, PaK 37mm cannon, etc.!

  5. My prefered submachine gun but I’m spanish so biased. See a lot of action in hollywood sub-products and the famous euro productions of the 60s. Superb and elegant weapon. Sometimes embargos and autarkies give some interesting products.

  6. What prevent the bolt lock from capturing the bolt and locking it in the fully forward (firing) position?

    I understand the catch must be depressed to release the bolt so that the bolt can be pulled to the rear to charge the gun, but it seems like that safety would lock the bolt closed as soon as it went forward on the first shot.

    • Certainly one of the most (in)famous accidental SMG discharges in history occurred in Spain, namely in ciudad universitaria in Madrid in late 1936. The CNT-FAI anarchosyndicalist militia leader, the ex-gunman Buenaventura Durruti died after one of his entourage snagged the bolt handle on an automobile panel, and the resultant burst hit him. Presumably SMG mishaps were all too frequent during the Civil War and much else besides.

    • Seemingly, the inertia of locking lever acchives this. Bolt igniting the catridge gives a rotating motion for this lever forward and since blowback action begins immediately, locking lug recoils backward without getting a chance to catch its recess. lMHO.

  7. I can see why at each stage they went ahead with this. But a bit like gilding the lily – make on a bunch of detail improvements, that didn’t really add that much. After all SMGs are generally meant to be at the cheap and cheerful end of guns and surely even semi pariah Spain could have bought or licence built a decent-good gun a lot cheaper.

  8. IMHO This Z-45 is exactly the case when they tried to improve the basic design, not really understanding how it works…
    This ridiculous boot, like in old Thompson, which works incomprehensibly as…
    With a less powerful cartridge, they were able to get a higher rate of fire, a simple complication of the design. LOL

  9. for some odd reason I cannot actually post a response. Have tried retyping it in, put it onto my PC and then copied it across, copied from the comment box and then re transferred it all to no avail? Any ideas please.

  10. I have a sensible comment to post, but, no matter what I do. Have completely rewrote it, then broke it up into smaller components, checked all the words for offence, but, nothing works????

  11. My thanks Daweo, but, but, no there are no links in the text of the message. As stated to me this morning just one of the joys of Windows Ten, which I now “joyfully” (?) use in its Business Edition. I have been having quite a few other problems (unrelated to this) with it. Whilst I know it makes Microsoft a lot of money, I have yet to find any professional person who has anything good to say about it!!!

  12. Having tried everything possible, the message will just not take. Have even retyped it onto my laptap, send it to my PC and vice versa, no problems.

    According to she who must be obeyed and others who have seen it during this farce, it makes sense and is of interest. SO IF ANYONE wants a copy please send a email to and one will fly through the electronic ether to you. Yours,

  13. Mr McCollum, a couple of people have been kind enough to post my message, but, to no avail. They have also tried various tricks to get it to “take” but to no avail. It originally posted from my home PC, which had just had Windows Ten Office put on it. And this has in the past done some weird and wonderful things. Yours,

  14. To confirm: I even tried typing in Mr. Gordon Angus MacKinlay’s observations about encountering the Z-45 “in the wild,” even by short installments and it wouldn’t appear… Most odd!

  15. Mr McCollum if you so wish would you send a email to me at and if I could then send you the message. I put a bit of effort into it and would hate to see it wasted! I tried to send you a email through the on site link, but to no avail. I have the techo coming in at the weekend bringing me a PC which she has built for me, so I do not have to keep on taking off and then putting back on the new lap top!!! Yours, G/.

  16. Mr. G. A. MacKinlay:
    ” actually had contact physically with the weapon in 1966, when we did a course with the Spanish Army High Mountain Company at Jura, in the Pyrenees high country opposite Andorra. All used it as their personal weapons (marksman rifles and LMG were held as pool weapons), it popular with the troops (about 70% being conscripts), light, compact and reliable. They considered it ideal for their high mountain work, with very short ranges expected in their Recce role. 20-30 metres, thick fog or mist being a constant, and even in the middle of summer frequent snow storms.

    The two Ski Companies co-located used the CETME (which was not popular), the Spanish Army financially was broke, so once the yearly supply of ammo had been used that was it, this was March and no more ammo until next January! The British Army OC of our course had links with the French Parachute School at Pau, so he obtained a swag of 9mm from there. This we used along with the happy Spaniards (actually all Catalan’s or Basques) on the field exercise area (on the actual border) away from the barracks (hard to explain to higher authority where the 9mm had come from). We found the Z-45 easy to fire, accurate, simple to strip and maintain, but, not as good though as our Sterling SMGs (before anyone dogmatically jumps on me, in the Regular Army NO ONE called the SMG the L2A3, always the Sterling – even the L34A1 Supressed weapon).

    Our officer published an article in the British Army Review – The House Journal of the British Army, on our experiences. In it he described a conversation with the commander of the Spanish Army Mountain School under whom the High Mountain Company came, this about the reasons why the School Demonstration Brigade had so much equipment and weapons that where of pre-1939 origin, and quite frankly obsolete. His response being “so the American’s can hire them for when they make films in Spain”. I was reminded of this when I saw the film The Battle of The Bulge recently on TV, with Robert Shaw with his blond dyed hair playing the perfect Nazi. While it had M47 MBT playing Tigers, and M24 playing Sherman’s, all of the artillery shown was ancient artillery still with spoken wheels – from Spanish field units which in 1965 still used horse transport!!!! And it’s a bloody awful film.

    In regard to the actual quality of the weapon, when with the UN in Liberia in 1996, a fighter of one of so called “Freedom Fighters” groups was a child in appearance of a ten year old. He armed with a Z-45 in appalling state, with the use of a can of WD-40 and a ball paine hammer managed to strip the weapon down, and then with plenty of gun oil and elbow grease made it look somewhat rehabilitated. Using a 9mm from a issue pistol, the weapon fired perfectly correctly, to my mind showing the quality of the manufacture. Before returning it to the ‘child’ killer, I broke the firing pin.

    A memory just came to me, and having looked it up in a diary, when serving in West Africa, Nigerian soldiers with the UN mission in Sierra Leone, also in 1996, had in a rear echelon support unit men armed with Z-45 (probably from the Biafran War?) these had been fitted with a folding skeletal butt in appearance remarkably like the Madsen M1950 SMG.”

    • My thanks to Mr Carlson in Texas for his persistence in putting the item up for me, at least half got there. I had also wrote about its use by the Border Police on the German Border, and in popular films. Yours, G/.

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