By Jim Krieger
Most of our readers know what a plinker is. For those who are new to the shooting sports, “plinker” refers to a rifle or handgun, typically chambered in .22 caliber, and often used for recreational shooting and informal target practice, such as at tin cans for instance, which make a “plink” sound when hit (hence the name “plinker”). There are many guns that make good plinkers, and this series of articles looks at some of the most popular .22s among them. The first three articles in the series may be found here, here and here.
On the western edge of the Pyrenees, where France and Spain border each other, lies Spain’s Basque region. Known originally for edged weapons of high quality steel, and later for firearms, the region is also home to the Escuela de Armeria, Spain’s national firearms college. It was here, in the 19th Century, that the Echeverria family began producing firearms. The founder’s grandson, Bonifacio, joined the family business about 1905. A decade later, in WWI, French contracts for military pistols gave the company a significant boost, and at the end of the war, Bonifacio Echeverria gave the company the name that it would use for the next eighty years: Star.
Now defunct, over its eight-decade history Star produced a variety of weapons, including rifles, shotguns, submachine guns and pistols. By far, the most diverse category of Star weapons was pistols. They were produced in various calibers from .22 to .45 ACP, and ranging in size from vest-pocket to 1911 copies. Many of Star’s .22 pistols were variants of its F series models, which were produced from 1932 until 1983.
In 1967, Star introduced the FR series, the last of the F types, with three single-action models: the FR, with a 4” barrel and fixed sights; the FR Sport, with a 6” barrel and adjustable sights; and the FR Target, with a 7” barrel, adjustable sights and adjustable barrel weights. The latter sold widely in Europe, and somewhat less so in the US as an entry-level target competition pistol.
The Sport is a well-balanced all-steel pistol that was supplied with plastic grips that have a thumb swell on the left grip panel. In appearance, the frame is much like the 1911 A-1, with an arched mainspring housing, a hammer with a half-cock notch and a generous checkered spur, a frame-mounted safety (which pivots up for Safe) mounted just below the hammer well, a button magazine release behind the trigger opening, and a slide lock which is engaged by the magazine follower when the last round is fired. All of the controls are on the left side. Unlike the round barrels of the earlier F series pistols, the FR models all have barrels with a square profile. The magazine holds ten rounds, and the follower has a button protruding through a slot on the left side so that it may be retracted as rounds are loaded. Removing the slide is accomplished by bringing the hammer to full cock, depressing a button (also located on the left side, between the safety and the slide stop) to retract a 3/8” long frame rail, drawing the slide rearward ½” and lifting the back of the slide upward to clear the frame and allow it to run forward past the muzzle. The recoil spring, located under the barrel, may then be removed.
At the range, the Sport performed flawlessly, digesting everything I fed it without a hitch. Round nose, hollow points, truncated cone, standard velocity, high velocity, hyper velocity, everything fed, fired and ejected with Glock-like consistency throughout a little over 300 rounds. Surprisingly, the Eley Tenex that I had brought to evaluate the little gun’s accuracy did not produce the tightest groups. That accolade went to the groups fired with CCI’s 40 grain SGB, a flat nose hunting round. Apparently, the little Star prefers the SGB’s long shank. That said, everything I fired (shooting at 50 feet) flew true, and produced groups that did not vary greatly across ammo types.
The Sport’s sights, while a bit dainty for my old eyes, were perfectly adequate for informal target work. The rear sight blade has a 1/8” rectangular notch and is screw-adjustable for windage. The front sight blade is formed from a piece of 1/16” wide sheet stock that is flat on top, and semicircular on the bottom. It rests in a semicircular groove milled into the barrel, and is held in place by a set screw in the right side of the groove. Rocking it forward raises the back end of the blade, which is the elevation adjustment, and provides an undercut to minimize reflection and enhance sight clarity. The trigger has minimal creep, and has a crisp, predictable let-off with almost no overtravel. The supplied grips are comfortably hand-filling, but if the plastic grips don’t suit your fancy, Numrich Gun Parts offers unfinished checkered wood grips for $35.
All in all, the Star FR Sport is a well-designed little pistol that is just right in form and function for informal target shooting and entry-level competition. Its size and weight also make it a good choice for a trail or kit gun.