The Astra Model 4000 Falcon .380 ACP Pistol
By David Tong
The Spanish firm that eventually (after several name changes) became known as Astra Unceta y Cia was founded in 1908 and began manufacturing pistols in 1913. In 1914 their improved modification of the Spanish Model 1912 Campo-Giro service pistol was officially adopted by the Spanish military. During WW I, Esperanza y Unceta (Astra) produced something like 150,000 Ruby-type pistols for the French government.
After the end of WW I the Spanish government looked to replace their Model 1912 service pistol. Astra submitted their Model 400 and, after trials ending in 1921, it was adopted as the Model 1921 Army service pistol. This very successful pistol was sold to several other countries and remained in production until 1941 in a variety of calibers. A more compact pistol, the Astra Model 300, was intended for Navy and Air Force use.
The Astra 400 service pistol was progressively developed after WW II and the Company scaled the dimensions down, first with the Model 3000 of 1948. That pistol had the same internal hammer operating system as the Model 400 and it was chambered in both .32 ACP and .380 ACP.
The Model 4000 is essentially similar to the Model 3000, except that it sported an external hammer, a rounded Colt Commander type with a lightening hole. The grip safety was eliminated.
Introduced in 1956, the Model 4000 was made to compete with other compact blowback autos, such as the Walther PP, Mauser HSc and the Beretta M1934. In most dimensions it was larger, but still not bulky. It was offered in .380 ACP, .32 ACP and .22 LR with magazine capacities of 6, 7 and 10 rounds, respectively.
The 4000 was the final version of the famous line of Astra "Tube Slide" pistols and it was a straight blowback design. The preponderance of production was for European customers. It is said that only several hundred made it to the U.S., making it fairly rare here.
The reason this pistol did not come here in larger quantity was mostly due to the GCA-1968 law and its inane points system that was foisted onto any imported small handguns. Apparently, the pistol itself was large enough as produced, but Astra did not add a thumb rest left grip panel and a fully adjustable rear sight, which were necessary for sufficient points to grant importation. Importation of Astra 4000 pistols into the U.S. ceased after 1968.
The Astra 4000 has a rather heavy recoil spring and a pair of knurled/lugged locking collars that allow it to be field-stripped. This makes the pistol more difficult to take apart than most other designs, most notably the Walther PP family and the Soviet Makarov.
In the hand, the Falcon feels nicely rounded, with a shallow oval profile. The grip angle is more vertical than most. The rear of the butt is rounded to reduce snagging and printing under clothing. Two screws attach each brown or black plastic grip panel to the grip frame. (Later in the Model 4000's production life, after export to the U.S. had ceased, walnut grip panels were used.)
The safety is a left frame mounted, rotating, manual thumb lever. You push it forward to fire, rotate it to the rear for safe. There is also a half-cock hammer notch and a magazine disconnect safety that prevents firing the pistol with the magazine removed, even though a cartridge may still be in the chamber.
The magazine release is a coil spring powered button. It is located on the bottom rear of the left grip panel, rather than the usual location near the base of the trigger guard. The trigger blade, serrated safety lever and hammer were all left in the white on the sample pistol upon which this article is based, while the balance of the pistol is hot-blued with a decent level of polish.
A very short shooting impression consisted of firing three magazine loads on a 10 yard (30 foot) indoor range. The ammunition used was standard pressure reloads launching a 95 grain RN-FMJ Sierra bullet at a nominal MV of 945 fps.
I found the pistol grouped reasonably well, into about 1.5" at 10 yards, but shot notably to the right of my point of aim, while it printed roughly three inches below the same point of aim for my friend, who owns the pistol. (The individual shooter's grip drastically influences where a handgun shoots, which is why adjustable sights are so important. -Editor)
There were no failures to feed, extract, or eject. The ejection pattern was approximately a foot ahead of the pistol in a five-inch circle, so the ammo used was fairly consistent, if perhaps softer than the claimed 945 fps might indicate. There is no slide hold-open after firing the last round.
The single action trigger pull is very stiff, at over seven pounds, although it feels clean. Fortunately, it did not have the trigger kick-back of an old Model 400 I once fired.
I was surprised to be bitten by the hammer a couple of times, considering that its rounded shape is relatively small in diameter and my hands are slender. However, the hammer does overhang the rear tang just a bit when cocked.
By the time the Model 4000 was discontinued in the early 1980s, Astra was in some financial trouble and the company ceased operations in 2008. The Tube Slide pistols had started their long history in the early 1920s, so by 1980 the design might have appeared quaint. However, they still feel pretty good in the hand and are not a bad buy, if you can find one.
Copyright 2017 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.