Spanish STAR Z-63

By Vince Oliva

My first encounter with the STAR Z series subgun was in 1981 when the US Air Force provided me a three year tour to the wonderful country of Spain. My assigned Communications site was named Humosa RRL, within the small village of Humosa, basically a Radio Relay Link supporting the main base of Torrejon Air Base, which is located near the magnificent city of Madrid. Please note that all U.S. Military personnel and equipment are guests of the Spanish Government and all military bases have always been the sole property of and under control of the Government of Spain.

Normal entry to the Spanish military facilities was always through the Main Gate and naturally guarded by Spanish military personnel shouldering the Star Z series subgun. Another agency that utilized the Star Z subguns were the Guardia Civil (the Spanish National Police). I observed the Guardia Civil with the STAR Z’s guarding the front of their police stations, all Embassies, State functions and patrols in the Basque regional area of northern Spain, where for many years and currently civil unrest still exists. During my 3 year tour I also observed that the Z-62, Z-63 and Z-70s were slowly being replaced by the CETME C-2, officially called the CB-64 and the Z-84 (an UZI look-alike).

Spain started manufacturing arms at the turn of the century, mostly in small family shops. After WW1 the small shops produced many copies of Colts and Browning besides their own designs. The numerous small arms businesses flourished until the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) when the Franco regime only allowed three commercial arms manufacturers to continue operation after 1939. These were Star, located in Eibar; Astra-Unceta, in Guernica; and Gabilonda y Cia, in Elgoibar (producers of the Llama guns).

“Star” (trade name) Bonifacio Echeverria, SA firm was established in 1905 from the family operation by the brothers Bonifacio and Julian Echeverria Orbea. Besides “Star”, the firm also used another trade mark on their early firearms known as “Izarra” (meaning Star in the Basque Language), but the Star name trademark was fully adopted due to respect of their Basque family heritage. Unfortunately this fine firm closed its doors on July 28, 1997.

From 1905 to 1930 “Star” mostly produced pistols. Machine pistols were incorporated into the inventory from 1930-1952 and the submachine guns development started in the 1930’s. It wasn’t until after WWII that the Spanish submachine guns really appear on the market. Some of the early “Star” submachine guns were the SI-35, TN-35, and the RU-35.

This article and photos are about the Star Z-63 in my possession.

When I spotted this firearm at Knob Creek a few years ago it brought back many fond memories of Spain. Naturally I didn’t need it, but wanted it. So be it. This particular model Z-63 was imported by “Law Enforcement Ordnance, Athens Ga.” as stamped on the right side of the magazine well. The left side of the magazine well is the “Star” logo, Model and serial number.

I was verbally assured (no written documentation) that this particular gun was one of many utilized in the TV series “Miami Vice”. I wasn’t a Miami Vice/Don Johnson fan and had never watched any of the unrealistic “Bulletproof cop” shows.

Some of the physical proof that this was a movie/TV gun is that the barrel rifling has been bored out a couple of inches to accept a blank adapter and the mags that were modified from original Z-70 Mags.

The Z series Submachine guns are, Z-45, Z-55, Z-62, Z-63, Z-70, Z-70B and the Z-84. Up until the Z-63, the primary caliber has been 9mm Largo(9x23). With the Z-63, the primary caliber for manufacturing became 9mm Parabellum (9x19). The Z-45 design was based on the German MP-40 design with an improvement of a forward bolt latch safely on the bolt handle. Basically, this automatic safety provides a high degree of protection from accidental firing caused by dropping the weapon with a loaded magazine inserted and the bolt pulled back, or when the bolt is cocked half way and accidentally released. To fire the weapon, one has to disengage (grip or squeezes) the latch safety on the Mag well.

The Z-62/63 incorporates this automatic added safety but in a different format from the Z-45. The automatic safety latch is pivoted into the bolt. Forward movement of the bolt tends to keep the latch in its disengaged position. A sudden jar when the bolt closes tends to engage the latch. If the bolt closes slowly, the latch engages. To normally disengage the safety latch one has to pull the charging handle. Two rods can be seen on the face of the bolt. One operates the pivoting hammer when the bolt closes. The other releases the automatic safety when the bolt is pulled to the rear by the charging handle.

The manual applied safety is a push button/cross bolt type located in the center of the firing grip trigger housing.

The Z-62 made its entrance to the market in 1962, the Z-63 a few years later. Basically the Z-62 and Z-63 are identical, except in the following four areas.

First, the Z-62 Model was chambered for either the 9mm Bergmann-Bayard (Largo) cartridge or the Parabellum. (note: During my research I could not identify how the Z-62 was marked to distinguish the two different Calibers). When the world wide trend standardized the 9mm Parabellum round, the model Z-62 in 9mm Bergmann-Bayard was discontinued and the 9mm Parabellum version was redesigned as the Z-63.

Second, the Z-62 barrel chamber was longer for the Bergmann-Bayard (Largo) Cartridge.*

Third, the internal dimensions of the Mag well on the Z-62 Bergmann-Bayard is 1.45 inches long to facilitate the longer 9mm Largo cartridge magazine. These dimensions were changed on the Z-70/70B to 1.30 inches to facilitate the 9mm Parabellum Mag.

Fourth, naturally the magazine. A metal spacer tab was welded on the front part of the magazines for the 9 mm Parabellum. This provides a snug functional fit for the larger Mag well. The Z-70/70B incorporates the smaller Mag well and no spacer was needed.

Essentially the Z-63 Model production is exactly the same as the Z-62, except for the internals of the barrel.

The very unique operation of this weapon is that the trigger also serves as the fire-selector. Notice that the trigger housing is large and the trigger is very long and has two finger trigger grooves. Pulling the lower portion of the trigger groove operates the semiautomatic firing. The lower trigger operates the sear via disconnector, which becomes disengaged from the sear when the bolt starts forward to fire a single shot.

For full auto function, pulling on the upper portion will pivot the trigger in a way that the disconnector cannot become disengaged from the sear.

I found it a little uncomfortable (less control) to use only one finger for the full auto operation. I preferred to use two fingers for the full auto mode, the index finger resting on the upper groove and the middle finger resting on the lower groove, now my fingers are actually serving as the firing mode selector.

Because this little subgun has no selector switch, some of my fellow “TASK” [Triad Action Shooters Club (of North Carolina)] members ask if I cheat a little on the subgun matches because during competition most of my shots are singles. The rules are; “The selector has to be on full auto”. Since I use two fingers, only I know which mode I am in.

Shooting this subgun is pure pleasure and very controllable in the full auto mode. The sights are acceptable, the front being of a hooded blade and the rear flip type in 100 and 200 meters. I did find some trouble in ammunition selection. When I used cheap standard 115gr. ammo, I found that the spent cartridges did not eject up and away from the gun and in a few cases the spent shells did not fully eject or fell back into the receiver. This of course jams the action. Utilizing hotter ammo such as “Hirtenberger” eliminated this problem. We have to remember that the Z-62 was designed for the 9mm Largo, which has a bit more punch that the Parabellum and the Z-63 design change was only to the barrel. I suspect the Spanish Military recognized this problem a long time ago and issued or already had hotter ammunition than their standard 9mm Parabellum Mil. Spec.

Another unique item is that the stock folds and locks neatly into the ventilated barrel jacket. When the stock is folded locked forward, the buttplate makes a controllable and comfortable, firm horizontal forward grip...thus a large machine pistol. Additionally the stock is designed to swing from the folded to extended position with 30 round magazine inserted.

Loading and cocking this weapon is accomplished by the left hand; the right hand never having to leave the pistol grip. The Mag release is a push button located at the left rear bottom of the Mag well. The cocking handle is forward left and 2 inches from the end of the muzzle and is spring-loaded return.

I was worried about getting parts. Luckily, talking to Bob Landies, I was informed that he just received a whole brand new shipment of Z-70s. These guns were pristine new! Bob said he had tears in his eyes when he destroyed the receivers to make part kits. Bob also assured me that the Z-70s parts are all the same except for the Mag well. Sure enough, he was absolutely correct. The Big Bonus is that the Z-70 trigger housing fits and operates perfectly in the Z-63 receiver.

Basic Disassembly: Z-62/63/70/70B

Z-62/63 Weapon Specification:

Cartridge: 9mm Bergmann-Bayard (Largo) or Parabellum*
Operation: Blowback, Openbolt
Cyclic rate of Fire: 550 rpm
Length, extended stock: 27.56 inches (700 mm)
Length, retracted stock: 18.9 inches (480 mm)
Barrel length: 7.87 inches (200 mm)
Weight, unloaded: 5.84 lb. (2.65 kg)
Type of feed: Two-position, two-column
Magazine capacity: 20, 30, or 40 rounds**
Rifling and twist: 6, Right
Approx. muzzle velocity: 1,200 fps (370 m/s)
Sight, front: Blade, hooded
Sight, rear: Flip peep, 100 and 200 meters

* The Z-62 incorporated both Largo and Parabellum. The Z-63 in 9mm Parabellum only.
** The Z-62 magazines were offered with either 20, 30 or 40 rounds. The Z-63 was only offered with a 30 round.

A special thanks to Dave Hiester for Photo assistance.

Sources: The World’s Machine Pistols and Submachine guns. Vol. II

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N10 (July 2002)
and was posted online on January 31, 2014


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