The STAR Z-45 Submachine Gun
By Jean Huon

In Spain, the factory of STAR weapons is well known for its manufacture of hunting weapons and semiautomatic pistols. Perhaps less well known is that the firm also produced several models of submachine guns.

The first generation of STAR submachine guns was developed by two technicians, Valentine Suaniga and Isaac Irusta. Their realization was preceded by the development of a semiautomatic carbine; the S.I. 34. This weapon did not go beyond the prototype stage but it had the basic mechanism of the following models.

STAR I.S. 35

The STAR I.S. 35 began production just before the Spanish Civil War. The Central School of Shooting where it had been presented recommended its adoption for the armament of assault infantry and mortars crews. Nevertheless, it was used only on one small scale during the conflict.

The weapon presents a very conventional silhouette for the time with a wood stock and a tubular frame length-ened by a barrel jacket with oval perforations. A bayonet attachment permits the use of the Mauser 93 rifle bayonet.

The weapon functions with a breech with delayed opening and the mobile unit is composed of four elements. A selector with four positions allowed single shots, reduced automatic fire, full auto and safety. The barrel has six lands and groves with a right hand twist and a compensator at the muzzle. The tangent rear sight is graduated from 50 to 500 meters by fractions of 50 meters, and from 500 to 1,000 meters by fractions of 100 meters. The front sight is protected by curved ears. The magazine was not made of sheet metal, but constructed of milled steel.

Two STAR S.I .35 machine pistols were presented in France in January 1940: one in .38 Auto (or 9mm Bayard or 9mm Largo), and one in 7.65 mm Long.

Another model was tested in March 1940 chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. Dispersion was too great following a too fast rate of fire. Another test took place in May 1940, again with a weapon in 9mm Parabellum. The test commission considered its operation dubious and dangerous!

STAR R.U. 35

This model is practically identical to the other, but the selector associated with a speed reducer was preserved (300 rpm). Just like the I.S. 35, this weapon was used very little during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

In 1940, the Atlantic Importing Company, an American subsidiary of the STAR company, presented the R.U. 35 at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. The conclusions were negative as the weapon was considered to be too complex, too expensive to produce and it did not fire the .45 ACP cartridge.

STAR T.N. 35

The STAR T.N. 35 was the same model as the I.S. 35 but this model had the normal rate of fire (700 rpm), which was preserved.

This model was proposed for testing to the main belligerents in 1941 without success. This included Germany, the United States, with a version T.N. 35 Atlantic chambered in .38 Super Auto and fitted with a new trigger mechanism, and Great Britain.


Due to the failure of the Series 35 submachine guns to find acceptance among the world’s armies, production ceased in 1942. STAR then began a new series of designs and tests from this date, and with the assistance of German technicians, a new model was born in 1944.

Initially adopted by the Civil Guardia in June, 1945, it takes the official designation of Z 45. In October 1946, it became officially recognized in the police force, the Air Force in April 1947, and then in the Army in June 1948.

The Z-45 appears as an improved MP 40 of which it preserves the silhouette and the proportions; as well as the system of breech and the collapsible stock though a certain number of points were modified or improved.

The tubular receiver has machined grooves for weight reduction and is elongated by a barrel jacket perforated with oval holes. The cocking handle is located on the right side, and is fitted with a safety device that locks the lever (and the bolt) at the forward position. (This device was patented inthe U.S. in 1952.) The bolt is cylindrical with a separated firing pin. The recoil spring is located in a telescopic tubular guide. The gun operates on the blowback principle and when it is closed, a cam initiates the firing pin to ignite the primer. The frame and trigger guard is made of milled steel and receives the wooden grips, the trigger, the sear and the disconnector. The tubular upper receiver is made of sheet metal.

The double half-moon trigger permits either single shots or full auto only by the position of the finger. Single shots are controlled by the lower position and full auto in the high position.

The frame uses a wooden forearm instead of a plastic one, which is usedon the MP 40.

The barrel has a 9mm diameter with six lands and grooves with a right hand twist with a muzzle compensator attached to the muzzle. This barrel is removable, which made conversion to 9mm Largo, 9mm Parabellum, .38 Super Auto and .45 ACP possible.

The magazine is inserted in a magazine well that is a part of the receiver. It looks like the MP 40 magazine, but is not the same. Ten and thirty rounds magazines do exist.

As with the MP 40, the rear sight is made of two open V notches on “L” flip for 100 and 200 meters. The front sight is a blade with two ears.

The stock is organized as the MP 40 with two folding branches that swing down under the gun. The buttplate is articulated to accommodate either the open or closed position.

An alternative wooden stock was proposed instead of the collapsible stock, but it seems not be used.

The Z-45 was used for a long time in Spain and was also used by Angola, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, Mauritania, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

  • Remove the magazine and clear the weapon.
  • Pull out and turn 90 degrees left or right, the milled knob located at the lower side at front of the wooden forearm.
  • Hold the magazine housing in one hand, press the trigger with the other and turn the receiver a quarter turn to the left.
  • Press the cocking handle safety and withdraw the telescopic recoil spring housing and the bolt.
  • Turn the tube 120 degrees counterclockwise and withdraw the recoil spring housing from the bolt.
  • To remove the barrel, press the barrel lock and turn it in the direction of the arrow and withdraw it from the receiver.
  • To assemble reverse the above procedure.

The Z-45 was followed by Z-55, where the folding stock was replaced by a telescopic stock and the frame was made of light alloy. These transformations did not hold the attention of the Spanish Army and the Z 55 quickly disappeared.

In 1962, STAR proposed a new weapon made entirely of sheet metal; designated the Z-62. It too works with a blowback bolt and the double halfmoons trigger device was kept.

The Z-62 was chambered for the 9mm Largo cartridge, and was followed by the Z-70 chambered for 9mm Parabellum ammunition.

The last submachine gun produced by STAR is the Z- 84, whose designtakes as a starting point the Czech Vz 23 and 25; as well as Uzi. The magazine is located in the handle at the center of gravity of the weapon and the hollow mobile breech moves partially around the barrel. In addition to its compact form, the Z-84 is characterized by its capability to function under water, which makes it the ideal machinegun for amphibious troops.

The Z-84 is currently employed in Spain by the army, the navy and the police force. It was also exported in Angola and in Peru.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V11N2 (November 2007)
and was posted online on November 2, 2012


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