other By: Bob Campbell | February, 20
The “Super” designation denoted improvement in the mechanical aspects of the pistol, not necessarily the .38 Super chambering. The pistol has advanced features that would not be out of place on a modern 1911. These include an external extractor and a loaded chamber indicator similar to that found on my most modern 1911, the Smith & Wesson SW 1911. The loaded chamber indicator is simply a cut-out in the slide that reveals the base of the cartridge case if the piece is loaded. There is also a full-magazine indicator, simply a small piece of metal that protrudes from the bottom of the magazine if it is fully loaded. The sights are among the best of any service pistol of the era. Compare the Super’s sights to a 1950’s 1911, Browning, Beretta 1951 or French 1950 and you will see the comparisons I base my opinion upon. The sights featured a white inlay when new, but most will have long seen this inlay worn off.
The recoil spring guide is captive, and lockup is achieved by angled camming surfaces instead of the swinging link of previous Star pistols. The Tokarev and the French 1935 were the last new pistols (other than 1911 clones) to use the swinging link. The use of the High Power-type lockup allowed a revolutionary new takedown system. With the magazine removed and the slide in battery, a lever on the right side of the pistol is turned down and the slide can be removed. This is a fantastic advancement, a noteworthy improvement in service pistols that has not been adopted by other single-action service pistols. Detail changes in the magazine safety and trigger action were also introduced.
Given the improved takedown, the pistol is rather simple to field strip. It is all Browning in this regard. The safety system bears some discussion. While 1911-like, the Star system positively locked the hammer when the safety is “on.” Unlike the 1911, however, the safety may be applied when the hammer is in the down or fully forward position as well. There is no grip safety.
Overall, our Spanish friends saw the Star Super as a singular improvement over previous single-action pistols, and essentially they are correct. We probably would not have as much experience with the piece save for the importation of the Star Super in great numbers during the past decade or so. These pistols vary in age and condition, but they are available for less than $200, a light tariff for a high-quality pistol.
Feeding the Largo
The 9mm Largo is longer than the 9mm Luger. Case length is the same as the .38 ACP, .900 inch. At least that is the measurement of the majority of Largo cases. Some sources quote .910 inch as the proper length.
When the market became sufficient for factory loaded ammunition in the Largo caliber, Speer developed the Blazer loading. There are two versions, one using the 124-grain Gold Dot bullet and the other using a full-metal-jacket bullet. Each develops about 1,100 fps. This is conservative in respect to older steel but warm enough to operate the action. Berdan-primed aluminum cases are not reloadable, but at least we have a factory product for casual use. I prefer to use the correct cartridge case, as the true 9mm Largo features a larger extractor groove than the .38 Super. Common sense tells us the case the firearm was designed to accept would have the greatest potential for reliable function. Fortunately, Starline has come to our aid with quality, affordable 9mm Largo brass. This is a great boon and allows concentration on load development rather than hours spent making cases or modifying the piece.
I have also used the Starline .38 TJ case with excellent results. This case features a large extractor groove and rimless head, making for better feed reliability in .38 Super pistols. It works fine in the 9mm Largo. The design places the case head farther into the chamber for safety. In its original form, the 9mm Largo is about as powerful as a standard 9mm NATO loading. Most common were 124-grain bullets, but some loads used bullets as heavy as 134 grains.
I am content to load the 9mm Largo in the 9mm Luger +P+ or low end .38 Super class. Most of the loads I use are geared toward informal practice, but a few top-end loads that maximize the caliber are included, and I have not observed excess pressure signs with these loadings, but slide velocity is increased and wear will be accelerated. The Largo can be quite pleasant and accurate with standard loads. Top-end loads should be reserved for occasional use, if fired at all.
I used the same powders that have given good results in the .45 ACP and .38 Super. These included Bullseye and Winchester 231. However, I used a powder that, while established as a good performer, I have had little experience with – Winchester Action Powder or WAP. I found it a good choice. The report of the WAP loads seemed greater than the others, even at moderate velocity, but overall results were good. Power Pistol had proven a good choice for heavy loads in the .38 Super, and once again results were good. The 9mm Largo, like the .38 ACP and .45 ACP, works well with a variety of powders. It is a matter of finding the “sweet spot” in your pistol.
As a moderate range varmint zapper, the lightweights would do the business. At close range, expansion is violent with the Sierra bullet, usually resulting in fragmentation. On the other hand, in experiments with the .38 Super, the 90-grain XTP refused to fragment in wet newsprint, even at 1,600 fps. This is food for thought and special applications. In any case, the Largo gave fine accuracy with the 90-grain bullets. This was unexpected but pleasant.
Overall, I feel that the 115-grain JHPs gave the best results in this caliber, and accuracy results were the best obtained. I used the Nosler and Sierra JHPs with good results; both gave good accuracy. Either offers good expansion potential, with the Sierra more likely to fragment quickly. It all depends upon the scenario. For general purpose use, a bulk bullet that gave good performance is the Zero Bullets 115-grain JHP. You may ask why I use so many hollowpoints instead of FMJs, but the answer is economics. As long as the pistol feeds JHPs, why not? The Zero bullet is inexpensive and in bulk is usually the same price or less than comparable hollowpoints.
In the 124-grain bullet weight, I used the Hornady XTP and Speer Gold Dot. Accuracy was good, and top velocity resulted in a load that met steel reaction targets with a resounding clang. Those wishing to duplicate the original 9mm Largo loading may use the Hornady 124-grain Truncated Cone bullet.
The Largo proved accurate with cast bullets. The Magnus 122-grain bullet, designed for the 9mm, is a good choice for inexpensive target practice and small game. Filled with good lubricant in a wide grease groove,
Overall, I found the loading project profitable. I used RCBS 9mm Largo dies, although .38 ACP dies will do yeoman service if you have a set on hand. Winchester primers were used in every load with good results; however, a difference in performance in magazines was noted. The magazine supplied with the pistol featured a yellow band on the base plate, probably a military mark for inventory control. It wanted to dip the first cartridge in the magazine into the feed ramp at times, compromising feed reliability. Once the first round was fired, the pistol always fed the rest of the magazine. The better performance was realized with a magazine with a solid follower, while the less reliable magazine featured a cut-out below the follower body. Either worked fine once the first cartridge was loaded, and a simple push on the slide usually completed loading with the offending magazine. If I have a choice I will take the solid follower design.
I began by cautiously using data intended for the .38 ACP then applied my own experience with the .38 Super, a similar cartridge, to the 9mm Largo. Overall, the 9mm Largo pistol and cartridge were found to be good performers. Plus, this performance is available on the cheap. That sounds like a lot of fun to me!