.22 LR training variant of the Ballester–Molina pistol
|Place of origin||Argentina|
|Wars||World War II
|Manufacturer||Hispano Argentina de Automotives SA|
|Produced||1938 – 1953|
1,075 g (unloaded)
|Length||288 mm (9 in)|
|Barrel length||127mm (5 in)|
|Cartridge||.45 ACP, .22 LR|
|Action||recoil operated, blowback (.22 LR variant)|
|Rate of fire||Semi-automatic|
|Feed system||7-round magazine|
The Ballester–Molina is a pistol designed and built by the Argentine company Hispano Argentina Fábrica de Automotores SA (HAFDASA). Between 1938 and 1940, it bore the name Ballester–Rigaud.
The Ballester–Molina was designed to offer the Argentine police and military a less-expensive alternative to the Sistema Colt Modelo 1927, which was itself a licensed copy of the Colt M1911A1, built under the supervision of Colt engineers. Production of the Ballester–Molina began in 1938 and ceased in 1953. Ironically, the Sistema Colt 1927 was manufactured until 1966.
The history of the company dates back to 1929, when two Spaniard entrepreneurs, Arturo Ballester and Eugenio Molina, established a branch of the Spanish Hispano-Suiza in Buenos Aires. Years later, HAFDASA hired two engineers, Frenchman Rorice Rigaud and Carlos Ballester–Molina, a relative of the founders. Rigaud became the chief designer of the firm, while Ballester–Molina was appointed chief executive officer.
As the Ballester–Molina was designed to serve alongside the Modelo 1927 that was currently in Argentine service, it bears a striking resemblance to the Colt M1911A1. The Ballester–Molina and the M1911 share an identical seven-round magazine, barrel, recoil spring, and barrel bushing. Although many other parts appear identical at first glance, they are not; only the barrel and magazine are interchangeable. The Ballester is also known as the "Hafdasa", after the initials of the company that made it.
The Ballester–Molina was used by Argentina's security forces. The Argentine Army adopted this weapon in 1938. The Ballester–Molina is a short recoil-operated semi-automatic locked breech pistol. The locking system is a near identical copy of the Colt M1911A1, with the swinging lock used to unlock the barrel from the slide. The trigger is single action, two stage, but pivots rather than slides like the 1911 trigger. The spring housing system is integrated to the pistol frame, instead of being a separate part. The hammer is locked by the frame-mounted manual safety, and there is no grip safety. Overall quality is excellent. Many examples for sale on the surplus market have seen heavy use, but show little internal wear.
The Ballester–Molina was inspired by the Spanish Star B pistol rather than the M1911 Colt, but was manufactured in .45 ACP. It has a few parts, such as barrel, magazine, and recoil spring, interchangeable with the M1911. The Ballester–Molina is a very well made and rather accurate pistol, which can successfully compete with any other .45 manufactured at the time.
In a September 2007 article in the Argentine gun magazine Magnum, about the British-ordered Ballester–Molina pistols, gun writer and collector George E. Arbones' research and collection data seems to indicate the legend British-bought Ballester–Molinas being manufactured using steel salvaged from the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee after she was scuttled in the River Plate, across from Buenos Aires is true. Another specialist, Alejandro Gherovici, dismissed the legend, saying the steel was likely supplied by the U.S. under Lend-Lease. Arbones' article also details the use of those pistols by the British 8th Army and the SOE, and how he came to have his own British-marked Ballester–Molinas. Between 10,000 and 15,000 of all Ballester–Molinas were specially manufactured for Britain during World War II. A number of pistols was issued to agents of the SOE, in order to avoid the use of British weapons for undercover operations in occupied Europe and behind enemy lines. British contract Ballester–Molinas are identified by serial numbers ranging from 12.000 to 21.000, marked with a "B" prefix (i.e. B16343).
A version of the Ballester–Molina chambered for .22 Long Rifle was produced for training purposes. This version was identical externally to the standard Ballester–Molina, except for slide markings indicating the caliber. However, the .22 caliber version is blowback operated to accommodate the less-powerful rimfire cartridge. This version was produced in much smaller numbers, and is much rarer today. The Ballester–Molina pistol also came with an extended barrel and a wooden buttstock.
- Hogg, Ian; Gander, Terry Jane's Guns: Recognition Guide London and New York City: HarperCollins Publishers. Fourth Edition, 2005. ISBN 0-00-718328-3.
- Arbones, Jorge E. "Magnum" Buenos Aires, Argentina magazine: "Ballester Molinas Peronistas y Ballester Molinas Inglesas," September 2007 (Spanish)