By Joel Hannahs | November 5 2010 15:03

The popular American Rifleman series "I have this old gun …" brings us a look back at the Ballester-Molina pistol.

Produced from 1938-1953, the Ballester-Molina was made in Argentina as a phase-out replacement for the Pistola Colt Modelo 1927. Favored by British special operations during World War II, a total of 10,000 were specially made for the British, distinguishable by an auxiliary serial number beginning with the letter "B." If you find this historic firearm in the United States, take a closer look; it might well be one of those purchased by the British.

Ballester-Molina pistol

"They're very strong, sturdy, beautifully made guns," said Mike Parker, firearms historian, in an interview with American Rifleman. "They are equal in most ways to the pre-war Colt."

Uniquely, the gun was produced by an Argentinian factory that focused on truck engines and auto parts. The lead designer, Frenchman Rorice Rigaud, worked on the gun as a sideline, and the company's executive, Carlos Ballester-Molina, soon realized the product had a market with the Argentinian military and police forces. The gun was briefly dubbed the Ballester-Rigaud.

At first glance, the Ballester-Molina closely resembles the Colt .45 of the same era, the Colt M1911. In fact, the barrel and magazine are interchangeable with the Colt. "However, they're not a copy," said Parker. Other features of the trigger, grip and lack of grip safety resemble the Star pistol of the World War II era.

Known for accuracy and reliability, the Ballester-Molina had a healthy 15-year production run, and Argentina's military still used the Ballester into the late 1980s. Since they've sold their inventory off as surplus, these old guns are now a bit easier to find.

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