In 1925 a pair of entrepreneurial Spanish engineers, Arturo Ballester and Eugenio Molina, formed a car company in Argentina under the name of HAFDASA. They were a firm that manufactured luxury cars and aviation engines. After 1937 the company also manufactured a number of weapons including the Criolla 22LR target pistol, the Hafdasa C-4 submachinegun (a .45ACP copy of the STEN), and the Ballester-Molina pistol.
Design of the Ballester-Molina
With the numbers of 1927 Colt .45ACP (itself a copy of the Colt M1911) pistols growing shorter in the Argentine military, HAFDASA made a move into the handgun market. Their pistol, externally similar and with the same operational concept and manual of arms as the 1927 Colt, was to be locally produced and a HAFDASA exclusive in 1938. The Ballester-Molina pistol is mechanically much more similar to a Spanish Star Model P pistol than a Colt 1911. Taking the 7-round magazine, barrel, recoil spring, and barrel bushing of the Colt, the frame and other parts from the Star, and mixing in a few proprietary pieces, the Ballester-Molina pistol was born. HAFDASA made extensive use of subcontractors for their subassemblies (more on this later) with final construction being at their Caballito barrio of Buenos Aires.
Between 1938-1953, more than 90,000 of the hardy .45s were manufactured.
This hardy Latin .45 was not only adopted for the Argentine military and law enforcement agencies, but also by the militaries of no less than 7 other South American countries. During World War Two, the weapon-hungry British Army purchased an estimated 8,000 Ballesters for their paratrooper and special operations units. While Argentina herself did not enter the war on the Allied side until March 27, 1945-- about a two weeks before the end of the war. While Argentina did not send troops any troops overseas, the Ballester most definitely saw combat against Nazi troops, even if it was in British hands.
The Bersa connection.
Bersa SA of Ramos Mejia, Argentina started making parts for the .45ACP caliber Ballester-Molina handguns. The company was formed by three Italian immigrants (Benso Bonadimani, Ercole Montini and Savino Caselli) who took the first two letters of each of their names for the moniker of their new firm. When HAFDASA folded and discontinued all production in 1953, Bersa lost their main source of income. This forced Bersa to take the plunge and create their own firearms designs and they haven't stopped for more than 50 years. Today Ballester-Molina .45's are well respected and typically go for $500.
Now that's one interesting Bersa.