Staff Writer (Updated: 4/13/2011):
To this point, the Argentine military was settled on the Mannlicher M1905 pistol before the arrival of the John Browning design of 1911. In 1916, after the latter's inception worldwide, the Argentine government moved in to secure a stock of the new semi-automatic pistol all their own and designated the weapon in their inventories as the "Pistola Automatica Modelo 1916" ("Pistol, Automatic, Model 1916"). Similarly in 1927, once the improved M1911A1 had become available to markets, the government purchased versions of the newer model under the local designation of "Pistola Automatica Modelo 1927". Such was the success of the Modelo 1916 and Modelo 1927 that, with the help from the Colt concern, Argentine officials secured the rights to local production of the pistol out of Buenos Aires and set up a production facility soon thereafter. This allowed the Argentine military access to a legit .45-caliber man-stopper with reduced procurement costs.
Within time, there was a development beginning to manufacture a more localized form of the M1911A1. The resulting design was a close copy of the original American model with a few varying details. The weapon came to be known originally as the "Ballester-Rigaud" but was later regarded as the "Ballester-Molina". It could also fall under the name of "HAFDASA" after the manufacturer initials "Hispano Argentine Fabrica de Automoviles SA" of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both the Ballester and HAFDASA names were imprinted along the slide. All of the names associated with this weapon could be traced back to Arturo Ballester and Eugenio Molina of Hispano-Suiza of Beunos Aires and, to join them some time later, French engineer Rorice Riguad.
Outwardly, the pistol was a near-exact copy of the famed John Browning design. It was only internally that the Ballester-Molina proved more Argentine in concept. The slide still made up a large portion of the upper body. The hammer was exposed in the rear and sights were fitted at the rear and front of the slide. The "prawl' featured noticeable overhang over the grip rear. The original Browning hammer design was slightly revised and the safety on the grip was removed (a manual, frame-mounted safety was provided instead). The trigger was also revised, working in a two-stage fashion but now pivoting along an upper axis instead of the original's sliding performance. The hand grip pattern was also redesigned and now made up of vertically-slanted lines while the grip itself was made slightly smaller to fit better in the hand. The actual internal working components, however, were wholly Browning - including the original's locked-breech firing operation. Additionally, the barrel (6-grooves, right-hand twist), recoil spring and 7-round detachable box magazine (inserted into the base of the hand grip) is the same as on the M1911 series. As such, the Ballester-Molina is chambered to fire the .45 ACP cartridge. Muzzle velocity is 860 feet per second while the unloaded weight registers at 2lbs, 8oz. Despite her relation to the original Browning design, some of the parts on a Ballester-Molina are not outright interchangeable with the M1911.
While a capable product in its own right, the Ballester-Molina suffered in the way that most other copies of an excellent original suffer - the quality of the finish was generally regarded as inferior to the original. However, in operation, she proved of reliable construction and accurate in the trained hand, comparable in quality to the M1911A1 and her many clones. The Argentine Army began fielding the gun in 1938 and a great many Argentine forces eventually followed including Argentine police. British special operations forces utilized the type by the time of World War 2. Production of the Ballester-Molina spanned from 1927 into 1955 resulting in an estimated 90,000 pistols being completed. Beyond actions in World War 2, the pistol was also featured in the upcoming 1980s Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The Ballester-Molina existed in one notable, yet low-quantity variant, this firing the .22 Long Rifle cartridge from a blowback operation.