The Ballester-Molina was a locally-produced Argentine offshoot of the hugely successful American Colt M1911 semi-automatic service pistol. The M1911 - copied the world over through both legal and illegal means - formed the basis for many-a-pistol design after its inception prior to World War 1 (1914-1918) and Argentina became just one of many nations to also find value in the proven system. The sidearm was manufactured by Hispano Argentina Fabrica de Automoviles SA (HAFDASA) of Buenos Aires, Argentina and around 113,000 examples were produced from the period spanning 1938 to 1953. One of the more notable operators of the product became the British whose special forces employed the type in World War 2 (1939-1945).
Only a few internal differences mark the Ballester-Molina from its American cousin.
Prior to the adoption of the Ballester-Molina, the Argentine Army relied on the Mannlicher M1905. After introduction of the Colt M1911, the Argentine government moved in to secure the new semi-automatic pistol in 1916 and designated the weapon as "Pistola Automatica Modelo 1916" ("Pistol, Automatic, Model 1916"). Similarly in 1927, once the improved M1911A1 had become available, the government purchased versions of this newer model under the designation of "Pistola Automatica Modelo 1927". Such was the success of the Modelo 1916 and Modelo 1927 that, with help from the Colt concern, Argentine officials secured the rights for local production of the M1911 out of Buenos Aires and set up a manufacturing facility soon after. This allowed the Argentine Army access to a legitimate man-stopper with reduced procurement costs.
Within time, there was thought given to devising a more localized form of the M1911A1 to better suite Argentine military needs. The resulting weapon was a close copy of the Colt though with a few varying details. The weapon came to be known as the "Ballester-Rigaud" and, after 1940, was regarded as the "Ballester-Molina". It could also be identified as the "HAFDASA" after the initials of the manufacturer ("Hispano Argentine Fabrica de Automoviles SA"). Both the Ballester and HAFDASA names could be found printed along the slide.
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.
It deserves mention that the Argentina Ballester-Molina was influenced by another M1911 copy, the Star Model P of Spain and this version was born from the larger Star Model B - itself a copy of the M1911. This shows the extent of the John Browning design and its influence on so many other semi-automatic pistols of the period. Even today many semi-automatics can trace their lineage back to the M1911 in some way.
Outwardly, the Argentine local pistol attempt mimicked the form of the classic John Browning design for it was only internally that the Ballester-Molina proved more Argentine in execution. The slide still made up a large portion of the gun body and the hammer remained exposed at the rear. Iron sights were fitted at front and rear along the top of the slide in the usual fashion. The "prawl' gave noticeable overhang at the grip for an improved hold. The original Browning hammer design was only slightly revised and the grip safety 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 function. The hand grip pattern was revised to now be 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) were the same as used in the M1911. The Ballester-Molina was also chambered to fire the large .45 ACP cartridge and muzzle velocity was rated at 860 feet-per-second. The gun's unloaded weight registered 2lb, 8oz. Despite its relation to the original Browning design, some of the internal parts of the Ballester-Molina were not 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. In operation, however, the pistol proved reliable and accurate, comparable to the M1911A1 and its many clones. The Argentine Army began fielding the gun in 1938 and other Argentine services eventually followed including police forces.
Beyond participation in World War 2, the Ballester-Molina was featured in the upcoming 1980s Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Only one major variant of the Ballester-Molina was spawned, this being a low-quantity gun chambered to fire the .22 Long Rifle cartridge through a blowback operation.