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Posted: 6/11/2009 8:34:13 AM EST
The quest to find an “Off Duty” weapon Republic Arms 440

I was in search for an “off duty” firearm. Now, I’m not a police officer by any definition, however, I still live a schedule that bears resemblance and work in a much similar capacity to that of a law enforcement officer. I put on a uniform, prepare and wear a duty belt which contains OC, ASP Baton, handcuffs, extra handgun magazines and of course, a handgun.
The handgun that I carry is a Glock model 22 in .40 S&W (or in 40 short and weak for you .45 fans). While at work, I am not authorized to carry a backup weapon. However, when I am off duty I typically carry my Smith and Wesson 638, a 5 shot, snub nose 38 Special. It weighs about 15-16 oz. according to the manufactures website. While I am more than comfortable carrying a .38 and being limited to 5 shots before a reload ( I carry additional speedloaders with me) I felt I would like something else to carry that fell somewhere between my Glock and my Smith and Wesson.
I had several prerequisites for this new carry gun.

1. Had to be in a caliber I already own i.e. 9mm, 40 S&W or 38 Special
2.Had to hold more ammo than my 38 but had to be smaller in dimension than my Glock
3. Had to be a lower cost than a used Glock 26 or 27 (less than $400)

I have owned a Kahr K40 previously. My good friend and I figured I owned one of the earlier made models in 40 S&W. While I liked the size and concealing qualities of it, I was not impressed with the reliability I was experiencing with it. If I recall correctly, I would not be able to fire through two magazines without a malfunction. Different ammo was tested, different styles of hand grip were tried. An additional magazine was purchased and tried. I ended up trading it at a gun show.

One day I walked into a pawn shop I frequent when I noticed an odd pistol I have never seen before. It was blued, all steel and had a 7 round magazine in .40 S&W. I asked to inspect it, and the first thought I had when I held it was “this thing has a lot of heft in it”. It appeared like new, although missing the three white dots in the pistol sights. I figured a white out pen would take care of that. It was a traditional double action/single action type with not only a frame mounted safety but also a hammer decock. The slide was marked “R.A.P. 440” and was imported by CAI and also appeared to be made in South Africa. Knowing the current political climate in South Africa and being aware many well made firearms are made in South Africa I took a chance and after handling it I purchased the handgun.

It appears that it won a contract in 1997 for the South African Police Service pistol competition. This pistol is to be issued in the 401 model in 9mm to plain clothes officers and female officers. The .40 S&W model 440 was solely manufactured for export. I do not know if the SAPS are still using this weapon but I do know that they use a licensed copy of the Beretta Model 92 for their main service gun.

The gun reminded me of my Kahr K40, although much heavier. Hopefully if it worked out, I could use the Galco “Stow and Go” IWB holster I had to carry this piece. I rushed home, grabbed whatever ammo I could fit in my range bag and headed out to the range.

All I wanted to test was reliability. That was the number one goal for this gun. I didn’t want a Match gun. I wanted a gun that would fire anything I fed it. I had with me about 100 rounds of Blazer 180 FMJ and an assortment of hollow points including Federals 135 gr. Hydra-Shok , Federals 155 gr. Hydra-Shok, two types of Winchester 180 gr. SXT and “Ranger” as well as the Federal Classic 155 gr “Hi-Shok”. I loaded 7 rounds into the magazine with the different types of ammo I had available. The magazine was easy to load and inserted appropriately into the gun. Recoil was manageable due to the heavy weight of the gun. According to research I conducted after shooting, the pistol weighs in about 32 ozs unloaded. Of the 200 rounds fired I experienced 2 malfunctions. Both were similar to Type 2 malfunctions but they were live rounds that did not fully chamber. Both were one each of two different types of ammo and the rounds were in varied places in the magazine. No other malfunctions happened. I did notice the action of the pistol did slow down towards the end of the shooting session. This I expected as I did not think this may be a high round count, combat ready, shoot to kill, “let’s throw it in the sand and blow away Hajis” kind of gun. Again, I wanted a reliable weapon that would allow me to disengage from an elevated situation with fewer than the three reloads I would carry with me. I say it passed for this requirement.

I got home and cleaned the weapon. The take down was similar to many auto loaders. Insure gun is unloaded, retract slide to witness marks, push out slide stop to the left and let slide roll forward. Reassembly was in reverse of course. The gun was easy to clean. There were no parts that were difficult to get into. I typically do not lube any carry guns, this was going to be no exception. I reassembled it.

Now it was time to get it ready for “pre-carry”. First I needed a IWB holster. I located the one I had when I owned the Kahr K40. It fit perfectly. How about some mags, as this only came with one mag. Internet research determined that this pistol was largely based off the Spanish Astra A75 pistol and took the same magazine. I found some eventually through Numrich and purchased two at $14.40 each.

So for now, I have a gun that meets the basic requirements I set forth in the beginning. I wished I had found this in 9mm, as shooting would be more enjoyable with it. For now, I will carry the Federal 155 "Hi-Shok", until I can test some 155 gr Gold Dots. I would prefer the 155 gr weight level as I feel the extra velocity would be beneficial in the 3.5” barrel. I will do accuracy testing when the new mags arrive in the mail.

Mags have arrived and both function great.

Link Posted: 6/13/2009 11:08:17 AM EST
It looks a lot like the defunct Astra A-75.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 10:27:02 AM EST
Originally Posted By dewatters:
It looks a lot like the defunct Astra A-75.

Well, it does take Astra A75 mags, and you're right, it does look alot like it. It is reliable, but finding replacement parts does concern me...
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 11:50:44 AM EST
[Last Edit: 6/14/2009 11:52:27 AM EST by DanTSX]
Originally Posted By Rifleguy81:
Originally Posted By dewatters:
It looks a lot like the defunct Astra A-75.

Well, it does take Astra A75 mags, and you're right, it does look alot like it. It is reliable, but finding replacement parts does concern me...

Star was a supplier of pistols to .za during the sanction days for both police, civilian, and the SADF. Star always had a big presence down there. I have no idea why. One could only speculate. Perhaps the Basques sympathized with the minority regime, or it was just pure economics and need.

One can assume that this familiarity led to local manufacture and licence.

The same thing happened with the Beretta 92. Denel started making the SP-1, an improved 92F (enclosed slide and frame safety IIRC). This replaced the Zeederburg 88, which was a direct copy of the 92F. If I recall correctly, that and the 92F were the standard service pistol in SANDF and glock was pretty widespread in SAPS. That astra copy seems nice and thin for concealment though. I'd expect top-notch assembly and finish. .ZA's weapons manufacturing probably reached it's zenith in quality, innovation, and refinement in the 1990s.

No idea on parts. I'd make my first stop be the major Star forum out there on the net. From what I have read, most Star parts are not directly interchangeable without some minor smithing as they still made them the "old fashioned" way with hand-fitting up until the 90's. I would say if it handles 100-200 rounds without jamming, you have a good CCW gun.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 12:22:44 PM EST
Cool review, great pics.

I've heard good things about these types of pistols.

Only thing I don't like about them is the single stack, "lesser" capacity. But that's gonna make it very slim for carry. Not a bad thing, I guess.

That and availability of mags and parts would be an issue, possibly.

Good review though.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 12:24:47 PM EST
You really should stay with the same platform as your duty weapon.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 2:27:42 PM EST
I would suggest not dryfiring that pistol. I had an Astra A70 that broke the firing pin while dryfiring. I did not even notice until I went to the range.
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 6:42:36 PM EST
Link Posted: 6/14/2009 6:58:09 PM EST
Originally Posted By ikor:
The RAP is being withdrawn from service in the SAPS because of major reliability issues. I wish you well with yours, but I would shoot it sparingly if it belonged to me.

Interesting, hadn't heard this. Can you elaborate? I for one am interested, from an academic standpoint.
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