The Springfields that never were: The SA Cat series

  1. Editor
    Before the XD was imported to the U.S., Springfield Armory had a plan for a very different series of handguns. Dubbed the Bobcat, Firecat, and Lynx, these handguns of SA's "R" series were chambered from .25ACP to .45S&W, but good luck finding any...

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    (Ah the elusive Astra A-70, er we mean, the Springfield Armory Firecat!)

    The concept

    Springfield Armory as we know and love it today sprouted up in the 1960s in Illinois and cut their teeth making M14 series rifles (what we know today as the M1A series) but soon branched out to 1911-style pistols. To liven things up they even imported a modular framed semi-auto from West Germany (the Omega) and a CZ-75 clone in 9mm from Italy (the P9).

    With these guns moving out of the stable in the 90s, Springfield wanted something else besides their .45s and, as the XD was still unheard of, they went for a trio of very different guns to replace them. Imported as kits from European makers, they were to be assembled in the U.S. with nice extra touches like natty wood grips, park'd finishes and SA roll marks, then distributed through their existing network.

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    Debuted in their 1992 Catalog, they sounded like a great idea, "The biggest news from Springfield was the introduction of the 'R' series pistols. These four guns -- the Panther, the Firecat, the Bobcat, and the Lynx -- are based on the Astra automatic pistols, but with a few custom modifications, like Commander-style hammers, checkered walnut grips, and low-profile white-dot sights. The Panther comes in 9mm, .40S&W and .45ACP; the Firecat is chambered in 9mm and .40S&W; the Bobcat is made for .380ACP; and the Lynx chambers .25 auto."

    The thing is, it just didn't work out...

    The Lynx

    One of the cutest little popguns ever made in Europe was the Astra M2000 Cub pistol. This little 2.25-inch barreled blowback was a popular bargain import to the states in the 1950s and 60s, competing with the Beretta Minx and Lynx series guns but at a lower price point. Well U.S. importation was stopped by the Gun Control Act of 1968, which said these guns were just too small to meet a "sporting purpose."

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    (Astra Cub)

    This in the end I think is what killed these guns coming into the country for SA in 1991. I just don't think the ATF was going to let them bring in enough of a kit to finish without the feds getting all 1968 on them. Therefore, the Lynx only existed in Springfield's catalog in 1992 and then was quietly deleted.

    The Bobcat

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    (Astra A-60. Would have been imported and finished as the SA Bobcat)

    Based on the Astra Constable A-60, this very Walther PPK-ish .380ACP weighed 22-ounces because it was a double-stack 13-shot handgun rather than the Bond gun's original single stack. Like the Lynx, SA never actually made any of these guns.

    The Panther

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    (The A-100 was made in small numbers as the Springfield Armory Panther in 1992)

    Based on the Astra A-100, a new gun that the Spanish maker introduced in 1990, this was a heavy double-action semi-auto with a double stack mag. Chambered in 9mm, 40SW, and .45ACP, this gun was a full-sized combat piece that Astra was banking on to win both military and police contracts. However SA just imported under 500 kits before 1993 and these are exceedingly rare these days. Interarms brought in a few more plain old A-100 marked guns but by 1997, this interesting pistol was scrapped overall.

    The Firecat

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    Springfield did manage to get enough of these Astra A-70 kits from the Spanish firearms maker to construct about 750 of these handy little guns in 9mm and .40SW from 1991-93. These handy little single-action pistols were very Browning Hi Power-like in construction, but were much smaller and compact due to the fact they sported 3.5-inch barrels. Tipping the scales at just 25-ounces, they held either 8 shots in a 9mm single stack or 7 in the .40S&W model.

    Rare today, they fetch upwards of $600 on the collectors market.

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    (The mags are all Astra-marked)

    Why? Well the Astra A70 is well liked as a carry piece as its compact, reliable, steel, and very well made. When you take into account that the SA finished Firecats are even more so, you can see what the deal is.

    Nevertheless, its good these feline firearms didn't scratch SA's itch. Just a few years after they abandoned these guns, their search for top notch European imports that weren't 1911s brought them to the XD and the rest, as they say, is history.

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