The Astra Cub

‘The Silliest Gun I Own’
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The Astra Cub might be Clayton’s “Son of Stupid Little Baby Gun”
but it has rustic and historical charms.

About six years ago, I bought a gun to round out an article about the Smith and Wesson “I”-Frame size. Maybe at one point I’d planned to sell the gun once photography had wrapped, but eventually the little jewel of a pistol wormed its way into my heart.

Like many of the guns causing us to smile, the I-Frame was far from a practical buy. In fact, by the time S&W figured out how to marry the .38 special cartridge to a small-framed revolver — the iconic J-Frame — the I-Frame’s days were numbered. And, yet, the revolver shoots all out of proportion to its diminutive size and relatively anemic caliber. With all due affection, I dubbed my I-Frame the “Stupid little baby gun.”

However, it was only a matter of time before I found a gun even stupider, littler and babier than my beloved I-Frame. It is for the pleasure of GUNS readers that I introduce my Astra Model 2000 “Cub,” or as I call it around the house, “Son of Stupid Little Baby Gun.”

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The Astra Cub is truly a vest pocket pistol if there ever was one!

Silly Defined

On paper, the Astra Cub is a launching platform for 6 +1 rounds of .22 short. Just about every expert these days will say a mouse gun in .25 ACP is not a particularly good choice for a self-defense cartridge. Take the .25 Auto, then cut the bullet weight and foot-pounds of energy in half and you’ve stumbled upon the ballistics of the .22 short. Out of a barrel the size of the Cub’s, you might get somewhere on the order of 750 fps from a 29-grain bullet.

For a small-handed guy like me, the Cub permits only a two-and-a-half-finger grip and has a miserly 3.5″ of sight radius to work with. The trigger on my Cub is also pretty abysmal: It has significant creep and takes about 8 lbs. of force on average before the sear finally trips. Did I also mention this gun has a magazine-disconnect safety, just as a final kick in the pants?

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A .22 short next to a .45 ACP and a .357 Magnum. Not a great “Plan A” but
somewhat better than a rock or bare knuckles. As a “Plan B,” the Cub
may transcend mere novelty.

But Not Without Charm!

And yet, I’ll be damned if this gun doesn’t shoot better than it should. The sights, while itty bitty, are perhaps the most usable I’ve ever found on a gun of this size. They’re tall enough to reconcile and offer the perfect amount of light on each side to ensure alignment. Additionally, what amount of grip I have seems to be more than enough. The gun locks firmly into the web of the hand and recoil with .22 short is the very definition of negligible, even from a gun this small.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the workmanship. On the whole, Astra was known for robust designs and good steel quality, though fine details were often somewhat crude. This holds true with the Cub. The external machining of the gun is excellent, with great slide-to-frame and barrel-to-slide fitment, and there are exceedingly few sharp edges anywhere on the pistol. Inside, it’s a mixed bag, with plenty of tooling and file marks. Arguably, the work is precise where it needs to be.

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The novelty of the gun belies an intuitive system of disassembly. Machining is good where it needs to be, though finish quality is clearly a mixed bag.

The Stripper

Speaking of those lugs, they permit a very fun and utile method of field stripping the Cub. Not sure if you had a squib? Lock the slide to the rear, rotate the barrel, pull it out of the gun, and you’ve got a very handy way to check for an obstruction. Another pleasant surprise.

Now, do you know who else had an affinity for this stupid little baby gun? Colt! As an interesting history lesson, Colt tried to reintroduce their 1908 pocket pistol post-WWII, only to find they were getting creamed in the marketplace by European imports. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Colt was impressed enough with the Cub they simply rebranded it as the Colt Junior. You can pay the “pony tax” for the Colt, but you’re getting the same gun pictured here.

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Headshots were aimed and rapid fired at 5 yards; breadbox hits were resolved through rapid-fire point shooting at the same distance.

Serious Business?

I spent some time evaluating the Cub as a self-defense tool, if only for yuks. I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s only choice, especially an inexperienced shooter, but I did find enough to lend it some degree of credence in the role. At 12.6 oz. unloaded, the Cub is only about 50% heavier than some knives I carry. If rule #1 of prevailing in a gunfight is “have a gun,” you could literally throw the Cub in a pair of BVDs and be discreetly armed anywhere on the planet.

Within five yards or less, I found it relatively easy to mag dump five rounds in a head-sized circle in about a second and a half. The Cub is not a weapons system that would fare particularly well against multiple assailants or at ranges beyond a few paces. Those who have performed amateur ballistics testing report a single .22 short round may or may not penetrate the skull. However, against a single target, a swarm of .22 shorts launched at an assailant’s face would be more effective than harsh words and the Cub permits a greater self-defense “reach” than any knife I’m aware of. Raise your hand if you’d volunteer to be on the wrong end of this.

As with anything, prices have been creeping up — this one set me back about $300, and better-conditioned Cubs can push into the $500 range. Add another C-note or two for the Colt Juniors. Self-defense merits aside, I think the price is worth it for grins-and-giggles, especially when the Cub runs and shoots as well as it does. Given those clear merits, perhaps it’s not so stupid after all!

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