April 15, 2020
I was considering awhile back my favorite submachine gun (SMG). More specifically, I was considering the SMGs that fire a pistol caliber cartridge, thus eliminating short carbines such as the AKSU. I like some of the more recent designs such as the HK MP5 or the FN P90. However, the Star Z-70 kept nudging its way into my list of favorites. Spain is one of those countries that have issued SMGs for police and military units for decades. This doesn’t always mean that the SMG issued in many countries is all that good, but in the case of the Star Z-70, Spanish soldiers and cops were well armed.
The Star Z-70 actually evolved from the Star Z-62. Introduced in 1962 as an improvement on the Z-45 SMG, the Z-62 was designed for ease of handling by placing its pistol grip near the center of gravity. It employs an under-folding skeleton stock that latches into a notch in the heat shield when closed, being released by lifting up on the butt plate. When deployed the stock locks in place. Pulling back on the stock releases it to be folded. The cross-bolt safety in the pistol grip is easily operated with the thumb or edge of the forefinger. When pushed to the left it locks and blocks the sear, whether the bolt is open or closed. When pushed to the right the Z-62 may be fired. There is also an automatic safety that offers enhanced security if the SMG is dropped. When firing with the stock folded, the butt plate acts as a forward grip. A sling swivel is attached to the receiver’s rear that allows the Star Z-70 to be easily carried ready for use, either with stock folded or deployed.
One of the most noteworthy features is the selector system for the Z-62. The trigger has two half-moon shaped depressions. To fire in full auto the finger is placed on the upper half moon and for semi auto on the lower half moon. This system involves the trigger pushing directly back when pressed at the top but pivoting when pressed at the bottom. I’ve actually found that it works better for control of full auto bursts to place the trigger finger on the bump between the two depressions. I have also read that some Spanish users were trained to put two fingers on the trigger, applying pressure with the one applicable to the mode desired. I tried this method and it does seem to give better control, especially for firing bursts. I have medium-sized hands so had no trouble fitting both fingers into the trigger guard and onto the trigger. I’ll have to work on using two fingers more the next time I get a chance to shoot a Z-70.
The cocking handle is located forward near the muzzle on the left side of the Z-62. This is a good position for ease of operation without shifting the shooting hand. The handle does not reciprocate as the bolt moves back and forth. The magazine release is a button to the rear of the magazine well, located to allow ease of operation while gripping a magazine. The standard magazine holds 30 rounds but 20 rounders were also available. Magazines with a 40-round capacity are mentioned, but I’ve never seen one. It is a double column feed magazine, which enhances reliability and eases loading. Sights are pretty standard for a SMG of the Z-62’s generation, consisting of a shrouded blade front sight and shrouded rear flip-up peeps for 100 and 200 meters. The ears (shrouds) are sturdy and large enough to really protect the sights.
Disassembly is readily carried out without the need for tools. The tip of a cartridge may be used to depress the recoil spring stop disc to allow the butt cap to be removed. At this point the spring and buffer may be removed. Pulling back on the cocking handle allows the bolt to slide out. The frame may be removed by using the cartridge tip to depress the retaining pin catch, thus allowing the pin to be withdrawn and the receiver to be removed from the frame. A quarter turn of the barrel allows it to slide out of the receiver.
When the Z-62 was introduced, the standard Spanish pistol and SMG cartridge was the 9x23mm (Largo). However, for export sales and perhaps in anticipation of NATO-member Spain adopting a 9x19mm pistol, the Z-62 was also produced in 9x19mm caliber. This version was later designated the Z-63.
Once the 9x19mm cartridge became standard with the Spanish armed forces for NATO compatibility, the Z-63 became known as the Z-70, though it was basically the former in 9x19mm caliber. I have seen it designated Z-63/70 or Transitional Z-70 as well. However, an updated version of the Z-70 designated the Z-70/B did away with the trigger containing the selector, replacing it with a more conventional trigger and fire selector switch that also replaced the cross-bolt safety. The magazine release was also changed to a lever type more readily operated with either hand.
I’ll talk about why I consider the Star Z-70 such a fine SMG shortly, but I also want to point out that it was used by some very high-speed Spanish military and law enforcement units including the Spanish Legion, Spanish Navy UOE (Combat Swimmers), Spanish Army MOE (Special Operations Command), Guardia Civil UEI and GAR, and National Police GEO, among others. Having said that, these units have now replaced the Z-70 or Z-70/B with the HK MP5.
As good as the Z-70/Z-70/B was and is, it is not a current generation SMG. I don’t care about that. It is one of the all-time classic SMGs. If I were armed with a Star Z-70 or a Z-70/A I would still consider myself well-armed (within the parameters of a 9x19mm SMG’s effectiveness).
My esteem for the Z-70 is based partially on its reliability. Its magazines are well designed to feed reliably and parts seem to be well machined for smooth operation. I have rarely had a malfunction with the Star Z-70 or Z-70/A. As with the typical SMG of its time, it functions best with full-jacketed ammunition.
I find the Z-70/-70/B one of the handiest SMGs I’ve fired. I can engage quickly with it and it’s controllable on short bursts. I will note, though, that the butt plate is not especially comfortable and does move on the shoulder with longer bursts unless it is pushed back into the shoulder firmly. Having said that, anyone who normally fires SMGs realizes that firing continuous bursts is not sound tactically.
Speaking of controllability, with the stock folded, the ability to use the butt plate as a gripping surface for the support hand does help in controlling the Z-70. This is useful, as it can take some time to pivot the butt plate out of engagement, then unfold the stock and lock it prior to engagement. The determining factor would be the range at which it were necessary to engage. Another aid to controlling the Z-70/70/A on full auto is the magazine well, which extends downward enough to allow a good gripping surface.
I’ve used the Star Z-70 more than the Z-70/A so I’m used to the cross bolt safety and can work it readily. I do find that the two-position trigger rather than a selector switch takes some time for adjustment if I haven’t fired the Z-70 for a while. Likewise, I’m used to using the button magazine release as I withdraw the magazine. I’ll admit that I should find the selector switch and lever magazine release on the Z-70/A quicker. Maybe with practice that would be the case, but I’ve done quite a bit more shooting with the Z-70.
As SMG sights go, those of the Z-70/70/A are about average and are quite usable to 50 yards. That’s the furthest I’ve fired a Star Z-70/70/A.
To re-acquaint myself with the Z-70 for this article I fired 250 rounds through it. Most were fired in 3–5 shot bursts at plates or silhouette targets between 10 and 25 yards. I fired one magazine in short bursts with the stock folded at 15 yards. I also fired some 5-shot groups using the “lower” trigger at 25 yards. At 35 yards, I engaged a silhouette target with 2–4 shot bursts. Note trigger control with the Star Z-70 allows 2-shot bursts readily. At 15 yards firing 3–5 shot bursts, I kept all hits on the silhouette target. At 35 yards with 2–4 shot bursts about half of the magazine impacted within the silhouette. Note, that I had not fired the Star Z-70 for a couple of years. More recent practice would have likely meant that my controlled bursts would have been more effective at the longer distance. The relatively low cyclic rate — 550 RPM — aids in controlling the Z-70 in full auto fire. Throughout the 250 rounds fired — mostly using Sellier & Bellot 115-grain FMJ — I had NO malfunctions.
Shooting the Z-70 for this article reinforced my view that it is one of the truly classic SMGs. Given a choice, in the pre-MP5 era, I would have chosen it. During that period, I worked on some protection jobs where we had the Beretta M-12, which I liked and found controllable because of the vertical fore grip. I also occasionally used the Walther MP-L/MP-K or the Uzi in the day. They were good SMGs, as well. Still, “if I had to go to war” with a Z-70, I’d be ok with that. These days, I’m more likely to go to the range with it. That’s definitely ok, too.
Star Z-70 Submachine Gun SpecsOperating System:
Blow Back, Select FireCaliber:
27.56 in. (stock extended), 18.9 in. (stock folded)Barrel Length:
5.84 lbs. (unloaded)Magazine Capacity:
Rear; Flip-up 100 meters/200 meters Front; BladeCyclic Rate:
Star Z-70 SMG Accuracy Chart