Astra Cadix: Not Quite A Smith & Wesson

posted on June 19, 2020

Spanish revolvers frequently get a blanket bad rap from shooters, but tarring them all with the same brush is as delusive as stereotyping people.

Yes, some Spanish makers produced junk revolvers, but respected manufacturer Astra turned out Smith & Wesson revolver copies of good quality. Among them are the postwar Astra Cadix revolvers.

Astra Cadix throwback revolver
The Astra logo is the post-1947 style. Sideplate stampings indicate the maker and importer.

S&W Near-Clones

Astra’s Cadix is a copy of the Smith & Wesson double-action revolver, not only in outside appearance, but also in its internal workings. Astra made the Cadix (the word is an alternative spelling for the Spanish city of Cadiz) revolvers in .22 rimfire (the 200 series), .32 S&W (300 series) and .38 Spl. In response to the success of the Cadix, Astra later brought out similar, heavier revolvers chambered in .357, .41 and .44 Mag., .45 Colt and a convertible model with 9mm and .357 Mag. cylinders; but these, as well as a larger .38 Spl.-chambered Model 960, were not among the Cadix line.

Astra and Smith & Wesson side-by-side
Except for the mainspring/hammer, the internal lockwork of the Astra Cadix is nearly identical to that of a S&W revolver (here, a Model 10 M&P).

Fit and exterior finish of the Cadix were nothing to complain about; leaving rough machine marks on out-of-sight interior surfaces, where it did not adversely affect operation, cut manufacturing cost and therefor the consumer price. Astra made the double-action, swing-out cylinder Cadix revolvers with 2-, 4- and 6-inch barrels, the length being incorporated into specific model designations; for example, the Model 224 featured here is a .22 rimfire with a 4-inch barrel. The 200 series cylinders hold nine rounds of .22 LR rimfire ammunition, the .32 S&W 300 series chambers six rounds and the .38 Spl. cylinder accommodates five rounds. All models incorporated ejector rod shrouds, those with 4- or 6-inch barrels had adjustable sights, and the 200 series sported plastic grips while the center-fires had grips of wood. Cadix models 224 and especially the 226 are apparently copies of the S&W Model 35 Target revolver.

Astra Cadix from Spain
Not a Model 35 Target, the Cadix is still “entirely satisfactory.”

Parts are Parts—If You Can Find Them

Cadix production began in 1958 and ran until 1973 (some references report those dates as 1960 to 1968), and the company, which opened for business in 1908 as Esperanza y Unceta, permanently closed its doors 90 years later as ASTAR. Today’s Astra Defense (Astra S.A.) is a Swiss company that acquired the Astra name and is now engaged in manufacturing light and heavy machine guns and select-fire (fully automatic) M16-style rifles, SBRs and pistols for military and law enforcement markets worldwide. Unsurprisingly, then, finding Cadix revolver replacement parts can take considerable online research, and prices are like those for other discontinued firearms parts, ranging from “reasonable” to “You gotta be kidding.” Unlike for many other makes of firearms, my search for Cadix parts didn’t turn up any reproduction parts, perhaps an indication of the lack of appreciation for the revolvers today.

I received for repair the Model 224 Cadix shown here; troubleshooting revealed it needed a firing pin return spring and suffered a broken cylinder stop. Parts resource Jack First had the spring. With no replacement cylinder stop to be found at the usual parts resources, and noting the internal parts are pretty much identical to those in Smith & Wesson revolvers, I pulled a cylinder stop from an old S&W revolver “parts gun” on hand, and with some careful filing and stoning altered it to fit the Cadix. However, the angle of the hole drilled in the S&W cylinder stop for its spring is different enough from the original Cadix part that the spring would not reliably push the cylinder stop upward into place. That sent me back online for a more lengthy, meticulous search for an original Cadix cylinder stop.

Happily, the internal lockwork parts of the rimfire and center-fire Cadix revolvers are apparently the same, as a used cylinder stop I eventually found ($9 plus shipping from an online auctioneer) for the .38 Spl. Cadix fit the Model 224 with only a modicum of filing to clear the trigger pivot post and some stoning to polish the flat surfaces. The experience leads me to presume that, even though Astra utilized Smith & Wesson’s manufacturing practices to produce quality revolvers, the Cadix revolvers, at least, may have typically needed final hand-fitting at the factory. The similarity to S&W parts, the cross-series interchangeability of parts and the possible need for hand-fitting are points to bear in mind if you have a Cadix that needs work or may someday consider buying one that crosses your path.

Cadix .22 LR revolver mainspring seat
The Cadix .22 LR revolver mainspring seat has recesses that permit adjusting spring tension and hence trigger pull weight.

Disassembly revealed one clever, non- Smith & Wesson feature of the 200 series Cadix is the mainspring seat, a steel ring bored on its outer edge with four recesses of various depths which support the bottom of the mainspring strut. The different depths allow four different compression forces on the spring, which effectively reduces or increases trigger pull weight, though not by a significant degree. Trigger pull weight utilizing the deepest recess measured 4.75 pounds, and for the shallowest, 5.25 pounds. The ring design allows easy removal and installation of the mainspring without the need of tools.

Caveat Emptor

By now it’s probably evident that dropping off your Cadix at the gunsmith may not be cost-effective, depending on the specific cost of labor. That aforementioned lack of interest in Astra revolvers keeps values and resale prices low, with Cadix revolvers in NRA Very Good to Excellent condition fetching from $100 to $300 (based on Blue Book values and a perusal of online forums and auction houses). Paying a gunsmith to troubleshoot a Cadix that “needs a little work” and then to find parts and hand-fit them can easily double the final cost of a bargain revolver.

Astra Cadix proof code
“L1” below the two Spanish Eibar proof house proof marks under the left grip indicate year of manufacture is 1966 (see the code chart below).

Such concerns aside, however, the Model 224 Cadix is a decent shooter. In the 1970 Shooter’s Bible Pistol & Revolver Guide, author Maj. George C. Nonte said of the Astras, “All are of good design and workmanship and those we’ve used have proven entirely satisfactory in both accuracy and reliability.” The model 224 here bears out the Major’s remark. While acceptable for a plinker, an under-the-truck-seat or a hiking carry gun, such performance is not suitable for competition, despite the adjustable rear sight, adjustable mainspring tension and the similarity of the Cadix to a S&W Model 35 Target revolver. Even so, the longer sight radius of a six-inch barreled Cadix Model 226 may improve groups a bit.

Moderately Priced

Astra Cadix code chart
In 1927, Spanish firearms began receiving stamped codes indicating the year of manufacture.

Pulling the 1961 Gun Digest from my bookshelf shows the Astra Cadix Model 224 listed at $49.95, which equates to $429.68 in 2020 dollars. For a comparison with its contemporaries the same 1961 Gun Digest lists the six-shot S&W .22 LR Model 35 Target revolver at $80 and Iver Johnson’s eight-shot Target Model 57 at $32.50. Though Cadix revolvers are perhaps unknown to many of today’s younger shooters, they have attained minor celebrityhood in making a few cameo appearances in film ("The Spy Who Loved Me") and television ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation").

Astra’s Cadix is one of those many throwback firearms that, though of better-than-utilitarian quality and possessed of some historical interest, nonetheless enjoys no real collector status, perhaps due somewhat to stereotyping all Spanish revolvers as cheap “booby trap” pistols. But that’s good news for those in the know who appreciate a bargain on an old but still serviceable shooter—and who can find the parts.

Additional Resources:

  • The W.H.B. Smith Classic Book of Pistols & Revolvers (W.H.B. Smith, Stackpole Books)
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Firearms (Ian V. Hogg, Chartwell Books, Inc.)

See more: Review: Henry Long Ranger 6.5 Creedmoor


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