We present an approach to reconcile explicit state model checking and heuristic directed search and provide experimental evidence that the model checking problem for concurrent systems, such as communications protocols, can be solved more efficiently, since finding a state violating a property can be understood as a directed search problem. In our work we combine the expressive power and implementation efficiency of the SPIN model checker with the HSF heuristic search workbench, yielding the HSF-SPIN tool that we have implemented. We start off from the A* algorithm and some of its derivatives and define heuristics for various system properties that guide the search so that it finds error states faster. In this paper we focus on safety properties and provide heuristics for invariant and assertion violation and deadlock detection. We provide experimental results for applying HSF-SPIN to two toy protocols and one real world protocol, the CORBA GIOP protocol.