Thursday, October 26, 2006

Filipino blacksmith revolver: Fruit of a ban.

On the island of Cebu in the Philippines, village gunsmiths have been turning out home made firearms for over a century now. Working from factory-built guns as exemplars, these shadetree artisans can manufacture weapons that are often astonishing in their sophistication.

Some years back, a gentleman approached me wanting to sell a Smith & Wesson revolver, having heard I was a collector. From across the room it appeared to be a pre-War I-frame .38 Regulation Police. Closer examination proved it to be nothing of the sort. He was desparate to sell, needing money and not being especially fond of guns, but I was short on cash, and not especially eager to buy. I explained to him that for starters, the gun wasn't even really a S&W, and that even if it was an actual Regulation Police, it would barely be worth the $225 he wanted, given its condition.

He left, but returned a couple days later, having no doubt shopped the gun around, and asked for $200. As we talked, the Tale of the Gun was told:

His dad had fought in the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII, and eventually relieved a Japanese fighting man of this handgun. Knowing that Japanese officers were frequently responsible for providing their own sidearms, the story smacked of plausibility. Lord knows that the Imperial Japanese Army had spent some time in the Philippines, where this arm could have been acquired. The soft, fleece-lined leather holster, complete with five cartridge loops on the front, was certainly nicely made enough and, given the prevalence of American and British arms in SE Asia, the .38 S&W-slash-.380/200 chambering also made sense. Where writing would have been on an actual Smith, there was greeking, and the grip medallions had twining crescents and scimitars, shaped into something like the traditional S&W monogram.

In the end, I figured the holster was worth $25, the gun $75, and the story $100, and so I bought it. It sits next to my real pre-War .38 Regulation Police, a cold steel reminder of a dangerous place, a dangerous time, and the skills of the no doubt long-dead craftsman who made it from raw steel with nought but simple tools, his own hands, and lots and lots of talent and ingenuity.

7 comments:

Xavier said...

Tam,
I would have bought it too. A very interesting gun. I really wish I had somehow managed to get a few genuine hand crafted PI guns back to the states myself.

Firehand said...

I've got a Mk 4 Enfield revolver I bought from a doctor who served in the CIB theater. He traded a carton of cigarettes to a British officer for it!

Ulises said...

I wonder if the Muslim insurgency has good gunsmiths? Truly, I hope not. That nation has enough on its plate already. Your gun looks really good. I'd've bought it, too.

Anonymous said...

I have a rifle quite like this one i was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me thanks, my email address is barth9518@hotmail.com thanks again
justin barth

Anonymous said...

I find Philipino guns fascinating, as they tie back to my wifes side of the family, especially during WWII. If you ever tire of the pistol, I would like to purchase it. My Children would love to have something from their Philipino roots from WWII. In fact. If you are interested, I can be contacted at drdremel@hotmail.com. Thanks for your site, The photos are great quality and the information is accurate.

wrm said...

Tamara, please ask Oleg or someone to fine comb that gun with a macro lens... being on the other side of the world, I can't come visit you to caress the gun, so photos will have to do...

joselito lopez said...

That is quite an interesting example of a cebu made revolver you have.I live in the philippines and have seen and handled a lot of those homemade guns but never one as old or based on an older model like yours.That must be the one of the last surviving examples of it's type as most current production "paltiks" (the local term for the cebu made guns) are copies of the more modern J and K frame smith and wessons ,1911 automatics (everything from fake GI guns to high end kimbers),MAC and cobray machine pistols , and even a suppressed ,select fire, folding stock copy of the TEC-9 with a steel instead of polymer lower receiver , just to name a few.Quality varies from shoddy to surprisingly well made and you can buy them just about anywhere...