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.